Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Woodstock Ontario - Fanshawe Pioneer Village (Searching for my roots)

In 1819, a man named William Guest (born 1777 in Tipperary, Ireland; died 1869 in Ontario), his wife Elenor and their four children emigrated from Ireland to Quebec. One child died on the crossing. Their reason for leaving isn't mentioned, but William would have been coming of age when non-Anglican Irish people (including Catholics, Presbyterians and Methodists) had banded together to form the Society of United Irishmen. They rose up against British rule in the Rebellion of 1798 but were defeated, followed by an ongoing insurgency. What is known for sure is that his departure pre-dated the Irish Potato Famine by twenty years.

In 1824, William, his wife and three surviving children (Thomas Ardiel Guest, Elizabeth Guest and William Williams Guest) settled on the north half of Lot 2, Concession 4 in the Talbot Settlement in the former London Township. This was where Colonel Thomas Talbot, an Irish born soldier, had convinced Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe to allow him to develop the land. Settlers on the 100 acre half lots were required to build a road along the front of their lot, construct a house and sow ten acres of land within 3 1/2 years to maintain their claim.

This was of interest to me because William's son, William Williams Guest, was my maternal grandmother's grandfather. The Guests have lived in the London area ever since, and the area where the original homestead was had been reported to be near Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Now we were off to visit the village today and see if there was any more information to be found.

Fanshawe Pioneer Village depicts life in this area from 1820 to 1920 and is operated by a non-profit organization supported by the City of London.

Sandy and I had breakfast and went over to Heather's. She had already taken Jasper to day care, where he was experiencing his last day in the Toddler Room. On Friday, he will graduate to the Preschool room. When we got to the house, Heather was trying to enroll Jasper in swimming lessons via Woodstock's online website. It wasn't going well. Prior to leaving, we moved the base for Fiona's car seat from the van to the Equinox. I can't believe how easy these things are to do these days, with the required anchor points installed in the vehicles at the factory.

Driving west on the 401 and exiting on Veteran's Way, we found the village on a quiet piece of land adjacent to Fanshawe Lake. There were quite a few buildings that had been brought in from around the area and were arranged to give the feeling of several differing eras. You knew it was a Protestant Irish settlement by the Orange Hall. My maternal grandfather, James Thomas Woodend, emigrated to Canada 100 years after William Guest and was a loyal Orangeman until his dying day.

One of the highlights was an older gentleman in the print shop. He regaled us with tales of what it would have been like to be a settler here, living without ready access to stores and amenities common in the towns. He also explained the hardships the people would face just getting to the towns. It was a fascinating experience and I am sorry that I did not get his name.

We had lunch at the cafe, located in an old machine shop (complete with pulleys in the ceiling for the leather belts that ran the machines), before we left. The prices were quite reasonable.

An 1820 concession road

The earliest buildings

The Orange Hall

Were any of my ancestors members?

One of the essential trades

The print shop full of stories

The general store came later and made life easier

A later house

Now to my search for my roots. I asked the young lady at the entrance if there was anyone there who could tell me where Lot 2, Concession 4 might have been located. She said their most knowledgeable person was away but that another young lady named Allison was in the first cabin we would come to. She might have an idea. We found Allison, but she didn't know either. She said she believed there was a map on the table in the tavern. Sure enough, there was.

The map below shows the current location of Fanshawe Pioneer Village just west of Fanshawe Lake (which was created by damming the Thames River in 1952). The location of the dam can be seen at the bottom of the map.

I discovered the map below on a table in the tavern. It depicts the lots in the southeast corner of old London Township. You will note some lots were set aside for the crown and some for the church. The Thames River is on the edge and you can see where it turns sharply to the west, one reference point with the map above. You can also see upriver where the river turns south, but this can only be guestimated on the current map because  man-made Fanshawe Lake covers where the river used to flow. It is evident, though, that the Pioneer Village is somewhere in the lower right part of the township.

Below, Sandy's finger is pointing to Lot 2, Concession 4. The precise position relative to the current map isn't clear without a second reference point, but I estimate that the north half it is quite close to the village. So yes, the Guest presence in our fair country was right about here.

There was something satisfying for me about what we discovered on this journey. We not only found the spot but learned what it was like living here in those times. Life was difficult and the work was hard, but they survived and prospered. William and Elenor had eight more children, with many of them living into their 80's. William Williams Guest had a son Charles (1858 - 1947) whose daughter Lena Beatrice Guest (1897 - 1989) married James Thomas Woodend (1887 - 1971). They were my mother's parents and my grandparents.

It occurred to me as I was researching the family tree that my ancestors on this side were long lived enough that they could have qualified for the Howard Families (for those who read Heinlein). My potential is moderated by the relatively short lives of my father's side of the family, so my genetics are an unknown commodity.

After we left Fanshawe, I wanted to add one more link to my history. When I was under two years old, we lived with my maternal grandparents on Egerton Street in London for several months while my father worked on the Geological Survey of Newfoundland. I think I can remember that it was a red brick building across from the London Fair Grounds with a vacant side yard. My grandmother used to let people park here for the Fair (for a small fee, of course). There are only a couple of blocks across from the grounds and just one large red brick house, street address 520, with a newer building on the one side where the vacant yard could have been.

I may have lived here

We returned to Woodstock, where Heather and Sandy went to collect Jasper at day care while I looked after Fiona.

Me looking after Fiona

Tom picked up Subway for supper. Sandy and I split a new chicken parmigiana sandwich, which I found quite tasty. I will have to give some thought to what kind of toppings this needs to make it pop. I was dismayed to find that Monterey cheddar buns have disappeared from the Canadian menu and are only occasionally carried in the USA. Still, as a Type 2 diabetic, I should stick with the 9 grain.

We watched Cars (the movie) with Jasper again. He can recite parts of the script even though he can't hardly talk yet. I can see us looking for Lightning McQueen souvenirs in our future travels. Kim phoned and told us we should meet them at the Cambridge On Route Service Centre at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning to begin our grand family outing to the Toronto Zoo.

So we have another early start tomorrow. Sandy and I headed back to our room and, after I set three different alarms, we turned in.

Today's Route (74 Equinox miles):

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Woodstock Ontario - Storybook Gardens

Today was going to be the opposite of yesterday. Small park, little walking and less crowds.  Storybook Gardens has been located in London's Springbank Park since 1958 and is aimed at smaller children. Mike and Tom decided not to join us today.

Sandy and I had breakfast at the hotel and were at Heather's before 8:00 AM. Kim arrived before 10:00 AM in their van with Jolene and Robyn. Sandy climbed in with them while I rode shotgun with Heather, Jasper and Jolene in the Gronek Caravan. Kim led us west on 401, disregarding instructions from my GPS to take several exits. She went across, the 401, took the 402 and exited at Colonel Talbot Drive. She was right and we avoided most of the London city traffic. The parking lot at Storybook Gardens was already mostly full.

Arriving at Storybook Gardens

We bought admissions and a bag of tickets that could be used on the rides. As you would imagine from the name, there are many displays and decorations based on the theme of children's stories.

Picnic time

The first stop was the splash pad. There were a lot of different ways to get splashed and the kids loved it.

The adults get settled in the shade

Jasper off to get suited up

Jolene is encouraging her cousin

Trying to catch water

All three are involved

After drying off, we continued on to a section that had things to bounce on, things to climb on and things to slide on. The kids had a ball and probably could have stayed here all day, but the parents decided we had to move on to the rides.

Heather took Jasper on the Ferris wheel, while Kim took Robyn. Jolene wanted to ride by herself. We worried about how Jasper would take it but he did just fine. Then Jolene, Robyn and Jasper rode the elephant ride (like flying Dumbos without the flying) together. Next, we went just outside the gate and the kids rode the vintage carousel. Twice.

Heather and Jasper on the Ferris wheel

Wave at Grandpa

Kim and Robyn

Solo rider Jolene

Grandma watching Fiona

Future equestrians

My thoughts on Storybook Gardens were that it is a fine place for pre-teen children. Ours had a blast. The season passes are very reasonable and I could see taking kids here regularly if we lived in the area.

We wrapped the Storybook visit and drove to a nearby Shoeless Joe's restaurant for lunch. It was largely empty and the server took very good care of us. Sandy, who still wasn't feeling 100%, split a very generous club sandwich with me. The grandkids had a variety of things of the little person's menu. They were extremely well behaved during the meal.

Shoeless Joe's - London Ontario

Grandpa and Princess Fiona

Kim and Sandy started directly back after lunch, while Heather and I went to Costco so she could pick up diapers. Then I made a mistake by following the GPS and directing her right through downtown London during evening rush hour. We should have backtracked to Wonderland and then taken the 402/401. I really do like London, though. Of all Ontario cities, I think it is probably the nicest one to live in.

Kim had dropped Sandy at the hotel since Tom was out dealing with a car repair. Unknown to them, he had left the front door unlocked for her. She still wasn't feeling well, so her supper was a toasted Tim Horton's bagel while I had a club sub from Subway.

Evenings are quiet because we are keeping busy all day. I read more of Browder's book on the Kindle and was asleep early.

Today's Route (81 van miles):

Monday, August 29, 2016

Woodstock Ontario - Canada's Wonderland

One of the ideas I had for grandchild bonding adventures was Canada's Wonderland, just north of Toronto. We went when it first opened in the early 80's and went back several times with Heather and Kim as they were growing up. It's been a long time since we have been there but we have seen new rides added regularly as we passed by over the years. It is now owned by the Cedar Fair consortium which also owns Cedar Point, King's Island, Knott's Berry Farm and many others.

Yesterday, Kim and I ordered tickets on line. We purchased two general admissions for Mike and Robyn. Mike doesn't like the thrill rides and Robyn was too short to ride them. Then we ordered three general admissions with Fast Lane Plus. This is something similar to Disney's Fast Pass, which allows people to skip most of the lines for specified rides. Unlike Disney, the Fast Lane is not limited as to the number of rides. It cost as much again as the admission and we were going to see if it was worth it. To add icing to the cake, we had prepaid for preferred parking.

Sandy has never been a fan of large amusement parks. She decided that she would hang out with Heather, Jasper and Fiona in Woodstock while I enjoyed Wonderland with the other half of the family. I dropped her off at Heather's just before 8:00 AM, and then stopped back at the hotel because I had forgotten to take my morning pills. Getting older is a combination of more pills and less remembering. Then I drove to Cambridge where I found Mike, Kim and the girls ready to leave.

We left for Toronto in their Dodge Caravan at 8:30. Morning traffic was less intense than I had imagined, but we avoided the worst by taking the ETR 407 toll road to just south of Wonderland. The parking lot was starting to fill up, but the preferred parking put us right in front of the entrance. At the parking lot gate, I just showed my phone to the attendant, who scanned the QR code and gave us a receipt. Magic. The same thing happened at the main gate and at the desk where Kim, Jolene and I got our Fast Lane Plus armbands. The park had free WiFi and an app with maps and information, including wait times for most of the rides.

Preferred parking wasn't crowded - yet

That is Leviathan in the background

Current Wonderland Map

Things weren't too crowded as we made our way to the Swing of the Century and Grandpa looked for a bathroom. I returned to find Mike and Robyn watching because she was a tad undertall to ride this classic swing ride. Then the two of them set out for Kidzville and Planet Snoopy while Kim, Jolene and I looked for some thrills. There are many more choices now than there were ten years ago.

Windseeker was a benign ride. It merely went in circles, but the circles were 301 feet in the air. I took deep breaths. Then we convinced Jolene to go on the Vortex, a suspended coaster, with us. She wasn't sure but went along. I had forgotten how much your head gates rattles around against the protectors on each side of your ears. Jolene wasn't thrilled. The Fast Lane was a major benefit, though, since most folks appeared not to have purchased the option (the quantities available are limited), and we walked right past some long lines.

To recover from Jolene's first large coaster, we stopped by the good old Klock werks, a roundy round up and down ride that has been there since day one. That one was a winner with our girl. That put us near the falls on the mountain just as the high diver show was beginning. Jolene git up close and managed to high five the divers when they got out of the water.

Victoria Falls

Waiting for the divers

From there, we went on to Medieval Faire and rode Dragon Fire, one of the original coasters and the first steel looping coaster in Canada. It seemed so big then but was now dwarfed by Leviathan, currently the fastest coaster in the world. Once again, Jolene's ears took a beating in the wrap-around headrest.

We rode Rage, the classic swinging pirate ship, which Jolene enjoyed. Then we met Mike and Robyn in the main area and, after giving up on a Chinese food place that couldn't seem to serve people very quickly, settled for hot dogs. We were back to the lagoon just in time for the pirate show, a mix of divers and trampoline artists. While Mike and Robyn watched, Jolene and I rode Rage again and Kim tried Leviathan. At 306 feet high, 100 MPH and over a mile long, Kim said this was the best.

We separated one more time. I took Jolene on another spinning ride they call Orbiter (I used to know it as Sol Loco). It goes around and then the circle rises and becomes vertical so the riders are swung upside down on every pass. There are no belts, the people are held in place by Newton's Laws. Jolene rode with me the first time, in her own car the second time and then all by herself the third. Kim, meanwhile, rode two bigger rides called Sledge Hammer and Behemoth (the biggest coaster before they built Leviathan). We finished off with the Time Warp, a coaster where you ride four abreast lying on your stomachs. I remembered this as a very benign ride. I remembered wrong (from a seven year old point of view). It spiraled us to the top and looped twice on the way down. Jolene got bounced around again and was not impressed.

We met the other two for ice cream and then the family went to upgrade their day passes to 2017 season memberships for a very modest fee. They got a discount for today's tickets plus one more 2016 visit in addition to all of 2017. Then we were out of there. It was just after 5:00, so we fit the profile which said the average visit was seven hours.

Halloween is coming

My take on Wonderland is this. It is known for its coasters and its flat (non coaster) rides. An example of a flat we didn't do is Rip Tide. They keep building new attractions while keeping the old, adding fresh new flavours to a familiar experience. There is also a good selection of attractions to keep the younger set amused as well. The grounds are well kept and maintained. Fast Lane Plus is much better than the Disney Fast Pass because it doesn't have any of the restrictions and I wouldn't consider attending to ride the major rides without it. Shows are short but entertaining. Food is varied but expensive. I don't remember the steel coasters being that rough. We should have taken Jolene on at least one wooden coaster. One value item was the refillable bottle. I spent $15 for one and got free drinks for the rest of the day, which we shared. We made out like bandits on this, considering the price of a single soft drink is about $4.00. Would I go again? You bet. Maybe I will ride the scary rides next time.

To avoid the evening rush hour, I had considered directing Mike north to King Road and across to Highway 27. Unfortunately, 400 North was dead stopped. 400 South was jammed as well, so we went back to the Express Toll Road. Traffic was slow once we reached the 401 but we made it back to Cambridge without incident.

We had supper at Lone Star in Cambridge where I watched an almost eight-year-old eat an adult order of calamari and an almost six-year-old make fajitas. I have to say that after a whole day traipsing around Wonderland with two children that age, things could have been so much worse and not much better. They were great and it was fun.

I made my way back to Woodstock and picked Sandy up at Heather's. She had been sick all day, to the extent that she had been throwing up, so we stopped at WalMart on the way back to the hotel and picked up some of the clear cherry flavoured Gatorade that she likes.

I checked voicemail at home and found a message from someone representing the President's Office at Eastlink. They saw the guide problem and were looking into it. Ten days and they still hadn't made any progress. Maybe they aren't the provider for me?

We had another big day planned for tomorrow, so it was lights out at 10:00 PM. I always get way more sleep when I'm on the road.

Today's Route (191 miles):

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Woodstock Ontario - Fiona's Christening

Sandy and I were up at 6:00 AM. The hotel breakfast started at 6:30 and included scrambled eggs, sausage patties and home fries. It was not a bad way to start the day, although Sandy stuck with cereal and yogurt.

Sunrise over Woodstock

After breakfast, we returned to the room and got into our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. I put on my good pants, my favourite dress shirt and a tie. I had left the jacket at home. You will see me in a tie about as often as you see a solar eclipse. Sandy wears a dress about as often, but she looked really good in this one.

We arrived at Heather and Tom's about 8:00 AM. There was a flurry of getting parents and kids ready and loaded in their van. Then we followed them over to the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross where Kim, Mike, Jolene and Robyn were already waiting. It was starting to get warm as we went into the church.

Three quarters of our grandchildren

Holy Cross Catholic Church

Holy Cross serves the Polish Community. Once a month, the Sunday mass is in English. The priest, who also baptized Jasper, was an affable man with limited English and an offbeat sense of humour. He had us move to the front pews and had intended to conduct the baptism as part of the mass, but Tom's mother and father didn't arrive until after it was over. Robyn sat with me through the mass and, although she was bubbling over with energy, didn't cause any problems. In fact, I was proud of all the children. I was more concerned about the church being struck by lightning because I was attending.

After the mass, the family gathered around and the good father welcomed Fiona into their community of faith. She didn't cause any fuss, even when the holy water was applied.

Big brother waiting

Mother and father

Fiona and godmother Kim

Don't drown the kid

And it's done

Parents and godparents

Mom, Dad and Big Brother

With Grandma and Grandpa

The Gronek Clan

All the cousins

When the ceremony was over, we headed to the stately Elm Hurst Inn, about ten miles away in Ingersoll, for lunch. The buffet was well appointed, the staff was friendly and efficient and the food was first rate. Spirits were high and all the kids were good. It was an all round excellent gathering.

Elm Hurst Inn - Ingersoll Ontario

They wouldn't let us eat off these

The photo fountain

Jasper James

Fiona's ear print on Uncle Mike's arm

We left Ingersoll behind and returned to Woodstock, stopping to change into more relaxed clothing at the hotel before going to the house. There was a lively gathering. I sat on the front porch with Kim as we plotted the next day's visit to Canada's Wonderland. After looking at the various options, I ordered the tickets on line and suitable QR codes were sent to my phone. This was my first time dealing with these little bits of electronic magic that young folks today take for granted.

After everyone left, Tom, Heather and the kids came back to the hotel with us. We changed in the room and then went down to the pool, which we had all to ourselves. Jasper wasn't to sure at first but, once he found the water wings would hold him up, had a great time. Fiona didn't seem to care one way or the other.

Jasper and Tom in the pool

Grandma and Fiona

After our guests went home, Sandy and I just took it easy. Tomorrow was going to be another early day so I spent my time reading "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice" by Bill Browder. It is an alarming true tale of intrigue and corruption in Putin's Russia.

I had a problem with the on line TV guide before I left. Our guide is supposed to have programs for the next two weeks but Space Channel wasn't updated. After two calls to Eastlink Support, I sent an Email to the President indicating my dissatisfaction. The bottom line was that I hadn't been able to schedule a recording of this week's episode of The Last Ship so I watched it live before going to bed.

I set the alarm and was asleep soon after my program was over. Sandy beat me by at least an hour.