Great community journalism: the North Hastings Review, 1971

North Hastings Review

The North Hastings Review issue of June 16, 1971. I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed reading a newspaper as much as I enjoyed reading this one.

A wondrous thing arrived in the mailbox here at the Manse the other day. It was a copy of a now-defunct weekly newspaper: the North Hastings Review, issue of June 16, 1971. Its arrival was easily the best thing that’s happened to me so far in 2015.

You’re thinking I’m addled, aren’t you? You’re wondering: How on earth could a 44-year-old copy of a tiny and long-gone newspaper be such a thrill to that Manse woman?

Well, I will tell you. But first let me tell you how this treasure – which I must emphasize is only on loan – came my way. Its sender was Ken Broad, who has been known to read and comment on my posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and who, while he now lives elsewhere, is a native of the Queensborough area, having grown up on a farm just a bit west of here in Madoc Township. (Ken notably sent me a photo of his ticket to the 1971 Rock Acres Peace Festival, an incredible artifact of Queensborough’s version of Woodstock. More on that anon, as it happens, but if you’d like to see that photo, it’s here.)

Anyway, I am pretty sure that the reason Ken had held on to this particular copy of the North Hastings Review – which was published in nearby (to Queensborough, I mean) Madoc, and later became the Madoc Review before it became nothing at all (sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I believe) – was that there was a story about him right there on the front page. He had just sold his fuel-delivery business to Tom Fox of Campbellford – a familiar name in this area – and there is a story about the change in ownership, and a photo of the two men, right there at top left of Page 1.

In a brief note he sent along with the paper, Ken said that his father (a remarkable person whom many people called “The Major” due to his distinguished service in both the First and Second World Wars – but that’s a whole other story, and a great one) used to call the North Hastings Review “the 7-7-7 paper: 7 days to print, 7 cents to buy and 7 seconds to read.” Oh lord – as the former editor of another small-town newspaper, the Port Hope (Ont.) Evening Guide, I am very familiar with readers’ joking comments about how one could throw our modest little daily paper up in the air and read it on the way down. But you know what? Behind the joking, people loved and (more to the point) needed that paper, that daily report on what was going on in their own community. And I am totally certain that The Major and all the other readers of the North Hastings Review also very much appreciated its community reporting, even while they made gentle jokes at its expense.

Anyway, I must tell you that, as I told Ken in my email of thanks to him, it took me a lot longer than seven seconds to read that paper. With the exception of the small print in some of the classified ads, I read every single word. And all of it was an utter joy.

Why? Two reasons.

North Hastings Review front page

This is a front page with a lot of local news. And so many of the names are familiar!

One: this was the local news from what I consider my time. On June 16, 1971, I was about to turn 11 years old. My family had been living at the Manse in Queensborough for seven years, and we would live there for four more. We were deeply embedded in the Queensborough-Madoc-Eldorado-Cooper area, and because my father was the local United Church minister, we had contacts and friendships with many, many families in that area. The people who are mentioned in the pages of this issue of the North Hastings Review are people I knew (and in some cases still know) – everyone from teachers and fellow students at Madoc Township Public School (where I would have just been finishing Grade 6 in June 1971) and Madoc Public School (where the following September I would start Grade 7), to players on the local minor-sports teams whose games are reported, to the ministers of the local churches cited in the long column of notices for church services, to the mother and father of the bride in a delightful report on a wedding that my father had conducted.

North Hastings Review church ads

Some of the church ads (people actually went to church in 1971!) in the North Hastings Review.

And two: This newspaper is great journalism. And no, I am not trying to be funny. The North Hastings Review is chock-full of local news, and providing local news is what local newspapers are supposed to do. When you’d finished reading it, you really knew what was going on in the local area – from who had dined with whom the previous Sunday in Cooper and who had visited whom in Bannockburn; to who was the winning pitcher (as it happens, the late Lorna Matthews, a wonderful person who was the church pianist at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough for many years) when the Cooper women’s softball team defeated the “Madoc Ladies” 24 to 7; to who gave a demonstration on refinishing furniture at a meeting of the senior citizens’ club; to where local school groups had gone for their end-of-year excursions (Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and the Shrine Circus in Peterborough; the reports, which appeared on the front page, were written by some of the students themselves, and I can only imagine how proud their parents must have been); to what was on sale that week at George West’s Men’s Wear.

North Hastings Review Rock Acres story

The major story of the week: the latest news on the Rock Acres Peace Festival, which had been planned for the Quinlan farm near Queensborough – or “Queensboro,” as the Review spelled it.

You got the big stories – an in-depth report on what at that point looked like the defeat of the plans to hold the aforementioned Rock Acres Peace Festival on the Quinlan farm outside of Queensborough; in fact, the Quinlan family later won the legal battle against the local authorities, the festival went ahead, and you can read all about that here and here and here and here.

North Hastings Review community news

Everything you might have needed to know that week about what was going on in the hamlets of Bannockburn and Gilmour. Good stuff!

And you got the small ones: the aforementioned who-visited-whom listings for the local hamlets, like Bannockburn, Cooper and Gilmour. You got full reports on the doings of three municipal councils; the police news; the meeting of Unit 3 of St. Andrew’s United Church Women; a birth notice (on the front page); and the new officers of the Kiwanis Club. And all of it, I have to tell you, is well-written and well-edited. I think I spotted maybe two typos in the whole affair; that is very impressive, and significantly better than any newspaper (or news website) can boast these days. (Kudos to its publisher, Maurice Goulah, and its editor, Carol Foley, for that.)

North Hastings Review Letters to the Editor

A letter to the editor from Grant Ketcheson, comparing the farming life in Scotland to that in the Madoc area. Good stuff!

But there’s more! There’s a letter to the editor from a young whippersnapper farmer from the Hazzard’s Corners area named Grant Ketcheson (still a great friend to this day), who was visiting Scotland on an agricultural scholarship and sent a lively report on farming practices (and weather) there as compared to the Madoc area. There’s the report on that wedding conducted by my father, complete with the extraordinarily detailed description of the wedding dress that those reports always had: “The bride was lovely in a full length taffeta gown highlighted with a dainty lace trim around the scoop neckline, down the full-length sleeves and around the full skirt. The bodice and sleeves also featured rose appliques and her long full train with matching lace trim was attached at the waist with a large bow. The three-tiered bouffant veil was gathered to a circle of dainty white orange blossoms and seed pearls, leaving the centre open for flocks of curls. She carried a cascade bouquet of yellow daisies.” (And if you want to know what the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom wore at the reception, you’ll just have to get you hands on your own copy of the paper.) There’s a column by Bill Smiley, who was omnipresent in small Canadian weekly newspapers back in those days. It was delightful to see the late Mr. Smiley’s byline again after all these years.

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And there are the ads for businesses that bring back such good memories: George West’s, as I mentioned; Wilson’s (which only recently closed down after many years in business; I wrote about that here); Johnston’s Pharmacy (still going after all these years; that too is reported on in this post); the long-gone and much-missed Plaza cinema in Marmora (I saw my very first movie there!); and (ta-da!) the Cash & Carry! Which was having a sale that week on wood panelling. I’d almost be willing to bet my bottom dollar that the wood panelling that got put up in the Manse kitchen during my family’s tenure here – about which we were so excited at the time, because wood panelling was so fashionable; and which Raymond and I are now very keen to get rid of, because, let’s face it, it’s awful – might have come from that very sale at the Cash & Carry down there on St. Lawrence Street East in downtown Madoc.

It is community journalism at its very best.

I know that Ken Broad knew I would appreciate having a chance to go through that paper, but I bet he didn’t guess just how much I’d appreciate it. Such wonderful, wonderful memories, all thanks to a terrific community newspaper. And a person who had the excellent good sense to preserve it – and the kindness to share it.

August Affair: a poem about the Rock Acres Peace Festival

Rock Acres Peace Festival site

At the heart of the Rock Acres Peace Festival – a photo taken by one of my correspondents who has kindly shared memories of the event but has requested anonymity. Thank you to that person!

Today, people, is Aug. 6, 2014. Do you know the significance of that date? Well, I’ll tell you. It is the 43rd anniversary of Day 1 of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough‘s one and only (to date, as I always like to say) rock festival.

Since Meanwhile, at the Manse has (I say quite proudly) become the go-to place on the internet for information about that amazing (and, yes, long-ago) event, you can learn all about Rock Acres in my various posts, notably here and here. But if you want more, just click on “Rock Acres Peace Festival” under the Categories heading on the home page of this blog, and you’ll learn pretty much everything you might want to know about what happened when hundreds of long-haired young people came to tiny Queensborough for a weekend of peace, love and music in that summer of 1971.

Okay, well, maybe not everything. Because as it happens, on this anniversary of the start of the festival, I have a new bit of information for you. How do you like that?

Goldie Holmes

Goldie Holmes, Queensborough’s Quilt Lady – and unofficial midcentury poet laureate.

It is nothing less than a poem about the great event by the late Goldie (Ash) Holmes, Queensborough’s famous “quilt lady” – she made quilts that were brilliant folk art featuring buildings and scenes from the Queensborough area; you can read about that here and here. Goldie also wrote poetry and, as I reported here, a song recorded by one of Canada’s early country-music stars.

My Memory Book of PoemsGoldie’s poem about Rock Acres is included in her collection My Memory Book of Poems, published in 1976. The book is delightful to leaf through; Goldie recorded all manner of events in verse, from the Madoc Fair, to bus excursions by the Queensborough branch of the Women’s Institute, to the momentous Rock Acres Peace Festival. The poems may not go down as monuments in world literature, but as records of a place, a time and a community – Queensborough and its inhabitants and institutions in the middle of the 20th century – it is kind of unmatchable.

I love her poem about the rock festival, which is entitled August Affair. The metre and rhyme may be a bit tortured, but Goldie paints a very complete picture of the event. And what I especially like is her fair and even kindly attitude toward the young people who came from near and far to Queensborough. As you read it, I think you’ll appreciate her interest in these kids (They “gave us a slant/On this generation, how they like to live/And it gave us a chance, hospitality to give,” she writes), and her appreciation for what they did for our hamlet’s economy and renown.

So without further ado, here is the inimitable Goldie Holmes on the Rock Acres Peace Festival. And hey, everyone: happy anniversary!

Rock Acres Peace Festival crowd

Another photo by my anonymous correspondent, whom I thank once again!

AUGUST AFFAIR

The “Rock Acres” festival is over, Hurrah!!
It is something we’ll remember for many a day.
In the year nineteen hundred and seventy-one,
In the spring, the excitement begun
When the public became aware of the plan
For a rock festival on a local man’s land.
His sons did some planning, folks hoped for no harm
When the festival came to “Rock Acres” farm.
There were injunctions against them and feelings ran high
When they first said the festival would be in July.
But it was put off until August and then,
The young folk came walking, the weekend to spend.
Some carried bundles, some had packs on their backs,
But for “Rock Acres” farm they were all making tracks.
They came on cycles, and cars too, good ways to travel
And went in on the narrow, crooked road made of gravel.
When they came to our village, in the heat of sun’s ray
To swim in the mill-pond and put in the day.
Until it was time for the festival fun,
Of Rock and Roll music when night-time had come.
They behaved very well, caused no fuss or havoc
Didn’t shop-lift, or cheat, or create any panic.
The two local merchants sold things galore
Friends helped out at Sager’s and McMurray’s stores.
The kids had long or short hair, some wore jeans, some short pants
Some had on bikinis, and gave us a slant
On this generation, how they like to live
And it gave us a chance, hospitality to give.
The O.P.P. were kept busy, here and there on patrol
And we felt they were keeping things under control.
Around our village we felt pretty good
And hoped they all sensed our deep gratitude.
Down at “Rock Acres” festival there was plenty of drugs
Also there were many mosquitoes and bugs.
Can and pop bottles and other stuff too
Could be seen on the ground ‘ere the festival was through
There were some traffic problems, which were handled quite well
And a number of people said the festival was “swell.”
Some rail fences around, soon went up in smoke
In little bon fires to warm young folk.
The weather was fine, the whole weekend through
Which helped out the young folk, and helped us out, too.
The noise bothered some of the neighbours quite near
And kept them awake all the night, so I hear.
I’m glad the rock festival is now in the past
And I hope it’s the first that we have, and the last.

– Goldie (Ash) Holmes

A return to to the Rock Acres Peace Festival, 40-odd years later

Rock Acres from the air

The Rock Acres Peace Festival in all its hippie glory, August 1971. Photo from the Hastings County Archives, dug up by festival attendee Bert all these years later.

One of the bonus offshoots of writing about the life, times and history of Queensborough and area has been getting to meet people who themselves have an interest in, or connection with, the life, times and history of Queensborough and area. It is amazing how many people I have met (either virtually, through comments and conversation on my blog posts, or in person), how many things I have learned, and how many experiences I have had that never would have happened had I not taken it into my head a little more than 2½ years ago to start Meanwhile, at the Manse.

This past weekend was a banner example of that. Raymond and I were absolutely delighted to have a visit from two people who, 43 years ago this summer, were among the hordes of long-haired music-loving people who thronged to Queensborough to attend the Rock Acres Peace Festival at the Quinlin farm just west of our little hamlet.

Bert and Barry viewing the Rock Acres site

Bert (left) and Barry, having a look (from a distance) of the scene of their Rock Acres memories (musical and otherwise) all those years ago.

(Readers, in case you didn’t know, I can proudly tell you that Meanwhile, at the Manse is the internet’s go-to source for information about those three days of Woodstock-inspired peace and music in Queensborough back in August 1971. If you click here you’ll find my initial post, filled with all kinds of useful information [if I do say so myself] on our one and only [to date] rock festival; but you’ll find other posts on the subject, many of them incorporating fresh information that readers have kindly shared, on the home page of this blog [here] if you click on the Rock Acres Peace Festival category. The “Categories” section is on the right-hand side of the home page, about a screen and a half down from the top.)

Anyway, yes, Bert and Barry, who respectively hitchhiked and drove from the Toronto area in that summer of ’71 to attend Rock Acres, when they were respectively 17 and 19 years old, came back last weekend to revisit the scene. What a pleasure it was to meet them and hear their memories of the event! And of course to ask them questions about it. Yes, people of Queensborough who remember the rock festival, of course I asked them the most important question, the one you are doubtless wondering about. And the answer is: no, Barry and Bert were not among the throngs who chose to swim nude in the Black River to cool off from the August heat.

Barry, Bert and me

Here are Rock Acres veterans Barry (left) and Bert – and me. Could I be called a Rock Acres veteran? Given that I only experienced it from a couple of miles away from the site, in “downtown” Queensborough (where we could hear the music, and it was all very exciting) – well, maybe.

The guys have nothing but good memories of the event, having sensibly made the decision at the time to steer well clear of the one bit of unpleasantness that disrupted things on the Saturday night of the festival: the arrival of some members of the rival Satan’s Choice and Para-Dice Riders motorcycle gangs. They told us that as long as one left the bikers alone, the bikers would leave you alone. Sounds like a wise course of action – and one that left a lot more time for listening to the music and looking at the stars in the clear night sky. (An experience that Bert memorably wrote about in a comment a while back, and that I reported on here.)

An original Rock Acres ticket

A historic moment, for me at least: I got to hold Bert’s original Rock Acres Peace Festival ticket! (Photo courtesy of Bert Duclos)

I think we all found it hard to believe that it has been 43 years – 43 years! – since that memorable event. (I was 11 at the time, for the record.) In the interim we have all – Bert, Barry, Raymond (who wasn’t there, but who has heard so much about Rock Acres that he probably feels like he was) and me – grown up and got responsible jobs and all that stuff.

But as the lot of us kept saying over and over during their visit this past weekend: what a time it was. Not just Rock Acres, but the ’60s and the early ’70s in general. What a time to be young. What a great, great time.

The Rock Acres Peace Festival musical mystery is solved

Rock Acres Peace Festival poster

Thanks to reporter Brett Mann and the Central Hastings News (and Tweed‘s excellent By the Way Café, whose owner, Lisa Ford, owns the poster), the world can see this original poster advertising Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace festival. Do you recognize any of the names of those early-70s bands? (Photo courtesy of Brett Mann/Central Hastings News)

I have good news for all of you who remember, or have an interest in, Queensborough‘s one and only (to date) rock festival, the August 1971 Rock Acres Peace Festival. I’ve written about that momentous event several times before (notably here, but if you click on the Rock Acres Peace Festival category that you’ll find on the right-hand side of the home page of this blog, you’ll find all the other posts as well). However, one very important bit of information about Rock Acres has – until now – remained elusive: what bands played at our rock festival? It seems like the music is one thing that people who remember the festival don’t really remember all that well. Until now, pretty much the best information I’d been able to come up with was that The Stampeders were among the headliners.

But that has all changed, thanks to an excellent article in this week’s Central Hastings News by Tweed-area reporter Brett Mann. Brett was on hand when I spoke as part of the Friends of the Tweed Library Writers’ Series early this month, and had asked me some questions about Rock Acres. He told me he’d heard mention of it, but had always thought it was more myth or legend than actual event; I was pleased to assure him (and others in the audience who were in Queensborough at the time happily backed me up) that the Rock Acres Peace Festival had most definitely, really, truly happened.

Well, Brett took that information and decided to do some digging of his own, and the result is the aforementioned article, which you can read right here. He’s found two people who were connected with the festival (an organizer and a chap hired on security), and they have some very interesting memories to share.

But for me, the absolute best part was the photo of the Rock Acres poster that accompanied the article. Because: not only is it a great artifact in and of itself, but it names the bands. People, at last we have a clue to the soundtrack of Rock Acres!

Now, I wonder whether all the bands listed on the poster actually appeared, and at this late date we may never know. But I have to assume that some, if not most, of them did, and so this is very excellent information.

Do you recognize any of the band names? Some are familiar to me: April Wine and The Stampeders, of course, but also Crowbar, Edward Bear, maybe Fludd, and maybe Creed. And I presume “Major Hooples” is Major Hoople’s Boarding House – not to be confused with the endlessly unfunny ancient comic strip of a similar name, or with the British band Mott the Hoople. But Allister? United Power? Piledriver? Spriggs and Bringle? I’m afraid you’d have to hum me a few more bars. Quite a few, in fact. Anyone else recognize these names?

But whether the bands are still familiar or lost to midcentury musical history, how utterly fantastic to have that list! Excellent investigative work, Brett!

Great headlines in history: “Rock festival crowd mushrooming”

Rock Acres article

What a find! An article about Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace Festival that appeared in the Ottawa Times Aug. 6, 1971. Thanks to Steve Pusiak for unearthing and sharing it!

“New type of grass in pasture” was the headline on a Canadian Press story that appeared in the Ottawa Times on Aug. 6, 1971, about none other than the Rock Acres Peace Festival that happened just outside Queensborough that month. “Rock festival crowd mushrooming” was the smaller “overline,” or “kicker” (as longtime newspaper editors call them) above that headline. As one of those longtime newspaper editors myself, and knowing as I do the kinds of people who write those headlines, and how their minds work, I am pretty sure the editor who wrote them was chortling away about how terribly clever he or she was being in slipping in those not-so-subtle references to illegal substances. Perhaps the editor fancied him/herself quite the hipster. (Note to newspaper editors: no matter what you may think, chances are you’re not a hipster.)

Anyway, I want to thank Steve Pusiak for finding and sending this very entertaining report on Queensborough’s one and (so far) only rock festival. It is an excellent addition to the growing Rock Acres archives here at Meanwhile, at the Manse! (Regular readers will know that I’ve written about that momentous event – which happened when I was 11 years old, growing up at the Manse in Queensborough – several times before. To see previous posts and other Rock Acres-related photos and artifacts, click on the newly created Rock Acres Peace Festival category that you’ll find off to the right of the home page of Meanwhile, at the Manse.)

As I read through this Canadian Press article from the dawn of time – oops, from 1971, I have to suspect that the reporter, and not just his or her editor, was also feeling like a bit of a cool cat in reporting on the happenings down on the Quinlan farm. (I believe the spelling “Quinlin” in the article is incorrect.) There seems to be an eagerness to demonstrate some familiarity with what those long-haired hippies were consuming as they enjoyed their musical weekend in the country, what with the references to drug pedlars and hashish, and maybe even in the grammatically incorrect but possibly written-with-a-wink phrase “an audience estimated as high as 5,000.” And hey, maybe the reporter was really up on (or is that “down with”?) the whole countercultural thing – because he or she certainly has me stumped with this sentence: “Reporters heard drug pedlars softly calling ‘NBA or grass’ to those strolling along the row of tents.”

What the heck is NBA in relation to mind-altering substances (as opposed to professional basketball)? I’ve heard as much drug slang as anyone of my age and background has, I imagine, but that’s a new one on me. This reporter dude was either really in the know or (if he/she mixed up the acronym for acid, i.e. LSD) completely clueless.

Either way, it’s a wonderful piece of vintage reportage, and gives us still more information about Queensborough’s rock festival, which is terrific. My own fairly exhaustive report on Rock Acres here failed, for instance, to mention the appearance of the weird hippie-fundamentalist group the Children of God at the festival, so it’s good to have that brought in (thanks to our roving reporter).

And hey, you just have to love the concluding sentence: “Two general stores in the hamlet of Queensboro [note the spelling!], three miles from the site, are planning to stay open evenings and all day Sunday and have laid in extra supplies for festival fans.” Yup, here in Queensborough we know how to, as the article puts it, “roll with the punch.” The general stores run by Bobbie Sager (later Bobbie Ramsay) and Clayton and Blanche McMurray were often open evenings during my childhood, but on Sunday? Never!

But interesting times – like August 1971 – demand innovation and practicality. And if you’re a storekeeper in a tiny hamlet and thousands of young people have just arrived for some peace, love and music, it only makes sense to keep your store open on Sunday to sell them things to eat and drink.

Because, you know, if they’ve been consuming that NBA, they’re bound to have the munchies.

A first-hand story of peace, love and music “near Queensboro”

Rock Acres Ticket

Bert’s original ticket (front and back) from the 1971 Rock Acres Peace Festival held “near Queensboro.” And with it comes a wonderful reminiscence of the event from Bert. Read on!

I know that I do go on about how tremendous it is when readers share their stories and information about Queensborough (and renovating Victorian homes, and snowblowing, and whatnot) here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. But please humour me, because I’m about to do it again.

The other day a comment came in on one of my posts from last August about the Rock Acres Peace Festival, the Woodstock-like event that put Queensborough on the map way back in the summer of 1971. And since many readers probably don’t see all the comments, especially comments on long-ago posts, and most especially because this one contained such a spectacularly great story, I am going to share it with you right here.

But first, let me tell you that the photo at the top of this post comes from the same source, from reader Bert. This is quite exciting – it’s the second time (the first is here) that a reader has shared an original ticket from Rock Acres. I think it’s so cool that people would save their tickets for all these years! (Though, full disclosure, I would have too; somewhere in my files lurks a ticket for a Bob Dylan concert from 1977, among many other such bits of memorabilia.)

But a couple of other things about that photo:

One, it shows not just the front but also the back of the ticket. As Bert said in the email when he sent it, “You can barely make it out on the front side, but the rear clearly shows the embossed letters LEJJ, in this case backwards and in reverse, which of course is in reference to L.E.J.J. Enterprizes (cool spelling). The embossment was their way of controlling counterfeit tickets I guess.” (Note from Katherine: You can read about “L.E.J.J. Enterprizes” in my Rock Acres post here.)

And two: note the spelling on the ticket of “Queensboro”! A topic I was writing about just last night! Karma, man…

Okay, here’s Bert’s story. Click on this video (you’ll see why shortly), then as it plays, scroll down and read. Sit back, relax, and cast your mind back to those heady days of summer 1971:

Having recently turned 17 years old and with my parents away for the summer, it was a fantastic time for a middle class, teenage boy from the Toronto suburbs to have aspirations of being a hippie. As I recall, the local radio station, CHUM FM, talked about the Rock Acres Peace Festival from about June or so. Several of my buddies and I planned to go but I don’t remember if we got tickets in advance. As the July dates were postponed to August, this was going to be my second outdoor, weekend music festival of the summer as we also went to Rockhill ’71 in Mulmur Township, northeast of Shelburne, on July 2-4.

A buddy of mine and I hitchhiked from the north of Toronto to Queensborough on the morning of August 6. Stupidly, we chose Highway 7 instead of Highway 401. It took us about 8 hours, most of it with our thumbs stuck out, as surprise, surprise, no one wanted to give 2 longhaired, grubby guys a ride. Our more memorable lift was from these 2, what we called, greasers, an uncle and his nephew, in their convertible, somewhere west of Norwood. They mostly wanted to have a little fun with these 2 hippie boys as they kept on joking about pulling the gun out from under the front passenger seat while they passed a mickey back and forth. “Uh, guys? You can let us out anywhere here, that’ll be fine. Thanks for the ride.”

Rock Acres Peace Festival

Rock Acres: Do you suppose Bert and his friend are somewhere in the photo? (Photo courtesy of Barbara Halladay)

Once we got to Queensborough we made a grocery run to one of the general stores. I remember thinking how cool is this place, especially compared to suburban Toronto. Lots of our types of people milling around. We met up with about 8 other of our Toronto friends when we got to the festival site. Funny how little recollection I have of the festival site, the layout and the bands. Even the photos on your blog didn’t help. Another buddy and I reminisced and even he can’t remember. We do remember the bikers, and actually keeping away from the stage area because of them. That being said, it was a pretty cool weekend. Rumour has it, that it may have had something to do with our partaking, several times actually, in the use of alternative methods of exploring the sensory and psychological world around us.

To this day, the Saturday night of the weekend holds one of my best memories. It was late at night, the bands had finished, the bikers were calmed down, it was fairly quiet, we were sitting around our fire, and I was lying back on my sleeping bag looking up and enjoying the night sky and the stars. Not far away, coming from someone’s 8-track tape player, came the Rolling Stones song Moonlight Mile. I was, and am, a huge Stones fan to begin with, and that song was already a favourite of mine. But that night, in that atmosphere, under those conditions, the song was sublime. Anyone who knows the song, with Mick’s voice alternating between singing and sighs, the last minute and half gradual build up of guitar, piano and strings to the exquisite finish, can appreciate what I mean. It was transcendent. As mentioned, to this day when I hear Moonlight Mile, I close my eyes, think of that night and remember how special it was and how lucky I was to live in and be a product of those times.

We left the next day, tired, hungry, dirty but happy. It was a fun 3 days at the Rock Acres Peace Festival and in Queensborough. My buddy and I may have to do a road trip back this summer.

Bert

Hey Bert, what can I say but: Thank you for taking us all on your journey back to that splendid time, right here in our little Queensborough – and do come back for a visit!

In deepest winter, a souvenir of Queensborough’s summer of love

Queensborough rock festival swimmers

A look back in time, to a hot summer day in 1971 when long-haired young people from near and far, who had come to Queensborough for the Rock Acres Peace Festival, congregated at the historic mill on the Black River for a nice cool dip. (Photo courtesy of Graham Gough)

Ah yes, the Summer of Love. It almost sounds like I’m carrying on from my Grateful Dead reference in last night’s post, doesn’t it? (Both the Grateful Dead and the Summer of Love having been geolocated, as they say these days, in San Francisco. And hey, if you want a good soundtrack for reading this post, take my advice and click here.) But Queensborough‘s summer of music and (free) love was a few years after San Francisco’s in 1967. Ours was in 1971, when the Rock Acres Peace Festival came to town. Now, I have already extensively documented the Rock Acres Peace Festival here, having worked really hard and done a lot of research in the interest of providing the definitive record of that landmark event in our little village’s history. So I won’t go over it all again; if you want to read all about our very own rock festival on a local farm (à la Woodstock), when long-haired young people overran Queensborough and gave us much to talk about for a long time afterward, that post from last year is the place to go. (Oh, and also a couple of follow-up posts here and here.)

But amid the wintriest winter any of us
have experienced for a very long time, a great souvenir of that long-ago event has arrived in my inbox. It came from our Queensborough friend Graham, who is busy digitizing the slide collection of his remarkable late father, Art Gough, whom I wrote about and paid tribute to here.

Graham was probably as tickled to come across this photo as I was to receive it. Yes, it’s a bit fuzzy and faraway, but I hope you will be pleased to know that what it shows is the hippies who came to town for the rock festival – on a brutally hot August weekend – swimming at the dam on the Black River in “downtown” Queensborough (across the river from the Gough home).

Perhaps it’s just as well that it’s fuzzy, because – as the upstanding, church-going folk of Queensborough back in 1971 were horrified (and secretly thrilled, I think) to report: many of those kids swam in the – gasp – nude!

Heady times, my friends. Heady times. I feel like putting a flower in my hair.

A perfect little bit of history from the Rock Acres Peace Festival

Rock Acres Peace Festival ticket

(Photo courtesy of Ken Broad)

You wonderful people who read this blog, and sometimes comment, and share your knowledge, never cease to amaze me. In previous posts I’ve asked for advice on things like leaf-mulching lawnmowers and wood-burning stoves, and whether I should buy certain pieces of mid-century furniture, and every single time people have shared very helpful information and opinions. But I have to tell you that getting this photo – in answer to yesterday’s post on Queensborough’s Rock Acres Peace Festival in 1971 – may very well take the cake. I just gasped when I opened up the photo attachment in my email this morning: “It’s a ticket from the Queensborough rock festival!” I squealed at Raymond.

The email came from Ken Broad, who told me that at the time of the festival his family lived on a farm adjacent to the Quinlan farm, where the Rock Acres festival took place. I was just so tickled that he had held onto it for all these years; I imagine there can’t be too many of those tickets still out there. And I was even more tickled that he took the trouble to send the photo so that all of you can see it too. Thank you, Ken!

A couple of things to note on the ticket:

  • The dates of July 3-4-5, 1971, were when the festival was originally supposed to take place but, as I mentioned in my first report on the subject, legal wrangles between the Quinlans and various levels of municipal government – which did their best to keep it from happening – delayed it until Aug. 6-7-8, 1971. I guess the tickets must have got printed well before then.
  • The “L.E.J.J.” in “L.E.J.J. Enterprizes” (interesting spelling, that) almost certainly stands for Leon and James Jr. Quinlan, the enterprising brothers and would-be impresarios who decided that their family farm outside Queensborough was just the place for a rock festival. I rather suspect the Rock Acres Peace Festival was the first and last effort of L.E.J.J. Enterprizes, but who knows? I’m still hoping someone might be able to put me in touch with one or the other of the brothers; I’d love to interview them about those three heady days and what happened before and after the hippies and the musicians descended on their farm.

Anyway, I hope anyone else out there with knowledge (or photos!) of the festival will also share. If you email photos to me at sedgwickbrassard@videotron.ca sedgwick.katherine@gmail.com, I’ll first squeal with delight (as I did this morning) and then be ever so pleased to share them with all the other people who are (as my brother John put it in a comment yesterday) “struck by the total awesomeness” of that long-ago, crazy Rock Acres event.

Queensborough, 1971: more scenes from our rock festival

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough

A second photo (I used the first in my initial Rock Acres Peace Festival post here) of Queensborough’s 1971 rock festival, taken by Don Weir and shared by him on the Facebook page Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region. Peace, love, music, and great big sky, man!

I hope you folks enjoyed my recent post on the Rock Acres Peace Festival, the never-to-be-forgotten extravaganza that took place 42 years ago, in August 1971, on Quinlan Road just west of Queensborough. I suspect that my humble effort is now quite possibly the definitive record of that event on the internet. (Especially given that there was next to nothing on said internet on the topic before it.)

Anyway, since I put up that post, a few more images of the festival have crossed my radar, one thanks to the inestimable Facebook page Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region, and three others thanks to the Hastings County Historical Society (an outfit that does a fabulous job of researching and preserving the county’s history) by way of my Queensborough friend (and fellow Queensborough history buff) Elaine. Those last three are all aerial shots, and are quite amazing. Here they are:

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough 1971, aerial shot 1

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough 1971, aerial shot 2

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough 1971, aerial shot 3

Wow – takes you back, does it not? Even if you weren’t there. Or for that matter, even if you weren’t even born yet. It certainly was a time.

And all I have to say after that is: do you have any photos, or memories, of the Rock Acres Peace Festival? If so, please share! Post your comments here, or send me your photos (to sedgwickbrassard@videotron.ca) and I’ll be thrilled to share them. Let’s pool our knowledge and memories and get the Rock Acres Peace Festival story down, oral histories and all. Posterity demands and deserves it!

The Rock Acres Peace Festival: hippies invade Queensborough

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, Ont., 1971

Thanks to the marvellous Facebook page Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region, I have access to this great photo of Queensborough’s one and only (to date, anyway) rock festival: the Rock Acres Peace Festival, held at the Quinlan farm on Quinlan Road just west of the village from Aug. 6 to 8, 1971. This photo came from Dennis Weir, and the comment he posted with it was: “My wife actually took the picture and we didn’t meet until a year later.” (Photo from Vintage Belleville, Trenton & Quinte Region)

It is quite within the realm of possibility that nothing so big as the Rock Acres Peace Festival has ever happened, or ever will happen again, to little Queensborough, Ont. Our very own rock festival started 42 years ago today, on Aug. 6, 1971.

Do you remember the Rock Acres Peace Festival? Did you attend it, or (like me) experience it by living nearby? I would love to hear from you! Please post your comments and share your memories, and perhaps we can build up a bit of an archive about this rather amazing (and now half-forgotten) mid-century event in Queensborough’s history.

And if this is all new to you, well: read on. I have details.

Rock Acres Peace Festival site in 2012

The bucolic site on what it now known as Quinlan Road where thousands of young people once, for one brief moment in August 1971, came and listened to music and did whatever else they felt like doing, at the Rock Acres Peace Festival.

Let’s begin with a note about the name, “Rock Acres Peace Festival.” I happen to think it was rather inspired. It got the word “rock” unsubtly in there, but not to describe the festival itself; the festival was apparently one of “peace.” Meanwhile, given the terrain of the Queensborough area – right on the edge of the Canadian Shield – “Rock Acres” is a pretty apt description for the Quinlan farm where the festival was held. I imagine it was one of the two Quinlan sons who organized the event – Leon, then 28, and James Jr., 24 – who had the brainwave about the name. And to this day I don’t have a clue what their parents, farmers James and Margaret Quinlan, thought about this whole project their sons were putting together. I don’t suppose there’s a chance James and Margaret are still alive, given that (according to the Elzevir Township history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township) they marked their 40th wedding anniversary the same month as the rock festival was held. But it would be so interesting to talk to them – or Leon or James Jr. – about it. Leon or James Jr., if you’re out there…

Anyway. Perhaps first I’ll share my own memories of the rock festival, which you must understand come from someone who was only 11 years old at the time – and the time in question was quite some time ago.

I remember discussing the festival that was to take place at the Quinlan farm just west of Queensborough – and across the township line, so it was in Madoc Township rather than Elzevir Township, where Queensborough is – with classmates at Madoc Township Public School. Since school let out at the end of June, it must have been common knowledge that the August festival was coming at least a couple of months before it happened.

I remember my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick (minister of the Queensborough-Eldorado pastoral charge of the United Church of Canada), working together with ministers from other local churches to have a helpful Christian presence on the festival grounds when all those kids arrived.

I remember my dad recounting having seen (or maybe having spoken to someone who had seen) a poster for the festival that had the words JOHN LENNON in huge letters, and above that the words “HOPING FOR” in very tiny letters. Hope sprang eternal! (John Lennon did not, by the way, show up.)

I remember our peaceful little village being absolutely thronged with young people, who gravitated to the two general stores for food and soft drinks, and to the nearby swimming hole at the dam on the Black River, for cooling off. I remember one of them having a rather alarmingly large pet snake curled around his arm.

And I think I maybe remember being kept at home at the Manse a bit more than usual. In general in my Queensborough childhood we kids in summer wandered whenever and wherever we wanted; those were simpler times. But I suspect we were quietly kept close to home that rock-festival weekend, for fear we might come into contact with behaviour we perhaps should not have been exposed to. (Which might not have been a bad idea. Not long ago my Queensborough friend Elaine, reminiscing about the rock festival, shared the fact that at the swimming hole at the dam – which is at her family’s property – there was quite a bit of public fornicating going on.)

But whatever: it was all so very exciting! Queensborough found itself in the news, big-time, thanks to the rock festival and the attendant issues and controversies it stirred up.

My father preached a sermon in advance of the festival suggesting that we not condemn these kids (the festival attendees) before we’d even had a chance to meet them, and that we reach out to them and show them Christian kindness and goodness. That didn’t sit well with everyone; there were quite a few people in the area who were more than ready to condemn the event, and its participants, sight unseen. I recall my dad being interviewed about his somewhat controversial stand by one of the big Toronto newspapers (whether it was the Star or the Globe and Mail or the Telegram I’m not sure, and I’ve so far failed to find the article that was subsequently published), and it was quite something to see him featured in the reporter’s news story. (This of course being long before I got into the newspaper business and got more used to such things.)

As for putting into practice that Christian kindness, I recently had a very pleasant chat with Don McEwen of the Eldorado area, who was, with my dad, a member of the local ministerial association that had worked on having a presence at the festival. (A tent, maybe? I’m not sure.) Don and my dad may well have been the most present on site of the local ministers, and without going into detail, Don suggested that it was quite something to behold. Apparently the words “This is Sodom and Gomorrah” escaped my father’s lips. But there those young ministers were, on the ground and trying to do the right thing, and God bless them (as I am sure S/He did) for it.

The last memory I have of the rock festival is that it ended before it was supposed to, with a police bust-up. Some motorcycle-gang members showed up and things got ugly, at which point the Ontario Provincial Police moved in and that was the end of that.

And Queensborough’s day in the sun (at least the sun that shone on rock festivals in that brief shining moment between Woodstock in August 1969 and when mass gatherings at outdoor music festivals kind of trickled out a few years later) was over.

So those are my memories of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Now let’s see what we can find out there in the wilds of the internet!

Okay, here is a contemporary (Aug. 11, 1971) report (of sorts) in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance (now the Renfrew Mercury, a Metroland paper):

Column in the Renfrew Mercury-Advance on the Rock Acres Peace Festival in Queensborough, Ont.

How charming that a little local newspaper a hundred miles northeast of Queensborough off in the Ottawa Valley considered our rock festival newsworthy! The columnist is Bruce Paton – who, I think, later became a photojournalist and photojournalism instructor. But in August 1971 he was very young, and (no disrespect intended, Bruce) writing some pretty awful small-town-newspaper prose. The column, in fact, makes no sense at all (judge for yourself by reading the full thing here), but we have to remember that it was 1971, and free-form everything, including writing, was all the rage.

Next: a Canadian Press report published in – of all places! – the Montreal Gazette, where Raymond and I now work. It tells of the rather disastrous and abrupt end of the festival, and you can see the full thing for yourself here:

Queensborough rock festival in The Gazette

And here is a totally wonderful period piece that the internet turned up, the first page of the typewritten minutes of the first meeting of Hastings County council after the festival (the biggest thing to hit sleepy Hastings County for quite some time, back in 1971) had come and gone. There is mention of the rock festival – and a bus excursion!

Hastings County Council minutes, September 1971, including mention of the Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough

I also discovered some small bits of information about the bands that played at the festival. For whatever reason, the details of the musical entertainment do not seem to loom large in anyone’s accounts or memories – including mine. The Manse in downtown Queensborough is only a mile and a half or so from Quinlan Road and the scene of the action, but it might as well have been a light year. I had no idea who might actually be performing at our rock festival. But multiple sources – here is one – tell us that the Stampeders were there; you remember the Stampeders, right? (Sweet City Woman, people.) That posting on a Stampeders-concert-history site also lists other bands (Lighthouse, most notably) that might or might not (you can’t tell from the entry) have been there at Rock Acres. And one source – in a forum for musicians, on the topic of “Your First Show” ; go here, and scroll down to the entry by “snowdragon” – intriguingly suggests that Steppenwolf was there too, though I’m not sure I entirely believe it. Could snowdragon have got Steppenwolf (which would have been monstrously famous at the time, thanks to Magic Carpet Ride and Born to be Wild) mixed up with the somewhat-less-huge Stampeders?

Okay, that’s the sum total of what I know, or can find out, about the music at our rock festival. Now here’s one last quirky thing before I get to what is probably the definitive (for now – until you people share your knowledge and memories) accounting of the Rock Acres Peace Festival. Believe it it not, the obscure rock festival on the outskirts of Queensborough is cited in a 1987 article in the McGill (University) Law Journal, headlined “From Delegatus to the Duty to Make Law.” (Boy, that sounds like a real page-turner. Read it here!) I’m afraid life is too short for me to actually absorb the article (which looks to be brutally dull) and find out what it’s about, but I can tell you that our rock festival and the legal case it entailed (Madoc v. Quinlan) is cited on Page 62.

All right, on to some actual rock-festival reportage!

At one point during my research the internet coughed up this text…

Rock Acres Peace Festival chapter in Way Back When …

…which I immediately recognized as pages from the excellent history of Madoc Village and Madoc Township called Way Back When…, a book written as a summer-job project by two of my contemporaries at Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc, Ardith McKinnon and Garnet Pigden. The book, published in 1975 and an invaluable resource for local history, is long out of print and desperately hard to find. (Copies start at $60 on used-book site abebooks.com, and go up to $100. So you can imagine why I almost went into hysterics of joy when I found a copy for a dollar a few months ago at a Madoc yard sale.)

Way Back When… has a lengthy report on the festival – 11 pages’ worth. It really seems like Ardith and Garnet did their homework. There is so much interesting detail! Obviously there’s way too much text for me to reproduce it all here, but let me give you some highlights in point form:

  • The municipal authorities learned by accident – literally – of the plan by the Quinlan boys to hold the festival. In February 1971 posters and tickets for the event were found by the OPP in a car Leon Quinlan had been driving that was involved in a minor crash.
  • Once the secret was out, the Quinlans reported that they had been advertising the festival across North America since September 1970. “They said that they were prepared to spend $3,600.00 to hire thirty off-duty police to patrol the farm in three shifts daily…They were supposed to have planned four tenting areas, a service area for police, and for medical facilities, plus two sound stages, water and sanitary facilities,” Way Back When… says.
  • Madoc Township council immediately started looking into what it could do to put the kibosh on the Quinlans’ plans, at the behest of the populace: “Angry and terrified township residents began besieging the council members to try and stop the event.”
  • The township and county councils and the medical officer of health subsequently passed various bylaws and established regulations setting out strict rules for extra policing, insurance, sanitation, etc. They were doubtless aimed at making it impossible for the Quinlans to comply, and sure enough, they did not meet the various deadlines and whatnot. The township then tried to get an injunction to ban the festival – and won its case.
  • The Quinlans promptly rescheduled the festival from its original dates of July 3, 4 and 5 to Aug. 6, 7 and 8, a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They said “that the festival would go on ‘come Hell or high water,’ in spite of the injunction.” And they reported that they’d sold 5,000 advance tickets at $10 a pop.
  • The council tried for a new injunction to ban the rescheduled event. The hearing was held in Toronto. The township lost. It sued the Quinlans “for violation of its Land Use By-law.” And it tried for yet another injunction. The hearing was July 30. The township lost again. At this point, it seems everybody resigned themselves to the fact that this sucker was actually going to happen.
  • Harts-Riggs Women's Institute

    The former schoolhouse on Harts Road (now, as at the time of the rock festival, the home of the Harts-Riggs Women’s Institute), where the OPP set up an emergency command post to deal with whatever might arise from the festival.

    “The Emergency Health Services Division of the Ontario Hospital Service Commission set up a field hospital on the site. It had an operating room with two tables equipped to handle major surgery,” Way Back When… reports. The St. John Ambulance, the Addiction Research Foundation, and the Madoc Fire Department prepared to deploy people. The OPP “set up a command post at the Hart’s-Riggs’ Women’s Institute Hall” (about four miles away from the farm, I’d guess). The Quinlans apparently had no telephone(!), so “the Bell Telephone Co. ran a line down the mile-long dirt road to install two pay telephones.”

  • One of the most colourful parts of the book’s reportage is about the outdoor toilets: “The impressive ‘holers’ were thirty feet long and eight feet wide, divided down the middle thus making two sides each thirty feet long. Each side was sectioned into compartments with each section having four circular, roughly hewn holes. The most magnificent of these mammoth ‘outhouses’ was a ‘forty-holer’ complete with all the modern styling such as a natural barn-board look in unisex compartments. Users could sit in these stylish structures fighting the termites and slivers, as they did their daily duty.”

Rock Acres Peace Festival, Queensborough, 1971

“Males with long hair…most needing a wash”: the masses ready for peace, love and music in a photo (which I believe is from the Kingston Whig-Standard originally) that appears with the entry about the Rock Acres Peace Festival in the definitive history of Elzevir Township, Times to Remember in Elzevir Township. (I should maybe note for the record, though, that the book gives incorrect dates for the festival, saying it was Aug. 9-11, 1971. In fact it was Aug. 6-8.)

  • And the throngs started arriving, “many in their bare feet, males with long hair, many with beards, and most needing a wash.” As seemed to happen at most rock festivals of the era, a lot of people got in without a ticket by climbing over fences. The kids slept in tents or the open air.
  • The Children of God and the robed Hare Krishnas showed up to add to the festivities. “Drug peddlers were in full operation,” the book reports.
  • The magnificent outhouses didn’t hold up too well. “By the third day of the festival, the backs were off most of the privies, openly exposing the thrones. Seeking a little more privacy…most festival-goers took to the bush.”
  • There was music! The bands started playing on Friday, Aug. 6, and continued till 1:30 a.m. They played again the afternoon and evening of Saturday the 7th. “It was said that at times the loud rock music could be heard almost a mile away” from the Quinlan farm. (My brother John remembers hearing the music from the Manse, which he says he considered the coolest thing ever at the time.)
  • Late Saturday afternoon, the bikers started to show up: “By late in the evening about fifty members of the motorcycle club ‘Satan’s Choice’ and ‘Para-Dice Riders’ were on the grounds…They terrorized the fans and took over the stage area, creating a ‘no-man’s land’ between themselves and the fans, as the latter took flight before danger could reach them.” The police moved in and arrested a bunch of people on drug and liquor charges.
  • “By noon on Sunday, in the sweltering heat, the fans drifted away. Many went to Queensborough’s Mill Pond to cool off and bathe, a few of them were in need to say the least. Seven hours earlier than anticipated, the rock festival came to an abrupt close.” The book says it was “reliably stated” that peak attendance was 7,000.
  • Okay, so you’re thinking it’s over. Ha! Things continue to get interesting. I totally could not make up this next paragraph from Way Back When…: “About twenty-five young people, recruited by Leon and James Jr. to construct privies, park cars, and collect tickets, as well as try to keep non-paying guests from swarming over the fences, were not paid in full. Boys were given verbal promises of $2.00 per hour and girls $1.50 per hour [note from Katherine here: do not even get me started at this disparity – but those were the days, my friend] for wages. The promoters claimed that $1,000.00 of gate receipts was stolen during the festival. Actually, the money had been hidden in a second-storey bedroom over the kitchen in the Quinlin [sic] farm house, which could be reached by a back stairway.” Hello? I wonder how the authors of the book knew this. Were there charges laid? Was there court testimony? Was it reported in the newspapers? Those allegations strike me as dicey unless they were proven somewhere. A wild story, if true – but is it?

Anyway. After all of this, I think we have to give the last word to the late Clayt McMurray. Clayt was co-proprietor (with his wife, Blanche – and I remember them both very fondly) of McMurray’s General Store, which was overrun with young, long-haired, free-lovin’ customers in those three days in August 1971. This comes directly from an interview with Clayt recorded in Times to Remember in Elzevir Township:

Clayton recalled the Rock Festival in 1971. He had a man helping him and the customers kept him busy putting out chocolate milk and soft drinks. He put them in the deep freeze to cool them off fast and then in the pop cooler. There would be a policeman in front of the store all the time. He was on a motorcycle, and he would be around all day long. Festival visitors swam in the mill pond. They would jump right in, clothes and all, or, in some cases with no clothes at all. It was about 90 degrees for those two or three days. The ones that had jumped into the water with their clothes on would sit on the sidewalk and their clothes would dry in about an hour. A motorcycle gang came in and the festival was closed down. It was a wild week-end, and put Queensborough on the map.

That pretty much sums it up: It was a wild weekend, and put Queensborough on the map.

Let’s conclude this report on the Rock Acres Peace Festival with some music. I think we owe it to our younger selves to hear the Stampeders do Sweet City Woman one more time, don’t you? Here we go: