The Cooper Street Relic

Just another blog from The Republic Of Hespeler

Don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but does have to do with the end of summer, that saying is one of my favorites about summers end and with the end of this one almost over it just felt appropriate.

This summer seemed to fly by faster then usual but I guess as we get older it does seem that way. As usual I had my camera with me often as I went about my daily routine and the following photos are from the period of May to the end of August, they were taken around this province as well as our trip to Saint John New Brunswick, and of course this is only a small sample of what I took, after all I dont want to bore everyone. tlachd leat fhèin .

Sometimes it is fun to imagine fictional characters as real people not just the brainchild of talented writers, and so you wonder what became of those characters? Did they lead a happy life or did they just up and disappear? That is what the next few stories of mine are about, the fictional women of the songs that I grew up with in the 60’s and 70’s and what I imagine became of them.

Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)

In 1972 the band Looking Glass released this gem of a song written by Elliot Lurie and tells the story of a barmaid in a busy seaport harbour town which serves “a hundred ships a day.” Even though sailors try to flirt with her she has feelings for one sailor only but she knows that she can never have him because as the lyrics state he claimed his life, his love, and his lady, was “the sea.”. So she continued her life even as she wore a locket that he gave to her. And while the story ends there I often have wondered, what became of Brandy and the sailor that brandy loved? Well her is my theory.

In 1972 I imagine that Brandy was a young 20 year old women who had the same hopes and dreams of many young women that lived and worked in harbour towns across North America, get an education, get married and get the heck out of the dreariness of the little town they grew up in. But in Brandy’s case I don’t believe it ever happened, after waiting for her beloved for a few years she finally got the news that she feared as her sailor love’s ship The Edmund Fitzgerald( like the way I tied that one in?) went down and all lives were lost leaving Brandy desolate and finally realizing that she would never have her true love. She would continue working slinging beer in the port town and eventually around 1980 marry a sailor so she wouldn’t be alone for her whole life. She would eventually wind up owning a small tavern and raise 3 children with her husband but would never be truly happy as she thought she could be. She would walk to the shoreline every Sunday morning after church and sit on the rocky shores still hoping to catch a glimpse of her true love in the clouds as they float by, but it has never happened and she walks slowly to her home that is just lived in by she and her husband, as her kids have grown up and moved away. Brandy lives to see her Grandchildren once a month when they drive up the coast to visit and that makes her life bearable. She still keeps that braided chain in a lock box beside her bed and
At night when the bars close down
Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who’s not around
She still can hear him say

Brandy you’re a fine girl
But my life, my love and my lady is the sea

Those are words taken from an Elton John song and are words that really describe how I feel sometimes. I was born in the small Town of Hespeler Ontario and lived only a few minutes from a country environment, an environment that I have written about a few times in the lifespan of this blog. Now with the city creeping in ever so close I tend to spend more time out in the country driving around with my trusty Dog Cooper and my camera, it relaxes me to do so and in the long run is better for my body and mind than alcohol( but just to a degree).

Here are some recent pictures from my trips to the Country..”
“And it’s good old country comfort in my bones
Just the sweetest sound my ears have ever known
Just an old-fashioned feeling fully-grown
Country comfort’s in a truck that’s going home”

One thing that I have always enjoyed is live Theatre and have been lucky enough to see a number of Broadway shows pass through this area, and this past Saturday I was at Centre In The Square for the North American Touring company of Rock Of Ages. The original stage play was nominated for 5 Tony awards and is set in the 1980’s and centers around the music of that era with a love story or two thrown in. It takes place mainly in a fictional club called Dupree’s Bourbon room and features an outlandish cast of characters that keeps you riveted from the start to the end. While most people will know the movie Rock Of Ages the play came first and is slightly different and more entertaining then the film version.

The cast of the play was outstanding but three of the actors stood out for me, Katie Lamark played Sherrie and brought her character to life and made us feel for her through bad and good, Chris Renalds played Franz and delivered a poignant but hilarious performance that had everyone laughing and pulling for him at the end. But to me the glue that held the whole play together was the performance by John-Micheal Breen who played Lonnie and was the host/narrator of the whole show, he exceeded my expectations and his endless energy throughout was amazing as it was the second performance of the day for the cast. His ability to interact with not only the cast but with the audience as well kept things tight and energetic and once you see his performance you will walk around breaking out into Jazz Hands for no reason at all. And kudos to the band who played the music to the show and of course to the backstage crew who kept the props moving on and off the stage seem effortless.

Some might want to compare this production to the movie but don’t, it is entirely separate and much more entertaining. Cameras were not allowed during the play but I did take some pics on my phone camera before the show and there below, also some pictures from the official Rock Of Ages website that will give you a better idea of what the play was like. You can see them at ROCK OF AGES

Now I’m off to do Some Jazz Hands. See the play you will understand.

It’s about a 30 minute drive from Hespeler to a little Cemetery in Glen Allan, a cemetery and a little village I knew nothing about until about 2 years ago when i began to research my fathers family. My Paternal grandmother Annie May Hillis (Gooding) was born there to George and Annie Fleet who were unknown to me until I began this research, it’s a family history that goes back hundreds of years in that area and many of the Goodings and Fleets are buried in that little Cemetery in Mapleton Township in Wellington County. It’s an old cemetery with many of the older Headstones unreadable so finding the right connections can be difficult, but definitely interesting as it allowed me to find graves of other ancestors going back to my Great-Great-Great Grandparents John Fleet and Emily Gooding, yes as I have written before, the Fleet and Gooding Family’s kept the dating scene in Glen Allan area to a minimum back then, but the records show that the two family’s for generations were farmers and the homesteads were next door to each other, so who am I to say what was going on. So to add to the Hillis and Stevenson paternal side of the family we can now add Gooding and Fleet to that side, oh and Gowing and Goodwin but that is another story for another day. The following pictures are from my most recent visit to sit and get to know my ancestors better, and the picture of a farmhouse that I have posted is according to an elderly women that I talked to in the cemetery the home that my Grandmother was born in. That I can not verify but I am working on it.

One of my 1970’s musical heroes is Elton John and while he is not for everyone’s tastes I have liked his music since I first heard his album Honky Chateau around 1972. And like I did with David Bowie I have come up with the 10 albums that I consider his best, these are not in order of commercial success but the albums that I enjoy the most. Everybody has there own opinion and this is mine.


As with Bowie, there were more than 10 albums I like in his repertoire and many had to be left out but still deserve a mention. Not making my list were some good albums but just not good enough for me, The Union made with Leon Russell, Peachtree Road, Empty Sky and Sleeping With The Past were good albums but not good enough to make my list. So on to the top 10.

10) Elton John (1970) This was his second album but released in North America before Empty Sky, therefore many consider it his debut. This album contains 3 really solid songs including his first big hit Your Song, as well as Take Me To The Pilot and Border Song, however not to be overlooked are First Episode at Hienton and The King Must Die, the album was nominated for a Grammy in 1971.

9) The Captain And The Kid (2006) This was his 28th studio album and is a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and covers events in his and Bernie Taupin’s live in the years between the two albums. It only contained one single The Bridge which is just basically Elton and his piano, he has stated that it can “apply to anyone” at any time in their lives and having to move on instead of living in the past. They either cross the bridge, die trying, or fade away. Like most of his albums, there are hidden gems on there, songs like Postcards From Richard Nixon, Just Like Noahs Ark and the Title track The Captain and The Kid.

8) Caribou (1974) His 8th album contains 2 big hits, The Bitch Is Back and Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, both these songs hit #1 in Canada as did the album and was also nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. other songs of Interest are “Grimsby”, “You’re So Static”, “Ticking” and “Dixie Lily”. 

7) Reg Strikes Back (1988) This album most likely does not wind up on many top 10 Elton lists but for some strange reason, this is a favorite of mine. The album was considered a comeback for him and contains a good mixture of upbeat tunes and some good slower stuff, the four singles off this album were I Don’t Wanna go on with you like That, Town Of Plenty, Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters part 2 and A Word in Spanish. Japanese Hands and Goodbye Marlon Brando while not singles are as good as any others on this album. This one is definitely on my You have to listen to this album to appreciate it list.

6) Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player (1973) Elton’s 6th album gave him not 1 but 2 number 1 singles in Canada, Crocodile Rock, and Daniel. And who couldn’t like an album that pays homage to 50’s Rock (Crocodile Rock) an attempt to record a song like Van Morrison( High flying Bird) a tribute to Marc Bolan (I’m gonna be a Teenage Idol) and a Rolling Stones homage (Midnight Creeper) as well as some rockers like Teacher I need You and Have mercy On The Criminal and a poignant love song like Blues For My Baby and me. The Title of the album is even a little nod and a wink to Oscar Wilde’s famous quote ” Don’t shoot the piano player, he’s doing his best, and the album’s cover photograph, which shows a young couple outside a movie theatre whose marquee reads Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player starring Elton John, also includes a movie poster of the Marx Brothers’ film Go West. 

5) Madman Across The Water (1971) This album was his fourth album and was very raw sounding in comparison to his first 3, and while it did well in North America did not do well back home in England and contains the now classic Tiny Dancer and Levon. Indian Sunset, Razor Face and Holiday Inn are very good tracks that deserve a little more credit than they get and the Title track Madman across the Water is in my opinion as good a song as Tiny Dancer.

4) Honky Chateau (1972) Released after Madman it reached #1 in North America thanks in part to it’s biggest hit Rocket Man and to a lesser degree Honky Cat(which I prefer), some of the other songs on the album that stand out to me are Mona Lisa’s and Mad Hatters, Think I’m gonna Kill Myself and Hercules, while the song Mellow is a very solid ballad. but Honky Cat with it’s New Orleans sound and an obvious tip of the hat to Dr.John styling makes this album worth the listen.

3)Goodbye Yellow Brick Road( 1973) This double Album has sold over 40 million units worldwide and to most critics, it is his finest moment and it is hard to disagree but alas I put it at #3. From the opening song funeral For a Friend/Love lies bleeding through the hits Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick road and of course Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting the 18 tracks just keep you listening waiting for the next one. However I found some of the tracks were just filler to me and didn’t really mesh well, however, 3 songs that were not singles stand up just as well as the hits, The Ballad of Danny Bailey(1909-1934), All The girls love Alice and Your Sister Can’t Twist( But She Can Rock And Roll). And while I still listen to this album I tend to pick and choose my songs more on this one than the two I put in front of it.

2) Tumbleweed Connection( 1970) His third album and the only one of his ’70 era albums containing a song not written by Elton and Bernie Taupin, Love Song, was written by Leslie Duncan. This is also an album that had no singles released in Europe or North America but still hit #2 in England and #5 in Canada. The album itself is a concept album based on Americana themes like the Old West, songs like Ballad Of A Well known Gun, Country Comfort and talking old soldiers try to convey a turn of the century feel and succeed to some degree. Amoreena, Come Down In Time, and Love Song are very solid, well, Love Songs and Where To Now St Peter tells the tale of a dying soldier not sure whether his final destination is heaven or Hell, and is the song I like the best on the disc. A good Listen and not a bad song on it.

1) Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). The autobiography of Elton(The Captain) and Bernie(The Kid) told through their words and music and like Tumbleweed not a missed beat along the way. It debuted in Canada at #1 and was certified Gold before it was even released, it also had only 1 single off it, Someone Saved My Life Tonight. Every song tells a segment of the history of the duo with Bitter Fingers, Tell me when the whistle blows, Better off Dead and Writing coming off as true Elton and Bernie Classics. Of Someone saved my life Tonight is a true story of a suicide attempt by Elton because of a failed relationship with a woman, and the someone? That was his old mentor Long John Baldry who saved him, bet you didn’t know that did ya? It’s an album that I rate high in my list of all-time albums and one of the reasons that I put this as his best, but also it was the last album with the original lineup of the Elton John Band (guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson). Murray and Olsson, who had formed John’s rhythm section since 1970, were sacked prior to the recording of the follow-up album Rock of the Westies, while Johnstone would leave in 1978.

So there it is, my List of the best Of Elton John, feel free to pick it apart.

Throughout the history of recorded music bands have been named after their founders and in the Rock and Roll era it has been no different, we have had The J.Geils Band, Alan Parsons Project, Santana, CSNY, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to name just a few. But sometimes a band names themselves after someone who is not in the band or they make up their name to throw people off perhaps, some have used literary works to find a name, the following are just some of the bands that have no one in the band with that name.

Pink Floyd is the one that jumps out right away and on the Wish, You Were Here album they even wrote a song called Have a Cigar, with the line, “Oh By the way which one is Pink”

Lynyrd Skynyrd is named after a teacher of some of the members, Jethro Tull has no one named Jethro or Tull but instead is named after an 18th-century agriculturist. Molly Hatchet has no one named Molly and the name was taken from an infamous prostitute who killed her clients, the Marshall Tucker Band is not named after a band member but instead after a blind Piano Tuner.

Billy Talent has no one named Billy, There is no one named Max Webster in the band Max Webster, 70’s Canadian pop band Edward Bear had no one named Edward either but was named after a character in Winnie the Pooh, There is a band in England called Ella Guru whose name was taken from the Captain Beefheart song of the same name and Derek and the Dominos is, of course, Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon with a little help from Duane Allman.

I left Alice Cooper till last because of the circumstances around the name, there was a band called Alice Cooper in the late 60’s that the future Alice Cooper belonged to, Vince Furnier went by his real name at the time and did not start using the Alice Cooper moniker professionally and legally until the band broke up and he went solo in 1974, so technically The Alice Cooper Band had no one actually named Alice.

And that brings me to the “Brothers” the bands that used the name Brothers in their title but were in fact not brothers. The Statler Brothers of Country music fame were not named Statler even though two of the members were brothers but named Reid, not Statler. The Righteous Brothers were not related and not named Righteous, The Flying Burrito Brothers were certainly not Burritos or Brothers and the Doobie Brothers, well I think we know how that name came about. And finally, a little twist as I put Mumford and Sons in this list just because while the band does have a Marcus Mumford in the band the rest of the members are not related and are definitely not his sons, but that is nitpicking I know. I could also put the Ramones in here because while not related they all used the Ramone surname professionally.

So there is my list, and as always that is just my opinion.

AAA_0376Outside of Saint John on route 111 is the Town of St. Martins which sits at the heart of the Bay of Fundy and while it is a little town with a picture perfect view it is also the home of the Red Sea caves and the one place where you can walk on the Ocean Floor. When the tides go out in the bay it creates a breathtaking experience that stays with you long after you have left the area, the floor that is left exposed provides an opportunity to explore the caves that are underwater most of the time and a rocky surface that provides a multitude of colour and shapes that anyone interested in rocks could spend hours looking through. The covered bridges and the lighthouse are part of the scenery and are well worth the visit if you are in New Brunswick, and just walking on the Ocean floor is worth the trip.




One of the best ideas for a vibrant downtown that I have seen is Saint John’s use of everyday statues to bring the camera crowd in. the have most of them in a small area near the bay and the restaurants and shops and at any time you can find someone getting their picture taken with them. The statues range from a mother and child to people on motorbikes and old folks just sitting around and are a lighthearted look at the everyday life of a Saint John Resident.


The main part of The Summer of 2018 is almost over and it has been a very interesting one for both my Wife and me, and over the next few weeks, I will be writing a few stories on what we did this summer.

We started the main part of summer with an early trip in June to Saint John New Brunswick the birthplace of my Wife Dale, and a place that I had never been, so it was going to be, for me a very unique experience and we start this series with a visit to Wolastoq Park.

Wolastoq Park overlooks the Saint John River or as the original inhabitants, the Maliseet people called it “The Beautiful River”, it was established in 2004 and has walking trails and a unique way of teaching about the historical figures that have had a hand in Saint John’s history. Koluskap, the Great Beaver, Samuel de Champlain, Madame La Tour, George Oland and K.C. Irving are just a few of the folks who are represented in Statue form. These statues are spread throughout the park and as you go through them you get an idea of the city’s past and the significance of them all, and at the end of it all you can just sit on a bench, have a sandwich and a drink and view the river or gaze at the city’s skyline, you won’t be sorry.

With no real plans for Sunday, my wife and I decided to head for one of the small towns that make up my ancestry.  Elora Ontario is one of the locations that the Hillis family called home in it’s past. My Great-Grandfather George was a bit of a legend in Elora at one time, and I will be writing more on him in the future, and my paternal Grandparents are buried in the Elora Cemetery along with distant family members, some I knew, many I did not.  And of course, I brought along my trusty Nikon to record some of the day and here are the results.


Sunday, August 5th was the annual Wilson Fest on Redwood here in Hespeler and as usual, our Host’s Jim and Lynne Wilson along with their trusted sidekick Barry Warren put on a day that will remain etched in everybody’s memories as the food was great, the booze flowed and the music provided by DJ Steve Copeland got most everyone up dancing and a few brave ones doing  karaoke, all that plus they raised a $1,000 for Lisaard house made it another great day. My thanks to everyone for having a good time and making my pictures complete. There are over 300 pictures, so this is just a few of them I will post more later but for now, enjoy these and remember only 364 days till next year.



When we moved out of our house a few years ago we never thought that we would be back in it but due to circumstances beyond our control we reclaimed the house 2 years ago and boy did it look different. Both the inside and the outside were in ruins, the rooms had holes galore, the paint job that my wife Dale had done was covered up with some god awful colours, windows were nailed shut, I could go on but you get the point. We spent the first year redoing the inside and brought it back to some semblance of normality.  As for the yard, well it was a sight to see, no grass was left anywhere in the backyard it was nothing but a mud bowl, a giant hole that was filled in with loose gravel began to shift and our patio stones were beginning to go with them, needless to say, it also was a disaster. After leaving it for almost a year and a half we have finally got around to repairing everything out there and while we are only halfway done we hope to finish it by mid-summer. This is just some photos of the yard, and as I said, still a long way to go. Where there was mud, there are now patches of grass, the privacy fence is up and we sit outside without dust being blown around. The fight continues.

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