Friday, July 12, 2024

Wayne Park tells the story of Clarendon Front

by Sophie Kuijper Dickson
Apr. 17, 2024
Every seat in the Pontiac Archives was full on Wednesday morning. Late arrivers stood along the edges of the room and found a few last make-shift seats on the staircase, from where they could not see the spot where the much-anticipated presentation would soon begin, and so only hoped to hear it.
Just past 10:30 a.m., life-long Clarendon resident Wayne Park took the stage.
“I’d like to take you on a journey. We’ll talk about the Austin Church, the settling of Clarendon Front, Sand Bay of course, and the logging of the Ottawa River,” he said, admitting it was an ambitious agenda for the hour of time he had.
Park’s presentation was far more than just a chronological presentation of dates. He told the crowded room the story of a community, the community to which most of the people in attendance belonged.
The hour was filled with anecdotes from his own time as a child growing up in the community, and with stories he had inherited from his own ancestors.
Many of the stories he shared were familiar for the more than 60 people who listened attentively to his presentation.
The historical photographs and memories he included were met sometimes with questions, and sometimes a laugh from some corner of the room.
When Park was recounting the history of Boom Island, which hosted a logging camp just off shore from Sand Bay for many years, Blake Carson noted from the back of the room that his own grandmother, Vivian Little, was born on that island.
When Park recalled how in the winter, he would travel to school in an old 12-passenger snowmobile that, when conditions were bad, would cut across farmers fields and pick up students right at their own front door, saving them the long journey down the laneway, another member of the audience shared their own memory from that time.
“I’m pretty sure fumes from the machine would come in and swirl around,” the audience member laughed, and the rest of the room joined him.
Park spoke about how in the early years of the Austin United Church, the graves were hand dug by people of the community.
“Part of it was talking and reminiscing about the person who had died,” Park explained, offering an example of the intimacy with which neighbours were involved in, and committed to each other’s lives.
Near the end of the presentation, Clarendon farmer Chris Judd prompted Park to tell the story about the rafters of the Austin Church.
“The rafters were donated by the Lynn family. They weren’t of the same religion as the methodists but everybody worked it out, in these rural areas. It didn’t matter what your religion was, you worked it out.”
It was with stories like these, too many to recount here, that Park artfully pieced together a portrait of his community, one rooted memory, in place and indebted entirely to the people who had worked for years to build a life along the shores of the Ottawa River.


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