"For the love of bayfield"
recalling how Penhale wagons put village on the world map
Editor's Note: In the Spring of 2012, Dave Gillians’ book entitled, “For the Love of Bayfield” was first published but as history happens each day the local author has been collecting stories ever since. The result is an updated version of the book with some additional stories and photos.
The following is an excerpt from the book, an old favorite, regarding the history of the Penhale Carriage Works and the legacy left by crafsman, Tom Penhale.
BY DAVE GILLIANS
The Penhale wagon as it looked during the Rose Bowl Parade in 1991 - festooned with flowers - and carrying comedian Bob Newhart. (Submitted photo)
Tom Penhale (Submitted photo)
Tom Penhale’s impossible dream started at the 1974 Royal Winter Fair in Toronto when he noticed some interesting show wagon designs. He thought he’d try making one for himself.
That impulsive idea transformed the lives of Tom and his family. After Tom built and quickly sold his first attempt at a horse drawn wagon, his hobby turned into an obsession which evolved into a renowned business that eventually put Bayfield on the carriage building map in North America.
Although Tom loved horses and had first ventured into the show ring at the Bayfield Fall Fair when he was 15, he was entirely self taught. As a farm boy during the depression, he didn’t receive much formal schooling. He was needed more at home.
He trained as a welder and his father had taught him basic carpentry skills but his practical genius emerged when he began building some of the most beautiful horse drawn wagons and carriages in the world.
Tom started building wagons without blueprints. He just drew them by hand to scale, incorporating his own unique ideas. He had a natural gift for creating visual harmony of line and color and a determination to make each custom made wagon a personal work of art. Each unique wagon took about three months to build!
Tom’s genius was recognized. Orders for a carriage to in the Rose Bowl Parade, landaus for a hotel in Hawaii and wagons for amusement parks and special events from all over North America flooded in.
His company started building hitch wagons, a Vis-à-vis and Landaus and restoring old horse drawn vehicles.
The Penhale family had shown Belgian horses for over 20 years and were for many years sponsored by the W.G. Thompson Milling Company from Blenheim. The family was particularly proud when one of their geldings were named ‘Grand Champion’ at the Royal Fair in 1989.
Tom also did a lot of judging of horses at fairs.
Rick Penhale started helping his father in the business when he was fifteen years old. Even at that young age, he was an important contributor to the carriage designs.
This beautiful Penhale wagon carried the 1991 Rose Bowl Parade Marshal, Bob Newhart. Happy New Year! (Submitted photo)
When the business was at its peak around 1986, it employed 14 people and supported suppliers and craftsmen all over Ontario.
Country Magazine decided it would be a good idea to sponsor the “Reminisce Hitch-Tour for Seniors’, a 3,000-mile Maine to California tour.
A Hitch wagon journeying across the United States required a lot of stamina and reliable equipment. They knew Penhale’s reputation and came to him to design and construct a Penhale wagon that would meet the heavy demands of a 3,000-mile publicity tour.
Tom’s reputation gained international status. In 1983, a project team from Disney, searched all over the U.S. and Canada for a company to build an eight-horse wagon to participate in the World Percheron Congress at the 60th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.
The Penhale shop was the last one visited by the Disney employee who was responsible for this project. He traveled across America looking at wagon manufacturers and on his deadline; he found Bayfield. Tom wasn’t expecting them and was dressed to go to a wedding. The project manager immediately noticed the quality, paint work and custom details. Penhale Wagon and Carriage Works Ltd was chosen over four other finalists.
The Disney wagon was started on April 28 and the deadline for completion was June 6!
The elegant wagon features included 23 karat gold pin striping with the name Walt Disney in silver leaf lettering. The wagon was also equipped with a hydraulic disc brake system.
All the chrome and steel work on the wagon was handcrafted.
A crew made up of Tim Curtis, Jake Reder, Tom Johnston and Dave Webber aided Tom with the construction of Bayfield’s “Disney wagon”.
The wagon that Penhale and his team built for Disney in the early 1980s. Author of the book, "For the Love of Bayfield", Dave Gillians often wonders what became of this amazing piece of craftsmanship? (Submitted photo)
Editor's note: The Bayfield Breeze will be publishing hiatus issues from now until Jan. 9. Thank you to all who met the earlier deadline so that these upcoming editions would be possible. The Bayfield Breeze will be back live on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Deadline for submissions for that issue will be Jan. 13 at 4 p.m.
One of the most anticipated events of the New Year is the annual Winter Walk hosted by the Bayfield River Valley Trail Association (BRVTA). This year the walk held on the Varna Nature Trails is set for Jan. 12.
The Winter Walk that starts at 11 a.m. provides occasion to breathe fresh air, explore a local trail, meet community members and get moving into 2019. The Winter Walk is hosted at the Varna Complex 1 KM West of Varna. Guided hikes are led between 11 a.m. and noon along the Mavis Trail or Taylor Trail. Participants are asked to arrive by 10:45 a.m. for the 11 a.m. start and to dress appropriately with hiking boots, as the trails may be slippery.
Following the hikes, everyone is invited to warm up indoors with cider and a light lunch. This is also a great opportunity for people to renew their BRVTA membership! Everyone welcome.
The hike leaders will be: Dave MacLaren, 519 565-5480; Peter Jeffers, 519 933-4555 and Roger Lewington, 519 565-2202.
Just a reminder that the first Councilor’s Corner of 2019 will be held at the Bayfield Community Centre on Jan. 17. Bayfield Ward Councilor Bill Whetstone welcomes all area citizens to join in these monthly sessions.
The Town Hall
Presenting the Academy Award winning documentary "Icarus", the story of the Russian government involvement in a state-sponsored doping program for the 2014 Olympics. Hosted by Professor Richard McLaren, author of the McLaren Reports which investigated and proved the Russian government participation in the doping program.
The documentary will be shown at the Bayfield Town Hall on Saturday, Jan. 12, starting at 3 p.m. Admission by donation to the Bayfield Town Hall Heritage Society.
Home4Good would like to announce changes to their Shopping Buddy Program with the regretful closure of the Nip ‘N Tuck which offered grocery delivery in Bayfield over the past few months.
To fill this need Home4Good is recruiting shopping buddies willing to partner with a senior and either take them shopping and/or pick up their groceries. Call Leslie at 519 955-1531 for information about being a buddy or getting a buddy.
Home4Good shopping buddies will take seniors shopping (or pick up shopping for them) at least once a month but not more than once a week. They are screened volunteers, and will probably be doing their own errands as they help others.
The Home4Good Info Hub operates on the first Monday of the month at the Bayfield Public Library from 1-3 p.m.
The Hub helps seniors in the Bayfield area find local community services, resources and supports. Volunteers will assist in finding relevant information for daily living, overall health and wellbeing. At any other time of the month should people have concerns or questions they are welcome to approach library staff who will refer inquiries to Hub volunteers.
To learn more visit: www.home4goodbayfield.ca.
Obituary of Beverley Pounder
Beverley Margaret Pounder (York) passed away peacefully in her home on January 2 in Bayfield, Ontario in her 90th year. Beverley is the beloved wife of the late Jack Albert Pounder, who passed away in 2011. She is survived by her three children; John and his wife Melody, Cathy and her husband Jay and Mary and her husband David, all of Bayfield. Beverley was also blessed with seven grandchildren; Kyrstie and her husband Ed, Jody and her husband Matt, Shane and his wife Laura, Jackie and her husband Franck, Matthew and his wife Lindsay, Jessica and her husband Dan and Emily and her husband Lalo and five great grandchildren; Spencer, Jackson, Graham, Noelle, Phoebe and, most recently James. Beverley also leaves behind her beloved rescue cat, Sammy. Beverley was a 5th generation Bayfield resident, tracing her roots back to Christopher Johnson, one of the original settlers. Although born in Toronto, she moved to her Mother’s home when she was 6 years old, upon the death of her father. While growing up in Bayfield she met the love of her life, Jack. They spent many days dancing at the Pavilion or relaxing on the Howard Street beach which she loved so much. Beverley achieved her teaching credentials and took her first job at 18, in a one room school house in Biddulf County. After her marriage, Jack’s job as a geologist took them all over Canada where they raised their three children and created lifelong friendships. In 1976 they settled into their newly built home in Bayfield. Jack and Beverley spent many happy years travelling the world, enjoying their grandchildren and then great grandchildren and participating in Bayfield life. Beverley was well known at the bridge table, one of her favorite pastimes. In 2011, Beverley celebrated 60 amazing years of marriage with Jack, surrounded by a multitude of friends and family. Friends will be received at the Falconer Funeral Homes 153 High St., Clinton, on Saturday January 12, 2018 from 2-4 p.m. A funeral is scheduled for January 13 at 2:00 pm at Trinity Anglican Church in Bayfield with a reception to follow in the parish hall. Wayne Malott will officiate at the ceremony. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Beverley’s life. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Kismutt Dog Rescue, RR#4, 882702 Road 88, St. Mary’s, Ontario, N4X 1C7 or to Trinity Anglican Church, Bayfield, Ontario, N0M 1G0. Condolences can be sent to email@example.com. The family would like to thank St. Elizabeth and the Local Health Integration Network. Without the amazing work and dedication of the Personal Service Workers and Nurses we would not have been able to keep Beverley in the home she loved. Beverley and Jack are dancing once again.