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.
65 years ago – October/November, 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.
By mid-November it had passed its peak in Drayton, but was still severe in the Glen Allan area. Goldstone school closed for a week when the teacher, Mrs. Hagarty, fell victim to the bug.
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 underway, and the engineers did not expect it to be finished until spring 1958. The whole project topped the $8 million mark in cost, 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.
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, shoppers could find plenty of bargains. William Rome had 24-ounce jars of cherry jam for 43 cents, and olives at 33 cents for a large jar. The Drayton Red & White offered Clark’s beans at two tins for 35 cents, and had features on the newest rage: frozen vegetables. Birdseye peas were priced at $1 for five 12-ounce packages. Lahn the Butcher featured T-bone and sirloin steaks at 67 cents per pound, and R.E. Henry offered two boxes of shredded wheat for 35 cents, and two-pound boxes of crackers for 61 cents, 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.
Business, though, was not good for R.E. Henry. He appealed to customers to come in and settle their accounts, claiming he was unable to purchase winter inventory because he could get no further credit from his bank.
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 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 all melted by noon.
Halloween in 1957 turned out to be a fairly quiet one. Drayton’s Rotary Club put on a party at the town hall for youngsters. Winners of the costume competition included Fay Brunkard, Peggy Whale, John Reid and Richard Henry. All the youngsters received bags of candy and fruit.
Peel council met on Nov. 4 with a short agenda. Mrs. Ruthena Kidney received approval for a tile drain loan, and council granted permission to the New Union Telephone Company to erect poles and string wires in the township. New poles had to be placed at least 29 feet from the centre of the road.
Bell Telephone distributed 1958 directories to its subscribers on the Drayton exchange. There were about 650 customers, a big increase from 1956, when there were barely 400.
A series of break-ins at the beginning of the month alarmed local people. Victims who lost merchandise or equipment were Brown’s Mill, Helen’s Gift Shop, Alva Cherrey’s garage, Don Duff’s truck depot, and the Wellington Creamery. The thieves were quite bold: at the latter business they stopped at the lunch room and heated up some soup. Mount Forest Provincial Police investigated. Following up on a tip, they found a car belonging to Garry O’Toole of Elora loaded up with much of the loot. He pleaded guilty in Guelph court at the end of the month, and received a jail sentence.
On Nov. 7 the United Church Women held an “all-you-can-eat” supper. It was a great success, raising about $700.
A blizzard hit the area on the evening of Nov. 8, a Friday, making a mess of the roads, which remained icy for much of the weekend as road crews struggled to plow and sand, and the thermometer plunged to zero Fahrenheit. The cold and wind did not affect Remembrance Day services in Drayton, held on Nov. 10, a Sunday afternoon. Most of the local churches used a memorial theme for their services that morning.
Maryborough council met on Nov. 11. Reeve Phil Rowland read a letter from the Department of Agriculture, advising that inoculation for brucellosis was now compulsory for livestock between four and 11 months. The provincial government would pay the cost of the shots. A delegation of residents appeared, asking that the sideroad between Lots 12 and 13 be opened between Conc. 8 and 10. Council advised the road superintendent to begin the work at once. A motion brought Maryborough into line with other municipalities for a nomination meeting on Nov. 23, and elections, if required, on Dec. 2.
The Royal Winter Fair, running from Nov. 15 to 23, drew quite a few visitors from the Drayton area as visitors, and a sprinkling as competitors. Among the latter was John Hagarty, who went home with a grand reserve award for his barley.
Drayton’s Chamber of Commerce met to discuss Christmas store hours. The decision was to remain open for the usual Thursday half-day closing on Dec. 19, stay open late on Dec. 23 and 24, and close for Christmas and Boxing Day.
The Drayton Reformed Church welcomed 300 visitors to the dedication ceremony for its new edifice on Nov. 15. Rev. Ralph Vander Pol, who helped organize the congregation in 1952, presided. The building cost about $35,000. Donations of material and labour were responsible for the very low figure.
Maryborough Junior Farmers welcomed guests from the Rothsay and Moorefield Women’s Institutes to their November meeting. The guest speaker was Bob Carbert, popular television personality from CKNX in Wingham, who spoke of his trip to South America.
*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Oct. 12 and Nov. 9, 2007.