Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hosed Again! (Placeunmaking: Part Two)

Today's building has been Vandalized in the truest sense of the word. Think of Rome and its fall at the hands of the barbarians. The Vandals didn't just destroy the architecture that was Rome; they usurped it. They took over the buildings, putting them to new uses in keeping with Vandal culture. Over time many of the magnificent Roman structures were scavenged, picked bone-clean as the glory of Rome was dispersed in little bits, pieces and chunks of architectural stone around the boot of Italy.

I am sure that the man who bought the former Kayser-Roth plant thought he was an imaginative entrepreneur; he certainly would never think of himself as a barbarian, a Vandal. From the tone of The London Free Press article I found featuring the building and the present owner, he would never agree that plastering large, crudely painted City Centre Storage signs across the top of the former Kayer-Roth building, sealing the gorgeous doors, stripping the exterior of its heritage lighting and covering the windows with ugly metal sheets was a poor idea. Allow me to disagree. I think it is now a sad, forlorn building.

According to the blog Urbex Barrie: Copysix: In 1919, American industrialist Carl Freschl constructed this four-storey, 9000-square-metre structure on the corner of Bathurst and Clarence to house his hosiery business, Holeproof Hosiery Co. The company's flagship factory was in Milwaukee but was expanding by leaps and bounds. Holeproof already had a smaller operation in London, opened in 1911, but it needed to expand its production capabilities. As Freschl both received his raw materials, and shipped his finished goods, by rail, the new factory was built close to the rail yard.

This was a great location until the City of London closed the railroad grade crossing at Clarence Street in 1933. Holeproof sued for $50,000, which was no small amount of money during depression years. The case eventually worked its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The blog Urbex Barrie: Copysix does not tell us how the case was resolved.

In the years to come, textile giant Kayser-Roth would buy the company and run the factory until 1989, at which time they closed the Bathurst Street plant. At its peak the big red brick factory had been a busy place employing 500 Londoners in the knitting, ribbing, dying, finishing, shipping and receiving areas.

The 110 metre corner tower once held the tanks of water needed to dye yarn. Today it holds fading memories.

Glass-wall-buildings at Sunset

Last night, I attended the Downtown Master Plan and Public Information and Visioning Session at Museum London. I couldn't stay to the end but the view of downtown London that greeted me as a I departed put the entire evening into proper perspective.

Glass-wall-buildings at sunset can be quite impressive, yes?


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


A buzzword making the rounds today among those focused on saving our cities is placemaking. I would like to propose another word: placeunmaking. We see it all around us. In fact, the reason many downtowns require a placemaking make-over is because they suffered placeunmaking first.

The four pictures today are from an area just a short distance south of the London downtown core. The top photo and the one on the right show a once fine home, note the elegant entrance with the large porch and Greek columns. The warm yellow brick was once common in the London area, I understand Fred Kingsmill has called it London brick, is now quite hard to find. This was the fine home of a well off individual. Obviously, this was once a fine neighbourhood. No more.

The home always had the Labatt brewery as a neighbour, possibly there is connection between the brewery and both buildings featured today. But the brewery was but a few small structures when our yellow brick home was built.

On the left and below we see another scene from around the same area, just one block east and kitty-corner to the Labatt brewery. This apartment building was once one of the prettiest buildings of its type that I had ever seen. It was red, clay brick with matching red tile roofing treatment at the front. The second and third floor front apartments all had elegant twin doors leading to small balconies with attractive black, iron railings. A few years back the brick was hidden behind some stucco-like material and then that was covered with white and yellow paint. It is just so sad.

Monday, July 27, 2009

They just keep blooming. Yes!

The first time I went to Horner Lilies, I went a little crazy. I know you will find this hard to believe, but I went a little overboard. I bought lots, as you now know if you've been following this blog. My wife wasn't so keen. Lilies, she said the name with a certain air of contempt. They're the orange flowers that grow like weeds everywhere, she said.

Well, someday I will defend those lovely orange flowers but today there is no need to launch a defence. My wife is in love, yes with me (blush), but also with my lilies. I think you can see why. If you live in the London area, visit Horner Lilies on-line, or even better go and see their lilies in person. And remember the lily beds are only open for viewing until the end of July, I believe. Horner Lilies is located near Thamesford northeast of London. (This is not an ad. I get nothing for plugging these folk other than the pleasure of getting out the word.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Picture taking is looking up.

Since retiring, I've developed a rich love for London and southwestern Ontario. Appreciating your surroundings is cheap. Retired, I need cheap. If it's expensive, it may be out of my financial reach. It's lucky that I live where I do. It is one of the best places in the world. We would be wise to take better care of our little piece of Spaceship Earth.

Today the sky over London looked bright, rain-washed clear blue. There was not a hint of the all too common haze of air pollution. Today the sky had the dramatic look of clashing weather systems preparing for battle above the city.

I loved it. It was worth running here and there, finding different angles to best record the unfolding moment. Tip: always carry a small camera. You can't take pictures without a camera.

The U.S. had a neat series of stamps featuring different cloud formations. Check them out.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Home concerts, better than playin' bars!

I apologize about the quality of this photo. I wanted to capture some of the excitement of The Laws home concert and I find little, on-camera flashes kill the moment. Of course straight on strobe only kills the moment temporarily — for a thousandth of a second — just long enough to kill the photo. The room was quite dark, lit only by a warm, ceiling light off to the side. I apologize. (Oh, one other thing, the room was so small that I had to put two pictures together — one taken immediately after the other — to get this image. There, confessions complete.)
The Laws are a husband-and-wife singer/songwriter team from Wheatley, Ontario. Friday night they, along with Nashville guitarist Brent Moyer, played a home concert in London, Ontario. Hot damn! They were good! I'm going to blog about home concerts — a really cool venue for a concert. Check out Rockinon: the Blog for more about home concerts and The Laws.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ghosts Come to Life

As you may have gathered, I love old cars. Many are aging works of art and are looking better in their 50s than they looked in the '50s. This DeSoto Firedome, I believe it may be a '57, proudly bears the fins that are today emblematic of a long-gone era in car history.

Car enthusiasts are amazing. They often take a rusting hunk of forgotten metal, a mere memory of a car, and with great skill and incredible ingenuity breathe life into the ghost of an automobile. Go to a cruise night near you and ask to see a car's restoration journal documenting in pictures its journey back from the grave. Many of those into car restoration have such a journal. You will be amazed. You will look at restored cars, and their owners, in a whole new light.
To see and learn more, visit Fins and Chrome. To find cruise nights in your area go to Google and search "cruise nights (your city)." It's that easy. Now, grab your camera and play.


Firefighters Have Wow Factor

London, Ontario, firefighters stopped by a London school recently to show the kids attending the summer camp sessions a fire truck. The little ones were awed. So big, so many doors and so much stuff hidden inside. The children were uncharacteristically quiet. Firefighters obviously have the Wow factor.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to grab it with a rabbit.

Photo Tip: With digital cameras you do not have to show yourself to get a picture. This little rabbit is oblivious to me. Why? I am on my kitchen floor, totally out of sight, with only the camera looking out the window. The lens is pressed right to the glass to minimize glare and I, watching the monitor on the back of my little Canon SD10, can view the rabbit nibbling his way closer to my home. Now, if there had been a bird or two at the bird bath. . .



Daisies Begging to be Photographed, Honest!

O.K. I know what you are thinking. "Another flower picture?" In a word, yes.

I apologize but I just could not help myself. Man these things were made to be shot by my little fixed lens camera. They were begging to have their picture taken. I had to buckle.

It is a nice picture, right? You just have to agree.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home County Folk Festival...Unstoppable

A tradition for the past 35 years, nothing stops The Home County Folk Festival held annually in Victoria Park in downtown London, Ontario. Billed as an event for the whole family, bringing together generations with music, dance, arts, crafts, and food, it is clear one kid hasn't got the word. Prepared for the rain, he brought a large umbrella; he was also prepared for the folk music as he was hunkered down under the umbrella with a notebook computer running computer games.

This year the festival presented an energizing mix from folk/rock to blues, bluegrass, Celtic and Acadian delivered by a rich brew of regional, national and international artists. It took five stages to handle the more than 132 performances presented over the three day event. If you missed this year's festival, watch the Web and mark your calendar for next year. With luck, it won't even rain.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cadillac Was King

This is another in my posts celebrating the Thursday evening Hyde Park Lions Club Country Cruizin' nights held at Steve Plunkett's Fleetwood Farms. The events are free but those attending or showing cars are encouraged to give a donation to the Special Abilities Riding Institute in Arva. The institute offers horseback riding for children with disabilities. 

Expect to see several hundred cars at each event, mostly beautiful Detroit iron, but there are always a few vintage English sports cars and other memorable vehicles to be seen. The historic Cadillac, above, is part of Steve Plunkett's private collection. Leaving the grounds Thursday night, I noticed this classic beauty sitting in front of Plunkett's newest building, which was constructed to house Plunkett's most interesting cars. 

How Plunkett chooses which dozen or so cars to include in his top tier of classic Cadillacs is a question. If all this sounds interesting, for directions and more details, visit:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Misty River Morning

I had some stuff that I was going to post, but it was all thought provoking and maybe a bit on the downer side of life. I just don't feel like posting those images or those thoughts today. Maybe tomorrow.

Today I will share with you a picture of the Thames River taken a little after sunrise. Walking to the kitchen for my morning coffee, I looked out my front door and could see a solid line of mist delineating the route of the Thames through the west end of the city of London, Ontario. I grabbed my camera and bolted for the door. In just minutes I was viewing the river from the Sanatorium Road bridge, but no mist. By the time I found this spot, still with some lingering mist, the sun was too high in the sky, the mist was quickly being burned off and I had a so so picture. Oh well, another day and another attempt. Someday I will be successful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hens, Chicks and Weird Flowers

Until I started this post, I had no idea that Hens and Chicks are native to southern Europe. That still doesn't explain their hardiness. Neither the ferocity of a Canadian winter nor the hot, often dry, southwestern Ontario summers seems to bother these weird plants.

Succulents providing a ground cover of clusters of rosettes, I grow these plants mainly for their foliage. The largest rosettes are the 'hens', and the smaller ones springing from them are the 'chicks.' But these birds do produce flowers which sit on the top of tall, erect stalks that tower up to a foot over the foliage.

Each time our hens and chicks flower I think, "Weird."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

EOA Ontario Cottage

EOA is short for East Of Adelaide. There is a rich, complex urban story contained within those three letters. It's a story that I cannot deal with adequately in a simple cutline. Possibly, I will blog about this later on Rockin 'On, my other blog. This Ontario cottage captures the best of the EOA neighbourhood immediately east of Adelaide Street. It is a classic, Ontario cottage with a gable over a small, round-arched dormer window. The home has the typical central door entry. Often built for working class folk, these homes were simple, efficient, economical and yet quite beautiful.

For a glimpse into the philosophy that inspired these designs, see The Architecture of Country Homes by A.J. Downing, an early 19th century American architect.

Cheers, Rockinon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm here to see Dr. R2D2.

A painter brightens the University Hospital sign at the large teaching hospital north of the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. There is a fond place in my heart for this facility as it was here that I went to have my heart robotically repaired. Dr. Alan Menkis, now the medical director of the Cardiac Sciences Program at St.Boniface Hospital in Manitoba, was the skillful surgeon controlling da Vinci, a surgical robot, during my delicate heart operation to repair my failed mitral valve. The minimally invasive surgery used very small incisions, so there was no need to open my breast bone to reach my heart. Impressive!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

City Centre Cottage Country

This small pool, stocked with gold fish, is in the side yard of a London, Ontario, home located right on the edge of downtown. A rambling bungalow, steeped in cottage country atmosphere, the owner agreed that the look is no accident. If I am ever offered the opportunity, I will document the place and post the pictures.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Welcoming Help in an Emergency

My cab driver was a gentleman. He chatted readily about his old home, Ethiopia, and talked with a genuine glow of affection about his new home, London, Ontario. When we Londoners have an emergency, we go to hospital Emergency. For many around the world facing emergencies of proportions most of us cannot even imagine, they turn to Canada, and in Canada they often turn to London. According to The London Free Press, London, Ontario, has Canada's highest per-capita refugee population. All I can say is, "Welcome." (The London Free Press has done an admirable job of bringing the stories of these new Londoners to its readers. If you're interested in reading one of those stories, click the link.)


Do remember when you were really little and the world was ever so different, larger actually. In the winter, the snow was so deep that you had to slog through it; It came right up to your waist. In the summer, walls of grass blocked your view when you played in the wild unbuilt field near your home. Insects were everywhere back then, but then you still lived on their level and in their world. Spiders were giants living on huge webs which were right in front of your nose; Spiders were not, as they are today, small moving specks on the distant ceiling. The most interesting insects, like the praying mantis, you'd take home in a jar, its screw-on lid punched full of large air holes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm Crosby!

The shouts from the street carried right into our kitchen. "I'm Crosby!" "No, I'm Crosby!"

I went outside and in the centre of our court five boys were playing street hockey. Each player, but the goalie, loudly proclaiming he was Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. For young boys, Crosby has surpassed Brantford's Wayne Gretzky as the hockey hero to emulate. When one player suggested another could be Gretzky, the offended player shot back, "No way! He's too old!"

Too old? Ouch! I put may camera in my pocket and returned home, all the while muttering, "I'm Rocket Richard."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Colonel Talbot, the Hill

Outside of London, the community has the reputation of being devoid of hills. Not true. The western end of the Ingersoll Moraine, a mix of silt, sand and stony soil (till) deposited by a melting glacier about 13,000 years ago, runs east to west through the southern part of the city. Just over a km from my home in southwest London there is a fantastic little ski hill. It is more than twice the height of the hill near Oxford, Michigan, at which I skied as a teen. Commissioners Road, as it approaches the suburb of Byron, has the well-known snake hill and Colonel Talbot Road at its northern end has as a similar stretch of twisting pavement.

If you have been following my posts, you will know that I have been featuring my lilies. I cannot say enough good things about Horner Lilies northeast of town. I'm buying a few more to add to my growing collection of these gorgeous flowers. (This is not an ad, by the way, I get nothing for this plug.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Blue and Gold Macaw loves the Forest City

In Victoria Park checking out the Caliente Festival Hispano, I saw this gentleman strolling through the park with a beautiful Blue and Gold Macaw (Ara Ararauna) perched on his arm. These incredible parrots are found wild in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America. Very trainable and quite intelligent, these birds are considered by many to be the most beautiful of all parrot species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classes these birds as of least concern for, except in Trinidad, they are still plentiful in the wild.

Caliente Festival Hispano

Some of the cool things about living in London, Ontario, are the multitude of summer festivals. This weekend saw the Caliente Festival Hispano in downtown's Victoria Park.

This Hispanic cutural celebration ran from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with music, dancing, children's activities (Laff Guard Bill Paul did face painting) and , sports tournaments plus lots and lots of food booths. Yum!


Friday, July 3, 2009

Lilies on the Hill

About a week ago I blogged about my bright orange Asiatic lilies which were then in bloom. At one point, I had about four dozen flowers screaming for attention. The reason I had so many is that Asiatic flowers stay at their peak for days. As new buds open, the new blooms join the ones that opened days earlier; together they make an impressive presentation. Now, it's my daylilies seeking attention with the first two opening this morning. They are called daylilies because their flowers last but a day. Tomorrow other buds will open and another set of flowers will take centre stage. Each year I buy another few lilies from Horner Lilies northeast of London. (The time to visit them and make your selections is now.) In time, I will have quite the beautiful presentation fronting of my home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's Canada Day!

Byron, a southwest suburb of London, was the place to be Wednesday night. Despite the steady but light rain, the Optimist Sports Complex on Boler Rd. was packed for the Byron Optimist annual Canada Day celebration fireworks. The Byron Optimist club is currently seeking new members. If you have an interest, contact them by e-mail at:


City fields Citi Plaza

Citi Plaza? I was startled to notice that Galleria London is no more. It is now Citi Plaza. A quick google and I find a blog, Urbanity, that discusses the change that was official as of May 7, 2009. I find it rather sad to see the Galleria name abandoned. The mall in downtown London was named after the famous Galleria in Milan, Italy. The Galleria in Milan was restored after it was seriously damaged during the Second World War. Who knows what the future holds for the former Galleria London.

I also found a lot of information on the rebranding on Iconoclast Media, another London, Ontario, blog. Apparently, as part of its lease agreement for a 114,000 sq. ft. call centre, Citigroup demanded the giant mall complex be renamed to honour the famous TARP recipient. In 2008 Citigroup posted a record loss of $27.7 billion and has had to be bailed out on three separate occasions by the US Treasury Department. Citigroup is the American financial services company that is paying $20 million a year for 20 years for the naming rights to the new New York Mets stadium, Citi Field.

All too weird.

Milan is above; London is right.