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Thorning Revisited

by Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015

News from the Mapleton Township area from 1958, 1908

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.


The following is a sample of what made headlines in what is now Mapleton Township in 1958 and 1908.

60 years ago - November 1958

A few snowflakes at the beginning of November 1958 indicated that winter was coming, but on the morning of the 7th, a full-scale blizzard made driving almost impossible. The storm was short-lived: the sun appeared during the afternoon, and most of the snow disappeared in a few hours.

Palmerston’s hospital board announced details of expansion plans that would involve an addition and major renovations to the existing building. An annex would be removed to make way for an addition accommodating 12 additional beds, including a maternity section. The operating room, which doctors considered obsolete, would be updated, and additional laboratory facilities would be added. The board estimated  the cost of all the work would be in the range of $150,000.

Eddie’s Radio featured 21-inch black-and-white RCA television sets for $349, and offered to take older 17-inch sets as trade-ins to cover the down payment. Bert Amy’s men’s wear store offered another good buy: W.R. Johnston made-to-measure suits at $56. Those in the market for a motor car could check out Ralston Motors in Moorefield, where a 1954 Chrysler Windsor was $1,000, a 1952 Chevrolet half-ton pick-up $450, a ‘49 Ford sedan $125.

George Wadel sold the Drayton pool room to “Scotty” MacPherson of Stratford. Wadel had taken over the business the previous May, but had suffered a stroke shortly afterward. He intended to return to his native Kitchener. The new management celebrated with an open house on Nov. 2, with free pool games, coffee and doughnuts.

Roy Schlueter was the new butter maker at the Wellington Creamery in Drayton, in charge of turning out the firm’s popular Gilt Edge brand of butter. His predecessor, Merv Walker, took a job as the district egg inspector.

Drayton’s United Church Women held their annual fowl supper on Nov. 6. The ladies roasted and served 600 pounds of turkey, plus mountains of vegetables and desserts. A musical program featuring local talent followed the meal in the church basement. Proceeds exceeded $700.

Grocery specials 50 years ago included seven cans of Carnation evaporated milk for $1 at Meyers’ General Store in Moorefield. Also offered there were five-pound bags of Quaker Oats for 51 cents, and 25-pound bags of Robin Hood flour for $1.73.

Lyons Restaurant again offered fish-and-chip dinners, eat in or take-out, at 40 cents per serving.

Nov. 10 was the dedication day for the new Calvin Christian School. Ceremonies and speeches took place at the Reformed Church, with brief remarks from more than a dozen dignitaries. The guests then adjourned to the new school for refreshments. Built by Wimmenhoven Construction with a budget of about $20,000, the 80- by 52-foot building contained two classrooms, along with washrooms and storage space. It was designed to make a future addition easy to construct. Principal van Wieren proudly showed guests through the school. He taught the senior room, and Janet Durst had charge of the junior room. Classes began on Nov. 12, moving from temporary quarters at the church.

Nov. 12 also saw the dedication of Drayton’s new Wellington Street bridge. James Ludgate, an engineer with the Department of Highways, officiated and helped unveil a plaque honoring Emmerson Simmons, the long-serving county bridge engineer. The double-span steel and concrete bridge was much longer than its predecessor, and was designed to help eliminate flooding in downtown Drayton from ice jams and other debris jammed at the bridge abutments.

Farmers in the Drayton area killed three foxes in the early part of the month. Tests proved them to be rabid, and that prompted something of a panic in the area. By month end a total of 40 foxes had been killed, some of them rabid. Farm animals bitten by them had to be destroyed. Rabbits and other wild animals also tested positive. Farmers used extreme caution in moving about outside, and everyone kept their pets indoors. At the end of the month a bounty for foxes was in effect: $4 for each fox tail turned in to authorities. Old timers recalled that the last major rabies epidemic in the area had been 60 years earlier, in 1898. That one resulted in the death of an inspector, who was bitten while handling an affected animal.

Berea Mennonite Church sponsored a week of nightly revival meetings, from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23, featuring Pastor Osia Hunt.

110 years ago - November 1908

Significant snowfalls hit the Drayton area in mid-November 1908. By the end of the month farmers enjoyed good sleighing on township roads, leading merchants in Drayton to expect a good Christmas season.

Peel township, in response to a petition from thirsty ratepayers, scheduled a plebiscite for the coming municipal election to revoke the local option. Ratepayers had voted for prohibition in 1905, and plebiscites could only be taken every three years. The anti-booze campaign, led by most of the ministers in the townships, geared up with a series of meetings in church basements and school houses.

Thanksgiving Day in 1908 fell on Monday, Nov. 9. Virtually all stores closed for the day. Churches held special services in the morning, and in the evening the Drayton Methodist Church women welcomed an overflow crowd for their fowl supper in the church basement. Attendance exceeded expectations, and late comers found that some dinner items had run out. An evening of entertainment followed in the church, featuring the Jolly Friars of Toronto.

Fred Bell, of Concession 10 Maryborough, purchased a four-horsepower gasoline engine to power his grain chopper and cream separator. He had formerly used a windmill for power, but Bell considered wind power to be troublesome and unreliable.

Telephones were in the news across the area. In Glen Allan and vicinity the Bell Telephone Company was busy upgrading its lines and hooking up new customers. In Drayton the directors of a new local company were preparing an application for a provincial charter. The new company based in Moorefield leased the line from that village to Palmerston from the Bell Telephone Company, and its linemen were busy stringing new wire and installing phones in farmhouses. The Bell Company had been operating lines in the area for more than 20 years, but the big firm considered rural service unprofitable, and had dragged its feet with new local services. Local companies organized to fill the gap.

Drayton merchant J.M. Amy expanded his operations by taking over the store formerly operated by W.J. Slater. He devoted the space to a greatly-expanded men’s department. O.B. Henry advertised a special on Swiss Army rifles. The 12-shot, .41 calibre repeaters were worth $25, Henry claimed.

An arbitrator worked out a solution for a lawsuit brought against the Town of Palmerston by some farmers in Wallace Township. Palmerston had spent about $11,000 on a sewer system, but the work included only pipes that discharged into a municipal drain, sending raw sewage through farms for several miles before it poured into the Maitland River. Palmerston was instructed to install a treatment plant and filtering beds. Assessments for affected farm properties were reduced by $400.

Drayton council met on Nov. 4, 6, 12 and 19. The agendas were meagre at all those sessions. Councillors hired George Green as constable for $7.50 per month; his responsibilities included sanitary inspections and other duties. Problems with the equipment at the municipal electrical plant continued. There was much correspondence with the manufacturer, Fairbanks-Morse, but no action.

Crime reared its head, with a break-in and robbery at Thompson’s General Store in Goldstone Station. Thieves cut their way in with a glass cutter, and helped themselves to canned goods, tobacco and clothing. They brazenly paused for a snack before departing.

Doctors reported several cases of typhoid fever in the area, and the death of a boy: John Mosser, of Concession 12, Peel. There was also fear of smallpox. Four cases were reported in Minto Township, and some feared the disease would soon spread to the Drayton area.

*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Nov. 7 and 21, 2008.



Vol 51 Issue 47


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