from the July/August 2009 issue of Canadian Geographic
Guitar towns: If these grain elevators and hockey sticks could talk …
A few months before the 1995 referendum in which Quebecers voted by a razor-thin margin to remain within Canada, long-time CBC Radio host Jowi Taylor launched an ambitious national-unity project. With the help of guitar-maker George Rizsanyi, Taylor embarked on an 11-year odyssey to build a guitar out of pieces of iconic and historical Canadiana scoured from every province and territory. Six String Nation, his book about the undertaking, has just been released, and it includes a map depicting the sources of the 69 pieces that were used to make the guitar, case and strap. This sampling shows all the points of origin and highlights one contribution from every province and territory, from Nunavut whale baleen to a Montréal bagel paddle, noting their location on the guitar. “Canada is filled with stories from communities large and small,” writes Taylor, “stories that flesh out the character of who we are.”
1: Haida Gwaii, B.C.
The only wood ever taken from the Golden Spruce, an albino Sitka spruce, sacred to the Haida, that was felled by a misguided logger in 1997.
2: Dawson, Y.T.
Timber from the Yukon Rose, a supply vessel that was instrumental in the construction of the Alaska Highway.
3: Great Bear Lake, N.W.T.
Acasta gneiss, thought to be the world’s oldest-known rock, dating back more than four billion years.
4: Edmonton, Alta.
Part of a stick used by Wayne Gretzky, arguably the greatest hockey player ever.
5: Veregin, Sask.
A piece of wood from a Doukhobor grain elevator located in the town’s National Doukhobor Heritage Village.
6: Gardenton, Man.
Wood from St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the oldest Ukrainian church in Canada.
7: Iqaluit, Nunavut
Whale baleen, the plates in the upper jaw through which whales filter food from the water " and that Inuit use to make crafts.
8: Toronto, Ont.
A piece of a window frame from the studio and home of Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris.
9: Montréal, Que.
Wood from a shibba " the long paddle used to move bagels in and out of brick ovens " used at Isadore Shlafman’s Fairmount Bagel Bakery, which claims to be the city’s first.
10: Hartland, N.B.
A piece of the world’s longest covered bridge, which measures 390 metres and crosses the Saint John River from Hartland to Somerville.
11: Cavendish, P.E.I.
Wood from the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables.
12: Lunenburg, N.S.
Decking from the Bluenose II, launched in 1963 to replace Canada’s most famous schooner, which sank off Haiti in 1946.
13: Cape Race, N.L.
A piece of the cabinet housing the motor that drove the revolving lamp in the lighthouse which received the first distress signals from the RMS Titanic on April 14, 1912.
FROM THE BOOK SIX STRING NATION: 64 PIECES, 6 STRINGS, 1 CANADA, 1 GUITAR