The Development of the Kaslo River Trail


The Kaslo River was often subjected to severe flooding during the 1800s. In 1895-96, during the rebuilding of the town after one such flood, the first hydro-electric system was included in the construction. It was privately operated by George Alexander. Kaslo Creek (River) was rerouted southwards into the current channel. In 1914 the City of Kaslo purchased Kaslo Power and Light for $27,000. It was upgraded in 1931 to be fully automatic. Another flood occurred in 1948 and in 1962 the power utility was abandoned, putting Kaslo onto the BC Hydro grid.

Hiking trails began to develop along this abandoned land, but they were treacherous. In 2005 the many townspeople who like to use these trails formed the Kaslo Trailblazers Society and began the Kaslo River Trail Project.

Many volunteer hours over the past ten years have resulted in two beautiful, safe hiking trails along both sides of the river, joined by red-stained wooden bridges at each end, both built by the volunteers. Where parts of the trail have become flooded in recent years, new higher links have been created and reinforced with wooden steps. Rope railings to assist with the climb, and wooden or steel benches, dedicated to donors, make the hike more friendly to people of various physical fitness. Animal-proof garbage cans have also been added to help keep the area clean.

And the scenery is fantastic!

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Memoir Monday – Remembering My Dad


In the photo album there is a picture of my mom and dad and me standing on a hill in front of the cottage.  I was probably about two years old.  I look at the picture and feel Dad’s hand holding mine, yet I don’t really remember much from when I was that young.

Dad, Mom & Me

I remember going with him on insurance calls.  One recollection was of a boy/man who I think was celebrating his 21st birthday.  He had a very large head and a body so tiny that he lay on a pillow on the kitchen table. Today I’m still not sure if this is true or it was a dream.

I remember sitting on Dad’s knee in the big overstuffed chair in the living room while he read to me from my storybooks or a “comic” book.

When I was a little older Dad would come home from a week of deer hunting sporting a rough unshaven face and playfully give me a whisker rub.  One time that I remember, he brought a deer home and had it hanging in the garage.  I remember scolding him about that.

I remember having lipped him one morning before going to school and receiving a spanking that left me sobbing. Only once.

I remember laughter.

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I remember him driving me to parties and always being available to pick me up after if I needed a ride home.

I remember him giving me my first driving lesson and afterwards suggesting that I take Driver’s Ed at school.  I remember him being proud of me when I passed and the examiner told him I was a “good little driver”.

I remember going fishing with him for rock bass and perch at our cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and waking up to the smell of  fish frying for breakfast, Dad having been out early to catch pike.

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I remember boat trips to Alexandria Bay to buy Tootsie Rolls and Poppycock. I remember him teaching how to drive and dock our boat, and later allowed me to take my friends out myself.

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I remember how he came to my rescue when a friend and I were stranded with a broken down car in Belleville; and when I’d had enough of Toronto and wanted to move back home; and when the wedding rings didn’t fit and he took me to the Consumers Distributors store to exchange them, only to learn it was too late to get them resized in time for the wedding. The next evening he took me to his favourite jewellery store to buy replacements. I wonder what he would have thought when Brian and I broke up.

I remember him always being there for me if I asked, but not interfering if I didn’t.

I remember his confusion, the sadness of moving him into a nursing home; stopping in on my way home from work to see how he was and finding that he didn’t speak but took hold of my hand and walked me through the halls.  I remember his no longer having control over his bodily functions or understanding of social ones.  I remember taking him to the doctor when he broke his finger, and visiting him in the hospital when he broke his hip, and crying at his bedside because I knew from his vacant stare that he didn’t know who I was or why he was there.

And finally I remember getting the call when we were in Vancouver for my niece’s wedding, the call that informed us that the father who had mentally left us five years earlier had now left us physically as well. He was 82.

I don’t go to the cemetery to pay my respects; I don’t put memorials in the newspaper.  But I do remember and miss him.

 

I don’t remember saying “I love you, Dad” nor do I remember him telling me that he loved me, but I knew that he did and I hope he knew that I did.

Memoir Monday – Delivering Newspapers


I wonder how many people get a newspaper delivered to their door these days? I know there are some, but they are usually delivered by car. Are there “paperboys” (or girls) anymore? It’s been a long time since I’ve noticed any.

When I was a kid, every neighbourhood had a paperboy. I don’t think it was something girls did back then, but I remember helping out a couple of times:

I was outside on the verandah of our white clapboard house, wearing my brand-new, brown sandals, when my brother, who was nine years older, picked up his bag of newspapers and asked if I wanted to help him deliver them.

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“Yes!” I cried with delight and ran down the steps.

I didn’t notice that the sky was becoming a little dark, but my mother did.

“Change your shoes, Judy.  It’s going to rain and you’ll get your sandals wet!”

Too late! I was already headed down the street chasing my brother.

Robert handed me a newspaper and told me on which doorstep to place it, while he did the same on the other side of the street.

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It wasn’t a big route and we were finished in about half an hour. But before we made it home, the clouds opened with a burst of rain that was soon pelting down on us and swirling in huge puddles on the street and sidewalks. I splashed home as fast as my little legs would carry me, but much to my mother’s chagrin, my new sandals were now soggy, and I got a tongue lashing. I don’t remember how the sandals fared after they dried out, but I suspect that they stayed together and I wore them until they no longer fit me.

I remember another time when I was walking home from somewhere, older then, when another paper boy stopped to ask me if I could deliver a paper for him on my way by a particular house. Being shy and unquestioning, I took the paper and knocked on the door, but no one answered. I must have been told to deliver it directly because I remember that I didn’t know what to do with it. I vaguely recall taking it home and asked my dad.  He told me that the boy shouldn’t have given it to me, but he made sure it got delivered.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom


As you might have guessed, one of the things happening that has caused me many tears is the treatment of the immigrant children arriving in the United States. I’m not going to get into the politics of this, but yesterday it made me remember a story that I’d written eight years ago about a local family’s journey as immigrants to Canada. I wrote it for submission to a magazine that had previously published my immigrant stories, but the editor felt this one wasn’t what he wanted. I’ve never found another fit for it, so I thought I’d share it with my readers here. This is a longer version. Let me know what you think.

An Albanian Family’s Journey to Freedom

On a cold Saturday morning in January the little restaurant is full except for a few vacant seats at the lunch bar. We wait just a few minutes while a woman occupying one of the booths prepares to leave, rather like waiting for a parking spot at the bank, watching for signs that one will become open soon.  We are greeted with the warm welcome by Remzi as if we were part of the family.

 “Good morning.  How are you today?’ he asks with his heavy accent.  By the time we’ve sat down he’s out from behind the bar and standing at our table.  “Two coffees to start?” he asks. 

His wife, Fejzie, passes by on her way to serve plates of the house special.  She smiles too. “How are you today?”

 I sip my coffee and listen to the conversations around us.   It’s as if we’re all seated at the table in a big family home.  Conversations are shared with everyone.  Fejzie & Remzi quip with their customers as if with their children. They remember everyone who has been there before. 

“Did you bring me picture of torch?” says Remzi as he places our plates before us.  At first we don’t catch what he’s saying. Then we remember that the last time we’d been in was the day the Olympic torch was leaving town.  We’d taken some pictures and had shown them to him on the camera screen when we’d gone in for breakfast after the event.  “I want to see the real pictures, not on camera.” We promise that we will print some up for him.

Remzi greets a newcomer at the end of the bar.  Did you know that Pete died? He asks her.  “Who’s Pete?”  “The old man who used to come in and sit right there,” he replies.  “He dropped dead on Wednesday.”

The place is small, maybe a dozen full-sized booths along the wall and one small one.  The tables are arborite, the seats fake leather.  A half dozen round stools, chrome with brown vinyl seats line the white arborite lunch bar, behind which is the grill, toaster, sinks, etc., all within view.  A cook works at the grill and Fejzie & Remzi make toast, pour coffee and tell him the orders.  There is a group too large for a booth.  Fejzie brings out a folding chair from the back and they put it at the end of the table.  Orders are taken with personal questions.  No one is offended.

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

East City Coffee Shop at end of the day

Fejzie and Remzi run the East City Coffee Shop now, although it’s owned by Fejzie and her son Alban. Soup and sandwiches are available, but the specialty is the All Day Breakfast, which begins at 7 am and ends at 3 pm, when the doors are closed. They work hard, but their roots began in a very different world, one much harder. They both grew up in Albania during the Communist era. When asked about their previous lives in Albania, Fejzie dries her hands on her smudged apron and says, “I could write book! People would be surprised.”

Remzi Sina was born in November of 1945. On February 6th, 1950 Fejzie Talo was born. Before communism took control of Albania, both families were wealthy landowners, but under the Communist Party leader, Enver Hoxha, the rich and powerful in the country were considered enemies of the state. They were stripped of their land, bullied and in many cases beaten or thrown into jail. When Remzi was just six months old, his father was imprisoned and his family was moved into a government controlled house.

Fejzie’s fate was more traumatic.

On September 2nd   1950, soon after he’d been beaten nearly to death, her grandpa, with her father (John Talo) and two uncles, fled the country with the intention of joining western forces to return and overthrow the communist government. Three days after their flight, the police arrived at the door of their home. Seven- month- old Fejzie, her mother Fise, and her grandmother were loaded onto the back of a truck and taken to a concentration camp many miles from their home in Korce. They were crowded into what amounted to a bunk house shared with many other detainees.  Pasta, water and occasionally a few beans were rationed to young and old alike. There wasn’t even any milk for the baby. . Often they got no drinking water because the pro-Communists were given as much as they wanted first, and it was often wasted as wash water.

“If there was any left behind, we got it,” said Fejzie.

Meals were prepared at one central cooking area. At night they huddled together in their allotted one and a half metres square wooden bed.

“Three times a day the police have to check me, my mom and my grandma to see if we’re all there,” Fejzie tells me in her broken English. “There were so many people there.”

The government took all of their land, and possessions. They weren’t permitted to go anywhere without a stamp.  Fejzie says she doesn’t remember much before she was about two or three years old so relies on her mother’s stories up to that time.

Fejzie’s earliest memory was when she was a toddler.

“I remember very good. I go a little bit outside the camp and police see me and throw bomb and I escaped bomb, honest to God!”

Each day Fejzie’s mom tramped through fields to get wood for the police. The rest of her time was spent taking care of her young daughter, and nursing her own ill mother with what resources she could find. Grandma survived. Many others died.

They lived in these concentration camp conditions from 1950 to 1955. Fejzie thinks that her younger uncle, who had been sent to jail for seven years, was better off.

“After five years, things got a little bit better. You were allowed to work to make living, but still under police surveillance. Permission was needed to go outside the work area, which was small. You had to tell police ‘I’m going to see doctor, or wherever’.”

In 1957 they were moved into a small house with one bedroom and a kitchen, no longer in a concentration camp, but they still were not free. They still lined up for their rations of some foods and water, but things such as bread could be bought in a store. Government soldiers watched every move of any anti-communists. If they went to buy bread and it was perceived that they looked at it in a strange way, they were questioned as to why. Food was still rationed, and they had to line up for food, milk and water.  They were allowed 10 eggs/week per family, whether a family of 3 or 10 people.

After another ten years they were allowed a little bit more freedom of movement, but restrictions still applied to them. Fejzie loved school but was allowed only to complete grade seven. No one was allowed to go to high school. When boys turned nineteen, they had to spend two years in the army. An exception was made for anti-Communist families; they had to work the land on the government farms, using only a shovel.

In the meantime, when Remzi’s dad was released from jail after many years, his family moved to an area near the capital city of Tiranë. Theirs was not as bad a situation as Fejzie’s family, but high school was still not an option. After public school Remzi worked as a construction labourer. More people were working for the government and people were more educated. However, their movements were still restricted and permission had to be sought days in advance if they wanted to make a trip out of the area. Pro-Communists and anti-Communists were not permitted to associate.

There was no romantic courting for Fejzie and Remzi. They first met on the day they were married, on August 13th, 1972. Typically their marriage was arranged by their families, who’d lived in the same area before Communism separated them.

After they married, Remzi continued to work as a construction labourer. Fejzie was overjoyed to finally be able to return to school at night. She earned a diploma in agriculture.

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Fejzie and Remzi Remembering Their Past

For the next 18 years she worked on a government farm. They lived on government owned land in a ramshackle house that had neither wiring nor indoor plumbing. It was there that their two boys, Alban and Gerti were born.

Her mother and grandmother lived with her younger uncle, after he got out of jail and had a family. Fejzie remembers that when her Grandma died, it was a tradition to have a last dinner, with good meat, for people to say goodbye, but the government would not allow them any meat. Fejzie’s mother went to live with Fejzie and Remzi after her mother died.

The boys went to elementary school, but, being descendants of affluent families, they weren’t permitted to pursue academic education. They could, however, attend trade school. Alban became a tool-and-die machinist and started working at age sixteen.

During these years, the four men who’d escaped Albania had spent five years in a Greek refugee camp before the UN stepped up to help disperse people. Their hopes of returning to Albania were dashed, so they chose to come to Canada. Together they opened a restaurant in Toronto, but eventually bought The Tops Motel/Restaurant in Peterborough. In time, two brothers each opened their own coffee shops, leaving John with Tops until he sold it in 1978.

In 1990, when the grip of Communism was loosening in Albania, the Sina family were able to obtain visas to Hungary. It happened that John Talo (Fejzie’s dad) was in Hungary at the time, to renew his visa, and he somehow learned of his family’s whereabouts. He helped them start the process to bring them to Canada.  It was easy for Fejzie’s mother to get a visa because she and John were still married, but it was harder for Fejzie and her family. While in Hungary they spent five weeks making daily visits to the Canadian Embassy before they were granted visas to Canada. They arrived in Canada with John on September 2, 1990. After 40 years the family was reunited. Once in Canada they could go to Oshawa to apply for permanent visas. They all lived with John in his house. Life was much better; however, new challenges awaited them.

Gerti and Alban were both enrolled in Grade 9 at the local high school, but Alban found it frustrating not knowing the language and being older than his classmates. He quit after just six months and began working as a dishwasher at the Carousel Restaurant. With his hard work and keenness to learn, he was soon doing the cooking.

Because of the language barrier, finding work was more difficult for their parents. Remzi found construction work in the spring. He knew no English.

“I work on scaffold and Foreman said ‘Go down there and take shovel.’  I go, not take shovel, I take pick,” he recalls with a laugh.

In September Fejzie began working as a housekeeper at The Tops Motel, by then under new ownership. Her years as a housekeeper there and later at The Best Western Hotel didn’t help her much with learning English since she had little contact with other people. A decade later she and Remzi got their start in the restaurant business, when they went to work at The Piccadilly Restaurant as dishwashers.

Gerti finished high school and went to work at Jim’s Pizzeria. Both he and Alban dreamed of one day owning their own restaurant. With that in mind, Gerti later enrolled at Fleming College in Business Administration, but when Alban and Fejzie bought the restaurant on Hunter Street in East City, Gerti gave up on college to join the family business.

“My mom, me, Remzi, Alban and Gerti became Canadian Citizens in 1994,” says Fejzie.

In 2001 Remzi, Fejzie and their two sons, Alban and Gerti bought their own house.

The boys ultimately followed their dreams and opened their European-style restaurant, Gerti’s, in 2005. Alban joined him as the cook, and Fejzie took over East City Coffee Shop. Remzi left The Piccadilly to help her. Immersed in the language of their patrons, they were soon conversing well in English.

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Fejzie and Remzi, happy to be Canadians

Despite their occasional grumbling about being still a long way from retirement, there is always a twinkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces. They are thankful that they were able to come to Canada.

“For Albanians who go to other countries like Greece, Italy, anywhere in Europe, it’s hard to make a living because they won’t give citizenship and they can’t travel to other countries with Albanian passport.”

The last time we stopped into East City Coffee Shop, we were disappointed to find that Remzi and Fejzie were no longer working there. We were concerned until Alban told us that they were retired and caring for Fejzie’s mother. We’re happy for them, but the Coffee Shop just isn’t the same without them.

Taking a Break


Thank you to all of my new and older followers. I appreciate you taking the journey with me.

Due to all the sadness that has been happening around the world, especially those that have personal connection to us through our friends and family, I’ve been struggling to focus on writing for the past week. I find that doing physical things, like playing Pickleball, are the only things that help me get through the day. So I’m going to take a break from writing for a few days. Hope to see you again soon.❤️

Memoir Monday – A Story About Online Dating


While looking through some of my early writing, trying to find something for Memoir Monday, I found this short piece that I thought you might like. I have many more about this topic I could share, if there is enough interest.

Smart, Smarting, Smarter

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  It’s an addictive pastime that brings with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute you walk through the door, no matter how tired you are or how stressful a day it’s been.

On one such day, a month or so after my initiation, I received a message from “Wayne”, in Sarnia.  I lived in Kingston at the time, a four or five-hour drive away.  The geographical distance between us gave me a moment’s hesitation, but being a curious sort who’d rather not close a door without first investigating what’s behind it, I responded.  He asked me to add him to my messaging contact list, and I obliged. From then on, every time I logged onto my computer, there was Wayne, looking for me!  If I wasn’t online, he sent me e-mail.  For a full week, fingers flew across the keyboards several times a day in an exchange of lengthy chats and e-mails.  Excitement began to build.  We compared all of our likes and dislikes, our visions and desires for a future relationship, our personal values. I wasn’t ready to throw caution to the wind just yet, but if he was being truthful, there seemed to be emerging a strong foundation for further development.  He revealed that he’d been married twice before and shared his story of how both wives had taken advantage of his generous nature.  I sympathized with him, but also recognized a possible red flag.  He was quick to dismiss my concerns about the geographical distance between us.  Distance could be overcome and worth the effort if it meant finding your soul mate; we could meet in Toronto since he was there twice a month on business; he could meet me at the bus station if I didn’t want to drive.  By the end of the week Wayne was certain that he was ready to meet me, and the sooner the better it seemed.  I was convinced to give it a try.  We talked about possible dates.

Then the penny dropped.

Wayne’s profile included a picture; mine did not.  Although I’ve been told that I’m an attractive woman, I’m not very photogenic. I had already discovered that sharing my not-very-flattering images too early could bring the “dating” to an abrupt end.   However, Wayne kept urging me to send him a picture, since I knew what he looked like while he had only my written description. I finally gave in.   Not happy with any photos in my file, I chose one randomly, attached it to an   e-mail, and hit SEND.  Almost immediately I had a stinging response.

“Thanks for the picture.  Unfortunately it didn’t give me that I want to meet her kind of feeling.  Good luck in your search”.

Ouch!

This ouch would have sent me spiraling into depression and self-doubt a few months ago, but now, after shaking off the shock, I chuckled to myself and added him to my growing list of “jerks”. If I’d judged him solely on his photo, I never would have responded to his first message.

I was finally beginning to see how fickle some men could be.  Obviously I was better off without this one and I was thankful that I hadn’t wasted a trip to Toronto.

Warkworth by Night – Food, Music, Dancing, Puppets and Lanterns


This past weekend we went yet again to the Town of Warkworth. It seems they have some sort of festival nearly every weekend throughout the summer. This time it was something new to us – the Second Annual Warkworth by Night Street Festival.

We arrived in time to chat with friends and admire the beautiful costumes some people were wearing,

Lovely costume made from paper

Lovely costume made from paper

before the first entertainers began their performance, The Starlight Belly Dancers.

Next, a brother and sister from Brampton, but originally from India, had fun showing us some Bollywood dancing, and later gave instructions to an enthusiastic audience.

A Costume Parade

Was followed by a Giant Puppet Parade.

Once the sun had disappeared we were treated to a Parade of Lanterns.

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The final performers, the Polky Village Band hailed from Toronto. They are a group of young Polish immigrants who taught us a bit about Polish music and dance, which especially thrilled me, since my son has recently moved to Poland and I hope to visit him there one day.

Polky Village Band

Polky Village Band

What a beautiful night!

We finished the evening off with a cup of “adult” chocolate drink from the local Chocolatier. She assured us that it was called “adult” only because it was a drink made from fine, dark chocolate rather than chocolate milk or hot chocolate that are kids’ favourites. It was yummy, as you can see from the empty, environmentally friendly, heavy-paper cup and straw.

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