Colwyn Beynon, who passed away Sunday, left instructions that this column be published after his death.
Since 1991, I have had the pleasure and great opportunity to write stories about the old days on Hamilton’s Mountain.
I have tried to give the reader a peek into the past in a way that would make them feel like they were part of the scene described. I wanted the reader to pretend to smell an old kerosene lantern with the wick turned up way too high, hear the rustling of the trees along the brow.
In public school, I found history to be so, so boring. Too much emphasis on accurate dates, especially dealing with people and places far away and unknown to me.
“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue; his three ships the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.”
How on earth did this apply to me in my little corner of the world? Heck, I wanted to know about Chief Joseph Brant and his Mohawk warriors. I wanted to know how Hamilton got its name and when the steam railroads came to the city.
Finally, in high school, I had a history/geography teacher who used to have us dress up for five-minute plays dealing with the early pioneers. That was a blast for us and a break from the boredom of rehearsing dates.
Eras of time are important elements of good readable history and that’s what I have tried to express all along.
My good old friend Mabel Burkholder, local historian and granddaughter of Jacob Burkholder, the first settler on the east Mountain, was often accused of being vague in her historical dates.
Mabel was indeed a very good storyteller and her columns in the Hamilton Spectator called “Out of the storied past” were always looked forward to by an eager readership. True, her dates were a little off, but her stories came from the heart for she wrote from her vast experience over the years.
She lies buried amongst her kin in the old Burkholder Cemetery on Mohawk Road now, safe from her critics.
I have loved this old escarpment that we vehemently call our Mountain. Always took pride in the fact that it was the longest, flattest mountain in the world.
When Sir Edmund Hilary spoke at the opening of Sam Lawrence Park, he said that he was asked if this was indeed a real mountain. In reply, he stated for all to hear, “If I climbed it, then it must be a real mountain, for that is what I do.” The wooden stage collapsed, but I don’t think it was because of his statement.
Hopefully after my passing, for this is my last entry, some other storyteller will pick up the pen and I hope they are not too critical of my dates.
I have made many friends in the course of my lifetime on the Hill and want to thank them all for their loyalty to me. Many thanks for the Mountain News and its directors, publishers and editors for making space for my stories over the years. It is my sincere wish that they are successful in finding a replacement writer for me. It is important to keep the stories rolling.
Till we meet some day near the end of the trail, I wish to say farewell to all my readers, even my critics, but especially to my faithful and loving companion Linda Siak, who has stood by me through thick and thin. It was her love and understanding that pulled this old geezer through some very rough times. We’ll meet for tea again soon, I know.
Till we all meet again at those old “Dusty Corners,” back over our beautiful Mountain. Goodbye for now.
Colwyn G. Beynon CD