Derek's Travels




The 3rd Journey







The 3rd Journey: Canada & the U.S.A.
by Derek Bickford-Smith

An incident that happened on my third series of visits....
Having flown late at night, squeezed by an overweight man who took half my seat as well as his own, from Ontario to New York for onward to Virginia; I had to spend the night and had booked an hotel at the airport, only to find that despite this, my hotel had gone out of existence. I taxied into New York and tried to find a hotel that I had stayed in before with no success and was dumped by my taxi driver in the belief that the YMCA was nearby - but where?
There were two very large dark gentlemen lying on the pavement and one slowly unwound and came over to me and asked the time.
I was terrified but complied and his reply was that there was no point in going home at 2 am and joined his companion on the pavement. However, he knew of the YMCA and even at that early morning hour I was welcomed to that excellent establishment.

But to get back to the communities I visited, we start in Canada...

Norwich Township (as was), Ontario, Canada
Despite the administrative changes that took out Norfolk Township in the new identification of Norfolk County, Ontario in 2001, I register the Norfolk Township delegation in fond memory of the excellent work they did to promote their township, their Ontario County and indeed their country, Canada. I have fond memories of my visit and being entertained in 1994.
Mayor Hector Verhoeve, with members of one of his Womens InstitutesMayor Hector Verhoeve, with members of one of his Women's Institutes and his chief executive, in his seat of benevolent power - now part of the history of Norfolk County, Ontario.
(The Women's Institutes had their inception in Ontario and are now a power in England as well).
John Backhouse, Norfolk Township
Right: John Backhouse, introduced by Hector, whose family I have since discovered has ancestral links back to the 15th Century in England.

Norwich Village, Oxford County, Ontario, Canada
MayorAn arresting meeting with Norwich village police

Left: Mayor John Heleniak on my visit in 1994, and right: just to show that the Police in Norwich Village are very efficient.....

Presenting the Norwich Union fire markLeft: Norwich & District Museum curators, Nancy & Jim Butler being presented with an old Norwich Union 'Fire Mark'. They were placed on the front of houses to certify that house was insurance protected - otherwise the firemen would just watch it burn down! This was in the days when there were only privately run fire engines.
The real problem was that if the firemen attacked the fire then the contents were theirs and so it might be better not to have it insured ?
One of the most remarkable facets of my all too short a visit in 1994 was the wonderful custom of the Canadian Legion giving the community a breakfast - via the organisation of Jaqueline and Lance Body.

City of Norwich, Virginia, U.S.A.
There are many reports of the generous welcome given to visitors and that of my own introductory visit to the City of Norwich, Virginia was an outstanding case in point. Choirs are particularly prominent in exchanges largely due to an excellent relationship built up over the years.

My experience was largely concerned with the Sister City Society and with typical generosity I was whisked from political meeting to real estate to luncheon with their President to City Hall, given the opportunity to give two talks, an impressive conducted city tour - all in a day and a half before catching my plane to another Norfolk & Norwich Family community.
Endearing memories always remain of a fabulous city that rose from the ashes of military destruction, yet today has the warmest of friendship and so many mutual interests with her English counterpart.

Right: Pin presentation of my home city to The Sister City stalwarts - all looking politely impressed with my miniscule gift!
What nice people they are!

City of Norwich, Kansas, U.S.A.
Reception at Kansas AirportThere was never a more pleasant welcome than that at Kansas Airport by Jim Skillen, Karlene Skillen & Richard Ross
Jim & Karlene had taken me on 'unseen' and have been the stalwarts of our contacts ever since. Richard, (an aircraft designer who had previously been to England) is sporting his Norwich City UK badge given him by my originator of this world research, Stanley Taylor.

Presenting a Norwich fire markWhat followed was an intensive couple of days which took in visits to all aspects of Norwich and a talk.

This photograph gives an idea of the whole joy of my visit - the joke was about the Norwich Union Fire Mark. Without the fire mark the fire would not be tackled by the Norwich Union Fire Men - they would merely watch it burn!  But even more amusing was the question "Was it worth-while insuring anyway?" as the firemen were entitled to the house contents for their work!

Norwich City, Kansas Mayor and his good lady Right: The Honourable Mayor & Mayoress ldon Schragg (of 23 years standing !) I was fortunate to be there is his last year. A busy man - he was also Fire Chief!

Here is a remarkable character I met during my visit..
His background is that he was taken in the second world war from being a farmer's boy to becoming the pilot of a vast 'flying fortress' aeroplane ... and then back to farming in his homeland of Kansas! What was that we were drinking? No, not whisky, but refreshing iced tea! Reminds me of the school prize giving where on entering the hall to see these beakers all lined up ... a steaming hot evening ..
I thought 'how sophisticated these schools are ... glasses of beer!' It was quite a shock to find that it was cold tea, but quite understandable and none the less welcome.

Right: Parliament at 9 am! The morning 'parliament' at Eshnaur Hardware - (with Deanna's coffee and treacle cake!) was the most agreeable community meeting place where common subjects were brought up in friendly discussion.
This excellent community experience was repeated in most of the medium to small sized Norfolk & Norwich world wide! A lesson that could well be repeated elsewhere?