In the late 1980s I decided I wanted to live closer to nature. I sold my ramshackle semi in a rough part of Toronto and moved to the hamlet of Cordova Mines on the edge of The Shield. The people of Cordova welcomed me like a long lost crazy relative, and I enjoyed the fresh air and having a remote bush trail leading from my back door. But my lack of country skills, compounded by a century old farmhouse with more drafty holes than insulation, cut short my stay. A chance visit to a friend's grandfather's house in the nearby village of Marmora suggested it was the perfect size for me. Living in a small village, rather than in a hamlet, would mean my water would be potable instead of from the dubious ground water well, and my sewage wouldn't be backing up into my bathtub, which happened with pungent frequency with the unreliable septic system.
So in the early 1990s I moved to Marmora, six or seven miles back down the road towards Belleville and Lake Ontario, and here I've remained for a quarter century. When I moved into Archie's tiny bungalow, the short main street of Marmora was flourishing. A TD bank and a hardware store bookended the main drag at the traffic lights on Highway 7, and Cassidy's furniture store and Dizzy's Bar staunchly upheld the other end a hundred or so yards along. Between were a Stedman's five and dime, a dry goods store, a glasses shop, insurance office, the ubiquitous LCBO, a corner store, barbershop, a knickknack shop for tourists and others.
Now gone, all gone, with only the liquor store, insurance agent and barber remaining on a once lively main street where you could actually shop. The TD bank pulled out last summer after a century of service. Perhaps it's a chicken or the egg variation now, natural demographics - the pull to the big cities - caused the decline of the commerce section of Marmora and was an obvious influence on the bank's head office decision makers. Now we're waiting to see if the bank's closure will be the final straw in the demise of downtown Marmora leading to a weakening and lessening of the population.
The TD Bank recently pulled this same stunt in another small rural community, and it looks like this is a trend other banks will follow. What effect this final betrayal will have on the residents of Marmora is starting to play out. Most inhabitants in Marmora are poor, and many of us are seniors. It's too late to move back to a major centre, and our meagre life savings are tied up in our houses. These were our retirement funds after a lifetime of low paying factory, mining or service industry jobs. With no bank to anchor new business ventures, will our property values - our retirement nest eggs - decrease substantially in value?
Will the province decide the remaining schools should close or amalgamate as the population drops and education funding declines? Will we lose funding for our already prohibitively expensive town water system? One of the few growth areas in Marmora is housing for seniors, and who will now choose to retire in Marmora when a simple bank visit will require a round trip to either Madoc or Havelock, trips requiring a car and several hours of time?
My experience in Cordova Mines showed how resilient and mutually supportive rural people can be. I suspect the old mining town toughness, which still permeates Marmora life, will mean the village will somehow survive this vicious desertion by our billionaire banks. But Marmora is devolving, going backwards rather than forwards, and most of use here are not happy campers with our federal and provincial financial and political "leaders".
A little effing help and consideration, please!
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From: Chris Faiers <email@example.com>
Date: January 16, 2016 12:55:43 PM EST
To: Tim Miller, Belleville Intelligencer (Sun Media)
Subject: potential article on Marmora after TD Bank left town
Thanks for doing the great piece on Jim Christy ; )- The man deserves to be wined, dined and feted for all he's done for literature!
Here's an idea for an investigative piece on Marmora. The TD Bank closed last summer, after anchoring the village's main street for a century. Six months have now gone by without full bank services, & it might make for an interesting article, or series of articles, on how the closure is affecting life in Marmora. You could talk to real estate agents to see how that market has been influenced. The Reeve and other elected officials to see what plans (if any) they have for the future. Senior citizens like myself now feel a bit more trapped here, with concerns our main retirement asset, our houses, may be depreciating in value.
Other possible sources are Cathy Jones, with the Marmora Historical Society, the few remaining local merchants, like insurance broker Lionel Bennet (the Reeve long ago). Andre Philpott, also once upon a time, was the Mayor/Reeve, & author of a history of Marmora, etc. .
Following is a post I put on my blog yesterday detailing some concerns. You're welcome to quote from it if you wish. I may send it around as a letter-to-the-editor - haven't decided yet.
peace, poetry power & investigative journalism!
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Yesterday, Jan. 28, I decided to send this blog posting around to local friends and community leaders, as well as to various media outlets. A high proportion of local people kindly responded. Here's a selection of their interesting comments:
Thank you for forwarding your latest composition - well written of course & a strong message.
I did want to point out there are many, many people in the area who are not 'poor' - have you ever taken a complete boat ride around Crowe Lake & up Beaver Creek, as well as along Crowe River? My children & I have the past two summers taken a boat cruise with Doug Alcock - it's amazing the size of the beautiful homes - and so very many of them!!!!
It's true few of them stay in the town but so many still coming from the city to settle here.
I am constantly grateful for the wonderful job Anne Philpot continues to do with our Historical Foundation - all the scanning & documenting the various histories is wonderful. Cathie does a good job manning the office of course & chatting with visitors, but Anne's work is outstanding.
I had approached our Council to recognize all the tremendous work done by André Philpot on our history (signs, trails & written)- have heard nothing yet - also Anne should be recognized - it's a wait & see.
I very much enjoyed reading your article & look forward to some more!
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Couldn’t agree more with the way that you express your opinions about Marmora’s current situation. Not sure if there is any interest or know how from town officials to do anything to change the situation. It requires work and commitment .
Really appreciate you trying to bring this to peoples attention. As somebody who invested a a lot of money and effort in what we have here,we now find ourselves often questioning the wisdom of the move,
Best of luck to you in trying to make outside people aware of the situation that small rural tows are faced with these days.
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Nice work and more noise should be made about the lack of political enthusiasm. But i fear you are standing in front of a moving bulldozer. The world is changing. We are simply the old folk now comparing life with the "old days". This is not new. My guess is it happens for every generation. Bricks & mortar are dissolving. It's all about megabytes now which is good for profit but makes for a bleak lifestyle.
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Great article on Marmora and the bank. You are right that it will certainly affect the seniors and the disadvantaged but it won't affect those who retired here and built big homes on the lake and the river. They shop in Peterborough or Belleville.
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Well written Chris (of course!). Thank you for sharing.
As a side note, thank you for all your points and chats about book publishing. I truly appreciate it.
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Our new Member of Parliament, Mike Bossio, is Chair of the Liberal Rural Caucus. Here's an email I sent Feb. 13:
Congrats again on the huge victory over the Horrible Harperites! Last Friday night I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bossio in person at Marmora's SnoFest Talent Show. The show was a hoot, and Mike demonstrated his good nature beyond all measure by sitting through the whole shebang - both the 'under 12's and the adult contests - a feat I only managed by holding my gut to restrain the belly laughs and then occasionally popping sugary candies to stay awake. The man deserves a medal for tolerance ; )-
I'm pleased that Mike has assumed the Chair of the National Rural Caucus. We have an issue of national concern playing out here in our small village. The TD Bank closed it branch here after a full century of service. The ramifications of this desertion are starting to play out in our community, and I'm aware of a similar big bank desertion in process in Deseronto. A Belleville Intelligencer staffer
is considering doing an article on the situation, so Mike may be approached for a response.
Here's my blog posting on the situation:
peace & poetry power!