Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy ducks are native to Central and South America but a small population can be found in most Canadian provinces. I believe a small number have even migrated to Europe. Although the Muscovy Duck is a tropical bird, it can handle icy, snowy conditions down to –12°C (10°F) and if they're really hearty they can take even a bit more cold.

I believe these are females. To get a good look at a male, check out this earlier post on Muscovy ducks

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gone but not forgotten

Angelo's was a London fixture for half a century. Their original bakery and deli on Thompson Road was not just a store, it was a destination.

When they expanded into the north west of London, their second store was also a destination. They had some of the finest breads in London. And they carried some unique brands of cheese.

I knew someone who worked in their kitchen and after their first day they were bursting to tell me about their experience. I didn't want to hear. I worked in the food industry as a youth. But, I was going to learn about Angelo's kitchen, like it or not.

The kitchen was incredible, I was told. Spotless! And the ingredients were the freshest possible. If it wasn't fresh, it wasn't used.

Then Angelo's expanded to a third location. This time downtown. And sadly, they opened a fourth outlet. This one was in Southwest London, just a few kilometers from their second store. I worried at the time that they now had two expensive stores almost side by side. With the passing months the newest store carried fewer and fewer products and more and more of the checkout lanes stayed closed even during those rare busy moments.

A few weeks ago the entire Angelo's empire collapsed. Even the little diner downtown was taken down in the crash. Sad.

I had a friend who used to advise small businesses. He told me that one of the most common reasons for small operations failing was over expansion. Over expanding is fatal. I believe this is what killed Angelo's.

They will be sorely missed.
Jennifer O'Brien of The London Free Press did a fine take on the closing of the Angelo's chain.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

War Memorial Children's Hospital

In May 1900, the Children’s Pavilion of Victoria Hospital opened, funded by the local branch of the National Council of Women.

In October 1922, it was replaced by the War Memorial Children’s Hospital, which opened at the corner of South and Colborne Streets, and still stnds there - at least the building - to this day. The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire spearheaded its development, with support from the Shriners, the Masonic Order, Women’s Institutes and other groups.

The children’s hospital moved to Victoria Hospital’s Westminster site in 1985, becoming the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Metropolitan United Church

According to The London Public Library, the Metropolitan United Church was built in the Romanesque Revival style with a bell tower rising 170 feet. It could seat nearly 1,400 worshipers, though the congregation was then half that size. The cost of the site, the building, the furnishings and the organ came to just over $97,000, a substantial sum even for what was then the wealthiest Methodist church in London. At the laying of the cornerstone in 1895 the Free Press called it “Methodism’s Magnificent Temple.”

The new church was originally known as First Methodist Church until the congregation became part of the new United Church of Canada. This new denomination brought together Congregationalists, Methodists, and Presbyterians on June 10, 1925. The first service under the name Metropolitan United Church was on June 14, only four days after the union of churches had taken place.

Today, Metropolitan United in London Ontario may well have the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada and the oldest congregation in London.

This church is worth a second look and more than a second picture.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

London Life Insurance Company

There is a great story to go with this picture, but I'm not going to tell it. I'll give you a teaser from, and a link to, The London Free Press:

Bill Rudd: LFP photo by Sue Reeve
Meet the London ‘David’ who took on the life insurance ‘Goliaths’.

There’s an image of Bill Rudd that’s legendary at London Life.

It’s one of the former senior vice-president and chief actuary standing at annual meetings as a shareholder, addressing the board of directors, telling them bluntly they were breaking the law in their treatment of policyholders with regard to the company’s takeover by Great West Life.

They ignored him — at their peril, it turns out.

Read the full story, a good read by Free Press reporter Norman De Bono.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

South Street Hospital: Soon to fade away

The South Street Hospital, now part of London Health Sciences Centre, dates from 1875 when it opened as London General Hospital on Ottoway Avenue, now South Street.

The building above is at the intersection of South and Colborne Streets. In the picture, below, it may be the building on the far left, partially hidden behind the evergreen.

The hospital is on its way to being closed and may be gone in the near future. One stumbling block is agreeing on which government, the provincial or City of London, will be picking up the bulk of the tab for the demolition.

There are folk in town who'd like to see the old hospital converted into apartments but there are problems with asbestos and it may be more expedient to simply tear the old buildings down and build new.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soho Home

This home on Colborne Street at South Street has an historical plaque hanging above the front door stating the home was built in 1898 for Ernest Wingsett, a tinsmith who worked for McClary Manufacturing. The McClary factory was a short walk away on Adelaide Street.

The neighbourhood itself is known locally as Soho, short for South of Horton. Horton Avenue being the northern boundary of Soho. At one time it was a very pleasant working class neighbourhood. Today Soho still has some pluses, one being that some of the residents are working together to bring the neighbourhood back.

A quick search of the Internet turned up this image of a McClary truck in the London Public Library Image Gallery.

"This photograph is featured on p.88 of Alan Noon's book: "East of Adelaide: photographs of commercial, industrial and working-class urban Ontario." His research describes how the photographer borrowed the truck from McClary's in 1923 to illustrate the strength of the Silverwood milk churns that McClary's manufactured. A similar photograph with a clearer view of the side of this Barton and Rumble truck can be seen in this image gallery under a similar title."

I could be wrong, but I believe the McClary company went on to make excellent kitchen appliances. The factory was still standing on Adelaide Street when I moved to London but has since been demolished.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hooded merganser

I'm not a birder. When I saw the hooded merganser at Springbank Park, I took lots of pictures and rushed home to google water fowl.

It turns out that this bird is one of the easiest ducks to identify, especially the males with their large white crests. If that's not enough, their eyes are bright yellow. The females, like so many female birds, get short changed when it comes to flamboyant colouring. Their crests are reddish-brown and their eyes are brown.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cold but still a great day for photography

Get your camera close: the pros do!
I spotted these two sisters with a photographer friend down by the Thames River doing a fun photo shoot. It was clear the photographer was more pro than amateur. Her gear was pro quality — far better than mine — but more importantly, so was her approach.

Overcast days are great for photography. The soft light is very easy to work with — no plugged shadows or burned out highlights.
This shooter, whom I later learned was a graduate of the excellent photo course at Fanshawe College in London, understand this and was taking full advantage of the soft but gentle bright light. She was also aware of the benefits of bouncing a little flash into the scene from white card attached to the strobe.

This trick adds a bit of sparkle to the eyes.

Then again, may be these two sisters didn't need any extra sparkle.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

London City Hall: beauty or beast?

This is the back of the London City Hall. The council chambers are inside the glass-faced bulge. A corresponding bulge at the front of the building contains the mayor's offices.

A lot of folk don't think much of the city hall building and the recent talk of doing extensive renovations has revealed a wide rift in people's thoughts about the marble-clad modern structure.

London Today has more exterior shots posted. And for some neat shots from about 2006 check out London Snaps, Part II (you will have to scroll down a ways to get to the city hall pics).

The blogger behind the London Snaps post contacted City Hall for some background information as was sent the following by Philippa Crawley of corporate communications.

The architects were Philip Carter Johnson and Patrick J. Coles and the contractor was Ellis-Don Limited. A 12-storey structure, City Hall was designed as a symbolic concept and consists on two interlocking buildings. A document from the year of its opening – 1971 – notes the following:

The base is a black granite oval-shaped section which represents the elected people. The northerly projection, overlooking the civic square houses the two-storey Council Chambers, while the southerly projection suspended over the main entrance, houses the Mayor’s Office on the second floor and the Clerk’s Office on the third floor.

The curving white administrative tower represents the administrators and other staff whom it houses.

Who ever posted the London Snaps stuff was very perceptive. Hey the post describes the city hall as "built out of a nice choice of materials and of a unique late modernist design." And the author goes on to add the following:

"I get the sense London has no love for its City Hall and may be plotting something new in the not-so-distant future."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day in London, Ontario

Thursday was Remembrance Day and in the late afternoon the cenotaph located in the southeast corner of Victoria Park near the London City Hall was surrounded with wreaths placed there in memory of Canadians who died fighting for the country they loved.

Photojournalist Sue Reeve, The London Free Press, documented the ceremony in pictures. Click the link to view her work.

Sadly, one doesn't need a long memory to remember those being honoured. Canadian soldiers are still dieing in war today, this time in Afghanistan. Like many Canadians, I have a yellow ribbon magnet showing support for our troops on the back of my car.

Near the cenotaph there is also a carillon. It was dedicated in 2006 as a musical tribute to Canadians from the Dutch community. It was erected to show the community's gratitude to Canada for the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944-45.

The plaque below the carillon says, "We will never forget."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

London's rhino before the latest vandalism

Rhino horns are a sought for item everywhere, including London, Ontario.

Bertha, the life-sized metal rhino is female, is the work of London artist Tom Benner. His wonderful, metal statue has stood on the lawn in front of the London art gallery for more than two decades. Over the years it has suffered numerous attacks.

Its horn has been ripped off several times; Each time Benner repairs his beloved work. If one looks closely, the repairs are clear.

But this year, at the end of October, vandals took the rhino down, literally. They rocked it until they ripped it free from of its moorings. It has now been removed for repairs.

Benner is again repairing his art work and promises that within weeks it will be returned to its position of pride in front of the art gallery. The London Free Press reports Benner understands people sitting on old Bertha as sort of a rite of passage but he doesn't understand why someone would cross the line to cause deliberate damage:

"For anybody to do something like that is pretty strange."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Laundry Day

Fiona loves to help. When given a choice between watching a video and folding laundry, and yes she understands the word video, Fiona picked folding laundry.

When you're not quite 14-months-old, folding laundry isn't quite as easy as it looks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Tree

My wife is retired, as I am, but she has a part-time job at a local private school. She works with the younger children, some as young as three. Last Friday she had to wear a costume to school. She went as a tree with a bird house in its upper limbs.

The little kids loved it.