I was born and raised in Welland, Ontario. I am the only child, of Gladys a registered nurse while my father, Howard, was the yardmaster for the New York Central Railroad in Welland.
A voracious reader from an early age, I especially enjoyed stories of adventure and travel. Watching both the many long- distance passenger trains that passed through Welland at the time and the numerous ships in the Welland Canal (only a block from my home) complimented this interest. In my teens I took up tennis, cycling, hiking and photography.
While in elementary school I became fascinated with history, delighting in the stories of famous explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo.
I am a graduate of Welland High and Vocation School, Hamilton Teachers’ College and have a B.A. degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.
I moved to Niagara Falls in 1960 to begin what became a 35-year career as a teacher in various public elementary schools in the city.
Shortly after my arrival, I began studying the history of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. Later, I became involved with various local heritage-related organizations, most particularly the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society, an organization I have served for over 30 years. I also served as chair of the Niagara Falls Board of Museums. This activity eventually led to my appointment in 1994 as official historian for the City of Niagara Falls. Three years later I was appointed historian to the Niagara Parks Commission; I still hold both of these positions.
I have written five books about Niagara Falls history and chaired the committee that prepared “Images of a Century”, a large volume published in 2004 to commemorate the City of Niagara Falls’ centennial.
I have also produced a CD of Niagara Falls stories, I was a story-teller on Niagara Falls radio and appeared for several years on a CHCH-TV (Hamilton) feature called You Asked Niagara.
Over the past 25 years I have written around 1000 columns on local history for the Niagara Falls Review. One of these was a photo feature called Niagara Then and Now. The other column, A Niagara Note, still appears regularly in The Review. More recently I have been writing features for REV Publishing, a Niagara Falls-based firm.
I am a frequent guest speaker and for 30 years have been a part-time step-on tour guide for charter bus groups. I also lead popular heritage walking tours in the city.
My first wife, Nancy, died in 2002. I am now married to Ann. Between us we have four children.
Ann and I have a passion for travel. We have visited over 20 foreign countries and have explored Canada from coast to coast to coast.
I have had a “love affair“ with Niagara Falls, its past as well as its present, for 57 years. The city is a vibrant, beautiful, famous place to live. I’m privileged to be a citizen in a city that has one of nature’s grandest spectacles at its doorstep – a spectacle that millions from the world over come to see each year.
What have been Canada’s coolest moments?
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau doing a pirouette behind Queen Elizabeth’s back during one of her state visits to Ottawa.
The driving of the last spike for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885
the first trans-Canada link.
How is Canada different?
Canada is a great nation but is a modest, welcoming, polite nation. Geographically, the county’s defining feature would be, I think, the vast stretches of beautiful wilderness.
How long has my family been in Canada?
The family has been in Canada (Niagara) since 1788.
Where was my family from originally?
The family originated in Alsace – Lorraine (once part of Germany, now part of France) near the City of Strasbourg. A branch of the family moved to Pennsylvania in the 1720’s. In 1786 three Zavitz brothers and their families moved to Niagara.