Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for September 2010


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It doesn’t take much to become notorious in Southampton. Pity the individual that does. Because that’s when the full force of unhappy neighbours and town bylaws come crashing down on you, It is a combination that can literally take the joy out of life.

Consider the plight of The Sign Guy.

His name is Ralph Dymer. He’s a retired construction worker with time on his hands. There’s a concrete bench in front of his apartment that he likes to sit on. But he was getting bored just sitting. So one May 24 weekend he hit on the idea of giving people something to smile about. Taking a piece of an old cardboard box he scribbled ‘Happy May 24’ on it and proceeded to show it to everyone passing by.

Ralph became a fixture. All summer long, on the bench with two Canadian flags on either end and a big butt can beside it, in front of his apartment just before the Saugeen River Bridge in Southampton he sat holding signs that read: ‘Have A Nice Day’ or ‘The HST Sucks’.

In a letter to the editor he proudly said, “I have put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and gave them something to laugh about and brighten their day. People have taken my picture on their cell phones. They have stopped…and asked if they can have their picture taken with me. I have met people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have been told that people look for me and if I am not there they are disappointed. I go places and people holler, “hey sign guy.” Two radio stations have interviewed me. Doing this simple little thing and brightening other people’s lives makes me feel pretty calm.”

Ralph is clearly one of the good guys, an Innocent looking to brighten up your day. Like he says, “Come across the bridge and see the sign of the day. I am having a ball just by making people smile. It feels real good; you should try it sometime.”

But not everyone is happy with Ralph. The people in his building are complaining about noise – too many cars blowing their horns. Given that they live on Highway 21, the main entrance and exit to Southampton that carries all the summer traffic, you would think they would be use to noise by now. Apparently not.

Even worse, Ralph’s bench sits on town property. It must be moved on to the apartment property to allow people with scooters more access to the sidewalk.

And because of that Ralph has been told not to sit there with signs anymore.

“Take your signs downtown,” they told him. Poor Ralph Dymer, he is a victim of his own goodwill and good intentions,

But ever the good guy, Ralph refuses to quit. He knows how to use the local media. In another letter to the editor he shows his resolve. “I am truly sorry, but I am finishing the season out somewhere in my neighbourhood. I won’t be hard to find and I’ll be back next summer.

One resolute man against the local establishment…GOOD ON YOU, RALPH!

Where Ralph's Bench used to be.

Where Ralph's benched has been moved to

North Bruce Back Roads

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We set out to look for fall colours on the North Bruce Peninsula. We were probably a day or two early. Most trees were tinted with a yellow/beige showing promise of a glorious fall to come. Portions of the odd maple were turning a burning red. Even though it was a brilliant day with an unbelievably blue sky, nature was not yet ready to reveal its autumn show. We decided to look for birds instead and turned on to secondary roads to see if we would have any luck.

Heading up the 40 Hills Road we came upon St. Margaret’s Chapel. It crowns the crest of a hill on the way to Cape Chin. It’s a beautiful little church, “built of the stones of its own hills and valleys,” in true turn of the century Anglican tradition. The dolomite limestone blocks are cut large and thick giving the small building a stance that says it will stand for ages. To our surprise, the door was open.

The interior is finished in dark timber with oak pews. The stain class windows, some with a local wildflower motif, glimmer in the dim interior light as the sun pours through. A guest book revealed pages and pages of visitors from all parts of the globe.

Their comments basically contained the same thought…a beautiful, unexpected oasis of solitude well off the beaten path.

One should always  travel roads less taken. Robert Frost knew that. They lead to some wonderful surprises. All you have to do is follow.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

September 21, 2010 at 1:39 PM