Posted by Peter Thoem on Oct 13, 2018
Click "Read More" for a full story about the Mystery Tour



There were some plausible reasons not join yesterday’s Mystery Tour: other obligations, ennui, allergic to school buses, event management or even the $60 price tag (no really?!)


Although Mystery Tours include some risk of corniness, a bunch of us: Rotarians, spouses, exchange students and even one or two past or future semi-Rotarians took the plunge, paid the fare, showed up as instructed and waited. Waited and waited in a cold wind at the corner of Maple Ave. and Fairview St. for well, a long time hoping for the bus.  Management assured us all was in order and that warming facilities would soon arrive and it did, a school bus in army drab.  Off we went.


Hardly had the bus started rolling than management dispensed a variety of liquid stimulants to those who like to get an early start on numbing the pain.


We all were warm, one way or another, by the time we got to our first stop. Not a winery as some had predicted, but a brewery, Shawn and Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas ( if you missed it). Well of course, a mystery tour wouldn’t be complete unless it involved cavernous buildings, stainless steel tanks linked by serpentine piping and free samples. We got the tour, had a glass or two of Shed’s Original Lager, wolfed down some potato chips and ambled back to that pre-warmed school bus in army drab.


At this point I have to admit I thought I knew where we’d go next. I won’t say because maybe it’s for another day. Instead we took Highway 8 up to Greensville, got onto Brock Road and then headed straight north-west. Surely, I thought, not the Lion Safari or a picnic at Valens Conservation Area, not in October guys.  I lost track of a couple of turns until we tentatively crossed the 401 on a very minor road and then I realised we were heading towards Badenoch.


Bad’na (as it’s pronounced) is not too far from Allan Ramsay’s house near where is a nice little corner store that sells apple-pies. ( ) Maybe we were going for a slice of pie I thought. But then, believing it was because of the anxious back-of-the-bus howls for a bathroom break, we pulled up at Badenoch’s one-room school house.


Management commanded all to disembark. How exciting! An old school house – Yippee!


We were ushered into the school house (some of our number showing evident urinary distress) – and there was Rod Collard, Arlene Collard (both ex-teachers) and Flora Peer a smiling local resident who had attended the very same school back in the fifties – just to show it could be done.

Outside I could hear the bus motor had stopped; a cold chill ran down my spine. Well here was Rod in his schoolmaster element (Hard to give it up.) I wanted to leave right then.


I knew it! A trick, we’re going to do Composition, maybe write a page about “What I did on my vacation.”  or maybe worse - Long Division.

Commanding the unruly, standing in front of an original slate blackboard, Rod took a deep breath and firm control. 

“Come along everybody, find your seat and settle down.


Bernie did you have beer for breakfast again?

Lawrence, your name starts with a big L, can’t you find your name card?

Quiet, quiet, …QUIET!   EYES HERE!

Today we are going to learn to paint.

Bernie - Bernie -  BERNIE I’M TALKING TO YOU!”


Painting? Art Class, well, at least it wasn’t Long Division.

Painting. When (and where) I went to school we used powder paints. Take a scoop of green and blow. It doesn’t go all that far but where it does, the results can be deeply satisfying. Flick a bit of water around and some of that powder balls up and rolls around while some of it dissolves to permanent effect. Now try some black or red – it was way more fun than these little squiggles of black, blue, green and brown that Mr. Collard was prattling on about. He said we had to wet our brushes and soak the paper thoroughly, side to side, top to bottom.

Mr. Collard again,

“BERNIE NO! I thought we …Never mind.

Now paint the whole page blue. Just a bit of blue.

Oh…Close enough.”

The anxious ones were shown the side door that led to the outhouse.

And on it went. Mystery Tour, school house, painting - the best part of the afternoon spent learning to do watercolours. Some better at it than others, some quite masterful, although one of our number barely mastered stick figures.

Finally, the bell rang and we re-boarded that school bus in army drab.


There may have been something in the air, for time in the bus went quickly. Perhaps it was managements’ quizzes on obscure topics like Canadian Facts and fiction. Absurd questions like: Which US state has the longest border with Canada? Alaska! Who knew!, and What is the provincial fish of Alberta? Bull Trout – really!


Now I digress for a moment to speak again (see Oct 11 bulletin) of Mana our exchange student from Japan. She was absolutely captivated by our countryside and Canadian houses. All so pretty, she loves it. I gestured at a large field of short, withered, brown stalks and told her it was Soybeans; she was so excited because soy plays a huge part in the Japanese diet, soy and rice. Rice at breakfast, rice at lunch, rice at dinner; add soy sauce, add tofu and fresh fish. By the way, Mana showed evident competence at painting with watercolours; more than could be said of stick-man Bernie. 

We ended at Lowville Golf Club for a fine dinner and an opportunity to find out who won prizes for the quizzes. Your scribe failed at all skill-testing questions. Back on that school bus in army drab we were delivered to our cars before 8, somewhat wiser and certainly richer for the experience.