FROM THE EDITOR: The letter below was originally sent to OntarioNewsNorth.com Contributor Edgar Lavoie who shared it with me. I requested the author’s permission to republish, believing it important to provide OntarioNewsNorth.com readers, particularly from Greenstone, the opportunity to enjoy hearing how the kindness of the Northern Ontario residents and beauty of our region touched one visitor as I think it quite likely his experience is one shared by many who travel North. Thanks to Mr. Mazmanian for sharing his letter:
I have travelled to 45 countries at last count and have been back and forth across Canada and USA several times. But mostly I love visiting the small towns of northern Ontario. Each town seems to have its own character; some towns are full of it and some towns don’t seem to have much character at all. But Geraldton, well…
I have never been to Geraldton before and I now wish I hadn’t waited so long because it is definitely one of the friendliest places I have ever visited. Geraldton is full of character and is so probably because it is full of individual characters, as I was soon to discover! As a matter of fact, I had a very tough time trying to leave town to carry on with the rest of my trip because I enjoyed talking with so many local characters whom I met at breakfast and/or dinner at the Crown & Anchor restaurant. (Your son, for example, didn’t seem to mind at all that I interrupted his breakfast at the restaurant with a few questions; though I was a complete stranger to him, he quite happily gave me the phone number of the “local historian”, who was also great to talk to by the way!)
Before long, I was pretty much convinced that there is a thoroughly orchestrated Geraldton conspiracy to entice visitors into staying longer, make them want to come back again frequently, and possibly make them never want to leave at all, by having all of the locals, young and old alike, be so friendly and so talkative all of the time, that the visitor simply has no choice in the matter. After being subjected to Geraldton hospitality for the first 24 hours, I felt that I was living my own personal Groundhog Day…it became near impossible for me to leave town.
Each day I tried to make my escape from Geraldton but then…
– Before I left town, I wanted to buy a hat or t-shirt with “Geraldton” emblazoned upon it and I was referred to Stedman’s Department Store. There, I had a great long chat with two wonderful ladies who work in the store. They were full of great stories and advice. They were the ones who suggested that I might be able to get your book “And the Geraldton Way” at the Visitor Centre and they were correct, don’t you know! And I didn’t have to call the municipal office to get a copy through the mail as you suggested. By the way, what kind of historian are you? Do you do any research??…those ladies know more about where your own books are available for sale than you do!!!
– The girl at the Visitor Centre was wonderful, very professional and quite knowledgeable, and she sold me not one but two copies of your book.
– Next I went to McLeod Provincial Park — just to take a quick picture and then turn around and leave town for good — but the lady at the entrance to the Park was so wonderful that we ended up chatting on and on. Most people go glassy-eyed when I tell them that I collect insulators, but this kind lady seemed sincerely interested to learn more. When I explained to her what an insulator is, she remarkably remembered that she had recently seen one (a porcelain telephone insulator) sitting on the ground somewhere in the park. Searching her memory, she gave me precise directions on where I was likely to find it and encouraged me to go hunting. The next thing I knew I was standing in the middle of the park dump with a big smile on my face, holding a new treasure, thanks entirely to her kindness.
– With my interest now peaked for more treasure hunting, I went to investigate the train tracks in town… only to discover that there are no longer any train tracks in town; everything has been torn down and ripped out. As I stood staring down the barren railway line in disappointment, two boys rolled up on bicycles and firmly but politely asked me if I was looking for something. The next thing I knew, based on their excellent instructions, I was hiking down the abandoned track bed and finding hydro poles and insulators hidden in the bush just as they said there would be.
– Now realizing that there is gold to be found everywhere around the Geraldton area, on the advice of another local character I drove up to Nakina. At the Nakina Northern Mart I spoke to another wonderful lady who gave me so many tips on interesting sites to explore that I couldn’t remember them all. I had time to explore one site and it was worth the trip alone. A few hours earlier I couldn’t imagine ever going to Nakina, where the roads end, and about as remote as remote can be; now I can’t imagine not going back!
By the time I drove back down Highway #584 from Nakina — back towards Geraldton — another long day of trying to escape had once again ended in complete and total failure, and I found myself registering to stay another night at the Crown & Anchor Inn. As I strolled back over to the restaurant for dinner, the local old geezers greeted me again with smiles, and a few chuckles, and one of them said, “Well, we see you didn’t quite get around to leaving town again! So how’d your day go then?”. Naturally, we ended up in long conversation, sitting outside around a picnic table, watching the sun go down —- which takes forever in Geraldton at this time of year — and I realized that just like that northern sunset, it would take forever for me to forget the friendly people who are the great town of Geraldton.
Sincerely, Roy Mazmanian
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