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Milnes: How Watertown, N.Y., connects Canada, Washington
« on: October 02, 2017, 11:02:22 AM »
Milnes: How Watertown, N.Y., connects Canada, Washington

Arthur Milnes and his wife, Alison, embarked upon a special project to mark Canada’s sesquicentennial year: A time capsule. But rather than filling it with things from around their home in Kingston, the pair have reached out far and wide to people, places and institutions with any connection to this country. The responses, whether from […]

Arthur Milnes and his wife, Alison, embarked upon a special project to mark Canada’s sesquicentennial year: A time capsule. But rather than filling it with things from around their home in Kingston, the pair have reached out far and wide to people, places and institutions with any connection to this country. The responses, whether from small towns or celebrities, have been overwhelming. This is the latest in a series of columns on his Canada 150 time capsule. 



Both my sister, Margaret, and I attended Queen’s University in Kingston. Marg graduated in 1983 and my turn for a BA came five years later, in 1988.


That meant that our parents often travelled to Kingston. And the funny thing is, they usually didn’t stay in the Limestone City.


Instead, they chose to cross the border and stay over in Watertown, N.Y.


They had a favourite restaurant there — the place is now closed — off the historic town square. It was a Chinese restaurant and I, too, was dragged there many times.


And I could never figure out why.


Until recent years, that is, after my wife, Alison, and I had moved to Kingston full-time and bought a house here.


You see, like my late father before me, I’ve taken the time to discover what a fascinating and important place the often much-maligned Watertown truly is.


If you take time to look.


Being a political history buff, it didn’t take me long to realize there was something special in the water over there due to the fact that not one, but three, U.S. secretaries of state grew up in or near that relatively small city of 25,000.


One of them, in fact, was John Foster Dulles, who, joined by his brother, Allen, at the CIA, played such crucial roles in president Dwight Eisenhower’s America.


Their dad was a preacher in Watertown when the Dulles boys were kids.


It is also the community that played a crucial role in inspiring former president Frank W. Woolworth to retail greatness with the historic five-and-dime concept that led to Woolworths and its famous lunch counter — hell we even had one at Cedarbrae Mall, back in Scarborough, when I was growing up.


Frank never forgot Watertown and, later in life, by now a rich man, built a six-storey store in the main square there that operated for decades, starting in 1921.


That historic building still stands.


And in recent years, after I served as the research assistant to former prime minister Brian Mulroney on his memoirs between 2003 and 2008, both Mulroney and Derek Burney, his chief of staff and ambassador to the U.S.A., told me I should drive over and get to know the Johnson family, who have owned the Watertown Daily Times for generations.


You see, when Burney was in Washington and Mulroney was directing the closest relationship between a Canadian prime minister and a U.S. president — George H.W. Bush, in Mulroney’s case — since Franklin Roosevelt and Mackenzie King, the tiny Watertown Times played a proud role for Canada in D.C.


At the time, that privately owned paper was the last small-town independent daily to maintain a bureau in Washington. By the time Burney arrived at Canada’s embassy in America’s capital in 1989, the Daily Times’s one-man bureau chief, the legendary Alan Emory, had been in D.C. for 38 years.


He and the Johnson family had a special interest in Canada. Here is how the Washington Post described just a small part of his contributions upon his death in 2000: “In 1969, he organized a group of correspondents from newspapers along the U.S.-Canadian border that met periodically with the Canadian ambassador. This became known as ‘the Emory Group’.”


Burney and Mulroney made it clear to me how Emory and his own interests in Canada, combined by his stature as one of the deans of the Washington press corps, and, considering the Johnson family’s demonstrated interest in Canada for decades, opened doors for them and Canada in Washington.


So, yes, indeed, I drove over to see Mr. Johnson. That was about a decade ago.


I remain in contact with the Watertown Daily Times to this day.


And when I write one of my occasional columns on Canada-U. S. issues for them each year, I get responses from serious journalists, scholars and commentators across the U.S.A. each time.


So I particularly wanted items from Watertown to help populate my Canada 150 time capsule. I was proud that the tiny city’s new congresswoman — who as the youngest ever woman yet elected to the U.S. Congress has already made history — rose in the House of Representatives in June and delivered a statement from the floor paying tribute to Canada due to one of my time capsule letters.


And I was moved when Watertown’s mayor held a public ceremony, in the rain, at 9 a.m. on July 1 this year where he raised Canada’s flag over his City Hall for Canada.


And yes, video of that ceremony from Watertown is being placed with honour in the time capsule for Canada.


And in closing it turns out that Watertown is just like my and my dad’s Scarborough.


There is a lot to both communities — people, history and items of national substance — if you just take the time to look.


Source: Milnes: How Watertown, N.Y., connects Canada, Washington