Muskoka To-DAILY

Walker’s Point welcomes old school/church bell to new community centre home

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAILY.com

WALKER’S POINT — Wilf Gillan was taught a lot in school he’s forgotten.

Wilf Gillan, 84, can still ring the old school bell and puff a smoke - almost like old times.

Wilf Gillan, 84, can still ring the old school bell and puff a smoke – almost like old times.

But one thing he learned he still practises.

How to sneak out for a smoke.

At a Canada 150 Day celebration earlier this month, he was still practising what he preached in 1938.

That was the year the Walker’s Point School opened, and he was in charge of ringing the bell.

“I’d ring it so hard it would come right over,” the 84-year-old said, while sneaking away from the annual Heritage Days celebration for a butt.

When he pulled the 360, the rope would get tangled and he’d have to climb up in the tower to put it back straight.

“It gave me a chance to have a smoke,” he laughed, while sharing the memory out behind a lineup of beautiful antique cars parked beside the community hall, away from the crowd.

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Richard Schell's great-grandson Luc Savoie, of Orillia, helps unveil the old school/church bell at the Walker's Point Community Centre.

Richard Schell’s great-grandson Luc Savoie, of Orillia, helps unveil the old school/church bell at the Walker’s Point Community Centre.

He’d have been just a few years older than Luc Savoie, the 7-year-old who was the first to “re-ring the bell” as he helped unveil its new location at a re-dedication in front of its latest new home in the west Muskoka pioneering hub — the Walker’s Point Community Centre.

Savoie — a nonsmoker — is once, twice, thrice times a descendant of his great-grandfather, Richard Schell, who helped build the school 79 years ago.

Luc’s mom is Joanne, and her dad John Schell, son of Richard.

After the school closed it became the Lakeside United Church, from which the bell was recently rescued when it, too, closed last year.

With members from their family and other familiar family names from “The Point” on hand — like the Walkers, Pratts, Bradleys, Smiths, Campbells, Hudsons and course Gillans — filling out the crowd of more than 100, the bell was the centrepiece of another celebration in the oft-forgotten, tight-knit little community on the south-east edge of Muskoka Lakes Township.

But lest they forget them at the township hall, the Walker’s Point gang will remind them of their roots, for they are a mighty proud force to be reckoned with.

Just ask Mayor Don Furniss, who stood back and let the “Ladies in Red” from the Point library — who helped organize and run the event — take over.

And what a perfect day it was, as Walker’s Point Road at the hall was lined with huge red fluttering Canada 150 banners, marking the entryway to the biggest little celebration in Muskoka.

The re-dedication and unveiling were part of Canada 150 Day celebrations.

The re-dedication and unveiling were part of Canada 150 Day celebrations.

After emcee Donelda Hayes, township councilor for The Point, introduced Luc and all the pioneering families, she told the story of the bell’s repatriation.

And how the Gillan boys — Tom and Paul and Ross — climbed up in the old church steeple and wrestled the bell to the ground.

“It was pretty tight,” said Tom. “We could barley squeeze it down through the hole.”

They still had to take the handle off the “No. 20 Yorke,” which dates back to 1886, they think it says on the side.

The bell alone weighs at least 75 pound; then add all the heavy metal around it and it has to come in at over 100 pounds.

A big job for three grown men, let alone a kid the same weight with a roll-your-own in his mouth.

“The kids always wanted to ring,” said Gilbert. “It would lift me off the ground.”

The big, black bell, refurbished, oiled and mounted – thanks to Wayne Judges – on a great giant 4.5-foot-high piece of Muskoka granite (from the Merkley farm over in Barkway west of Gravenhurst) – had its share of bellringers this day old and young.

It was all part of a two-day celebration, which included an olde-tyme country and western music dance on Sunday afternoon.

But Saturday was the main event, with Roger Bolt and the Muskoka Dixie band; free BBQ by the Station 4 fire hall crew; quilting displays, a kids zone and historical artifacts from the Muskoka Discovery Centre in Gravenhurst; a silent auction; an old post office where you could pin your home or cottage; the old cars; and a back barnyard full of old boat and farm stuff.

Not to be forgotten was a large Canada Day cup-cake the kids and adults loved. And the popular free Kawartha Dairy ice cream tent on this hot day.

The pioneering community spirit of Walker’s Point clearly continues.

Ring one up for them.

See more photos below.

Just like kids again, Keith and Wilf Gillan enjoy free ice cream.

Just like kids again, Keith and Wilf Gillan enjoy free ice cream.

Residents and cottagers got to pin their places on a map of The Point.

Residents and cottagers got to pin their places on a map of The Point.

The best little Canada Day party in Muskoka was at 'The Point.'

The best little Canada Day party in Muskoka was at ‘The Point.’

Elizabeth Chish-Graham was also on hand selling her kids book.

Elizabeth Chish-Graham was also on hand selling her kids book ‘Gracey at the Grange.’

Wilba Miller, 81, is still quilting after all these years. She had an old photo of her and group of nine other lady quilters that was about 40-odd years ago at the Point. Only she and one other are still alive.

Wilba Miller, 81, is still quilting after all these years. She had an old photo of her and group of nine other lady quilters that was about 40-odd years ago at the Point. Only she and one other are still alive.

Kirsten Schofield, 18, of the Muskoka Discovery Centre brought along some toys for youngsters and oldsters.

Kirsten Schofield, 18, of the Muskoka Discovery Centre brought along some toys for youngsters and oldsters.

Castle Peake writers in residence Edith White, left, Eve Jones Liam Dyer and his wife Mary sell their books inside the hall.

Castle Peake writers in residence Edith White, left, Eve Jones Liam Dyer and his wife Mary sell their books inside the hall. Seventy residents contributed 104 life stories for ‘At Your Age.’ And Liam has the fifth in his popular Muskoka murder mystery series books out now, entitled ‘Muskoka Chalice.”

 

Post mistress for the day was Eileen Dixon, who gave away free post cards from Walker's Point.

Post mistress for the day was Eileen Dixon, who gave away free post cards from Walker’s Point.

The Walker's Point Library was combined break room and organizational central for the day.

The Walker’s Point Library was combined break room and organizational central for the day.

Luc Savoie's family watch him unveil the bell.

Luc Savoie’s family watch him unveil the bell.

Members of the Walker’s Point Library who helped organize and run the annual Heritage Day weekend gather for a team photo with their great red jerseys. Front left, Rae Strachan, Mary Mills, Monica Carr, Pat Young, Adele Fairfield, Carolyne Dixon, Joan Davey, Gillian McMullin and Sandy Brown. Behind left, Lynne Said, Jan Getson, Lyn Bolt and Kathy Bodden.

Members of the Walker’s Point Library who helped organize and run the annual Heritage Day weekend gather for a team photo with their great red jerseys. Front left, Rae Strachan, Mary Mills, Monica Carr, Pat Young, Adele Fairfield, Carolyne Dixon, Joan Davey, Gillian McMullin and Sandy Brown. Behind left, Lynne Said, Jan Getson, Lyn Bolt and Kathy Bodden.

 

Roxie pauses to enjoy the Muskoka Dixie music out back under a nice shady tree.

Roxie pauses to enjoy the Muskoka Dixie music out back under a nice shady tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short URL: http://www.muskokatodaily.com/?p=28332

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