Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stuart McLean in Almonte

Not all that long ago, I posted a YouTube link to a Hallmark movie made mostly in Almonte and a little bit in our town, Carleton Place.

Our town is a growing bedroom community town where the four lane highway highway leading into Ottawa becomes two lanes going west away from Ottawa. Westward, the highway becomes a very rural road, almost desolate for long stretches, until your near Peterborough, more than two hours away. So, if you want to live in a smaller town but within commuting distance of Ottawa, Carleton Place is just about at the feasible commuting limit. Therefore, we are growing perhaps too quickly with many new subdivisions and even box stores which didn't exist ten years ago.

Almonte, just ten minutes north of us wouldn't be a very much farther drive into the city, but because it is somewhat farther and because it doesn't have the same access roads, it has maintained more of its little village atmosphere.

So, that's a little refresher on Carleton Place and Almonte: now for the Stuart McLean connection.

Stuart McLean was Canada's radio storyteller, something like Garrison Keillor in the USA. I would give the edge to Stuart, but the two have somewhat different vibes, so it might not be fair to compare them.

McLean would take his show, The Vinyl Cafe, on the road, particularly during the Christmas season. Sue and I have attended two of his Christmas concerts, one in Sarnia and one in Ottawa. But what I didn't know is that he also hosted one in Almonte.

His Almonte concert features a wonderful description of Mill Street, which is the town's main street, in which he compares it rather poetically to a well constructed sentence. Listen to the first ten minutes here, which also includes an explanation of why a village in Ontario adopted its name from a Mexican general (near the nine minute mark).

This must have been one of Stuart McLean's last shows before he was forced to take a hiatus due to ill health. Unfortunately, the hiatus became permanent, and he passed away last week. He will be greatly missed.

The Vinyl Cafe show always ended with a story about Dave and his family. Dave owned a little record shop called, you guessed it, The Vinyl Cafe. This story-ending is also true for the Almonte episode with the narrative beginning at about 26:49 in if you're interested. You will find that his stories are funny but also poignant, often tugging gently at the heart strings near the end.

The most famous stories in my recollection are The Christmas Turkey, which is the second story in this clip beginning ~24:50 of the broadcast. I also remember Renovations, the first story of the program being the one that I have in mind. But there are tons of good ones that could keep you going for quite awhile, many of them linked at the bottom of the page of which I have posted, and you can click MORE at the very bottom for ... um ... more stories.

I hope you enjoy some of his stories if you are new to them and have some good nostalgic moments if you are already familiar with Stuart McLean and The Vinyl Cafe.

Note: Evidently, Hallmark likes the ambiance of Almonte because they have shot two movies there and have another one planned. I posted about one the films back in December: The Rooftop Christmas Tree. The links keep getting deleted, but this one works at the moment. Otherwise, you can search for the title, and you'll probably find more links.  I may get around to the other movie because it has a family connection of sort. But not now.


Marie Smith said...

A Canadian treasure. He will be missed.

Mage said...

I don't know him, but I will follow your links and meet him. Thanks for your kind words too.

troutbirder said...

In the times we now live in here in the States gentle small town stories that tug the hearts strings.... appeal to me the most. :)Sadly missed indeed.

Shammickite said...

I am already missing Stuart, he was certainly one of my heros. The stories of Dave and Morley are close to my heart!!! A loss indeed.

Vicki Lane said...

Sounds worth listening to -- I've always been a fan of story telling.

Debbie said...

i do not know of him but his voice is amazing!!!

Jenn Jilks said...

Aw. He had a good run. That's all any of us can say! He is cherished and remembered.