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Our Grand Olde Dame

Editor’s Note: I have been remiss in not sharing more poems from Noreen Syme, about growing up in Almonte long ago. As the Almonte Fair approaches, I’ll share this one about the fairgrounds.

What wondrous sights our eyes behold
As our 90’s universe unfolds.
The Millennium is coming fast,
But, dear friends, let’s help preserve the past.

Our Grande Olde Dame, of the N.L.A.S.,
Needs a facelift and a brand new dress.
Where our valley kin once danced at balls,
From the roof her tears of rain now fall.

Turn back our clock with me in rhyme
To some memories from a gentler time.
Remember how we couldn’t wait
‘Til the doors swung wide on the town fair’s gate.

This was a world without T.V.,
Now imaginations cease to be.
We were transformed then for one thin dime,
To Tarzan or Jane at Almonte’s O’Brien.

But as summer days drew to an end,
Those dimes or pennies we might spend
At the show or blackballs at Corderres,
Were saved in bottles for our fair.

And finally, the magic came,
The sounds, sweet smells, the carnies’ games.
Cotton candy, greasy burgs and fries,
Scary rides and sideshows, barkers’ cries.

And up the steps to our Fair Hall,
Where town ladies’ quilts adorned the walls.
Shiny jars of pickles, golden pies,
Wore judges’ ribbons, coloured ties.

Bright flowers grown wore every hue,
Huge pumpkins, corn, wore ribbons too.
And upstairs displayed for Mom and Dad
Was the genius work of their lass or lad.

Next over to our livestock block,
Where junior farmers showed their stock.
Hard-working kids, thank God they care,
For you see our future farmers there.

What magic spread before our eyes,
The carousel, the bullet ride.
With our beaus we rode the Ferris wheel,
Hugged tight we faked scared, girlish squeals.

“Now step right up” the carnies cry,
“For just a quarter you can try,
Knock down a bottle, throw a ring,
And a big, stuffed toy your skill can bring.”

Then came the end of a perfect day,
As we wandered down the grandstand way.
Mac Beatty’s band, a Valley sound,
And the magic taps of Buster Brown.

And we greeted friends the Almonte way,
“How’s it goin’ pal? G’day, G’day.”
And to fiddle tunes our toes would tap,
Happy babies bouncing on mom’s lap.

Friends, have we really changed so much?
Have we valley folk lost the country touch?
With the beauty of our country fair,
Let’s help support it, show we care.

Our Grande Olde Dame goes back in time,
Built by kinfolk in 1869.
With dignity she has welcomed all,
Farmers, royalty, in our Grande Hall.

She needs our help, she’s aging fast,
This Victorian Lady from our past.
Have you forgot when you climbed those stairs
Each year at our Great Almonte Fair.

Noreen Syme

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