History is anything but dull

Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton

Have you ever met someone who makes you wonder at his or her energy and enthusiasm? Someone who is passionate about something and follows through on this passion with unremitting effort? When these people share their enthusiasm with others, they can really make a positive difference in society.
One such individual is Ron Walker of Ailsa Craig. Ron is the founder, past chair, and now manager of operations and collections of the Ailsa Craig and District Historical Society. However, Ron is far more than a history buff. He grew up listening to the stories told by his grandfather, Elmer Walker (1906-1999), a man who genuinely cared about the value of history and the importance of understanding what has gone before. Like Ron, he believed that it is essential to understand your past in order to know where you are going. Ron embraced his grandfather’s stories and made it his business to ask questions of older community members. He has delved into the local community’s past for his entire life. As a result, Ron has become somewhat of an expert in the field of our community history.
Since the founding of ACDHS in 1996, the organization has grown to include two properties: the former Trinity Anglican and Ailsa Craig Baptist churches. These buildings house museum artifacts, archives, and the Marg and Leroy Walker Research Room (named for Ron’s benefactor parents). Multiple annual events serve to celebrate our heritage and to educate our young people.

Connecting with youth
Ron is the main impetus behind this society. He reaches out to the community by giving historic talks at local schools. Ron has the most amazing old postcard slide presentation; the pictures include everything from buildings and streetscapes, to bridges and other landmarks or landscapes. The kicker is that Ron knows the background of each picture in the greatest of detail and can go off on a tangent, sharing anecdotes about events that occurred 100 years ago and more. It is both fascinating and entertaining.
Ron came to East Williams Memorial Public School in Nairn on Wednesday, February 17 to present his slideshow of local history. One of the pictures he showed was of ‘Temperance House’, which later became the Pinewood Restaurant in Ailsa Craig. Coincidentally, two days after the presentation, that historic 1860 structure burned to the ground. The fact that Ron had shown that postcard on his recent visit to the school had a great impact on the students. They were able to understand a link to the town’s heritage far more easily because of that slide presentation.

At the end of his talk, Ron made two key suggestions:
– talk to your grandparents and elders, and ask them questions before they are no longer here; and,
– take pictures of local buildings, bridges and other landmarks

One Grade 8 student, Blake, approached Ron following the presentation and said, “Mr. Walker, would you like me to take pictures of some bridges? I have my own camera.” It was clear that Ron’s passion for history had made a difference in this young man’s mind. Even if Blake was the only student who took the idea of embracing the past seriously, it is likely that he will look at older buildings and structures with new eyes from now on. Ron makes a difference. For some it could be a life-changing experience.