Everything Else

Giving Back to Guelph

My hometown really is an awesome place.  I grew up in Guelph, went to university here, built my career in this town and my husband and I are raising our daughter here. Over the years, I’ve developed a strong sense of civic pride.  A lot of that pride has come simply by living, working and experiencing this city, but I have to give an enormous amount of credit to my Dad for instilling in me the importance of knowing your civic history and celebrating what is good about Guelph.  
Looking the part…. That’s my Dad on the right with a huge smile as he raises the John Galt Day flag for the 2008 celebrations.

Let me tell you about my Dad, Peter Anderson, and how he has given back to Guelph out of appreciation for a great city.

There is no question that he is passionate about Guelph.  That passion has led him to be a leader in connecting the people of this city to its roots through a permanent monument and an annual event honouring our founder, John Galt.  It was my dad who conceived the ideas and brought to reality the creation and dedication of the John Galt statue standing in front of old City Hall and the annual John Galt Day celebrations.
What drove him to honour our city’s founding father? After moving to Guelph in 1970, he developed a deep respect and love for the city where he was raising his family and wanted to show his appreciation.  Dad strongly feels that the quality of life we enjoy here is because of John Galt’s vision for Guelph when he founded the city.  Both the statue and John Galt day are tributes to Galt that also provide a way to educate and connect the people who live here with the roots of our city. 
In 1978, he approached then Mayor, Norm Jary with the idea to erect a statue of Galt.  He pointed out that there were no formal monuments to Galt in the city – a serious oversight in Peter’s mind.  With Mayor Jary’s support, he worked tirelessly to form a committee and raise funds for the statue.   After 18 months of hard work and collaboration with a dedicated committee, Dad proudly unveiled the statue with the Mayor and many special guests.  I remember being at city hall that day – I was 9 years old and it was eventful!
As my dad and mom raised my brother and I in Guelph, his appreciation for his chosen city continued to grow.  In fact, everywhere he goes he makes sure he promotes his city.  My Dad is a world traveller who explored every continent and 66 countries in an epic journey that lasted over 29 months.  Whenever he was asked where he was from, he made sure that his answer included the City of Guelph.
Spearheading a campaign to raise a statue and promoting the city wherever he travelled wasn’t enough for him, though.  In 2006 he had another idea to show his appreciation to the city.  Why not change the rather vaguely named “Civic Holiday” in August to John Galt Day and have a day of celebration and activities for Guelphresidents to enjoy?  Once again, he visited the mayor to gain support for the idea and then, working with local historian Gill Stelter moved forward to establish a committee.  Working closely with the city and the committee, Dad spent countless hours on the preparation and launch of the first annual John Galt Day in August, 2007.  Gaining support for the idea, forming the committee and seeing the idea become a reality that first year was only the beginning.  John Galt Day has been held each year since then and he was an active member on the planning committee right up to the 2012 event.

It continues to amaze my dad that most people he meets have no idea who John Galt is, or how our city came to be. And he is always thinking about how other resident’s of our hometown can learn about our civic roots.  He was thrilled when he found out a local elementary school would carry John Galt’s name.   And he was completely on-board when his friend, Ross Irwin – another passionate Guelphite –  had an idea to rename a major road in Guelph to honour our city founder.  Sadly, Ross passed away in March.   But Dad is still hoping to see his friend’s vision become a reality.  Will Wellington Street become John Galt Parkway?  If my Dad has any say in the matter, we just might be attending a street renaming ceremony!

Because of my dad’s tireless efforts, all Guelph families have the opportunity to learn about our roots and celebrate the fact that the city we live in had its beginning with John Galt.  And because of my dad, I’ve developed a sense of engagement and passion about the place we call home.

Do you live in Guelph or have you visited here? Let me know what you love about this town. And let me know what you think about renaming Wellington Street to John Galt Parkway. I’ll pass along your comments to my Dad – I’m sure they’ll make his day eventful!

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  • Rhonda McMahon

    Great post, Gayle. Your dad is a remarkable man. HIs work is definitely inspiring to all in the community. I would send this post to the Mercury or Tribune – everyone should know about this.

    I wholly support your dad (& his friend) in the renaming of Wellington Street to John Galt Parkway. My brother-in-law worked for the City of Guelph for more than 25 year the City Planning Engineer and they named a street after him. LeRoy was responsible for many initiatives we enjoy in this city (protection of green space comes to mind.

    I grew up in Brantford, a very proud city as well, heck the city is named abour it's founder – Joseph Brant. Anyhow, if Brantford can rename a major road linking the city across the 403 after a hockey player – Wayne Gretzky , surely we can rename a street after our founding father. Brantford also renamed an existing sports arena after Wayne as well.

    John Galt deserves the recognition.
    Good Luck, where's the petition, I'll sign it. 🙂
    Rhonda McMahon

  • Bob McFee

    I enjoyed this post Gayle. And thanks for your kind words on Twitter about my narration. You might be interested to know that my grandfather (John A. McFee) was Warden of Wellington County back in 1930s.

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