Notes from the Road
by Catherine MacLellan
On stage at The Dunk with Nikkie, Remi, Chris, Catherine and Reg (drums)
After an exhausting but rewarding trip to England, I’ve been back home on the Island for a few weeks now, doing the holiday meet-and-greet and all the things that go with that. Holiday shows abound and winter has officially arrived.
I’ve been thinking about writing a survival guide for those of us who live year round in PEI. It’s not the same as the mainland. I may be wrong, but I find after a few months of being Island bound people need a little trip across the water to feel expanded. My career provides this break up to an extreme point where I never want to go away again unless I have to, but there are other ways to get through winter besides traveling.
The greatest boon of living in the country, as opposed to the town or city, is all the winter activities I can enjoy right in my backyard; skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, building forts, skating, etc. These things have kept the winter blues from taking over my life. Out here on the Dixon Road, a majority of neighbours and friends are active in these winter sports and turn them into community events and/or daily rituals. There are more ski trails out here than anyone probably knows and many of them connect one neighbour to another.
We also have the wonderful Dunk, run by fellow Dixon Roader, Hal Mills. The Dunk provides a space for our community to get together to hear music, play music, share meals and all without heading into town. It’s so great for me because I can walk there with my daughter and I never have to leave my road for parties, shows and gatherings. It’s really just Hal’s house, but he’s been so generous with his home, opening it up to everyone, that it’s really starting to feel like a town hall or community centre. A public house.
Unknown to many people, the Dixon Road has a long history of music. Starting in the 70s with the “Back to the Land” movement, an eclectic group of characters started moving in to this area. A band called Kit Carson included members Steve Naylor, David “Papper” Papazian, Paul Woolner, Philippe Elforde and Vianne Emery. We had a “girl band,” Josie Pye, and an all-star cast in Speed the Plough, which included Lennie Gallant, Margie Carmichael, Roy Johnstone, Sigrid Rolfe and David Papazian. Other notable members of this musical community were Allan Rankin, Malcolm Stanley and my own father, Gene MacLellan.
You could often find some of these folks at “The Ritz” (a much more rustic version of the Dunk, I imagine) with fiddles and guitars in hand, playing traditional and original music. Now the local landmarks such as the Ritz, the dome, and Papper’s cabin are either totally gone or falling into the ground but the memories live on in the stories I hear.
The tradition of music on the Dixon Road is carried on here by all the folks who live here or come out to play. There are second generation types like Michael Stanley who grew up out here and myself, a transplant with connections through my father. There are also the kind and creative souls like Hal, Phil Corsi and the late Hilda Woolnough who have been so giving with their spaces, inviting people in to celebrate things such as the solstices, equinoxes, sugaring-off, birthdays and whatever else we can think of to celebrate.
I have never felt quite so at home, or welcomed in to a neighbourhood as I do here in Breadalbane. The only thing we are really missing now is Ivan’s village store. As Malcolm Stanley sings in his Dixon Road song, “If it wasn’t for the whiskey, I’d never go to town.”