Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beautiful Downtown Milverton

View from the parking lot
Today, we visit beautiful downtown Milverton, Ontario, the small town I visited regularly for almost six years.  A small town located 45 km from the city where I live.   A short distance in kilometers, a much larger distance in history and tradition.  Visiting Milverton was like stepping out of the pages of the modern 21st century and entering the pages of a totally different society from the one in which I live.

Popular mode of transportation -
right up there with the car and van
As I indicated in an earlier blog, I was hesitant about starting with this counsellor largely because of the long drive out in the country on two-lane roads.  With no or narrow or, worse yet, gravel shoulders.  Two-lane roads populated by trucks, my worst fear come true.  Trucks that could run me off the road.  Trucks travelling behind me, going faster than myself, not slowing down.  Feeling threatened.  Feeling Fear.  Heck!  I wasn't fearful.  I was terrified.  Trucks manned by demons euphemistically called truck drivers.  Feed trucks.   Grain trucks.  Slow moving farm equipment.  Large, slow moving farm equipment.  Very large, slow moving farm equipment.  I mean those things are monsters.  Virtually impossible to pass until they pulled off at their destination.  Anyway, I digress.

Evidence that Milverton is very much a farming
My first trip, I embarked upon with fear and trepidation.  GPS, for me, was in the distant future.  My counsellor had given me excellent directions.  Problem was, there was major construction on the main road I would utilize in the months and years to come.  The only road I knew. The first trip out, I missed the detour and ended up in front of a road closure with lots of construction equipment behind it.  Noisy equipment.  A torn up road.  Obviously, I wasn't going to get there from where I was.  I backtracked to a feed store.  They had printed out excellent directions for the detour.  Apparently, I wasn't the first one who had gotten lost.  And so I went on.  And on.  And on.  Dreading every kilometre of the way.  Eventually, I arrived in Milverton.  Found the parking spot.  Went in and waited.

The post office
That was the extent of my acquaintance with Milverton for quite a while until I became bolder and decided to make the day mine.  My special outing.  At the time I worked afternoons in the city, so all appointments were in the morning.  Afterwards, I would  hustle back to the city in time for work, grabbing a bite to eat on the way.  I called these my "Milverton" days as between the appointment and work, this was my entire day.

Mural on the side of the grocery store
Eventually, I began to enjoy my "Milverton" days. Firstly, I began to enjoy the drive out - especially when the weather was good.  Milverton is in the heart of Old Order Mennonite and Amish country.  The drive out was full of beautiful, pastor scenery.  Farms.  Sometimes tractors working in the fields.  Other times, Old Order Mennonites with their horse drawn equipment.

Milverton is a town where the new meets the old.  Where the old predominates.  Where the village hasn't been turned into a touristy area.  Where it maintains its own dignity and character.

My husband remarked that, to him, Milverton was old and decrepit.  To me, it was full of wonderful architecture just waiting to be photographed; no begging to be photographed.  It was a photographer's delight.  Especially am amateur one like me.

The main street
Milverton Library
To him it was dying; to me it was alive with history and tradition.  It was a place where Old Order and Modern met - in the streets, in the stores.  Where people dressed in traditional Old Order garb, driving horse drawn vehicles were commonplace.

A brief history of Milverton, dated 1852-1902 shows a picture of a small but prosperous community, thriving.  The hotels it mentions are now closed, a thing of the past.  A school, a much more modern one, exists as do several churches, a small library, a small grocery store, several small businesses including a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store, a gas station, and, of course, the farm equipment store.

Historic buildings in Milverton - note the
one on the near corner is closed
The Amish and Old Order Mennonites do not like to be
photographed and usually I respect that.  This once I simply
wanted to get a feel for the town itself.  It's uniqueness.
Note:  I photographed her from the back only.  No face showing.
She could be any Amish or Old Order Mennonite woman
of any age group.
One day, I decided to make time to leave my house early and take a walk.  I walked outside of town, discovering the gas station and small restaurant where I could get a cup of town to go with me.  Later, I decided to check out side streets on walks.  Still later, I wondered into the MCC thrift store.  MCC thrift stores are abundant in my area.  Yet, each one maintains it's own character and distinction, no two being alike.  The one in Milverton fast became my favorite.  Why?  It had the usual cast off items:  jewelry, shoes, clothing, knick knacks, etc.  But it also had a room set aside for books, magazines (including craft ones), and (oh bliss!) yarns, patterns, crochet hooks and knitting needles.  A paradise for a knitter/crocheter such as myself.  In no other thrift store have I encountered such a selection of quality used craft items for sale.

It may not have been love at first sight, but love it did indeed become love.  In time, I made sure I left the house at least 30 minutes early so that I could "make the rounds" of the thrift store and other stores in Milverton.

The only traffic light in town
In time, I discovered the variety store next door to the thrift store.  I discovered it carried a most wonderful treat.  Flavoured coffee in a machine.  A stop to this store and a cup of flavoured coffee became my special Milverton Day treat to me.  Buying the coffee also became a special treat in and of itself as the person behind the counter came to recognize me and greet me warmly, as though I was a special, treasured friend come to visit for the day.  It did my battered soul good to have such a warm welcome in a business establishment.  To have my presence recognized.  To feel like I was one of her regulars.  To be accepted.  It didn't matter to her that I didn't live in Milverton, that I was from the "big" city.  It mattered to her that I was a person, just like herself, coming into her store.  I felt like I mattered.

This ends our brief tour of Milverton.  I hope you enjoyed the side trip as much as I did.

A former restaurant, now closed

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