My Blog – Four Years of Writing

Rod Fraser – Circa 2008

In the latter days of 2017, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to make a website ─ using WordPress as a template. Given that I had some familiarity with computers over the years, it wasn’t too difficult. I finished in the first few days of 2018, then posted ─ ‘Commuting on Your Bike’ ─ to my website in mid-January.

This was an article written years earlier for a newsletter I sent to clients. In those days, I was a chartered accountant. I wrote a monthly newsletter to keep clients informed of financial issues.

Often, I would sneak in articles on my personal life, politics and other matters ─ to mix it up.  As I recall, these were quite popular ─ a frequent topic of conversation, when I met clients for lunch.

Read — My Blog – Four Years of Writing


Niagara: One Hundred Years Ago

This short history of Niagara-on-the-Lake was originally written in 1892, by my g-g-g aunt, Janet Carnochan, a single woman who lived most of her life in that small community. She wrote it out long-hand, and had it printed as a chapbook, by a small firm in Welland, Ontario.

I have rewritten it on the 130th anniversary of its first printing. To keep it terse and pithy, I deleted a number of poems, a few non-essential paragraphs and I adopted a more modern writing style. For those who would prefer to read the original, click here.

Niagara-on-the-Lake was called Niagara in the nineteenth century (and Newark before that). I like the term ‘Niagara’ and use it in this article.

Read — Niagara -100 Years Ago

Too Young for University

It was only after knowing Don for a number of months, I discovered he was a student at Queen’s University, back in the mid-1950s. He made a success of his studies and never looked back. After graduating with a degree in chemistry, he was hired by General Motors, where he worked until his retirement many years later. It was just what he wanted: a job with regular hours, good pay and ample opportunities for promotion.

Don had a number of hobbies, including playing the guitar and singing, as well as a talent for drawing and painting. Later, with family responsibilities, and a desire to pursue these hobbies, he managed to balance his personal / work life rather well. While doing what he could to succeed at work, he didn’t overdo it. He had no desire to be a corporate man, always striving to reach the next rung of the ladder.

Read — Too Young for University

Losing a Friend over Covid-19

Rod Fraser carving with Don in 2020

From the time of the initial Covid-19 lockdown in early 2020, Don and I played a game of hide and seek with those that wanted us to ‘stay home and be safe’. While we didn’t flout the law, we skated very close to the rules, in order to pursue a social life and indulge our love of woodcarving.

In the cold weather, we met outside in our cars, opened our windows and conducted a decent conversation from car to car. And when it was too cold for that, we would find a private corner of the parking lot, sit in Don’s car and chat about the news, our world, and all that seemed to be wrong with it. A Tim’s latté in hand ─ we would hold court and engage in the greatest of conversations.

Read — Losing a Friend Over Covid-19

A ‘One-Man, One-Dog’ Protest

Victory Theatre and the Arcade – the site of the Protests

I recall reading a newspaper column a number of years ago, that spoke of young children ─ usually male and quite bright ─ who distinguished themselves early in life. The interviewer reasonably asked, “I wonder what happens to these boys in later life?”.

Well, replied the guest, “The others catch up. By the time these gifted youngsters are in their early twenties, their brighter contemporaries are a match for them. After all, there is only so much knowledge in the world. Some are eager to grasp its magic early in life ─ others come to discover its value later. I call these prodigies ‘early bloomers.’”

Read — A ‘One-Man, One-Dog’ Protest

Herb Popkie’s Early Years

Village of Calabogie in Eastern Ontario

My name is Herb Popkie. I was born in Eastern Ontario in late 1905, just ten months or so, after my parents — Fred Popkie and Annie Schisan ─ were married on January 2, 1905. It was not a happy marriage, though it produced two healthy baby boys. My brother, Reuben, was born two years after me ─ in December of 1907.

I mention Eastern Ontario as the place of my birth, rather than the small village where it actually occurred, because that part of Ontario is full of charming little villages, all with distinctive names.

Read — Herb Popkie’s Early Years

The American Civil War!

My wife and I have just finished watching the Ken Burn’s television series (9 episodes) called ‘The Civil War’. Over the years since it was first released in 1990, I believe I have watched it three times, each time finding new things about the war to puzzle me.

My main source of wonderment was why the United States and the Union Army fought so hard to keep the country together. It seemed the newly formed Confederate States of America was a sensible solution to the issues which divided America ─ the main one being slavery, which had dogged the country since its inception.

Read — The American Civil War!

A Story of Detroit

In the early twentieth century, Detroit was a magnet ― drawing people from all over Canada and the United States, for its high paying jobs. My great aunt and grandmother, Sarah and Hattie Middleton, were two such arrivals, looking for adventure and a higher standard of living. They traveled to Detroit from Toronto, Canada in 1905 and 1912 respectively. Hattie’s son, Gordon Armstrong, followed in 1925.

Read — A Story of Detroit

A Conservative Minority?

The recent Federal Election was decided on September 20, 2021 (or a few days later in a few select ridings ─ once the mail-in ballots were counted). According to pre-election polling numbers, reported by one day before the election, the expected popular vote for the various parties is set out below. The final election results, in terms of popular vote and seat count, are shown at the end of the article.

Read — A Conservative Minority?

Small Town Renewal – A Solution?

Small Town Ontario – An Example

During our weekly get togethers for wood carving, my two friends ─ Bob and Don ─ often object to my views on the state of the world. Over the past few weeks, they have taken me to task on a number of occasions on a topic that is close to my heart ─ small towns in Ontario: What has happened to them in the past and how they might be revived in the future?

Read — Small Town Renewal … A Solution?

Janet Carnochan (1839 – 1926)

In 2007, while researching the family history, I met a distant cousin (‘Mary Pat Finn’) for a chat about her branch of the Fraser family. In addition to telling me some lovely stories about her parents, she asked me to be sure to include the story of Janet Carnochan in my upcoming book, The Pickerel Lake Road.

I had never heard of Janet Carnochan ─ but always on the lookout for an interesting story, I arranged to spend a few days in Niagara-on-the-Lake to find out what I could. It turns out Janet was an important person in the cultural life of that little town (called ‘Niagara’ for a time in the nineteenth century and ‘Newark’ before that).

Read — Janet Carnachan (1839 – 1926) 

Is Big Tech Bad?

It seems clear, over recent years, that ‘Big Tech’ has become a colossus with the ability to strip individual citizens of their right to express their views online. If it can deplatform a sitting U.S. President as it did with Donald Trump on January 8, 2021, it can do the same to you.

It is true that Trump was a President on his way out: his term was to expire in 12 days. Nevertheless, he was still a sitting President, when ‘Twitter’ felt bold enough and powerful enough to strip him of a platform he had used so successfully to win the election in 2016, and to broadcast his views to the world during his four years in power, 

Read — Is Big Tech Bad?

Surveying Lots, Concessions and Townships in Upper Canada

Upper Canada – Treaties with the Indigenous Peoples

In 1781, after the British surrendered at the Battle of Yorktown, it was clear a great number of Americans who fought for the British Army, or who were otherwise loyal to the British cause, had no wish to remain in the Thirteen Colonies (later to become the United States of America). The host population was hostile to their presence, so most were desirous of moving to Upper Canada, a colony being established for their benefit in British North America. Over time, they became known as ‘Loyalists’.

Read – Surveying Lots, Concessions and Townships in Upper Canada 

The Third Man

This short novel of 157 pages was originally written as a storyline and list of characters for a film about postwar Vienna. No thought was given to publishing it as a novel at the time. Released in 1949, The Third Man was a box-office success in the years that followed. Some claim it was among the best films ever made. I tend to agree.

 It starred Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard, all important actors in the postwar era. The book was published under the same name the following year.

Read – The Third Man

The Peterborough Rally

Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier at the Peterborough Rally.

Early Friday morning on April 23, 2021, we checked the weather to find Peterborough would be 16 Degrees Celsius (and sunny) on Saturday ─ with little or no chance of rain. That settled it. We would drive to Peterborough to hear Randy Hillier and Maxime Bernier speak against the lockdowns that have been imposed across Canada for over a year.

Read — The Peterborough Rally

A Town Called Solace

All of Mary Lawson’s books are charmers and this one is no exception. So far, she has written three novels. These are largely stories of those who come from Northern Ontario.

Since I was brought up near the area she writes about, I am kindly disposed to her books. The fact they are lovely stories only adds to their appeal.

Read — A Town Called Solace

The Grade 9 Entrance Exam

From 1874 to 1949, the Ontario government required all students, who hoped to go to high school, write and pass a province-wide entrance exam. Students had to have a passing grade of 50% or better to enter Grade 9. This was not only true for Ontario; many states in the United States also required qualifying examinations to enter secondary school.

The Ontario exams tested arithmetic, grammar, spelling, geography, dictation and composition. They were a two-day affair, with the exam papers marked by individuals independent of the local school boards.

Read — The Grade 9 Entrance Exam

The German Heiress

This book was recommended by a friend, who thought it one of the better books about the Second World War ─ although to be more precise, it is really a story of the early post-war period. It focusses on the lives of a few individuals — people who were brought low from the collapse of the economy after Germany’s surrender.

The main character is a woman by the name of Clara Falkenberg, part of a wealthy family who owned a successful manufacturing company in Germany. During the war, it provided war materials for the German war effort and had close ties to the Third Reich. A year or two prior to the end of the war, her father began to do political work for the government. He appointed Clara to run the company in his absence, which she did ─ quite successfully ─ until the war ended.

Read – The German Heiress