Tag Archives: small-towns

It’s Something Unpredictable– But in the End it’s Right…

It’s Something Unpredictable– But in the End it’s Right…


Photo-Google Image

They say a benefit of time travel might end in a continuous loop, and if it were possible to go back a few years maybe we could undo our mistakes. I have had some pretty wild dreams since my heart attacks and last night I found myself once again breathing in the past.

Sitting on a bench outside the old train station in Cowansville, Quebec it seemed like forever, but in reality it was probably just a few minutes. Nothing had changed as the lunchtime whistle blew from the Vilas factory across the way, and the ghosts of workers past streamed out of boarded up doorways and broken windows.

At the back of the train station there was a huge wooden door that almost reached the sky and sat ajar a few inches. What lay beyond this I asked myself, and being fearless I knew going beyond this barrier was now on my list.

As I pushed the door open I saw the Realmont building and remembered it being such a mysterious place to some of us as teenagers. Whispers of what went on in that building were always on my mind and the secretive products we thought they sold were now irrelevant in my life.

I looked at the old bowling alley across the street and remembered the evenings spent in a cigarette smoke filled basement dancing to 60s music and the friends I will never forget. As I walked down the street some of the older homes still held memories for me and I thought if I continued this journey maybe I could finally clear my head for good.

Walking by the South Street empty parking lot I remember once buying a guedille and a vico at the white clapboard snack bar. I soon realized after I moved to Ontario that no one understood the Joual French that I spoke and asking for a guedille  anywhere else would never give me a hot dog bun with coleslaw in it again–along with a chocolate milk. The last time I had seen the owner of that snack bar was two days before she died of cancer and I tried not to let the sad times travel on my emotions.

Sitting on the cement steps of the old Voyageur Bus Terminal I watched my late Father trying to calm the owner, telling him to ignore the teenagers with their transistor radios as they were never going to take his jukebox business away. In reality all of us are just full of hot air and I had to giggle at my father’s lack of faith in technology. I snapped a photo of the two of them realizing it would probably only end up becoming memories and kept on walking down South Street stopping to peer into Hashim’s window.

I had spent a great deal of my youth shopping in this store and loved the smell of new clothing and running my hand down the long wooden counter on Friday nights. In those days you trusted your retailers and so did my Father when I purchased a pair of lime green ‘leprechaun’ shoes there in the 60s for $7. I remember those shoes as being the most outrageous, but incredibly uncomfortable shoes I had ever worn. Shoes are like time travel– sometimes you just need to go all out.




My Grandmother was sitting on the screened verandah and I waved as I walked by and said I would be back. She pointed to the big Shell truck that was unloading gas at the corner gas station. Every Friday evening the truck would pull up and the heavy smell of gas would invade the air. Grammy would put her hands on her hips and tell the driver that the next smoker who lit up was going to blow us all to kingdom come. My grandparents never owned a car so they had great difficulty understanding those who did.

I ran by the Dairy because I longed to see the shoes in Brault’s window as I had always admired their quality and cutting edge. The Anglican church beckoned me to pay homage to the place that I had spent a great deal of time in. The usually locked door was open and I looked inside and remembered the sound of the choir and the smell of the vestry that my Grandmother and I worked in every Friday night. I saw apple blossoms on the church pews for someone’s wedding and remembered my Grandmother dying in the church pew on the right 5 minutes before the service started. They say time is a mind construct but this seemed all too real and better to relive this just once more and not a thousand times again.



Nesbitt Residence–Constructed in approximately 1881, this Second Empire Style home was declared an historic site in 1991. Originally called the Lismore House, the structure was built when three local men, a senator, a high constable and a mill owner, each competed to build the most grand and luxurious home in the town. Of the three, only the Nesbitt Residence still stands.-Photo-Google Image


It was a debate where to stop next– my High School or Le Patio restaurant across the street. Both had been instrumental in my growing pains and I swore I heard the song “These Boots are Made for Walking” on a continuous loop and the smell of “patates frites avec sauce” filled the air.

I had no interest in going into the Post Office and crossed the street so I could stand and look at the Nesbitt residence in all its glory. Years of volunteering at the former senior home as a teen made me now understand when residents told me that their present life had left them speechless. But in my heart I knew they were storytellers of the past and now I had now become one of them and there was no looking back.



The East Voice March 11th 1959-Accident at the Mademoiselle Shoppe on South Street

I looked down the street and saw the shattered glass of the Mademoiselle Shoppe and knew I could not cross the bridge and go further because I was caught in a loop of that Winter day in 1959.  There has always been a forever, but this is where it stopped for me. It had been worthwhile, but I knew this road well, having travelled it many times before. I was not intent on arriving, and this time I was only going to leave footprints, take pictures, and leave nothing but time.

Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near and life now has to begin at the end of my comfort zone. My past has given me the strength and wisdom I have today and some things are better left in yesterday along with all the mistakes and regrets. My past now is just a story and I accept the result of once having had the time of my life and know that you can always go back home– some how.





 The East Voice March 11th 1959-Accident at the Mademoiselle Shoppe on South Street



A bus containing 50 children crashed on a pillar of the bridge – and five were seriously injured.  It appears that the bus, owned by the Protestant school board in Cowansville, driven by Carl Clark, 50, was headed towards the white bridge and was preparing to make the regulatory stop when the brakes suddenly failed. It followed that the heavy vehicle, driven by its considerable weight, went to hit a cement pillar of the bridge and then crashed in the shop window of the Mademoiselle shoppe. This bus came from arnham and was headed towards Cowansville by way of River Street.
Young Noreen Dryden had a broken right clavicle, Geraldine Moynan a fractured nose, the others: Edwin Elmes, Sharon Oliver, Estelle Bachand, Barry Aikens and Coryn Chan suffered injuries in the face and had some broken teeth.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.



Scrapbook Photos of Cowansville

Winds of Change Can be Achieved in Small Town Canada


A Curio of Nostalgic Words

Remembering one of the “Tom Sawyer’s” Of Cowansville Quebec

Hobos, Apple Pie, and the Depression–Tales from 569 South Street

Ashes to Ashes and Spins of the Washing Machine

The Days of Smocking and Spanish Bar Cake

Been Caught Stealing– Bank of Montreal

Angry Mobs, Wolves and Bloodsuckers –Selby Lake

Memories of UFO’s Earthquake Lights and Gale Pond

Misty Glen Mountain Snow Bunny Hop

Music in the 60s- Memories of Herman’s Hermits

Back to The Future — Twisting Your Dignity Away

Groovy Hints on How to Catch and Keep a Boy – 60’s style

The Dreams of a Sugar Plum Fairy

I Was A Free Range Child

Scrapbook Photos of Cowansville

6 Seconds of Cowansville High School – Our Miss Phelps

The Benefits of Having a Large Human Chassis for Traction

Linda and Christmas Cards– and the Lack off–This is Your Christmas Letter:)






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Winds of Change Can be Achieved in Small Town Canada





Cowansville, Quebec–Part of South Street Before

Two weeks ago something reinforced my idea that things could change in small towns with some conviction and years, yes, years of hard work.



Cowansville South Street After–Now there’s a fountain is where that gas station was across the bridge.

Cowansville is a town in south-central Quebec, Canada, located on Lac Davignon 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the American border. The population last I looked was the same as most small towns, about 12,000, and that is where I was born and grew up.

Cowansville has had a similar history to most rural towns.  Jacob Ruiter was the first person to settle on the current site of Cowansville and in 1800 he built a flour mill, and then a saw mill. During the 1870s, they had the South Eastern Railway (then the CPR and the CNR) linking Montreal to Cowansville and to other locales.



Nesbitt Residence–Constructed in approximately 1881, this Second Empire Style home was declared an historic site in 1991. Originally called the Lismore House, the structure was built when three local men, a senator, a high constable and a mill owner, each competed to build the most grand and luxurious home in the town. Of the three, only the Nesbitt Residence still stands.


In the 60s– most of my generation moved away, the town gradually lost their industrial businesses, and it began to go downhill. For years Cowansville remained stagnant until one day they decided to do something about it.



My Grandparents home on South Street next to the Shell Station across from Varins Pharmacy. The F. J. Knight Co Electricial Co.- torn down in the late 70s



Taken at 9 am on a Sunday morning. Just part of South Street 2016- night and day of what it once was.




This building was across from my grandfather’s business  on South Street–and we used to buy Easter Chocolate there as a child. It has been around for a very long time- yet looks great!


In  the 70s my late father Arthur Knight, who was an alderman and deputy mayor, fought to have an artificial lake (Lac Davignon) put in the middle of town. Of course like anywhere they fought against change, but now it is an active waterfront that brings in tourists. Not only do they have bike paths, swimming etc.– but they offer volleyball, softball, tennis, miniature golf, skate park,  and playgrounds.

The town park (one of 22 parks they have built) where I used to go swimming across from the town hall is now lush with mature trees that were planted when I was a child. It was a gentle reminder to myself that many years have passed-too many years– and did I still recognize those trees? How did they get so big?




Cowansville is a town of 14 bridges and the historic sector of Sweetsburg contributes to Cowansville’s charm with its Loyalist influences, majestic buildings, and Victorian-style homes. There is: The Bruck House (1875), “Les Belles Disparues” fresco mural tour, numerous restaurants, and the La Mie Bretonne bakery’s village café (identified as a Café de Village) which provide Cowansville residents and visitors with pleasant settings in which to relax and take the time to enjoy life.

and let’s not forget about those restaurant terraces the town encouraged being added for summer enjoyment. Cowansville’s western sector actually has several big-box stores- but yet their downtown survives and thrives.


Cowansville, Mainstreet.jpg

As I stood on South Street across from where my Grandparents home and electrical business once stood my mouth dropped. From a run down street in the 80s- it was now full of attractive stores, and not a vacancy to be found. Where I bought my first pair of lime green mod shoes from Hashims was now a cluster of stores with nice wide sidewalks with fancy light posts. So how did they do it?

One of my forever friends from Cowansville Murray Dover told me:

Our town has struggled with factory closures etc, but we have a town council and local citizens who have worked steadily to improve the town. We do have a large debt but they have taken advantage of government programs, etc. Improvements on Main street (like South Street)  will soon reopen.

There will be a new dam on River St. work on the new end of town,  Prison, *BMP and Massey Vanier, (regional school) new long term facilities. We have become a service town, but the dedication and love of our town really shows with the parks, lake, flowers, swimming pool beach, arena.. a lot for a small town.

I might also add that a local family have bought, built , renovated, and now run the old Princess Theatre.

(Pop Culture Fact: Did you know Doris Day once went to the Princess Theatre to watch the daily rushes of one of her films being shot in Knowlton?)

  • *BMP is the Brome Mississiquoi Hospital


Dam being refitted and no one is making money off of it.


Cowansville resident and friend Margaret Clay Jacob added:

We have had a bandstand in Davignon Park for many years and a new one was put up last year, very nice…they have Music in the Park there one day per week in the summer months. We do have a great little town here and most of that we can say is due to our fantastic Mayor, Arthur Fauteux but don’t know if he will run again next year. He has fought and won 2 bouts with cancer in the past few years and has worked through all of it, a great, hard working man of conviction.


I have no one left there now, only the family gravestones at the Union Cemetery, a Anglican church vestry named after my Grandmother, memories at Legion Branch 99 that my grandfather helped found, and a street named after my family.

It took years to improve Cowansville– but it can be done! What they have done should be an example to all small towns- as it is nothing short of amazing.

Bien fait Cowansville ! Bon travail ! Vous montrez aux autres que c’est possible!


Related reading:


Eastern Townships



Cowansville, Quebec newspaper with my Grandfather F.J. Knight in the middle. (2001)


Photo from Ville de Cowansville


Arthur Knight–Cowansville Town Hall Photo–Photo from Ville de Cowansville

Knight Family of Cowansville Quebec Genealogy.

Knight, Arthur John  
b. 13 DEC 1924 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec
d. 12 FEB 1982

Father: Knight, Frederick John
Mother: Dellar, Mary Louise

Marriage: 06 SEP 1947 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec
Spouse: Crittenden, Bernice Ethelyn  
b. 14 OCT 1927 Montreal, Hochelaga Co., Quebec
d. 27 SEP 1963 Cowansville, Missisquoi Co., Quebec

Father: Crittenden, George Arthur
Mother: Griffin, Gladys Ethelyn

Knight, Linda Susan –still HERE some how– Linda Knight Seccaspina
Knight, Robin Anne— Born 1956-Died in August of 1997


You can buy memories of Cowansville High School here.

We Didn’t Start the Fire Carleton Place? Oh Yes we did!



Photo-John Rayner– Have you been to Stalwarts?Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum walking tour Thursday, July 21, 2016- Have you ever been to the museum?



You don’t need to agree with me- in fact, if we all agreed to agree, life would be quite boring. But this an Op-Ed essay, and my opinions are conceived from what I have been observing, and doing historical research writing about the town of Carleton Place.


If you haven’t noticed, Carleton Place has been “sinking into the mud” for decades. People like to point fingers at every Tom, Dick, and Harry— but, did you know that the Carleton Place council throughout history hasn’t changed much. There were once even riots at the Victoria Public School because citizens on each side of the Central Bridge were fighting over to which area a school should go to.


Then there were the councilmen from years back having issues with the Findlay’s and they kept that grudge up for years. They finally got payback by demolishing a Findlay stone home on High Street. Two skids of stone were supposed to be saved from that historical home only to find out this year it was tossed years ago like leftovers on McArthur Island.

A century or so ago our local council did not grant water rights to a burgeoning Rosamond Mill- and they left for Almonte. How about the proposed Findlay property development that went nowhere, and the list goes on. There, there are the ones that got away to keep Carleton Place forever off a “must visit’’ list– and now, those offers lost have been breeding into the hundreds.

The Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette, this week and last, had front-page news about our local BIA and “politics”- and gossip says there is more to come. I also question the issue of town staff being paid to research a local citizen lest they be in breach, unless it’s robbery or murder, instead of focusing on our problems at hand.

What problems they ask?

I am tired of hearing that the Main Street is ‘coming back’. Coming back from what? I hear very little about increased business- I see no crowds on the street. Am I wrong? Am I missing something? All I see are still empty storefronts and buildings for sale on MLS listings. Tell me I am wrong-I want to be wrong.

We do have some jewels on that street-but are people frequenting them?  Have you gone into The Granary and seen what a world class store that it has become? Have you ever talked to Krista at Apple Cheeks? What about the gals at Wisteria, or Nancy from Nancy’s Impressions? Do you know we have a world-class designer at The Dress Shop? Or, have you experienced someone who really understands your feet at Graham’s Shoes and lived real customer service? What about the new restaurant, Chesswood, or our other restaurants? Of course money is at a premium, but what if we took turns to help support our businesses.


So am I complaining? I hope readers do not view this as complaints- I’d rather say I am trying to point out an alarming issue that grows dire by the day. Are other small towns having our problems? Of course they are, but that does mean we have to follow them?


I got tired this week of spending most of my day trying to promote Carleton Place and hearing invalid- none-water-holding statements and complaints. It has become very clear to me that people would rather complain than support their town and that saddens me greatly. No matter what anyone seems to do, no one listens, and they just love to pass the buck. You know why? It’s so much easier to put your head in the sand, ignore the house on fire, and just hope someone has cleaned up the ashes when you finally come up for air.


I am not going to stop writing about history, but as for local Carleton Place “promotion”, I kind of hit the wall this week. I sat there exasperated, knowing no matter what I did, or how hard I stomped and screamed, I could not foresee ANY change in this town- especially with the history–especially, with an alleged divided council, and especially, with a town that fights change every darn step of the way– and I have history to back me up to prove the point.


That past and current history has put a horrible damper on Carleton Place leading an exceptional life- and getting on lists of places that tourists should come and visit. It is a complete denial of responsibility, and all of us are simply continuing to excuse ourselves from being responsible for our town and its well being— and especially for its future.


You can NOW read my historical musings daily on The Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook pageThe Tales of Carleton Place has been shut down due to the author becoming very sad and exasperated about the fate of our town.



The Riot on Edmund Street –Schools in Carleton Place

The Carleton Place House That Disappeared

So What Happened to The Findlay House Stone?

The Exact Reason Rosamond Left Carleton Place

Commercial Centre Planned for Findlay Site



Words of Wisdom Carleton Place– It’s Called Planning





Decades ago in my hometown of Cowansville, Quebec they tore down heritage homes in a blink of an eye.  Cowansville, is the same size as Carleton Place, Ontario where I have lived since 1981. My father was a Councillor and a deputy mayor at the time and I kept asking him why. His reply was always that is was progress.

These homes were stately homes like the Robinson home pictured above that is going the way of progress-– meaning being torn down. Read the article here.




grampys house

The above photos are of what was once my Grandfather Crittenden’s home, the Cowan residence. This was also torn down years back. Granted it was a shell of what it once was- but neglect similar to that of the Findlay home in Carleton Place left no choice on the matter.

Sometimes we can’t save homes, but we can plan the fate of our towns. I read some wise words today from a former Cowansville, Quebec resident also concerned about the fate of small towns. I think we should take these words to heart Carleton Place for the sake of our town. Read that last line.

Rupert H Dobbin —Years ago when Ottawa’s ‘inner city’ was rapidly becoming a slum we changed the zoning so that a residential building could not be replaced by something bigger. Suddenly it cost more to demolish and replace than to repair and update. Entire neighbourhoods revived and now are very desirable to live in. It was challenged in the courts but was deemed legal. With the revival, the commercial areas also revived. It’s now the place to live and the place to go for restaurants and pubs. Maintained the same in Kingston with equal success. If the huge project is not allowed there is reason to maintain the existing. It’s called planning.

Author’s Note- While we as the small town of Carleton Place are not tearing down older homes— Dobbin’s words of planning is crucial. Slow-growing and shrinking rural areas might find that their policies are not bringing the prosperity they seek, while fast-growing rural areas at the edge of metropolitan regions face metropolitan-style development pressures.

Smart growth strategies can help rural communities achieve their goals for growth and development while maintaining their distinctive rural character.Planning where development should or should not go can help a rural community encourage growth in town.

Policies that protect the rural landscape help preserve open space, protect air and water quality, provide places for recreation, and create tourist attractions that bring investments into the local economy.

Words to think about

“We never fail when we try to do our duty, we always fail when we neglect to do it”. Robert Baden-Powell



Is There Any Use Crying Over Spilled Chocolate?

Is Carleton Place Really Meeting People on the Mississippi?




Do we Really Have to Live in Generica?



Photo of Carleton Place’s Bridge Street by Patrick M. Doyle— the picture everyone wants to hate.

A spell ago, as they say in fables, Highway 7 was rerouted from travelling through the centre of Carleton Place. Then people stopped picking up their mail at the Post Office and the railway finally stopped coming to town. After that our little downtown shops, which used to house bustling retail, slowly turned into varying empty store-fronts that gape into the street.

Heck, there used to be some major industry in my beloved small town, along with agriculture. There was lots of good land; lots of family farms in Lanark County. But things changed, and the companies that ran the factories merged with other companies; manufacturing got consolidated or just moved elsewhere. Then the town began to sprawl. People wanted big lots and houses to match – not the small homes cheek by cheek in our town on the small lots.

Farms that used to support entire families and put kids through college began to be too small as power equipment came into style. As the machines got bigger farms were too small to support the expensive machinery,  and not large enough to make full use of them. Then fewer kids wanted to spend the rest of their lives in back-breaking work as the profit margins got squeezed down. Farmers either had to take on more land or sell off land for subdivisions. For a lot of them, that turned out to be their retirement plan – and now a lot of good farm land is gone. In an almost an overnight fashion all of us became converted into a nation of “consumers” rather than neighbours.

Carleton Place does have its good points. It’s scenic, it’s quiet; there are rabbits and the occasional fox in my yard, and everyone does know your name. There’s still locally owned manufacturing but with the exception of a few, it’s on a smaller scale than it once was. Let’s not forget the town now has increasing petty crime, drug problems, even homelessness.

It absolutely kills me that the town I love is becoming a ghost town, just like many other small towns in this province. People go to the big city for entertainment, for shopping, and for jobs, and most of the rural downtown areas slowly get boarded up, because there is less reason for their existence.

Things are changing faster now than they did in years gone by. We’re more mobile, less anchored. That’s just the way things are. The emptiness of our Main Street is a function of economic as well as demographic change. When Walmart is cheaper than the local main street hardware store, Walmart is where a larger percentage shops. But again, we cannot forget that these larger stores hire our local citizens. There are however the other rural towns that didn’t let Walmart set up- are they doing any better?

Every single day I feel the painful disconnect between the people trying to revamp our town and the people holding so dearly onto the old one that once existed.  It used to be that anyone with a work ethic and a few saved bucks could try their hand in retail.  Small Mom and Pop shops, all a little unique and quirky,  were once small- town Ontario. To those that paid attention–they still are. Now most Mom and Pops have been replaced with cookie cutter franchises and large box stores. Will these too soon be gone as well, replaced by the internet?  Will big box stores and all that overhead soon be gone, replaced by Amazon and the web? Some call call this progress, the evolution of retail, I call it something different.

There is talk of major residential development coming to town, and that is fantastic news. But how can you guarantee how many people are going to choose to shop downtown? You can’t. Whose fault will it be if a greater percentage of those new folks choose to spend their money elsewhere other than Carleton Place? One thing I have learned when I owned a business for 25 years is that you cannot point the finger at anyone.  I mean, when all of us can be brainwashed into thinking chains and anything outside our town is worthy of a place in  your home I guess the consumer has spoken, and it shows us to be idiots.

There has to be a reason for a town to exist.  Everything changes all the time.  Every town, city, mega city is growing or shrinking, or doing both in some parts.  Do small rural towns have a current reason to remain?  Or how about small former industrial towns?   Birth, growth, decline, death, rebirth is how things work.

We can fight it, but can we beat it? Go with the flow.  Honor the memories.  Reinvent the town if that will work.  Otherwise, do we slowly let it die? It’s up to you to decide. Do we sit at the side of the road waiting for the grass to grow or fade instead of all of us working together for solutions?  It’s your choice– make your voice count and it begins and ends with each one of us. Until all of us can agree to work together on the same page- nothing is going to happen.






The Obituary of a Main Street? Carleton Place



I wanted to write an obituary for a dying Main Street, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I continue to hold out hope that some miracle will happen for our small town–I really do. Was our Main Street ever what it seemed? In reality, it has always been much more complex than it appears. As I hold the pages of the names of businesses that used to flourish on Carleton Place I wonder what happened to once was.


I try not to be nostalgic, but the town once had many features that helped define sustainable, smart growth: men’s and women’s clothing stores, shoe stores, hardware stores, a movie theater, drug stores, and the like. There was a constant flow of pedestrians like Joe Breard who once lived on Bell Street. He paid a daily visit to Garranat’s Barber Shop decked out in his spats, cane, and a pipe full of Tabac Francaise to chat and hear an earful of gossip.


Often, offices or apartments were located on the second or third floors, and all the Carleton Place druggists had two glass globes in their windows. One was filled with red liquid and the other green. No one knew why, and drugstore employee Billy Hughes never told anyone when asked many times.

Later in years Will Taber stopped riding his bicycle down Bridge Street with the wooden frame embellishments with nickle trimmings. Strip shopping centers slowly opened here and there, but for the most part, the town still thrived. But everyone had forgotten about Harry Schwerdtfeger’s Wooden Indian that once stood at the entrance to his store, and no one ever did find that sign that was stolen from his store. Things happened in the late 60s that changed things, spinning small downtowns everywhere into decline.


Highway 7 was completed. No longer did people need to travel through the downtown of Carleton Place to get somewhere else. So open land was where the newest thing landed– like Men from Mars. It was called the mall. Bayshore was better for shopping with air-conditioning, and you could find national chain stores like Eatons and The Bay. Better yet, there was tons of free parking and a food court.

In many small towns like ours there began an exodus of better educated baby boomers looking for higher paying jobs, leaving an aging population behind. No longer did professional men have their clothes made by the main street tailors like William Shaw. Those merchants once took your measurements and their many seamstresses made your suit. Baby boomers didn’t remember Shake McDiarmind offering a free pair of suspenders with a new suit–nor did they care.


Suburbia was exploding everywhere, even in a small town like Carleton Place. Why live in an older red brick home with your neighbors just a few feet away, when you could buy a nice new home on a bigger new lot near the edge of town? Now it was easier to drive to the mall rather than go into town and deal with parking and less choice. No longer were there dishes of ice cream and cold root beers sold on the Bridge Street–but the Dairy Queen on the highway satisfied all your needs.


Local economies were changing as the industries they had once counted on for tax resources were closing. The Hawthorne Mill, like the other mills in our town once employed many townsfolk, and the Hawthorne Mill was also the largest user of water and electricity in the town. Then big banks began swallowing up one another. No longer were the local financial relationships they once had with customers the same. Junior Clerks were no longer sleeping in their offices like they once did at the Union Bank--and full time employment became part time once ATMS came into play. People stopped shopping downtown, and the small grocers disappeared along with the bananas they used to hoist in the windows for ripening and display purposes.

Nothing will ever be the same as yesterday, and small towns like ours now find themselves in pretty rough shape. It takes good planning, vision, and excellent leadership by local leaders to begin to solve the problem. The public needs to support and encourage local business also. Not just once a month, but on a regular basis.

The days are gone when it was almost a daily occurrence to see a runway horse on Bridge Street. Now we need to pull the reigns in before the whole downtown runs away. The town also needs good old fashioned salesmanship and marketing with some luck on the side. Carleton Place business have been up and down before due to fires, wars and economy- but nothing like this.


Can it all come back? Some main streets do revitalize -but some downtowns may be just too far gone. Is it time to write the obituary for Carleton Place? An obituary can be a compelling story of a life as Carleton Place once had, and still can be. Instead, I write a short life story today as it is an alternative to writing an obituary in advance. When the obituary is needed, all the facts of the Carleton Place are already at hand– and I hope things change so I never have to write it.

It’s not time to say goodbye yet, but being very cautionary is now obviously in order. But when anyone’s in trouble small towns all help each other. We are that very little community that has that spirit to get in and do what’s got to be done. That’s one of the facts that make small town living so good. I know it’s easier said than done, but I would like to think we can put this downtown back on the map. Let’s at least try.

local.9-300x250Photos from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

DILL we meet again! A Tip of the Glass to Ballygiblin’s



Last night I saved a piece of dill from my last dinner at Ballygiblin’s. Why would I do such a thing? Because, since I began to write pieces about the local farmers from the Carleton Place Farmer’s Market I found out where that piece of dill came from in my salad. I knew that White Oak Farm’s Ray Elgersma & Dave McGahey had supplied the magic purple beans and other items—and that Merle Bowes from Limekiln Farms had too. That small piece of dill from Merle’s farm is pressed into one of my books in memory of Bally’s. We not only lost a friend last night when Ballygiblin’s shut their doors: employees lost jobs, and the local farmers will no longer knock on the back door to sell Bally’s their fresh produce.



Businesses are not easy to maintain. They begin with building love through a town or city–and nothing hurts me more today than losing a friend like Ballygiblin’s. Owning a business these days is a delicate thing, and once broken it might be fixed– but sometimes it just leaves cracks. Derek Levesque and his merry band of employees supported each and every person that came into Bally’s when they needed a gift certificate or help. Sometimes there comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you—and Derek had to make a choice. I think a lot of people didn’t realize Ballygblin’s worth to our community until it faded for the very last time last night.



No one wins when a business shuts down. It’s not good for the residents, employees, or suppliers, and it’s certainly not good for the town. Let this be a lesson that we should never ignore a business who cares and supports you. Because one day, you might wake up from your sleep and realize that you “lost the moon while counting the stars”. Ballygiblin’s was that moon that once graced Bridge Street, and now it’s gone. Moving on is sometimes simple; but what they left behind makes it difficult. Do we as the town of Carleton Place only have to learn how to appreciate things by losing them? Never take any local business for granted again. God speed to Derek and the staff of Ballygiblin’s. Bridge Street will not be the same without you.


Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

What Should We Be Now Concerned About in Carleton Place?


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“The house had been left abandoned for a number of years, and someone told me the interior looked exactly like a horror film. Dump’s personal thoughts were that a few councilmen did not get along with the Findlays. So when an application for planning was put in, which would utterly destroy the founding Findlay house, they were only to happy to pass it”. —The Findlay House

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One of the most risky jobs you would ever want is civic life. After watching my father for years as an alderman I know I wouldn’t want any part of it  Civic mayhem isn’t limited to staffing in any small town. Sometimes cross contamination can infiltrate, and I wonder if some small-town councils become an “unnecessary layer of democracy”? Do we suddenly become a “one-party state” run by a “good old boy” policy?

Rumours easily travel through small towns and entangle the powers that be. Opinions become evident on Facebook pages, and everywhere you look:


Many, including myself, think that we know what the problem is, when in reality we are looking at a symptom. Carleton Place will always be what the community will support, and what it will not support. I know personally that putting on an event in Carleton Place is impossible work. You need to have thick skin, dedication, and a great sense of humor.

Doing things “like we did last year” is no longer going to work. The town needs to develop unique entrepreneurs who will start businesses that will create a buzz — which in turn will encourage tourists. Carleton Place needs to stop duplicating mistakes. Are we angry that Manitoulin Chocolate Works is not coming to Carleton Place? Of course we are. But sometimes, you have to get angry to get things done.

Together, we need to drag out the hard issues of what happened, identify them, and address solutions. Look at communities similar to ours and see what has really worked for them. It’s also important to realize that things happen over an expanse of time, and not just the last few months. Learn from others! No idea is stupid, and community revival doesn’t always hinge on industry. Solving economic problems in Carleton Place is not a short-range project. The problems we are facing are most likely the results of years of trends and may take years to solve.

Things aren’t working-and that’s a fact!  We need people in office that will help us, and the community needs to make its voice heard. Both sides need to listen and be responsive and open to each other. Instead of sitting back and complaining, we as a community need to get out and  make a difference. It’s time for those in office, and the rest of us (as they say in the late night ads) “to pick up the phone” before things go really south.  The clock is ticking.

1982- Keeping Obstetrics Open for the Carleton Place Hospital


Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

The Politics of Small Town Change in Carleton Place


Thursday August 13, 2015

Town of Carleton Place rejects St. James Anglican Church’s request to allow Manitoulin Chocolate Works to bring their business to town and restore Elliot Hall.
Related reading: The Willy Wonka Blues of Carleton Place

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How many small towns are truly successful without change? Some prosper, while many others suffer disinvestment, loss of identity and even abandonment. Towns like Perth keep their historic character and quality of life in the face of a rapidly changing world. Other towns have lost the very features that once gave them distinction and appeal. Perth, Merrickville, Almonte and many others accepted change without losing their heart and soul.

Those particular small towns have done it minus the cookie-cutter development, that has turned many communities into faceless places. They refused to be the small towns that young people flee, tourists avoid and which no longer instill a sense of pride in residents. Sound familiar?

Successful communities always have a plan for the future. Unfortunately, “planning” is a dirty word in communities, especially in small towns and rural areas. In some places, this is the result of today’s highly polarized political culture. It is difficult to name any successful business that doesn’t have a business plan. Without one it would a very hard time attracting investors or staying competitive in the marketplace.

It seems to be written in stone that some people in small towns don’t like change. But they need to understand that change is inevitable. The dynamics of the population and consumer attitudes are always changing, and they will affect a community whether people like it or not. Success only happens when we “embrace”  new and old ideas that can help our small businesses, and entice new ones.

A new industrial park is not going to attract tourists that spend money at our local businesses. We have an abundance of historic buildings, and an attractive and accessible waterfront that is underused. It also feels like the powers to be just want the town to stay the same. The more a community comes to look just like every other small town the less reason there is for anyone to visit. All we need to do is implement a small number of new ideas in Carleton Place. They could make a huge difference in this community.

Of course every town has its naysayers. The word “no”, is a very powerful word in a small community. Leaders of successful communities know that “yes” is a much better word for progress. Communities that embrace the future will prosper, and those that do not will decline. Sameness is not a plus-it is a huge minus. Small unique businesses like the Manitoulin Chocolate Works are the key to our small towns’ future. We need to leave a positive legacy. Don’t let the fear of change obscure the inevitability and necessity of progress like the Carleton Place Council did tonight.

Linda Seccaspina, 2015

If you want to now some history about that area and the different commercial  and non commercial places of Bell Street and area read here.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

Carleton Place Does Not Have to Live in a Walmart Economy


atif1                                                          It’s Always Springtime at the Ginger Cafe!

The big box stores come to our small towns and they give much needed jobs to our communities. I was once corrected on my negative stance on the local big box stores and I apologized. I appreciate the employment they give Carleton Place and the surrounding area. However, if your small local businesses do not have something extra to give the consumer they cannot compete with their lower prices. Walmart and others sells itself as a job creator and small communities buy into it, but ultimately they will do what is good for business and not the community.

key                                                                   The Good Food of the Good Food Co.

area                                                                 A Steamer is NOT What You Think!

Of course the first argument is that they are fulfilling unmet demands in rural areas. But our downtown businesses also have choices and provide employment and tax revenue for our local economy. Did you realize that a profitable downtown core could generate more jobs, and tax revenue than Walmart if our local citizens supported it the way it should be? Accompanied by the heritage aesthetics of our local architecture it could also possibly restore the soul of Carleton Place.

wis                                                The Determined Fashionable Women of Carleton Place

Some small towns go out of their way to attract and bankroll creative entrepreneurs who can suddenly begin to make their streets alive again. Local developers soon get in on the action when they see dollars begin to flow. Most interested parties however, quickly realize that if they want the town officials to support their vision, they have to educate them. That means offering them hard numbers on the tax and job benefits of revitalizing the downtown area. The numbers they envision can produce a “holy cow” moment among the town’s accountants and powers that be. In revitalizing a downtown core you need to take on a multi-dimensional approach, similar to the way our farmers look at their land when they decided what to plant each year. It’s that simple. 

adress2                                       Picture Perfect- Olena from The Dress Shop — By Christine Armstrong

anan                                                   Nancy Code Miller– A Chip Off the Old Block

Let’s say that Walmart brings in $50,000 in retail and property taxes each year, but if the downtown and surrounding streets are working to its full capability; it could bring in just as much in taxes as Walmart pays, and they would employ just as many people. What’s even more surprising is that due to energy use and infrastructure improvements, large-footprint sprawl development patterns can actually cost small towns more money to service than they give back in taxes.

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                                                 Derek Levesque – More than Words

acurry                                    Hurry my Curry! You’ve got to Eat in Carleton Place!

The result? Growth that produces deficits simply cannot be overcome with new growth revenue. By investing in our local small-business retail rather than mega-stores, Carleton Place could actually boost jobs and our local tax revenues, and spend less on other services. I think it’s time we looked at this idea before we lose the downtown core like other small rural towns. If Almonte and Perth can do it we can too. Food for thought.

agsqq                                                The Granary in Your Backyard — Dena Comley

aser3                                                     It’s All About Love at Slackoni’s in Carleton Place

akrista1                                                 People of Carleton Place, Ontario — Ms. Krista Lee

aeraa (1)                                      The Carleton Place Goddess of Greenery — Erica Zwicker

yvonne (1)                                  Yvonne Kilpatrick from The Blossom Shop at Ladies Who Lunch


            Laura From The Blossom Shop –The Truth Beneath the Rose


“If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know who you are!” —The late Edna Gardner Carleton Place


Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

This video is pretty brutal… and it is NOT done in mean spirit.. but this is what I see on most days. It is to prove a point. It has to stop.. I want to see it thrive– I want to see it packed..I want to see all business owners (not only on the Main Street) not worry about money.. not just have heavy traffic on a few days of the year either-