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Watson’s Corners- Kangaroo Capital of Canada by Ian Tamblyn

For a number of years in the 1980’s I had the pleasure of being the front man researcher

for Wayne Rostad’s television series, “Regional Report” which later morphed into “On the

Road” . In late February I would get a call from CBC producers Sheila Petzold or Sue

Stranks to research stories for Wayne’s show.

“We’re out of ideas Ian, can you help us out!”

It was nothing less than a great gig. I was given a CBC van to travel all around the Ottawa

Valley and Gatineau Hills seeking out stories for Wayne. I was given a perimeter of one

hour from Ottawa but sometimes a good story stretched these limits somewhat. During this

period I never actually met Wayne but I sure gave him and the crew some interesting

situations and adventures.

I can remember my first day on the job quite well. Because I had done a lot of touring

across Canada Sheila and Sue thought I might have a good eye for a story, and, with

some conceit I thought so too. I decided to take the van over to Poltimore, Quebec, on the

east side of the Gatineau River. I thought it might be a good place to start. I had heard it

was neat village. There was a funky bar in down town Poltimore and I knew you could

always find some characters catching the noon shift at the local, perhaps indicating my

own habits. I would talk to them and get some stories before their habit got the best of

them. This was my plan anyway.

I entered the bar, cosied up to the bar tender who was getting ready for the day and asked

her if there were any interesting characters in the bar. What a rube! She saw a fish in the

water and pulled me out ever so slowly.

”Nope- nobody interesting here but ah... you might want to talk to Mel over there, with the

big ears.“

I was ecstatic, first day on the job, first question, there’s the guy in the corner with the big

ears. Bingo – piece of cake! I didn’t even notice the hook was set. “What does he drink?” I

asked the bar tender.

“Canadian- quarts” she replied with a smile.

Does he speak English? I asked.

“Most days”. she said.

“Thanks for the tip”, I said.

I bought Mel a quart of Canadian with my CBC perdiem for such things and sidled up to

Mel.

“Hi- I understand you’re Mel, may I sit down, I hear you like Canadian... “handing him the

beer.

“Who you been talkin’ to?!“he yelled as he wheeled around at me in alarm.

“The bar tender “I said, pointing her out as if to assure him. She waved back from across

the empty room.

“Well then, that’s alright I guess “. What do you want?”he yelled.

What I wanted was out of there, this surly geezer was certainly not interview material for

Wayne . Though Mel had the biggest ears I have seen on a human which might have

qualified as a story in itself, he was as deaf as post and realized I had been had by the bar

tender who clearly had issues with the CBC. Never mind- into the breach. She smiled

across the room.

“Mel”, I said, striking a conciliatory tone, “I hear you’ve lived around Politmore most of your

life...”

“Who told you that!?”

I mentioned the bar tender again.


“What the fuck does she know she’s only lived here ten years. Do you know she don’t

have pickled eggs here no more? What kind of fuckin’ bar doesn’t have friggin’ pickled

eggs?”

“Do you like pickled eggs?”

Wouldn’t touch ‘em, but my friends eat ‘em everyday he declared waving his hands around

the room.

There was simply too much information in his last statement for me to digest let alone

thought of the eggs. What person would eat pickled eggs everyday and, where were the

friends he was indicating around the room? I never got to ask those questions.

“They’re coming soon you know.”

“Excuse me?”

“Every day they come, right on money at 12:30, you watch.”

“Mel- what are you talking about, who’s coming?”

“Cows. Everyday – right on time.”

“Cows?”

“You deaf!? They herd the cows down the main street ever day at 12:30 sharp.”

I hadn’t been tricked by the bartender after all! Here was my story for Wayne – cows still

being herded down main street in small town rural Quebec. Amazing. We could have

Wayne in a cowboy hat, maybe even put him on a horse, it would be great, I have my

story! How good was that, first day on the job.

“Here they come, right on time.“Mel said at the stroke of 12:30.

“Mel- I’ ll be right back, I just want to catch the sound of the hooves come down the street!”

I grabbed my Sony and ran out the door to record the sound of the cows coming down the

street. Only – there weren’t no cows. I looked up and down the street, no cows, not one.

Maybe they were just a bit late …. but five minutes later, my tape deck still running, no

cows.

A passer-by stopped beside me.

“You waiting for something to happen son?”

“Yeah, I was told that you herd cows down this street at 12:30 every day…. I was opening

to catch them...”

“Cows you say? You musta been talking to Mel”, pointing to Mel in the window with his

thumb in the Don Cherry position.

“Yeah, I was..” knowing my story was sinking into the west.

“Figured” he said. “Mel’s been seeing those cows for years, every day 12:30 sharp. That’s

what he’ll tell ya. Figured that’s what you were doing”. Tape recorder, headphones...”

“Yeah I was.”

“You work for CBC, I’d guess”.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Saw the Suburban. Figured.”


“The logo-”

The man nodded.“Never mind, Mel means no harm, he does see him, them cows you

know, and we let him go. That’s what we do here in Poltimore. Let him go. Say hi to Mel for

me.”

“I will “, I said. I contemplated this reasonable advice and as I looked up I saw McClelland

General Store and Post office across the street. “Say” I said, as the man turned to go,

“What’s that place across the street all about? “

“That’s what your story should be about son. McClelland’s is about the best general store

you’re going find anywhere in Canada. They got a hardware, cheapest price on wood,

they’ve got everything! Go see for yourself.”

“Thanks for the tip”, I said, and the man was off down the street.

I returned to the bar.

“How were the cows today?” the bartender said with smirk as I passed by.

“They were great! A moo- ving experience really.”

“Nice”, the bartender replied. “By the way, I put another quart on your tab for Mel, figure

you wouldn’t mind.”

“Not at all,” I said with a smile. I paid the tab and went over to say goodbye to Mel.

“Well lad, did you see ‘em!?” says Mel.

“I did, they were great, thanks so much for telling me about them.”

“There’s some that don’t see ‘em, they say Mel you’re nuts but I ain’t nuts cuz you seen

‘em too so like some people see ‘em and some people don’t, that’s all there is to it.!

“That’s it” I said remembering a phrase I had used before in similar circumstances. There

was really nothing more to say.

I said goodbye to Mel and headed across the street for McCelland’s, glancing down the

street one last time. You never can be too sure. McClelland’s turned out to be a great story

for Wayne, the store does have everything. They were very gracious and welcoming and

they went on to make a great episode. However, the best story can still been seen coming

down the streets of Poltimore every day at 12:30.

“Is this the way it is here in B(P)altimore”- I sang to myself as I headed out of that town.

I never saw them film the episode or any other. I was down another road of my own,

looking for another story. I found it in Lanark County.


I was playing in Macdonald’s Corner near Perth, Ontario, sometime later that spring when I

mentioned between songs that I had been out in the county researching stories for Wayne

Ronstad’s show On the Road. I looked into the Big Cheese in Warkworth, an old leaning

gas station near Maberly, and the county’s largest sugar bush. Between sets, this guy

comes up to me and says “You should do a story on the kangaroos of Watson’s Corners. It

was the kangaroo capital of Canada you know.”

I certainly didn’t know but it sounded like a great story for Wayne. The next day went to the

Perth Library and looked up the story in the archives of the Perth Courier. There is was

“Watson’s Corners – Kangaroo Capital of Canada.” What I read that day was remarkable.

It seems sometime in the fall of 1974 a certain man, Herb Butts claimed to have seen a

kangaroo on the side of the road near his farm. He claimed to have seen the animal

several times that fall and some nighbours attested that they had seen it as well. Of

course, according to wildlife officials in Lanark, a kangaroo could not survive a winter in the

county but reports of sightings persisted. In fact as I looked back in the papers records,

kangaroos had been sighted in Lanark county since the 1930’s and indeed there are a few

indicators like Kangaroo Lake and Kangaroo Hill that those reports were taken seriously

enough to give them a name. Some claim a circus passed through the county during this

time and lost a few kangaroos off the back of the truck. Officials came up with the idea

that the hopping animal might be an injured deer and a subsequent visit to the Ministry of

Natural Resources confirmed this version of events.

But at the time in 1974, the prospect of a kangaroo sighting seemed catch people’s fancy

and soon hundreds, even thousands of curious folks from Ottawa came out for a weekend

drive of kangaroo spotting. The people of Watson’s Corners saw a good thing and asked

the Ambassador of Australia to come out to Watson’s Corners and put a kangaroo

crossing sign at the corner across from the general store. One weekend that fall it has

been reported over 3000 people passed through in search of the kangaroo. The

ambassador arrived and deemed Watson’s Corners “the kangaroo capital of Canada”.

The thing was none of the 3000 visitors had actually sighted a kangaroo, interested waned

and the kangaroo entered Lanark mythology, similar to the notion that they make good

maple syrup there. I come from the Gatineau Hills where we do have the best maple

syrup.

Ten years had passed since Herb Butts had seen his kangaroo when I arrived on the story.

I was guided to Watson’s Corners and there, in the now boarded up general store was the

sign that had come all the way from Australia, the famous kangaroo road crossing sign!

And, on the wall, a faded banner that stated proudly -”Watson’s Corners – Kangaroo

Capital of Canada.” There were still photos of the Australian ambassador helping to put up

the sign, shaking hands with the reeve, a crowd of people standing around. Everyone was

sort of sheepish about the kangaroo sighting when I asked as if it had been a bit of lark.

But for me the persistence of the stories going back in time kept me intrigued. I tried to

interview Herb Butts but he died under mysterious circumstances, a heart attack it was

said. Surviving members of his family were unwilling to talk to me. I was sure I had enough

with the general store, the sign, the story and all for Wayne’s crew to make something out

of it but I was still curious. Something took me down the road where the kangaroo had

been seen, past the Butt’s farm and stopped at his neighbours house. A man was outside

working by his shed.


Hi I said my name is Ian Tamblyn, I’m with CBC and I’m working on some stories for

Wayne Rostad’s show …


“Come in” he said, “coffee or tea? - been expecting you “

“Expecting me?”

“Yeah- you the guy snooping around here looking after the kangaroo story?”

I guess I was as he lead me into his home. His wife brought some tea and cookies in the

living room.

“It was a terrible thing what happened you know.”

“You mean about nobody ever seeing a real kangaroo?”

“No!- don’t let them tell you there weren’t no kangaroo around here, I seen it myself! More

than once, in the rear view mirror! Right down this here road! Shame was I never told no

one, then it was too late! “

“Too late for what?” I was dumbfounded.

“For Herb- that damn kangaroo killed him!”

I had clearly entered a twilight zone of some kind but the man seemed clear headed.

“After all the fuss about the kangaroo passed, Herbie became the butt as they say of a lot

of jokes. Even people who seen the damn thing, now turned around and teased him

mercilessly about him seein’ any more kangaroos. At the feed station, the corner store,

what had made a killing out that kangaroo, down at the Legion, everybody made jokes at

his expense- just wasn’t fair.”

“Even his kids were mean to him!, his wife piped in from the kitchen.

“They was the one’s that really killed him”.

“His kids?”

“Herb’s kids were real ‘hellers’, wouldn’t do nothing he’d say at the best of times, and then

like everyone else, when the kangaroo story kind of turned against him, his kids turned

against him too.”

“It was terrible the things they’d say to him”, his wife came in from the kitchen. She held

her husband’s shoulder.

“About a month after all this had blown over, the kids got a mind to play a joke on the old

man. They cut some card board and made kangaroo heads out of it and hid behind the

barn. When Herb comes round the corner they jumped out and scared Herb right to death.

A heart attack right there on the spot. Died right there. It was terrible.” The man was

shaking and in tears.

No wonder the family didn’t want to talk to me.

“I have felt real bad about it ever since.“


“Sometimes he wakes up at nights.”

“Why” I said, “you didn’t do anything.”

“Oh yes – that’s right, I did nothing- Nothing at all. Herb was my neighbour and friend and

during that whole time I never backed him up, I never said, ‘I saw the damn thing as well

as him!’ I should have said something! I could done something about the teasing but I let it

go, I didn’t want to get swept up in it.“

“It’s alright dear, it’s alright.”

“No its not, and it’s never going be. “

I left their place- shaken.

Wayne did the show on the kangaroos and apparently it was big hit. I heard they gave

Wayne some plywood Kangaroo feet like snow shoes and he stamped out some kangaroo

tracks in the snow at the end of the show. I never told them anything about my visit with

the neighbour, nor about the family, but I did ask the producers to respect the possibility

that there may be kangaroos in Lanark County.


There are some who claim that the Tweed area is the Bermuda Triangle of Ontario. There

seems to be a disproportionate number of UFO sightings in this part of Ontario,

paranormal events occurring. I am not sure but I can certainly attest to the possibility.

There have been many times when I have travelled Highway 37 and 7 in the Tweed vortex

and felt late at night that there some force holding me back no matter how hard I pressed

on the pedal. I would liken it to walking the wrong way on an escalator. There is definitely

something other going on in the Tweed area.

Many years before my time with the Wayne Rostad Show I worked with a wonderful

dance troupe in Tweed and got to know the environs a bit. I enjoyed bowling at the

quanset hut bowladrome in downtown Tweed. South of Tweed on the Stoco Road there is

an abandoned ceramic factory near Marlbank. You may hard pressed to find Marlbank

itself but close by is the home of the Philoxians. The Philoxians certainly believe in the

Triangle. At the centre of their universe is the belief that a UFO is going land at the

commune and take them to a “new day in the sun”. The Philoxians have built a space ship

launching pad on site, they have or had a huge menagerie of animals to go on the

spaceship like Noah’s space arc and they have huge ovens to supply the commune

members with lots of bread for their journey. There was no sign of fishes. I went to

Philoxia and found it to be quite astounding. I had known the Philoxians for their beeswax

and honey presentations at regional craft fairs. There was always something homemade

about their work . Even the books they put out about Philoxia were innocent and charming.

There were definitely cult aspects to the Philoxian commune but for the most part they

were welcoming and open.

I took this story to the producers of Regional Report, and the producers agreed that I could

expand the territory of my research to take in the Philoxians. They saw plans for Wayne

Rostad closing the show on a spaceship. I journeyed back to the Tweed area in my

Suburban and headed down the road to Marlbank, stopping in the land of Philoxia. I took

my friend Andy Rush along to make sure I came back.


There nothing square in Philoxia by design and to my sensibilites the commune had a

Hobbit like quality to it. The Philoxians are an active bunch, very enterprising and hard

workers. Everyone seemed to be involved in the bees, the waxworks, the tending to the

animals which included a 2000 pound pig, and a tiger. They also had too many snakes and

lizards. Later they got so many animals they started a zoo but it was closed down later for

various reasons. They also spent a good deal of time making ready for the landing of the

spacecraft. The Philoxians were invariably friendly and welcoming and bustling about in

their Philoxian wear which was colourful and – Hobbit like. It seemed that all was good in

Philoxia. The houses on the commune were all different colours and all of them were on

some sort of angle, none of them were exactly straight. This design had been set forth by

Steve Philoxian the leader shortly before he stopped talking for seven years. Fortunately

for me he was talking again and I got to talk to him.


Ian:– I understand you stopped talking seven years ago. How did the people know how to

follow your directions or plans for the commune if you weren’t talking”.

Steve: Ian – communication is an interesting thing as you know, and as it turns out I found

you can get your message across more effectively through telepathy than through the

spoken word in most cases. It worked perfectly for seven years.

Ian – but now you’re talking.

Steve:- Yes I had break my silence. Unfortunately, some people had stopped listening to

me.

Ian: How could you tell?

Steve: I found that people were sleeping more and not getting the work done. Then it

came to my attention that my wife was having an affair with one of my best friends and I

had to let them know. I was not comfortable with the idea. They did not seem to getting my

messages.

Ian: You didn’t talk to your wife for seven years.

Steve: I thought we were communicating but it seems we lost touch.

Ian: Yes, that can happen. I hope things are better now that you’re talking.

Steve: I have mostly tended to a monogamous life but we ‘re working on a new

relationship.

Ian: Tell me- what did you do before all this began with- Philoxia.

Steve: I was working on the outskirts of Montreal, Vaudrieul . I was a used car salesman .

Ian: Come on!

Steve: I know it sounds unlikely but that was my life before the vision came. I know it

sounds unbelievable but that is the life I lead. I was not happy then.


Ian: The vision-

Steve: It all came to me in a dream at first and then the visit happened and further directed

me to Marlbank . My wife and I came here ten years ago.


Ian: With the Philoxians?

Steve: No Ian, we’re the Philoxians! Have you not read some of our books ?

Ian: I have, but I must have missed something.

Steve: The spirits that came to me gave us this name and this place to get ready for their

arrival. They told me pretty well everything that is here and is ready from them now . I have

simply been the communicator of their message.

Ian: This all astounding!

Steve: It really is, isn’t it Ian. It is quite amazing what we have done in ten short years.

Ian: Yes it is, can you tell me a little more about the- visitors.

Steve: Well to be honest with you it reads like most other abduction stories, there was a

light in the field behind my house, I went towards it, I was taken away to a mother ship and

they communicated this vision to me.

Ian: I’ve not heard of any UFO s speaking with those abducted. What language….

Steve: I said they communicated. There was no language. How they did this I have no

idea but they did. They gave me the idea of course that I could communicate with

members of the commune with out speaking and it seemed to work for seven years.

Ian: Yes – I see that. You’ve got a lot done around here for not speaking to anyone.

Steve: – I was – communicating at the