Saturday, January 12, 2019

Looking for ways to cure the January blahs...

Now that the holidays are over and stores are already stocking Valentines gifts and cards, we're in that in-between period when the days, although getting slightly longer, are getting progressively colder.  For some, the January blahs are a very real thing, and cures are hard to come by.  I have that feeling myself sometimes, so I have promised myself this year to get out and try new things when the opportunity presents itself, while not forgetting the fun things that make life more enjoyable more than once.

So this weekend a couple of examples of that, one just passed and the other currently underway.

I happened to spot at the entrance to our downtown Centennial Library over the holidays there would be a presentation in the Mills Room on Saturday afternoon, January 12th entitled The Facer Street Gang Rides Again.  Intrigued, I read further and discovered an afternoon of words and music, much of it pertaining to the small part of St. Catharines known affectionately as Little Europe would be presented.

This has long been one of my favourite parts of the city, going back to my younger days when my then-girlfriend lived in the area.  When I went house shopping about 25 years ago for the very first time, I found myself attracted to a little house on Garnet Street, not far from Facer Street, that was being sold privately.  I came close but ultimately decided to settle closer to downtown, which by the way I have never regretted doing.

Still, the attraction of Little Europe has always been with me and I often find myself on a Saturday afternoon visiting the area still.  Granted, the area has fallen on hard times over the years and it is not the busy commercial and retail district it was 50 or 60 years ago, but it still shows a vibrancy of spirit you don't often see in newer parts of the city today.

I can't visit the Facer Street area without visiting St. Joseph Bakery, of course, and just around the corner and up the street on Garnet Street still stands the old building housing Rosa's Italian Market.  There I often pick up meals for nights when I don't feel like cooking if I am on my own, and at Christmas I cannot refuse their imported panettone!

But getting back to the presentation this afternoon, it was a look back to a simpler time in the Facer neighbourhood with a number of presenters.  I don't have names of them all but of particular mention are author Stan Skrzeszewski, who has written a book of poetry based on the area he grew up in as well as an historical retrospective of the area, entitled A Walk Down Facer Street, 1870-1939, and singer/actress Maja Bannerman.

Stan waxes poetic in his book and at the presentation today of the way it used to be in the Facer Street area, full of hard-working folk who may not have had much materially, but were rich in family values and spirit.  His book, which I had to purchase for obvious reasons, is chock full of lore and stories about the people and businesses that made the area a totally unique part of the city landscape.

Stan's book is available through Grey Borders Books based in Niagara Falls, and I'm told a follow up volume is in the works for the near future.

I've long known Maja Bannerman, related to Shaw actor Guy Bannerman, and still remember the days when I first met her at the McFarland House Tea Room along the Niagara Parkway where she would serve on occasion.  She's a local treasure and full of love for her adopted home turf of Niagara, the Facer Street area included.

So it was a nice way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon with like-minded souls remembering the way it was in one of the more interesting parts of our city years ago, and hopefully will be again.

Meantime, you might recall I wrote glowingly about the then-new show at the Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Theatre in Niagara Falls when the show first ran last winter.  We attended a performance in March and the packed house rocked with the sounds of the music of the 60s & 70s, all tied together with a circus theme running throughout in a show entitled The Show Must Go On.

I am always amazed what they can do on that small stage at the theatre located on Lundy's Lane just outside the tourist district, and equally amazed at the quality of talent they continually find.  The proverbial icing on the cake is the exceptional meal they serve to a full house with military precision; everything works like clockwork from start to finish with many of the performers also doubling as servers.

Well, they are doing it again, and with largely the same cast, too.  But the show only runs until January 26th so you don't have a lot of time left.  And if you attend shows on the 16th and 18th, you can get a special deal on dinner/show packages in the Maple Leaf section of the theatre that makes the show even more worthwhile.

I even discovered one of my most admired musical friends locally, Chelsea DiFranco is handling keyboard duties for some performances of the show this month.  Chelsea, a local music teacher, is something of an amateur thespian as well, appearing in several productions in both Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.

So with all that going for it, how could you refuse escaping the winter blahs for a retro night out in Niagara Falls?  For tickets and more information go to or call 905-374-1995.

Have a great weekend and stay warm!

January 12th, 2019.

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