Woodland Park


First of a Two Part story on Woodland Park

It sits in the heart of Hespeler and at just under 2.5 acres(1 Hectare) it is not the biggest park in the City, nor does it have a ball park or a roaring waterfall,the City website lists it having playground equipment,open areas,nature trails,benches,floral display and as a woodlot. It has no splash pad, no bandshell no tennis court but plenty of mosquitoes and plenty of ambiance. Woodland Park was once a wonderful little place and though it is now just an after thought in the City’s plans on any giving day you can find people walking their dogs, jogging or just sitting on a bench enjoying nature. And according to my late Uncle Alex also a place where young adults in his time went to get away from spying parents and enjoy a smoke or a drink or two on a warm summer’s evening, and  perhaps even a lovers hideaway.A stream used to flow through the park and the remains are still clear to the naked eye and if you imagine hard enough you can picture small groups of guys and gals sitting under the trees and stars enjoying themselves or young boy’s trying to catch frogs and snakes that made the park their home or young girls picking wild flowers to take home to their Mom or Grandmother.  I walk through Woodland often and think about those that used the park in the past and despite the mosquitoes I think my Dog likes it as well.  Here are some pictures of the park.

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Puff Balls, Smelts and Corn on the Cob


The world changes and many things vanish forever, and sometimes we forget all about them, but occasionally something happens that remind us of what was once familiar to us. The other day that happened to me and so I thought I would jot everything down. So here goes another list of things I miss.

Red Barn Restaurants
Hanging with friends at the fort on old Holiday Inn Drive
The wicked curve that was at the cemetery on Cooper Street
The Fire siren and the 2Am phone calls for my dad when he was a volunteer Fireman in Hespeler
The chocolate bars that my Dad would leave for us after his bowling nights
French fry’s with vinegar and salt at the old Arena
Sayvette,Tower of London and other stores in the old mall
Puff Balls,smelts and Corn on the cob dinners
Concord grape doughnuts from Tim Hortons
Yellow Submarine shops
Tien Sun Inn and Mothers Pizza
My Moped
Fanta Pop
Max Saltsman-As honest a politician as there ever was
Buns Masters Bakery
Records on Wheels
The Hespeler Textile Festival
Big Jugs of Beer at Frank Vetere’s
Hilltop Fish and Chips
The matador Tavern and Nicholsons Tavern

And probably the biggest thing I miss is not being able to get together with family and friends as much as I would like.

My Family History


One thing that has always intrigued me is my family and the question of who are my ancestors?  Many of us don’t know and don’t really think about it, but I do. I feel that by not knowing my family history that somehow everything is not complete, and this is another road that I intend to take the Relic down. My Fathers family is of course the Hillis family and my Mother’s is the McLaughlin family, which makes me half Irish and half Scottish, and that makes me a drinker who doesn’t like to pay for it, I know a bad joke but I grin every time I say it. I will do posts on certain members of my past and try to fill in the holes as much as possible, but let me leave you with a picture that may give you readers a better idea of where I come from

God, I hope I am not descended from the Dude in the Middle!

Searching For Charles


Growing up on my Dad’s side of the family we had,of course, my Dad, his brother Doug and his sister Zola, the three children of my paternal Grandparents  William(Buck)Hillis and Ann Gooding and for 56 years that was the way it was, 1 uncle and 1 aunt that called themselves Hillis.  However that changed about 3 months ago when I got an e-mail from a distant relative of my grandmother wanting information on her 4 children, which I assumed was a mistake so I sent her what I could on the 3 but in her reply she insisted that there were 4 children. I informed her that there were only 3 and even in the obituaries for both her and my Grandfather only 3 children were listed and as well in the obits for both my Dad and my Uncle Doug there was no mention of a 4th and since no one in the family had ever mentioned a 4th I let it drop and I never heard another word from the woman and the family remained at three, well until a month ago that is.

I was searching the Cambridge City Archives On-Line site and typed in my Family name and started to go through the many articles that were listed on it and then I got to this!

Administrative history or biographical sketch Date of death, date of birth, place of birth: MAY 7,1932 MAY 5,1932HESPELERAge and cause of death: 2 DAYS HAEMOPHILIA BOWEL HEM.

Parents: William Hillis, Elora Ann Gooding, GlenAllen

Death reported by, connection to deceased, place of burial: WILLIAM HILLIS FATHER Glen Allen, Ont

Source:HILLIS, CHARLES R scotish

My Grandfather and grandmother were the only Hillis’s in Hespeler in the 30’s, so this caught me off guard, who the heck was Charles? And then I remembered the Lady from Fergus who was looking for the 4 children, damn, she was right. For the mystery Charles’s parents were indeed my grandfather and grandmother. So there was  a 4th child, yes he only lived 2 days but it was like a shock to the system to think that his name had never been mentioned in my lifetime and upon checking with my other siblings and cousins, it seems that Charles was unknown to them as well. But why had my Dad never mentioned to the family that he had another brother? Why did his name not appear in either Grandparents Obituary? and why is he buried in Glen Allen when his Parents are both buried in Elora?  This just opened more questions for me, was it a product of the times, that you just moved on after the death of a newborn?  Did my Dad and his siblings even know what happened?

And so I went looking for answers, and since Dad and Uncle Doug are long gone I turned to the last surviving Hillis Child my Aunt Zola for answers and while she couldn’t give me much info, she didn’t even know what the baby’s name was until I told her almost 82 years after his death.  She remembered the little casket in the living room in their old house on Forbes Street and that they were not allowed to come downstairs while relatives filed through the house, she could not answer why the child was buried in Glen Allen,and not Hespeler or Elora, leaving me with my curiosity peaked.

So on my next trip to visit my grandparents graves in Elora I assume a little side trip to the Glen Allen cemetery and my long-lost Uncles Final resting place will be the order of the day. Maybe I can give him a proper farewell from his family and let him know he is remembered.

Jack Courtney-Super Agent


My how times have changed. I had to renew my car insurance, and decided to check around for quotes. What a shock I was in for. On-line quotes have replaced the personal one on one, and when I did talk to someone they had no interest in anything but securing my business. Made me long for the old way of doing things, when you walked into an office and talked to somebody who knew you and loved to chat. Like when Jack Courtney was in business.
He was my very first insurance agent, and walking into his little cramped office on Queen Street was always a pleasure. He knew his customers well and knew the history of your family also. He always had a story to tell and wanted to know the latest jokes that you could tell him. And as always his spittoon was sitting close by for his chewing tobacco to be spit in, and on one occasion he asked if I wanted to try to hit the spittoon, needless to say I declined. His interest in his clients went as far as looking at the vehicle and finding out what he was insuring and not just taking the money and running. I never had to file a claim with him, so I don’t know how he was at that but I feel it was as comfortable as getting the insurance in the first place.
I miss customer service like that.

What was it that the Mama Pajama Saw?


For those of you not old enough to remember, that is  from “Me and Julio Down By the school Yard” released by Paul Simon after he split from Art Garfunkle and launched his successful solo career.  And like many good songs it leaves the listener to interpret it as he sees fit, and there are as many opinions on this song as any, and that is what this story is about..what does that song mean?

People have been interpreting songs since time began, even Beethoven had people wondering who “Fur Elise” was written for and has anybody figured out “American Pie” correctly? Don McLean to this day has never actually giving a definite answer to that question and gave this answer to a reporter once when asked””It means I never have to work again.”You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me…. Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.”.  Through out musical history we have been left wondering things like”Who wrote the book of love”,and to this day there is still debate over what Billy Joe really threw off of the Tallahatchie Bridge. Carly Simon let us know that “Your so Vain” but never let us know who she was talking about, was it Mick Jagger? Nick Nolte? Jack Nicholson? Speculation about who it is is still out there even though the song was written in 1972.  What was the number about that Steely Dan sang about in “Ricki Don’t lose that number”? Was it a phone number or perhaps a reference to a joint? Again Donald Fagan the writer of the song has never really stated what he meant.

And that brings me back to my original question, What did Mama Pajama see? But I think I will leave that for another story.

They Call Me Skidmark


What does a young man just about to turn 16 wait for the most? A hot girlfriend? maybe, but in reality it is the DRIVER’S LICENSE. The right of passage to manhood, the ultimate freedom sign. No longer having to beg for a ride somewhere, no longer having to hoof it from Hespeler to a party in Galt [remember folks in 1973 there was no Cambridge transit] no more watching the cool guy’s driving up Cooper Street with the latest Led Zeppelin 8-track blaring while I sit on a 10 speed bike drinking my Fanta Cream Soda and day dreaming. It was August of 1973 and I had just successfully passed my drivers test and as I was driving home my dad explained to me how much responsibility I now held in my hands, don’t play the radio too loud and remember watch everything around you. I dropped my Dad off at the house and away I went to pick up the girlfriend and head to the A&W drive in for a burger and a root beer and to meet my friends who were already there waiting for me. As I pulled in to the parking lot everything was going good, no embarrassing problems with the Strato Chief and then I got cocky. A quick acceleration into the parking slot and over went two garbage cans, and I received a standing ovation from the gathering of my friends. No wonder my Dad used to call me Skidmark, and it wasn’t because of my underwear!