The internet brings so many of us together. I found the wonderful writing of Leslie Janzen via Twitter, and she shares her talents with us on her blog ‘Life in a Small Village”. Here, Leslie guest blogs for Niagara Families about family-friendly fun in Port Robinson, Ontario.
Imagine the date is early 1900, summertime. Your family has been working all week, building ships and keeping the boats moving through the Welland Canal. It is a special day, Sunday; a day of rest, Church attendance, and time with family and friends. What did anyone do for excitement? Life centered around family and community. Life was spent outside. Kids would play stick ball, soccer, swim in the creek, go fishing, frogging, pick wild berries, go for walks along the canal and wave to the boats as they traveled by. If you were lucky, the Captain might even blow the whistle for you. Back then, times were simple, and life had that laid back quiet feel. Kids still had to go to school, help out at home with siblings and with chores around the house. There was always a vegetable patch that needed weeding, and picking the daily harvest. Was it easier back then? In retrospect, I think we were happier, healthier, less stressed and had a greater sense of community pride. I imagine that allowed the laughter to flow, self-confidence and self esteem to take root and gradually turn youngsters into leaders of our villages, towns and cities.
Today, it is summertime, and the family finally has a day off, together. For many of us weekends no longer mean Sunday Church, coming together for a friendly game of cards, or helping neighbours with large projects. Many families work through the weekends and are on different shifts, with kids hither and yon. How to find a new way to shelve our stress and distraction for a day? This is where it gets tricky.
Find a day that works for everyone and pretend you are taking a trip back in time. Follow the road to the corner with the flashing light, and there sits an old cemetery that tells of lives lost long ago. As you arrive in the village you will notice old Heritage Homes alongside more modern houses. Perhaps you and your children can play a game of comparing the differences between old and new?
At the bend in the road there is a huge park, well used by today’s children and their parents. A splash pad to help cool you off during the long hot days of summer and a climbing apparatus for those that may have a super hero coursing through their veins.
If you are observant, look across the road and the remains of the old Welland canal are visible in the open grass field. Walk to where the old remnants of long ago sit covered in grass and imagine that old water way. The lovely park and splash pad were under water and part of the canal so you are actually standing on history. I let myself think back to what it would have been like in days gone by, and realize that moving forward for progress sometimes buries hard work.
If you have an active family that likes to cycle there are many routes in the Niagara Region and many make their way through our small village. Follow the road to Bridge St and stay to the right and you will arrive at the ramp for the ferry that will shuttle you to the other side of the canal. This service begins again May 1 and is open daily for crossings from both sides. On the opposite side of the canal there are great cycling and walking paths, that anyone can enjoy. Remember to be back before the ferry closes for the evening, or you will be stuck till morning. Then again that could be another adventure on the other side of the village.
Our only Bar, Stevie & Nics is on the main road in centre of town and has been mentioned in Cycling Magazines as a stop for refreshments and bathroom breaks. So, if you are hoping for a cool beverage and something for the kids to munch on, you can find it there.
Have you ever thought of fishing with the kids? We have a couple of favourite fishing spots in town. There is an old bridge over Chippawa Creek that offers plenty of space and action for those that love the sport. If that bridge is too crowded with little folk then move further up the road towards the aqua duct and that is where the older fishermen will be found. I guess it really doesn’t matter where you stop, as long as you have a pole, bait and patience then you’ve found a lovely activity to fill your day.
As you make your way through town past the old bumpy bridge used for fishin’ you will come parallel with the canal. The wide open spaces of free moving water, seagulls and geese flying overhead and occasionally a heron, gives you that feeling of being up North. So many changes have happened to the canal and to our village, yet nature seems to remain constant. Just sitting at the edge of the canal you can see homes being built on the other banks and areas that remain as they were years ago.
We cannot stop change, but if we work in harmony with everyone then eventually the outcome is something we can all live with and love. No matter how far we’ve come, there’s always time to switch off the devices and spend a simple, quiet afternoon together as a family. These are a few simple, wonderful things that can be experienced in our small village…
Leslie Janzen was born down East, to a father from Pictou NS and a mother from St. Catharines Ontario. Her family moved to St Catharines when she was 14 after my father retired from the Canadian Navy. She met and married her high school sweet heart and they had 3 children. Leslie eventually went back to College and received her Diploma in Nursing and worked for 21 years in the local hospital. She ended my career 1 ½ years after her husband died of a long debilitating illness, and in her retirement she’s been boarding dogs to supplement her need for unconditional love and companionship. Leslie travels the world as she would have if her husband had lived to experience different cultures and to try and understand the human psyche. She began writing Life in a Small Village for her Facebook audience and she’ll continue to blog when she travels, so her friends can have a giggle about some of her daily mishaps abroad. There is always something happening everywhere, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and open your eyes and let your mind go.