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Garnet Graham was an unforgettable personality, one of those larger-than-life characters who would go to tremendous lengths to make his community a better place. Practically every child who met him instantly loved Garnet Graham. He took the time to make everyone feel appreciated, and he was an entertainer for young and old. There was always something new and interesting in his box of tricks. From his home beside Garnet Graham Park, he sold his tricks to fund many community organizations. He found a way to touch the lives of practically everyone in Fenelon Falls.
A Local Boy
Garnet Oscar (G.O.) Graham grew up on a farm near Coboconk, one of thirteen children. The Grahams were just like many of their neighbours, trying to scratch out a living in the stony fields on the fringe of the Canadian Shield. They were by no means wealthy, and the community had to work together if they were going to survive. As he matured, Garnet took to heart the importance of being there for your neighbours.
An Insurance Salesman
Garnet got a job selling insurance for Confederation Life. Making his living off commissions, he had to get used to approaching people, though he was naturally shy. He came up with tricks as an icebreaker, to help him get to know his potential customers. Before long, Garnet was as well known for his antics as the insurance policies he was selling… a local legend was born.
An Insurance Form
One of the insurance forms that Garnet would fill out with his customers.
A Three Piece Chicken Dinner
Over the years, Garnet Graham came up with a lot of clever tricks. For instance, who wouldn’t want to buy a three piece chicken dinner for a dollar?
Or how about antique water, the very stuff that Champlain paddled across in the seventeenth century? Only $1.50? What a bargain…
Garnet Graham also had an affinity for word puzzles.
He could make sponges jump from one hand to another!
The Goes-into (pronounced “Guzinta”) was one of his favourites. The objective is to hook the elastic at the bottom of the cylinder, and it’s not quite as simple as it might at first seem… because there is no elastic at the bottom of the cylinder. Garnet snapped the triangular point between his fingers, projecting the dowel back into the channel, making at look like there was an elastic there.
The Yip Stick
Garnet’s most famous trick, and the source of much local lore. When the yip stick was rubbed with a plain-looking wooden dowel, the propeller would spin. Then Garnet would yell “yip” and it would switch directions. What was the trick that made the yip stick spin? Jimmy Taggart, who made a lot of yip sticks in his day, explained, “the secret was to find a Yip Tree growing on north side of the Burnt River.”
A Local Legend
A man with a bag of tricks, practically everyone knew and loved Garnet Graham. Having once been a shy insurance salesman, he came to love being a community celebrity.
Garnet also had a legendary sidekick, Bobby Beau (pronounced “Boo”). He was no ordinary dog. He could add… Garnet would ask “What’s 2 plus 2” and Bobby would bark 4 times.
Bobby Beau Climbs Trees
Bobby Beau could also climb trees! There was no other dog quite like Bobby Beau.
Another of his sidekicks, Mr. Yip, often appeared at community events alongside Garnet.
Larger Than Life
Garnet loved public spectacles. Few will forget the giant cake he had for his 50th wedding anniversary.
The Honourable Councillor
Garnet Graham ran for council, and since practically everyone in the community loved him, he was of course elected. As a member of Fenelon Falls village council he always thinking outside of the box, coming up with as many bright ideas as ever.
Miss Fenelon Falls
Garnet wanted to promote tourism and give people a reason to visit Fenelon Falls, so he commissioned local sign painter John Lyon to create a photo set. The Miss Fenelon Falls looked like a boat plowing through the waves, and many people stopped to have their picture taken.
Feeding the Geese
Garnet loved to feed the geese and ducks at the Fenelon Falls beach. He was very generous in caring for them, and before long flocks would come to see him. Then he came up with an even bolder idea: That Fenelon Falls should bring swans to Cameron Lake. Another councillor at the time, Wayne Hutchinson recalls that Reeve Marina McLennan “nearly had a stroke!” His plan did not come to fruition.
Demonstrating the Yip Stick
Garnet spent countless hours in the beach park and beside the canal, sharing his tricks and befriending countless children.
Ye Olde Curio Shope
He is also well remembered greeting passers-by from in front of his garage, aka, “Ye Olde Curio Shop.” It was a magical place for children to visit, and few adults could resist stopping by either.
As he was performing, he sold his tricks, and before long they were one of the most popular souvenirs of Fenelon Falls. Tourists from all over the world bought his yip sticks. He donated the money to support many local community organizations: the museum, figure skating, minor hockey and of course, to improve the beach park.
Garnet Graham Park
In 1986, Reeve Barclay Taylor decided to rename Fenelon Falls’ Beach Park in recognition of Garnet’s lifelong efforts to improve his community.
A Wonderful Legacy
It is unusual for celebrities to be universally loved, but Garnet Graham was that unique individual. He was such a warm and caring jokester, that you couldn’t help but love him. Every person we interviewed who knew Garnet, remembered him very fondly—and we can’t say that about many others. To the children who visited, his many friends and the Village of Fenelon Falls, Garnet Graham was unforgettable.
A Visit with Garnet Graham
Join Terry Weaver as he visits Garnet Graham in 1992.