Monday, June 23, 2008

Hershey Factory & Rideau Canal

Hershey Chocolate Shoppe Visitors’ Centre and Self-Guided Tour

Our visit to the Hershey’s Canada Factory in Smith Falls, Ontario left me flat. As we walked along the elevated viewing areas on a self-guided walking tour, we didn’t see “the rows & rows of Resse Peanut Butter Cups gliding along the conveyor system” as promised in the brochure. We didn’t see our favorite chocolate bars rolling off the packaging lines. The conveyor system was not operational on Sunday. In fact, there is no production on weekends and we had come on a Sunday.

Soon the plant - Hershey’s Canada Inc. - would be completely non-operational, not just weekends. We learned that it would be closing late in 2008. As a consequence, what we saw through viewing windows to the plant floor was machinery packed or crated, setting on pallets ready forklifts to move them for shipment out of the plant. Destination? Unknown.

I suspect that this impending closure is why no investments had been made to create slick, interactive displays of chocolate production or the history of the plant. The displays seemed antiquated by today’s standards. They were simple showcases of dusty artifacts behind glass with too many words to read. There was no theater for visitors to view the History Channel program about Hershey chocolate. Instead the full length, uncut version of the origins of the Hershey Company and biography of its founder Milton Hershey played on a continuous loop from a small screen television. A wooden bench with space for two or three adults was the only seating available. I watched this for awhile then my butt went numb and the DVD malfunctioned. I gave up my seat on the wooden bench, but no one was waiting to take my place.

I think the real draw of this Smith Falls venue is the Hershey Chocolate Shoppe. It’s a chocoholic’s delight! I should know because I am a hopeless chocoholic. I filled my shopping basket with Kisses, Hugs, and red licorice. Ed added a bag of nut & caramel bars by bulk to my purchases. At the check-out, the cashier handed us each a free Oh Henry! Bar.

Outside the plant and Shoppe, we joined Ed’s son Andrew and daughter-in-law Cindy in the shadow of the famous Hershey Kiss-shaped lampposts to munch on some of these goodies. Although the plant left me flat, we left on a high, a sugar high.

June 22, 2008

Hershey Chocolate Shoppe Visitors’ Centre & Self-Guided Tour

Smith Falls, Ontario

Smith Falls: “Heart of the Rideau Canal”

Smith Falls, Ontario must be accustomed to giving up “goodies” like the Hershey plant. I read that the town gave up magnificent waterfalls. The waterfalls once existed in this town but were diverted in order to create the Rideau Canal and three lock stations back in 1832. In retrospect, this was probably a good sacrifice for the local economy.

The Rideau Canal is a chain of lakes, rivers, locks, and canal cuts winding 202 km from Kingston at the head of Lake Ontario to Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. When it opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal was considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century.

According to a Parks Canada brochure, “The Rideau Canal was conceived in the wake of the War of 1812. It was to be a war-time supply route providing a secure water route for troops and supplies from Montreal to reach settlements of Upper Canada and the strategic naval dockyard at Kingston…When the fear of war passed, the canal soon became a major artery for regional commerce.”

History notes that Smith Falls prospered as a result of building the canal and of subsequent economic development. And, though this prosperity continued for several decades, regional commerce declined with the completion of the St. Lawrence canal system and the introduction of railway and steamboats. Today, pleasure boats dominate the waterway, not commerce.

Our stop along the Smith Falls section of the Rideau Canal gave us time to pause and look at North America’s oldest operating 19th century canal. Its significance was recognized in 2007 by the World Heritage Committee – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - as a World Heritage Site.

With the assistance of interpretative signs, we read about how the locks operate. The details were clear but I would have liked to see a boat pass through. None did. Adjacent to the operational lock was one that had been retired. You could cross over to it on a narrow walkway. Potted flowers sat on the basin which was once the bottom of the lock.

Centennial Park surrounds the water of the Rideau Canal in Smith Falls. A few teenage boys emerged wet from a swim there. Ed dared them to cannonball into the water and measure who landed the furthest from the shoreline. Their competitiveness overruled common sense as they took running leaps into the icy waters. Ed has a knack for encouraging people to do things like this which mostly serves to give him a laugh at the folly.

We found some waterfalls near the park. People were not in the water here. The churning brown water moved fast and cascaded over rocks beneath a pedestrian walkway. I stood over the water for awhile. There was no one around to ask, but it seemed to me that Smith Falls hadn’t given up all its “goodies.” I found a few in Centennial Park along the Rideau Canal.

June 22, 2008

Smiths Falls

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