A small crowd braved a wild winter storm in Picton last night to attend the launch of the 2014 History Nights At The Regent lecture series.

This series of three lectures on heritage themes kicked off with a presentation on the heady days of the movie industry between 1917-1934 in Trenton, Ontario when a series of Canadian companies set up shop in this unlikely place.

Guest speaker, Peggy Dymond Leavey, the author of a book on the subject, told the story of the Canadian movie industry of the times, the “boom and bust” nature of the first film companies, their impact upon the community, and the legacy of the era.

It was the time of silent films – romances, comedies, and the occasional blockbuster epic like “Carry On Sergeant” a film with a staggering $500,000 budget shot on location in various Trenton and Kingston sites.  When it premiered at the Regent Theatre in Toronto in November 1928, nearly 18,000 people showed up to view the film and hear the live orchestra that provided the musical soundtrack.

But the industry was never a commercial success, and the Ontario government, which owned the Trenton studio, got tired of its annual losses. It closed the facility in 1934 and ordered all the films destroyed. Miraculously, some survived the government dictate, and in 1965, 2,400 reels of film were discovered in a North Bay barn. For all its ups and downs, the whirlwind days of making movies in Trenton left a legacy. Today, there is still a Film Street in Trenton and a cairn in front of the old studio that is now a textile plant.

Click link for Picton Gazette’s articles on pages 3 & 5   http://issuu.com/pictongazette/docs/picton_gazette_jan9

The next History Nights At The Regent lecture is on Monday, February 3rd at 7 PM when Sean Billing, an executive with Skyline Hotels, will discuss his company’s multi-million dollar investment in the restoration and return of the CP luxury liner, the S.S. Keewatin, to its homeport of Port McNicoll near Barrie, Ontario in 2012.

For tickets, contact the Regent Theatre, 224 Main St. in Picton Tel: 613 – 476 – 8416




The popular History Nights At The Regent lecture series will begin Monday, January 6, 2014 at 7 PM at The Regent Theatre with a lecture on the movie years in Trenton, the period 1917 – 1934 when this small community was the “Hollywood North” of Canada.

Peggy Dymond Leavey, author of a book on the movie industry in Trenton, will discuss how the industry settled in this unlikely place, the boom and bust cycle of film companies that established there, and the legacy of the heady days when stars and starlets rubbed shoulders with local residents appearing as extras and stagehands in blockbuster productions.

The lecture is the first in a series of three monthly Monday night lectures on historical themes. 

On Monday, February 3 2014, Skyline Hotel executive Sean Billing will discuss the business case for history – his company’s purchase and return to Canada of The S.S. Keewatin, a luxury liner built by the Canadian Pacific Railway to carry their passengers across Georgian Bay and Lake Superior to their rail terminals at the present town of Thunder Bay. The hotel chain purchased the vessel from an American collector to return The Keeewatin in 2012 to its original homeport in Port McNicoll near Barrie, Ontario. 

The series concludes on Monday, March 3rd 2014 with Kingston author, David More, discussing the life and career of naval commander Captain Rene –Hippolyte Laforce, the Commodore of the French Navy on Lake Ontario in the 1750s. The British so admired his skills they hired him to fight with them during the American Revolution.

History Lives Here Inc. sponsors the History Nights At The Regent series in association with The Merrill Inn and The Regent Theatre. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students including HST. 

For ticket information, contact The Regent Theatre, 224 Main St. in Picton

Tel: 613 – 476 – 8416   www.The RegentTheatre.org

2014 Lecture Series


Short Stories Of Our Community

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 7 PM at The Empire Theatre in Belleville for more short stories drawn from the rich past of the Quinte area.  

Included in this year’s series are video vignettes on scientist Dr. James B. Collip of Belleville, a member of the Banting and Best medical team which discovered insulin; Canada’s fifth Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell of Belleville who lead the country through tumultuous times in the late 1890s; the story of the city’s most prestigious social club, The Belleville Club, on the eve of its 100th anniversary in 2014; a feature on the pioneer origins of Belleville’s historic downtown; how the early days of the local maple syrup industry helped first settlers survive the hardships of the wilderness; and the heady era when the Canadian movie industry was centred in the small town of Trenton.  

For ticket information, contact: The Empire Theatre at  613-969 -0099www.theempiretheatre.com

History Moments Series 5 Promo


We started our annual History Moments series in 2009, the 225th anniversary of Loyalist settlement in Prince Edward County.

The idea then was to work with local heritage organizations like the museums of Prince Edward County, The Glenwood Cemetery and The Regent Theatre in Picton to produce a special commemorative series to mark that special year. The series proved so popular we have continued to produce these short features on local history themes every year since. Our two-minute vignettes now play in local theatres before movies, on TVCogeco cable television, on Kickin’ County Internet radio in Prince Edward County, on CKWS TV in Kingston and are distributed widely into area schools, libraries, museums and archives as well as made available as DVDs retailed in area stores.

Our fifth series will launch Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 7 PM at The Empire Theatre in Belleville.

The 2013 series will showcase more stories drawn from the rich past of the Quinte region including features on Canada’s fifth Prime Minister Sir Mackenzie Bowell of Belleville, medical researcher Dr. James Collip of Belleville, who helped discover insulin, teacher Marilyn Adams, the founder of the world-class Marilyn Adams Genealogical Research Centre in Ameliasburg, early settler Asa Weller, and the movie industry that once made Trenton Canada’s “tinsel town.”


In the great scope of history, this may never make any news headlines. But I did make history this summer. I caught a fish – a lovely female salmon in Lake Ontario near the Port Darlington marina.

I never catch fish. In my youth trolling West Lake in Prince Edward County with my uncle, we’d bring lots of weeds into the boat. But in years of trying, we could never catch any fish. We always told other more successful fishermen that we were “catch and release” guys adhering to a higher standard of conservation. It was a small lie that helped soothe our injured pride.

I’ve fished in plenty of places. I used to fish a lot in the North for Arctic char while I worked for CBC in Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. Desperate for a bite after months of fruitless fishing, I did catch a small char with a piece of pepperoni as bait. Unfortunately, somebody’s dog ate it soon afterwards. 

In the mid- 1970s, I fished in the Pacific Ocean while working at CBC Prince Rupert.

Prince Rupert is a commercial fishing community so there must be fish there. I just couldn’t find them. In years of fishing in small boats on a big ocean, I never caught anything more than a cold and seasickness.

I then tried inland fishing with some buddies. The idea was that a bunch of us would cluster on a salmon river in northern British Columbia wherever there were bears fishing.  It seemed clever at the time. But from my experience, bears are not particular about what they eat.  And they view stupid fisherman just as tasty as salmon.  And after a record-breaking sprint to the safety of our truck, I never fished inland again.  

All of this brings me to the summers of 2012 and 2013. In both years my friend Jim Calvin of Wolfe Island has asked me to come out on his boat for a day of salmon fishing. While this would usually mean a day of sunburn for me, the truth is I caught a salmon both times – and I have pictures to prove it. It just goes to show you that all of us can make history.


Over the last year, a team of History Lives Here researchers has been pouring through archival records across the country to identify and develop a collection of photographic images from Canada’s military past.

The work is for a project called The National Wall of Remembrance, a commemorative project to honour Canadian soldiers who have fallen in battle since the War of 1812 through to contemporary times. A memorial wall listing the names of these soldiers with depictions of major Canadian battles will be built on the site of the Military Communications and Electronics Museum at Canadian Forces Base Kingston. The series of 10 monument panels – each representing a period of Canadian military history – will be complemented with a virtual exhibit housed within the museum. The project will create a single place of remembrance for all of Canada’s fallen military personnel – a place where families, friends and the general public can visit and remember.

History Lives Here Inc. has been contracted by the National Wall of Remembrance Association to undertake an extensive review of military archival collections to guide the graphic design of both the monument and virtual exhibits.


Over 400 boating enthusiasts packed the Gravenhurst Opera House on the opening night of the 33rd Muskoka Antique and Classic Boat Show to view MAKING WAVES: The Story of Canada’s Miss Supertest Team, a documentary produced by History Lives Here Inc. 

The documentary traces the early years of the Thompson family of London, Ontario, owners of the Miss Supertest gas station franchise, as they experimented with engines, crews, drivers and boat designs to build a winning team. In successive races held in 1959 in Detroit, and in 1960 and 1961 in Picton, Ontario, Miss Supertest III swept to victory over her American competitors.

James Thompson, the designer of the boat, introduced the documentary, which kicked off the annual boat show featuring the fully restored Miss Canada IV as the centerpiece attraction among the displays of over 150 classic vessels. Miss Canada IV was originally built for the Wilson Family, but later purchased and re-named by the Thompsons as Miss Supertest I.

The Miss Supertest documentary will be featured Saturday, September 28th at 2 PM at The Empire Theatre in Belleville as part of the city’s Culture Days celebrations.

The Great Puzzle of Afghanistan

The Great Puzzle of Afghanistan

Afghan-Canadian author and Filmmaker Nelofer Pazira lectures at The Regent

Photography by Sandra Foreman

Toronto actress, author, film director, and journalist Nelofer Pazira appeared on stage at The Regent Theatre on Monday, February 4th 2013 as another of the History Nights At The Regent lectures. History Lives Here Inc. sponsors this series of monthly winter history lectures in partnership with the Black Prince Winery, The Merrill Inn, and The Regent Theatre.

Pazira fled Afghanistan with her family in the 1980s as the brutal reign of the Taliban grew. After a harrowing 10-day journey on foot to Pakistan, a story told in her book, A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of my Afghanistan, Nelofer and her family settled in New Brunswick. She learned English and later completed degrees in journalism from Carleton University and in anthropology, sociology and religion from Concordia University. And she began a career documenting the painful process of her country’s struggles.

Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries and it’s history has been shaped by tribal warlords and invading armies dating back to Alexander The Great. It is within this context that western armies entered the country in 2001 to begin a war to uproot terrorists, track down the world’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, and to bring security so the nation’s fragile government could bring democracy, a civil society and services to its citizens. Canada was part of this effort sending 2,800 troops and contributing millions in aid dollars.

It was, says Pazira, a mission full of good intentions. But however well-armed and trained the almost 150,000 soldiers from contributing nations were, they did not come with much understanding of the country, its history, the culture, and contemporary circumstances that remain the reality of Afghanistan. Widespread government corruption, the shifting alliances of competing warlords and their armies, weak Afghan police and army forces, and a tenacious campaign of intimidation, suicide-bombers, and attacks by a determined and elusive enemy on western army convoys using cheaply-made improvised explosive devices (IEDs), all conspired against the world’s intervention.

The Afghan people, wary of the uncertain commitment of the West, could never align themselves totally with foreigners and a certain death upon their withdrawal. The enormous expense of the war in lives and dollars (The U.S. military alone spent eight billion/month), and its growing unpopularity among voters lead NATO nations to scale down their involvement and to leave the country. Canadian troops left in 2011 although some 900 soldiers remain training Afghan defence forces. U.S.forces will leave the country in 2014.

It is difficult to find measureable successes within the Canadian effort, says Pazira. The 50 schools Canada built have never actually been used. Without constant security, it is simply too dangerous for teachers and students – especially women and girls – to utilize the facilities. Canadian aid projects to improve roads, develop irrigation projects, and to strengthen the Afghan government’s capacity to provide much-needed services to its citizens have not had a enduring legacy. And many Afghan civilians were the victims of friendly fire incidents, aerial attacks, and incidents where they were simply innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As we undertake other military missions in other parts of the world, Canada, says Pazira, needs to carefully consider the many complexities of other societies and their long history of conflict. As well, she suggests, we need to develop alternative approaches to military interventions which cannot be sustained, contribute to further loss of life on all sides, and are often driven by national agendas which do not always align with the best interests of the citizens of countries like Afghanistan.

Afghanistan remains a great puzzle. Should we have intervened? What is the legacy of this great effort? What do we do when we must decide again to intervene in another of the world’s hot spots? History, says Pazira, has not yet revealed the answer.

The next History Night at The Regent will be on March 4th 2013 at 7 pm at The Regent. It will feature Professor Patrice Dutil of Ryerson University and Past Chair of the Champlain Society of Canada discussing the epic journeys of French explorer Samuel de Champlain through the Quinte area.

For tickets, contact The Regent Theatre
613 – 476 – 8416 www.TheRegentTheatre.org