There's a surprising lot of interesting stuff going on around here, and this space is devoted to discovering and sharing it. We'll post regular updates on merchants, activities and events. Look in often and soon you'll see why Meaford calls itself "The other Big Apple".

posted April 24th, 2014
Meaford celebrity subject of world premiere tonight

A Meaford world premiere was held tonight, and by all accounts, it was a huge success. Fortunately, there’s still time to catch this made-in-Meaford production tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday at Meaford Hall.

Back at the turn of the 20th century, a 17 year-old Bruce Peninsula boy fell against the blade of a huge sawmill buzzsaw and lost both his forearms. The boy was Andrew Gawley, and his heartwarming story of perseverance made him something of a local hero in Meaford, where he eventually settled and ran a repair shop – using the two steel arms he and his blind father fashioned.

Were this tale fiction, you might have a hard time believing it. But now his true story has come to the stage in a play written by Meaford Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield, and produced, directed and acted by local folks working with Meaford’s Community Theatre group.

Harley remembers, when he was very young, seeing Andrew Gawley in town. He realized the inspirational story of someone overcoming this kind of physical tragedy and eventually becoming a celebrity profiled in newsreels and travelling with Ripley’s Believe It or Not shows was ripe for the telling.

He wrote “Andrew Gawley: The Man with the Steel Hands”, and was pleased to hve Meaford Community Theatre take it on.

“We must remember,” says Harley, “Most people thought at first that he would surely die, and then that he would be absolutely helpless for the remainder of his life, a life that would only lead to misery and despair. But Andy was a fighter, a true life survivor, and he would not succumb to his injuries. He was likely a hundred years ahead of his time when it comes to proving to the world that a handicapped person can be not only a contributor, but also a leader.”

Get tickets at the Meaford Hall website, call 1.877.538.0463 or visit the box office.

An AP story about Andrew Gawley from the St. Petersburg, Florida Evening Independent April 12, 1932

An AP story about Andrew Gawley from the St. Petersburg, Florida Evening Independent April 12, 1932

posted April 14th, 2014
Spring skiing in Meaford

Here are some photos from this past weekend — yes, this past weekend! It’s hard to believe how well-covered the slopes are, but for those who enjoy warm-weather skiing, this spring has been exceptional. The first two photos were taken at Blue Mountain on Friday under gloriously sunny skies. And while the sun didn’t cooperate for the Saturday ski at Georgian Peaks, mild temps made for great spring conditions. It’s not over yet. Easter skiing is on its way!

posted April 11th, 2014
The Search For The Girl With The Blue Eyes – a Meaford tale

When the middle-aged man walked into the Meaford Express office on that day in 1963, his request struck even experienced newshands Walter and Phyllis Brebner as out of the ordinary. He’d recently accidentally hypnotised his 14-year-old daughter, Joanne, explained Ken McIver, who’d travelled to Meaford from Orillia. While under, he said, she’d uncovered various past lives, including that of Susan Ganier, a farm-wife in Sydenham and St. Vincent Townships during the mid to late1800s. He wanted to know if the Express could help him find evidence of the woman’s existence.

The paper ran a letter from him seeking anyone who might have known of Ganier, but it wasn’t until three years later that the real research began. Jess Stearn, a 52-year-old American journalist and author, received an assignment to investigate the claim. The self-described skeptic arrived in Orillia in 1966 to begin his exploration into the case, which would result in The Search for the Girl with Blue Eyes: A Venture Into Reincarnation.

The Search for the Girl with the Blue Eyes

It wasn’t easy. Joanne hadn’t described a prior life as Cleopatra or Queen Elizabeth I. Susan Ganier was a simple farm girl who’d married a young tenant farmer, become a widow at a young age, and lived out her days uneventfully in an isolated region of 19th century Ontario.

Stearns’s research into the pioneer days in the Meaford area included visits to Meaford and talks with locals, such as Wilfred Barr, Major Spike Malone, Joe Walker, Vina Ufland, Milford Johnston, Duncan Lourie, Arthur Eagles, and the Brebners.

Eagles, in particular, said he remembered the Ganiers, and pointed out sites described by Joanne on an old map of St. Vincent.

The book, which was published in 1968, leaves dangling the question of whether Joanne was reincarnated (though suggests that if the story was a hoax, why would the McIvers have chosen such an obscure past life?) but remains a fascinating read for people who are interested in things beyond our ken – particularly those living or loving the Meaford area!

(A side note: The inimitably tart Nora Ephron mentioned the book in a 1968 article for the New York Times, calling it a “second-rate Bridey Murphy adventure about an uninteresting small-town Canadian girl who turned out under hypnosis to be the reincarnation of another uninteresting small-town Canadian girl.”)

posted April 5th, 2014
Books about the Bay – Georgian Bay tales

Our post last week about Hilary Scharper’s Perdita, a Georgian Bay gothic, reminded us of more literature of the lake.

The Orenda

By Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden’s most recent novel takes place in the period leading up to the Iroquois attacks on the Huron and French in 1649, and the Huron’s subsequent exile to Christian Island and, eventually, beyond. The winner of this year’s Canada Reads, The Orenda has been called “much more than a timely novel. It is a timeless one; born a classic,” by the National Post

Books of the Bay

Into the Blue

Family secrets and the search for a Great Lakes shipwreck
By Andrea Curtis

“It is difficult for anyone who hasn’t seen Georgian Bay in full flight to fully comprehend its fury, ” writes Andrea Curtis in this novelistic memoir. “It is a lake, but it can act with the power of an ocean.” On November 22, 1906, the 107-foot steamer J.H, Jones, loaded with cargo and passengers from Owen Sound bound for Lion’s Head, passed the Cape Croker lighthouse. She disappeared soon after, lost with all 26 souls aboard. Toronto writer Andrea Curtis is the great granddaughter of Jim Crawford, captain of the Jones. Her fascinating memoir blends an exploration of her family history with a stirring recreation of the life of Captain Crawford and the final hours of the fated voyage.

The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death

By Luisa Buehler

Book Five in the Grace Marsden series by Luisa Buehler (A Love Is Murder Award Recipient for “Best Traditional/Cozy Amateur Sleuth”), this mystery takes place on Christian Island in the off-season. Grace and nine other people find themselves trapped on the island and the prime suspects in the mysterious death of an island elder. An ancient tragedy, island ghost sightings, and modern day treachery twist lives until more deaths and more danger make Grace unsure of whom she can trust. When the spirit of the lighthouse keeper beckons to her. Is it to warn her or harm her?

Ghosts of the Bay

A guide to the history of Georgian Bay
By Russell Floren, Andrea Gutsche, Heather Sangster

This book and its companion DVD documentary circumnavigate the Bay, delving beneath the waves in search of long lost ships, and darting into bays where the bones of abandoned boom towns and villages fade slowly into the forest.

The Frances Smith: Palace Steamer of the Upper Great Lakes, 1867-1896

By Scott Cameron

Scott Cameron was principal of Georgian Bay Secondary School in Meaford until he retired to explore Georgian Bay’s fascinating marine history. His first book brings to life the tale of this Owen Sound-built steamer – the largest vessel on the Bay at the time. It has been praised as “a narrative of the steamboat days in the nineteenth century, one which encompasses storm and shipwreck, violence and death, family antagonisms and business calamities and national events… a classic of Great Lakes writing.”

Georgian Bay – The Sixth Great Lake

By James Barry

Originally published in 1968, this enduring classic explores centuries of Georgian Bay history and its people.

Stay tuned for a famous Meaford mystery.