Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for August 2008

What Do They Know?

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Sitting watching the waves wash over the rocks I couldn’t help but wonder, how long have they been there.

Surely longer than the town.

It was the weekend of Southampton’s 150th Anniversary. Celebrations were well under way. High Street was closed and tricked out in bunting of blue and white, as were some of the homes. Perhaps thousands watched the parade. Day and night there was music everywhere – activities and demonstrations for everyone of any age – dances – a bustling beer tent – regattas – beach volleyball – giant kites – a lantern parade around Fairy Lake at dusk – stories told and memories recalled.

They took everything old, pictures and stories, and made them permanent in books so future generations could look back and understand where the town came from and what its heritage was all about.

And the rocks, sitting on the shore, year after year after year, silent, stoic, embedded in the sand, imperceptibly worn away by the relentless surf…what stories could they tell?

Did they come by glacier from the far north? Where they there in 1812 when French fur traders opened for business at the mouth of the Saugeen River? Did Captain John Spence and William Kennedy step over them when they landed on shore in 1848 with thoughts of settling the area? Or were they dredged from the river mouth or lake bottom and dropped there when they first built the harbour that makes Southampton the oldest port on the Bruce Coast?

These stones will never tell us what they’ve seen and heard. Unlike us, stones tend to hide their history. They will continue to sit there letting time wash over them. It will be decades before you see any change in them. We pale against their permanence. Stronger, more resilient than you and I, they will be there, in the same place, watching as Southampton celebrates anniversary after anniversary, century after century.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

August 19, 2008 at 7:50 PM

North Beach. Raked and Raped.

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In a recent blog “SOUTHAMPTON SUMMER – SO FAR,” I spoke of my town’s North Beach as ‘derelict.’ A reader sent me the following response:

This is a “natural” beach on the north shore of the town, much admired for its rugged beauty, especially by city cyclists and walkers aching for a brief glimpse of reality.

I apologized for the label I had given my favourite part of the shoreline.

It is indeed a rugged place. Winter winds bring in massive tree roots, logs and detritus and bury them under the ice and snow mounds. Then, as the spring melt progresses, nature reveals her art. The reality of her collage never fails to impress. Solitude is only broken by the sound of wind and waves crashing over the driftwood. This driftwood acts as a barrier against the surf, holding back the breakers, stopping them from carrying away the dunes, protecting beach sand.

A massive concrete pier – the northern arm of the harbour – reaches out into the lake forcing the swells to wash over it and sending what’s left of their spent force to the beach. 

It is a wonderful, wild, untouched place to walk.  The sunsets are breathtaking mainly because they don’t draw the crowds encountered at the Big Flag.

Then, the same reader sent me another email. It was upsetting:

The dozers and backhoes have arrived at the north beach and have begun the “cleanup.” Loads of driftwood are on their way to the dump. The North Beach, at last, is losing its charm.

Photo by G.R Schuett – Deere on the Beach

What I saw when I got there was even more alarming. Most of the driftwood was gone. A dozer was scouring the sand lifting giant grey tree trunks and piling them by the rocks. A dump truck waited to cart them away. The beach was CLEAN.

Waves freely swept the beach carrying sand back into the lake. Swales ran unencumbered. One had to navigate small ponds. Treads and tire tracks were so deep that they couldn’t be washed away. They ruthlessly tamed the rugged naturalness of the North Shore.

Why? Between Southampton and Port Elgin there are enough beaches to satisfy everyone. Why couldn’t they leave this one alone?

I searched the wonderfully informative and sympathetic Saugeen Times ( for answers and found this editorial from July 31, 2008:

The Southampton beach is once again being raked despite all the supporting evidence that it is the worst possible human action that can be taken on a lakefront beach area. 

What began as a raking on the main beach has now extended beyond the dunes leaving the beach in a state of ruin.

At the Coastal Conference held recently in Port Elgin, an expert in the field of beach conservation explained that the worst possible influence of man on a beach is that of raking and, in the process, destroying the fragile eco-system that exists.

Southampton was renowned and recognized for its environmental eco-system on the beach.  The beach area, with its preservation of beach grasses and dunes was lauded as a forerunner in environmental measures…today, it is being eroded, raked, and raped… and for what?

 The Town is now trying to desperately save the Port Elgin beach while the once-praised Southampton beach is being destroyed.

Our natural attractions are supposedly being made more attractive…to their own detriment. None of this makes sense to me. Like Joni Mitchell said:

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!”

But, I have faith in mother nature. The winds of winter will come and bring the diftwood back to the beach. Spring will show us a new collage. North beach will be restored…and not by the hand of man.





Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

August 9, 2008 at 4:11 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Writing


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The signs sit prominently at every beach access point along the boardwalk  – Town Beach, Long Dock Beach, Waterworks Beach, South Street and North Shore Beach:


Could we make it any clearer for you…you tourists and summer people who insist on paying no heed, ignoring these signs and breaking the law?

Here’s what I’m talking about.

On a recent Sunday morning stroll along the beach boardwalk we were almost run down by two young BMX bikers. There was no warning. Just the swoosh of air as they zipped by, narrowly missing my wife, almost knocking us into the sand as we tried to avoid them at the last minute.

A short time later we saw one of them standing with his bike in front of an irate grandmother whose grand daughter was tucked in behind her visibly upset. The other boy obviously got away.

The woman had a firm grip on the bike’s handlebars and was sternly dressing down the young rider. We heard her tell him he was breaking the law. She wondered if his parents would be pleased to pay the large fine or if they would just take it out of his allowance.  He hung his head in shame. . Then she let him go, only if he walked his bike.

She told us she was fed up with people riding, roller blading and dog walking on a boardwalk that was meant for pedestrian traffic only. A long time resident of Southampton, she said (in no uncertain terms) she was sick and tired of the same disregard for the law year after year.

We caught up with the offenders a short time later. They were laughing about the whole incident. We vented our anger on them as well. They tried to continue riding on the boardwalk but we pointed out the sign that was clearly posted and made sure they couldn’t go anywhere other then up the street and away from the beach. We stood defiant, pain-in-the-ass-adults making sure they didn’t return.

The next Sunday we encountered a family walking their two dogs on the boardwalk and later down along the beach. The animals defecated in the dunes. The owners just kicked sand over the offense.

Down by the water, people were pushing their bikes (three of them) along the shoreline. Seagulls circled as dogs swam in their lake and played chase and retrieve with their owners. There’s a brand new dog park for that. Not long ago I watched as a black lab jumped off a large inboard anchored just offshore and swam to the beach.

When you politely point out their infractions all you get back is big-city attitude. And I’ve lived in the big city long enough to know how to give it back. (Which I hate to do because, after all, they are our guests.)

This is what its like all summer long. And it is annoying. Nobody, it seems, cares about any stupid bylaw. 

Saugeen Shores recently hired a new By-Law Enforcement Officer to enforce the laws of the town. She needs to spend more time on the beach.

Now I realize the kind of income tourists and summer people bring into Southampton and Port Elgin. But, that doesn’t give them the right to ignore the signs, break the law, and annoy those of us who like to stroll the boardwalk and the beach.

Perhaps an ad or editorial in The Shoreline Beacon, The Saugeen Times and 98 The Beach politely informing folks of boardwalk/beach etiquette might help.  Perhaps renters and B&Bs need to post the bylaws in their homes, cottages and rooms. Perhaps I’m just making a nuisance of myself by going on like this.

But they are too.


 Just read the signs. And do as they say.



Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

August 7, 2008 at 1:22 PM

Posted in Home Town, thoughts, Writing