Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tourism Thursdays : Celebrating #Canada150

Celebrating Canada 150

       This coming Canada Day we are celebrating Canada’s confederation, Canada Day is celebrated on July 1 across the country and marks the anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution Act, 1867. This act united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. On July 1 1867, at noon, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada were proclaimed the Dominion of Canada, with John A. Macdonald its first prime minister. Now, the area of Upper Canada was called Ontario and Lower Canada was called Quebec.

      This year Dutton will be hosting a large celebration in commemoration of Canada's confederation through the day there will be a bunch of celebrations including: 

1:00-5:00pm Craft Corner & Games
1:00-5:00pm Kids Firefighter Challenge
1:00-4:00pm Face Painting & Balloons
1:00-3:00pm Free Public Swim
2:00pm Dunk Tank
2:30pm Slip ‘N Slide
3:00pm Dog Contest
4:00pm Pickleball Demonstration
5:00pm Opening Ceremonies
5:30pm Cupcakes & Refreshments
6:00pm Strolling Magician
7:30pm Musical Entertainment by Rod & Rebecca

      While during the celebrations The Backus-Page House Museum will be having a booth out at the park, with fun games and activities come check us out! Don’t forget to stay till dusk and donate and watch the fireworks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

World War Wednesdays: Canadian Soldiers on Leave, WWI

     Something that is often ignored in the histories of the First World War is the role that leisure time played in the soldiers' lives. I recently came across the work of Sarah Cozzi and was fascinated to read that she has put a great deal of research into how Canadian troops spent their leaves overseas, and the information for this post comes from her Master's thesis, "Killing Time: The Experiences of Canadian Expeditionary Force Soldiers on Leave in Britain, 1914-1918," and “'When You’re A Long, Long Way From Home:' The Establishment of Canadian-Only Social Clubs for CEF Soldiers in London, 1915-1919," an article for the Canadian War Museum.

     To begin, it is important to mention that neither the Canadian government nor the military authorities involved themselves in the soldiers' off-duty time. However, Cozzi asserts that those periods of leisure spent by Canadian soldiers overseas played an important role in shaping their experiences of the First World War.
A fully laden troopship leaving Folkestone Harbour for Boulogne
     From the very beginning of their military experience, Canadian soldiers enjoyed social amusements and lighthearted activities. Cozzi mentions records of troopships headed to Great Britain that were bolstered by boxing tournaments, egg and spoon races, wheelbarrow races, concerts performed by crew members, bagpipers, impersonations, and instrumentalists. Upon arrival, the men originally stayed in 'temporary'canvas tents while barracks were being constructed, but work was slow and the troops had to be billeted in private homes in the surrounding English villages. Cozzi writes that "By the start of their first winter in England, Canadian troops had established themselves as a permanent facet of wartime life in Britain. With the arrival of subsequent contingents, the Canadian pressure would increase and the CEF's geographic dispersal throughout Great Britain would widen."

     Cozzi also describes the CEF's system of leave grants: "Recruits were expected to spend the majority of their time in camp, where much of their day was spent learning how to soldier... However, despite the limited off-duty time available, there was still opportunity for soldiers to obtain leave passes, allowing them to travel past the boundaries of their camps and to venture into the surrounding villages. As always, however, men could be recalled to their units at a moment's notice, and had to remain ready should they be requested to do so. Leave passes were much sought-after commodities,and were considered a luxury to which everyone looked forward to with eager anticipation... Upon first arrival in England, soldiers were handed leave passes, with all ranks assigned six days' leave upon disembarkation, allowing them free passage anywhere in the British Isles. But no more than twenty percent of the numbers of a unit were allowed to travel at any one time."

    London quickly became the main destination for service personnel, which presented a host of problems generally caused by a large influx of young men with free time and access to alcohol. A number of groups both locally and from back in Canada began to recognize the need for organized and wholesome social gathering places. The Red Cross, YMCA, and Canadian War Contingent Association (CWCA) operated in both England and France, but were predominantly concerned with providing basic necessities and food to the men rather than tending to their off-duty hours.

     Canadian-only leave clubs were established in London as early as August 1915, the first and most influential of which was the King George and Queen Mary Maple Leaf Club. It was developed by Lady Julia Drummond of Montreal as a place where the men "would have a warm welcome, congenial companionships and board and lodging at a reasonable rate; and where those who came from France could have a chance to get 'cleaned up' after the hardships of trench life." Famed author and poet Rudyard Kipling was an early supporter. The Club's first home was that of British socialite and philanthropist Ronald Grevile, located at 11 Charles St. in London.

     It was, in principle, "solely, wholly, and only a Canadian Club, a Canadian Institution opened by Canadians, managed by Canadians and financed by Canadians" but maintained a strong British imperialist connection. The first Club building was open only to privates and non-commissioned officers and could accommodate up to 110 men. It boasted a billiards room, two dining facilities, a lounge, and a smoking room. British and Canadian newspapers were available in addition to writing materials, and imperialist art decorated the walls.

     Cozzi describes the services offered by the Club: "Meal prices ranged from an affordable eight pence each for breakfast and lunch, while dinner, often consisting of soup, meat or fish course, vegetables, and dessert, cost a mere shilling. For breakfast soldiers would be treated to porridge, and either sausages, bacon, eggs or fish, bread and butter, and tea or coffee. For lunch, they could expect a meal consisting of cold meat or meat pies, potatoes, cheese, and dessert. A hot bath, pyjamas, and a bed for the night cost the soldier an additional shilling per night. Men could also have their laundry done and their kit cleaned and stowed away for safe-keeping. Organized around the needs of the men. breakfast was served as late as 1000 hours to allow tired soldiers the chance to sleep in. As well, soldiers leaving for the front were housed separately so that they would not disturb other men when they departed at 0400 hours to catch the early morning train back to their units. Soldiers could also rely on the club to keep them informed of military matters. The army, recognizing that a large number of Canadian troops frequented the institution, used the club's bulletin boards to post orders."

     I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the soldiers' private time. If you did and are interested in reading more, the full article is available here:
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I Am Canadian Exhibit Pictures

Visitors are enjoying the collection of artefacts that have been gathered together to represent various Canadian values.  The I Am Canadian exhibit will be available during regular operating hours until Thanksgiving, 2017.  Here are some pictures to entice you, family and friends to visit.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living History Weekend June 24 & 25

💣Living History Weekend💣

       The Tyrconnell Heritage Society invites you to join us for Living History Weekend June 24th -25th. We will be covering over 200 years of history from the French and Indian wars to the Vietnam wars. This years focus is the 'The Great War of 1914-18' with a replica WW1 trench!

 Military and civilian re-enactors will be on hand representing over 200 years of Canadian History. Join us for homesteaders, hands-on crafts, historic music, storytellers children's activities and even a scavenger hunt. All proceeds go to the Backus-Page House Museum.  The gates open at 10 am. Admission is $8 per person and children 12 and under are free! The Backus-Page House is located at 29424 Lakeview Line, Wallacetown, just south of Hwy #3. 


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Behind The Scenes With Sabrina

🌸 Behind The Scenes With Sabrina 🌸

        First off HI , I'm Sabrina Merks, resident of Dutton and I'll be attending St. Lawrence College for musical theatre performance in the fall. You may have seen me in the Elgin County area wearing many hats, such as volunteer at The West Elgin Dramatic Society or have seen me as one of the cashiers at Dutton Foodland, or even possibly as current reining Miss Elgin County Globe. I spent my past year at Sheridan College in the performing arts program and I'm excited to be Assistant Museum Manager for the summer. 

        I started here at the Backus -Page House Museum just this Tuesday and oh boy, has it been a wild week of adventures. When I  started I was greeted by amazing staff members and was off on my first real task of the job…. clean the bathroom in at the lookout. The experience of being at the lookout is beautiful, the trees and plants and the view, but the look of the washrooms, absolutely terrifying,  the state of fish flies was unbearable, I could hardly breathe. I would step away from the washrooms, take a deep breath and charge in the porcelain mess that was the Provincial Park washrooms. The rest of the day seemed to go by without a hitch which made me happy. Later that day I actually came back after hours because we had some mediums come for a group tour. Mediums are people who are in contact with the spirits of the dead and communicate between the dead and the living. While they were here they gave us interesting insight into the past of the Backus-Page House Museum.

      Second day on the job, Wednesday, I have the keys in my hand, go to open the museum, run over to disable to the alarm, don’t hit the buttons fast enough. Set off the alarm. I then tried to get into the office. Hit a wrong button again, both the museum and the office alarms are going off.... I was terrified. A bunch of thoughts were running through my head, (OH NO im gonna get fired! Angela is gonna be so mad! Delany is gonna be so mad at me! WHAT IF THE COPS SHOW UP??). Luckily Delany came to the rescue and helped me call the alarm company and disable both alarms. She made sure that I knew everyone has set off the alarm before, and that now im officially an employee! It was also Weed and Wine Wednesdays which is when the volunteers all come, and help pull weeds, and we plant and water the gardens so they look stunning for all the visitors we have. Now we probably spent an hour or so pulling weeds before we gave up and needed to go inside into the air conditioning. The rest of the day was relatively quiet and I managed to get some work done.
        Thursday was a particularly quiet day so I set myself out on an adventure with my camera, I walked around the whole park, gathering videos and images of our beautiful landscape. One of the jobs I have at the Museum and park is to create video advertisements for multiple events and facilities the museum offers. One of which is weddings. So I was able to get some great footage of the park and I spent the day editing the footage and creating the video, which we then posted on our Youtube and Facebook page.

           Friday was a fairly interesting day, Catie Welch our president of the Tyrconnell  Heritage Society brought Angela overalls, unfortunately there was a huge tear in the backdoor of the pants, so I spent my morning hemming and sewing her pants to wear for Living History Weekend. Then I was roped into filling 100 WW1 replica sandbags with wood chips. We spent 2.5 hours filling them and then dropping them off at our new replica ww1 trench. The only way the 3 of us could all fit in Delany's car with the sand bags inside was for Catie to lay on top and have her legs sticking out of the window.  By the end of the 2.5 hours, Catie, Delany and myself were drenched in sweat and covered in dirt and dust.  It was a very eventful Friday, I went home and showered right away.
       Saturday, Angela and I spent the day in the museum doing work while there was a birthday party happening in the office. We are going to be having a booth at the Dutton Dunwich Canada 150 Celebration. We will be there from 1-6 on July 1st, with a selfie booth and a ton of fun activities. So come check us out!

      Well thats what my week has been like! Come check out the blog next week to hear about fun activities coming up and Living History Weekend!
Thanks for reading
Sabrina Merks

Friday, June 16, 2017

Introducing our 2017 Youth Council!

Are you between the ages of 13 to 18 years old and still need your 40 volunteer hours? Do you want to gain experience planning events, acting, or being a leader? If so we want you to join our Youth Council!

Join in the fun, volunteer in your community, meet other teens and learn some valuable skills too.

Coordinated by our staff, our Youth Council:
  • meets biweekly to plan a year-end event of their choosing
  • decides themselves what they want to do – get involved, have a guest, watch a movie
  • volunteer at the Backus-Page House Museum and community events as a group
  • contributes their thoughts and opinions on museum exhibits and programs
  • spends time having fun and experiencing the Backus-Page House Museum!

The Youth Council meets for two hours biweekly at the Backus-Page House Museum between June and September.New members are always welcome!

For more information on how to get involved, or to submit your registration form: please contact 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tourism Thursdays

Celebrate Canada 150 with a Historical Trip Around Elgin County

Museums and cultural attractions provide an important link to our region’s rich heritage and keep the stories of our past alive. From pre – 18th century Attawandaron villages to the enigmatic Colonel Thomas Talbot, the railway boom of the 1850s, and the agricultural roots of our community, these museums highlight the development of Elgin County through collections of artifacts, documents, and photographs.

This year we celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday. Elgin County Tourism has decided to create a one of a kind museum passport. When you present the passport to any of the 11 museums in the Elgin County area you will receive a stamp, and a chance to win a prize from each location. Every location has a different prize as well. The more museums you visit the better chance you have at winning multiple amazing prizes. 

The Museums you can visit are as follows:
  1. Backus-Page House Museum
  2. Port Burwell Marine Museum
  3. Gay Lea Dairy Heritage Museum 
  4. Elgin County Museum
  5. The Arts and Cookery Bank
  6. Elgin County Archives
  7. Elgin County Railway Museum
  8. Ye Olde Forge and Anvil Museum
  9. Edison Museum of Vienna
  10. Aylmer- Malahide Museum & Archives
  11. St.Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre

for more information and location of each museum.

Whats Happening at the Backus-Page House 

Along with the Great Museum chase of the 21st century the Backus-Page House will be hosting an event June 24th-25th called Living History Weekend.This year we will be covering over 200 years of military history from the French and Indian Wars to the Vietnam Wars. With various activities everyday from scavenger hunts for the kids and merchants for the parents and to top it off reenactments of the Vietnam War for the whole family to enjoy.

The gates open at 10 am June 24th and 25th. Admission is $8 per person and children 12 and under are free! Food and fun awaits you at the The Backus-Page House,  located at 29424 Lakeview Line, Wallacetown, just south of Hwy #3.

Thanks for reading
Sabrina Merks