Welland History .ca

The TALES you probably never heard about


[August, 2017]

I was born in the Welland Hospital and have two sisters, Elaine and Brenda, and a brother Fred. We lived on Deere St. with our parents Lorraine (from Saskatchewan) and Andrew (born in Detroit). Andrew worked at the Page Hersey as a welder for almost 40 years. My grandfather George lived on Harriet street after his rum-running days were over in Windsor/Detroit area. My father’s sister, Rose, told me about the gypsies which used to pass through Welland occasionally. When she got up early on the farm, just west of Eastdale high, to do her chores, now and then off things would occur. The eggs were gone and the cows had already been milked. She said the neighbors also had the same problem. Then someone spotted a gypsy encampment outside  of town. The men got on their horses and rousted the camp, running the gypsies far out of town. My father’s brother, George, owned the grocery store next to the Tastee Freez on Ontario Road. They moved away to Stratford.

I learned to swim at the Memorial Park pool and then moved on to the old canal and the rock quarries and beaches around Port Colborne. I remember almost drowning at Nickel Beach and also the big flour mill fire out near the Pt Colborne pier

My elementary school was the now non-existent St Peter and Paul school. Some nuns could be very strict and mean but there was a piano in every room and they taught us to sing every day. We also used to clean the school yard of litter a few times a year. The school boundaries would change often so I went to Centennial Secondary, Eastdale, Welland High School and a stint at Niagara College.

As teens, my pals and I  would chase girls down at Long Beach and Niagara Falls. The drinking age in Ontario was 21 so we’d all pile in cars and go ‘over the river’ to Buffalo. where the age was 18. Bars there were a lot of fun, much looser than the uptight Ontario. I worked at Dominion and A&P stores in Welland, Niagara Falls and Dunnville.

I left town for traveling in 1973, returning in 1975 for a few months and worked at Stelco in Hamilton before leaving again for good.

In my middle grade books on Welland, I string together real characters and incidents Wellanders can enjoy too. The stories bring back memories and their kids seem to be interested in what life was like back then, too.


My first years were spent in Northern Ontario, so I grew up with an affinity for Nature and the wonders of what lay hidden in the woods. I appreciated it even more after a move to Niagara Falls and the beginning of school life. There I found my favourite subject was always art. As a young boy, growing up the eldest in a family of six I entertained myself and others with cartoons and caricatures of friends and family, creating my own storyboards and comic “strips”. As a teen, I learned to draw the figure by copying my comic book heroes and when I got to High School I was able to benefit from some skilled teachers. There, I was encourages to experiment with various media including the newly introduced acrylic medium. I was able to try landscapes for the first time. It took me back to my days in the North and the way I saw the wonderful world of Nature.

A life in retail after high school took me away from my art although my creativity never wavered. It was always there, just inside waiting for a chance to come out on a permanent basis. It was after a spiritually transforming experience in the spring of 1998 that I was given the chance to return to school to study art….so being in Toronto at the time I was accepted into the Fine Arts program at the Ontario College of Art and Design. At O.C.A.D., I benefited from the attentions of some of Canada’s most accomplished artists and the tremendous talents of fellow students.  I took courses elsewhere when I could, and was particularly interested in the art derived from dreams and the aboriginal art in Canada and elsewhere in the world. A very special and close friend had a cottage and it was there that I felt the call to pick up the brush of landscapes once again. It was a joy to my heart that had been missing for many years. I also learned to honour the teachings I was receiving in my dreams which came each night in full colour and remained fixed in my mind until I had carefully sketched the details and recorded the colours I was seeing.

After graduating with honours with a diploma in fine arts and a major in drawing and painting I did a few shows but a return to the world of retail again cut into my creativity. I did manage to develop and teach a course in dreams and symbology at the Ottawa School of Art in the fall of 2004 and that convinced me to pursue that at some time in the future. Painting and teaching have finally become a passion and I have structured my working life around that instead of the other way around. This has led to much satisfaction in myself as an artist and teacher, and also as a person. I look forward very much too where Spirit will now take me on this journey.

John does commissions and would happily consider your request to reproduce a special building for you.

Contact # for John is jrbradley1953@hotmail.ca