By William A. Warnick
Published May 24, 2000
in The Dunnville Chronicle
I lost an old and valuable friend. When I was a child growing up at
Port Maitland, I could see his house across the river from mine. Always
bigger than life to me, I was never comfortable talking to him. He
scared the stuffing out of me. As a boy, I could tell which fish tug
was approaching the harbor simply by listening to the sound of its
engine. Not his boat! I could be sitting on the rocks fishing and look
up and there he would be tying up to the dock and I hadn't heard a
sound. He kept the cleanest, quietest, fish-tug in Port, bar none!
At first we would meet at family reunions, though he was not related. He had been so much a part of my father and his siblings' family for so many years that it was natural to ask him to drop in so the far-flung family members could renew their acquaintance with him.
As time went on and I became more interested in the history of Port Maitland I thought who better to turn to for information than him? We soon found we had much in common. We spent many hours looking over our postcard and picture collections of Port Maitland. Always amazed with his memory for dates and events, I would find something in my research of an old Dunnville paper and open a conversation with something like "Caldera burns or boat called Isabel, or maybe I would simply give a date." He would more times than not tell me the rest of the story. His memory for dates and detail was second to none. I don't know how he stood my constant badgering. No sooner did he answer one question and I had another. If I asked questions of other old-timers around Port Maitland, they would always defer to him. I am going to miss him, not only as a friend but I know that many times in the months ahead, I will be working on a story and without giving it a thought, I will say, "I must give him a call" and find out what really happened. Then, reality will painfully set in and no phone call will take place. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to tape a number of hours of our conversations. Maybe, the sound of his voice on the tapes will lessen the loss.
He had little patience for people who acted -or he believed acted as if they knew all there was to know. Don't get me wrong, he loved to listen to someone who could tell him something new or to rehash old-times with anyone who would listen. He knew what he knew and he felt that if he had nothing valuable to say on the subject it was best not to say anything at all. I remember one time in my naivety, I challenged him about there being a crow's-nest on the mast of the Maitland # One. I soon found out that when he was telling me something of historical value he meant what he said and said what he meant. Sometimes I would say to him, "Is this one of those times you are pulling my leg or is this a crow's-nest story?"
During the course of the past ten years he and I have travelled to a number of places together. Recently, due to age, he lost use of his car and found this very difficult. We travelled well together. I was always aware he would maybe rather go here than there. Somehow we always managed to find a comfortable compromise and ended up where both of us wanted to be. We travelled to Bowling Green in Ohio, a couple years ago to visit the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes Institute at Bowling Green State University. We stayed in a motel across the street from the university and went for breakfast in their restaurant.
It was a little place with approximately five tables. It didn't take him long until he had a conversation going with people at the next table. In the next fifteen or twenty minutes he had discovered that he knew one of the women and her late husband. He told her what her house looked like, where she lived and the name of her husband's fishing tugs. For fifteen minutes he pulled information from her about her now grown children and grandchildren. He found out who was fishing the family tugs and on which tugs certain relatives fished. He found out, or should I say confirmed with her the size of the tugs and the engines that powered them, as well as many other facts. In other words he knew all about her! At least three to four times during the conversation she asked him, "What is your name!" Not once did he give a clue! We left that restaurant wiser then we arrived and gave not one bit of information away. "Say, what is your name," became my new opening wisecrack to him.
Earl Milford Siddall, has gone to meet with his maker. It is not going to be easy for poor old St. Peter and the Big Man to assess Earl. Chances are the "Harbour Master" will find out more about St. Peter and God then they ever intended to tell him and when the interview is over they will say to each other, “What is that man’s name?"
Earl Milford Siddal circa 1963
Fish Tug Caldera in Feeder Canal circa 1925Pleasure Boat ISABEL owned by the Tooker Family Port Maitland
If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.
William (Bill) Arthur Warnick - email