Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Abandonment Issues: Springville United Church


I have never believed in god. As a child I was unaware of the labels that define and categorize religions and theologies, but I know now that the box I fit into is labelled agnostic atheist, which is defined as one who does not know for sure if any gods exist or not, but who also does not believe in any gods. I have always fit into this box despite my best efforts to connect with a god or higher power. Now matter how many boxes I tried on, none of them fit and that connection was never made. That belief never materialized. In fact, the opposite occurred. Something innate inside me feels unnatural and wrong in times of trying on other boxes and questioning my agnostic atheism. That is my box, that is my label, I've accepted it.





From a young age, my brothers and I were sent to Sunday school at a baptist church, and I absolutely hated it. For a brief period in the late 1980s, the baptist church that we attended was between facilities and was housed within the walls of this very church, which the baptist's rented from Springville United, whilst the new baptist church was under construction.

Every week, my brothers and I would excitedly approach the mail man and beg him for elastics. He would ask what we used them for, and like any good Christians would do, we lied. We told him we used them as toys. We play with them, we'd say. We were dirt poor in government housing so the lie had merit. But the elastics were not played with, they were stored until Sunday morning.

In our Sunday best, which were mere K-Mart and Bi-Way hand me downs with pockets brimming with elastics, we would load onto the school bus and roll out to the Victory Baptist service at the Springville United Church. A woman named Barb sat in the front seat of the bus, with her husband at the wheel. We would discuss a shared passion with Barb during those bus rides: WWF wrestling. In fact, due to her passion for WWF wrestling and her visual likeness to a particular Samoan wrestler from that era, we called her Seka.

We would say goodbye to Seka and her husband as we exited the bus, and then we'd say hello to Pastor Wayne Jupp and his wife as we entered the church.

When the sermon started, the elastics came out. As Pastor Jupp recited his religious jargon, we would flick the elastics at him. We would do this purposefully, because it was effective. It was a proven theory that would get us out of the room and away from the jargon. We would be caught and whisked out of the service. Brought to the basement to be punished: forced to sit together in silence and wait for the rest of the children to be sent down for Sunday school class. One morning, before the rest of the kids were brought down to join us, my brothers hid me in the oven and played dumb when the adults couldn't find me anywhere. They were frantically looking everywhere and panicking until I emerged from the oven like David Copperfield.

In the summer of 1989, a the ages of ten and eleven, my little brother and I informed our mother that we would hereby refuse to attend church or weekend visits with our father. There was nothing she could say, we'd had enough of it all.

A few weeks later, with a dwindling congregation, the baptists took an aggressive approach: a letter appeared in our mailbox stating that if a certain number of kids attended the next Sunday morning service, Seka's husband would eat a live goldfish. Yeah, that really happened.

That was my experience as a child at the Victory Baptist services at the Springville United Church.



Soon after our departure from this church, our mother remarried and we briefly attended some Catholic services, which were more confusing than anything.

In the following years and decades, I sporadically delved deep into literature on several religions and theologies, but could never swallow it, or connect with it, or feel it. Using Holy Bible pages as rolling papers while incarcerated as a teenager is the closest I've ever come to feeling a connection to god within myself.

I must iterate that I mean no disrespect to anyone or any religion, I speak only of my own thoughts and experiences. I love the way that of Dead Prez once put it...

"My mother keeps her eyes closed, she say she praying,
I listen close to what she's saying,
When she speaks of Jesus I ignore it,
but when it's practical I'm all for it."

Those words have stuck with me for years, helping me to keep an open mind with my own mother and other people in my life with religious or spiritual ideologies or beliefs.

Back to the church. The baptists had left in the early 1990s, not long after we left them there. The Springville United congregation packed up and left in 2011, merging with the nearby Bailieboro United Church. They took almost everything with them, including the pews. The only contents remaining within this house of god are two pianos and the kitchen appliances in the basement, including the oven where I once performed my own little reincarnation of sorts.

We had been keeping our eyes on this church for quite some time, but for whatever reason never pulled over. A few days ago, after exploring the Mustang Drive-In Theatre a few kilometres north, we finally paid a visit to the former Springville United Church, and it did not disappoint.















After exploring the church, and discussing much of what I've touched on in this article, we turned our attention to the house next door, which appeared overgrown and also potentially abandoned.

Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

I can only assume that the house and church were originally affiliated but I have been unable to ascertain any construction dates or other information as of yet.

The most recent inhabitants of the home were the family of a man that was a local wood carver creating chainsaw carvings. The family stayed briefly after his passing but vacated the home in 2011, according to a nearby neighbour.















A religious man once said to me that that he couldn't imagine the hell that my life must be without having a connection with god. I replied that I couldn't imagine the hell that his life must be living with an incessant need to convince others to conform to his beliefs in order to reinforce his own very belief in them. He heard the words, but he didn't hear what I said, he just kept talking.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Abandonment Issues: Mustang Drive-In Theatre



My first visit to the Mustang Drive-In Theatre in Cavan, Ontario, was as a young teenager in the early 1990s. I couldn't tell you the name of a single movie that played on that or any subsequent visit, as I was always much more focused on the particular female in my company.

Girls, drugs and crime. Sounds like a movie tag-line, but those were my only interests during that dangerous downward spiral period of my life between the ages of twelve and sixteen. My memories are hazy, but some good times were definitely had here.

In late August of 2011, when Ninj and I pulled up in front of the Drive-In, I was a very different person with a very different tag-line.


The massive screen loomed over an overgrown field, the driveway was roped off and a few of the letters in the sign reading PLANET OF THE APES had fallen over. It was enough to deem it worthy of a closer look. The exterior images in this post were taken during that visit. Upon arriving home afterwards however, a quick internet search revealed that despite the unkempt appearance, the Drive-In was indeed still open and operating and showing Planet of the Apes.





That was that, we figured, and never looked back. I dumped the pictures into a folder named Mustang and dumped that folder into the folder where our pictures go to die: The probably never gonna look at these again folder.

Two years later, in August of 2013, I ran into an old friend. She just so happened to have recently discovered this little obsession of mine for herself, this hobby known as urban exploration. As we explored the Millbrook Correctional Centre together, she told me that the Mustang Drive-In Theatre was abandoned. She said that there was still popcorn in the machines and film in the projection room. I made a mental note, but it took a few weeks to pencil a visit into my busy summer schedule of camping, cottaging and exploring.


The Mustang Drive-In Theatre was fully operational throughout the summer of 2012, but according to their website, they are "Now hiring for the 2011 season." The phone number provided is no longer assigned and no one has responded to my email. The website also boasts the following...

"With the largest screen in Ontario and stereo sound, the Mustang Drive-In features a fully stocked snack bar and a friendly staff. We are sure you, your family and friends will enjoy a splendid night at the  Mustang Drive-In Theatre"

The claim is not quite accurate though, as the 55ft x 110ft screen is one of the largest in Ontario, but not quite the largest.

The earliest that I have been able to date back the history of the Mustang Drive-In Theatre is 1978, at which time it was purchased by Premier Operators. It is unclear if this was the purchase of the undeveloped land or the established Drive-In itself.

In 1993, Gerry Parente became the owner and operator. With his mother Santina manning the drive-through box office out front, Gerry supervised his six seasonal employees and ran the projection booth five nights a week.

In an interview with the Peterborough Examiner in August of 2007, Jerry shared his love for the Drive-In. "This is a family-run business, not a corporation, and I have a passion for it. Where else can you see stars under the stars?"

He also commented on the kids playing under the screen before the movie started: "That just makes my night. Look, these parents don't have to pay a babysitter. And bring your dog, don't leave him at home. This is family time. Where can you get this dollar value?"

With a capacity of 500 people, there would be evenings with only four vehicles present. But Gerry took it in stride: "It's OK, I bite the bullet and start the projector, and I'm here for four hours. I do it because it's a passion for me."

It was rumoured that Gerry spent $6000-$8,000 in 2006 to refinish the massive screen.

Gerry walked away from the Mustang after the closing of the 2012 season.


On September 1, 2013, Ninja and I pulled up once again to the Mustang Drive-In Theatre. The sign was gone. The fence was beginning to fall over and potholes were overtaking portions of the driveway. We had already shot the exterior over two years prior to this visit, so we immediately made our way inside. We were very pleased to discover that there was indeed still popcorn in the machines and overjoyed and fascinated with all of the contents remaining in the projection room upstairs.




Hot Golden Topping

Fresh Pope

Not exactly fresh popped as advertised

Fresh Poped Popcorn

Ninja IX getting all buttered up

Mop and fuck it!




























From here we headed south and less than two kilometres later found ourselves exploring another location with which I had a personal connection: The Springville Church.


***February 2nd, 2016***

A return trip to the old Mustang Drive-In proved fruitless this evening, as everything has been torn down and only an empty field remains.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES