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.
69 years ago – July 1951
A fierce wind and rain storm at the beginning of July 1951 caused damage throughout the area.
Among the casualties was a vacant log house belonging to Wesley Smith at the edge of Drayton. It had been constructed by John Dales, one of the earliest settlers, in about 1850, and subsequently had been the home of his son, Prof. J.N. Dales of McMaster University. The damage was so severe and the old logs so rotted that the structure had to be demolished.
In addition to bad weather, farmers had another worry: cattle rustlers. Livestock had been disappearing in Waterloo County in May and June, and the thieves expanded their area to include Wellington County by July. Police believed the thefts were all the work of one gang.
An effort by Wellington County council to have the road from Harriston to Mount Forest and Shelburne designated a provincial highway received widespread support from local residents and councils. Queen’s Park ultimately accepted the idea and the road became Highway 89.
On July 22 the Fifty-Fifty Club of the Alma-Goldstone United Churches conducted the morning services, under the direction of Mrs. George Trask.
There were a couple of business changes on Drayton’s main street in July 1951. G. Gibson & Co. of Toronto purchased the oldest business in town, Hefkey’s Shoe Store, which had been operated by three generations of that family since J.C. Hefkey first opened the door in 1881. A newer business, Hubert Mills’s pool room and restaurant, was purchased by Gord White of Fergus. Mills had been proprietor for only two years. The business was in the former premises of the John Lunz general store, in its day one of the largest businesses in Drayton.
Residents of Maryborough on Concessions 4 and 5, just west of Hollen, were seething. A flood in 1948 had destroyed the bridge over the Conestogo River, and after three years it had yet to be replaced. The area formed part of the lake bottom behind the proposed Conestogo dam, and authorities had no inclination to construct a bridge that might soon be flooded. One man complained that school children had to wade through the river to get to classes. A group of residents held a meeting with Peel and Maryborough councils, the Grand River Conservation Commission, and the county engineering department present, but it resolved nothing. The GRCC stated that a dam was at least two years away, and that no bridge would be constructed unless the plans for the dam were abandoned.
A Triumph for the Moorefield Service Club: Formed in the fall of 1950 by a group of businessmen to promote the welfare of the community, the 25 members of the Moorefield Service Club took on the floodlighting of the Moorefield ball diamond as their first big project. The group raised $4,000 from euchres, canvassing and a couple of small grants. The project included floodlights atop six 70-foot poles, new bleachers, and some fencing, with much of the work done by volunteers. On opening night the main feature was an exhibition game against a team of professional hockey players led by Walter “Turk” Broda, the popular, affable and rotund (he was 5’9” and tipped the scales at 200) veteran goalie of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Stanley Cup champs in 1951. Broda’s boys lost a close-fought game by a score of 3-2. Moorefield brought in a ringer, Denny Piscopink, who had pitched professionally in the United States. The evening concluded with dancing to the music of the Moorefield Orchestra. After the game, Broda told reporters that Moorefield had “the finest lighted field I have played under.” Broda played for the Leafs from 1936 until 1952.
Those looking for something a little noisier than a ball game had their opportunity in August when the Drayton Agricultural Society sponsored a stock car race at the Drayton fairgrounds. There were 21 entries, many from the Galt Stock Car Club. Race fans cheered as the cars stirred up clouds of throat-choking dust, while backfiring engines provided a merry obbligato accompaniment for the 20-lap main feature.
The Drayton Rotary Club enjoyed great success running a program to provide swimming lessons at the Fergus pool for Drayton-area youngsters, with 53 enrolled for the Saturday excursions. The Rotary Club paid all transportation and admission costs.
24 years ago – August 1981
Conestogo Lake officials closed the beach to swimmers for two weeks due to high bacteria counts. Supervisor Andy Stanners reported the lost income at $2,500 per week. With favourable test results, the beach reopened in early August.
Rothsay Concentrates continued to have problems with the odours from its plant, even after the installation of $300,000 of air filtering equipment earlier in the year. Resident Mel Woodhouse and the STP committee, with Maryborough council, scheduled a public meeting for Aug. 6 to try to resolve the situation. Several Environment Ministry staff also attended.
Norwell Secondary School in Palmerston announced its offerings of evening courses for the coming term. Among them was a course on the Bible, to be studied in the original Greek and Hebrew. The course included a basic grounding in the two languages, and would run from September to April, with one three-hour session each week.
Nancy Whale and Bob Thompson attended a week-long 4-H course at Centralia for 15-year-olds. Later in the month, a group of 15 4-H members from Drayton Valley, Alberta, arrived for a week of touring the area. The young people were billeted at farm homes in the Drayton area. They visited a number of farm operations and other attractions. A planned visit to the Imperial Tobacco plant in Guelph proved a disappointment. Plant regulations did not allow anyone under 18 to enter the plant. Local 4-H members had visited Alberta earlier in the summer.
At Peel council’s meeting on Aug. 17 councillors voted to buy a new road grader from the Champion firm in Goderich for $111,000. That firm’s bid was $7,000 higher than the only other one received, but councillors agreed that it was a far better machine. Council also decided to request that the county erect a flashing light at the main intersection in Alma. Lights were to be installed at main intersections on Wellington Road 7 in Salem and Elora, and council believed that Alma was equally important.
Gerda Hesselink hosted an executive meeting of the Alleluia Community Choir. The group decided to schedule a Christmas cantata, an Easter recital and a June concert during the coming season. There were problems deciding on an evening for weekly practices. Choir director Don Martin had other commitments on two nights, and some of the singers could not attend on the evenings available.
Maryborough’s Horticultural Society held its 1981 summer show in Moorefield on Aug. 18. There were more than 400 entries, submitted by 22 exhibitors. Irma Biesel, Joyce McDonald and Marjorie Edwards led the list of prize winners.
Florence Landman, Miss Drayton of 1980, competed in the CNE “Queen of the Fairs” pageant in Toronto on Aug. 21.
A group of Peel parents continued in their determination to send their children to Floradale school in Waterloo Region, rather than the Centre Peel school. They took their plea to the county school board’s August meeting, without success.
The Agricultural Society took over the Drayton arena and community centre on Aug. 28 and 29 for an “Old Tyme Jamboree.” There were competitions for old-time fiddling and step dancing, including classes for ages 12 and under and 60 and over. Altogether there were more than 50 competitive fiddlers and 70 dancers, cheered on by a crowd of about 1,200. A surprise was the non-competitive appearance of Don Reed, of Sudbury, 1981 Canadian Open Fiddle Champion. While the judges deliberated for the final awards, he brought the crowd to its feet with a blistering version of Orange Blossom Special. Reed was present to see a couple of his relatives compete. On the Saturday afternoon the women of the Agricultural Society served a supper for several hundred people. Another feature was the crowning of Miss Drayton for 1981, as Florence Landman passed the crown to the Colleen Franklin.
The Alma-Goldstone Couples Club enjoyed a boat cruise on the lower Grand River on Aug. 30. Mr. and Mrs. Norman Skerritt and Mr. and Mrs. Ron Fisher organized that outing.
That same day, Aug. 30, MPP Jack Johnston joined local dignitaries at the official opening of the Maryborough Terrace seniors apartments in Moorefield, followed by a light lunch in the common room of the complex. Construction of the 10-unit facility had been a popular project. Most of the residents had already been there for some time, the first moving in during mid-July.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on July 20, 2001 and Aug. 18, 2006.