I described the Saturday evening banquet at the Ontario Genealogical Society's annual seminar in the previous article. However, I also would like to share something that happened to me that evening and the following day that I thought deserved a separate article.
At the end of the Saturday evening banquet, Master of Ceremonies J. Brian Gilchrist announced that the floral centerpiece at each table was to be presented as a gift to the youngest person at each table. As you might imagine, this created a lot of conversation in the banquet hall as those at each table had to compare birthdays. It was a great idea and went over well. The noise level of about 400 people talking almost simultaneously was great.
Next, Brian Gilchrist asked me to stand and answer a trivia question: "Who was Donald Duck's grandfather?" Of course, I recalled from my earlier talk that this was "Pintail Duck," and Brian then announced that because of my correct answer I had just "won" the grand prize of the floral arrangement at the speaker's lectern. It strikes me that this "win" had been pre-arranged, but I decided to accept it graciously.
As I approached the lectern, I was impressed by the size of this floral arrangement: it was probably four feet high and three feet across, and I have no idea how many flowers were in the arrangement. In any case, it was huge.
Several things flew though my head. The first was, "Why me?" The second was, "What am I going to do with this?" I had driven to Toronto, and I remembered that U.S. Customs does not allow the importation of any plants into the United States. Even if I could cram this thing into my compact automobile, I knew I could not take it over the border and back home.
Someone in the audience made a brilliant suggestion (I regret that I did not get her name… I was a bit distracted at the time). Based upon her suggestion, I asked character actor Mr. David Morris if he knew where William Lyon Mackenzie was buried. Of course, he did. He informed me that the Canadian politician was buried at the Toronto Necropolis, a cemetery not too many miles from where we were standing. I volunteered to take the huge floral arrangement and place it on Mr. Mackenzie's grave, in honor of Mr. Morris' excellent speech and as a remembrance from the Ontario Genealogical Society.
I then asked if anyone knew the street address of the Toronto Necropolis. Did you ever ask a room of 400 or so genealogists if anyone knows the street address of a particular local cemetery? Of course they did!
The hotel nicely stored the arrangement overnight in their walk-in refrigerator. At high noon the next day, OGS member Wanda Sinclair and I loaded the flowers into the back seat of my Mazda RX-8 and drove across Toronto in heavy traffic. We found the cemetery, located the tombstone, and placed the flowers there. By coincidence, Sunday was "Open Doors Day" in Toronto; the cemetery was full of people, and local historians were giving walking tours of the cemetery and other places of local historical interest. As we placed the flowers on Mr. Mackenzie's grave, one guide, trailed by twenty or so curious citizens, approached and asked what we were doing. This struck me as an obvious question to ask of someone holding a large bouquet of flowers in a cemetery! Wanda and I replied with an abbreviated version of the words you have just read and explained that we wished to honor Mr. Mackenzie's words and deeds with these flowers. The guide and the others all seemed pleased.
My thanks to Wanda Sinclair and to Brian Gilchrist and his OGS accomplices for making this a very memorable weekend for me!
You can read more about William Lyon Mackenzie at http://97.1911encyclopedia.org/M/MA/MACKENZIE_WILLIAM_LYON.htm as well as at several other Web sites.
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