Month: September 2016

TALE OF THE TOTEM

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On Baseline Road beside the Walmart Super Centre, there is a fading old totem pole, towering 60 feet over the bustling city traffic, sitting grandly in front of the Scouts Canada National Headquarters.  Having passed by this sentinel many times, I often imagine it one day toppling over Baseline Road, its top bird beak skewering a car below it like a shish kabob. Aside from that, I also think of what the story is behind this amazing totem pole, a somewhat forgotten and fading old soul beside the Walmart…who carved it and why is it there?….

This is the Tale of the Totem.

Photography by @oldmanloudwife

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Carved in 1960 by Chief Mungo Martin, Ottawa’s towering totem has weathered almost 60 years at its post on Baseline Road. (Photo by @oldmanloudwife)

Carved in 1960 by Chief Mungo Martin, of the Kwakiutl Tribe and his grandson Henry Hunt, Ottawa’s totem pole has been weathering away at its post for almost 60 years. Most of the carving was done in Victoria, B.C. where Chief Martin was a prominent figure in Northwest Coast style of aboriginal art, specifically that of the Kwakwaka’wakw eople who live in the area of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The pole was gifted to Ottawa from the British Columbia Scouts, and cost approximately $8,000 in 1960 to carve and paint from a BC cedar tree.

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Chief Mungo Martin (Photo Wikipedia)

The towering totem consists of 6 main figures; a Raven, a Man, a Grizzly Bear, a Cannibal Woman, a Killer Whale, and a Beaver. These were all clan crests of the tribes that Chief Martin was closely related, and hence forth placed on the Ottawa totem.

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The raven on the top represents “Gwawina” a raven that came to the earth and transformed into a man, which is the the second figure. The grizzly is the bear Kyelem, that also transformed into a man, and the woman is Tsonoqua the Cannibal Woman.

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The Killer Whale is Makinukw, a supernatural whale. The Beaver on the bottom is Tsawa, who gave birth to a half beaver, half human son.

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When it was completed in British Columbia, the totem was transported on rail two cars to Ottawa where it was hoisted in 1961 in front of the Scouts Canada building. The totem’s base is ten feet long and was anchored in over 75 tons of concrete at the base.

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The totem pole is loaded onto a train car bound for Ottawa. (courtesy of D. Stremes from Canadian National Railways employee magazine
“Keeping Track” from July-August 1960)

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The totem being hoisted into position on Baseline Road in 1961. (Scout Leader Magazine)

It would only be a year after Chief Mungo Martin’s totem was erected in Ottawa that he would pass away in 1962, leaving behind his legacy through various totem poles across North America, and one totem pole in Windsor Great Park in the United Kingdom. That Totem Pole was a gift from the people of Canada to Her Majesty The Queen in June, 1958.

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Ottawa’s great totem remains on Baseline Road, its once vibrant colours fading with each passing year. It has endured the harsh winds and weather of Ottawa winters for 56 years and has welcomed many a Scout into the National Headquarters in that time.

The next time you pass by the great totem of Baseline Road, you might want to wave to the great spirit who lies within its weathered wood.

 

Andrew King, September, 2016

With special thanks to @oldmanloudwife for the photos used with permission.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mungo_Martin

The Scout Leader, Vol.XXXVIII Number 4, January 1961

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IS THE LED ZEPPELIN “IMMIGRANT SONG” ABOUT VIKINGS DISCOVERING CANADA?

christian-krohg-leiv-erikssonOn November 5 1970 Led Zeppelin released the “Immigrant Song” on Atlantic Records, written during Led Zeppelin’s tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany in the summer of 1970.

The song’s lyrics are written as if by Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands. These lyrics would seemingly make the Vikings “immigrants” in a new land, and that land would be Canada.  References to Viking conquests and the Old Norse were confirmed in a 1970 radio interview when Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin jokingly recalled, “We went to Iceland, and it made you think of Vikings and big ships ..”

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Led Zeppelin perform the “Immigrant Song” live, which is a lyrical ballad that curiously resembles the Norse discovery of Canada in 1000AD.

Between 1961 to 1968 the Norwegian archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad investigated sites on the northern tip of Newfoundland and determined that the curious site once thought to be of “native origin” was actually of Norse origin because of definitive similarities between the characteristics of structures and artifacts found at the site compared to sites in Greenland and Iceland from around 1000 CE. The land of “ice and snow”. The Norse settlers had once made their way from Iceland to Greenland, and then furthermore to Canada around 1000AD. It is now the only proven Viking settlement in North America and a National Historic Site.

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The Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland Canada dated to 1000AD. (image:GoogleMaps)

On the album Led Zeppelin III, the “Immigrant Song” features an intense lyrical ballad by Robert Plant about the Norse discovery of a “new land”.. an interpretation is below in italics:

We come from the land of the ice and snow, (Scandinavia, Iceland)
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. (Iceland)
Hammer of the gods, will drive our ships to new land. (Norse god Thor used a hammer, taking the ships to a new land..Canada)
To fight the hordes, and sing and cry. (The Norse upon reaching Canada called the indigenous people they encountered, skraelings)
Valhalla I am coming. (In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”is a majestic, enormous hall for the war dead located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin.)

Always sweep with, with threshing oar. (The Viking longships used oars to propel them through the water)
Our only goal will be the western shore. (The Western shore would be Vinland, the fabled new land discovered in Canada by Norse explorer Leif Erikson in 1000AD)

Ah, ah.
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun (The sun is visible in Iceland at midnight during certain months) where the hot springs flow.
How soft your fields so green. (Vinland, as described by the Vikings in Canada was described to have meadows of green grass)

Can whisper tales of gore. (The sagas of the Vikings told of the Norse settlement of Vinland being brutally attacked by the indigenous people, and vice versa.) 

Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your over Lords.

Always sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore. (Canada)

So now you’d better stop, and rebuild all your ruins. (The Vinland settlement was abandoned in Canada, leaving only ruins)
For peace and trust can win the day, despite of all your losing. (The Norse settlers lost their battle with the indigenous people of Canada who forced them to return back to the land of the ice and snow despite the initial trust the two parties once had for each other.)

With the “Immigrant Song” being released in 1970, it was written during the same time the Ingstads announced their discovery of the Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. The Norse were the immigrants, and the new land was Canada.  Perhaps a coincidence, but it seems the lyrics are a telling clue as to the origin of the Led Zeppelin song we are all familiar with. The complete song on YOUTUBE is posted here.

Andrew King September 25, 2016

SOURCES

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ledzeppelin/immigrantsong.html

Thor’s Hammer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigrant_Song

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinland

 

 

PAST THE GREEN VALLEY

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On my first solo trip as high school kid to Ottawa back in 1990 I drove the old Prescott Highway from Kingston to Ottawa in my ’73 VW Beetle, passing by a curious diner on my way to an interview at Carleton University.  The diner was called the Green Valley restaurant, a neat old diner that looked like it was part of a 1950s movie set. The white building would later burn to the ground in the late 1990s on New Year’s Eve, its history disappearing up in smoke and its remains bulldozed into a future parking lot. My first greeting as I entered Ottawa was through this fine old dame that once sat at the corner of Baseline and Prince Of Wales Drive, and now 25 years after I first saw her, I want to show the rest of you who may never have known the majestic Green Valley.

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screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-8-45-33-pmIn 1933 Waldorf Stewart moved to a remote wooded property on the old Prescott Highway near Ottawa where he built a play cabin for his daughter near his new home. The rustic cabin was soon visited by uninvited guests who were tourists passing by thinking it was a Motor Court cabin rental, a type of accommodation that was springing up all over North America as more and more tourists traveled by car. Stewart realized an opportunity when he saw one, and built a few more cabins and opened the Green Valley Tourist Court with cabins to rent for tired travellers on their way into the Nation’s Capital.

 

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One of the first, if not the very first, motels in Ottawa was the “Green Valley Tourist Court” located at the corner of Prince of Wales and Baseline that opened in 1933.

In 1947 Stewart expanded his tourism empire at what was once considered “the outskirts” of the city and opened the Green Valley Restaurant, a modest diner to serve breakfast and evening meals to his customers staying at the rental cabins. Now boasting 24 cabins, Stewart thought the motel and diner would only be open for the summer tourist season, but the restaurant gained a reputation for fine quality foods. This may in part to the hospitable service but also because Stewart hired Chef Gustave, formerly from the Engineer’s Club in Montreal. After only a short period of time, the Green Valley became one of Ottawa’s premiere dining destinations.

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An Ottawa experience was going to the Green Valley Restaurant, shown here in what looks to be the 1950s. (image Library and Archives Canada)

 

greenvalleyThe restaurant was expanded three times and included a gift shop called the ‘Then and Now Shop’ where visitors could purchase toys, souvenirs and curious gadgets. Kids especially enjoyed the “Mickey Mouse” sundaes that the restaurant served to its younger diners which was a cartoon dessert; a scoop of ice cream with wafer ears and pistachio eyes. Many Ottawa residents will remember going there with grandparents or on special occasions, as it was a treat to be treated to the Green Valley Restaurant back in the day.

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In 1956 Stewart once again expanded the restaurant to include “The Walnut Room”, a special dining area with rich walnut panelling and thick carpeting. Once staffed with 65 employees, the Green Valley became an empire, but like most empires they eventually fade away.

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-8-28-41-pmI remember when I received my first paycheque from my first full time job and I wanted to treat myself to a nice dinner. So I picked the place I saw when I first drove into Ottawa a few years earlier, the Green Valley. It was 1995 and I remember the place looked like it was trapped in 1955, with a musty smell reminiscent of an old landmark dame that now sat tired, empty and staffed by elderly servers who had probably worked there when it first opened and still wore their original uniforms. The furniture was worn, the food was bland, and the place had a very “The Shining” feel to it. Nevertheless you could sense it was once “THE” place to eat in Ottawa, but with the Lone Star opening up down the road, and other restaurants emerging, the Green Valley was left behind, its grandeur tarnished by the hands of time.

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The former entrance to the Green Valley Restaurant now blocked off, and turned into a parking lot. (GoogleMaps street view)

I’m glad I got to visit the Green Valley, because soon after I was there, the restaurant mysteriously burned down on some New Year’s Eve, its charred remains were unceremoniously bulldozed away, turning this once special place into nondescript parking lot. That parking lot still remains at the corner of Prince of Wales and Baseline, and you would never know that it was once the location of Ottawa’s grand valley experience, the now lost Green Valley.

Andrew King, September 2016

SOURCES

Delcampe.net

The Ottawa Citizen via Google News

GoogleMaps

Library and Archives Canada