The Start and Now The Latest!

By: Sherry L. B. Johnson

Volume 19, Issue 4, April 2024

In August 2017, a TI Life article by Susan Smith, entitled “Sherry’s Walking Heritage Tours,”  started this way:

“I love learning about the history of the Thousand Islands and its many communities. And I am not alone. At the end of July, I picked up a flier from Sherry Johnson explaining her Gananoque Walking Heritage Tours. What a great way to learn, I thought. But I had a bonus that morning; I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Sherry and you will too.”

I ran across that article this morning and two things immediately occurred to me:

How grateful I am to Susie and Thousand Island Life Magazine for that first article and support of GanWalking in the last seven years; and perhaps it is time to update the readers on GanWalking’s journey – it's been really interesting!

Weather Vane from 2017 article

This photo, which is used as GanWalking’s icon, is a logo of sorts, and for a good reason. It was part of the journey that spawned GanWalking. When I first moved to Gananoque, I was working on information for pet owners moving to or visiting Gananoque. I thought of the town as “Pet Friendly Gananoque” and I wanted a photo to use as an eye-catching logo/icon. The library weathervane fit the bill, but I just couldn’t get a usable photo. Finally, Ray Tedford rescued me from frustration with this wonderful photo! Thanks Ray! However, "Pet Friendly Gananoque" was abandoned when this picture started me down a very different path.

Some locals responded to my enthusiasm for local sights with puzzlement, triggering the slightly mischievous part of me that loves to challenge others to stop and ask how they missed seeing “that.” Whatever “that” might be! The dog weathervane was a perfect "that."

A neighbour, challenged in this way, took a week to figure out where it was, and then wanted Ray’s weathervane photo to similarly challenge some friends. The result was Gananoque Walking, a Facebook page, and an ongoing series of posts “I Spy Gananoque, where is this seen?”

Later in 2017, encouraged by family and friends, Gananoque Walking Heritage Tours came into being. I added a website for that business. It was a reasonably successful first year, but there were signs even then that the demand for guided walking tours was being replaced by demands for online tours, both virtual and self-guided. Covid seems to have completed this process. While exploring provision of more of this type of service, I discovered that I rather liked not having to be ready to run a tour anytime, or find myself standing around for a scheduled tour that no one showed up for. I also discovered genealogy and started doing custom tours for people who wanted to know about Gananoque as their ancestors had seen it. I was hooked! The Gananoque Walking Facebook page was slowly fading, since the original audience wasn’t as interested in heritage and history as I was. Plus, Gananoque Walking Heritage Tours was just too long and cumbersome a business name. First, I shortened it to GanWalks and then settled on GanWalking. What I do now is still about walking and looking, but also greatly about (as the old ad said) letting your fingers do the walking!

Going into 2024, GanWalking has two webpages, a Facebook page, and a Facebook group, because GanWalking is intended to be a crossroads. It is a resource to get people to where they can find the detailed information about Gananoque that they’re looking for. If you want to check them out, here are the links:
From the collection of GanWalking – Facebook page
Gananoque Heritage Researchers – Facebook group

This year, I am focusing on providing custom guided and self-guided tours, as well as storytelling, both in writing and as pop-up busking. Oh, and of course, I should remind folks to watch for developments with “Ganie,” who should be showing up at “Crafts on the River” in Town Park this year! Ganies were first introduced in a piece of historical fiction here in TI Life, July 2023. I did mention support from Susie and the magazine, right? A thank you gift from me to all of you:

Here is GanWalking’s “Look Up and Find – weathervanes” self-guided tour.
Weather-vanes – An indicator of wind direction. First used as early as the first century B.C. in ancient Greece. Their popularity peaked in the Victorian Era with its love of things that were useful and ornate. Weather-vanes began popping up on everything from stables to gazebos. Demand was so great that the first weather-vane factories were established, churning out intricate designs.

To see some of Gananoque’s interesting weather-vanes as a walking tour:

• Start at the Visitor Center, 10 King St East. Walk west along King St and you’ll see a beaver weather-vane at 75 King St West.
• Continue west on King St. Turn north onto Victoria St, and you will see a fireman weather-vane at 290 King St West.
• Walk north on Victoria St, then turn east onto First St. Turn left onto River St, and look down the driveways until you spot a whale weather-vane on a garage at 130 River St.
• Backtrack to First St and continue east, where you’ll see a horse weather-vane at 125 First St. Follow First St as it turns into Tanner St, and you will be able to cross the dam to the east side of the Gananoque River, where you’ll see a dog weather-vane on the building at 10 King St East.

More weather-vane locations:

• The Clock Tower, 60 Pine St
• St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church,
• 175 Stone St
• 80 Charles St

By Sherry L.B. Johnson

Sherry Johnson lives in Gananoque and is a writer and researcher, for GanWalking, which is focused on heritage storytelling, research and building a strong accessible research and genealogy community. Home is a “handyman special” under slow improvement, with things like solar panels and heat pumps a priority. Retired from food service and hospitality, Sherry says she has, "become one of those old ladies you watch to see what she’s going to get up to next.

Editor’s Note: If you happen to be out and about on the River, you’ll also see some examples of weather-vanes on some of the cottages and boathouses that date from the early 20th century. And final instructions, check on GanWalking often this summer, Sherry never stops exploring.

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 4, April 2024, News article, Places

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