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.
88 years ago
Drayton area residents endured a long winter in 1931. Relief from the dreariness came in early March, with a four-day Canadian Chautauqua series at the Town Hall between March 1 and 11.
Popular in the 1920s, Chautauqua performances combined lectures, music and theatrical performances to entertain and educate those in smaller towns.
The Drayton series began with the now-forgotten play Turn to the Right, then very popular after a two-year run on Broadway. Pianist Lowell Patton’s chamber group followed on March 9.
The next day Elias Tomburitza’s Serenaders took the stage in ethnic costume with a program of eastern European folk songs. They played both afternoon and evening programs. Also on the evening program was a lecture, “The Peaceful Pastures of Palestine.” The series ended with a comedy, The Whole World’s Talking, performed by the Canadian Players. Admission was 75 cents per show, but a series ticket was only $2.
Poor roads kept many rural people away, but the programs produced a modest profit for the local organizing committee. Drayton audiences have always been somewhat straight-laced, and the high moral tone of all performances produced many favourable comments.
The majority of motorists in 1931 put their vehicles away for the winter. Carter’s Garage in Alma reminded them to bring their cars in early for an overhaul and preparation for the coming season.
Merchants continued to lower their prices to capture a bigger share of a shrinking consumer pie. Drayton butcher John Kauffman offered three pounds of sauerkraut for 25 cents, and marked down his beef to between 10 and 20 cents a pound depending on the cut. Halwig’s Corner Store had soap priced at $1 for 28 bars, and house dresses as low as 89 cents. Bob Cutting saved on handling costs by selling in bulk from a boxcar at the CNR station: 100-pound bags of flour for $2.65, and 90-pound sacks of oatmeal for $2.50.
With everyone practicing restraint during the lengthening depression, council meetings were brief and routine. Drayton met on March 2. The only business that night was payment approval for 11 small accounts.
Meeting the same day, Peel council, with reeve G.I. Jackson presiding, spent its time drafting and sending resolutions. One asked R.J. Manion, Minister of Railways, to have a farmer appointed to the Board of Directors of Canadian National Railways.
Another petition asked the Ontario government to increase its funding of provincial highways from 50 to 90%. Among the accounts was one of $150 for liability insurance covering the township’s roads. Councillors also set the wages for Peel’s part-time road inspector at $4 per day, all expenses included.
On the evening of March 8 the Drayton Curling Club held a tournament that attracted 14 rinks. The games started at 7pm, and continued without a break until 7 the next morning. The prizes were four pictures, donated by former MP Duncan Sinclair of Harriston.
The big event of the month in Rothsay was an Orange Lodge euchre and dance that drew a full house from locals and visitors from Teviotdale and Moorefield.
Glen Allan’s Women’s Institute organized a progressive crokinole tournament.
Harry Booth, a dairy farmer in the Moorefield area, made a considerable investment in his barn, adding electric light, steam heat in the milking parlour, new metal stabling and mechanized feeding and cleaning equipment. Visitors regarded the barn as the most modern in the area.
Wellington County debated calling an open season on rabbits – not the small cottontails, but the large jack rabbits that many believed had become a plague in rural areas. Hunters were opposed, claiming the problem was exaggerated. However, three young men from the Guelph area bagged 522 of the big jumpers in six months, and others around the county also made large counts. The anti-hare people claimed there were more than 50,000 jack rabbits in Wellington, and that they were a menace to crops and trees.
One of the busiest spots in the area was the town hall in Moorefield, the scene of meetings, plays and euchre tournaments. Among the attractions in March 1931 was a performance of the farce Bashful Mr. Bobbs by the Maryborough Young People’s Society on March 25. Five nights later the hall filled again for an Old Tyme Dance.
MPP George McQuibban of Alma created a sensation in the legislature and headlines across the province with a spirited attack on Ontario Hydro. Dr. McQuibban claimed the utility had abandoned the policies of Adam Beck, and had become merely “a distributing medium for privately owned and controlled development.” He was objecting to expensive long-term agreements signed with private producers in Quebec. He wanted Ontario’s water resources to be developed first. In late March the doctor headed south with a friend for a rare Florida vacation.
The ice was still on the Conestogo River, but a handful of Drayton residents spotted the first robin on March 19, signalling that winter would soon be over.
38 years ago
The Drayton’s Kinsmen Club scheduled its third annual Farmers Night for April 2.
The presence of their guest speaker, popular federal agriculture minister Eugene Whelan, ensured that all 400 seats at the dinner tables at the arena were sold well in advance. Minister Whelan addressed various aspects of the financial crisis then facing agriculture, and told those present that he strongly favoured supply management programs for hogs and beef.
He claimed that farmers in the existing plans were weathering the industry problems relatively unscathed. Less popular on the podium was Bob Deckert, assistant manager of the Farm Credit Corporation, who tried to defend a 1.25% interest rate increase on farm loans.
Peel council began its April meeting on a pleasant note. Mrs. Garfield Mitchell presented the township with an oil painting she had done of Lynch’s Hall at Goldstone Station. The township council had met there for decades, in a room over the ground-floor stable, until moving to better quarters in the 1960s. The building had been derelict for years, and was scheduled for demolition to make way for a new house.
In other business, Peel council considered hiring a drainage inspector to keep tabs on the 30 or so municipal drains in the township. Councillors approved a contract to B. & E. Marquardt for cleaning out a ditch along Sideroad 15. Another contract awarded the township’s 1981 supply of dust-deterring calcium chloride to Miller Paving for $330 per ton. They expected the cost to be about $35,000 over the season.
A meeting in Drayton on April 2 to discuss the seemingly unsolvable sewer issue drew only a small crowd on April 2. Some thought the public had grown weary of so many meetings and so little action; others believed that Eugene Whalen, appearing the same night, had drawn some people away.
The main point at issue was whether to proceed with a lagoon system at $1.3 million, or a full treatment plant at $2 million. A.B. Patterson of the Ministry of Environment told those present that the province would subsidize only a lagoon system. The Christian Farmers led the opposition to the lagoon, and promised to maintain their position.
Patterson’s statement seemed to settle the matter. The next step was a public meeting for a zone change for a 50-acre parcel in Maryborough Township, the proposed site for the lagoon.
The Parker Community Card Club met at the home of John and Ann Sullivan, with five tables of euchre at play. The group made plans for its end-of-season banquet on April 6 at the Black Forest Inn, Conestoga. Membership in the organization had topped the 60 mark that season.
Drayton’s Alleluia Community Choir, under the direction of Don Martin, rehearsed an Easter cantata in early April for presentation at the Drayton Reformed Church on April 18. The performance was so well received that the choir gave additional performances, including one at Palmerston on April 28.
The Maryborough Fire Department scheduled its annual turkey shoot for April 18, at the Mick gravel pit near Moorefield.
Drayton council decided to replace all its “stop” signs, and eliminate “yield” signs entirely in the village. The work would be done over the summer.
Maryborough council was in a generous mood at its April meeting, granting $800 to the Federation of Agriculture, $200 to the Christian Farmers, and $50 to the Red Cross. Councillors deferred a decision on a request from minor hockey for new uniforms and equipment.
The Drayton Rotary Club was disappointed in its fundraising efforts on behalf of handicapped children. By mid-April it had raised only $2,700 of its $4,000 objective.
The women of the Drayton Reformed Church prepared a Lenten breakfast on April 15, consisting of hot cross buns and coffee. The program was a special one, stimulating those present to reflect on the meaning of Holy Week. A collection raised $158, all earmarked to fight world hunger.
The federal government scheduled the 1981 Census for June 3. Don Nesseth was in charge for the Drayton area, and was busy in April training a group of 17 census takers.
Though most small town cinemas had passed from the scene, Palmerston’s Norgan Theatre continued to screen movies three nights per week, at 7 and 9pm, with a $3.50 admission ($2.50 for seniors and children). The feature for April 2 to 4 was Stir Crazy, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder; a week later it was A Change of Seasons with Bo Derek. The Saturday matinee that week was Munster Go Home.
On April 27 Dora Waters retired as postmaster at Drayton, after 20 years on the job. During her second year in charge the office had moved to its new modern building.
At her retirement she criticized the postage increases that had come while she was with the post office, from 4 cents to 17 cents for a letter. She disapproved of the recent steps taken to turn the post office from a government department to a crown corporation, and predicted that would result in big increases.
She was right: the letter rate jumped to 30 cents before the end of 1981.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on March 3 and 31, 2006.