News

Revellers take stock of still-young country

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

DELHI, ON - 

 Residents of Delhi and surrounding area celebrated their country on the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary last week at the Delhi Ontario Tobacco Museum & Heritage Centre on Talbot Road.

The community get-together June 30 featured picnic lunches by Big Creek and the official heritage dedications of the Quance lumber mill and the stick kiln beside the museum.

At 7 p.m., a crowd of 100 gathered inside the museum to listen to a live performance by The Sand Plains Pickers, a talented folk foursome featuring Ian Bell, Matt Rait, and Alison and Darren Schott.

The band treated the crowd to classic folk songs as well as original numbers telling the stories of lovelorn bikers on Friday the 13th and hard-working Virginia curemen who came north to help the local tobacco industry get off the ground.

And through it all – judging from the large number of people in red and white – the idea of Canada was never far from anyone’s thoughts.

Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus told the story of the stick kilns that, until recently, dotted the local landscape by the hundreds. Afterwards, he shared his thoughts on this country on the threshold of its 150th birthday.

“I really appreciate the diversity of this country, our four-season climate, our mixed culture and our freedom,” Columbus said. “You listen to the news and there are a lot of countries that don’t have the freedom we do. And there’s a lot of fighting. We should be celebrating our freedoms.”

The Schott family of Lynedoch had a light supper by Big Creek before taking seats in the balcony to enjoy The Sand Plains Pickers.

Tracy Schott-Hennessey was there with several of her children. Schott-Hennessey has a new-found appreciation of her citizenship after seeing how some people live in other parts of the world.

“I’m glad as a woman that I was born in Canada,” Schott-Hennessey said. “There are a lot of places in the world that aren’t very good to women.”

Ottawa has encouraged Canadians to reflect on their country in this 150th anniversary year. In doing so, many recognize and appreciate Canada’s strong points but have also taken stock of areas where there is room for improvement.

For Pat Schott of Lynedoch, upgrading the lot of Canada’s aboriginal people is a worthwhile objective.

“I think we should fix the aboriginal mistakes that were made,” she said. “Justin (Trudeau) better get busy. Even so, it’s still a pretty good country.”

For her part, Julia Schott-Ramirez says Canada has a long way to go before it lives up to its multicultural pretensions.

“For a country that celebrates diversity, there’s an awful lot of racism,” she said. “I see it in my workplace and I see it in the schools.”

The 150th anniversary of Canada is a time to reflect on where we are and where we are headed.

But it also invites us to look back in wonder at the momentous occasion in 1867 when Upper Canada and Lower Canada were re-born as Ontario and Quebec in partnership with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Serving that function at the Canada 150 Eve celebration in Delhi was Larry Dawson of Simcoe, who came to the event in his fine copper suit and top hat as Norfolk’s Canada 150 mascot John Charlton.

John Charlton and his family moved to Upper Canada in 1849. In 1853, Charlton accepted an invitation to open a general store at Wilson Mills near Lynedoch.

Norfolk County settled on Charlton as the local mascot because he left behind an extensive diary chronicling life in Norfolk County around the time of Confederation. Dawson says he’s having a blast and that his Charlton odyssey won’t end until 2017 is no more.

“It’s the halfway point,” he said. “I have appointments now right up till Pumpkinfest. It’s been a fun experience. Everywhere I go I meet people who share a little more history. It makes it interesting.

“This dedication of the kiln is important. You think about how many local people put themselves through college with tobacco money. This has been a fun time and a great learning experience.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com