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Friday, February 15, 2013

who was the boy on the bike?

“I was born in Ontario, Where the black fly bites and the green grass grows
That's where I learned most of what I know, ‘cause you don't learn much
When you start to get old.” ~ Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
This column comes out on Valentine’s Day, so I feel it only appropriate that I pass along a little gift to you, dear reader. If you’re reading this in Arnprior, Carleton Place, Manotick or anywhere else The Farmwife is printed, bear with us. We in North Grenville are very proud of our little community.
Last week Mike McNaughton of Spencerville Home Hardware posted a video on the STAR 97.5fm Facebook page. The caption on the post was “pay close attention!”
It’s a Neil Young video, to his 2012 song “Born in Ontario”. Wikipedia tells us that Mr. Young was born in Toronto but spent his formative years in the sleepy little town of Omemee in the Kawarthas. The video depicts Neil as a young man, sporting a hairstyle that is reminiscent of Glen Campbell.  I’ve never been a huge Neil Young fan but I appreciate the music and lyrics. And after watching this video a dozen times, it’s growing on me.
It’s a black-and-white video, like an old home movie. It starts with views of forests and highways, mainly the 17 North and the Transcanadian. Cut to a vintage clip of young men playing hockey, then a shot of a teacher at an old one-room schoolhouse. There are a bunch of teenagers dancing…I think it’s the reel? Swimming in a lake, the sign for Blind River, and another highway sign, for the #1 to Manitoba.
Mr. Young seems to be reliving some of his favourite memories as a young man growing up, which really makes you wonder about the last clip, cutting in at about the 3:13 marker in the 4-minute video. The perspective is from the driver’s seat of a car, following a boy on a bike down a tree-lined street that looks a bit like Spencerville. Monument on the left, trees forming a canopy of shade over the street…it’s obviously a scene from the mid 1950s or close to it, according to the cars parked on the street.
Music fades out now, car overtakes boy on bike, and film seems to speed up a bit. Wait a minute. That is the unmistakable façade of the old Advance Printing building on the left, followed by the old Red and White, and – oh yeah! I forgot the old Scotiabank sits on the site of the old Johnson’s service station. End of video. No! We’re not done driving down memory lane yet! Aaaargh!
We got about 42 seconds of what is a very meaningful slice of history to local life-long residents, and of course The North Grenville Historical Society (NGHS). I’m currently trying to source the rest of the film. If it’s personal property, of course, we may be out of luck. But if we are welcome to a copy of the Kemptville scene in its entirety, wouldn’t that be nice?
We need to take a closer look. We have questions. Who is the boy on the bike? And the lone man walking toward the camera? I’ll bet some of our young seniors would know, if given the opportunity to slow the film down and study the images up close.
Why, you ask? Because it’s so cool! It’s a wee chunk of living, breathing, Kemptville history replayed before your eyes. I was born here in 1968. My young parents lived in that apartment above the shops on the left, and I do remember the trees so thick in front of the high school, where senior students stood in the shade and smoked their cigarettes in the ‘70s, in their wide-legged four-star Howick jeans.
Does anyone else have home videos like this one, in their storage? If so, consider bringing them to the NGHS for preservation. North Grenville is one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Ontario, and our landscape is changing all the time. It’s so nice to see a glimpse of Kemptville in her younger years. To watch Neil Young’s video, go to and search “Born in Ontario”. Enjoy.
Happy Valentine’s Day, for the love of Kemptville! If you have the technology, take a bit of video of your neighbourhood and file it away somewhere for someone to discover in the future. What a great gift.
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