Introducing, George Czerny, a retired newspaper publisher, photographer, author, local historian, and a proud resident of Collingwood, Ontario, — a vibrant town nestled in the scenic southern shore of the Georgian Bay brimming with rich history and a strong sense of togetherness.
In an interview, Czerny shared his insights and experiences as a local in this magnificent waterfront town. From his involvement in various community organizations to his deep appreciation for the town's heritage, Czerny highlighted the unique aspects that make Collingwood such a special place.
With a writing career spanning nearly four whole decades, Czerny got to witness so many amazing things, including the evolution of Collingwood over time.
“We just had a population of 10,000 back in the 1970s to early 80s and then it grew a bit,” Czerny said.
“Now, we have a population of about 22,000 — and still growing,” he added.
According to Czerny, The Great Lakes played a big part in Collingwood’s development because back in just 1911, the first railway line from North of Toronto ran to Collingwood.
“Back then you have to imagine this there were no roads, we didn't have internet. We didn't have modern-day transportation the way we have it today,” Czerny said.
“But we had railways, the rail is what built our country,” he added.
He recalled the days when he published a community newspaper, "The Baseball," which served as the town's source of news and information.
Throughout the years, Collingwood, the hub of the Georgian Triangle area, attracted people from all over, thanks to its stunning natural surroundings, such as the world's largest freshwater beach at Wasaga Beach and the renowned Blue Mountain ski resort.
These natural wonders, along with the town's rich history, formed the essence of Collingwood's identity.
As an active member of the Collingwood community, Czerny held positions such as the past president of the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Collingwood.
He also contributed to the Georgian Triangle Tourist Association, which aimed to draw visitors from major cities like Toronto, to experience the beauty and charm of Collingwood.
One remarkable aspect of Collingwood's community spirit is its strong connections with other places around the world. Czerny proudly mentioned the long-standing sister city relationship with Japan as well as the one with Boone, North Carolina, and even a small town in Mexico.
These global connections enrich the cultural fabric of Collingwood, fostering understanding and friendship across borders.
In 1993, Czerny mentioned that he was given “The Order of Collingwood,” which is an award given to recognize exemplary volunteerism within the community.
“The town of Collingwood surprised me with this, and I was humbled to receive it,” Czerny said.
“Now I'm retired, I write books, I do a lot of photography,” he added.
When asked to describe Collingwood in one word, Czerny enthusiastically chose "cosmopolitan."
Despite its modest population, Collingwood is far from a sleepy hollow, he added.
The town exudes a vibrant energy, offering residents and visitors a multitude of activities throughout the year.
Czerny also mentioned that one of his favourite aspects of Collingwood is its wonderful waterfront and extensive trail network that it provides.
Over the years, the efforts of local developers and the Parks and Recreation Department have created such beautiful parks along the waterfront, providing residents and visitors with both breathtaking views and recreational opportunities.
The extensive trail network, stretching approximately an impressive 60 kilometers, allows people to explore the town's natural beauty and stay active year-round.
Not only does Collingwood provide an array of outdoor activities, but it also has some amazing local businesses to be discovered as well.
Shifting the conversation to the topic of beer, Czerny expressed his fondness for a locally run business, Side Launch Brewing.
He applauded the brewery's commitment to preserving and promoting Collingwood's history, particularly the Collingwood shipyards.
Side Launch Brewing not only takes its name from the historic shipyards and side-launched ships but also goes the extra mile by creating a book that showcases the shipyard's history, fostering a deeper connection between the brewery and the community.
“Instead of just taking the name and becoming a business and moving forward trying to make a living, as most businesses try to do, Side Launch Brewing did something very, very different,” Czerny said.
“That really struck a chord in my heart — and I think humanity at large can be very thankful that a local business did that,” he added.
Side Launch’s effort to keep this specific piece of Collingwood’s history alive truly meant so much to Czerny, being a local historian.
“They're honouring the Collingwood shipyards, as I did when I wrote a book called The Collingwood Shipyards,” Czerny said.
“I wanted to honour the work that so many people did through the decades of building big ships. And now we have a brewery. We're making the biggest splash around with exciting beers,” he added.
Czerny's personal favourite beers from Side Launch Brewing are the Northbound Lager and the Passionate Sour.
“I had a little bit of fun with tasting some of the beers, as I felt I should,” Czerny said.
He mentioned that he recently got a few friends together for a beer tasting at the brewery and the Passionate Sour became an instant favourite.
The unique beer, with its tropical coconut flavour and invigorating fizz, stood out as a refreshing option that is perfect for summer enjoyment, he added.
Collingwood locals like Czerny, and local businesses like Side Launch Brewing, continue to embody the community's strong sense of history, connection, and dedication — by preserving the town's heritage.
They are just a few of the pieces to the overall puzzle that makes Collingwood such a beautiful and collaborative place to live.
All of George's books are available to purchase HERE.