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Year in review: Part 10

Looking back at July 2018

Art on the Front features “character”

When Barry Smith takes a photo, it’s always from an interesting angle.

The Thorold artist showcased his unique photography at Chapel Street Designs Studio, as part of the Art on the Front program that runs the second Thursday of each month at the studio, as well as at Figg Street Company and other select stores downtown.

Once, he discovered a red rubber band lying in a parking lot, twisted into the shape of a treble clef. His photo now graces the homes of various musicians, and the back of at least one C.D.

“It strikes a chord with musicians,” he quips.

“A lot of my titles are a play on words. I really love the English language.”

The title of his photo, I Fort Alone—of a wooden fort built on stilts, is just one example of why Chapel Street Designs owner Rene Inman calls Smith “a character.”
“He’s a permanent fixture here,” she adds, and brings in new photos every three months or so. 

“What I really like about Rene’s store is everything in here is made from Niagara,” says Smith, describing the Thorold studio that features hand-crafted works from Niagara artists.

“The minute you spend money here, that’s how economies grow.”

These photos currently hang for all to see in Inman’s studio, located at 46B Front Street South.

The married father of three has children aged six, 11 and 22.

He calls his business B Squared Photography, because “Instagram needed a square format and I edited all my photos to be square. And, I really love math.”

More info is available at and on Facebook.

Author hopes to make wish a reality

Brent Smith is on a mission: “In a world where kids are overwhelmed and undervalued, I want to spread the message that they have value, they have worth and that they are loved.”

Ecstatic when his wife Alicia became pregnant, Smith recorded his emotions to share later with his child.

Written in a fun, rhyming format that both children and adults can enjoy, his book, A Daddy’s Wish, describes his delight in finding out he was becoming a father, through to the birth of his daughter, Ava.

“I am just a normal dad who wants to lift kids up with his writings,” he told the Thorold News. “I just wanted a short story I could read my daughter to sleep with about how excited I was to have her.”

There’s no mistaking the dad’s sheer sense of joy, vividly captured in illustrations by Spencer Duffy, while Smith’s text depicts the common sentiment most parents have, but may have never expressed to their kids—happiness that the child came into being.

And his hope is that—if it’s published—the book will serve as a springboard for parents to discuss their own journeys and emotions with their children.

When searching for titles on fatherhood he found few resources and dislikes how in the media, dads are often portrayed as either bumbling buffoons or authoritarians to be feared, said Smith, a Brock University alumnus who grew up in St. Catharines and “spent a lot of time in Thorold over the years.”

“There’s nothing for the guy who goes to work all day and his greatest sense of worth comes at the end of the day when he gets to reunite with his family, so I thought this would be a great moment to sit down and read it with your kids and reflect on that. It goes a lot deeper than saying ‘I love you’ to your child.”

Smith said he was “thrilled” when Friesen Press signed him to a two-year creative contract. However, he soon found out that, “Nowadays, unknown authors do not have their projects funded by the publishers. In today’s world, sites like Kickstarter and crowd funding are used in order to finance such projects. On Kickstarter, you are given a number of days to reach your goal funding. If you reach your goal amount, you are able to keep the funds and use them towards your project.”

If your goal is not reached by the set date—in his case, July 26, all funds are returned to donators and the project gets shelved.

With a goal to raise $3,700, “We’ve already reached $2,000,” said Smith. But with just 12 days left, the clock is ticking on his passion project becoming a reality.

Smith said he’d be grateful for any amount of funding, and that prizes are given for donations of $20 or more. At the $20+ level, contributors receive a soft cover and a digital copy of the book. For a $50+ donation, they’ll receive a digital and a hard copy of the book, and for $200+ they’ll receive both book versions along with A Daddy’s Wish coffee mug and a Dad Wall of Fame plaque, “so you can add a name of a dad you admire.”

A certified elementary school teacher, Smith works  with acquired brain injury patients, attending to their appointments, personal care and recreational activities as a client program facilitator.

If his first book sells, “I would like to focus on writing about marginalized youth,” he said, reaching out to help children of divorce and others “who are hurting.”


Boosting your online presence, without nudity

Celebrating his 21st year in the website development field, Mark Kawabe shared tips on boosting your online presence at a Lunch and Learn session at Club Capri Wednesday.

A board member of NCBOTAC (Niagara Centre Board of Trade and Commerce), Kawabe highlighted the need to “Be useful to people you want to reach. Produce quality content. There are billions of websites and even in little old Thorold, there are thousands, and you’re competing with all of them in some way.”

Because “So many people on social media are doing exactly the same as you,” Kawabe emphasized the need to network with people and build relationships.

The next step is: “Leverage them,” and to cross-promote each other’s businesses, he advised. “The people around you and in your networks can help you get more exposure.”

However, he stressed the importance of choosing partners who are already active online, as opposed to “online zombies, who haven’t updated their website in years.”

Build links to your website or blog with active partners, he said. “It doesn’t matter if the content is similar. Use catchy key words in the links.”

Describing “organic reach” as “reach you don’t pay for,” Kawabe said that Facebook ranks in terms of quality content as well as by the rate of engagement on social media. However, “Facebook is dropping in terms of how far your reach goes,” he added.

“Click, like, share, comment and repeat to show engagement.” 

“None of this is rocket science, but work together in an organized fashion for collective benefit.”

The next NCBOTAC Lunch and Learn session will be held Aug. 23, when Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey will discuss Tariffs.

Car Show a roaring success

Thorold’s downtown harkened back to the days when tail lights were shaped like bullets and steering wheels were gigantic during the annual BIA Car Show Saturday.

Hundreds of visitors flocked to see old and new vehicles—from 1920 Model Ts to a brand new Tesla Model X75Ds.

More than 150 vintage and new vehicles filled Front Street—so many that “We had to turn people away,” said organizer Nick Dell’Omo.

“We maxed out. It’s a shame. Next year, we’ll ask the city to borrow the Book Depot parking lot” to accommodate all the entries.

With his 1987 Grand National parked outside his Biscotti Café, Dell’Omo said he saw a steady flow of customers throughout the day, as did Da Bomb Bath Bakery’s owner, Marsha Coppola.

“We’ve had a lot of people who didn’t know we were here,” she said, “and a lot of new faces” at her Front Street store.

John Bart was the lucky winner of the Car Show’s 50/50 draw, supported by the Thorold Lions and with tickets sold by Youth Unlimited. All proceeds from the raffle went to help kids from Thorold and St. Catharines go to Youth Unlimited sponsored camp. Bart brought his 1995 Camaro, and said he enjoys coming to Thorold shows “because it’s so friendly.”

Daddy’s wish comes true

Last Friday morning, Brent Smith awoke and as usual, checked his email.

Lately, it’s been a bit of an “anxiety-invoking” ordeal, ever since the aspiring author has been trying to crowd fund his children’s book through a program called Kickstarter.

Smith’s book, A Daddy’s Wish, was written as a way of telling his daughter Ava how happy he and his wife Alicia were to have her. In the same fun rhyming format, he later wrote a second book for his son, Ethan, which has not yet been published.

He hoped other parents would read it with their own children and use it as a way to express similar sentiments they may not have before, strengthening the bond between them.

But after being signed to a two-year creative contract by Friesenpress—chosen by Smith “because they were Canadian”—the British Columbia company informed him he had to fund the project before they publish it.

With time ticking toward Friesenpress’s deadline, and knowing the publisher would scrap it if he didn’t raise enough funds, Smith embarked on a media campaign, appealing to the general public to pitch in and help.

Each day, he’s been checking his email from Kickstarter.

“The email is computer-generated,” he said, “and informs you of your campaign’s progress. But Friday was different. The Kickstarter email title was quite simply: "You made it."

“It took a minute for everything to register,” Smith told the Thorold News.

“It was Friday about 6 a.m. when I found out the great news so I just quietly carried it to work with me and told Alicia, Ava and Ethan when I got my customary ‘Good morning, how was your drive to work?’ text message. It was a very long day at work that day waiting to get home and celebrate with everyone.”

Today—Wednesday—is the last day remaining in the campaign, said Smith.

“I am so ecstatic about how much positivity, encouragement and love people have shown during this campaign that I have promised a little surprise with every copy; just a little something to show my overwhelming appreciation.”

Day of 1,000 Musicians rocks Niagara Falls

A Woodstock-like vibe wafted over Niagara Falls Saturday, as a field filled with guitarists, dozens of drummers and several singers descended on Firemen’s Park to make musical history.

Musicians from pre-teens to seniors united to form one supersized mega band.

A flautist, some maracas, and even a few tambourine players were spotted performing six songs—all in unison—at the Day of 1,000 Musicians event.

And although the tally didn’t quite reach the goal of 1,000 musicians—organizers estimate about 700-plus tuned in for the event—smiles were seen all around, as the event struck a chord with performers and spectators alike.

Marched onto the playing field by three pipers wielding bagpipes, the musicians arrived attired in everything from fringed vests and tie-dyed T-shirts to a top hat and tails.

Nine-year-old Grayson Sunstrum and his brother Cohen, age 11, rocked out side by side on guitar and bass.

“It was an incredible day,” said a St. Thomas drummer known as ‘Cooper.’ “What a fantastic city.”

His friend “Clarkie” came from London to play the drums alongside his sister, Christine Hess, from Niagara Falls.

“It was great,” she said. “It’s the first time I played out of my basement.”

Clarkie added that their group also took part in the event to pay a musical tribute to his deceased brother, Billy.

The event was the brainchild of Paul Lemire, who took his place among the musicians, playing his pale blue guitar.

“Ever since he saw it on YouTube in Italy,” Lemire launched the idea with fellow organizer John Fillion, said Roger McLaughlin, who had the dubious task of conducting the mega band from a nearby platform.

“We had a dry run Wednesday,” he told the Thorold News before the performance. “I don’t expect it to be perfect. It’s all about fun.”

McLaughlin, a lifelong musician who’s played in local bands, said, “I grew up in this park. I think it’s already the biggest event they’ve had in this park. We’d like to do it every year.”

Following the super-set, “It felt great to see everybody having such a great time,” said Lemire.

“We wanted to get together 1,000 musicians. I sat in my backyard and said, ‘Man, if I could pull this off in Niagara Falls, it would be fantastic.’ We may not have hit 1,000 but this is the first time in North America and our brothers in Italy are doing it again.”

The 700-plus member band performed six songs in total, including It’s a Long Way to the Top if you Wanna Rock and Roll, Fly By Night, Big League, Nice to Love You, Summer of ’69, and Neil Young’s Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World was the heartfelt finale.

“We made all the songs three-chord songs for amateur musicians,” Lemire said.

The event was free but people were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for Project Share.

In addition to uniting amateur and professional musicians and making musical history, an additional goal of the event was to raise funds for Major Progressions Music Therapy, Music Gives Movement, and the Stamford Centre Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

Unique shopping experience at Downtown Thorold Market

Whether you’re looking for spicy pickled carrots and green beans, home-made cherry pecan granola, or farm fresh quail eggs, you’ll find it at the Downtown Thorold Market.

Carrie Cottage-Bailey hosted her grand opening at 6 Ormond Street South a few weeks ago, and said she’ll continue to run the market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon until the end of September.

Outside, fresh fruits and vegetables are sold along with a rotating crop of hand-crafted products, while indoors, three large rooms feature additional artisans, along with shelves stocked with specialty breads, baked goods, Yonge Street roasted coffee from Toronto, soy candles, and preserves and canning made by the Mennonite community in St. Jacob’s.

“The vendors are different each week,” said Cottage-Bailey. “This week, we brought in compound butters,” which come in flavours such as Blue cheese and chives and roasted garlic. 

“I was able to seek out the local pockets of goodness and bring them to Thorold. There seems to be a comeback for these types of small, family and artist-based businesses. It’s not cookie-cutter processed products.”

To highlight the market’s family-oriented, all-ages dynamic, she featured free face painting last week, and plans to continue hosting similar special attractions.

Another goal is to bring people “more in touch with local farmers and even contemplate growing a little something themselves.  It is a part of life many of us have lost amidst busyness and technology. I am hoping that it will raise awareness also of the nature of plants/produce in their natural form (including non-GMO and heirloom varieties) in contrast to mass-produced supermarket food. I am hoping also that it will be an opportunity for people to get out for a walk or enjoy some family time as they rediscover downtown.”

The long-time Thorold resident thought it was an ideal time to launch the market as part of the city’s ongoing downtown revitalization.

“It is very exciting to see the downtown core being invested in and rejuvenated.  I am thankful to the people who have contributed to getting the ball rolling by investing in downtown and rallying people together for positive change.  It is exciting to be a smaller town that has city councillors and a mayor who are personally invested in our city.  Thorold, especially now, has much to offer.”

Honor Beauty joins Pampered Peach

The merger of two local businesses has made it twice as easy to beautify your body in one location.

Rachel Bertrand and Page Honor cut the ribbon to officially announce their partnership at a grand opening ceremony of their double business last weekend.

Located at 13 Albert Street West, The Pampered Peach specializes in “a more gentle hair removal experience”—for ladies only—while the new adjoining Honor Beauty offers hair, makeup and photography, both in-studio as well as mobile hair and makeup services for weddings and special events.

The entrepreneurs celebrated their merger with friends, family and clients Sunday, while Sannia Mian offered free henna tattoos in the cozy salon. Raffle prizes donated by local businesses raised $225 for Friends with Hearts, a charity that helps people struggling during the Christmas holidays.

Honor uses 100 per cent cruelty-free cosmetic and hair care products as well as vegan options.

Bertrand uses a paste that’s 100 per cent organic and applied to the skin with fingertips at room temperature, preventing burning and making it less painful than waxing.

“We’re going to be a great team,” said Honor. “Rachel has been here over a year now, so thank you for letting me come into your space.”

“I’m happy to have her,” said Bertrand, “and thank you to everyone for supporting us through this entire journey and going forward.”

Presenting the two partners with plaques, Mayor Ted Luciani stated, “Thank you for having faith in Thorold and opening your business downtown.”

Regional Councillor Henry D’Angela gave a second set of plaques, and congratulated them on “sprucing up the building.”

I know there’s a lot of work in running your own business, but I know you’re going to do great,” he told them. “I hope to come back in 25 years and give you another certificate.”

To contact The Pampered Peach, call 905-327-0537 or e-mail

To contact Honor Beauty, call 289-257-0458 or e-mail

For more information, visit here and here.

Lametti and Badawey: “Build Bridges”

“Bridge” was the word of the day, as Dave Lametti, Parliamentary Assistant to Innovation, Science and Economic Development joined Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey in addressing NCBOTAC (Niagara Centre Board of Trade and Commerce) members at Club Capri Wednesday.

Lametti said he has roots in Niagara, and the former Notre Dame student added that his mother was once a cook at Club Castropignano and Club Roma.

“I’m a Montreal M.P. in Paul Martin’s old riding,” he said. “I spent most of my life as a law professor at McGill (University) and taught intellectual property.”
“Dissatisfied with the previous government,” Lametti said he “decided to make the jump” to politics.

“We’ve been given a different kind of government that’s willing to invest in young people, innovation, transit; housing,” he said. “The infrastructure is there to help create seniors’ housing.”

Lametti added:  “We are here to listen to you as seniors, and I’m here to listen to you as an Italian Canadian as well.”

He encouraged NCBOTAC members to build bridges with Brock University and Niagara College, and being next to the U.S. border “can be exploited by forward-thinking officials. There are great possibilities for the economy. You are already seeing a boom in big cities like Montreal but it can happen here, too. Other countries understand that the university community needs to work with government to provide really good, clean, green, high-tech, well-paying jobs for our kids.”

“The university is doing research, the college is teaching programs and then through the business community, we find seed capital to get the ventures going. Private investors can help the business grow. Brock is linked to university research networks around the world, so you can tap into that. The current administration at Brock and professors are very conscious of their role in Niagara, to collaborating with the private sector to push those economic ideas forward. You’ve got it. Use it.”

Referring to Badawey, Lametti said, “Vance is always trying to build bridges between levels of government and seeing it (Niagara) as a unified place helps everyone.”

Whether seeking federal funding for senior housing, transit, or infrastructure, Lametti urged all Niagara municipalities to “Think of yourself as a region, because you are competing” against big cities like Montreal and Vancouver, so a unified front in economic development is critical, he stated.

“If you are connected as a region, you have a better chance.”

“We talked about our infrastructure needs, the needs of Thorold citizens, and how we can get more funding from all levels of government,” the city’s CAO, Manoj Dilwaria, told ThoroldNews.

“We told him (Lametti) what our issues are and we hope to continue the dialogue. If we all join forces, it will help us.”

“My sense is it’s quite positive,” said Lametti, a sentiment echoed by Badawey.

“Bridging partnerships. Integrity. It’s the mandate that’s going to be given to Niagara to fulfil it and be accountable.”

Library pop ups at the park

By Rebecca Lazarenko, Public Services Librarian

This summer, TPL is on the road. For a little bit, anyway. Then we’ll park, get out, and be at the desired location. As part of our extended outreach services, we’ll be visiting McAdam Park in Thorold South, Tuesdays from 1-3 p.m. and Port Robinson Park in (spoiler) Port Robinson, Thursdays from 1-3.

Mini models featured at Fun Fly

Mini jets and planes of all types whizzed and whirled through the wide open sky over Walker’s Field all day Saturday.

The Niagara Model Flying Club hosted its third annual Fun Fly, inviting other clubs to join them in lapping each other and looping in the air, performing trick twists and upside-down turns using sophisticated remote controls.

The event was “jam-packed,” said Niagara club member Mike Hind. “Pilots come from all over the region. Today’s a great day of camaraderie and you have everything from electric to gas-powered helicopters and jets to sport planes, scale plans, and just a lot of fun for everyone.”

A jet model, manned by Bill Michelle, looked and sounded like an actual jet, fuelled by kerosene, and burning up two litres in only six or seven minutes.

“A lot more people came this year,” said coordinator Scot Fisher, since the club has been branching out and making friends at other events.

Hind, whose 92-year-old father attended the event from London, Ontario, said the club donated proceeds from the Fun Fly’s barbecue and raffles to the Niagara Children’s Centre, as they do every year.

Ground Breaking at Region’s new Civic Park

Shovels broke ground at Niagara Region headquarters Friday morning, officially signaling the start of the new Civic Park and International Plaza building project.

Now, it’s an unused tract of treed land but by July, 2019, Niagara Region’s front lawn will be completely transformed into a multi-purpose space—where people can have picnics, Brock students and regional staff can work side by side on laptops while enjoying nature, spectators can enjoy festivals or watch outdoor movies; all connected by a main pedestrian thoroughfare and revamped courtyard.

Key elements of the project include the Orchard Plaza, Front Lawn, the International Plaza, Courtyard, Gardens of the Municipalities, as well as a large Pollinator Garden, all making the Region’s administrative campus a more modern, inclusive and pedestrian-friendly space.

​The area facing St. David’s Road will be redesigned as a public space for year-round gatherings for residents, students and visitors to the Brock District. 
Earlier this year, regional staff awarded the contract for the detailed landscape architectural design and construction administration of the new park to Adesso Design Inc. of Hamilton.

“Our intention,” said Mario Patitucci from Adesso, “is that it becomes a vibrant space that’s really accommodating everyone in the area. There will be ample seating and covered areas,” as well as pollinator gardens and “a nice space for outdoor art” such as sculptures. Flags of every municipality in the region will fly alongside “guest flags.”

Special attention has been paid to ensure a sustainable and inclusive design, utilizing low impact development technologies and drought-tolerant native plants, as well as ensuring spaces are accessible to diverse and unique park users.

Regional chair Alan Caislin said the Civic Park represents a $2.3 million investment by the region, incorporating the region with the city of St. Catharines on the north side of St. David’s Road and the city of Thorold on the south side, as well as Brock University, “By leveraging the university as an economic driver.”

“This will be a truly democratic space,” said Khaldoon Ahmad, manager of urban design and landscape architect for the region.

“Our hope is to have it tendered in September and we are currently doing pre-qualification of contractors where we pre-qualify their ability to provide the services we need to get this built.” 

Ahmad said they hope to save and replant some of the trees while removing damaged ones.

“Come spring, we will be done all the landscaping and concrete pouring and signage to guide people to the buildings and we hope to be finished before Canada Day, 2019.

“This is a significant amount of resource that’s being put into this project,” said Rino Mostacci. “There was never a doubt in my mind that the regional council would support us. Despite all the shenanigans you may hear and read about, regional council has not only allocated the money,” but fully supported the initiative, he added.

James Mandigo, Vice Provost from Brock University applauded the project “that will be a welcoming space for our students around the world, and we are very excited that they have included us,” he said.

TAP taps into exotic and classic cars

Mia Marquez, age 7, posed in front of a green Porsche at the Thorold Auto Parts auto show Saturday.

Fifty exotic and classic cars cruised into the Thorold Auto Parts parking lot on Saturday, and were captured by a drone.

“This is our first annual car show,” said TAP owner Frank Serravalle. “We’ll do this every year.”

He added that Wellspring Cancer Centre was chosen as the recipient of proceeds and donations made at the car show and barbecue, “Because cancer is so strong in this area, and they are a great organization.”

Thorold: Canal Industrial Community, Part 1

by John N. Jackson, The Four Welland Canals, pub. 1988

Where the municipal boundary between the cities of St. Catharines and Thorold is crossed at Townline Road, the industrialized canal landscape and its potential for reinstatement continues as a sequence. A reminder of long-term municipal independence is that Bradley Street becomes John Street and Merritt Street changes its name to Ormond Street. Though the counties of Lincoln and Welland were merged into a regional structure of government in 1970, the transition is also across the former county boundary.

The present town centre of Thorold, formerly Stump Town, was founded because of the First Canal, initially as a settlement for construction gangs digging the channel and building the locks, but then taking advantage of water power available from the Canal to construct mills.

The industrial community produced such diverse products as flour, lumber, soap, cotton fabrics, agricultural implements, cut stone, barrels and fibre board, with eventually the paper industry attaining pre-eminence. These developments are associated mostly with the First and Second Canals but, when the Third Canal was routed east of the city in the 1870s, the Second Canal remained open for traffic from the south until about 1915. The Canal channel, its ponds and raceways were then in-filled or culverted, creating an extensive strip of open space, often unsightly and used for parking purposes.

Important features of Canal interest include:

40 John Street, the former CVL rubber factory, is an original stone building which once housed the Penman Knitting Company. Built on the banks of the First Welland canal around 1840, then near Lock 22 of the Second Canal, it became the Muratori macaroni factory in the 1930s. Gutted by fire in the 1950s, its site is on land reclaimed from the Canal, its ponds and the many raceways that served the mills.

Maplehurst, now the Keefer Mansion is located at 14 St. David’s Road, on the hillside above the Second Canal.  This grand, three-storey mansion of 1856 was built by John Keefer, the son of George Keefer, first President of the Welland Canal Company. Its red stone structure with grey quoins, the irregular shapes of roof lines, gables and dormers, and its green setting on a slope, combine to provide an attractive building once used as a private nursing home.

The name, St. David’s Road, a reminder of past circumstances, survives, but it no longer reaches St. David’s, being disrupted by the Fourth Canal. It passed over the Second Canal at a lock, and under the Third Canal by a road tunnel.

Fraser Inc. fine paper mill (now The Book Depot) was built on the site of Lock 23 of the Second Canal. The parking area in front and to St. David’s Road is again where the Canal and its basins have been filled.

The Welland Mills on Pine Street, north of Albert, were built in 1846-47 by Jacob Keefer. Once the largest producers of flour in Canada, the mill obtained power from the Canal. A dock at the rear delivered grain, and up to 500 barrels a day could be produced in the well-equipped mill for outward shipping by Canal vessels. Again an excellent example of 19th century architecture, the building is constructed using local limestone and timber. It warmly merits its historic plaque in front of the building on Pine Street.

Where you cross open space into downtown Thorold, there was a bridge and the raised embankment of the N. S. & T. streetcar network, all now removed. Just off Front Street on Albert Street East is the former Mansion House Hotel, now a private residence containing several apartments. This hotel was once owned by Patrick Donnelly of the famed Black Donnellys of Lucan.

Front Street, named because of its location next to the First Canal. The Second Canal followed a new alignment slightly to the west. Both sides of the street have been developed with a continuous two-sided, 19th century, commercial frontage where the merchants, as at Port Dalhousie and Port Colborne, served both the community and the trade of passing vessels. A publicly sponsored urban renewal project and historic awareness during the mid-1980s contributed towards the economic revitalization of an important townscape.

Thorold: Canal-Industrial Community, Part 2

John N. Jackson, The Four Welland Canals

Additional features of interest in Thorold canal district include:

The street along the west side of the Canal, Towpath Road, provides the reminder that horses and mules towed sailing vessels through the Canal before tugs and propeller vessels took over this exhausting task. Stables for the horses and taverns (legal and illegal) for those working the Canal followed its banks.

Next to the current fire hall, a plaque refers to the first mill in Canada that manufactured cotton.

Old Fire Hall, 12 Albert Street West. Built next to the Second Canal in the late 1870s, this expressive building was designed for two fire engines, a fireman’s hall on the upper floor, and a tower for drying the hoses. It housed the town’s police force at the east end, and a jail in the basement. For many years, the fire bell tolled the curfew hour at 9 p.m. This building is a fine example of conservation and preservation.

Beaverdams Park. The Second Canal has been in-filled and transformed into linear open space. Lock 25 of the Second Canal has been partially uncovered, and a bandshell provides recreation. These assets are embellished by several artifacts:  a cut-stone lintel from the doorway of the first flour mill to be built on the First Canal in 1827 by George Keefer; historic plaques to the founding of Thorold and to Laura  Secord; an obelisk to the Battle of Beaverdams, 1813, removed with the remains of American soldiers, and relocated in the park when the Thorold Tunnel was constructed under the Fourth Canal; a cairn commemorating the Battle of the Beechwoods; an anchor from S.S. Heron Bay, operated by the local (former) Quebec and Ontario Transportation Company; and behind the bandshell, a wall built with stone from a locktender’s house that stood near Lock 23.

A criticism is that the battle fought in 1813 against American invaders during the War of 1812 lay east of the present Thorold Tunnel, and its memorial should have remained in that location. The name of this park should be associated with the city’s rich Canal heritage, as is the city’s motto: “Where Ships Climb the Mountain.”

Thorold: Canal-Industrial Community, Part 3

By John N. Jackson, The Four Welland Canals (pub. 1988)

East Thorold has many old, attractive residential buildings, several dating to the mid- and late-19th century. Note the area’s abrupt termination by the Fourth Canal.

The Canal is again a confining barrier to physical growth, a situation that was increased when two local road bridges were eliminated after the Thorold Tunnel opened in 1968. The Lock 7 Motel (now called the Inn at Lock 7) overlooks Lock 7 and the Flight Locks. Its older parts housed engineers who worked on the construction of Locks 4 to 7.

Thorold was incorporated as a village in 1850. It became a town in 1875 and, with the rest of the former township, a city in 1975. Five smaller communities, each with Canal associations, were absorbed. Though all are worth a side trip, their full detail is beyond the scope of this text.

Beaverdams, a pioneer centre that preceded the First Welland Canal, had the headwaters of its streams curtailed when the First Canal was constructed and its nearby valleys inundated by successive enlargements for the DeCew water and power projects.

St. John’s West, once with stores and several mills, declined almost to oblivion when the early water power advantages of the Short Hills were replaced by the greater power resources of the Welland Canal and its hydraulic raceways.

Allanburg grew in conjunction with the work force of labourers attracted to construct the First Canal, and then again with the advent of the Second Canal. Here were performed the sod-turning ceremony and the speeches which inaugurated the First Canal. The participants then repaired to the Black Horse Tavern, recently demolished despite citizen protests at this further destruction of an acknowledged Canal resource.

Port Robinson complements Allanburg at the southern end of the Deep Cut through glacial morainic ridges, and again grew in association with Canal construction works. It developed mills, stores, a dry dock and shipyards, and was a centre for steamboat passenger services along the Welland Canal, upstream along the Feeder Canal to the Grand River, and downstream along the Welland River to Chippawa and Buffalo. As its lift bridge across the modern Canal was demolished by an errant freighter in 1974, the village is now separated into two divided communities linked by a small passenger ferry.

Thorold South, different again in its origins and character, is a scattered industrial community that developed in conjunction with Canal-oriented industry (especially the Ontario Pulp and Paper Company) during the early 1900s. It has distinct social enclaves:  brick houses for management, wooden frame houses for factory workers, and apartment buildings for transient workers.

Thorold Track Team takes home 10 provincial medals

Thorold's track and field club was well-represented on the podium at the Athletics Ontario Bantam/Midget/Youth Track & Field Championships in Windsor last weekend, taking home a total of 10 provincial medals.

More than 900 athletes represented track clubs across Ontario in the provincial championship meet for athletes aged 12-17 held at the University of Windsor Stadium.

Provincial medals won by the Thorold Club include:

  • DeAndre Fournier won gold in the youth boys triple jump (14.02)
  • Tyrese Gibson won gold in the bantam boys long jump (4.71)
  • Tavon Pulema won gold in the midget boys triple jump (12.10)
  • Daniel Swayze won silver in the midget boys javelin (42.73)
  • Matt Tint won silver in the youth boys high jump (1.85)
  • Nathan D'Costa won bronze in the youth boys javelin (50.36)
  • Noah Dommasch won bronze in the youth boys triple jump (13.47)
  • Daniel Swayze won bronze in the midget boys discus (36.22)
  • Denis Tzvetkov won bronze in the midget boys javelin (40.75)
  • Ryan Beauregard won bronze in the midget boys 1500 m steeplechase (5:50.68)

Next up for the club is the Minor Track Association Championships in Hamilton this weekend and the Ontario Summer Games in London from August 2-4.

Thorold Recognizes Hockey Stars

Eight hockey powerhouses launched illustrious careers after taking their first steps on Thorold Arena ice.

The successful skaters were recognized Saturday with certificates from local leaders.

Organizer and city councillor Terry Ugulini said he chose Front Row Sports store for the event since he works at the “hockey mecca,” and that it was easier for the busy hockey players to come on a Saturday than during a week night council meeting at city hall.

Ugulini said the athletes all “have roots in the city of Thorold,” and have had “outstanding team and individual achievements on the national and international stages. All are ambassadors for Thorold.”

Each skater received four certificates, from Vance Badawey, MP Niagara Centre, Mayor Ted Luciani, the Region of Niagara, and John D’Amico, Chair of the Niagara Centre Board of Trade and Commerce. NCBOTAC gave special recognition to Conor Timmins for the 2018 World Championship played in Buffalo, New York.

Congratulating them on their “great careers,” Luciani told the group: “You leave here today and go all your separate ways, but you carry the Thorold banner. Please be proud of your city because this is where you all started.”

Recipients included Ryan Miotto of the Chilliwack Chiefs, Junior A hockey team, RBC Cup Champions; Ben Evans of the Wellington Dukes, Junior A hockey team, Buckland and Dudley Hewitt Cup Champions, and RBC Cup Finalist; Mitchell Mendonca of the Wellington Dukes, Junior A hockey team, Buckland and Dudley Hewitt Cup Champions and RBC Cup Finalist; Randy Gazzola of the New Brunswick Varsity Reds, University Cup Bronze Medal, Atlantic University Sport Men’s Ice Hockey Championship, and winner of the R. W. Pugh Fair Play Award for Most Sporstmanlike Player in Canada; Sean Bentivoglio of the Cardiff Devils, 2018 Playoff Championship, 2017-2018 Elite Ice Hockey League Championship; Conor Timmins of Team Canada, 2018 World Junior Championship Gold Medal; and Joey Martin of the Cardiff Devils, 2018 Playoff Championship, 2017-2018 Elite Ice Hockey League Championship and Forward of the Year, Player of the Year and First Team All-Star.

Anthony DiFruscia, recipient of the University Cup Silver Medal for the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, was unable to attend Saturday since he’s currently taking summer courses in the Maritimes.

“Anytime you can be recognized by your community, it’s a big deal,” said Timmins. “We’re all very proud to be from Thorold.”

Vollick, pillar in Port Robinson community, passes

Revered by his fellow firefighters and respected as a leader and a pillar in the Port Robinson community, former fire chief and dedicated volunteer Gene Vollick passed away last week at age 81.

Vollick loved to fly, and as a 17-year-old, joined the RCAF with his buddy, Matthew.

It was at Camp Borden in Barrie in 1955 where he met Dorothy, AKA “Kit,” and the couple fell in love.

A native of Newfoundland, she grew up in Nova Scotia and was forced to choose between accepting an RCAF post in Germany and retiring (as women were forced to in those days) if she married Gene. She chose the latter in 1957, and the Vollicks had three children—Gene, Dean, and Lisa.

After Gene retired from the RCAF, the family moved to Port Robinson, and he worked at B.F. Goodrich (now Oxy Vinyls), having studied electrical engineering at night school to become a millwright.

For 38 years, he volunteered at the Station #3 fire hall, starting in the 1960s and worked his way up to fire chief, a position he held from 1970 to 1974 and from 1987 to 1990.

The fire house family became his second family, and George Upham, president of the Port Robinson Firefighters Association, said he felt fortunate to “work with Gene for the first couple years, and I learned  a lot from him and gained a large respect for him. Gene was truly a great man.”

When Upham asked his fellow firefighters to describe Gene, he said that “Everyone in the fire department said he was an honest, good man; smart, trustworthy, and could be counted on. He was a humble man; never bragged, never spoke poorly of people; was knowledgeable and nice to be around.”

“He ran the kids’ Christmas parties and quickly proved to be an asset to the community,” added Upham. Vollick was elected treasurer in 1967 and took on the task of fireworks president and others.

“His skills and knowledge as a firefighter showed and he became elected captain and was very well-trained. Then he was elected to fire chief. His dedication to the fire hall and community was valuable and unwavering. He stood out as a leader. He was inspiring, encouraging others to grow. Anyone could always go to Gene to learn. We all felt comfortable being around him.”

Not only did he undergo weekly training sessions and meetings, said Upham; Vollick also volunteered at Niagara District training, and helped organize memorial services, turkey raffles, parades, and other fire hall events.

“It was like a big family. When he wasn’t at the fire hall, he was flying. He loved to take people in his own plane. Gene built two homes—a second on Silver Lake in Manitoulin Island. He would fly friends and family across the lakes in his four-seater Piper plane.”

He retired in 2002, “but continued to come and support us right up until a couple months ago, attending meetings and helping out where he could.”

He also volunteered up north and was fire chief at B.F. Goodrich.

According to Dean, his son, “He was larger than life. Dad was always one to do things the best way; the right way, and if he didn’t know what that was, he would study it to find out.”

Self-taught and self-reliant, he taught himself to play guitar and banjo and spent hours studying to get his pilot’s licence. He even made maple syrup and ran his own sugar bush operation with his friend, Bob Ogilvie in Port Robinson, and another one in Manitoulin.

“He sang about country roads, sinking ships, freight trains and roosters. But most often, he sang about love and in earlier days, Mom sang with him and their eyes sparkled because they were so in love. Dad shared his passion for music with all three of us kids. He taught us about fiddleheads and mushrooms in the woods.

“Dad was devoted to Mom and to us kids. He wasn’t a church-going man but his dedication to his community was a community not unlike a church. He and his fellow firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to save lives and protect the Port Robinson community. His hymns were the songs of Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Cash; Loretta Lynn. His house of worship was in nature. I am in awe of his reverence for the earth.”

Wanted:  wigs for kids

Give me heads with hair; long, beautiful hair.

Mandy McIntosh is looking for people who are willing to part with their ponytails.

The owner of Bamboo Hair Stylists said her daughter Brooklyn started the annual event that has people losing their locks for a good cause.

On Saturday, July 28 she’ll host the salon’s 6th annual Wigs for Kids event, “and we hope to beat last year’s total of 93 ponytails,” said McIntosh.

All the hair and proceeds from donations that day help make wigs for children suffering from cancer.

Brooklyn was five years old—and had hair down to her knees—when her mom wanted to cut it.

“She asked to see a picture of someone who had hair donated,” McIntosh recalled. “My mom had cancer for 24 years, so Brooklyn was asking questions about that and she wanted to donate hair to mom, even though she never lost her hair.”

When her two-year-old sister gets older, Brooklyn plans to recruit her to cut her hair for the cause.

“It feels good because I’m helping somebody,” she said, now age 12.

Donated hair must be 10 to 12 inches from a ponytail down, and not be bleached or chemically altered.

Since Brooklyn’s hair now has highlights, it won’t be eligible to make a wig this year but her mom said, “She’s been busy going around getting donations for our penny sale, which raised $500 last year.”

McIntosh will start lopping ponytails at 10 a.m. Tim Horton’s will donate Timbits and coffee and Riganelli’s Bakery will donate buns for the annual BBQ, which runs from 12 noon until 3 p.m. Food will be free for anyone—regardless of whether they cut their hair—with a donation to Wigs for Kids.

“The community is awesome. I have a lot of great clients who come just to the barbecue. A lot of the local businesses donate food and prizes.”

While McIntosh is busy cutting hair, her friends and family will help run the barbecue in an outdoor tent housing the food and drinks. One of her clients will do face painting for donations from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and a penny sale with prizes will be held inside the shop all day.

“I do haircuts year-round for Wigs for Kids at no cost, but I really like it when people come and show their support” at the annual event, said McIntosh. The wigs are made at Transitions Studio in St. Catharines, and wig-makers attend Bamboo’s annual event to collect all the hair at the end of the day.

“It takes 20 to 30 ponytails to make one wig, and each wig costs $1,900.”


Cathy Pelletier

About the Author: Cathy Pelletier

Cathy Pelletier is an award-winning newspaper journalist/editor who writes for
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