Opinion

NIAGARA NOTE: Final column from Zavitz

By Sherman Zavitz, special to Postmedia News

It’s time for a look back, a little reminiscing, if you will.

A Niagara Note first appeared in The Niagara Falls Review in the fall of 1991 and has been a regular feature ever since. 

Through preparing this column, I’ve had the extreme pleasure and privilege of “meeting” a vast number of individuals from Niagara Falls’ past and then introducing them to you. In some cases these individuals were visitors; others were residents for all or a part of their life. What follows is a select few of them. If you have been with me for some time, hopefully you will enjoying renewing acquaintances. If you are a fairly new reader of this column, I hope you will enjoy meeting these people.          

THOMAS POTTER:  A resident of Buchanan Avenue, in May 1898, he and several companions set out for the Yukon at the height of the incredible gold rush there. Taking what was called the Overland Route through what is now northern Alberta and British Columbia, Potter was eventually forced to give up his quest when the going became overwhelmingly difficult.  Disillusioned, he returned to Niagara Falls.

“WILD” BILL HICKOK:  On Aug. 28, 1872, this legendary Western personality was the master of ceremonies at a Wild West Show staged at Fallsview.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE:  On Oct. 22, 1944, this iconic Hollywood actor helped turn the lights back on the falls. They had been turned off during the earlier years of the Second World War as a means of conserving electricity.

HAROLD PAYNE:  He was among the first in Niagara Falls to enlist for service in what we now know as World War I.  Harold was killed in action on May 29, 1915. He was only 20.

JIM ROSE:  Rose was a teacher and basketball coach at Niagara Falls Collegiate and Vocational Institute (NFCVI) from 1940 until his retirement in 1971.  A legend in the world of Canadian high school basketball, Rose’s teams won a total and 668 games and lost only 165. The gymnasium at Forestview School is named in his honour. 

JOHN FANNING:  The father of public transportation in Niagara (if not all Ontario), Fanning inaugurated a stage coach line in 1795. Based in Chippawa, his coaches served communities along the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

JAMES COWAN:  A World War I veteran, Cowan was the widely admired editor of The Review from 1922 until his death in 1956. At the same time, he was also greatly involved as a volunteer in many local organizations.  As it was noted at the time of his passing, “Mr. Cowan was of the old school of editors who mixed their public and private lives to the betterment of both his newspaper and city.”

JEROME BONAPARTE:  Napoleon’s younger brother, Jerome and his bride, the former Betsy Patterson of Baltimore, visited Niagara Falls during the summer of 1804, some seven months after their marriage. 

ROD TURNER:  Already an experienced hitchhiker, on June 13, 1940, 20-year-old Rod set out from Niagara Falls intending to hitchhike to California and back. He achieved his goal. Rod arrived home on Sept. 1, having travelled 17,992 km (11,155 miles) through 32 states and having hitched a ride in 178 cars.

BRIG- GEN. FREDERICK W. HILL: Hill had a law practice in Niagara Falls from 1891 to 1914 and served as mayor in 1898.  Beginning with the outbreak of World War I and lasting through to 1930, he also had a distinguished military career. For his service in the First World War, Hill was mentioned in dispatches six times, received a number of medals and was awarded three decorations.  He is buried in Fairview Cemetery.

MYRON (MYNIE) SUTTON:  Born in Niagara Falls in 1903, Sutton became a “Canadian jazz great,” as he has been described. Particularly well-known for his mastery of the alto saxophone, Sutton not only performed locally, but was a well-known jazz musician in Montreal during the 1930s.  He died in 1982.

HENRY ACRES:  A brilliant hydraulic engineer, Acres, as an early employee of what is now known as Ontario Power Generation, designed a number of hydro-electric generating plants throughout Ontario.  His greatest challenge was as a member of the team that designed what was later named the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station No. l at Queenston. In 1924 he founded his own consulting engineering firm, H.G. Acres, based in Niagara Falls. The company developed a worldwide clientele. For many years, Acres and his family lived on Culp Street in Niagara Falls.  At the time of his death in 1945, he was hailed by the Globe and Mail as a “nation builder in the true sense.”


Researching and writing hundreds of Niagara Notes has been a source of enormous personal satisfaction for me – most definitely a highlight of my life.  In return, I hope you have enjoyed reading about the life and times of Niagara Falls’ past.  But I feel the time has now come to retire the column.  

This, then, is the final Niagara Note. Thank you for your interest and support over the years.  I wish all of you the very best life has to offer.

Sherman Zavitz is the official historian for the City of Niagara Falls and is the Niagara Parks historian. Reach him at sherman.zavitz@sympatico.ca