George Gander and his daughter Georgia were admiring the distinctive sign that has graced the family’s front lawn for 65 years when a passing motorist braked and hollered, “You can’t take that sign down, you know!
“If you do, no one will know where to turn!”
He’s a neighbour and was joking, but many people share the sentiment, said Georgia Gander, who moved into the newly-built house at the corner of Lakeshore and Rutherglen Close when just a baby.
Her parents, George and Berenice, built 1333 Lakeshore Rd. in 1951, then one of the first home on that stretch of Lakeshore east of Murphy.
“We were well outside the city limits at the time, so in order to direct people to my house I decided I needed a sign,” George explained.
“With the name of Gander, you might as well have a little bit of fun.”
He remembers going to see the Grey Cup in Toronto and finding a rubber goose in a shop at the Royal York Hotel.
“I brought it home for Georgia and, all of a sudden, I knew what I wanted on the sign.”
He took the rubber goose for inspiration to Martel Signs in Sarnia.
Once installed, “The Gander Sign” became something of a local landmark that has helped countless drivers find their turnoff for more than six decades.
The first sign, with just three Ganders, became weathered in a few years. For the second sign, the plywood needed to be larger to accommodate a new baby Gander.
“Berenice was expecting and a lot of people wanted me to put an egg on the sign,” said George. “But I wouldn’t do it.”
Instead, when son Geoff was born, one of George’s first calls was to the sign maker.
“I told him it was a boy and he put a little sailor suit on the fourth goose.”
Over the years, the sign has gone missing several times, and each time the family had many inquiries about where it was and when it would be replaced.
Each time, it was found in a nearby bush, probably taken down and hidden as a prank.
Sometimes, the Ganders took it down for repainting – there have been six signs altogether since 1952.
“Whenever it was getting repaired or replaced, we’d get phone calls asking if we were OK or if we were having another baby,” George said with a smile.
The kids grew up, George retired from Imperial Oil after 40 years, and Berenice passed away in 2011. At age 89, George recently decided to downsize and has put the house up for sale.
“This house has many memories for us,” he said. “But it’s time for someone else to enjoy it. I think I’ve done the right thing.”
And the sign is coming down.
“Whenever I mention this, I get all sorts of people saying they’ll get lost without the sign,” said Georgia. “Maybe a new owner will have an idea for one.”
The Gander sign is destined for her home in Camlachie but won’t be near the road.
Anyone with a story about the family sign can email it to Georgia at [email protected].