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.
115 years ago
Another major storm swept into the Drayton area on the evening of Feb. 29, and continued for the best part of the first week of March.
For the third time that winter rail service was severely disrupted. Nothing moved on the line between Drayton and Palmerston for two days, and township roads were plugged solid again.
A disagreement between Drayton council and R.O. Hube, manager of the privately owned electrical company, provoked a crisis in the village during March 1908. Hube refused to accept the terms offered by council for maintaining and supplying power to the streetlights. Hube did not back down, as council had expected, and he turned off the lights at the end of February.
The result was a series of special council meetings. Reeve George Fox attempted to negotiate modified terms, but Hube insisted on being paid to relocate four streetlights and for the extra wires needed to power them. The standoff continued through March, as did dark streets in Drayton.
John Whyte continued his going-out-of-business sale that had started the previous summer. In January he had advertised that he would close his doors on March 1, but then changed his mind, claiming that his customers had pleaded with him to continue the sale.
A group of theatrical performers billing themselves as the Drayton Amateur Minstrels staged an old-fashioned blackface minstrel show, complete with songs, skits, monologues and atrocious jokes on March 17 at the Town Hall. The group reserved the first three rows for children only. Augmenting the group were a half-dozen performers from Guelph. It was a long show – over three hours – but the audience cheered and laughed to the end. Proceeds of $115 went to the Drayton Library.
The teachers and students of Alma Public School also performed at the Town Hall in March, with a variety program of music, plays, and recitations. Proceeds went to their school library.
Sam Schneider, proprietor of Drayton’s Royal Hotel, spent much of the winter bedridden with a severe case of rheumatism. By mid-March he decided he could no longer carry on the business. He sold the business and rented the building to W.W. Bietz of Guelph.
Moorefield’s Methodist Church hosted two solid weeks of revival meetings, put on by a young evangelist from Woodstock, Josephine Nancekivell. Local residents were impressed with her enthusiastic message and clear singing voice.
The stores in Moorefield agreed to standard summer hours beginning April 1. All would close at 7pm every night except Wednesday and Saturday, when they would remain open for business until 10pm.
The newest industry in Stirton, just west of Drayton, was R.L. Langhorn’s concrete tile plant. He advertised tile in a variety of diameters, with each section locking into the one adjoining. Langhorn claimed that the tiles “will last forever.”
Syrup makers began tapping their maple trees in the last week of March. They reported a good flow, and predicted that 1908 would be a good year for syrup, both in quality and quantity.
The migration of residents of Peel and Maryborough to western Canada continued into 1908, with no sign of an end. One wag suggested renting several flatcars and transporting what was left of the hamlet of Hollen to Saskatchewan, since so many former residents lived there.
On March 27, four carloads of implements and household goods left the Drayton station. The relocating owners all wanted to make an early start at their first year of homesteading. Others planned to follow them in April and May.
Rev. P.C.L. Harris, inspector for the Humane and Children’s Aid Society of Guelph and Wellington, was the guest preacher at Drayton United Church on March 29. He was the first full-time welfare administrator in Wellington, and had given up a full-time pulpit to assume the new duties. In the early 20th century it was the usual custom to have a single organization dealing with both child and animal abuse.
70 years ago
Local councils and municipal clerks expressed delight at the announcement, by Conservative Premier Leslie Frost, that provincial grants to municipalities other than for road work would be made on an unconditional basis in 1954, based largely on municipal population. The new program replaced a labyrinth of grants, forms and reporting procedures, and greatly simplified administration. Drayton would get $812 under the new program, Maryborough $2,751 and Peel $4,402. All amounts were considerably above what they received under the old programs. The province would continue to pay a percentage of the cost of road work in addition.
The warble fly epidemic occupied much of the time at the Peel and Maryborough council meetings on March 2. Maryborough amended its warble fly bylaw, and appointed Harry Mich as the warble fly inspector for 75 cents per hour. Peel councillors tackled the warble fly problem by ordering 800 pounds of warble fly powder from Clifton Kells at 44 cents per pound. They hired Angus Kidd to package it in 500 one-pound packages and 300 half-pound packages for $100, with Kidd to supply packaging and labels. Councils hired five warble fly inspectors, to be paid $6 per day and six cents per mile while on inspection work.
Before adjourning, Peel councillors passed a new bylaw governing the use of firearms in the township.
Palmerston council also met on March 2, and at the top of the agenda was a delegation to discuss the addition of artificial ice in the Palmerston arena. The petitioners, representing several groups, offered to raise $10,000 if the town would fund the remaining $15,000 of the estimated cost. Councillor Mark Rogers suggested a debenture to cover the amount, and the rest of council agreed to the motion unanimously. Canvassing began at once in Minto and Wallace townships, and in the Teviotdale and Moorefield areas in Wellington. Friendly rivalry with Harriston aided their efforts – that town was proceeding with a brand-new $70,000 arena.
While councils met on March 2, others attended recreational activities. The curling season ended at Drayton, with the McQuibban Cup going to Frank Brandon’s rink. This team included Wallace Gumming, Paul Crehan and P.K. Schmidt.
Rent controls, in effect to control prices during the Second World War and the postwar years, finally ended. Officials anticipated few consequences in the Drayton area, but renters in larger centres feared massive rent increases.
The Hydro Electric conversion from 25 to 60 cycles was well under way in the area. The Comstock Co., who held the contract, had set up a base in Listowel in late 1952. By March they were at work in the Palmerston area, and had scheduled the Rothsay area for the last week of April and Drayton for the second week of May.
The promised April 1 start-up for work on the long-anticipated Conestogo dam seemed increasingly unlikely as the winter progressed. An error by the engineers had underestimated the cost by $400,000, and this had caused difficulties with the provincial government. In addition, very little had been done in the way of land acquisition for the project.
Maryborough’s Junior Farmers took a day off March 4 for a trip to Toronto. Their bus left Moorefield at 7am, and their itinerary included tours of Canada Packers, the Victory Mills, CBC’s new television studios, and a meeting with MPP John Root. In the evening they went to Maple Leaf Gardens for a Toronto-Montreal confrontation, won by the Canadiens.
The Peel, Maryborough and Drayton Fair Board met on March 6, with president W.B. Smith in the chair. The directors authorized improvements to fencing, and some renovations to the fair building. A week later, the women directors took up the latter question on March 12, meeting at the home of Lena Fox. They discussed a long list of minor improvements to the fair building, and made some changes to the 1953 prize list.
Those with sartorial pretensions visited B.R. Amy’s store on March 16. I.G. Gregory of Tip Top Tailors was at the store to take measurements for custom-made suits. Prices started at $49.95.
Although Drayton has never had a large Irish population, Drayton United Church’s Irish Stew Supper on March 17 attracted a full house. The 75-cent admission included a full meal and an evening of entertainment from comedian George Jackson of Fergus, members of the church choir, and accordion selections by the Reed Family of Rothsay.
An increasing list of subscribers prompted the Bell Telephone Co. to seek permission to install a new cable from Drayton High School to the corner of Wood and Wellington Streets.
Canadian National construction crews, at work since the fall with a new railway bridge over the Conestogo at Drayton, expected to be finished by the end of April. Cost estimates placed the project in the $250,000 range.
Ratepayers in School Section 12 of Maryborough voted 33-17 to proceed with construction of a new two-room school, at a cost of $40,000.
Drayton’s Library Board held its annual meeting on March 14. Librarian Ethel Waters’ report showed adult circulation at 2,600 and junior at 1,730 for 1952. With the addition of 97 books to the collection, the total topped the 4,000 mark at the beginning of 1953. Funding for the library consisted of $338 from Drayton council and a $560 provincial grant. Miss Waters was now including a Wednesday afternoon opening for high school students, and a Friday afternoon story hour for younger children.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on March 14, 2003 and March 21, 2008.