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Seniors Active Living Centre

Events continue at the Seniors Active Living Centre, Bell Aliant Centre, UPEI, Charlottetown: Novem [ ... ]

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Who can be a mentor? You can! Kids need real people with real experience to help them realize their  [ ... ]

Tribute to Sir Andrew

Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead, National Historic Site, in Orwell

Sight-seeing
by Treva McNally

On a narrow, poplar-canopied road running behind Orwell Corner Pioneer Village in eastern Queens County sits the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead, a National Historic Site honouring one of PEI’s most accomplished native sons. Surrounded by experimental farmland, Victorian gardens and heritage woods, it is preserved as a tribute to Sir Andrew Macphail.

His accomplishments were many—he and his brother are considered to be the fathers of the seed potato industry on Prince Edward Island for their experiments to improve PEI potato stock; he was the founder and first editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal which he started when he was a professor at McGill University teaching alongside his friends Stephen Leacock and John McCrae; and he was knighted in 1918 by the King for volunteering his services at the age of fifty to set up field hospitals during World War I.

Born in 1864, Macphail was a second generation Scottish settler who grew up with his nine brothers and sisters in this comfortable middle-class 19th century Island farm home. The front doorstep is a seven square foot stone brought here from Nova Scotia by Macphail’s father when they moved to PEI. The family kept sheep for food and wool, and many of the beautiful woven fabrics in the home were created in the weaving room upstairs. Particularly interesting is a hooked memory rug hanging in the dining room, created by a niece to tell Macphail’s life story.

A walk on one of the three trails on the 140-acre property takes you through woods where there are demonstrations of sustainable forestry practices showcasing native trees, shrubs and wild flowers. Watch for the original entrance to the property which is marked by two granite pillars; Macphail rescued them from a burned building on the McGill campus and shipped them to his family home where he spent every summer.

In the summer, a tearoom on the enclosed front porch invites you “to recapture a bygone era with traditional Island food” and throughout the fall, the home opens for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners which are held in the lamplit family dining room. Make a reservation as soon as you see these dinners advertised—they fill up quickly.

The property is a beautiful place to go for a walk in any season but particularly in the fall. There is no admission fee, either for touring the home (which closed near the end of September) or the grounds but donations are welcome.

The Humble Spud

PEI Potato Museum tells the story of the Island's most important product

Sight-seeing
by Treva McNally

In 1985, a museum consultant from Ottawa surveyed all the museums on PEI. When he saw the small potato exhibit in the O'Leary Community Museum, he suggested more focus be placed on potatoes because the industry so dominated the area. Dr. George Dewar, a long time resident and supporter of West Prince, became a driving force to create the Prince Edward Island Potato Museum which opened in 1993.

When you walk up the sidewalk to enter the 7000 square foot air conditioned complex, the first thing you'll notice (other than the giant potato outside the door) is that the sidewalk is lined with potato plants instead of flowers. Inside you'll find a Potato Interpretive Centre, the O'Leary Community Museum, the Potato Hall of Fame, the Amazing Potato Exhibit, a Potato Restaurant, a Potato Gift Shop, and a large collection of farm implements and machinery.

At the information desk, there were baskets of potato chips to sample—one flavoured with maple and the other with lobster, and they were surprisingly good. Then we were directed to the interpretive section which tells how potatoes came to P.E.I. from Peru, how the potato famine in Ireland resulted in 1 million people dying of starvation when late blight destroyed the potato crop in 1845, and how Islander Gerrit Loo developed pest and blight resistant Island Sunshine potatoes. Maritime music is playing in the background and one wall features a beautiful quilted scene of PEI fields, all combining to create a very pleasant atmosphere.

The Community Museum, ironically, is now housed in the Potato Museum. It features domestic, shipbuilding, fishing and military artifacts. The medical area is particularly fascinating because it features a respirator called an iron lung. Back in the1950s, many people stricken with polio were dependent on it for breathing and it certainly attracts attention from modern museum goers, reminding us how medicine has advanced in the last fifty years.

In 1999, the National Agricultural Museum in Ottawa offered the museum its Amazing Potato Exhibit so the complex was enlarged to accommodate it. This large professional display features interactive terminals and a video game called "Potato Beetle Blast." The renovation also created space for a potato restaurant which featured absolutely delicious Potato Maple Tarts the day I visited it.

It is surprising to find such an impressive facility in such a small community and the people of O'Leary have much to be proud of. The museum has a great web site at www.peipotatomuseum.com so you can take a tour before you visit. The museum is open until October 15 from 9 am­5 pm Monday through Saturday and on Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. Admission is $5 per person or $12 per family.

Super 7

The Best Thing
by Treva Mcnally

There is a challenge in writing about the "best thing that happened to me" this summer because at a certain age, life is no longer made up of big events. Rather, it is a compilation of all the wonderful little things that happen to us and with this as my criterion, my summer was full of "best things":

1. The arrival of a fourth grandchild, Jamie Rose, who is a darling little bringer of joy. How could she not be considered a best thing when her face lights up and she gives you a full body smile whenever you talk to her.

2. Competing in the 55+ Games for the first time and winning a medal, even if it was bronze and there were only four competitors in my category. Any attempt I've ever made at athletics has always resulted in a last place finish so winning an award was a thrill.

3. Gold finches at my bird feeder. After trying unsuccessfully for the past few years to attract birds to our feeder, this summer our backyard became home to two pair of canary yellow finches. The day always gets off to a good start watching these little beauties fill up every morning.

4. Getting assigned to write about museums and historic sites on P.E.I. for The Buzz. The Island is full of little places to explore, and discovering the Parsonage Museum in Bideford while scouting sites for future columns was an unexpected delight. Image the fun of being asked to play tourist and to explore wherever chance takes you.

5. Picking strawberries with my grandchildren. Introducing little ones to the surprise of finding big red juicy berries hiding under the leaves and watching them decide whether to eat them or put them in the pail (all the while knowing they would eat them) is one of the delights of summer.

6. Celebrating Canada Day. Last year we were away and missed having our (almost) annual Canada Day party. This is such a great country to live in, and what could be more fun than dressing in red and white, inviting a crowd over, and celebrating it every July 1? Then going down to Confederation Landing afterwards and watching the fireworks with friends and family. It's the highlight of the summer.

7. Taking part in our family's 31st annual golf tournament and family day. It's such fun when everyone comes home and we get to see all the new little ones in each family, visit with relatives who are only home for a short while each summer, watch all the little cousins play together, and enjoy a game of golf with others who are equally inept. Finish it all off with a family picnic and music; it just doesn't get any better.

 

Garden of the Gulf


PEI's oldest museum features history of Montague

Sight-seeing
by Treva McNally

In 2003, the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Society presented the Garden of the Gulf Museum in Montague an award for outstanding preservation of heritage on Prince Edward Island, and it was well deserved. P.E.I.'s oldest museum preserves and celebrates the history of some of the Montague's earliest inhabitants: the Miq Maq; the Roma settlers, who were sent by Louis XV of France to grow food for the soldiers at Louisburg in Cape Breton; and the Brudenell settlers, who left Scotland after the battle of Culloden to start a new life on this side of the ocean.

The beautiful former Post Office and Custom Building where the museum is located is made of Island brick and sandstone quarried further up the river. The brick maker, Robert Stewart, inscribed a number on many of the bricks to keep count of them and those numbers are still visible on the bricks. Large medallions on the sides of the building over the corner entrance represent the P.E.I. penny and, walking around the building, you can see where one corner is worn down from wagon wheels continually cutting the corner too closely on the way to the Post Office.

Inside, a pioneer exhibit includes a handsome hardwood highchair that converts into four positions, including a rocker, originally bought from Eaton's for $2. The Miq Maq display includes both quill and split basketry as well as a unique bark inlaid table, and in the school exhibit, a map of Prince Edward Island bears the words, "Air conditioned by the Gulf of St. Lawrence." A genealogy section contains family records collected over the years, and summer staff are kept busy sorting and recording the various news clippings into family registers. For anyone with Montague roots, it is worth the time to visit and see what is on file.

Amy Beck and Niki Lewis sorting newspaper clippings for family files.

The Centennial Album (with a note at the back stating it was completed at 5 am on July 1, 1967!) is a wall-hung page-turning display of old photographs and newspaper clippings. It records all the important events of the Montague community and includes a photograph of the first photo finish of a horse race in Canada which took place in 1915 in Montague for a purse of $500.

The featured exhibit this year honours the 200th Anniversary of the arrival of the Brudenell Settlers from Perthshire, Scotland. Artifacts donated by descendants of those five settler families, the MacLarens, Stewarts, Gordons, Robertsons, and MacFarlanes, include a piece of a tartan kilt believed worn at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and a Gaelic bible from 1821.

A Scottish Feel

Hot Plaid

Review by Treva McNally

Roy Johnstone (left) and Steve Sharrat(right) perform in Hot Plaid

On a hot evening in early June, just before they left for Scotland, Roy Johnstone and Steve Sharratt kicked off a preview of their new show, Hot Plaid, to an audience which included descendants of the original Scottish settlers to P.E.I. This enthusiastic group were planning to accompany the duo to the Isle of Skye for celebrations marking the departure of their ancestors two hundred years earlier. The current President of the Belfast Historical Society, Hesta MacDonald, spoke for a few moments, telling the audience how thrilled she was to be going to Scotland with them for the Scottish celebrations, and inviting everyone to Belfast August 7-10 for the 200th Anniversary celebrations of the landing of the Selkirk settlers on P.E.I.

Veteran musicians Johnstone and Sharratt have created a show celebrating the heritage of those original Scots. That night the audience was treated to a sampling of some of the guest musicians, singers, storytellers and dancers who will be performing in the relaxed, kitchen party show. College of Piping instructor Iain MacInnes gave a virtuoso demonstration on a low-D whistle and the Scottish pipes, and accompanied Sharratt and Johnstone for several numbers. Step dancers Ginnelle and Brittany Banks gave an energetic performance that had the audience amazed that such talent could exist in such small people. (Brandon was busy in Anne of Green Gables that night and big sister Brittany was filling in for him). Scotsman Jim Smith, getting ready to leave P.E.I. for Rome as a food specialist for the United Nations, sang a capella, treating the audience to a rousing rendition of "Ramblin' Rover" and a slow sweet version of the "Skye Boat Song". Singer Faye Pound, whose low smokey voice is perfect for blues arrangements, sang several numbers. Then the past President of the Belfast Historical Society and master storyteller Alan Buchanan entertained the audience with his relaxed humorous delivery that has made him one of the best storytellers on P.E.I. and isn't to be missed whenever or wherever you get the chance to hear him.

Roy Johnstone played his new composition, the Skye Suite, which recreated the voyage of those early settlers to P.E.I. The audience at the Benevolent Irish Society that night could feel the mixture of sadness and anticipation those early Scots must have felt leaving their homeland, knowing they would never return. Johnstone is an extremely talented violinist and fiddler as well as a skilled songwriter, and it is always a delight to hear him play. The combination of his fiddling and Steve Sharratt's beautiful guitar music results in a very pleasant show.

Eight Thumbs Up

Eight to the Bar

Review by Treva McNally

Back in 1978, the Confederation Centre presented Eight to the Bar at the MacKenzie Theatre for the first time. It was writer Stephen Witkin's first big hit, and he has since gone on to win the Richard Rogers Award for his current musical show on Broadway, The Fabulist. Eight to the Bar was a good show then and now, twenty-five years later, it is still a good show. It is funny and touching, it has great music and a talented cast, and is presented in the relaxed setting of the MacKenzie Theatre-all guaranteed to provide an enjoyable evening.

The cast is particularly strong. Wade Lynch is a veteran Confederation Centre actor who is very effective as Marshall, a man who has been an outsider since his earliest days in school. When he sings "Third Grade, Fourth Seat," your heart goes out to any child who has ever been excluded or bullied. Mike Ross, who was absolutely outstanding in the MacKenzie's earlier production of Fire, gives another strong performance as Ben, a sleazy, wife-cheating salesman who is having difficulty getting his priorities straight. Michelle Truman has completely nailed the character of Shelly, a wealthy New Yorker running away from her marriage, and by sheer strength she manages to stand out in an extremely talented cast. Heidi Ford, who has another big role on Mainstage as Diana Barry, is Honey, a sensitive woman who finds her whole identity in the man with whom she is having a relationship.

The plot is simple-four people are stranded in a snow storm in a bus station on New Year's Eve, and as the evening wears on, they come to know themselves while getting acquainted with each other. The set is clever, particularly the counter where coffee and drinks magically appear. The show is set during a snowstorm, and whenever the door opens and someone "blows in" from the storm, the acting is so convincing that it's hard to believe it's still summer when you go outside after the show.

The music by Joey Miller is particularly well-written. Often songs created specifically for a show are forgettable, but several here could stand on their own. "Hello," "Careless Stranger," and "Next Year" stand out. When the music is well-written, the musicians are talented, and the actors are accomplished, it is the recipe for a great show. Eight to the Bar delivers on all counts.

Laughter and Tears


Amazing Gracie

Review by Treva McNally

Gracie Fields was born in 1898 in England and she was a recording star, a film star, and at one time the highest paid entertainer in the world. However, she is unknown to most people born after 1950. Fortunately, Pamela Campbell and Nancy Beck have chosen to reintroduce her in their new show, "Amazing Gracie" playing every Saturday until August 30 at the Arts Guild. The show is a collection of Nancy and Pam's favourite Gracie songs, interspersed with the story of her life and career.

It is a small cast-just Nancy Beck, Pamela Campbell, and pianist Andrew Zinck-but the result is much larger. A full house was on hand for the opening night of "Amazing Gracie" at the Arts Guild, and the audience was treated to a selection of music that ranged from funny music hall tunes to old favourites which many were unaware had been her songs, such as "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" and "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye." Andrew Zinck arranged the music and began each act with an overture, as well as accompanying Campbell and Beck on the piano.

Beck and Campbell make good use of props and costumes throughout the show. A huge harp made out of swimming noodles for the song "I Took My Harp to a Party" was hilarious, and a bagpipe made out of tartan and bamboo canes for "Grandfather's Bagpipes" resulted in more laughter. For the costumes, they gave credit to Froggies, Value Village and the dollar stores, but it was their wild imaginations that created the often zany costumes highlighting the songs.

The sentimental wartime tunes resulted in a quiet buzz in the audience whenever Pam or Nancy were singing them. It took a while to determine that the buzz was the sound of many older people in the audience being unable to refrain from mouthing the words or quietly humming the melody to songs that had been so meaningful to them more than half a century ago. Nancy told the story of Gracie performing for the troops in the Pacific near the end of World War II when word was received of the Japanese surrender. Immediately following the announcement, the Commanding Officer asked her to sing the Lord's Prayer, and all 20,000 men removed their hats and bowed their heads. Gracie said this was the most memorable performance of her career. Then, when Pam Campbell sang the song, the same hush fell over the audience.

The show is reminiscent of the old Carol Burnett Show on television. It is a mixture of comedy and pathos, stories, characters and songs. Nancy Beck and Pam Campbell are both very funny, capable of many characterizations, and are good singers. The resulting show is a very pleasant evening of entertainment.

Exploring Museum and Heritage Sites

Site-seeing
by Treva McNally

Ravenwood, home of the Association of Community Museums. Located on the grounds of the federal experimental farm property, it was the home of the Honourable James C. Pope, premier of the province when PEI entered Confederation in 1873.

While preparing for the annual arrival of summer visitors, I stopped into the Visitor Information Centre on Water Street in Charlottetown recently and picked up a Visitors Guide and a handful of brochures to plan some excursions for my guests. One of the publications I picked up was a Passport to Prince Edward Island Heritage, published by the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island. Beautifully illustrated by Island artist John Burden, it's a gold mine of information highlighting every Prince Edward Island museum and heritage site from North Cape to East Point.

The Museum Passport is attractive and logically laid out. Organized by county, each section starts with a numbered county map marking community museums, heritage sites, and other points of interest. Every museum has its own page which includes a picture of the facility, a map of the immediate vicinity so that you can find it, a summary of what you can expect to see, the hours of operation, a contact phone number, the admission price, and space for a stamp to mark your visit. In all, there are over thirty Community museums, one Provincial museum with seven sites, four National historic sites, and sixteen other sites of interest.

When we live somewhere for a long time, we sometimes forget to go see some of the more obvious places. I've often taken visitors to the far ends of our province and toured the middle of the province extensively, but had no idea there were so many other museums and historic sites that I had missed. I thoroughly enjoyed a guided tour of Beaconsfield this spring, and when I heard the story of James and Edith Peake building that house, it made me wonder how many other great stories I was missing. The back of the Museum Passport states: "This passport will help you discover the Prince Edward Island we know and love." I'm going to use the passport to start my own rediscovery of a province I already love. In future issues of The Buzz, different museums and historic sites will be featured to highlight the history which surrounds us.

To encourage visits to heritage sites, the Department of Tourism is sponsoring a Tour the Island Contest which runs from mid-June until mid-October. To enter, obtain a Museum Passport at any Visitor Information Centre. When your Passport has stamps from seven museum sites, return it to a Visitor Information Centre where you'll receive a ballot to enter a draw for PEI apparel to take place in November. More information on the contest is available at any Visitor Information Centre or by typing in "tour the island contest" at www.gov.pe.ca/infopei

Events Calendar

November 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

The Sisters Brothers

November 21–25
City Cinema 14A, graphic violence, disturbing content, coarse language.
Dir: Ja [ ... ]

Free Solo

November 16–20
City Cinema PG, language may offend, scary scenes
Dir: Jimmy Chin/Elizabeth Chai Vas [ ... ]

What They Had

November 26–December 2
City Cinema PG, coarse language
Dir: Elizabeth Chomko, US, 101 min. Hilary S [ ... ]

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