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Thorning Revisited

by Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015

Talk of the town in Drayton, Alma, Morefield in 1951

The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015. Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.

A fierce wind and rainstorm at the beginning of July 1951 caused damage throughout the area.

Among the casualties was a vacant log house belonging to Wesley Smith at the edge of Drayton. It had been constructed by John Dales, one of the earliest settlers, in about 1850, and subsequently had been the home of his son, Prof. J.N. Dales of McMaster University. The damage was so severe and the old logs so rotted that the structure had to be demolished.

In addition to bad weather, farmers had another worry: cattle rustlers. Livestock had been disappearing in Waterloo County in May and June, and the thieves expanded their area to include Wellington by July. Police believed the thefts were all the work of one gang.

An effort by Wellington County council to have the road from Harriston to Mount Forest and Shelburne designated a provincial highway received widespread support from local residents and councils. Queen’s Park ultimately accepted the idea and the road became Highway 89.

Alma United Church held an induction service for Rev. Jean Donaldson, the new minister for Alma-Goldstone, on July 1. Rev. P. Smith of Moorefield delivered the address.

On July 22 the Fifty-Fifty Club of the Alma-Goldstone United Churches conducted the morning services, under the direction of Mrs. George Trask.

In other church news, several carloads of people from the Rothsay area went to Kincardine on June 30 for a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for Rev. and Mrs. Gilbert Gomm. He had been the first United Church minister in Rothsay in 1925. The couple made many friends in their seven years at Rothsay.

Both Peel and Maryborough councils met on July 3, with little on the agendas except bills to pay and routine business. The one exception was the decision of Maryborough council to hire surveyor E.P. Bowman to undertake drainage plans for two proposed municipal drains, in answer to petitions from Stewart Omand and Bruce Moore and their neighbours.

There were a couple of business changes on Drayton’s main street in July 1951. G. Gibson & Co. of Toronto purchased the oldest business in town, Hefkey’s Shoe Store, which had been operated by three generations of that family since J.C. Hefkey first opened the door in 1881. A newer business, Hubert Mills’s Pool Room and Restaurant, was purchased by Gord White of Fergus. Mills had been proprietor for only two years. The business was in the former premises of the John Lunz general store, in its day one of the largest businesses in Drayton.

To deal with increasing demands for electricity, the Drayton Public Utilities Commission purchased four new transformers. As a stop gap measure, the utility had borrowed two transformers from Listowel until the new ones arrived.

Residents of Maryborough on Concessions 4 and 5, just west of Hollen, were seething. A flood in 1948 had destroyed the bridge over the Conestogo River, and after three years it had yet to be replaced. The area formed part of the lake bottom behind the proposed Conestogo dam, and authorities had no inclination to construct a bridge that might soon be flooded. One man complained that school children had to wade through the river to get to classes. A group of residents held a meeting with Peel and Maryborough councils, the Grand River Conservation Commission, and the county engineering department present, but it resolved nothing. The GRCC stated that a dam was at least two years away, and that no bridge would be constructed unless the plans for the dam were abandoned.

The Moorefield Service Club finished its project to install lights at the Moorefield diamond in the second week of July, about two weeks later than they had hoped.

The first test was an exhibition game on Friday the 13th between the hometown squad and the champion Sebringville team. Service Club president Forest Gilmer picked up a microphone and delivered a play-by-play commentary over a loudspeaker. Moorefield lost, 6-0.

A half dozen games were played under the lights before the official opening on Aug. 2, which featured a ball game between Moorefield and a team of NHL hockey players led by Turk Broda (more on that later).

More than 2,000 people attended the ceremonies, presided over by popular sportscaster “Tory” Gregg of CKNX in Wingham. A dance followed.

Those looking for something a little noisier than ball had their opportunity in August when the Drayton Agricultural Society sponsored a stock car race at the Drayton fairgrounds. There were 21 entries, many from the Galt Stock Car Club. Race fans cheered as the cars stirred up clouds of throat-choking dust, while backfiring engines provided a merry obbligato accompaniment for the 20-lap main feature.

The Drayton Rotary Club enjoyed great success running a program to provide swimming lessons at the Fergus pool for Drayton area youngsters, with 53 enrolled for the Saturday excursions. The Rotary Club paid all transportation and admission costs.

Formed in the fall of 1950 by a group of businessmen to promote the welfare of the community, the 25 members of the Moorefield Service Club took on the floodlighting of the Moorefield ball diamond as their first big project.

The group raised $4,000 from euchres, canvassing, and a couple of small grants. The project included floodlights atop six 70-foot poles, new bleachers, and some fencing, with much of the work done by volunteers. On opening night the main feature was an exhibition game against a team of professional hockey players led by Walter “Turk” Broda, the popular, affable and rotund (he was 5’9” and tipped the scales at 200) veteran goalie of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Stanley Cup champs in 1951.

Broda’s boys lost a close-fought game by a score of 3-2. Moorefield brought in a ringer: Denny Piscopink, who had pitched professionally in the United States.

The evening concluded with dancing to the music of the Moorefield Orchestra. After the game, Broda told reporters that Moorefield had “the finest lighted field I have played under.”

Broda played for the Leafs from 1936 until 1952.

*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on July 20, 2001.


Vol 50 Issue 30


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Wellington North Guide 2018-2019


Barrie Hopkins
Barrie Hopkins
Barrie Hopkins
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Ray Wiseman
Ray Wiseman
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Stephen Thorning

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