GTA Tripping: Black Creek Pioneer Village
"You make your own fun." That annoying adage my aunts would repeat to me as a bored child at family gatherings stuck with me. Now, as a childlike/ish adult, I believe firmly that any and all boredom I experience is purely my own fault.
Gifted with this mantra (thanks aunts!), my partner-in-awe and I headed out this week to a place that most born'n'bred GTAers have been to at least once before. Remember when you were in elementary school, and you had to hand that permission slip in to the history teacher? Then you arrived at Black Creek Pioneer Village at Jane and Steeles to find a vividly animated 19th century village, which you greeted by yawning and turning up your Walkman.
But then maybe something happened. On the edges of that boring experience you saw your classmates out in the real world, with no parents in sight and the teacher nerve-shocked to the point of blindness. In this giddy adultless vacuum you were free, out in the world with only your semi-honed social skills to guide you, causing trouble, catching eyes and forging crushes. It was a rush!
Though our adult minds were able to find plenty of interesting things in the painstakingly reconstructed 19th century world here, our grown-up field trip last week was made memorable mostly by the same wonderfully childish things that made the trip fun the first time around.
Though my partner and I weren't in the business of crushes per se (we lacked the requisite other classmates), we did find ourselves ranking with the best grade sixers in terms of trouble making.
The Village is a collection of period-accurate shops, services and houses. Most of the buildings were staffed by costumed animators who regaled us with stories of the way things used to be. Most of the stories were interesting enough as the people patiently explained the work of weaving, printmaking or blacksmithing.
One of the animators at an inn called The Halfway House explained that the building, like most of the structures here, had been originally located several kilometers away and that her father used to frequent the place until it was finally closed and moved to Black Creek to be opened as a museum piece.
A few doors down at an the "wealthy family house" we found a chatty young man in costume. He explained in great detail what they had to go through to get to the perfect replica wallpaper. It was beautiful wallpaper, we could see that, but he went on and on about it. After my twelfth "ahh, mmhm" my attention span drifted and the bratty kid inside me came out.
"How about drugs?" I asked. "I mean illegal, illicit drugs. These people had a lot of money, so did they spend it on drugs? Were there drugs at the time?" The guy was completely unfazed and casually offered that Queen Victoria was "in on the opium trade", that "morphine was rather addicting" and that cocaine was in the original version of Coca-Cola. I wasn't sure what this had to do with the family whose home we were in, but it was spicy enough to keep my inner child awake.
Leaving another place near the end of our visit, we noticed that behind the building there was a path worn into the forestry swimming in golden beams of afternoon sunlight. It was the kind of nostagia-forming summer postcard that one can't help but dive into. And so we did, gently pawing leaves out of our way as we pushed the few meters onward until we found ourselves on a dirt road.
The road looked like all the others in the sprawling museum complex, and so we kept going. To our left we saw people dipping in and out of the mill, and to our right, the road dipped under a bridge and up over a small hill. We naturally gravitated toward the sunny, unpopulated hill just beyond the bridge.
A few minutes later we came to an old house. The house looked perfectly authentic, like people could actually live in it. We walked up to the front door, expecting to see other visitors talking to one of the Village's historical animators. As we neared the house, we were excited to see that there were no other visitors at this particular building, that we would be able to wander its halls without pushing past the other tourists.
We were surprised to find the door locked. Maybe it was undergoing renovations? We tried to peek into the windows, and then wandered around the perimeter of the building. We looked into more windows, trying to see any information placards or reconstructed period furniture sets inside, but there was only dusty darkness. So we tried the back door, but it too was locked.
On our way back, just as the voices of the other visitors became audible, we found ourselves once again at the foot of that sun kissed path through the foliage. Then I noticed a sign to my right, just beyond the spot the path had spit us out onto. It was facing away from us, and visible to anyone coming up the road the proper way. It read, "PRIVATE PROPERTY."
Assuming a guiltless air and assimilating ourselves with the rest of the crowd, we strolled around a minute more on the way out so as to look like we hadn't just been trying to break into someone's charming, historically accurate home.
Photos by the talented Petia Karrin
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