Marlene Evans, tightropes and barrels: part of a region’s history
Seeing a tightrope strung across the misty gap over thundering Niagara Falls last week in preparation for Nik Wallenda’s historical traverse of the falls took Marlene Evans back 61 years to a moment of breathtaking fear when she witnessed a daredevil plunge to his death.
She and a group of neighbours from Tansley Woods toured the Niagara Region the day before the Wallenda high-wire walk, and at the Horseshoe Falls they took in the buzz of activity as television crews arranged satellite dishes with the wire looming in wait.
|A Tansley Woods trip to the Niagara Region featured a picnic at historic McFarland Park and a chance to see the tightrope that would carry Nik Wallenda across the falls on June 15 — sights that brought back memories for resident Marlene Evans.
Her memories came flooding back.
She was in the same place almost exactly 61 years ago, watching the build-up to a fatal fall that would make barrel stunting over the falls illegal.
It was early August, 1951 as Red Hill prepared to go over the falls in a homemade device called, the “Thing,” which would prove unable to withstand the battering of the rocks below the falls.
Marlene and her would-be husband, Ted, along with her sister and boyfriend, were there when Hill plunged over the falls.
“It was sad,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I could watch it because Red Hill made his own contraption.’ ”
She didn’t believe it would hold up, though they cheered when he went over, fuelled by optimism and hope for a man she’d never met.
The entire crowd cheered, she says, but grew silent when the Thing didn’t surface. Hill’s body would be found the next day; a memory that sticks out clearly for Marlene.
As the group picnicked at historic McFarland Park later in the day with a gentle breeze blowing through the tall trees, fond memories of time spent there as a young woman, newly married and a fresh resident of the Canadian side of the falls, joined Marlene.
She recalls Sunday School picnics held in the grassy area year after year on the edge of the 212-year-old McFarland House, and even decades later as she sat in the same lush park, she recalls the laughter of children as they’d run races and play games on those pleasant days.
“The trees are so tall you can hear the breeze going through, but it’s not a windy day; it’s just a whisper all around you,” she says.
They are whispers of fond recollection.
As Wallenda made his walk the next night, Marlene watched from the comfort of her Tansley Woods home, holding her breath in quiet anticipation, not unlike she did 61 years ago.
She’s thankful for the opportunity to once again be a part of history in the region she loves so much, and happy for the whispers of recollection.
If you have questions or comments, please contact 800-294-0051, ext. 24, or e-mail kristian(at)axiomnews.ca.