Wednesday, October 12, 2016

D.D. Diner and Motel, Restaurant Review

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I was reminded of that problem when I visited D.D. Diner and Motel. Is it that people who are very good at what they do also create a relaxed, friendly atmosphere? Or do happy, friendly people create a workplace where they are not afraid to experiment and try new things, and that scientific approach helps them improve? Whatever the reason, I am talking about my visit to that restaurant you see your left as you drive out of town towards Welland, on Highway #3.   

The new owners, Francine and Gus Doslea seem to be on to such a good thing. After they purchased the establishment last September, they followed the tried and true rule for success in business, hire talented people, stand back and let them work. In this case, they hired weekend cook Reg Szikora and weekday cook Wendy Gloyd. Francine is also a cook, and her husband Gus is a server.  

I asked what they like about working there. Francine likes being able to work at home while taking care of her little great-niece Brynn. The cook Reg has broad experience, having worked many years for the Canadian military, in greenhouses, a pizza restaurant and, for the last twenty years, this very restaurant, through its succession of owners. "I can tell you this," he announces, "Of all the places I've ever worked, this is the best, under the present owners."  

I talked with Francine about the "hotel" part of D.D. Diner and Hotel. As a trained furniture designer, she has great plans for the décor in the rooms. Renovations are ongoing, refurnishing each room, and the plan is to include a kitchenette in each room. Outside, by the parking lot, she will create a rest area, picnic tables surrounded by a green, park-like setting. When everything is complete they plan to stage a grand opening, but that will not be for a while.  

For now, the big story is that we have a new restaurant in town. Last year, as Internet restaurant reviews attest, the truck stop was frankly becoming run down and neglected. When they took over, Francine set out to move the style of the eatery from a truck stop to more of a fine dining experience – although, she hastens to add, "We pay close attention to good value, keeping prices down as much as possible. For example, when we found a better price for coffee last year, we passed the savings on to the customer.  

As much as possible the cooks buy fresh, often with locally sourced produce from the Dunnville Farmer's Market, including LauRay Farms. Every weekend, Reg makes up a batch of fresh soup, with fresh noodles made from scratch. 

Every soup is unique, and he does not repeat himself. Needless to say, that soup surprise has become one of the most popular dishes on the D.D. Diner menu. Also popular is their all-day breakfast. When I asked what is the most frequently ordered dish, Francine said that would probably be the toasted Western sandwich, or the clubhouse sandwich. 

Myself, I ordered a fish and chips take-out, and I can say first hand, and my family agrees with me, that it was very fresh and tasty. I can hardly wait to find out what soup they will be cooking up next weekend.

Reg Szikora, Brynn and Francine Doslea
at the counter of D.D. Diner

Brynn peeks out the front window of D.D. Diner

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Year Dunnville Caught Fire

Historical Society Presentation: "1902, A Hot Year in Dunnville"

The nature of citizenship has changed radically over the past two centuries in Ontario. Now, we are expected to pay our taxes, vote every few years, and not complain too loudly about how onerous our civic duty is. Before though, every homeowner was expected to slog it out on work crews building and repairing local roads, and, in the event of a fire anywhere and at any time in the whole area, to join the bucket brigade and risk life and limb dousing fires.

On the 28th of September, the Dunnville District Heritage Association's researcher Judy gave an illustrated lecture called "Fire! 1902: A Hot Year in Dunnville," discussing the development of a professional firefighting force in Dunnville around the turn of the 20th Century, focusing particularly on 1902, a year when the town was struck by no fewer than seventeen major fires. Although the results were devastating in terms of property loss, they did accelerate the transition to the professionally trained (though still largely volunteer), high tech fire department that we enjoy today. Dunnville firefighters were untrained conscripts, every male citizen, until well past the turn of the Twentieth Century, although from the beginning their equipment was purchased and owned by the town; even in the 19th Century Dunnville was well ahead of other towns in the region, such as Welland and Hagersville, in adopting the latest firefighting technology.

Still, until 1892, fires were mostly fought using the ancient measure of the bucket brigade. Every able-bodied man in town was expected to be on call 24 hours a day to help put out conflagrations. It was BYOB, bring your own bucket, too. Houses that were too far away from the river were out of luck, unless a horse drawn tanker wagon was available to be summoned quickly enough. The presenter showed vintage photographs of Dunnville, pointing out a characteristic construction of the time, a tall tower in which fire fighters hung their fire hoses to dry. Hoses at the time had to be carefully dried out, or the water would destroy the materials out of which they were made.

In 1892 underground water pipes were installed in order to extend the area where houses were protected from fire. Firefighters were now able to shoot a stream of water 120 feet into the air, affording protection even to three storey buildings. But there were still problems. Water hydrants frequently froze in winter, leaving entire neighbourhoods vulnerable to destruction by fire. Someone on the town council suggested that they be covered in manure, but the firefighters balked. In turn, they requested that town councillors be the ones to connect hoses to the hydrant in the event of a fire during winter. This proved persuasive. Instead, boxes of straw were built to insulate the new hydrants; this made connecting hoses in winter a more pleasant prospect.

Dunnville had to rebuild its train station in 1903 and in 1938. In 1978 a combined fire hall, courthouse and police station burned down. Mills were particularly vulnerable to fires around this time. Flour dust filled the air, making a highly flammable mix. Often, vagrants would break into the mills built next to the river in order to find a place to sleep. A cigarette or cooking fire would then set the whole place ablaze. Often, the first sign that a mill was going to ignite was the sight of large packs of panicky rats rushing in a frenzied swim into the Grand River.

The DDHS gave this talk at an appropriate time for me. Early this summer the house across the street from us burned down, and the hulk that remained was only just demolished. I pointed the ruined site out to a visitor from Holland. She wondered why we keep building houses out of wood here in North America. Why not build them out of stone, as they do in the old country? The DDHS speaker brought this point up, mentioning that for one thing, wood is comparatively cheap here. After hearing the story of our year of fires, I wonder if it might not be a good idea to consider the entire life of a building before we decide whether to make it out of flammable materials.

Upcoming DDHS meetings this fall will be Pauline Johnson: A Poetess Between Two Worlds, on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, and World War 1: The Boys Come Home, on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. For more details, go to their website at: Held at 7 PM in the auditorium of Grandview Lodge, 657 Lock Street West, Dunnville, ON.

April Cormaci and other volunteers at the DDHA booth

Brown's Flour Mill, Dunnville Ontario, was destroyed in a spectacular fire on April 28th, 1902

The Live Oak Hose Co. and pumper engine 1901 at the Pan American Exhibition, Buffalo

Dunnville Fire Chief John Harvey Smith (1855-1931) who served from 1874-1924 and as Honorary Fire Chief until his death in 1931.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gino’s Auto Collision

A tale of two family businesses.

Some family businesses start off as group enterprises, no doubt, while others become family establishments over years and decades. The subjects of these two profile of local automobile repair businesses are examples of the latter. Each started off as a sole proprietorship based on the expertise of one man but each is gradually becoming a family affair.

Gino’s Auto Collision 

Gino Barrilla came to Canada from Calabria, Italy in 1960. He trained here in Canada as an auto body technician and set up shop here in Dunnville in 1978. His son, Joe Barrilla, has worked along with him for the past ten years.

He gets most of his business by word of mouth, from doing a good job. Gino's guarantees all of the work it does. Other recommendations come from local insurance companies and the Canadian Automobile Association.

If you have an accident, Gino reminds drivers from Dunnville, remember that you do have a choice.  Some insurance companies have arrangements with certain large body shops in Hamilton, and they will try to steer you there. That means not only a longer drive, but also it tends to cost more.

Be sure to ask for an estimate from the large non-local shop and compare what is included with Gino's. I would add that generally speaking you are less likely to be a victim of sharp practices if you go to a local business, since in the country reputation is everything and dishonest establishments do not last long, as they often do in the city.

Remember, auto body repair is a highly skilled trade involving elaborate equipment. Whereas mechanics only have to get the insides of the car working, collision work demands that, as well as making the car look good, too.

One client wrote on an auto body site this tribute to them: "I didn't realize how skilled some auto repair shops are until I took my car in. I was amazed at their ability to restore my car to new. It wasn't just the damage on the body but also the drive line. I was really impressed with how well they did. I'll consider always going to a repair shop to get my cars fixed."

Gino’s Auto Collision,
448 Main St W,
Dunnville, ON,
N1A 1W4


Monday - Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 8:30 am - 11:00 am
Closed on Sunday

Lou Jones Auto Service 

An Interview with Lou Jones of Lou Jones Auto Service 

Lou Jones comes from England, which is renowned for excellent training in many fields, especially the manual trades. In fact, he comes from the Detroit of the UK, Birmingham. In his youth there were several automobile factories in the Birmingham area, and even today the Jaguar plant remains. Lou trained as a mechanic there, and came to Canada in the early 1980's to help out at a garage in Hamilton as a specialist in foreign cars. Eventually, he set out on his own, starting Lou Jones Auto Service on Cedar Street in Dunnville some 21 years ago. Even today Lou is busy all summer with sports cars from all over Ontario -- most of these vehicles are stored indoors over the winter. The rest of the year, his customers are from closer to home. They own all types of vehicle, domestic as well as exotic. In recent years, Lou has been joined by his daughter Clair, who works as an office clerk and shop assistant, as well as his grandson Alee, who is a mechanic's apprentice.

Clair Jones, Lou Jones

Full disclosure: Lou Jones has been my mechanic for many years, and he did work for my father before me. I recommend him openly in all my Facebook Buy and Sell groups when people ask who is a good mechanic around here.

The Free Press had several questions for Lou. One was about the "for sale" sign on the site of Lou Jones Auto Service. Are they planning to move? No, it is just that the lot is half owned by another party who wants to sell his share of the land. Lou Jones is there for good.

What about the advice we all hear to have an oil change and a mechanic check out your car at least twice a year. Is that still valid? It depends on the vehicle. Check your owner's manual. Some newer cars using synthetic oils only need an oil change every 70,000 kilometres. Of course, it is always good insurance to have your car checked over a couple of times a year, no matter what. He showed me the Snap-On wireless diagnostics tablet that mechanics use to analyze the problems in modern vehicles. On the first of July new government regulations for safety came in with the object of getting the old clunkers off the road. No longer are dark tinted windows acceptable or corrosion in critical areas of the body.

I asked Lou about a strategy I have worked out for saving money on purchasing and running a car. I go through Consumer Reports and the Lemon-Aid books for the best model of ten year old cars, and buy that on Kijiji. It is bound to last another ten years. He agreed that getting an old one and "running it into the ground" is an economical strategy. A friend of mine is thinking of buying a Cooper Mini and I asked Lou's advice about them. It is a "very fast car," and he likes it. We also talked about the Jaguar. Ford purchased the company a couple of decades ago, and almost ruined it. Fortunately the Indian company Tata bought Jaguar-Land Rover out, and now the newer Jaguars are modernized and as well made as they were in our youth. Lou just bought a car himself from Haldimand Motors in Cayuga, which has off lease cars that are very acceptable. Korean concerns like Hyundai and Kia are, he thinks, the best automobile manufacturers these days.

Lou is about to sell this Hyundai Elantra for 1200 dollars, certified. It will be ready in a couple of days. First come, first served.

Lou Jones Auto Service
502 Cedar St,
Dunnville, ON
N1A 2J5

Friday, August 05, 2016

Question to Baha'i Leadership (The NSA of Canada) from a Baha'i Reporter

Here, I include my inquiry and the response from the NSA of Canada on some problems that came up when I was asked by my editor to report on political meetings. For a long time I refused outright to cover partisan meetings. I have been a Baha'i since I was 17 years old, and I would rather roll around in slimy worms than go to the sort of political meeting I was being asked to attend and, worse, publicise. On the other hand, I had to balance my reluctance with the admonition in the Hidden Word, "Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me." (Baha'u'llah, AHW 30). My poor editor was often pressed and in great need for coverage of these meetings.

To: Office of External Affairs 
7200 Leslie Street
Thornhill, ON
L3T 6L8

Dear Office,

I am a Baha'i working part time stringing for a tiny local newspaper called the Dunnville Free Press ( I have been offered and refused to write several articles that I deemed too controversial, including one about the deed to the land which native extremists occupied, a half built housing project in Caledonia, that received national publicity several years ago. Still, almost all the assignments lately seem to be either about partisan politics or sponsored by a political party. I include a link to the latest, a copy of which I have put on my blog and Facebook page. 

Many articles are handed to me at the last minute, sometimes, as with this one, the meeting is already in progress when I get the assignment. I am asked to report on what happened, not to editorialise, but, as you see in this, my opinions tend to seep through anyway.

I would appreciate some specific advice as to what to avoid in this job. If you wish, I can take out the word "Baha'i" in my blog. Instead of "I am an essayist specialising in the Bahá'í Principles" it could say something like, "social and political principle." That might de-emphasize the partisan nature of the work I am being asked to do.

Letter from NSA on reporting political meetings

                                                20 March 2015/19 ‘Alá 171

To Mr. John Taylor

Dear Baha’i Friend,

We are writing in reply to your email of 28 February 2015 regarding your work as a part-time journalist.  You express concerns regarding writing assignments that deal with partisan politics and other controversial subjects.  We regret the delay in replying.

Because you are reporting on partisan politics or controversies in no way implies that you are participating in partisan politics and those controversies, however distasteful you might find them.  Your work of reporting should aim to be as factual and unbiased as possible, reporting on the public comments and actions of political leaders and politicians – however partisan those remarks may be, they are not yours.  This reporting, then, does not constitute your participation in partisan politics but rather the exercise of your professional responsibilities as a journalist.

Of course, the work is challenging, and perhaps your own opinions and political views – for we all have them – can seep into your articles but that is one more spiritual effort that must be made as every kind of employment involves some different areas of spiritual challenge – but such work is, after all, worship.  The effort to adopt a neutral and observational perspective is one that represents a particularly demanding spiritual challenge in an age when there is so much discourtesy, uncivil language, petty-mindedness and outright egoism.

You would have to try, of course, to avoid repeating calumny and backbiting, slander and rumours, and stick simply to reporting on statements and public behavior without editorializing as so much so-called factual journalism currently does.  Naturally, as a Baha’i you would want to observe the most positive facts, not the most negative, report on statements which may well express principles and concepts related to the public good, avoid dramatizing or even writing about conflict, argument and dissension and seek to find the best of what politicians say, as well as the best of what the other side says.  Should your efforts to write, fairly and through  your own eyes with justice and equity in your reporting, and your editor or supervisor begins to feel you’re not writing well, then perhaps an eventual change of employment would be necessary – not by your choice but by your supervisors.  At the same time, we believe as long as you are working for the paper, you should make that distinction between reporting and expressing a partisan opinion. Then in reporting you should strive to report well on the positives, on the constructive side of issues, for most politicians, however self-interested, motivated by party interests or plain ego, also have within themselves some measure of positive intention and good will. It would be that which you must try to bring out, and see what articles are generated as you try to incorporate into your methods different Baha’i qualities and ways of working.

If you make an effort to pray and reflect on a few Baha’i principles that apply to the stories you must treat, then your reporting may take on a freshness and a kind of personality that could evoke admiration from readers and editors alike as it would begin, as you learn, to distinguish itself from the more negative style of reporting all around us.  We understand it would not be easy, but think of reporting on civility and courtesy, on constructive and positive statements or actions, on gestures of politicians that are noble, and serve the community, ones that might help educate the public – looking even to the most unattractive public figure to sometimes, however rarely, do something positive. 

As for your idea of changing the name of your blog, we leave that decision entirely to you as personal blogs, an activity the Baha’i Internet Agency of the Universal House of Justice has encouraged, are not to be reviewed.  Believers should be more active, as you are, with on-line writing that reflects something about the Faith, and we have been asked not to review such blogs but to rely on the maturity and wisdom of the friends as they give expression to their creative ideas.

We realize this note may not be of sufficient help, but the House of Justice has, itself, encouraged us to put aside dichotomies and to embrace the complexity of social situations and learn to exercise patience and forbearance in the face of ambiguity.  But do continue to make the distinction between partisan activity and reporting on partisan activity.

With warmest Baha’i greetings,

Gerald Filson for the
Office of External Affairs

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Interview With A Councillor

Councillor Bernie Corbett

Bernie Corbett is one of six elected councillors for Haldimand, specifically for Ward 6, better known as Dunnville and Canborough. As such, he is the go-to guy to get the skinny on what is going on around town. The Free Press was wondering how Dunnville is doing economically. With all these store closures, are we turning into a ghost town? To our surprise, when we met him in the Minga Restaurant, Mr. Corbett was optimistic about Dunnville's prospects. 

"Oh, no. Those are just little "cavities." If you want to see problems, go to Welland or Barton Street in Hamilton. We are doing very well. The future is very bright for our town. The real estate market is one indicator that people from outside are crowding to come here. Many houses are sold within two or three days of going on the market. Plus, there is growth in the commercial sector. Jalmar Management will be opening up two new stores, one a drug store and the other a discount store, near Broad Street and Ramsey Road; construction for that just began. The Grand Country Garden Centre will be moving to that area soon, too." 

Corbett mentioned that our hospital is a great attraction for potential residents. It will get even better after the planned construction of a new emergency facility on the hospital property -- where the old ambulance facility used to be -- is completed. The hospital is a major employer and provides the town with stability. 

What is more, a new pathway or River Walk is about to be laid down to connect Wingfield Park with the bridge across the Grand. The Dunnville Horticultural Society has been very active in beautification projects that you can see as you walk through downtown -- with the help of a few grants and many wonderful volunteers. Similarly, local government grants are enabling the construction of two new apartments on Queen Street in the downtown area. Similarly, some of the success of the Mudcat Festival and the Dunnville Agricultural Fair is due to, again, grants and volunteers, many of whom come from the Chamber of Commerce.


Corbett went on to say that Counsel is presently considering how to coordinate the construction of the new farmer's market and the park to be built right beside it. We are determining whether to have a single contractor to handle both projects, or if it would be better to hire two more specialised concerns. Another growth area is the library, which sometime in the fall will begin construction of its new addition. This has been planned for almost a decade, but the federal grant was recently approved and as soon as that happened, we started moving forward on it. Even as we spoke, demolition of the neighbouring government building was going on.

An hour after my interview for the Free Press with Dunnville's Ward Six Counsellor, Bernie Corbett, I took this shot of what he notified me was happening right then, the demolition of the town building next door to the Dunnville branch of the Haldimand Public Library. Next fall, a new expansion to the Library will be built on this site.

"We will have to take out the dead ash trees in Lions Park, and replace them with different species," Corbett remarked. 

The town, furthermore, has great plans for the library. Not only is the new addition going up in a couple of months, but Haldimand County libraries will also be made into what Corbett calls Community Hubs, that is, places where citizens can come in and access many services offered by the county. You can come into a hub at the library and pay your water bill and property taxes online, and for seniors there will be instruction in how to do these and other tasks with a computer and the internet.

We asked about the plans for the municipal building on Broad Street, which as many may have noticed, just went up for sale. The goal is to counterbalance the decentralisation of the community hubs with a centralisation of town offices. When the Broad Street facility sells, the offices will be moved temporarily to the town buildings on Forest Street. Sometime in 2019 there will be a new, central county building opening in Cayuga. "The county is growing from within; we seek to facilitate zoning for industrial areas to attract more employers to the area."