Lynden Casselman and grand-daughter Alice Cameron pose with the display they created over the past two years . . .
A number of locals driving along 5th Street West in Morrisburg on Saturday afternoon could be seen rubber-necking as they passed through the corner at Meikle Street. A spectacle was indeed on display. And on closer inspection, as history tells us from the days when a travelling ring master headlining events staged years ago would bellow, “A spectacle of grand proportions the like of which is unseen in these parts!” And it pretty much was just that kind of event.
There on the lawn at #68, 5th Street, was a folk art rendition of Morrisburg’s pre-St. Lawrence Seaway Main Street, circa 1955. Forty-eight individual buildings in all, hand crafted, painted, and decorated over the past two years by the current homeowner, Lynden Casselman. Needless to say, with assistance from grand-daughter Alice Cameron, wood-worker Clare Alguire and, no doubt, a whole lot of understanding on the part of Elsie Guindon, the lady of the house.
Lynden is a home grown Morrisburger, born and raised. Through the initial dozen or so years Lynden spent his days taking in life in the village prior to and through the construction of the seaway. And he apparently was developing a keen eye. Since, he has spent his days involved in one way or another in the community, working, volunteering, spending too much time sitting around chewing the fat, and looking for something to keep his hands busy in retirement.
Several years ago, as age and interest in community history became a constant bug, Lynden decided he would recreate Lock 23, one of a series of locks along the Williamsburg Canal system that allowed floating freight carriers around treacherous and rapid covered sections of the St. Lawrence River. That particular lock was located at the foot of Lock Street, which today by approximation, would be in front of the Cruickshank Amphitheatre- Morrisburg Beach area.
Everyone was familiar with the lock in those days, including the younger crowd. It was a popular locale for boat watching, people watching, and witnessing the comings and goings of commerce in the village. The park along that waterway was busy every evening, a widely know, after hours twilight shrouded stage, where all of the young, and not so young, Valentinos plied the finer side of humanity for companionship.
Lynden constructed that initial historic model of lock 23, complete with boats and vehicles and park benches. The result of which is easily capable of transporting old-timers on a mind trip into the past. Lynden’s latest creation is a remarkable piece of work. It is an interpretation of the commercial district, along the lines of 1950’s East Coast folk art at one time viewed as decorating front and side-yards, gardens and commercial windows. Those creations today happen to be collected by folks talented at bank-rolling, in big numbers.
“I had a lot of help with this project,” Lynden says, adding, “And Jimmy Jordan was continually feeding me information about who was in each building and where they were located.” Lynden says he was putting in “. . . four or five hours on most evenings.”
His pal, Jim Jordan, is Morrisburg’s unofficial, #1 historian, author and interested community member of many avenues. His love of the history in and around the Morrisburg community far outweighs anything else he turns his hand too.
As Lynden is discussing the project Mr. Jordan quietly walks around the display, picks up one of the buildings and exchanges it with neighbouring structure, quietly explaining later, “It was the only one out of order and that’s not too bad considering the number of buildings here.”
“I just can’t believe the amount of work Lynden has put into this display,” says Jordan, a man who has mastered re-creating the street, correctly placing property next to property, in imagery of several disciplines. “This is actually remarkable!” he says of Lynden’s piece,
“It takes a lot of tender loving care when things go right with a project with this many pieces,” Lynden says, “And it makes for a lot of colourful language when things go wrong too.”
“He came over to my place for the cutting of small wood pieces,” says Clare Alguire, a brother-in-law to Lynden and an owner of a considerable tool collection. “He’d have all the pieces written down in measurements and we’d cut them out and away he’d go again.”
As we are taking notes Lynden becomes irritated that his grand-daughter hasn’t show up to be included in the photo op.
“I told her 2:00 p.m.,” complains the artist-in-chief, “The young people are never on time anymore!”
It’s 2:11 p.m., and a car rolls into the yard. Alice Cameron’s long legs slide out from behind the driver's door, she stands erect approaching six feet, looks over at her grand father, and the two smile, her lovingly, him hoping no one will tell her that he’s been complaining.
“Don’t forget to put in the write-up that my grand-daughter Alice added all the lettering to the buildings!” Lynden instructs the attending scribe, then sheepishly turning a happy face in Alice's direction.
“Hi Randall!”, Alice says with a full smile. “Randall”, as she has addressed her grand-father, is a lengthy story, and the comment draws immediate snickering between Alice and her friend.
The two pose for a photo in front of the display, Alice throwing a long, loving arm around a guy she openly admires It’s the first time since he brought the 48-buildings into the front yard that Lynden Casselman relaxes and smiles.
He’s obviously pretty proud of taking part in the development of both creations.