Discover Tillsonburg Magazine Fall 2021

Discover Tillsonburg Magazine is published twice a year by the Town of Tillsonburg, in partnership with local builders and other community partners. Pick up a printed copy at businesses in the Tillsonburg area. Do you have a story idea Contact

FA L L 2 0 2 1

A bright new light The luminous vision of local artist Tabitha Verbuyst

I N T H I S I S S U E Our Wild Oats Meet the unlikely figure who made Tillsonburg famous


PLUS...Businesses find new recipes for pandemic success


Newly released inventory homes in Northcrest Phase 1 for Summer Move-In

Now selling Northcrest Phase 2 Towns & Single Family


2 A Bright New Light

Artist Tabitha Verbuyst finds beauty everywhere


The Lemonade Masters Business owners find new recipes for success during COVID-19


The Only One in the Room How Kubet Weston broke the colour bar in Canadian rowing


Our Incredible Wild Oats Meet the hungry Scotsman who made Tillsonburg famous


What's Your Superpower? Supporting local businesses is easier than you think!


By the Numbers Fun facts about Tillsonburg

Do you have a story idea for us? Send an email to

Editorial & Design Colleen Pepper

Discover Tillsonburg Magazine is published twice a year by the Town of Tillsonburg, in partnership with local builders and other community partners.

Advertising Karen Keller

Call 519.688.3009


Photos by Siân C Photography



Tabitha Verbuyst finds beauty in the most unexpected places NEW LIGHT

together and turned what was once a familiar landscape into increasingly abstract shapes. When she got home, Tabitha followed hermuse to her basement studio, where she began working on a new painting she would later call Home Stretch . On hindsight, the painting marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Tabitha’s development as an artist. Other paintings followed— each one offering a slightly surreal take on a strangely familiar location. Abandoned intersections, illuminated store fronts and even dangling traffic lights all began fueling her artistic fire. Stylistically, she began putting more colour into her work and employing new techniques to convey a sense of movement and emotion. The results were striking. So striking, in fact, that one of the paintings in the series,

How Convenient , was named “Best in Show” at the Woodstock Art Gallery’s 61st annual juried art exhibition. For Tabitha’s colleagues at the Station Arts Centre, the award confirmed what they already knew: she was an artist on the rise. Even more exciting, she was one of their own. “I was in high school the first time I heard about the Station Arts Centre,” the now 32-year- old explains. “I had planned on getting a co-op placement as an

“We were driving home one night when we came into an area with a bunch of traffic cones,” she recalls. “It was raining, and with the wet pavement, the whole area was glowing.” Intrigued, Tabitha asked her husband to pull over so she could snap some pictures. A few moments later, they turned off the wipers and watched as hundreds of raindrops rolled W hen you’re an artist, inspiration can come to you at any time, from anywhere. Still, the last place Tabitha Verbuyst expected to find her muse was in a construction zone on Quarter Town Line in Tillsonburg.


art teacher, but when that fell through, I was asked to consider the Station Arts Centre instead.” For a kid who grew up loving nothing more than drawing and painting, finding out her hometown had a facility dedicated to art was life changing. “I was always a bit of different growing up,” she says. “I was one of those kids who was never really into academics or sports.” Truth be told, the only class Tabitha really enjoyed at school was art. “Let’s just say I never had an issue turning in my art homework,” she says with a sheepish grin. As a co-op student at the Station, Tabitha’s eyes were opened to a whole world of creative pursuits—from pottery to painting, and everything in between. She began to see the potential of art as a career, and not just a hobby. As graduation approached, her guidance counsellor, Scott Gooding, encouraged her to follow her heart. “He said if art was what I was passionate about, then I should pursue it so I took his advice and applied to the Fine Arts diploma program at Fanshawe College,” she says. Over the next three years, Tabitha explored a variety of different mediums and disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and printmaking. “At one point my professor asked me if I’d ever considered oil painting,” she recalls. “He explained how the luminosity of oil paint was different than

acrylic, and how it allowed for more contrast between dark and light.” Tabitha agreed to give it a try. As promised, the new medium stretched her artistic horizons. “When I was finished my program at Fanshawe, I decided to apply to the bachelor of fine arts degree program at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (now NSCAD University),

where I majored in painting and minored in art history,” she says. At NSCAD, she began exploring ways to put more illumination in her pieces, including thinning the paint with linseed oil to make the layers of colour more prominent. The joy Tabitha felt while she was painting was palpable. “It’s like putting my soul on a canvas,” she confesses.


Tabitha came back to Tillsonburg that first summer energized at having finally found her niche. But in a fit of financial pragmatism, she traded her paintbrush for a shovel. “I got a job in the Town’s roads department,” she laughs. Suffice to say, Tabitha didn’t find filling potholes as rewarding as painting. “I’d been there about a month when the Station hired me back as an art camp instructor,” she says. “I was pretty happy about that.” Over the next several years, Tabitha’s involvement with the Station deepened. She moved into the role of class instructor, then program/community coordinator. “When I came home fromNova Scotia, I sensed a shift happening in Tillsonburg,” she says. “There seemed to be more interest in the arts. I saw so much potential and opportunity at the Station that it was really a no-brainer to stay and be a part of it.” When she wasn’t at work, Tabitha continued to paint, participating in various group and solo shows. “When I was pregnant with my second child, I took a break from oil painting and started doing pen and ink drawings instead,” she says. “I created a series of drawings for the Oxford Studio Tour that year, mostly inspired by abandoned houses in the area.” During the event, Tabitha was approached to do a commission. That one request led to dozens more, and soonTabitha developed a side business rendering people’s family homes, cottages and businesses.

“It’s an honour whenever someone asks me to draw a location that’s really meaningful to them,” she says. “I like it because there’s always a story there. It’s completely different than painting—so there’s a bit of a yin and yang to it.” In 2020, Tabitha added a new title to her business card: gallery curator. She had just stepped into the role when COVID-19 shut everything down. “I was really discouraged at first but we’ve got a great team here and put a lot of thought into ways we could stay connected with the community and keep things happening.” One of the first things they

did was double down on social media—posting more video content than ever before, and developing virtual programming, including online exhibitions. “Art is best appreciated in person,” she says. “When you’re physically in a room with a piece, you can see texture and brush strokes and examine it from different angles.” Nevertheless, Tabitha and the team persevered. They introduced craft kits for kids— with all supplies and instructions included. At Christmas they created an online marketplace. In the spring, they opened a pop- up shop at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

(Above) Tabitha Verbuyst hangs artwork by Scott Jensen in the Patenaude Family Gallery at the Station Arts Centre (41 Bridge Street West) as part of her role as Gallery Curator.

(Left) Tabitha at work in her home studio.


“There are people who’ve come to the Farmers’ Market for years who are just now learning what we do because we moved outside,” she says. “It’s something we likely wouldn’t have done if COVID-19 hadn’t forced our hand.” “It’s been a long haul for sure,” she says. “In-house groups are typically a big part of what we do here, so not being able to offer those things in person was hard for our membership. When you’re creative, it’s important to have and outlet and a supportive community around you. But things are open now and we’re excited about the future.” Learn more about Tabitha at For information on what’s coming up at the Station Arts Centre visit


T H E L E M O N A D E Downtown businesses find new recipes for success during the pandemic MASTERS

M arcel Rosehart will never forget Friday, March 13, 2020. It wasn’t just an unlucky day; it was a nightmare. “We lost five weeks of bookings in the span of a few hours,” the co-owner of Chrissy’s Catering recalls. “By the end of that one day, we had lost every single wedding, anniversary and business event we had scheduled.” Two days earlier on March 11, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. That same day Ontario logged its first COVID-19 related death—a man in his 70s from Barrie, Ontario. The following day, another death was reported—a man in his 50s from Milton. “People were scared,” says Marcel. “We’d all seen how COVID-19 had crippled China and other countries and now suddenly it was spreading in Ontario.” When Premier Doug Ford announced a state of emergency,

and later closed all non-essential businesses in the province, the situation went from bad to worse. “I remember pulling my full time staff together and saying, ‘Listen, I know we’re a catering company but we’re going to have do something different if we’re going to survive this,” he says. (Below) Marcel Rosehart, co-owner of Chrissy's Catering stands on the patio of the Carriage Hall (25 Brock Street West)


While it hasn’t been easy, Marcel and his wife Laurie have spent the past 18 months trying to make lemonade from some of the worst lemons life has ever thrown at them. “We became a take-out company,” he says. “With no eat- in service allowed, and no big events, it was the only option we really had.” They started off with two daily specials, then eventually moved into menu options, drink specials and later table service at their newly built street patio. He updated his kitchen for smaller portion sizes, and added a new bar at the front of Carriage Hall to better service the patio. “It was so weird to walk into the kitchen and say, ‘Okay guys, I need two porkchops. No, not 200. Just two,’” he laughs. It was a massive culture shift, but Marcel and Laurie were determined to make it work. Then there were the sandwiches. For nine weeks, the staff at Chrissy’s made 300 sandwiches twice a day, and delivered them to a job site in Nanticoke. It was the largest contract they’d ever had. That job, combined with the fact that they owned their own building, helped the business weather the storm. And of course, many individuals in the community stepped up as well— making a point to order lunch, or pick up dinner to help carry them through. From salon to cheese shop Across the street at Hue Salon, things were less rosy. Like many business owners, Tracy Helyar


thought COVID-19 would be a blip—something that might affect them for a month or two. But as the closures stretched on, the worry set in. While she says her landlord was wonderful, there was still much uncertainty about the future. Like Marcel, she had to figure out how to survive in a world that suddenly didn’t need her. After all, could you really call yourself a hairstylist if you weren’t cutting hair? It would take a lot of shampoo sales to pay the bills. She cut costs where she could, but it was challenging because she also needed to be ready to reopen at a moment’s notice. “I’ve never watched so much news,” she says. “Every day we’d wonder what the announcement would be, and when we’d be able to open back up.” When restrictions eased, Tracy and her staff worked overtime to try to catch up. After months of

rest, their bodies strained under the increased demand. Now they had to start scheduling in time for chiropractors and massage therapists as well as work. “When we got shut down the second time in January, Tracy and I said if we get closed a third time we’re changing careers,” says former stylist Kelly Purtill. “It started as a joke, but then we started researching different business options and thinking about it much more seriously.” Sure enough, the pandemic’s third wave arrived in April 2021 as anticipated and Hue Salon closed for good. “We’d talked about opening a clothing store or a wine bar, but in the end we settled on cheese,” says Kelly.

“We wanted something pandemic proof—something people would still need and want to buy no matter what.” Three months after Hue closed, Tracy and Kelly opened Two Girls and a Cheese Shop in the same location. Their vision? Bring a bit of Paris to Tillsonburg. “We carry everything you need to create a nice charcuterie board,” says Tracy. “Nuts, meats, olives, jellies, crackers and of course, cheese. On Fridays, we have fresh baguettes and fresh flowers from our local partners. We even sell table linens.” Many of their customers are former salon clients. Others are referred to the shop by family, friends and even other downtown businesses. “Trinkets Gift Shoppe and Peddlar’s Quay have been awesome sending people to us, and the Business Improvement Area has been great about promoting us through social media," says Tracy. “It’s been so fun getting to know people and learning what they like,” adds Kelly. “For both of us, I think relationships have always been our favourite part of being in business.” (Top Left) Tracy Helyar and Kelly Purtill are the faces behind Two Girls and a Cheese Shop (20 Brock Street West). (Left) Freshly baked baguettes from Angela's Takeaway and bouquets from Makkinks Flower Farm are just of the surprises you'll find at Two Girls and a Cheese Shop—not to mention cheese and other charcuterie essentials.


Where the pair used to memorize their clients preferred haircuts and colours, they now know them by their cheese tastes. “We have something for everyone—favourites like brie, cheddar and gouda, to stronger, more adventurous choices like 10- year cheddars, washed-rinds and flavoured cheeses,” says Tracy. Tracy’s personal favourite is Adoray, a soft washed-rind cheese wrapped in a strip of spruce bark. Kelly’s favourite is Grey Owl, a surface-ripened goat's milk cheese produced in Quebec. Downtown businesses pivot “Tillsonburg has been fortunate throughout the pandemic,” says Mark Renaud, executive director of the Downtown Tillsonburg Business Improvement Area. “Obviously some businesses have struggled more than others, but on the whole, I think we’ve seen a remarkable display of resilience. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I think that’s certainly been true here. The business owners have been so creative in finding a way forward in spite of very difficult circumstances.” Cherished Pieces at 142 Broadway, for instance, engaged customers during lockdown with weekly Facebook Live videos. Two years ago, the idea of trying to sell quilting fabric and notions solely through video and social media would have been laughable. But the store now boasts nearly 2500 Facebook fans, many of whom make a point of tuning in every Wednesday morning to see what’s new and connect with fellow sewing enthusiasts.

“We’ve even had several brand new businesses open during the pandemic which is even more impressive,” says Mark. Travis Propper, proprietor of Tillsonburg Hobby Central (75 Broadway) opened his business in July last year. With an entrance on Baldwin Street, the store specializes in carrying puzzles, games, craft supplies, collectibles, model kits and radio control gear. You’ll even find a selection of video games and movies. “We're hoping to help supply everyone a little something for their hobby they love to do,” says Travis. In a year when there was literally nothing to do but stay home, Tillsonburg Hobby Central couldn’t have come at a better time. Rinconcito, a new Mexican grocery store also opened last year at 1 Library Lane. Small but mighty, the store carries an excellent selection of Mexican

products including fresh produce, beverages, tortillas, salsas and even take-out lunch items. “People want to shop to in town if they can,” says Mark. “But to do that, they need stores that carry the things they’re looking for. It’s great to see independent retailers opening up to fill those gaps.” “I’m feeling very positive about the future,” he says. “Has it been hard? Absolutely. But if there’s one thing people in Tillsonburg are good at, it’s rising to the occasion and working together as a community. COVID-19 isn’t something any of us wanted, but we’re learning fromthe experience and emerging stronger for it.”


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THE ROOM All her life Kubet Weston has stood out. Now she's speaking out about diversity and inclusion, and what it was like to break the colour bar in Canadian rowing. T H E O N L Y O N E I N L ouise Umoessien was driving home dodging potholes when

“Nigeria was a nation in turmoil,” she says. “When we moved to Tillsonburg, we were able to just be kids. We didn’t have to worry about violence. But at the same time, there was no getting away from the fact that we were different.” “When people heard we were from Africa, many assumed we were famine victims like the ones they saw on television,” Kubet explains. “Others thought we were orphans who had been rescued from a life of poverty by the nice white woman who took us to the park.” In truth, they were none of those things. Kubet’s father was a respected PhD scientist. Her mother had a bachelor’s degree in home economics. Both were graduates of the University of Toronto, where they met and married. In Nigeria, her parents weren’t poor; they were working professionals living amongst other working professionals.

she heard voices. Suddenly men with machetes were climbing onto her car. Terrified, she threw the transmission into reverse and stomped on the accelerator. The vehicle hurtled backward, sending the men reeling. She swerved left, then right, then back again. Only when the last attacker fell away did she dare look back at her three young children—Allen, Kubet and Serina—cowering on the floor behind her. As an expatriate working for the Nigerian government, Louise knew political tensions were high. But an armed attack on her family? She wasn’t about to let her children die in a military coup. Not tonight. Not ever. And so, though it broke her heart to do it, Louse took the children—ages seven, five and three—and fled to Canada. Her Nigerian-born husband stayed behind in Africa.

Louise Umoessien and her children Kubet, Serina and Allen before leaving Nigeria and moving to Tillsonburg in 1980.

“My mom gave up her marriage and the life she had built when she left Nigeria in 1980, but what we gained in Canada was safety,” her daughter Kubet recalls. Now a mother herself, Kubet has nothing but compassion for her parents and the impossible choices they faced.


"I had a lot of great teachers and coaches and others who believed in me when I was growing up in Tillsonburg. But it all started with my mom. She refused to accept the idea that brown skin was ‘less than’ and taught everyone around her to do the same.”

Learn more about community rowing at


What’s more, Kubet’s family had deep roots in Tillsonburg. Hermother was born and raised in the community. Her grandfather, Jack Weston, was the town’s land surveyor. Her great grandfather, Dr. R.E. Weston, was a former mayor and school trustee. His father, J.E. Weston, was part- owner of Weston Stoves, and operator of a produce market on Broadway. All were active volunteers and contributors to community life. And yet none of these facts seemed able to keep Kubet from encountering the implicit racial biases of the era. As a kindergarten student at Rolph Street Public School, for example, she was sent to

a classroom for children with physical and developmental delays. When her mother asked the school why she was there, she was told Kubet had a speech impediment. “She doesn’t have a speech impediment she has an accent!” Louise countered firmly.

When the school suggested Kubet’s standardized test scores were also low, Louise asked to see the test. It didn’t take long to diagnose the problem. In Nigeria, Kubet learned British vocabulary and vernacular. Trash went in a bin, and luggage in a boot, for example. “The test asked questions about books I’d never heard, and used language I wasn’t familiar with,” Kubet explains. In short, it wasn’t a fair test. When a more culturally appropriate assessment was done, Kubet promptly skipped a grade. “I was fortunate to have a mother who advocated for me,” she says. “Without her intervention, my education could have been different right from the get-go.” Kubet was also fortunate to be a gifted athlete. “Kids can be harsh with their words but I found being good at sports was a nice way to overcome those challenges,” she says. As a little girl on the playground, Kubet found power in winning contests to see who could jump the farthest, and run the fastest. “It was nice to be able to stand out for something positive rather than things I had no control over,” she says. Kubet gained even more confidence when she joined the Tillsonburg Legion Track and Field Club. Her natural athletic ability mixed with the club’s high-quality coaching proved to be a powerful combination. She spent countless hours training at

(Above) The Weston family produce market and store located at 128 Broadway.

(Top) Kubet Weston with her mother Louise in Nigeria.

(Right) Louise Weston and husband Stan Umoessien in 1971 on their wedding day at the University of Toronto.


the Annandale track, and by the end of her first year of high school had found the podium at the provincial and national level. She even set a new OFSAA record in triple jump. “I started to think that maybe I could get a full-ride scholarship at a U.S. college, or even compete in the Olympics,” she confesses. But in the fall of her grade 10 year, a devastating knee injury put Kubet’s athletic dreams on ice. She spent months waiting for an MRI, then two years waiting for reconstructive surgery. “It was hard not being able to be active,” she says. “But the upshot of getting hurt was I discovered physiotherapy. I did a co-op placement at the clinic where I was a patient and ended up working part time until I graduated.” In her spare time, Kubet hung out with friends or watched her brother row on Lake Lisgar. “One day he asked me to come out and join him,” she says. “I found rowing didn’t injure my

That encounter prompted Kubet to attend an indoor training session where she shocked everyone—including herself—by pulling a top ERG score on the day. She not only made the team, she went on to become the first black female rower to represent Canada at the world championships. chance Over the next two years, she won four world championship medals—two silver and two bronze. She even punched her ticket to the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Although a stress fracture kept her out of competition, watching her teammates on the women’s eight crew win a bronze medal was thrilling just the same. Canada's eights power to second place in their repechage heat to advance to the semi-finals in Women's Eights at the World Rowing Championships in St. Catharines, Ont. on Aug. 25, 1999. Kubet Weston is fourth from the left. (CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)

knee so I stuck with it for a season. I just did it for the joy of it, really.” When it came time for university, Kubet was offered a rare direct entry into the physiotherapy program at the University of Toronto. Arriving on campus in 1993, her days as a track star and aspiring varsity athlete seemed like a lifetime ago. But then came the conversation that would change everything. “This friendly girl came up to me in the athletic centre and said, ‘You’re tall. Would you like to try rowing?’”


Yet as good as it felt to win, Kubet couldn’t help noticing she was still the only black girl in the boathouse. “I thought sure I’d see more diversity when I got to the international level of competition and I didn’t,” she says. “In my whole career, I didn’t compete with or against any other women of colour. Even amongst the coaches, staff and officials, there was very little ethnic diversity.” That lack of diversity in rowing is something Kubet has thought about a lot in recent years— but especially now that she’s serving on Row Ontario’s newly- created Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Race wasn’t something I ever really talked about with anyone,” she says. “I always felt I should lead by example. But after George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, I started

to reconsider that approach. I’ve had people say, ‘Well, you didn’t experience any issues or any racism,’ and it’s hard to know how to respond to that. It might not be something I’ve talked about, but it’s certainly something that I experienced.” “Tillsonburg was a fantastic place to grow up, with lots of opportunities and a strong sense of community,” she continues, “but even so, my siblings and I grew up knowing we needed to make

Believing she might have less margin for error than her teammates, Kubet took great pains to distance herself from drama, and kept any struggles she was having to herself. “I had great teammates and coaches, but I always felt like I needed to be strategic in how much of myself I shared with people,” she says. “Sometimes I just needed space away from the scrutiny.” Kubet was also careful not to let her socio-economic status become an issue. Coming to Canada with little more than a suitcase, her family didn’t even have a car until Kubet was in high school. “I had to work while I was going to university,” she explains. “Some of my teammates could go nap between practices. I didn’t have that option. I’d go to practice in the morning, leave for work, then come back for evening practice. It was stressful, but I was careful not to complain or let my finances become a reason to give my place to someone else.” While many things have changed in rowing since Kubet retired from the sport in 2003, she says there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of removing potential barriers to participation—racial, financial or otherwise. “Talking about the issues is the first step,” she says. “But we need to get to a point where there’s measurable change as well.” While Row Ontario’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee is still in its infancy, Kubet is encouraged by the conversations that are being had. She’s

smart decisions and stay out of trouble because fairness and justice weren't guaranteed." In university and at the national level, Kubet was even more vigilant. “When you row at an elite level, you’re always competing for your seat on the boat,” she explains. “But as a person of colour, I felt even more vulnerable. I didn’t want to do anything that could ever cause someone to decide I wasn’t ‘a good fit.’”

(Above) Kubet Weston (far right) and her teammates at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.


especially proud to have helped bring the documentary A Most Beautiful Thing to the Canadian Sport Film Festival. Based on the memoir of Arshay Cooper, the film chronicles the development of the first African American high school rowing team, many of whom came from rival gangs in Chicago. “It’s such a powerful film,” she says. “It explores what team members overcame to take part in rowing and how the sport helped them re-imagine their future.” Kubet first became aware of Cooper’s story through her husband Craig McAllister, co- owner of Hudson Boat Works in London, Ontario. “Hudson donates boats to rowing clubs in non-traditional rowing communities to help

make the sport more accessible to marginalized youth,” Kubet explains. Kubet and her colleagues on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee hope to see more outreach efforts take shape in Canada in the future. “I want everyone to have the opportunity to access the sport of rowing,” she says. "Just opening the door to the sport as an athlete of colour isn’t enough. I need to invite others in and use my experiences to make the sport more welcoming and inclusive. As Arshay Cooper has said, ‘Talent is everywhere but access and opportunity are not.’” Looking back on her life, Kubet is proud of what she’s achieved, and thankful for the people who helped her get there.

“I had a lot of great teachers and coaches, and other people who believed in me when I was in Tillsonburg,” she says. “But it all started with my mom. She refused to accept the idea that brown skin was ‘less than’ and taught everyone around her to do the same.” After Kubet retired from competitive rowing, she worked with Rowing Canada, travelling as a physiotherapist internationally and working with elite athletes. Today, she’s the owner of Skye Health, an innovative health collective providing physiotherapy, massage therapy, and pilates classes to residents of London, Ontario. Her mother, Louise Weston, passed away in 2011.


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Meet the 'Lusty Plowman' who made Tillsonburg famous

Y ou might think Stompin’ Tom Connors is the one who made Tillsonburg synonymous with hard work. After all, his twangy ode to Tillsonburg’s tobacco harvest was a huge hit when it was released in 1971. Nevertheless, Connors was far from the first to represent Tillsonburg as the home of hard work. Enter the “The Lusty Plowman”—a bonnie lad with a lusty appetite who couldn’t possibly tend his fields unless powered by a hearty breakfast of Tillson’s Pan-Dried Oats. “Long before tobacco, Tillsonburg was famous for its oatmeal,” explains Patricia Phelps, curator of Annandale National Historic Site. “At one point, Tillsonburg was even nicknamed ‘the Pan-Dried Town.’” According to family lore, E.D. Tillson frequently suffered from bowel ailments as a lingering side effect from his bout with typhoid fever. His doctors suggested that eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning would help his

condition. There was just one problem—Tillson didn’t like oatmeal. “The old-fashioned kiln process let the smoke and fumes into the oats, adding an unpleasant flavour to the oatmeal,” says Phelps. “So ever the entrepreneur, E.D. set his sights on developing an improved drying method. The result was a patented new process that gave the oats a nutty flavor. He also designed new milling equipment to remove the dreaded hulls, seeds and ‘foreign matter’ found in other products.” The Canadian public loved Tillson’s creation. In fact, Tillson’s Oats soon became the number one cereal in Canada. The product was even shipped internationally to places like Norway, the Canary Islands, and South America. However, by the early 1900s, American companies including Post and Kellogg’s were beginning to experiment with


cold cereals. The Quaker Oats Company was hiring employees for a new plant in Peterborough and the Frontenac Cereal Company launched in Kingston, bringing in a former Kellogg's factory manager to help run its operations. Recognizing the threat of increased competition and changing consumer tastes, the Tillson Company turned to a 22-year-old advertising man named J.J. Gibbons for help. “Gibbons created a new advertising campaign designed to link Tillson’s oats with the active, vigorous lifestyle of a Scotsman,” says Phelps. “The ads featured a man dressed in the fashion of Robbie Burns participating in a variety of physically demanding activities. ‘The Lusty Plowman’ was one of the more memorable iterations, but other ads featured the character chopping wood, hunting, fishing, snow-shoeing, curling, skating and tobogganing.” The Scotsman appeared in the Toronto newspapers in the fall of 1902. The message was simple: Tillson’s Oats are a genuinely Canadian product, with a long and storied history. An ad appearing in the Toronto Globe on December 1, 1902 put it this way: “Tillson’s made oatmeal in Canada when modern food faddists were making dyspeptic stomachs last century by eating pie and fried pork for breakfast… Shall Canadians be fed upon the medicated fads of a nation that lost its own stomach because it lacked the wisdom and taste to eat Scotch-Canadian porridge?” Further emphasizing the point, the ad closed with

unit. The interesting dual ended when Tillson’s was bought out by the American Cereal Company (Quaker Oats) at a figure entirely satisfactory to Mr. Tillson.” So the next time you have oatmeal for breakfast, take a good look at the man on the package. You might just find he bears a striking resemblance to the former Tillson Oats man.

Gibbons reminding readers that Tillson’s Oats were, “A food, not a fad.” The phrase became a slogan, effectively establishing Tillsonburg as the home of common sense and hard work. The advertising campaign was wildly successful beyond either Gibbons’ or the Tillson Company’s wildest dreams. The Tillson Scot became a national figure prompting the Canadian Grocer to deem it, “an inspiration in trademarks.” “The spectacular sight of a small Canadian mill standing up to the American ‘octopus’ caught the popular imagination and inspired numerous editorials in Ontario dailies,” Gibbons later wrote. “Eventually the Ontario millers became an important


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SUPERPOWER ? The COVID-19 pandemic has left many businesses on the brink. But together, we can save them. W H A T ' S Y O U R A s Ontario continues to be affected by the COVID-19

pandemic, the Downtown Tillsonburg BIA, Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Tillsonburg have a simple message: "Use your powers for good!" Whether you open your wallet or use your social influence on the web, every action you take this fall and winter matters. "Saving a business is easier than you might think,” says Cephas Panschow, Development Commissioner for the Town of Tillsonburg. “For years, we’ve been encouraging people to shop locally, but in this climate, it’s never been more important.” "We canall be superheroeswhen it comes to helping businesses overcome the economic impact of the pandemic," says Karlee Slattery, Marketing Coordinator with the Downtown Tillsonburg BIA. "Even the smallest actions can make a big difference." Learn more about how to help at

I RESCUE a Florist (and My Marriage)

WHEN I Buy Flowers!


I melt GRANDMA’s Heart (AND A SALON OWner’s worries) With a Gift Certificate!

Invest in a business' future by purchasing gift certificates. Salons, spas and restaurants were hit especially hard during the pandemic. You can help them bounce back by paying now for services you know you will use later.

Blast away bankruptcy with burgers for two! Maybe you're not going out for big family dinners these days, but why not surprise someone with lunch?


Supercharge sales and make a business owner's day by leaving a positive review online. When you have a great experience at a local business, tell people! Help make good news travel fast by posting about your experience on social media. Whether you're a fan of Facebook, Instagam or Twitter, you can have a positive influence on the community.


Make a habit of investing in your community. Businesses have been there for you all these years—sponsoring sports teams, giving to community events and charities. Now's the time to say thank you with your wallet.

Rescue your favourite cafe (and a long, boring meeting) by ordering in coffee and treats for your team. Winning friends at work doesn't have to be complicated.


NUMBERS B Y T H E Digits that will make you do a double take

square feet will be required at the Tillsonburg Community Centre when Rogers Hometown Hockey brings its community festival to Tillsonburg on November 20-22. Get your free tickets at 100,000

Tillsonburg Fire & Rescue Services provides dispatch services for THIRTY-NINE communities across Ontario. was the average cost of a single detached home in Tillsonburg in September 2021. $558,384 $5,000,000 in infrastructure improvements are on the way to the Community Centre including upgrades to the pool roof, lighting system, health club and sauna. Gender-neutral change room facilities will be added, as well as a ramp to help those with mobility challenges enter the water safely.

At EIGHTEEN years of age, Tillsonburg's Charlotte Bolton was the youngest member of Team Canada's track and field team at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this past summer. She competed in two events, including the F41 discus--where she broke an Americas record with a throw of 27.72 metres. She finished sixth overall in both of her events.

The Town of Tillsonburg issued 538 building permits in 2020 with a total construction value of $71,663,095

Plus, watch for a new outdoor splash pad in Memorial Park !


Direct from the Sawmill

Sol id & Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Made from sustainably harvested local hardwoods


MON - FRI 8:30am - 4:30pm SATURDAY 9:00am - 3:00pm SUNDAY CLOSED


1300 Jackson Sideroad, Courtland, ON 519.688.3553



616 Broadway Street, Tillsonburg, 519-842-4981 / 1 888-842-4981 FURNI TURE MATTRESSES APPL I ANCES . . HOME DECOR & APPL I ANCE SERVICE


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