CANADIAN DECOY & OUTDOOR COLLECTIBLES ASSOCIATION
Dedicated to fostering knowledge and interest in Canadian decoys and outdoor collectibles.
THE BOOK BIRDS
COVER TO COVER
In 2003, the design of the logo for the Canadian Decoy and Outdoor Collectibles Association evolved towards the use of a decoy silhouette that would be easily recognizable as a Canadian decoy.
The choice of using a Chambers wood duck was selected because of a record setting auction.
A Chambers wood duck, one of only two known, sold at a Guyette and Schmidt St. Charles Auction in 2004 for the unheard price of $187,000 USD, setting a record at the time for a Canadian decoy.
The choice of this decoy for our logo was further elevated by the sale in July 2017 of the second Chamber's wood duck for well over one third of a million Canadian dollars.
This duck is among the most coveted of all Canadian decoys. We are proud to have this truly magnificent bird represent our association.
WOOD DUCK DRAKE
Thomas Chambers (1860 - 1948)
Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, c. 1900
15 inches / 38 centimetres long
Bernard Stanley Gates 1935-2023
Bernie was born in Essex, England and was a child through the incredible bombing suffered during World War II. As customary for many young lads of those days, he started work at fourteen and a half. He did his National Military Service on Gibraltar which gave him many skills, but also many unpleasant experiences.
In 1963, he immigrated to Canada with his new wife, Mary, and $500 in his pocket. He chose Canada over New Zealand because he wasn’t sure he wanted to go where they had to pay to attract immigrants. He absolutely fell in love with Canada from the moment the automatic door at the airport opened.
After a few false starts like the car dealership that didn’t pay him the commission he was owed, he got a job at GM, which allowed him some security.
His daughter, Deb, was born a few years later after an adventurous road trip north to Pickle Lake. She was the apple of his eye and the goal of his hopes and dreams.
About this time he started to learn from various mentors about ‘picking’ - the art of buying items that could be, hopefully, sold for more than they cost. He had learned a bit about this back in Romford Market, as a boy working on a market garden stand where the owner had 2 bins of potatoes - a good one and an excellent one - the latter to entice the prosperous to spend a bit more. Of course, all the potatoes came from the same sack!
As a consequence of picking, Bernie travelled all over Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in the days when truckloads of antiques were moving from farmhouses to decorate mansions, and he earned a reputation as a straight shooter.
Chairs, tables, cupboards, dressers, paintings, folk art, glassware, pottery, textiles were all the subject of intense study.
Along the way, he discovered duck decoys. At the time, these were being bought up in large quantities and taken the US where they were often attributed to upper New York carvers. This infuriated Bernie who loved Ontario and could see the intuitive artistry many ordinary hunters, fishermen, boat builders, etc. brought to their carving.
Before the days of digital cameras and the Internet, Bernie tracked down carvers and carvings, photographed them and documented as much as he could find. Later, in one minute intervals working on the GM line, he would write up his notes. Encouraged by John Ford and Tim Potter, publishers of ‘The Upper Canadian,’ the notes became his first book in 1981 titled simply ‘Ontario Decoys’. A second book followed the next year, ‘Ontario Decoys II.’
By now he had retired and relocated near Sydenham Lake, north of Kingston, with his second wife, Heather who was an accomplished potter. Again, his curiosity and enthusiasm led him to study and become accomplished at that as well.
Over the next 30 years, his daughter, grandchildren, friends, and many collectors of decoys and other antiques, would visit and enjoy his company, learn or share knowledge.
A third book, ‘Nichol Decoys,’ full of beautiful photographs by Bernie, with research, text written and edited, in collaboration with Bill Reeves and Jeff Mewburn, was published in 2007.
In late 2013, while waiting for his computer to be repaired, he met Diane who was also waiting for her computer. They joked that it was off-line computer dating. They became inseparable companions for the rest of his life.
By 2017, he had amassed even more photos and details about the decoys and carvers - too much for a book - so the web site, Ontariodecoys.ca was born as a reference archive.
Bernie is survived by his partner Diane, his daughter Debra (John of whom Bernie highly approved), his dearly loved grandchildren Rachel (Bryce) and Evan (Katrina), his brother John in England, Diane’s son Matthew (Leela) and grandsons Edison and Alexander.
Bernie’s amazing life will be celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023 between 1 -4 pm at Golden Links Hall, 4186 Colebrooke Road, Harrowsmith, ON.
In lieu of flowers, donations to The Bridge Hospice, 137 Old Hastings Rd., Warkworth, ON K0K 3K0 can be made at thebridgehospice.com
Miss my mentor.
Written by Jeffrey Mewburn