A Day In Elora

With no real plans for Sunday, my wife and I decided to head for one of the small towns that make up my ancestry.  Elora Ontario is one of the locations that the Hillis family called home in it’s past. My Great-Grandfather George was a bit of a legend in Elora at one time, and I will be writing more on him in the future, and my paternal Grandparents are buried in the Elora Cemetery along with distant family members, some I knew, many I did not.  And of course, I brought along my trusty Nikon to record some of the day and here are the results.



Wilson Fest 2018

Sunday, August 5th was the annual Wilson Fest on Redwood here in Hespeler and as usual, our Host’s Jim and Lynne Wilson along with their trusted sidekick Barry Warren put on a day that will remain etched in everybody’s memories as the food was great, the booze flowed and the music provided by DJ Steve Copeland got most everyone up dancing and a few brave ones doing  karaoke, all that plus they raised a $1,000 for Lisaard house made it another great day. My thanks to everyone for having a good time and making my pictures complete. There are over 300 pictures, so this is just a few of them I will post more later but for now, enjoy these and remember only 364 days till next year.



Working the Yard

When we moved out of our house a few years ago we never thought that we would be back in it but due to circumstances beyond our control we reclaimed the house 2 years ago and boy did it look different. Both the inside and the outside were in ruins, the rooms had holes galore, the paint job that my wife Dale had done was covered up with some god awful colours, windows were nailed shut, I could go on but you get the point. We spent the first year redoing the inside and brought it back to some semblance of normality.  As for the yard, well it was a sight to see, no grass was left anywhere in the backyard it was nothing but a mud bowl, a giant hole that was filled in with loose gravel began to shift and our patio stones were beginning to go with them, needless to say, it also was a disaster. After leaving it for almost a year and a half we have finally got around to repairing everything out there and while we are only halfway done we hope to finish it by mid-summer. This is just some photos of the yard, and as I said, still a long way to go. Where there was mud, there are now patches of grass, the privacy fence is up and we sit outside without dust being blown around. The fight continues.

A Winters Tale

Right up front, I will say that I have a true love-hate relationship with Winter, yes I love to hate Winter.  But I must be honest, it is not really all that bad and over the many years of my existence, I have learned a few things to enjoy about winter and am still learning as I go along on this whole life trip. I used to enjoy downhill skiing until my Spider Sabich wannabe stage broke a few bones and I switched to cross-country skiing which I discovered was a little more relaxing and less dangerous to my body.

Over the many winters and watching my Father for many years, I learned about the great ways to shovel my driveway and today I am really going to need that plan, it involves beer that is all I have to say about that.

As a young man I thought I was tough and wearing ear muffs was goofy looking,  well at 60 I can attest that anything that keeps me warm, including earmuffs, is not at all goofy, hell they are actually kind of cool, and the more unique and interesting Winter hats I can wear, well all the better.

Longjohns, yes they are good they keep you warm but when out walking the dog they become a hazard if you suddenly feel the urge to go pee in the woods yourself, a fair warning, they can take a while to get to the main part of your anatomy.

On that same vein as long johns I have discovered that it takes me a lot longer to get dressed to go out, what used to be just slipping on my boots and throwing on my coat now requires some assembly to be ready to step out the front door.

A January thaw is not an unusual site and I have now realized that there is treasure sometimes in the melting snowbanks of parking lots around town. As the snow banks recede you can find some neat things and some bad things, I found a really cool ice scraper in one, a set of gloves in another, someone’s underwear but I didn’t keep that and really don’t want to know how it got there either, and of course tons of Tim Horton cups and fast food bags. And many years ago as a teenager, I found out you don’t write your name in the snowbank in urine in front of your mother’s church on cold Saturday nights, they seem to have a way to find out about it.

And I have learned a really neat trick from my dog, a fresh bag of dog doo will keep your hands warm for a few minutes while you slip your gloves back on after picking it up, however you have to remember to take it out of your coat pocket as well when you get home, it is not as good the next day.

So, in closing, I say enjoy winter, but come on Spring.


Call It A Stormy Monday

Since the first Monday there have been over 100,000 Mondays and yet the world still goes on and I have to say that most Mondays I rather enjoy because it is usually a day off for myself, but there are exceptions. Both my parents passed away on a Monday, albeit 20 years apart but still, it was a Monday, and I can now add this past Monday to my list of dastardly days of Monday, and here is how it started.

As I wrote earlier I am usually off on Monday but this Monday I was scheduled to work and so I rose early to greet the morning and the abundance of snow that fell to earth. I went downstairs to make my morning Java and that is when the day fell apart and the world turned ugly just like a certain Monday in 1929 when the Stock market crashed. By the way, it helps to put a coffee cup under the drip mechanism of your Keurig machine as it makes a fine mess, after cleaning that up I finally got my coffee and proceeded to get  dressed with no issues and after throwing on my coat and mitts headed to the great outdoors, or so i thought.  Boy was I wrong, I went to open my front door and as luck would have it, it wouldn’t open, the bolt had broken and was wedged in the door jam not allowing me to open it, after 20 minutes of words that I don’t believe my Dog ever heard before and taking apart the mechanism I got the door opened and was on my way, again so I thought. Now, if you thought my car didn’t start you would be wrong, it started no problem and as I brushed all the snow off the vehicle the broken door handle was just a bad memory, with the snow all brushed off I jumped into said vehicle and turned on the wiper blades to clear what was left on the windshield and presto..the wiper blades didn’t work, they were just sitting on the window mocking me. Luckily the snow had stopped falling and I got the car to Ott’s garage and eventually I got to the Restaurant on time, but more fun awaited me there, for when I walked in and went to the back of the kitchen the first thing I saw was that one of the freezer doors had come open during the night and had defrosted everything in it, oh but it gets better, one of our  deep fryers had given up as well the night before. Oh, it was a glorious day in my life, well at least I had pants on, that should count for something, shouldn’t it?

A Hespeler Family at War

Like many other families in Hespeler, the Hillis and McLaughlin family had son’s, uncles and Brothers fighting overseas in WW2, some made it home and others did not. My family lost 1 while 3 made it home and I am sure forever changed by their experiences. My Mom’s brothers Ken, Alex and Bruce McLaughlin and my father James Hillis Sr. went to war and while Ken McLaughlin and my father made it home safely, Alex returned injured and Bruce never returned at all.

Bruce McLaughlin my maternal uncle died on August 14th 1944.  The Following is the actual Globe and mail report about the day that Bruce and 15 others of the 12th Regiment of RCA died.


Globe and Mail by Ralph Allen, War correspondent. 43rd D. RHQ – – excerpts:

Could See it Coming

Before we reached our destination it had already become apparent that something had suddenly gone wrong with the bombing program. British heavies had changed their course slightly and when we heard the next gargantuan blast of heavy bombs and saw the next pillar of smoke belch toward the sky, the area had somehow shifted to our own lines. Bombs appeared to fall on Cauvicourt, a mile northeast of the quarry.

Brigade headquarters was already reporting it to division when we arrived at the operations room, a dugout that had served as a German divisional headquarters only a few days before.


From the top of the quarry, H.D. Zeiman, correspondent of the Daily Telegraph; Collin Rayment, Montreal, our conducting officer, and I watched the first squadron of Lancasters come in two hours after the Canuck infantry had launched an attack across the Liaison River toward Falaise and drop their bombs with perfect accuracy in the area of Quesney Wood, 2 1/2 miles from our observation post.


Hundreds More Planes Coming

But the next wave of bombers hit due north of us and it occurred to us that perhaps it was time to take note of the fact that bombs had now been dropped on three sides of us and that there were hundreds more planes still in the air coming straight towards us. The planes were flying low. We waited another minute, looking through our binoculars to see if the bomb doors on the leading planes were open. Then the major called out : ” Everybody in trenches or dugouts “.

Pte. Jerome Latour, Toronto driver of our press jeep, jumped in and drove the jeep along the quarry shelf to the front of the dugout, where there was protection for it to one side. Rayment, Zeiman, the major and I jogged along on foot glancing uneasily over our shoulders, but we made just as the first bomb hit the quarry with the deafening, teeth-shattering impact of a rabbit punch from a giant. We spilled inside the dugout, past a narrow runway, down two steps and around a corner into a square room in which eight or 10 privates were already sitting around a kerosene lamp.

Scene in the Dugout

There wasn’t much to the room but a big operations map and a double tier of wooden bunks. The soldiers moved back on the bunks to make room. One of them sat on a box, his head bent over a set of signaller’s earphones. ” Hello, Sarah Two, Hello Sarah Two, we are being bombed. Over, ” he was saying. His voice was firm, clear and decidedly matter of fact.

The rabbit punches were raining down by now, and through the smoke-filled corridor of the dugout every now and then the hot, liquid fingers of blast reached and tugged as though to drag us out of our trembling haven by sheer force.

We had now become the preferred target. The bombs came at us in catching sticks and each time a stick started we held our breaths an covered our heads with our arms….

One hour and ten minutes of death and destruction _ and from our own support. It was almost unbelievable and the time seemed interminable. Many prayers were offered that day – not for life itself but that the end might come quickly. The agony of suspense was terrifying and escape impossible. The air after each stick was dropped, would be filled with flying debris and between waves the ammunition from dumps and blazing vehicles was exploding in every direction. The whole area of the quarry was raging inferno and yet strange to relate the dividing line of the bombing between the 11th, 16th and 43rd Batteries was as clean as the cut of a knife. Not that the 43rd felt safe but they were able to watch Lancasters come in an literally blow their brother Batteries to bits _ at least it seemed so at the time. They were only four hundred yards from the target and yet could only watch: any action was impossible.

An Auster air OP eventually put in an appearance and did its best to divert the bombers from us but it was only the last wave that was actually led from our area.

There was so much smoke and dust after the first few waves had passed that even decisive features on the ground had ceased to exist for orientation and from what we could gather the bombers were bent only on dropping their bombs in the same area as their predecessors.

Our toll, when it was over, was thirteen dead and fifty-three wounded to say nothing of the vehicles and guns. The gun position and Wagon Lines of the 16th and the Wagon Lines of the 11th Batteries were hit the hardest while the 43rd escaped untouched. The 16th lost practically all of their vehicles and trailers and most of their guns were damaged. The 11th suffered thirty-three vehicle casualties and it was a miracle that no more lives had been lost. Now we knew how the Germans stood it and the answer was going to ground. Unless a bomb scored a direct hit on a slit trench you were comparatively safe. It was a dreadful experience and the morale of the Regiment was at a low ebb following the raid. The Medical Officer performed miracles in his RAP in one of the tunnels and many casualties from the other Units passed through his hands.

No time was lost once the raid was over in checking vehicle and personnel casualties and the Regiment, less the 16th Battery, prepared immediately to move forward to support our Infantry in spite of our losses. The 16th had no guns or vehicles so they remained behind to refit and reorganize.Aug 14th bombing-TJ.Bell WWII - 12th Field

The following is the contents of a letter that my Mother received from her brother on August 20th 1944 and had been mailed on August 9th 1944.

Dear Mary.
Hya squirt,how are yuh? I don’t know why i’m writing, i can’t think of anything to write about but mush. Say hello anyhoo, so here i am sitting nice and comfortable like, in my slit trench, swatting mosquito’s killin ants and things and writing all at the same time, cripes a guy needs about four hands for this job. It’s not a bad sort of a day though-at least it ain’t raining. An enormous big bee just flew in, stopped in mid air like a helicopter somewhere in the vicinity of my schnozzle and stared at me in the face like as if he was trying to make up his mind. However, he apparently didn’t like the looks of my ugly pan so he spread out his four or five inches of wings and flew away. I am still cross eyed from looking down my nose at the brute.
How are all the boy friends, or have you found one steady one? Cripes i haven’t even been out with a gal since about March, Gee soon i’ll be losing my Hespeler technique, what little there is left. Are you still at the same job and still doing the same thing sitting at a desk, writing letters to your boy friends? That must be a pretty fair job. You even use the company paper i notice, you crook. Well yesterday i received letters from Grace,Mother, Alec,George Oliver and a girl and her Mother and Sister in England, and a parcel from Grace as well. So i did okay for one day, didn’t i?All i gotta do now is answer them and boy, thats a job. Well Mim ole dear, must scram for now, so bye for this time, hope to see you soon, but hear from you sooner.
Your Big Brudder Brucie.

B85416 Gnr Bruce McLaughlin
12th Cdn fld regiment
Canuck Army Overseas

The following pictures are of my family members at war.


Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.

Growing up in Hespeler in the 1960’s was a sweet time and also I might add a slower time, at least in my mind. Sundays were always special and I have written about them before so excuse me if I repeat myself a little in this one. You see Sundays were of course for Church but more importantly, they were also a time when my father was able to bond with his two younger kids, myself and my younger sister Marylou. While the two older siblings John and Theresa had plans for a Sunday Marylou and I being roughly 10 and 8 were at the mercy of what our parents had planned and that is where our Dad and the Pontiac Strato Chief came into the equation. My Dad had this thing about taking the big V8 out into the country and blowing out the engine by going on a long pleasure cruise through the countryside and looking at the farms  and whatever was out there on any particular Sunday, and my sister and I usually went along for the ride, after all it sure beat doing chores around the house and we actually liked it. As I got older I sort of fell away from doing that on a regular basis with my dad and the slow enjoyable rides through the country took on different looks over the years, from some friends and Myself cruising the backroads to  letting my troubles drift away between Hespeler and Hamilton  But the one thing they all had in common was the slow pace that being out in the farmlands of Ontario provided and the comfort of viewing a little different style of freedom.

Recently I have started driving those roads again, this time with my trusted Dog Cooper and my Camera’s but I have noticed a big difference.  The traffic was a lot heavier than I remembered and the cars trying to fly past us on the side roads was disturbing, to say the least, after all, I remember how we would be able to slow down and look at something at the side of the road, perhaps even stop and admire an old barn or watch a farmer plough his field, but not now. Trying to enjoy the view outside of this city has become almost impossible and since  Coop is an Australian Cattle Dog/Border Collie he has a fixation on cows and trying to slow down so he can look at them? Impossible, because as soon as you do someone comes flying up behind us at about 90 miles an hour and you have to speed up and try to get out of his way. Let’s just say it is not as fun as it used to be, it has become alarmingly dangerous to enjoy yourself on a country road. So if you are out in the country slow down and enjoy the view.  And I haven’t even mentioned the roundabouts in the country. Sheesh.

No Sugar Tonight.

The 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of fame nominees have been announced and as usual, they are an eclectic group and all well deserved in their own right. The Acts that are nominated include Bon Jovi, The Eurythmics, Rage Against the Machine, Link Wray, Judas Priest, Radiohead, Depeche Mode,  Nina Simone, Kate Bush, The Cars, LL Cool J, The Zombies, The Meters And Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.  Then there are my personal favorites among the nominees, J.Geils band, The Moody Blues, Sister Rosetta Thorpe and The MC5, but missing is one band that ticks me off to no end, and they are Canadian. The Guess Who is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame and again this year are not even nominated, all the above acts are good some even great but the Guess Who is as good as any of the above.

The Guess Who blazed the way for Canuck music and they made a big dent in the United States as they racked up a number of hits there including 3 top 10 singles, These Eyes and No Time cracked the top ten while American Woman became just the second single by a Canuck Group to hit Number 1 there.  Laughing, No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, Bus Rider, Running back to Saskatoon, Undun,  Hand Me Down World, Rain Dance and Share The Land are just a small sample of the library that The Guess Who has left us.

But yet no nomination to the Hall of Fame. So what gives? It is not like the Hall of Fame ignores Canada, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Rush and the band are all in the Hall so the Guess Who’s exclusion does not make sense to me but I think it is high time we Canucks start making the Hall of Fame take notice and start letting them know that we want them in the hall, Then next year we begin the push for them plus Bachman Turner Overdrive!

Lost In The Supermarket and other Places

I don’t know if it is my age or if it is just that I have become too comfortable with my surroundings but lately, I tend to find myself getting lost or at the least upset with the change in things that have been part of my lifestyle.  Take for example the local Zehrs in Hespeler, it took me a few try’s to get used to the new store when they moved location but I was able to do it eventually, but last week I had occasion to be in the East Galt area, and yes my passport was sufficient to allow me to cross the 401, and I needed to pick up a few things so being near the Zehr’s there I decided to go in, what a mistake.  As soon as I went in I should have known that I was in trouble just by the set up of the store. After wandering aimlessly for 10 minutes looking for where everything was I screamed like a school kid heading back on the first day and ran out hopped in my car and drove to the safety of Hespeler and did my shopping there. Another example was the new beer store in town, since my wife drinks wine I always went to the liquor store and did one stop shopping, wine and beer and had no reason to go to the Beer Store, but I wanted something for a family get together that the LCBO did not have so for the very first time I entered the new Beer store and immediately knew I was in trouble. The set up confused me like a curve ball confuses some of the Toronto Blue Jay hitters, but I persevered and 20 cold minutes later I had what I wanted and got the hell out of there, probably to never set foot in there again.

But alas, the worst was yet to come. This time I dragged my wife into the confusion, we had to visit a family member in the hospital and we were totally unprepared for the excursion that was to come. Just finding our way in was a challenge, then figuring out which way to get to the room took some effort as neither one of us seemed to have our direction right. We wandered up and down the halls and elevators of the hospital and in some cases seemed to do complete circles, I am sure we passed the Tim Hortons 3 or 4 times before finally finding the right room.  After the visit I thought “okay, we are safe”, I was wrong, 25 minutes and 2 bathroom stops later we eventually emerged into the outside light, more embarrassed than anything and as I said to my wife as we were driving out of the parking lot, ” Next time I am bringing popcorn and marking where we had been”.  Now I have to go to city hall so,  Mike Devine, if you see me wandering, point me in the right direction.

A Late Summer Sunday in Hespeler

As summer begins its decline, things sometimes heat up and here in Hespeler that is so true.  On Sunday, August 6th the neighborhood of Redwood saw the 4th or is it the 5th (hell, I can’t remember) annual  Wilson house party, and as usual it was a great time with good food, drinks and plenty of folks having a delightful Sunday afternoon and except for the unwanted call from the bylaw officer responding to one complaint everything went well. Can imagine a party that the average age was around 60( even though there were a few more young people this year) garnered noise complaints? Damn, we rock in Hespeler. We also raised $300 for Lizzard House, giving the afternoon a fine finish. So, without further ado, I present to you the photographic evidence of Hespeler at it’s finest.