Win Oakes, at Oakes Bakery, 37 Foster Street, Perth, ON, photo: courtesy of Kristine Oakes
Long John or Honey-Dipped Donut? Which was the best?
That was the long-standing debate, at the Perth and District Collegiate Institute, for as long as I can remember. Some liked the soft split donut with the rich whipped cream down the center, and then there were others who couldn’t get enough of its main rival – the doughy, firm-glazed, honey-dipped delights.
The 2 favourites, at the center of the great debate at P.D.C.I. – Which was best?
Whichever of the two you preferred, they could both be found at Perth, Ontario’s much-loved bakery, Oakes Bakery, a respected, popular business, serving the town and surrounding area for over 55 years.
A Little Bit of History
Thomas Edward Oakes 1867-1933
In 1893, Thomas Oakes, a stone-cutter by trade, made the decision to move to Perth from Almonte. He heard through the grapevine that a thriving stone-crafting industry was booming in the busy town, and soon after, he secured a position with the Campbell Monument Works, crafting, polishing and engraving marble and granite tombstones.
While Thomas’ days were busy working as a stone-cutter, he was also widely known as a sociable fellow. He began to date a charming beauty, born in Bathurst Township, and like Thomas, a member of St. James Anglican Church, in Perth. On a chilly January afternoon, in 1896, after many months of courtship, Thomas, age 28, married Mary Elizabeth Morris, age 21, daughter of William Morris and Catherine Sly. Thomas and Mary had a large family of six children: Florence, William, Dorothy, Delbert, Elsie, and Laura.
William Oakes –
Founder of the Bakery
Bill Oakes, Thomas’ eldest son, at age 20, married Stella Fleming in 1919:
Apprenticeship at Woodcock Bakery
Bill and Stella moved to Carleton Place, where he was employed with Woodcock Bakery, at 152 Bridge Street. The Woodcock family were pleased to have such an eager and hard-working trainee, and Bill, in turn, was learning everything he could about operating a bakery.
Opens for Business 1926
On May 1, 1926 – Bill and Stella Oakes opened their bakery at 60 Foster Street. Bill ran the bakery, and his brother, Delbert ‘Deb’ delivered the goods by horse and buggy. In 1948 the business moved to 37 Foster Street.
Dec. 15, 1949, p.3, “The Perth Courier”
In the 1950s, Oakes Bakery began to offer deli selections,
as well as their popular baked goods.
“The Perth Courier”, July 12, 1956, p 10
“The Perth Courier”, March 26, 1959, p.9
“The Perth Courier”, Dec. 17, 1959, p. 13
Dec. 17, 1959, p 13 “The Perth Courier”
Dec. 21, 1961, p. 12, “The Perth Courier”
Donald ‘Donny’ Oakes, Roy Van Iderstine, Richard ‘Rick’ Oakes, Steven Cordick, Paul Carter, Harold Matheson, Terry Truelove, Michael Jordan, Kevin Beamish, Iqbal Umar, Gerry Huddleston.
Win Oakes, icing a cake, at Oakes Bakery, 37 Foster Street, Perth, ON, photo courtesy of Kristine Oakes
Bakery Founder Bill Oakes,
passes away – 1963
(missing from the obituary are son, Donald, son William ‘Bill’, and daughter, June – thanks to Janie Kerr for pointing out the omission)
Along with sponsoring many local events over the years, like the Festival of the Maples, the Mutt Show at the Perth Fair, and countless other charities, Oakes Bakery also sponsored a talk show on CJET Radio, with host, Don Crawford, called “Legion Line”
March 18, 1965, p. 10, “The Perth Courier”
Oakes 40th Anniversary – Apr. 21, 1966, p. 8, “The Perth Courier”
The first driver for Oakes Bakery was Delbert ‘Deb’ Oakes, brother of the owner, William Oakes. Deb delivered baked goods throughout the town of Perth, on a horse and cart, beginning in 1926. In the years that followed, modern trucks were added to the fleet, and deliveries expanded beyond the town of Perth.
Oakes Bakery – trucks, photo courtesy of Tom Oakes
Don McAdam, Eldred Beamish,
Ernie Moore, and Walter Bentley
In the 1960s, Eldred Beamish, delivered to customers in Ompah and along Snow Road, Ernie Moore, delivered to Burritt’s Rapids, and Walter Bentley, whose route included most of the Drummond Centre area. Don McAdam delivered in Perth, as well as the Christie Lake route.
Oakes Bakery trucks – 1960, photo: courtesy of Shirley Oakes
1970s and 1980s – Drivers
Edred Beamish, Robert Roussel,
June 23, 1966, p. 3, “The Perth Courier”
Nov. 24, 1966, p. 9 “The Perth Courier”
Dec. 15, 1966, p. 4, “The Perth Courier”
Apr. 3, 1969, p. 7 “The Perth Courier”
Traditional Hot Cross buns, served in the weeks leading up to Easter, were a popular treat at Oakes Bakery.
Aug. 28, 1969, p. 10, “The Perth Courier”
Oakes Bakery –
Christening and Baptism Cakes
Oakes Bakery generously donated a beautiful Christening Cake each New Year to the parents of the first baby born at the Perth Hospital. Traditional christening and baptism cakes were always white, some were round, tiered, and resembled a wedding cakes. Rectangular sheet-style cakes were also popular, and were usually white, some decorated with a cross. More modern cakes were decorated using pastel colours, like pink or blue, but the majority of cakes produced were all white.
Dec. 27, 1973 p. 10, “The Perth Courier”
(Above: Christening and Baptism cakes – white sheet cakes, iced in white were popular)
Oakes Storefront Staff
– Assisted customers, took orders for wedding cakes, and specialty cakes, boxed and packaged orders, handles payments and in-store sales:
Winnifred ‘Win’ Oakes, Shirley Oakes, Betty Oakes, Diane Bowes, Cathy Shanks Albert, Vena Shanks, Wanda Shanks, Wendy Kehoe, Christine Schauber, Connie Burns, Lisa Anderson, Shannon Matheson, Doug Young, Doug McDonald
At the Smiths Falls store:
Working at their Main Street store in Smiths Falls: Mary Horricks, Webb and Helen Young, and at the County Fair Mall location: Joan Beamish, Kathy Beamish, Charmaine Gill, Kelly O’Neill, Marie Stoddard, and Wendy Thomas. Office staff at that time: Norma Adams and Linda Dowdall.
Dec. 12, 1974, p. 4 “The Perth Courier”
In 1976, Oakes Bakery celebrated it’s 50th year in business.
Oct. 21, 1976. p 10 “The Perth Courier”
Sept. 22, 1977, p. 13 “The Perth Courier”
Mar. 1, 1978, p. 8, “The Perth Courier”
Mar. 19, 1980, p. 15 “The Perth Courier”
Nov. 19, 1980, p. 26, “The Perth Courier”
Feb. 4, 1981, p. 26, “The Perth Courier”
Oakes Bakery was well-known for their beautiful wedding cakes, and traditional toppers. Most of their wedding cakes were fruit cakes decorated in white icing, and created in several layers of increasing sizes. It was popular to bake a separate fruit cake, iced in white, cut in small pieces and wrapped and given to wedding guests at the table, beside their place setting. Wedding bells were popular cake toppers, or small figures depicting the bride and groom.
Above: 1940s Cake Topper
Wedding cakes on display at Oakes Bakery in the 1960s – photo courtesy of Shirley Oakes
Shirley Oakes’ wedding cake, traditional fruit cake, iced by Shirley and Win Oakes, in 1963, photo: courtesy of Shirley Oakes
Mar. 11, 1981, p. 51, “The Perth Courier”
A classic style wedding cake with topper, like many that were made by the talented staff at Oakes Bakery
Traditional fruit cake, cut in small pieces, with white marzipan icing, and wrapped in plastic wrap, were popular wedding favours for guests,at each place setting at a wedding supper.
Slices of wedding cake were often wrapped in plastic, then wrapped in a doily, with a ribbon tied around the middle, and given as a ‘favour’ to wedding guests.
July 1, 1981, p. 34, “The Perth Courier”
In 1981, Oakes Bakery celebrated their 55th year in business.
Oakes 55th Anniversary announcement – courtesy of Kristine Oakes
Dec. 23, 1981, p. 43, “The Perth Courier”
Jan. 13, 1982, p. 1 “The Perth Courier”
Read the Story of Oakes Bakery!
The story of Oakes Bakery, is one of a collection of short stories in “Lanark County Comfort: Homespun Tales to Warm Your Heart”.
Discover the tragedies and the triumphs of this well-loved Perth business. What was it like to work there? Stories and anecdotes from members of the Oakes family and from former staff-members. Re-live the glory days, follow the drivers on their delivery routes, and visit behind the scenes with the talented bakers. Read about that fateful night in 1947 when a local police officer discovered a fire at the bakery that could have ended it all……
For information, or to reserve your copy:
Other books by Arlene Stafford-Wilson: