A few days ago I came through Ottawa City Hall one evening. A series of large scale portrait photographs caught my eye, and I photographed this set of four of them. Yuri Dojc, a Canadian photographer of Slovak birth, compiled North Is Freedom: The Legacy Of The Underground Railroad. The photo essay features current day descendants of freedom seeking slaves who found refuge in Canada in the decades before the Civil War. Labels identify the person or people and their area of residence, and when possible the ancestor who took a chance and followed the North Star to freedom through what was called the Underground Railroad.
Something else nearby had drawn me back after seeing it some weeks earlier. City Hall has some exhibit space, including for art. In another spot, the artifacts of Canadian figure skater Barbara Ann Scott were on display for some years on temporary loan. At present the space is occupied by Postcards From Ottawa: Traveller Tales.
Outside, several panels you can lift to reveal the answer are placed, regarding famous visitors. It starts with musicians.
The next pair are two people from different times and different places, one in the past, and one very much in the present.
And here is another pair.
The last of these features an astronaut.
Nearby is the first of the panels. In 1980 Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to cancer, set out on a cross country marathon a day journey starting in St. John's, Newfoundland. His journey would be cut short by the return of cancer and he would die the following year, but he left a huge legacy behind, with runs in his name held each year across the world. He was in the Ottawa area at Canada Day that year.
The first face one sees inside is a familiar one to my American readers. One of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game, and a civil rights pioneer, is seen arriving at what was Uplands Airport south of the city. Ten years after he broke the colour barrier in major league baseball in 1947, Jackie Robinson was paying a return visit to the Great White North on this occasion. The year before he had started with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent a season with the farm team, the Montreal Royals, in the minor leagues as preparation for what was to come. The fans in Montreal loved him. I'm reminded of a quote from the Ken Burns documentary on Robinson. Upon the Royals winning the championship that season, the fans hugged Robinson and lifted him on their shoulders. Sam Maltin, a sportswriter and friend who saw it all, wrote, "probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."
For today I finish with this pair of panels of travelers. More from this tomorrow.