Author: Andrew King

An artist living in the Nation's Capital fascinated by its past...I hope you are too. I can be reached at: thetimewinders@gmail.com

Ottawa’s Forgotten Mega-Structure

 

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The Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa is home to many things, including Lansdowne Park, a place that has been host to many large-scale events throughout history. Yet the largest event is one that seems to be lost in time, the great Marian Congress of 1947.  It involved the construction of one of the world’s largest outdoor churches on the grounds of Lansdowne park but nothing remains to remind us of this grand mega-structure.

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Like something from Metropolis, the massive Lansdowne structure hosted nightly religious ceremonies. 

With a capacity to seat 75,000 visitors, this massive compound was constructed in 1947 and rivalled the megalithic architecture of German architect Albert Speer, creating a 500 foot long structure on the banks of the Rideau Canal.

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The massive monument built on the edge of the Rideau canal at Lansdowne. (Ottawa Citizen)

Part of the “Marian Congress” the huge structure was the centre of Ottawa’s greatest pilgrimage that brought over a quarter million people to the city, making it the only event in Ottawa’s history to bring that many people from all over the globe. However, this epic spectacle is largely forgotten, except for what is recorded on a 70 year old film clip that showcases this gargantuan event in the Nation’s Capital.

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A still from the 1947 film that showcases the huge crowds of the Marian Congress in Ottawa at the Lansdowne super-structure. (YouTube)

With its over 75,000 seats and 500 foot stage, the Marian Congress was not only one of the world’s largest outdoor churches, it also hosted one of North America’s largest fireworks displays and a singing performance by the Dionne Quintuplets. Between June 18 and June 22 tens of thousands of people crowded Ottawa streets in hopes of attending Catholic mass at this Lansdowne super-structure.

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Photo from the Ottawa Citizen, June 16th 1947 showing the magnitude of the structure in model form. (Ottawa Citizen)

The sanctuary was constructed by the Ottawa contractors Collet Freres Ltee. and was painted in the colours of the Blessed Virgin Mary which were white and blue. The giant white compound was a meeting place for the crowds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims that had come to Ottawa to pay tribute to their faith and pray for everlasting world peace.

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The main stage area of the mega-church at Lansdowne. (YouTube)

The event concluded with a procession of illuminated boats on the canal and a massive fireworks display. The structure was eventually torn down, the seats removed and within a short time the whole thing disappeared without a trace. Nothing remains today to remind us of this mega-structure that once stood in the heart of the city.

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Andrew King, November 2016

SOURCES

The Ottawa Citizen, June 16 1947. https://news.google.ca/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19470616&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

YouTube: https://youtu.be/-lt_hyYG0q8

 

 

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An Ancient Path Along The Ottawa River

For millennia the Ottawa River has tumbled along into the St. Lawrence River, carrying vessels containing trade items such as ancient copper from Lake Superior, New World explorers, missionaries, furs, and thousands of logs. It has been an important conduit of trade used by the indigenous population to carry goods and themselves back and forth for centuries, portaging along paths they made to circumvent around its many waterfalls and rapids.

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A map from the book “The Upper Ottawa Valley” by Clyde Kennedy shows the ancient native copper trade route using the Ottawa River.

It was these same paths that the early explorers such as Champlain and the fur trading voyageurs would later follow. One such ancient path exists just steps from downtown Ottawa on a path called the “Voyageurs Pathway” on NCC property.

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The original path as it appears on the north side of the Ottawa River.

This path still exists much as it did hundreds of years ago, cut through the vegetation along the north shore of the Ottawa River skirting around the tumultuous Chaudiere Falls and the the rough rapids just upstream from it. It sits quietly concealed, sadly vandalized with graffiti with its former commemorative plaques now missing. It is unfortunate that it seems neglected despite its historical importance in Canadian history.

On a more positive note, the ancient path is in an area that has surprisingly not been touched by development and retaining many of its original characteristics. Situated so close to the downtown core, you’d think the whole area would have been turned into federal office buildings or some sprawling residential development. However to the contrary, it sits as it has for thousands of years, the many unique features, both natural and manmade, waiting to be explored and enjoyed like the people before us once did so many years ago.

THE MISSION

I decided to retrace the same steps of the people that once used the path centuries ago, following in the footsteps of people like Samuel de Champlain, the fur trading Voyageurs, indigenous people and the Jesuit missionaries of the the 1600’s. They used this exact same path to go around the falls and rapids, and I have to say it was remarkable to experience the same adventures they encountered.

THE TRAIL

The trail begins at the NCC owned Brebeuf Park off the main road near the entrance to Gatineau Park. Here there is a statue of Father Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit missionary who travelled up the Ottawa River in 1634 to meet the Huron people where he later set up his missionary work before being tortured and killed by the Iroquois. An impressive bronze statue erected in 1930 to commemorate the journey of Brebeuf almost 400 years ago has had its descriptive plaque I’m guessing ripped off by scrap metal thieves, but no information is now present to tell you about the statue.

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The statue of Brebeuf as it appeared in 2015 with its bronze plaque in place. (Google Streetview)

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The Brebeuf statue as it currently appears with its plaque now missing.

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Missing plaque.

Travelling east on the manicured path there is a rough cut trail that follows the shoreline of the river, and you can see rough cut stone steps used by former portaging travellers centuries before. It was quite amazing to literally take the same steps as Champlain and the other adventurers who stepped off their canoes here.

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Champlain portaging on the Ottawa River c.1613 (CW Jefferys, Library and Archives Canada)

Inspiring views of the river I have never experienced before met my eye in addition to unusual rock formations, although I was saddened to come across yet another missing plaque that would have explained the path’s historical significance.

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Another missing plaque that would have described the historical importance of the path.

The ancient rocks where native people and European explorers once docked their craft to portage the falls now lie covered in spray painted graffiti and trash. Not a fitting tribute for such an important and rare original piece of history.

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A rock shelf where people portaged from for centuries now covered in graffiti.

Moving on, I imagined Samuel deChamplain in 1613 with his Algonquin guides in their birch bark canoes, lifting them up here to traverse the same trail I was on and came across an unusual rock formation like a giant stone amphitheatre that I’m sure has some archeological relics in it, but thought it best left to the professionals to study someday.

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This large “bowl” depression off the path was probably used for some ancient camp.

There were more unusual formations, which were a combination of man made and natural features, some of which I’m sure are very old and pre-date any European contact. Again, I am sure someday the proper individuals will study these further if they haven’t already.

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An unusually large boulder with rocks piled on the south side of it.

Next I came across a huge bay of water marked “Squaw Bay” on the map. Again, unusual rock formations, and traces of some kind of man made structures abound and I would later learn from a study done in 1901 by TW Edwin Sowter, that this was indeed an ancient campground:

“To all appearance, it seems as if this spot had been a landing place at the foot of an old Indian carrying-path, which led up to the head of that break in the canoe route of the Ottawa River caused by the little Chaudière Rapids…the western shore is strewn more or less, throughout its entire length, with fragments of worked flint, just as we meet with them at similar places… There is no doubt that, in prehistoric times, there were periods of tribal inactivity, during which an Indian community may have lived in such peace and comparative security, at Squaw Bay, as to have led even its younger members to indulge in the contemplation of making old bones ; but the situation of the dwelling sites of these palaeolithic people.”  -Sowter, 1901, The Ottawa Naturalist, Vol. XV, No.6: 141-151

Sowter seems correct in saying this place was a former native encampment because there are countless ledges and areas of steep stone that makes a natural fortress with its high cliffs and moat like waters. Again, I defer to the professional archeologists and academics to study this intriguing area further.

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The large bay and cliffs of Squaw Bay where an ancient camp once was.

After making my way around Squaw Bay, I headed to where the now barricaded Prince Of Wales railway bridge hits the Gatineau shore, and there, off the path lies a a curious stone wall that seems to pre-date the railway which was built there in 1880. The railway embankment here cuts into this old stone wall which makes it look like it was built earlier. The wall is approximately 80 feet in length, 3 feet high, and 2.5feet wide. It is constructed in the ancient drystone masonry technique, but why it is lying tangled in wild grape vines surrounded by swampland is beyond me.

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An old drystone wall.

Perhaps it was an old farming wall used to contain livestock from the Philomen Wright days of Hull in the early 1800’s, but the land is rocky and swampy making it inappropriate for farming or grazing.  Without further study of this fascinating old wall overlooking the river, we may never know its purpose.

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The old stone wall tangled in wild grape vines overlooking the Ottawa River, purpose unknown.

At this point I turned back, retracing the steps of ancient travellers, famous explorers, adventurers, and warriors who used this very same path,  virtually unaltered from its original state. (minus the vandals and graffiti). It seems a shame that such an important trail has been neglected, with informative plaques lost to the prying hands of scrap metal thieves. With Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary in 2017 perhaps the NCC as caretakers of this important piece of Canadian history will consider replacing the plaques and maintaining this concealed pathway through time, giving it the respect it has duly earned over the years.

Andrew King, November 2016

SOURCES

Google Maps

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

Samuel de Champlain 1604-1616

http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/archeo/sowter/1901/sowter1901e.shtml

The Canadian Tire Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is a legendary triangular region of the Atlantic Ocean where hundreds of ships, planes and people have disappeared through mysterious circumstances. A far less studied triangle exists in our northern hemisphere, a triangle with its own special powers. Like a glowing, hot branding iron that has been burned into our inner retinas after leaving the womb, it is the image of the Canadian Tire triangle.

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The inverted red triangle with a green maple leaf logo on top is just about as Canadian as a ketchup chip dipped in maple syrup, yet many don’t realize the story behind this simple Canadian icon.

When the two brothers Alfred and John Billes opened the first Canadian Tire store in 1926, the company’s logo was a rather bizarre cartoonish rubber tire wearing elven booties dragging behind a coin character wearing the same medieval footwear. Under the slogan “The Longest Run for Your Money”, this logo of the Canadian Tire Corporation would carry on until the 1940’s when a red wax seal and ribbon logo appeared in their advertising and catalogues. This common “seal of approval” motif would continue until something happened that would live on into our subconscious: a red triangle.

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THE RED TRIANGLE

Appearing around 1950, the inverted red triangle with a green maple leaf would appear and remain a symbol for the Canadian Tire corporation for 66 years, and will probably continue for many more. The original red triangle was outlined in green and included the word “corporation” shortened to “CORP’N”. In 1958 our famous  collected currency known as “Canadian Tire Money” appeared  at a Canadian Tire gas bar at Yonge and Church St. in Toronto. Yet it would not be the new red triangle symbol that would be the logo on the bills, but rather the original elven socked “running tire and coin” image that started with the company 32 years earlier.

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When first introduced in 1958, the CT money used a slightly updated “tire & coin” logo. The red triangle and seal are also displayed.

The now famous “Scarfed Scotsman”, Sandy McTire, who symbolized the thrifty shopper, showed up on CTC money in 1961 and continues to appear on the bills today. At one time, Canadian Tire money was manufactured at the BA BankNote company here in Ottawa, right alongside our actual Canadian currency bills, using the same inks and paper, resulting in a durable currency bill that many still have and use to this day.

THE CHALICE

The inverted triangle symbol used by CTC is actually an ancient symbol with a very unique meaning behind it. It has been the representation of the earth and water. The downward pointing triangle is also an ancient symbol of femininity, being a representation of the female womb, or a chalice…”the giver of life”. One of the four alchemical elements, water symbolizes intuition, the unconscious mind, and the enclosing, generating forces of the womb. It also represents the force of Earth or gravity, or Mother Earth. In developing countries, the inverted Red Triangle is the symbol for family planning health and contraception services, again part of the “womb” symbology mentioned earlier.

This inverted red triangle of Canadian Tire was streamlined in the late 1960’s with the company name placed inside the triangle. This would be the everlasting symbol for the company that would be emblazoned into the psyche of every Canadian.

But why a red inverted triangle? According to the Canadian Tire website, the triangle holds a “98% instant recognition among Canadians. That’s the power of the Canadian Tire triangle.” In 2012 Canadian Tire finally revealed the secret behind the instantly recognizable triangle; in a single Twitter statement they said it was chosen by the founder, Mr. Gilles:

“Chosen because our founder needed one for the front of an oil can. A triangle was a simple, easy to recognize symbol.” 

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The secret behind the Canadian Tire logo revealed on Twitter in 2012.

Perhaps not as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle, but our Canadian Triangle possesses its own, shall we say, “magnetic properties”.

Andrew King, October 2016

SOURCES

http://www.autofocus.ca/news-events/auto-retro/a-brief-history-of-canadian-tire

http://www.steelart.com/about.html

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

http://www.canadiantire.ca/en.html

http://symboldictionary.net/?tag=triangle

http://www.thefullwiki.org/Red_Triangle,_Family_Planning

 

The PLUM HOLLOW WITCH

South of Ottawa, just past Smiths Falls, there is a curious old log cabin for sale near a place called Plum Hollow. Recently restored from its decrepit state, this little Victorian era cabin now offered for sale was once home to a respected real-life witch, THE WITCH OF PLUM HOLLOW.

A WITCH’S TALE

In 1857 Queen Victoria chose Ottawa to be the capital of Canada and the parliament buildings on the west side of the canal were opened in 1865. When the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867,  Sir John A. MacDonald became our first prime minister. These two important parts of history, Ottawa being chosen as the capital, and Sir John A. MacDonald are mysteriously connected to the Witch of Plum Hollow.

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Elizabeth Barnes, better known as the “Witch Of Plum Hollow”

Jane Elizabeth Martin was born around 1794 in Cork Ireland, Ireland. Just under five feet tall, Elizabeth was the daughter of a Spanish gypsy and her father  a colonel in the British army. Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Elizabeth would later claim this was the reason behind her abilities using a mystical “sixth sense.”

Arranged to marry a British officer, Elizabeth was deeply in love with another man, a  forbidden relationship in her family’s eyes, so she and her lover fled to North America. Once on the continent, the two lovers were married and gave birth to a son, but their love was to be cut short with the untimely death of her husband. She would later re-marry a shoemaker, David Barnes in 1843 and move to the hamlet south of Smiths Falls called Sheldon’s Corners. Here the two would raise a number of children before the husband left her without reason in the 1850’s. Elizabeth Barnes was left with her children to raise and needed money. It was then that her mystic abilities came into play…

WITCH POWER

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Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald visited the witch. ( photo:Wikipedia)

Charging 25cents to tell one’s fortune, Elizabeth was soon nicknamed “Mother Barnes” and had crowds of followers coming to her door seeking their future. Based on her incredible reputation of being accurate in telling one’s days to come, she accumulated enough money to buy a small log cabin of her own near Plum Hollow and entertained hundreds of people from all walks of life from all parts of the continent who sought out Mother Barnes mystic abilities. Farmers, doctors, lawyers, police and anyone else upon entering the tiny cabin would go upstairs to a small room where the witch would be sitting at a table with some tea.

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The upstairs room of the cabin where the witch would see the future. (Photo Re/Max Realty website)

Here the guest would have their fortune told in the tea leaves, a common Victorian practice of fortune telling. One of these customers was a young Attorney General by the name of John. He asked the “witch” as she was called, where the new capital of Canada would be located. Gazing through time she told John that the capital would be a town near a river called Bytown. She also told John that he would become the first Prime Minister in the capital city. John was John MacDonald, better known as Sir John A. MacDonald, and years later both prophecies would come true, Bytown would become the capital of Canada and he would indeed become prime minister.

CRIME SOLVER

Barnes clairvoyant abilities foretold that the body of Morgan Doxtader would be found and claimed it was the dead man’s cousin who murdered him.  That cousin was later convicted and hanged for the crime. The Witch Of Plum Hollow would also reveal the location of buried treasures, crimes of passion, locate lost personal items, and even reveal future loves. Her powers were always in demand, and she used them with great effect until she died in 1886 at the age of 92. Buried in an unmarked grave, the Witch of Plum Hollow would later receive a proper headstone put there by locals who revered their mystical witch.

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A novel in 1892 was based on Mother Barnes, the witch south of Smiths Falls.

The original log cabin of Witch Barnes still remains on a gravel road called “Mother Barnes Road” south of Smiths Falls. Previously collapsing and in disrepair, the 19th century cabin has since been lovingly restored by new owners. It is now listed with Re/Max Realty for sale at $249,000. The link to the realtor website is here.

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The original cabin of the Witch Of Plum Hollow still stands, recently restored. (Google Streetview)

It is unclear if the cabin’s new owners have sensed the presence of the old Witch of Plum Hollow in her old abode, but what is for sure, the fantastic tale of the clairvoyant witch will now live on into the future.

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The realtor website listing for the Witch of Plum Hollow’s house now offered for sale.

Andrew King, October 2016

SOURCES

http://www.pinecone.on.ca/MAGAZINE/stories/ElizabethBarnes.html

http://www.insidebrockville.com/community-story/3961751-plum-hollow-s-witch-a-fascinating-character/

Google Maps

http://www.remaxriverview.com/329-MOTHERS-BARNES-YONGE-ON/443050115/KAREA

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Tombstones On Bank Street

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Google Streetview shows the lonely graves in an empty lot on Bank St. 

Bank Street is a busy road, constantly taking people into the heart of the city, or out of it. The multitude of cars that drive past Analdea Boulevard on south Bank each day probably take no notice of the trio of 19th century tombstones at the busy intersection. Yet, here an abandoned graveyard contains the rested souls of Goths.

INTERSECTION OF THE DEAD

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Bank St. and Analdea Drive have three lonely tombstones at the intersection, top right. (GoogleMaps)

A grassy plot of land at the corner of Bank and Analdea looks quiet enough, save for the hundreds of cars that pass by it each day. Below its well cut grass are forgotten interred souls, one a 4 month old baby Goth, the others older Goths and Fentons. These are the last remaining souls of an abandoned 19th century graveyard that was moved to a new location sometime in the 1970s. Once a rural churchyard, the church building has since been demolished and its graveyard quietly removed…but not quite all of it.

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An 1880 maps shows a Methodist Church at the intersection. (McGill Digital Atlas)

In the latter part of the 1800s, a Methodist church was at the intersection that is now the gateway to the sprawling suburb of Findlay Creek, where a stretch of new homes surround a trio of old tombstones. Despite the suburban development, no houses seem to dare come close to the abandoned Goths. The old church served the outer settlements of Gloucester until sometime in the 1930s at which time the Methodist church closed.

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Ghosting the old map on a current map shows the old church used to be at the same intersection.

With many of the 19th century locals being interred into the graveyard at the church, it still remained when purchased by the Women’s Institute in 1940, serving as a community centre. The community centre later moved elsewhere, and the former church was eventually demolished, yet the graveyard remained. Slowly, the graves were transferred to property near what is now the OLG Casino on Albion Road. For reasons unknown, not all the graves were moved, and three lonely tombstones remain at the Bank St. intersection.

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One grave marker is that of baby Herbert, son of May Ann and Robert Goth, aged only 4 months when he was buried. The buried baby Goth has inexplicably been separated from the grave of his parents, who lie at a separate graveyard down the road in Johnston Corners.  The other marker is that of  John Goth who died in 1897 at the age of 81 and with him lies his wife Hannah Goth who joined John in 1920 at the age of 96.

A third stone nearby marks the plot of the Fenton family, with six members of that family buried there. Ages of the dead here range from 23 years to 90.

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The City of Ottawa maintains the forgotten cemetery as development sprawls in all directions around the lonely graves. They seem out of place on a large tract of prime real estate surrounded by suburban homes. Perhaps the words on the Goth tombstone reveal part of the reason why they have not been disturbed…”NOT HERE HAS RISEN”

Andrew King, October 2016.

All photos unless otherwise noted by @OldManLoudWife

 

SOURCES

http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/searchmapframes.php

http://www.findlaycreek.ca

http://www.bytown.net/glou1834.htm

http://geneofun.on.ca/cems//ONCAR15264

Google Maps

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Merivale Dairy Queen Sign

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For decades the landmark Dairy Queen sign on the corner of Merivale and Clyde has greeted overheated customers in search of a cool treat at that location’s dairy bar. The sign  has now been removed, joining the many other lost classic signs of Ottawa’s streetscape.

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Merivale’s classic Dairy Queen sign.

The sign was the second iteration of the Dairy Queen logo used from 1960 until 2001 when Dairy Queen executives decided “DQ” was a cooler moniker for their ice cream shops and started changing all the signs. Ottawa once had an even older sign on St. Laurent, a sign that dated from the 1950s but was removed in 2013 and demolished to make way for the new “DQ” makeover. That sign was famous and rare enough to make the official Wikipedia Dairy Queen page which unfortunately has not been updated to mention that the classic sign has since been trashed.

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The classic 1950’s Dairy Queen sign that used to be on St. Laurent but was demolished to make room for a new corporate look. The photo is part of the Dairy Queen Wikipedia page.

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The St. Laurent Dairy Queen after the makeover.

The classic red ellipse sign on Merivale has been in use since 1960, representing the swoop of soft serve ice cream with its pointy ends, but in 2007 the sign was “updated” with fancy new swooshy colours.

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I guess it was only a matter of time before one of the last remaining classic 1960’s Dairy Queen signs would be removed to fit into the new corporate image. The location is a seasonal one, so there was no one there to ask about the sign when I visited. This has always been my favourite Dairy Queen, a shining beacon of an era all but lost in time.

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Both classic Dairy Queen signs have been removed, one from the pole and one from the store front. (Compare to Google Streetview below)

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It seems a shame that we have to remove the classic signage of establishments that have adorned their businesses for so long. We have grown up with them, they are like a familiar old friend to greet us when we pass by. There is something comforting and welcoming about these classic old signs, a sentiment lost in corporate attempts to modernize.

To update a known and trusted industry brand by replacing old signs seems like a misguided attempt to fit into the modern streetscape. As the world progresses, I guess we must adjust, but why can’t we just leave the familiar old signs up and let us enjoy a bit of our diminishing city’s nostalgia.

Andrew King, 2016

 

 

The Secret Chemical Weapons Lab At Rideau Falls

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An aerial photo of the Chemical Weapons Laboratory that used to be at Rideau Falls.

UPDATE: On October 24th 2016, one week after this article was originally posted, it was announced by the NCC that the site will now become location for Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration. The Centre is scheduled to open its doors in 2017 as a Confederation Pavilion during Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Being the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa has always been home to a number of government facilities working on classified projects. These “classified” government projects are developed in secrecy, with details about them not being revealed until years later, if at all. A scenic park beside Rideau Falls may seem like an unlikely spot where one of these projects occurred…but it did, and it was not just any project. It was a secret lab inside an old pulp and paper mill developing and testing chemical weapons.

A CHEMICAL WEAPONS LABORATORY 

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The secret Chemical Weapons Lab at Rideau Falls that was once a pulp and paper mill. (Photo: Shirley’s Bay Review)

Allied forces during World War Two, including Canada, made preparations to wage both chemical and biological warfare. The use of chemical and biological weapons had already been experienced in the First World War with ghastly results. The threat of bio/chem weapons being used in WW2 was less of a concern due in part to the signing of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, a treaty prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts. Yet, here in Ottawa there was human experimentation involving volunteers at the wartime Chemical Weapons Laboratory in Ottawa to assess the effects of chemical agents as well as to develop protective measures.

A Chemical Weapons Laboratory.

In Ottawa.

What!? Where was this? you might ask…In some remote field miles south of the city in a secret facility?. No, rather it was a government building beside Rideau Falls that is now a scenic park owned by the NCC.

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Current view of what used to be the Chemical Weapons Lab. (photo:Google)

THE PROGRAM

The year was 1941 and the National Research Council (NRC) was part of program to study the use of choking gases such as chlorine, and chloropicrin in addition to the hellish compounds of hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride. Ottawa’s studies also included blistering weapons such as the infamous mustard gas. It is hard to believe but labs in Canada studied, tested, manufactured and stockpiled these bio/chem weapons during World War 2. Research was headed by the Directorate of Chemical Warfare and Smoke and conducted in Canadian university labs using NRC grant programs. These school labs included McGill, Toronto, Queen’s, Saskatchewan and Western.

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Manufacturing of chemical and biological weapons at Rideau Falls labs. (from “A Brief History of the Defence Research Establishment”)

Ottawa had its own Chemical Weapons Laboratory working with the NRC at Rideau falls in a now demolished facility. Created in 1940, the Rideau Falls Chemical Weapons Lab, dubbed “CWL” was responsible for the production of flame thrower fuel and the manufacture of 1000 pounds of B1 dye used to detect mustard gas in addition to a number of other “classified chemical compounds”. By the end of the war CWL had produced 8 million gas masks, forty million canisters, and in Cornwall, produced barrels of deadly mustard gas.

The Ottawa labs worked on highly toxic but largely unknown chemical agents. Once a converted pulp and paper mill known as Edward Mills, the secret labs operated from 1940 until 1947 when operations were moved out of the Rideau Falls site to Shirley’s Bay. The labs were soon demolished after the move-out and were eventually made into Rideau Falls Park which is there today.

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The John Street Labs, classified as “Chemical Weapons Laboratory, CWL” (photo: geoOttawa)

In addition to the study, testing and manufacture of bio/chem weapons and the associated gear to counteract them, the CWL labs at Rideau Falls also conducted experiments on volunteer subjects. Paid volunteers would be subjected to testing of chemical agents, with experimental counter measures being tested for their success. Subjects suffered blisters, and respiratory testing. In February 2004, the Ministers of National Defence and Veterans Affairs announced a recognition program to offer payments to these Canadian veterans who volunteered to participate in chemical-warfare experiments in Ottawa and elsewhere.

After the Second World War, the stockpiled chemical and biological weapons were taken aboard ships and unceremoniously dumped into the Atlantic Ocean, where barrels upon barrels of these nightmarish compounds decay on the ocean floor.

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The current site of what was once the grim Chemical Weapons Lab. (photo: Google Streetview)

The site that was once a shrouded chemical and biological weapons facility is now nothing but a tranquil NCC owned property called “Rideau Falls Park”. Here the NCC built the now abandoned Canada and the World Pavilion in 2001,  which subsequently was shuttered in 2005. It was announced on October 24th 2016 by The National Capital Commission and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society that the site will now become Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration. “The Centre is scheduled to open its doors in 2017 as a Confederation Pavilion during Canada’s 150th anniversary.” There is no mention of the shrouded past of the site other than a quip on the NCC website that states it was “developed after the Second World War when the area was acquired by the federal government and cleared of industry.”

What a gas.

Andrew King, October 2016

SOURCES

https://ecommons.usask.ca/bitstream/handle/10388/etd-02252009-160109/CanadaandChemicalWarfare.pdf

http://cradpdf.drdc-rddc.gc.ca/PDFS/unc17/p518800.pdf

http://www.theinternetdesignshop.com/WebImages/Shirleys%20Bay%201.pdf Shirley’s Bay Review

http://www.cheminst.ca/magazine/columns/then-and-now-5

https://legionmagazine.com/en/2016/05/chemistry-experiments/http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/news/article.page?doc=chemical-warfare-agent-testing-recognition-program/hnocfon0

Google Maps

http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/property-management/what-we-manage/news/2016-10-24/50-sussex-drive-to-become-new-centre-geography-ex

“A Brief History of the Defence Research Establishment” published 2002

 

 

 

 

Ottawa’s Secret Sand Dunes

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Over 10,000 years ago a body of water covered the City Of Ottawa called The Champlain Sea, a deep sideline of the Atlantic Ocean. It occupied a depression created by a continental glacier, and then it drained away as the giant glacier that once covered the northern hemisphere disappeared and the earth rebounded back into shape.  Now its only remnants are the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers. However, sand dunes were left to remind us of its former existence, sand dunes that exist hidden in the forests south of Ottawa off Slack Road. These dunes were a result of wind and water carrying sand left by the massive glacier into the sea by glacial rivers that once cut through through the glacial deposits. These sand dunes exist today, but are disappearing fast.

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Once humans began to traverse these ancient sand dunes, evidence has appeared that native people who needed wood and game inhabited the region, and archeological artifacts have been found in the area.  Hidden behind a facade of forest trees, the “sand zone” is recognized for its archaeological potential. I recently visited the site and found it to be a unique area worth visiting if you have the chance.

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This 1925 aerial view shows the once mighty extent of Ottawa’s Dune Sea. (photo from The Canadian Field Naturalist Journal June 2008)

Parking on a side road off Slack Road, we traversed up a small embankment to discover a flat plain of fine sand and dunes, stretching into the forest to the south. At one time this sand dune plain was massive, as a 1925 aerial photograph shows. In its current state it is just a fraction of its former self. The once mighty Dune Sea of Slack Road of about 3km in length has now been reduced to a few small areas of sand as the encroaching forest consumes this ancient Dune Region.

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Comparison photos showing the disappearing sand dune region south of Ottawa. (from Canadian Field Naturalists Journal June 2008)

The area is now part of the Pinhey Forest Reserve (National Capital Commission) and contains numerous trails where one can explore this ancient sand dune area. Housing developments, an industrial park and re-forestation efforts have all but concealed the former dunes, but the ground beneath is definitely a sandy experience. There seems to be remnants of some kind of archeological dig at the various dunes, with sifting equipment strewn about.

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The original sand dunes are now covered in forest growth, equally as magical. (photo Alison Fowler)

The forest that now covers the area is itself a unique feature as there are bizarre stick huts, carved stump monks and other oddities that give this hidden wonder a peculiar experience. Stick to the trails if you do go, and follow the trail maps, as it is very easy to become lost in the labyrinth among the secret sand dunes.

Andrew King, October 2016

SOURCES

http://journals.sfu.ca/cfn/index.php/cfn/article/viewFile/568/569

http://biodiversityconservancy.org/sand_dune.html

 

 

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

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