Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada

Death Sometimes Brings Back Good Memories

By William A. Warnick

Published Jan 10, 2001
in The Dunnville Chronicle

Death has a funny way of bringing back good memories! This was certainly the case in December. First Mrs. Jean Sider died on December 5th. Jean was the wife of Romie Sider of Wainfleet; a farmer, preacher, hatchery man and generally nice guy! Then Gove Merritt, a well known funeral director and hatchery man from Smithville died at home on December 15th.

While growing up at Port Maitland I enjoyed having poultry as pets, ducks and geese being my favourite. One year for passing, my father bought me four Muscovy ducklings from Harry Downey on Niece Road; this after Wilbert and Lyle Niece refused to sell me any. They didn=t subscribe to the theory ducks could or should be pets.

Then while attending School in Stromness, I had a teacher by the name of Miss Jo-Anne Smith. Miss Smith later married Steve Garec, and recently retired from Anna Melick School. Miss Smith came from a farming family near Acton where her parents and grandparents along with her six younger brothers and little sister Marie, raised among other things geese. It was Miss Smith who introduced me to geese and indirectly Romie Sider. Her father sent me five fertilized goose eggs to have hatched. After checking with the farmers in the area who we thought would permit one of their geese or hens to set the eggs and failing, my father learned about Romie Sider who lived on #3 Hwy near Chambers Corners. Romie had a commercial incubator and agreed to hatch my eggs. No success! He was soon able to tell me the eggs were not going to hatch. Disappointed but not defeated, Dad and I headed back to see Romie, where we purchased four young Roman Geese.

Romie's hatchery was intriguing to me and for a number of Saturdays each spring I would ride my bicycle along the Feeder Canal to Wainfleet, then to Chambers Corners and finally to the Sider farm. I learned a lot about caring for young poultry from Romie.

Some of you may recall I worked at the Ballard Funeral Home during my high school days. I wanted to be a funeral director, but somehow became distracted and for a number of years worked as an ambulance attendant. This took me to St. Catharines in the early 1970's where I became involved with the Niagara Peninsula Crippled Children=s Centre located across from Brock University. One spring, I decided the children needed to experience hatching poultry and asked their Director, Ann Davidson if I could bring a small incubator into one of the class rooms and hatch some chicken eggs. Her mistake was to agree! I found a company in Toronto who sold incubators and convinced them to donate one to us. Then I visited a small hobby farm at Port Weller and convinced the fellow to donate some goose and duck eggs. Note goose and duck eggs, not chicken eggs as I had suggested to Ann. I had them timed to hatch the days following Easter break and had the kids all hyped up for the big day. By the Monday before Easter it was clear that all we had was a bunch of rotten eggs. The kids were not going to be disappointed no matter what it took! I remembered Gove Merritt from my days with Howard Ballard and thought maybe he could help. My wife Carole and I made a visit to his hatchery which was attached to the funeral home and spent most of an evening talking eggs and egg stories. Gove had just returned from the Toronto Airport after picking up some very rare swan eggs and was consequently proud of being asked to hatch these scarce and precious eggs. We left that night with a dozen (donated) ready to hatch duck and chicken eggs. I don=t know where Gove got these eggs from or how he missed the mark, but everyone of them was premature! On Good Friday we began a three day vigil caring for our hatchlings. By Easter Monday we had chicks and ducklings coming out our ears. The kids never got to see one of them hatch! We ended up taking two of the most sickly ducklings home. (That is another story -of illegally having ducks in the middle of the city!)

The Centre has a first-rate courtyard with a patio door leading from the staff lunch room. Once the ducklings and chicks were old enough to be put out they were housed in the courtyard. The sod along with the tulips and daffodils that had been lovingly planted by volunteers the fall before became the greens for the young ducklings and the ground so carefully prepared for the bulbs made great scratching for the chicks. As the children struggled along the hallways on crouches, walkers and in wheelchairs, they took great delight having their two legged pets follow them. A few bread crumps on the floor and those birds would follow you anywhere! Of course what goes in must come out, and behind the ducks and chickens was a teacher or volunteer with a roll of paper towels or a mop. Soon the misplaced birds wore out their welcome with the adults. The May heat, the destruction of the spring gardens, and my inability to keep up to my manure duties made the staff room unbearable and brought a speedy end to our experiment. A hobby farm in Fonthill accepted our little menagerie of ASpecial Needs@ birds. Then on the Friday of Victoria Day Weekend, Young Sod Farms in Fonthill donated and delivered enough sod to replace what the foul birds had destroyed. Carole and I spent another holiday weekend repairing the damages from the ill conceived product of good intentions hatched on Easter Weekend.



Joanne Smith with Dan and Marilyn Hall Jan. 1959 js002


Joanne Smith Dianna Lynn Dickhout, Jim Nie, Keith Barnes js015

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