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.
62 years ago, March 1958
March 1958 came in like a lamb, but contrary to the old maxim, it did not go out like a lion. Late March brought a slow melting of the winter’s accumulation of snow, with no storms or floods. Farmers collected maple sap during the last third of the month. It looked like an excellent year for maple syrup.
The United Church sold its old driving shed, for decades a Drayton landmark, to Lorne Murray. Demolition would follow in the early spring to make way for a parking lot that would also occupy the adjoining property, the site of the old tennis courts. The shed had been financed by public subscription, and had been used by farmers in Drayton to shop as well as by those attending church functions.
The special at Lyons Restaurant during the month was a big plate of fish and chips for 40 cents. Meyer’s General Store in Moorefield had two 20-ounce cans of Clark’s pork and beans at 29 cents, children’s stockings at 29 cents, and boy’s pullover sweaters for 99 cents.
Eddie’s Radio had an improved 21-inch RCA television for $240, and 14-inch Philcos for $170. He promoted the latter as excellent second sets.
Drayton council met March 1. Much of the meeting was occupied with a lengthy discussion of the public washroom question. Council ceased funding them in January as an economy measure, and was still reluctant to spend money on them, though several vocal ratepayers continued to demand their restoration.
A delegation from West Garafraxa council showed up for Peel council’s meeting on March 3. They wanted to discuss improvements to their joint boundary road. Council also had a pile of letters from residents upset about the proposed closure and removal of the Goldstone Railway Station, which had been a flag stop for several years. Council forwarded a motion of objection to Canadian National Railways. In preparation for warble fly season, council ordered 600 pounds of insecticide in bulk, for repackaging in half-pound and one-pound bags.
A federal election was called for March 31. The campaign proceeded without a lot of public enthusiasm, but much door-to-door canvassing in the Wellington-Huron riding. The biggest public event in the area was a rally for Conservative Marvin Howe on March 20. Howe’s only opposition was Liberal Ross McLellan.
In the W.O.A.A. Intermediate B playoffs, Alma defeated Drayton 8-4 in the fifth game of a five-game series.
The 1958 auction season got under way on March 25, with a big sale for Anson Simmons at Lot 17, Concession 8 of Maryborough. On the block were registered shorthorn cattle, farm implements and household effects. The following day there was another sale, this one for James C. Downey of Lot 14, Concession 10 of Peel.
Librarian Ethel Waters presented council with her report for Drayton’s library for 1957. High school students used the library regularly on Wednesdays and public school children on Fridays. The facility was open 16.5 hours each week. A story hour, for preschoolers, drew an average of 39 youngsters weekly. The library’s collection contained 4,575 books, including 1,170 in the children’s section.
Peel Township’s Federation of Agriculture held a Farm Forum Social Evening on March 24. Those attending were requested to bring cards and a little lunch.
Maryborough council held a special meeting to consider the plans for the proposed McTavish Municipal Drain. There were no objections from anyone attending the meeting, and council proceeded with an application for a provincial grant. Councillors also discussed road work for 1958, and decided to purchase 10,000 cubic yards of gravel and undertake the construction of two concrete culverts. A surprise was the receipt of a cheque for $10,000 from the Grand River Conservation Authority, to compensate the township for the loss of roads and bridges around the new Conestogo Dam and reservoir. In addition, the GRCA agreed to bankroll the cost of some new road links and upgrades. The cheque and promise of roadwork went a long way to dispelling the hostility of Maryborough council to the GRCA and the way the project had been handled.
Evangelist J.F. Garber, of Ohio and a former Alma resident, conducted a week of daily revival meetings at the Mennonite Church in Moorefield from March 23 to 30.
The Alma Minstrel Group was busy during the month rehearsing its 1958 show. The first performance would be at the Elora Armory Hall on April 10.
Wellington County council cancelled the county picnic for 1958. Attendance the previous year had been only 500 or so, and councillors decided the event was not worth the time or expense. The event had been least popular with residents of the towns and villages. The county picnic began in 1954, part of Wellington’s centennial celebrations.
The federal election result on the last day of the month surprised even the most optimistic Conservatives. John Diefenbaker’s government returned to office with 209 of the 265 seats.
Locally, Marvin How nearly doubled the support of his opponent, Liberal Ross McLellan, taking the seat 19,552 votes to 10,535. It was the most one-sided result in north Wellington since the 1850s, when the area was a stronghold for the old Clear Grit faction of the Liberals.
87 years ago, March 1933
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, fell on March 1 in 1933. St. Martin’s Church marked the day with High Mass at 9am.
A large number of transients roamed the area during the winter of 1933, and some were aggressive and belligerent. Palmerston, as a railway centre, seemed to attract more than its share. One night a group of a dozen or so tried to intimidate the agent at the station, seeking money. Others swaggered into stores, demanding clothing and other items. The Palmerston constable seized one of the worst offenders, and he soon found himself the recipient of a two-month term in the hoosegow.
Drayton’s council meeting on March 6 was a short one. About one-third of the bills paid were for relief expenditures, or for the cost of looking after transients. With spring on the way, councillors hired E.C. Andrews to supervise spring cleanup activities in the village during March and April.
Peel council met the same day, with reeve Ezra Smith wielding the gavel. Councillors were astonished at the rise in the cost of its liability insurance to $191. There had been a rash in recent years of people filing claims for injury and damage on roads. Council also spent much time discussing means of collecting back taxes. The township needed the money, but councillors were very reluctant to force anyone off their farm through a tax sale.
A small but active group in Drayton was the Women’s Bridge Club, which met Thursday evenings. Mrs. GL. Waters and Mrs. Dr. Bliss were the organizers. On March 14 the group gave a St. Patrick’s Day party for their husbands and friends at the Drayton Town Hall. Supper was served at 7pm and was followed by various toasts and the singing of Irish songs.
Ismael Bawman of Con. 8, Peel, set something of a record by tapping his maple trees during the last week of February. He began boiling sap on March 1. Other maple syrup makers followed a week or so later. Others reported signs of an early spring. Robins were spotted all over the area in the first days of the month, and GL. Waters reported a flock of migrating geese on March 3.
Canadian National ran a special excursion 10-car train from Palmerston to Toronto, with fares much reduced from the regular amounts. The train picked up 840 passengers along the route to enjoy a day in Toronto.
Moorefield United Church held a banquet in support of its missionary activities out of town, plus a program of music by members of the church. With food donated, they were able to hold the cost to 25 cents and still generate a surplus for the missionary fund.
On March 16 Rothsay’s Presbyterians advertised a pancake supper. For entertainment, the organizers asked people to bring family photo albums.
Also on March 16 was a euchre and dance sponsored by the Orange Lodge in Drayton. A lunch followed a couple of hours of euchre, and then there was dancing to the music of the Kells Boys Band from Peel. The event drew many visitors from Fergus, Elora, Elmira, Arthur and other points.
Wellington County released the population figures for its various municipalities, based on the assessment returns. There was little change anywhere. Drayton stood at 558, Palmerston 1,543, Peel 2,815 and Maryborough 2,188.
Despite pressure from the public, municipalities and the Ontario Motor League, Minister of Highways Leo Macauley refused to raise the provincial speed limit above 35 miles per hour.
An outbreak of chicken pox in the Drayton area kept many school children at home and in bed.
A severe ice storm swept through the area on March 18, and was especially bad around Alma, where overburdened limbs brought down dozens of trees.
Roy Philp of Moorefield urged farmers to generate a little extra money by raising chickens. He sold day-old leghorns for $8 per 100 birds, and Plymouth Rocks for $10.
Palmerston’s Young Peoples Group took a play, The Bean Town Choir, on tour around the area. First stop was the Presbyterian Church in Moorefield.
A.C. Helwig, Drayton’s ambitious car dealer, brought in some 1933 Oldsmobiles on March 27. He had both the six-cylinder and straight-eight models. He was also featuring Chevrolet trucks, from the half-ton pickup truck through panel and delivery trucks, up to the five-ton dump truck. All had six cylinder engines. Despite the depression conditions, truck sales were steady, as many independent operators set up trucking businesses to compete with the railways.
Though money was scarce, there were unavoidable expenses for many people in March. New plates for cars and trucks had to be purchased by March 15, and the $2 radio receiving licences expired at the end of the month. The radio licences were very unpopular, and most people refused to purchase one.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on March 7 and 14, 2008.