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Where Tom Thomson

Grew Up

My previous post about the Tom Thomson gallery is a primer [sic] on Tom's life as a painter. These articles are signposts to places connected with a Canadian legend and with the Group of Seven too. The gaps between are for you to explore any way you want.



Tom's early paintings (the first two here) were somewhat generic before he found his passion, the rugged landscapes of the Canadian Shield, but his personal style matured quickly during the brief 5 years of his artistic career.

His parents lived in a house now known as the Jack Pine Equestrian Centre, just outside Leith, a hamlet 15 minute's drive east of Owen Sound. The natural landscape was evidently imprinted on young Tom's mind. For hikers, a 3-season Tom Thomson Trail runs from Owen Sound, past Leith and on to Meaford.

Tom grew up in Leith and went to high school in Owen Sound, as noted at the national historic site of the Billy Bishop Museum. Colourful architectural facades still remain along the main drag of 2nd Ave. East. The town has been greatly gentrified from its industrial days, though, with just a twinge of  brashness remaining. 

It used to be a town with a split personality. As a historical plaque states: The intersection of 10th Street East and 4th Avenue East is nicknamed "Salvation Corners" for the four limestone churches that anchor this spot. One block west lies "Damnation Corners," once the location of four notorious taverns.

So I'm standing on the now nondescript corner of "Damnation" when two fire trucks suddenly roar through the intersection in opposite directions,  horns blaring and engines roaring. Where's the hellfire now? I wonder.

Southward just out of town is the new and old Grey Roots Museum & Archives. A modern building houses exhibits like last summer's Tutankhamen (wow!), vintage printing presses, a tell-all display of the town's boozy history plus an outdoor Heritage Village for kids.

Owen Sound has a number of festivals. One that intrigued me was the Concours d'Elegance, a classic car show — rain or shine — at an upscale housing development at Cobble Beach. Hmm, would Tom recognize any of the vehicles?

A gravestone with Tom Thomson's name marks the historic site at Leith church where admirers leave small items in remembrance. The church was closed in 1969, but opens as one of the venues for the annual 3-day Sweetwater Music Festival in September. Last year patrons mingled outside beneath a full moon during concert intermission while some documented Tom's headstone.

Photos, text and design 
© Gary Crallé 2017 
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