Monday, December 14, 2015

What is missing in Central Park?

What Central Park Needs Right Now

by John Taylor, for the Dunnville Free Press 

You never know where you are until you go away. That lesson I learned this past summer travelling through Europe, specifically the two countries formerly known as Czechoslovakia -- now Slovakia and the Czech Republic. As a visitor arriving at new towns in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, I experienced first-hand how important information, any information about local attractions, is to a visitor. The tourist has just flown half way around the world and desperately wants to know what is happening. I wanted to make it worth my while, so I was constantly on the lookout for whatever information might be available. 

When I returned to our home, which is situated right across the road from the main path in Central Park, I saw Dunnville's most frequented park with new eyes. I saw what tourists must see when they look at our park. Why not put up a bulletin board or two at the crossing of the paths in Central Park? This would take advantage of the crowds who gather in Central Park several times a year -- Canada Day, Movies in the Park, Remembrance Day, our Mudcat festival, among others -- to give them an idea of what is going on a few blocks away in down-town Dunnville. Tens of thousands of people come through this park, and then go straight home with no idea of what else they can do and see here in Dunnville. At present, this prime location sports only two rather negative signs, one a "No smoking within so many metres of the play structures" sign, and the other a dour warning not to wander through at night. So, the first thing an outsider experiences of Dunnville is what not to do. A notice board would tell them what they can do. This would surely give visitors a more positive idea of what is happening in our fair town. 

Our first residence in Slovakia was an apartment complex in Banska Bystrica, a city located in the middle of Slovakia. Here, they took a simple, low tech approach to supplying the need for local news. Three kiosks, each with a roof to keep the rain off its paper posters below, were plastered with notices of festivals, concerts and sports events. Together, they gave a good picture of everything that was coming up in town over the next couple of months. Okay, at first the posters did not help much, since I do not understand Slovakian. Fortunately, one of our hosts kindly translated some of the notices. This was another discovery for me, how little help my knowledge of English was in faraway places. 

In the Czech Republic, the mid-sized town of Prostejov (pronounced: "completely differently from anything you might think") took a more sophisticated approach to providing visitors with information. At the center of town there is a large map of the locality, complete with lights to indicate exactly where tourist attractions are located. Hit a button and you have instant directions from "you are here" to the lit up picture of the building on the map. In order to protect against vandalism, the entire display sits behind a barrier of plexiglass. The notice board even attempted to overcome the language barrier. The default was in Czech, but you could hit a button for Polish, German, or whatever, and the entire text would change to your language. Except for English. When I hit the "English" button, nothing happened. It stayed in Czech. By then, however, I was used to that. 

In the small village of Fulnek (or was it Uhersky Brod?) I was surprised to find the most high tech bulletin board of all, a completely digital display that seemed to be connected directly to the town's website. It cycled through notices of upcoming events, and if you wanted you could push a button to stop it, and even find out more about the subject. 

It seems to me that it would be worth whatever it costs to erect something like one of these approaches to a bulletin board in Central Park. Otherwise, local businesses are standing idly by as millions of dollars in potential sales literally walks out of town with no idea they exist. 

Next month, will run this idea by a town Councillor and let you know what he thinks. I will also report on the start that the Dunnville Chamber of Commerce has already made on collecting together information of events sponsored by local businesses and service organizations that might be included on a digital bulletin board. 

This digital bulletin board is available to visitors at Kluane National Park, in the Yukon. It even includes a weather report.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Pageant at Dunnville Christian School

"David's Dynasty,"
Dunnville Christian School's Christmas Show 

by John Taylor, photography by Marie Taylor 

for the Dunnville Free Press 

13 December, 2015 

On Friday, December 11, Dunnville Christian School held its popular annual Christmas pageant, entitled this year, "David's Dynasty," with the subtitle, "A bearded family of shepherds finding their heritage in the Christmas story." 

I attended the evening showing, which had by a rough estimate some 260 in the audience, with a cast, depending on the scene, fluctuating around seventy five at one time on stage. The drama and music, arranged by Gina Boe, Sue C. Smith, Barb Dorn  and Christopher Davis, was not the stiff recitation mixed with stodgy, traditional Christmas carols that one might expect. 

The dialogue in the play was sprinkled with humourirony and intentional anachronisms. The music included fresh numbers like "Bethle-boring" and "Listen to the Oldies." The playbill credits the production to the entire staff of DCS, and clearly the entire student body played some role, including the kindergarten class, every boy sporting a crew cut, singing "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus." 

Photo Credits: Marie Taylor

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Profile of Bert Vis Flooring

Smithville Enterprise offers Complete Flooring and Cabinetry Service 

Written for the Dunnville Free Press,

By John Taylor
​ ​
Bert Vis Flooring 

Dunnville's only flooring business moved to Cayuga a couple of years ago, making a drive inevitable for anybody seeking this type of home improvement. However, home owners in Dunnville may not be aware that nearby Smithville features a large flooring concern, Bert Vis Flooring and Cabinets. It is situated in downtown Smithville, at 214 St. Catherines Street. I met with their head of advertising, Ralph Vis at their capacious showroom to find out more. Ralph explained that his father, Bert Vis, has owned and operated the business since 1978. 

Aside from flooring, including carpeting, vinyl, hardwood laminate and ceramic flooring, they also offer counter-tops, cabinets, vanities and back-splashes, along with painting services and supplies. Customers have the choice of purchasing materials and installing them on their own, or taking advantage of their complete installation services. Flooring is installed by Bert Vis employees, while counter-tops and cabinet installations tend to be subcontracted out. Currently, they are booking four to six weeks ahead, although the work itself, even granite counter-tops, can be done as quickly as a day or two. 
I asked, what kind of flooring is most popular? Answer, it fluctuates on a seasonal basis. It used to be carpeting that dominated, but in recent years hard surfaces such as laminates, have surged ahead. As for counter-tops, granite and quartz have increased in sales, especially in the high end market. 
Where does most of your business come from? We get most of our business from walk-in customers, who often come from Hamilton, Burlington, Grimsby, Vineland and West Lincoln. Although Ralph lives in Dunnville himself, Dunnville is as yet one of their smaller markets. He and his staff find Smithville to be a friendly community to serve. They are pleased that new housing projects in Smithville and area are jump starting demand for their services. 

 Bert Vis Flooring & Cabinets - Flooring & Cabinet Sales 
 Smithville, ON L0R 2A0 
 Phone:(905) 957-7779 
 Hours: 9:00 to 5:00 PM 

Photos of Ralph Vis and the staff in their showroom, photo credits to Marie Taylor, except the last photo 

Photo of Ralph Vis, taken from their website 


Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Dunnville Boys Become Storm Troopers

Dunnville Heritage Society Meeting 

Soldiers from Dunnville Fight a Great War; the Third Battle of Ypres 

by John Taylor for the Dunnville Free Press 

Submitted Wednesday, Dec 01, 2015

The Dunnville Heritage Society continued its series on the First World War on November 25th. The speaker, resident historian Judy, focused this time on Lens and Passchendaele, part of the battle of Aras, especially the third battle of Ypres. This consisted of two excruciating but brilliantly planned attacks by Canadian troops in the mud and blood of Belgium over the summer and fall of 1917. Specially featured were the stories of several Dunnville "boys."

One was farmer and professional runner Edwin Wood, who before the war ran, sometimes successfully, against the famous sprinter from Six Nations, Tom Longboat. Longboat also served in the Canadian army as a dispatch runner, one of the most dangerous jobs in the war. Another featured soldier was hockey player Jack Munro, who joined the 114th. She told of how even hockey was, in those days, extremely brutal, arduous and dangerous. The slide show included family photos of Munro and brothers Robert and James Bennett, with several other brothers, who also served. Bennett became a lawyer after the war. The youngest in the photo was wearing skirts. He was not a girl but a boy, Judy explained. In those days a young boy had to earn his trousers.

The story starts when Canada's army in 1917 was just coming off a heady victory at Vimy Ridge. We were ordered to conduct two attacks that seemed extremely tough, not to say dubious and suicidal. Only vigorous intervention and near insubordination by Canada's unsung hero, General Arthur Currie, kept subsequent events from turning into the sort of meaningless bloodbath that was going on, well, just about everywhere else on the front. By one account, if Currie had been part of General Douglas "Butcher of the Somme" Haig's own staff, he would have been summarily fired for thus defending the lives of his troops. Fortunately, for diplomatic reasons, he was immune. For Haig, the push had only one objective, to distract the German enemy from the parlous state of larger armies to the south, especially that of the French. Otherwise, their success or failure had no strategic value, although at that low point in the fighting any good news at all had great psychological effect, both in France and on the home front in Canada.

Make no mistake. This was a low point in a very low war. Aristocratic fops leading the French military treated their men with open contempt as cannon fodder. After some 700,000 casualties at Verdun, France's army was on the verge of mass mutiny. The challenge was keeping it a secret from the Germans, who would have walked over them had they known. Finally Joffre, the "butcher of Verdun," was replaced by Gen. Philippe Petain, who placated his expendables by, in effect, promising to just stop attacking. He would thus abate the lemming-like rush into machine gun fire and an early grave. It is telling that in this war no fewer than three generals earned the nickname "the butcher."

Currie did what few other generals bothered to do. He went out and inspected the situation with his own eyes. When he did, he was appalled. He insisted on getting enough men and equipment to have a fighting chance do what Canada was ordered to do. After meticulous preparation, Currie finally had our force ready. The Third Battle of Ypres began under horrific conditions, including a monsoon that had everybody hip deep in mud. To greet us, the Germans introduced two surprises for this battle. These technological innovations, mustard gas and flame throwers, were firsts in the history of warfare. By this time, two of the Dunnville soldiers we looked at had already been killed or went missing, along with 200,000 others from across Canada. For more information about the battle, see: 

The Battle of Passchendaele has been immortalized in a feature film of that name by Paul Gross. The success of Canadian troops in these storming the lines -- in English, shock troops, was so impressive to the Germans that they dubbed Canadians Stoßtruppen, or "Storm Troopers." A nice bit of trivia to tell your kids as they watch the upcoming Stars Wars reboot film opening this month. Tell them that the original storm troopers were not only good guys, they were our guys. Some even came from Dunnville.

sidebar: Kornelius Neudorf, a regular at the DHS meetings, stated that he is always impressed with the depth of research that is put into these presentations about our history.