Friday, September 26, 2014

Haileybury, ON and The Hardy Boys' Connection

Haileybury Marina on Lake Tamiskaming.

Earlier this month we took a road trip through Ontario's "Near North," stopping one night at Haileybury. We knew nothing about this small town whose main street runs steeply downhill to Lake Tamiskaming.

I'd been intrigued by the sign on the way in, informing us that Haileybury was the home of Leslie McFarlane (1902–1977), the author of the first books in The Hardy Boys mystery series.

At breakfast the next morning our friendly host at the motel was able to tell us more about his town.

McFarlane grew up in Haileybury, the son of a school principal. The youth went on to become a respected journalist, author, playwright, screen writer, and film director. But  he is best known as the man who wrote The Hardy Boys. 

In all, there were fifty-eight volumes in the popular series, beginning in 1927. The books were written by various authors, all using the pseudonym "Franklin W. Dixon". McFarlane wrote volumes 1–16 and 22–24.

As a kid I loved the Hardy Boys books. They, and the Nancy Drew series, got me hooked on reading.
My father read us the classics, but I loved Frank and Joe Hardy. These were the books I read by flashlight under the covers.

Others might consider such books formulaic junk, but at least I was a kid who was reading. And that's a habit that's lasted all my life.

Pioneers' Monument, Haileybury ON

Before we left Haileybury we strolled its picturesque waterfront on Lake Tamiskaming in early morning sunshine. In the park at the marina a sculpture called "Pioneers' Monument" caught our attention. Sculpted by Ernie Fauvelle, it depicts a man on the shore handing a child to a woman who is waist-deep in the water.

The story behind it is that in 1922 the town stood in the path of a raging wildfire that went on to consume 650 square miles. Fanned by strong winds, the fire destroyed 90% of the town of Haileybury on October 4, 1922, all within 3–6 hours.

Only Lake Tamiskaming saved the inhabitants who fled their homes and ran for the lake, getting as far out into it as they could. After it was over, 3500 had been left homeless and eleven people died. It was one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A writer's curse

An evening view of Lake Ontario off Shoal Point
It appears the rain is over. This morning pale sunlight filters through the clouds on the last day of August. I sit on the deck of the cottage and watch the waves roll in and crash on the shore, pushing weeds and sand off the lake bottom. Already the youths who look after the grounds are raking the beach. The raft off shore dips and bobs.

I am trying to read but I'm watching and listening. I think this is the curse of being a writer. Why must I always find words for what I am feeling? Always the urge to record my experiences — the sound of the breeze rustling the willows, the gentle clink of the shells in the wind chimes we've hung off the end of the deck, the thunder of the waves. Why can't I just relax and let things happen around me?

If you are a writer, can you relate? Can you put your pen down and just breath? Perhaps this doesn't happen in this age of technology, when people no longer carry notebooks and pens with them for recording what's around them. A curse? Or a blessing?