Badger History
• Poppa Badger•Poppa_Badger.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0
 
Like many great Canadian stories, this one began over seas.

It started in England with young love and a girl, Marion, who gave up her family Taylor Safe fortune to marry an artist by the name of Henry Badger.  Without the consent of the Taylor family, they were married and the Badgers settled in to a sub district of London by the name of Edmonton.  Married life was bliss and they had children, one of whom was a son, in 1893, naming him Sidney.  To make a living for his family, Henry Badger was a talented painter who created frescos on the ceilings of London area churches.    Sadly, his work was to be the death of him when one day he became a victim of a horrible accident and fell from a scaffolding in the church where he was working.  

Badger

Not long before the passing of his father, Sidney, upon the young age of 14, ventured to Canada with his brother Bill.  They landed and made their way to Galt (known today as Cambridge, Ontario) where upon arrival were greeted with signs reading “ENGLISH NEED NOT APPLY” posted by the local businesses. They eventually ventured on to Toronto with hopes for better prospects.  Since Sidney had apprenticed as a wood refinisher in England, stripping and refinishing the wooden store fronts and doors, he looked for work where his talents lay.

A decade passed before Sidney found true love, like his parent’s, and married Jennie McCarter in Toronto in June of 1920.  Settling along the Lakeshore in New Toronto,  Sidney and Jennie made a home together and filled it with four beautiful children,  Doe, Glady, Don and Gord.  This was during very hard times, as the Great Depression of the 1930’s was the harsh economic climate of their day. But Sidney was a very hard worker and had many artistic talents.  He was able to feed his family and keep a roof over their heads by working as a “touch-up artist”.  

Sidney was a gentle, soft spoken man who carried around his “little black box” of oil paints and lacquers everywhere he went.  He would take this little black box with him on calls for RCA Radios.  As radios were the only means of electronic media available, they were prized possessions for families during this time period.  It was Sidney’s job to ensure that these elaborate wooden radio cabinets looked as beautiful as was intended.  He would ride the streetcar around Toronto touching up radio cabinet nicks, scratches and the like.  He was such an excellent touch up artist that he was offered employment with Yollies Furniture in Toronto fixing the marks on furniture upon delivery as needed.  He was able to make a living with these talents never having to apply for “Relief” as so many families were forced to turn to government help during the Great Depression.  While Badger longed to used his talents and wood refinishing experience on furniture, World War 2 put his dreams on hold.

Sidney (too young for WWI and too old for WWII) made his pastime his cottage where he would be inspired to create the landscapes he loved to capture in his oil paintings. Preferring a life of seclusion over parties, he was also a creative man. His daughter Glady even remembers that they would wake to a suddenly transformed home. “One time he stayed up all night and repainted our kitchen floor while the family slept. We woke to a beautiful new floor.” she reminisced. But it was not just a plain paint job. Sidney created a detailed pattern on the family’s kitchen floor making it resemble the expensive store bought flooring they could’t afford.

When his son, Don,  returned home from his Naval service where he was stationed in Canada for the duration of World War 2, it wasn’t long before Sidney and his son had a business started.  The first Badger & Son Furniture Refinishers shop was located in a friends garage in Parkdale in 1945.  When business became too big for their friend’s space, they moved to a new location in New Toronto - just behind the old post office at Seventh Street and Lakeshore Blvd.  Unfortunately the premises were located on the second floor of the building which made extra work when moving the furniture in and out of the shop for refinishing.  A third and final move came not long after and Badger & Son took up residence at the rear of 3513 Lakeshore Blvd. W, where it can still be found today as owned and operated by Mike, Sidney’s grandson.

Although Badger was a very talented furniture refinisher, he loved his painting and the outdoors and frequently escaped to his cottage, Circle B in Woodland Beach, Ontario on Georgian Bay.  It is here that Badger enjoyed his wife Jennie, his children, his grandchildren and the great outdoors.  On friday evenings he would have his eldest grandson drive him to the Circle B cottage, always stopping for chicken or a burger at the Highview Restaurant on Hwy 9 along the way.  This road trip was never made without the raisin pie for desert.  It was Badger’s favourite and he soon influenced his grandson to feel the same. Grampa loved to get out of the city and escape to his secluded cottage just off of the bay.

When he wasn’t at the cottage or working at Badger & Son, Sidney could be found in his basement workshop painting outdoor and wildlife scenes with the oils from his little black box.  He also loved his cigars and could roll his own cigarettes.  Sidney Badger died in 1964 of complications from Emphysema, but not before passing the family business on to his son, Don, and leaving a lasting impression of the love of the Canadian wilderness on his family and grandson Mike.

& Son
Don was born in 1924 and was the oldest brother of the four children.  He and his brother Gord frequently helped his father, Sidney, but they still young and carefree.  Life wasn’t too serious for Don Badger until he and some friends decided to join the Navy together.  Like many youth in his day, he wanted to do his part to help win world war 2.   Although Don may have thought his luck ran out, as they were called for duty the next day.  However, it certainly became apparent that lady luck was still on this Badger’s side as Don was not destined to see any real action during the war.  He was stationed in Belle Isle, Newfoundland and was ordered to defend the Canadian Coast.  Thankfully he stayed safe during this terrible time period in our history and returned home to his family at the end of the war.

After returning from Belle Isle, Don was unsure of what future he saw for himself.  That is when his father shared his dream with Don of his own wood refinishing business.  After Badger & Son Furniture Refinishers was started in 1945, Don quickly took to the trade.  He never married or had children but loved to travel to different far away (and not so far away) places with his sisters and friends.   Choosing the life of a bachelor, Don eventually resided on Badger & Son premises in a small apartment off the back of the office.  Don later retired to live a quiet life at “Circle B”, the family cottage in Woodland Beach on Georgian Bay.  He later died of heart failure but not before living a full and happy life. During his time as the owner and operator, Don was able to teach the trade and fine art of furniture refinishing and hand stripping to his sister’s son Mike Westner, who apprenticed with his Grandfather and Uncle Don starting in his teens.


& Grandson
Mike took over the family business when Don Badger left the trade in 1987.    As it turns out, Mike inherited his Grandfather Sidney’s keen eye for colour and talent as a “touch up artist” as well as a love for the Canadian wilderness.

Mike, also an avid outdoorsman like his grandfather, has lived the life of a weekend/summer fisherman and avid canoeist - with his loving wife Mhairi (pronounced Mary) - all while keeping the family business for over 20 years.  Mike and Mhairi’s only child and daughter, Fiona, also inherited the artistic gene and they encouraged her art as well as her love of paddling.  So much so, that her Dad provided a space for her at The Shop, and for a few years,  Fiona had a small studio at Badger & Son, where she painted wilderness scenes on canoe paddles.  He also finished Fiona’s paddles for her to sell. Her father, Mike, even made several paddles for her canvases. In return, and she helped her Dad with Badger & Son as needed.

Over the years many friends and family members came and worked at The Shop. Glady (Don’s sister and Mike’s mother) was a permanent fixture around Badger & Son for many years as was “Little Gramma” (Don and Glady’s mother - Gramma Badger). Fiona’s husband, also named Mike, was also an employee for a few years, learning all facets of the wood finishing business from his father-in-law. To keep things less confusing around The Shop, the two Mikes were distinguished by calling the younger Mike (Fiona’s husband) just plain “Mike” and referring to the “older” Mike (Fiona’s Dad) as Poppa Badger or “Badger”.

& Great Grand Daughter
In the spring of 2009, Mike worked with his daughter, Fiona and her husband, Mike,  by supporting their idea to develop a series of solid wood canoe paddles using Badger & Son finishing methods, fittingly named Badger® Paddles.  The paddles were well received by the market and soon the hand crafted wooden canoe paddles (made “for those who dig the water”) are sold in Canada; the United States and Austria (Europe).  The Badger name can also be found on other Badger® Paddles products now as well like the earth-friendly Badger® Wood Oil and of course, Badger® Paddle Socks. For more information about Badger’s Wooden Canoe Paddles please click on the paw logo (on left).

Although Mike (Poppa Badger) did not carry the Badger surname,  he maintained the business as Badger & Son in honour of his grandfather and uncle. He closed the doors of Badger & Son in 2011 to retire after building a reputation for high quality work and attention to detail while keeping with the old fashioned methods.  He was loved by his customers as many became friends. Mike undoubtedly made his family proud with his high level of expertise and knowledge of this old and disappearing profession.  For the entirety of his career, Mike still used the same stripping method that his grandfather (and founder of Badger & Son) used.  Everything was stripped by hand.  No Dip Tanks.   The time-proven hand method Badger & Son used is much easier on the glue joints of the furniture and is still recommended for delicate or fine antiques.

Mike (Poppa Badger) shut down the shop in 2011 to retire, passing on many of his tools and finishing equipment to Fiona and her husband Mike (of Badger® Paddles). Thankfully Mike still teaches the old fashioned craft of furniture refinishing through the Continuing Education program with the Toronto District School Board - and it has become a very popular and cherished class by his students.  He has been featured in the local papers a few times over the years but he says his own personal recognition of success was just being able to admire the beauty of the wood brought back to life after refinishing it.  Each piece was a source of pride.  Nothing matches the depth and beauty of wood, especially when it was finished by Badger & Son - the old fashioned way.

While Badger & Son is no longer operational, the Badger name and Grampa Sidney’s finishing methods continue today with his great granddaughter’s business Badger® Paddles.
 

To contact Mike (Poppa Badger) please email him at:  info@badgerpaddles.com
or visit the page Poppa Badger for more information. 

A special Thank-you! to M.W., and “Gramma G” for their contributions to this family history and for providing us with this trip down memory lane.


http://badger-canoe-paddles.blogspot.ca/2009/11/trip-down-badgers-memory-lane.htmlhttp://badger-canoe-paddles.blogspot.ca/2012/01/when-bears-badger-algonquin-tale.htmlhttp://badger-canoe-paddles.blogspot.ca/2012/01/when-bears-badger-algonquin-tale.htmlhttp://www.badgerpaddles.com/paddles/BADGER_Wood_Oil.htmlBadger_Paddle_Socks.htmlmailto:info@badgerpaddles.com?subject=Badger%20%26%20Son%20Furniture%20RefinishersPoppa_Badger.htmlBadger_Art.htmlhttp://www.badgerpaddles.com/paddles/Welcome.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2shapeimage_3_link_3shapeimage_3_link_4shapeimage_3_link_5shapeimage_3_link_6