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.
63 years ago: October, 1957
An outbreak of Asian flu caused much alarm across Ontario at the beginning of October.
Government authorities and local medical men urged calm, stating that the strain was not a virulent one. A vaccine was available, but it cost $5 per shot for a few weeks’ protection.
After years of talk and months of delay, construction crews completed work on the Conestogo Dam early in the month. One of the last jobs was fitting the gates into place. They measured 15 by 20 feet, and weighed 22 tons each. Road work in the area was still under way, and the engineers did not expect it to be finished until spring 1958. The whole project topped the $8-million mark, with the dam itself coming in at $5.4 million.
Some cottages had already gone up during 1957, though owners were not entirely sure of the eventual location of the shoreline of Lake Conestogo, as the future reservoir was being called. In some cases access to roads still had to be worked out with the conservation authority and private land owners. Several charitable organizations were looking at the area, with plans for children’s summer camps.
Most of the necessary road work was in Maryborough Township. One construction crew used dynamite to remove a concrete bridge on the first sideroad at Concession 8. The level of the future lake meant that a larger and higher bridge would be required there.
Hugh Waters, proprietor of the popular Drayton Bakery, added a new item to his line of baked goods: fudge cream cake.
Reversion to standard time caused much confusion in the Drayton area, and indeed, across Ontario. Drayton council passed a proclamation setting the date at Oct. 27. By then most of the other municipalities in the area had already resumed standard time.
Most of the province west of London did not go on Daylight Savings Time at all, preferring to synchronize their watches with Detroit. Wags suggested wearing two watches while travelling in Ontario.
There was good news for the elderly, with the announcement by John Diefenbaker’s new federal government that Old Age Pensions would rise from $46 to $55 per month.
Drayton’s Rotary Club scheduled a Thanksgiving bingo night for Oct. 11. There were 12 prizes, and an admission charge of a dollar, with extra cards costing 25 cents each.
Canadian National advertised special one-day Saturday excursion fares to Toronto, to remain in effect until Christmas. Return fare from Palmerston was $3.55, and from Fergus $2.60, with amounts between those figured for stations between the two. There was also a special return fare in effect from Nov. 14 to 23 for the Royal Winter Fair of return tickets for one-way fare and a half.
Rothsay was a busier place than usual in October 1957. The Loyal True Blue Lodge planned a quilting bee and a potluck dinner. The Rothsay Women’s Institute ran a cooking school on Oct. 21 and 22 at the community hall, featuring Mrs. Scriver of Channel 13 in Kitchener, who hosted a popular daytime cooking show. W.B. Smith of Moorefield Hardware supplied brand new Westinghouse appliances for the sessions; they were auctioned after the final session.
Specials at Gourlay’s store in Moorefield included Tulip margarine at 25 cents a pound, and Domestic brand shortening at three pounds for 98 cents. In the dry goods department, flannel blankets and men’s corduroy shirts were priced at $3.49. In Drayton, R.E. Henry had Fry’s cocoa at 69 cents per pound, York brand peanut butter for 29 cents per pound, and Carnation milk at two tins for 29 cents.
In Palmerston, F.A. Eaton of Hamilton opened a new business, called the Palmerston Dry Goods Store.
The women of Moorefield United Church offered a turkey supper, with all the trimmings, on Oct. 29 for $1.25 per person. They served from 5:30pm “until all are fed.”
Watson’s Orchestra provided the music for a Halloween dance at the Drayton High School on Oct. 25. Admission was 50 cents.
The popular Showcase program on CKNX from Wingham featured talent from the Drayton area. Mrs. H.E. Grose sang several vocals with backing from the Drayton Choir, and piano accompaniment by Lois Whale.
A visitor to the area on an extended vacation was Gerald Kraemer, of the Royal Bank’s New York office. A native of Maryborough, he began his successful banking career as a junior clerk in the Royal Bank’s Drayton branch.
A sure sign of winter was the first snowfall, which covered the ground early on the morning of Oct. 27. The sun soon emerged from the clouds, and the accumulation melted by noon.
169 years ago: November/December, 1851
Peel and Maryborough councils spent the fall of 1851 winding up the year’s business, and most of it involved roads.
On Nov. 20, 1851 Maryborough council gathered around the table at reeve Hugh Hollingshead’s kitchen for the start of a two-day session. A couple of the councillors bunked overnight at the reeve’s house.
Councillors spent much of the first day reviewing problems with the statute labour system for road work. In theory it was a good system: the settlers, perennially short of cash, were assessed a number of days of work on roads based on their assessment as part of their property tax. The work was to be supervised in each neighbourhood by a pathmaster, who reported to council.
Reeve Hollingshead went over the problems with councillors Medill, Black, Hambly and Johnson. The pathmasters varied considerably in their skill and diligence, and there were no clear standards for them to follow. Dozens of farmers had postponed their work, or had refused to do it altogether. The quality of much of the work left a great deal to be desired. And there were complaints that some people had easier stretches of road than others to look after. Everything was complicated by personal disagreements and squabbles. In a township the size of Maryborough, major problems were inevitable.
To deal with shirkers, Maryborough council passed a bylaw assessing those who refused or neglected the work with a $1 fine for every day of labour not performed. After conviction, the miscreants still had to perform their assigned work.
Councillors dealt with the controversial hotel issue for the third time in 1851. They decided to restrict the number of hotels in the township to four, with at least four miles between any two. Their motivation was not to restrict drinking, but to ensure there was sufficient business to support the hotels in business without encouraging ruinous competition. They set the licence fee at $2, a minuscule amount by later standards. Hotel licences would hit the $50 mark by 1870.
Rounding out the agenda at the Nov. 20 to 21 meeting was a bylaw to set up the administration of the municipal election at the beginning of January. Maryborough was sticking with the ward system for another year. The township was divided into five wards. Each elected one councillor, and the elected men chose one of themselves to be reeve. Each ward was to have a nomination meeting and one polling station.
Road work again dominated the agenda for the last meeting of the 1851 Maryborough council on Dec. 29. Parcels of land owned by non-residents complicated the statute labour assignments. These owners paid taxes for the entire amount of their assessment, and had no statute labour obligation. The council decided to spend the amount paid in non-resident taxes on road work adjoining or near each parcel, rather than include it in the general revenues of the township. It was an idea that did not make the treasurer’s job any easier, but it did placate the complainers who lived near non-resident parcels.
The final decision of the 1851 Maryborough council was to divide the small surplus on the township’s books among the five councillors, who would use it to remedy deficiencies in the road work in their respective wards according to their own discretion.
The legislature of the Province of Canada dissolved in November for a general election on Dec. 4, 1851. What is now Wellington County was then part of the Waterloo riding, which went north and west as far as Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The election created much excitement in Guelph and Galt, but little in Peel and Maryborough, where few farmers could meet the property qualifications to vote. Neither of the candidates, Reformer A.J. Fergusson and Conservative James Wright, made an appearance in the area. There were polling stations in each township, at John Wilton’s barn in Peel and reeve Hollingshead’s house in Maryborough. Fergusson carried the seat, 1,450 votes to 1,225. Peel reported four votes for Fergusson, and none for Wright; Maryborough reported that no votes at all were cast there. At least a couple of dozen men were qualified to vote in the two townships. Things would be a lot different later in the 1850s.
Before dissolving, the legislature had passed the Territorial Divisions Amendment Bill, which divided the old county of Waterloo into three counties: Grey, Waterloo and Wellington, effective Jan. 1. Settlers hoped this would increase the influence of the newer townships, but they would need to wait. The three new counties would remain united for administrative and judicial purposes for a while yet. A completely separate Wellington County was another two years away.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Oct. 12, 2007 and Nov. 9, 2001.