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.
70 years ago – January 1953
Drayton’s churches rang in the new year in 1953. A special United Church watch-night service concluded at midnight: with the tolling of the bells. The bells at St. Martin’s augmented the ringing, as did a brand-new bell at the Anglican church.
The religious mood continued the following Sunday, on Jan. 4, with special services at the protestant churches to commence the “Drayton Week of Prayer.” Special services rotated nightly among the village’s churches during the following week.
Area councils held inaugural meetings on Jan. 5. Philip Rowland started his fifth year as Maryborough reeve. The township’s first meeting authorized a budget for roads and bridges of $35,000.
A dispute with the Hawthorne Telephone Co. reached a head, when council advised the company that it must secure permission from the township before undertaking construction of any kind on the township’s roads. The meeting concluded with the selection of delegates to the Good Roads convention, scheduled for Toronto in early February.
Peel council met the same day with veteran reeve Bill Walker in the chair. The first item of business was a delegation from Alma, seeking further information on the promise by the 1952 council to install street lights in the hamlet. Peel set its road and bridge budget at $65,000 for 1953. Councillors also voted to rent Lynch’s Hall in Goldstone as the township hall for the year, for a rental of $70 plus $10 for the telephone.
Drayton council held its 1953 inaugural meeting that evening, with reeve A.E. Ames in the chair. The village approved a modest road budget: $2,000 for new construction and $3,000 for maintenance. F.H. Brandon agreed to continue as clerk-treasurer for the year for an annual salary of $600.
The local hockey season opened Jan. 6, when the Drayton midget team travelled to Erin, where they lost 8-3. Len Goodwin and Berton Job scored the Drayton goals. This was a new team for Drayton, organized by coach Earl Riebling. They played their first home game on Jan. 9. To the north, the Inter County Rural Hockey League, noted for its wide-open style of play, began its season in Clifford, with the visiting Teviotdale Tigers demolishing the home team 20 to 3. Raymond Ross tallied six goals and three assists in the rout.
The Drayton Legion elected Ralph Henry president on Jan. 8. Among the projects of the branch for 1953 was the sponsorship of the Drayton Comets intermediate hockey team. In the season opener, the Comets tied Elmira 10 to 10.
A serious ice storm swept through the area from Windsor to Kitchener and on the Orangeville on Jan. 6, but miraculously missed the Drayton area except a portion of the Lower I0th of Peel. Damage to power lines, trees, and telephone wires was severe in Woolwich and Wellesley Townships.
Farm Radio Forums, organized under the auspices of the CBC radio network, reached their peak in popularity. Several met weekly in the Drayton area in homes and school rooms, and rarely drew less that 25 people, and sometimes more than 40. The groups would listen to a radio program on matters of interest to farmers, then discuss the issues raised. Invariably, the evenings ended with a few hands of euchre and an ample lunch.
Palmerston council did not hold its 1953 inaugural until Jan. 12. Sam Wald presided as mayor, with a program that was long on ritual and formality. Councillors got to work two weeks later, coming to grips with the hospital issue. Palmerston’s hospital had become hopelessly antiquated and crowded – there were 24 births and 47 operations in December and better accommodations had to be found quickly.
On Jan. 16, Rothsay’s Women’s Institute held a euchre and dance, featuring Walton’s Orchestra, at the Rothsay Community Centre.
Several Moorefield residents complained of a strong smell of gasoline in their basements. Township officials could not discover a cause for the smell, or a source of the pollution, other than to explain that there were deficiencies with the drainage in the hamlet.
Canadian National construction crews wound up the work of assembling the new bridge over the Conestoga at Drayton. The work was done on the ground, and the railway planned to move the completed bridge into position in early spring after work on the abutments was completed.
Following nine ballots, county councillors elected reeve Phil Rowland of Maryborough Wellington’s warden for 1953. Born in Surrey, England in 1896, Rowland had come to Canada at the age of nine, and had successfully combined politics with farming. He defeated Bill Walker of Peel and Ernest Benham of Eramosa for the position.
In church news, Rothsay’s St. James United announced that they would hold Sunday services at 1:30pm until further notice. At Cumnock, the United Church congregation decided to sell the church. There were structural problems that could be fixed only at great cost. The services moved to the school across the road from the church building, which was to be offered for sale for salvageable building material.
On Jan. 23, the Harriston Co-op hosted a meeting of interested farmers in Drayton. There was growing interest in establishing Co-ops in both Drayton and Moorefield.
Ontario Hydro announced that 60-cycle conversion would begin soon, commencing with Palmerston on Feb. 11. The utility set up a clock-and-fan depot in the basement of the Palmerston library, where small appliances could be exchanged for new ones.
95 years ago – January 1928
Annual municipal elections produced little excitement in Palmerston, where council returned by acclamation. Maryborough saw a one-sided victory for incumbent reeve Joe Arbuckle, who defeated challenger John Dixon by a margin of 438 to 243.
Things were livelier in Peel, where Caesar Stickney trounced Harry Beal 578 to 287 for the reeve’s chair. Ira Jackson was the new deputy reeve, defeating Wes Fletcher 466 to 398. Peel councillors for 1928 were John McNab, Harry Parr, and Ezra Smith. Two incumbents, Ed Dobberthein and Joe Farrelly, went down to defeat.
Drayton voters were almost evenly divided. They elected Gord McEwen by a margin of 10 votes over P.B. McColgan. The turnout of voters in both Drayton and Peel was more than 80%.
The inaugural council meetings dealt largely with routine matters. The exception was Maryborough council, which approved a new drainage project on receipt of a petition from John Ellison and his neighbours. Council instructed the township engineer to prepare plans. Maryborough also renewed the contract of John Thompson as clerk at $400 for the year, and J.S. Malcolmson as assessor for $175.
Citing low revenues, Canadian National Railways applied to remove the agent at Goldstone Station. At a Railway Board hearing in Kitchener, the railway stated that it wanted to retain agents only at stations producing at least $15,000 in revenue. Officials proposed to staff the station with a part-time caretaker. Peel council hired Guelph lawyer Hugh Guthrie to argue their case. Guthrie claimed that a condition of the $40,000 of construction aid given by the township was that a station be maintained in Peel. The Railway Board deferred its decision.
Farmers and horticulturists had a pest to deal with: the European hare, commonly and incorrectly called the jackrabbit. One Peel farmer claimed to have shot more than 30 of them since the fall of 1927. Farm boys earned a little extra money by shooting the pests and selling them to local butchers. Every butcher shop in Wellington had a few hanging in the shop in the winter of 1928. The owner of Bow Park Farm, near Brantford, imported seven females and two males in 1912. They escaped within days, and fifteen years later they had spread over ten counties.
Moorefield’s library committee met on Jan. 12, and made plans for a fundraising evening at the end of the month, featuring the play, “Mary Made Marmalade” at the Moorefield Town Hall. Dr. Wildfang headed the library committee for 1928, and sought new ways to enlarge the book collection and to increase circulation.
The Drayton Farmers Club met Jan. 14 to discuss a proposed hog pooling system: those participating would receive an average of the prices obtained for the hogs they shipped.
Rothsay Women’s Institute met at the home of Mrs. Ray Philp, with 37 present. The main part of the program was a demonstration on the uses of old cloth flour and sugar sacks. Lunch and games filled out the afternoon, and the women made plans to put on a concert by young people in the area.
Harry Taylor of Glenallan had a steady stream of visitors. His new radio offered the best entertainment in the hamlet.
Most of the churches in the area scheduled their annual meetings for the latter part of January, and financially at least, almost all reported a solid position. Drayton United Church received a bequest from a former resident, Mrs. John Whealey of Toronto. She sent $200 that retired the debt on the church’s new organ.
Agitation mounted to have the road from Guelph through Elora to Teviotdale made a provincial highway. The idea gained additional momentum when the new warden, R.S. Holtom, eagerly took it up. A strong proponent of good roads, Holtom wanted additional miles of the county’s road system to be paved in 1928.
Mrs. Harry McKay took over the presidency of the Moorefield Horticultural Society. The group was already planning for the beautification of public areas in Moorefield and area, and for a large flower and vegetable show in late summer.
The Department of Agriculture announced that a special “Seed Train” would visit the area in late March and April. This consisted of a railway car with displays and samples of improved varieties of seed. Agriculturalists would give short talks and demonstrations of planting techniques. The closest stops for the Drayton area were to be Arthur, Fergus and Elmira.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Jan. 24 and 31, 2003.