By Melissa Murray
Filmmaker Rob Ring will share the story of the Bridgeport General in a new Documentary.
A local filmmaker is hoping to uncover the truth about a local personality, who some say had a bathtub full of pennies in his home.
“I doubt that very much, but I do have reason to believe that he kept his money in his mitten,” said Rob Ring, who is embarking on a documentary about the Bridgeport General.
The General, who worked as a Kitchener school crossing guard at Lancaster and Bridge Streets for more than 20 years, is the subject of many tales.
“He’s a bit of an enigma and it’s interesting because a lot of people don’t know his early life — his history,” Ring said, adding that conflicting reports about his history is part of what motivated him to embark on the project.
Ring said he wore layers of sweaters underneath a coat that was fastened with safety pins. His stop sign was handmade.
The General was fired from his job after refusing to use the city-approved stop sign and conform to a dress code. But he had such an appeal with the children, they convinced city council to let him come back.
They went so far as to protest, and refused to cross using a new city-approved crossing guard.
“As much as it is a story about Frank, it’s also a story about the Bridgeport community too and the way they took care of him and looked out for him,” said Ring.
Before working as a crossing guard, Frank Groff, born in 1914, was a caddy at the Grand River Golf Club, and worked at McBrine Baggage company.
Ring’s interest in the General goes back “quite a ways.” In the basement of his family home hung a poster of Groff.
That poster eventually made it into Ring’s possession and he realized he didn’t know the story behind it.
“A lot of it is still a mystery.”
Ring is hoping some of that mystery is solved by two of Groff’s remaining relatives. He hopes those two people will be able to fill in the gaps and provide the truth when he interviews them this summer.
He’s also sitting down with artist Horst Maria Guilhauman, who sketched a portrait of Groff in his home. “That’s the only person so far I’ve talked to who was in his home.”
More is known about Groff’s life as a crossing guard than his previous 49 years.
The biggest mystery of all could be why he’s known as the General at all.
Ring said some believe Groff grew up in London, England during the bombings and that’s where the name came from. Others say he received it during his time as a student, helping people line up before classes.
“Other people think it’s just because he would wear a military helmet sometimes or because he would act like a general when he would direct traffic and direct kids,” Ring said.
Discovering those answers is the most exciting part of the project, said Ring.
“I don’t really know what the story is yet. In a way, it’s like I get to watch the movie over the course of a year and find out all these little details,” he said.
Ring aims to begin shooting next month.
The anticipated release date for Care For the Child: The Bridgeport General is spring 2017.
To help Ring reach that goal, he has started an Indiegogo crowdfunding page.
Ring has received money locally from The Waterloo Regional Hertiage Foundation and $9,000 from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. The money raised through the crowdfunding campaign, which expires on April 10, will help him improve the quality of the documentary and hire a professional to create an original score.
“I do have enough funds to complete the film, so no matter what it’s going to be done and really right now it’s about how much can I put into it to make it better,” he said.
The goal of the crowdfunding campaign is to raise about $10,000.
There’s no doubt the project has local appeal. A Facebook page Ring started to promote it has 170 likes and people are chiming in with their own memories of the General.
“We’ve had a lot of people contacting me with stories and most of them still live in the region, so it’s great,” he said.
Ring also hopes his documentary can highlight just how important the General is to the region’s history, and that the Waterloo Region Hall of Fame will take notice.
He’s planning to have the DVDs available at local libraries, so that Groff’s legacy isn’t limited to a portrait hanging in a Bridgeport School.
To donate, go to www.indiegogo.com/projects/care-for-the-child-the-bridgeport-general#/.← BackNext →