Soper Theatre, Smiths Falls

It was 1914 when local man, Bert Soper, opened the Rideau Theatre on Chambers Street, at the corner of Beckwith, in Smiths Falls.  Stanley McNeill was the first manager.  He was a local lad, son of Harry McNeill and Alice Butler, and he ran the theatre like a well-oiled machine.

Soper 1

Photo: Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

 

In the 1930s, the theater was renamed ‘The Capitol’, and people drove for miles around to come and see ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘King Kong’, and “The Wizard of Oz”.

A new theater was built in 1949, at 15 Main Street in Smiths Falls.  The new Soper Theatre boasted 964 seats, making it the largest movie theater in Eastern Ontario.

The Soper was managed by Walter Lackenbauer, a man who took his job very seriously.  It was said that Walter was so punctual that you could set your watch when you saw him walking across the bridge, on his way to work each day.

When Walter Lackenbauer retired in 1976, Art White became the Manager of the Soper, and worked in that capacity until 1992, and then Jan Stepniak took over the position.

Walter Lackenbauer

Walter Lackenbauer and his wife Bernadette ‘Bernie’

 

Another familiar face at the Soper Theatre was Violet Gariepy, a native of Scotland, she worked at the candy counter along with Norma Willoughby, and Jessie Loucks.

This is the clock that hung on the wall in the concession counter at the Soper. *

clock from the Soper

Some of the early films shown at the Soper, were ‘tame’ compared to the movies produced today.  Films like ‘Snow White’, and ‘Old Yellar’ were suitable for the whole family.

 

Snow white

 

Old Yeller

One of the most popular movies in the 1950s was “The One That Got Away”, – the story of a German prisoner of war, Franz von Werra, who escaped from a moving train, as it passed through the town of Smiths Falls.

The one that got away

 

By the time I was old enough to attend a movie, the Soper Theatre was the only place in the area where we could go to see the newest Hollywood films.  The Soper was just around the corner from the Sweet Shop – talk about a great location!

Soper 6 street view

Photo: Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

 

The Ushers who worked at the Soper Theatre might have been the original ‘multi-taskers’, who had a variety of jobs.  These were the ‘boys’ who helped young children to their seats at the Saturday matinees, who shone their flashlights on young lovers in the back row, and did their best to keep the smoking and drinking from getting out of hand.

teens at back necking

 

The same ushers had to walk back to the green seats, and remind smokers that their policy was cigarettes only, no cigars. They also had to police the drinkers, the kids who liked to sneak in mickey bottles in their jackets and have a few drinks on a Friday night.

smoking in the back

The mickey, invented in Perth, by John McLaren, was just the right size to sneak into the movies!

mickey whiskey

 

Some of the ushers who worked at The Soper, over the years:  Gordon Evoy, Scott Irvine, Ralph Scott, Grant Dopson, Rob Knapp, Donnie Lackey, Ricky Laming, Tommy Martin, Bert Stranberg, Joe Gallipeau, John Marks, Brian McDougall, and Hugh Finlayson.

The big blockbuster movies in those days were some that we’ll never forget.  According to many of the former staff members at the Soper, these movies were among the ones that brought in the biggest crowds in Smiths Falls:

Seven Brides for Seven brothers

 

James Bond

James Bond: Goldfinger

 

Godfather movie poster

 

No one wanted to swim the year that this one came out –

Jaws movie poster

Smokey and the bandit

 

close encounters

Rocky

 

Star Wars

On the opening day of Jurassic Park, staff members,  like Tammy DeSalvo, dressed up as dinosaurs, much to the delight of local children!

Jurassic Park movie poster

 

Titanic movie poster

 

Sometimes we forget that it’s the people we don’t see at the theater, the ones who work behind the scenes, who play some of the most important roles.   Rae Murphy was Projectionist at the Soper Theatre when the building was brand new, in 1949.  The back-up Projectionist was Widge Williams, son of Bill Williams, owner of the Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre.

Everyone’s favourite place at the Soper Theatre was the candy counter, and along with Violet Gariepy, you could find Gail Preece, along with brother and sister team – Christine and Stephen Harper, and twins David Morris and Stephanie Morris.  David later became a police officer for the Town of Smiths Falls.

popcorn

 

Many of us will never forget our very first movie, and for those of us who grew up in the area, the Soper Theatre was our first experience in a real movie theater.

The very first staff-member we encountered might have been Phyllis Evoy, at the ticket booth, or Violet Gariepy at the candy counter.  We may have noticed a very serious man, Walter Lackenbauer, the Manager, walking around the lobby, making sure that everything was running smoothly.  Maybe we’d catch a glimpse of Rea Murphy, on his way to the projection booth, or one of the helpful Ushers escorting a child, or an elderly person, safely to their seat.

Although most of us have been to more modern, slick, new theaters since our nights at the Soper Theatre,  those special, magical nights of our youth will remain forever in our hearts.

*note – the photo of the red Coca-Cola clock that hung on the wall of the candy counter was provided by Violet Gariepy.   Violet’s husband Raymond became ill, and Jan Stepniak visited Ray in the hospital.  Ray told Jan how much he had always loved the clock from the candy counter.  Jan came to their home later, and presented Ray with the clock.  Ray sinced passed away, and the clock hangs proudly on Violet’s wall, a treasured memory of her time working at this much loved theater.
Photos of the Soper Theatre:   Steven Maddock of Hyfund Studio

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Discover the fascinating people in Smiths Falls who made the magic happen at the Soper Theatre. Learn about the lively staff Christmas parties, find out who went to the Rideau Hotel every night after work and why, and which one of the staff was married to a well-known hockey player. Read about the daily operations, behind-the-scenes at the Soper.  Learn about a controversial court case when a Perth lawyer brings charges against a local film distributor. Meet the people who ran this beloved theater – the managers, the projectionists, the ushers, the candy-counter workers, and the people at the ticket booth, and read their memories and stories of this very special place!  Go behind the scenes at this beloved theater in – “A Night at the Movies: The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls”, in ‘Lanark County Calling – All Roads Lead Home’.

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witch of Plum Hollow

The readings always began the same way, with her visitors climbing the rickety wooden stairs to her cramped attic reading room.  She motioned her guests to sit across from her, at a small pine table.  A fresh pot of tea sat on the table, along with two cups.  She’d pick up the pot, shake it vigorously, and pour a cup, watching as the leaves slowly sank to the bottom.  Next, she swirled the tea around, poured the liquid back into the pot, then instructed her visitor to do the same.

fortune telling room

(the attic in Jane Barnes’ cabin)

 

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes was a beautiful, young, woman when she arrived in North America. She left her home in England after refusing to marry a man twice her age. Her father, a Colonel had instructed her to wed his friend, a middle-aged soldier, and Jane would have no part of it.  Instead, she fell in love with a handsome young man, Robert Harrison, and they left Britain together, married, and had a son.

Sadly, Robert died shortly after, and Jane was left alone to raise their baby.

Jane had a lovely slim frame, fair complexion, and bright eyes.  It wasn’t long before she began to date again, and a young shoemaker, David Barnes, won her heart.  They married and settled near Lake Eloida, not far from Plum Hollow, about fifteen miles south of Smiths Falls, in Leeds & Grenville, Ontario.  Jane and David had a large family – six sons, three daughters, and Jane took in three neighbourhood orphans after their mother passed.

Jane Barnes young

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes

 

Jane’s husband David, was a bit of a wanderer, and he left her, abandoned the children, and moved to Smiths Falls.

Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.

In the late 1800s, telling one’s fortune by reading tea leaves became very popular.

tea leaf reading painting

 

In those days, loose tea was used, and so the leaves at the bottom of the cup often formed shapes or patterns, and these were interpreted by the fortune-teller, to predict future events.

loose tea

Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water

 

tea pot

After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup

 

holding a cup with leaves

Then, the fortune-teller, or tea-leaf-reader, would interpret the meaning of the individual’s leaves.

Many believed that the position of the leaves in the cup itself, had meaning.

tea leaf 3

tea leaf symbols

The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.

tea leaf symbols 2

 

News of Jane’s accuracy in her predictions spread quickly, and she had visitors from neighbouring towns, cities, provinces, and even visitors from the northern states.

Jane Barnes old

 

During Jane’s time telling fortunes she was able to find missing objects, missing farm animals, and even missing people.  Jane’s predictions were so accurate that even the police called on her to assist them from time to time.  She even had a few very famous customers, in the many decades of her practice, in that little cabin in the country.

newsclipping about mother barnes

As the decades passed, news about Jane’s gift for predicting continued to spread far and wide, and there were often carriages lined up down the road near her little cabin.

 

news about Mother Barnes

 

Young people went to Jane to ask advice on their love lives and she was able to predict who they would marry.  If any of the neighbours misplaced anything, they walked to Jane’s little cabin and she would tell them exactly where to look.  Farmers went to Jane when their cattle or horses wandered off, and she always directed them to precisely the right spot. Business people consulted Jane for advice on their professions, and politicians sought her advice on elections and policies.

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Jane’s little cabin still stands today.

Jane's cabin

Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.

obit of Mother Barnes

 

Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery

 

Sheldon Cemetery

When Jane passed, she was buried in an unmarked grave.

Plum Hollow cheese-makers from 1924-1974, Claude and Ella Flood, erected a stone in memory of  ‘Mother Barnes’

 

Jane's gravestone

 

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Discover the fascinating story of Jane Barnes, and her years as a local fortune-teller.  Find out about some of Jane’s most prominent and famous customers.  Who were the high-profile movers and shakers who sought Jane’s advice on a regular basis? Read about a grisly murder case that perplexed police, and was finally solved by Jane. Who was the famous and controversial newspaper publisher who sent his wife to ask Jane’s predictions because he didn’t want to be seen visiting a ‘fortune-teller’.  Learn about the case of a poltergeist in Quebec, where the family seeks Jane’s help in solving the violent and frightening haunting of their house.  Discover these stories and more, in the book “Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”, the complete story of Jane Barnes, a gifted lady, also known as – ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow”

LCCalling poster for web png

 

 

 

Book Launch “Lanark County Calling”

Lanark County Calling:  All Roads Lead Home

Travel back in time, through Lanark County, and beyond, in this collection of stories. The adventure begins in Perth, Ontario, where you’ll meet trailblazer, Sophia Haggis, a local confectioner, also known as ‘the Candy Lady’. Next, sample some popcorn at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, while you meet the folks who made sure your night at the movies went off without a hitch. Your next stop is Ferguson Falls, where you may encounter a ghostly apparition, searching for their lost love, along the shores of the Mississippi River.  Join the unforgettable party at one of the most popular country music festivals of our time – the legendary Ompah Stomp.  Meet the Witch of Plum Hollow, an Irish fortune-teller, who helped local police solve crimes. Come along on this captivating journey, through some of the most intriguing places in Eastern Ontario.

Saturday, September 29th,  12 noon – 3 p.m.

at The Book Nook and Other Treasures,

60 Gore St. E., Perth, Ontario

Book launch for blog

 

7th book in the series of Lanark County stories

 

Lanark County Calling - book cover Aug

 

Acknowledgement:

Thanks to those who ‘pulled back the curtain’ for an insider’s glimpse behind the scenes at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls, Ontario:  Jan Stepniak, Gordon Evoy, Violet Gariepy, Scott Irvine Jr., and Tammy DeSalvo.

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Special thanks to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, and also to Marilyn Taylor Dunham for sharing their memories, stories, and special recollections of the legendary Ompah Stomp.

 

for poster

 

The Legendary Ompah Stomp

Visit this unforgettable party through it’s beginnings in 1978, through it’s glory days, up to the year 2000, its final year.

ompah stomp for blog

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A Night at the Movies:  The Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls

Discover the history of this popular destination, and meet the fascinating folks who played key roles in this beloved movie theatre!

soper theatre for blog

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Sophia Haggis – Perth’s Candy Lady

Meet trail-blazer Sophia Haggis  –   take a trip down memory lane and visit Sophia in the pretty town of Perth, and sample some of her mouth-watering confections.

 

haggis candy for blog

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The Ghost of Ferguson Falls

Go back to the early days in Drummond township when the loggers came to town, sang their songs, spent their pay on liquor, and danced ’til they wore out the floorboards at Charlie Hollinger’s Hotel.  Meet local lad Jimmy, whose life ended all too soon.

lumber jacks

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The Witch of Plum Hollow

Visit this pretty hamlet, and meet an interesting Irish lady with some special abilities.  Discover the people she helped, and the crimes she solved.

witch of p h for blog

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Join us at the book launch on Saturday September 29th from noon to 3 p.m.

All are welcome.

See you there!

 

(lots of local names and familiar places in this collection of stories!)

Lanark Museum – Our Visit to the Past

Lanark sign

Just a short drive from the pretty town of Perth, along the Lanark Road, lush, green, farmers fields welcome us into the Township of Lanark Highlands.  We follow the blue skies, and warm, summer winds, into the village of Lanark, and pull up near our destination –  the Lanark and District Museum.

Ann and Arlene in front of museum

Greeted warmly by Anne Graham, we make our way up the well-worn steps, into a very special place, where the caretakers and guardians of our history, preserve our memories, our stories, and our heritage.

 

Events board Lanark Museum

 

If you walk along George Street in Lanark, you will see a sign out front, greeting visitors,  listing upcoming events, and welcoming all, with no charge for admission, and donations accepted.  Anyone seeking knowledge, or in search of their history, is assured that they’ve come to the right place.

Not far from the front entrance, a plaque displays the names of those who went above and beyond, volunteering their time and expertise, throughout the decades, to keep the museum running smoothly.

 

volunteers Lanark Museum

 

A photo on the wall reminds us of those who played key roles in the earliest days of the museum.  Their foresight and dedication to preserving our local history leaves a lasting legacy, that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

Key players Lanark Museum

 

Many of us have ancestors from the area who served in the military, and the Lanark Museum has many displays highlighting our local heroes.  Perhaps your ancestor is one of these soldiers who has been featured in the museum’s display cases.

War memorials Lanark Museum

 

The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.

 

Roll of Honour case

 

There are a tremendous number of local photographs.   It’s great fun to see the old cars, some of the buildings no longer with us, and even recognize some of the smiling faces in these photos.

 

Local photos

 

The museum is fortunate to have the help of two students for the summer.  Meagan was kind enough to document our visit using her photography skills.

 

Meghan Lanark County

 

There is a wonderful display of original telegrams, some sent, and some received, by the Lavant Station, many years ago.  These are real treasures, and give us some insight into the past and how different life was in those days!  There are lots of familiar surnames on these telegrams, and some even provide a window into our family histories!

 

Telegrams

 

Along with the countless documents displayed there are also some lovely artifacts.  The old wash bowl reminds us of the times before indoor plumbing was standard in our homes.  We can imagine how different our ancestor’s lives might have been, and how carrying water from an outside well into the home was a daily event for these pioneers.

 

wash bowl

 

If your ancestors lived in McDonald’s Corners there is a wonderful remembrance displayed, honoring those who served their country, so well, and so faithfully.

 

McDonald's Corners war memorial

 

There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.

 

SS8 War memorial

 

Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.

 

SS 12

 

The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.

 

SS13 Drummond

 

Being a history buff, it wasn’t easy to tear myself away from all of the exhibits in the museum, and get down to business, and read a couple of stories from my books.  I chose two stories from “Lanark County Kid – My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”.  I read one about a childhood visit to Lanark, and shopping for back-to-school clothing at the Kitten Mill.

My second story was “Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd”.  Our family often went on Sunday drives, and a visit to Balderson for a bag of soft squeaky curd, was something not to be missed!  In the story, we go behind the counter, and watch the Master Cheesemaker, Omar Matte, and the others, while they stir the vats of heated milk, and then press the curds into big wooden circular presses.  Considering that the factory is no longer there, it is a precious memory to have witnessed this process.

 

book table Lanark Museum

 

There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.

 

Kitten Mill 1

 

The Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the artifacts and documents from the days of the Glenayr Kitten mills, and reminding us of the impact to employment and the economic influence to the village.

Kitten Mill 2

I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.

 

Kitten 3

 

One of the special highlights for me was a visit with the Shamrock Quilt.  While we can’t be sure of the date of its origin, I recall seeing it displayed at the museum many, many years ago, and was delighted to see it once again.  This quilt is embroidered with the names of local families.  If your family lived in the area it would be worth the trip to see this marvelous quilt, and discover your ancestor’s name embroidered in green.

 

Shamrock quilt 1

 

The Shamrock Quilt holds a special connection for Doris Quinn and myself.   My Dad’s Aunt, Julia Stafford, married William Quinn, and both the Quinn and Stafford families are among the many, many, names on this precious artifact.  It was a wonderful moment to be able to stand beside Doris, and see those names from the past, those who are no longer with us, but remain forever in our hearts.

 

Shamrock 2

Photo below:   Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.

Julia Stafford Bill Quinn

 

The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.

 

Shamrock 3

There are many other squares that were not photographed.  Anyone with ancestors from this area may want to visit the quilt themselves for a more in depth look.

 

Shamrock 4

 

Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.

 

Shamrock 5

 

A final square from this historic piece.  Hopefully the museum will photograph and digitize the entire quilt.  That might be an interesting and very worthwhile project for the summer students!

 

Shamrock 6

 

The late afternoon held a wonderful surprise – a visit from an old friend Susan Newberry Sarsfield.  It was a real delight to visit with Susan, her Mom, and her daughter!

Susan at the Museum

 

Like all good things, our visit to the Lanark Museum came to an end, and our host Anne Graham, kindly walked us out and into the sunny July afternoon.

It was a day filled with history, and the importance of preserving our past.  There are few tasks more essential than being the caretakers of our heritage.  The Lanark Museum is the proud custodian of our region’s artifacts, memories, stories, and treasures.

 

street in front of museum

Many thanks to the kind folks at the Lanark and District Museum for hosting us, and sharing their collection of priceless treasures.  Thanks also to the visitors who stopped by to share some stories and recollections.   Anne, Norma, Gene, Doris – it was so nice to spend time with you – thanks for helping to make our day special.

 

As we said goodbye, and headed down the highway,  we are struck by the pristine beauty of the Lanark Highlands, the clear waters, the fresh air, and the greenery as far as the eye can see, on this beautiful summer day.

 

Until we meet again…..

 

 

Country road summer

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com
Stories for the Lanark Museum readings from:
“Lanark County Kid:  My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”
‘Lanark Sweaters – Soft as a Kitten’
‘Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd’
ISBN 978-0-9877026-16

Local families of DeWitt’s Corners

Rural Polling Station # 32  DeWitt’s Corners,

1963 Voter’s List

DeWitt's Corners Voter's List 1963DeWitt's Corners voter's list 2 of 3DeWitt's Corners voter's list 3 of 4DeWitt's Corners voter's list 4 of 4

Voters Lists, Federal Elections.   R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B).  1963 – Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

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Class of 1958  –    S.S. # 4  Bathurst School – taught by Mary Jordan

DeWitt's School photo

Perth Fair – Flashbacks of Fun!

Perth Fair midway 1

It wasn’t just our Mother who loved the Perth Fair.  Yes, she spent months preparing for those brief few hours each Labour Day weekend, at the fairgrounds, along Rogers Road, but the rest of the family also felt a sense of excitement, rivalled only by Christmas morning!

Perth Fair logo on blue

The day had arrived!  The day that we would drive into Perth, park at our Aunt Pat and Uncle Peter Stafford’s house on Halton Street, walk up the road, and enter the gates.  By the time we got to the entrance, and Mother showed her Exhibitor’s Pass, we were bursting with anticipation. I knew that Mother would be heading straight for the Homecraft Building to check on her entries, but instead, I chose to slow down, look around, and take it all in.

Perth Fair poster 1966

She glanced back, waved, and then rushed down the well worn path, through the midway, and up to the buildings. I stood with my back against the side of the Lion’s Hall, and glanced around. There was so much to see that I didn’t know where to look first.  Being a kid, my eyes naturally gravitated toward the rides.

Perth Fair ride 1   tilt a whirl

They were all spinning and whirring, and the bright sun was bouncing off of all of the shiny metal.  There was a Ferris wheel, a Scrambler, a Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Bullet.  The Swings took up a lot of room, and so they were set up to the right of the buildings.  I could see four kiddy rides: a Merry-Go-Round, Baby Airplanes going round in a circle, Ladybugs, and a Little Red Caboose making its way along a tiny round track.

Once my eyes had taken in the rides, my senses turned to all of the sweet aromas of the Fair. Right across from where I was standing was the Lion’s Club ladies’ booth, and I could smell their fresh, homemade hamburgers, and the savory scent of fried sweet onions.  Straight ahead of me, just past the entrance was a vendor swirling a paper funnel around and around, in a circle, pink cotton candy swelling out from the stick, as he twirled it inside the machine.

concession 1  cottonn candy

Next to the cotton candy stand, was a man selling corn on the cob, and several people were waiting in line.  Folks were holding their cobs by a short wooden stick that had been plunged right into the big end of the cob, and there were two or three separate unwrapped pounds of butter set on the edge of the counter of the vending cart. The butter had already taken on a curved shape as people spun their cobs, and then salted them.

corn on a stick  corn dog

Next to the corn vendor was the hot dog cart. A tall, lanky man was grilling hot dogs on one side, and the finished dogs were spinning slowly around glistening on the grill. On the other side of the wagon, a younger lad was piercing hot dogs with long slender sticks, dipping them in batter, and placing them into a big deep fryer.  The cart had a low shelf with mustard, ketchup and relish and some diced onions for people to dress their hot dogs.

candy apples   caramel apples

 

There were two more food carts, so I strolled a bit farther down the midway toward the buildings. The first cart held a popcorn machine, even bigger than the one that I’d seen at the Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls.  It was a large, metal machine, painted red, and the popcorn was spilling out of the top into a big glass case.  The vendor was lifting it out with a bright, silver scoop, and placing it into small white paper bags that were decorated with red stripes and a clown’s face.

popcorn

The last food vendor in front of the Commerce building, was making snow cones.  There was a square, metal and glass machine and an old man in a dirty apron was pouring ice cubes into a big funnel on the top.  There were white cone-shaped paper cups stacked in a tall dispenser attached to the side of the machine and when he cranked the handle on the opposite side snow came out of an opening at the front.  There were clear plastic squeeze bottles lined up on a shelf, at the front of the machine, and each was labeled with a different flavour: cherry, orange, lemon-lime, grape and blueberry.

snow cone

I’m not sure if I was really hungry or if it was just from seeing and smelling all of the different kinds of food, and I thought that I might buy either a small bag of popcorn, or a blueberry snow cone. I dug deep into my pocket, and pulled out my money.  I had exactly twelve dollars, and my money had to last for the whole weekend, and this was just the first day.  I needed to save some, because my friends Susan and Jane Munro, Patti Jordan, and Debbie Majaury, would be coming into town later, and I’d want to go on the rides with them. Because the rides were $1.25 each I had to be careful not to spend money on food, so I stuffed the bills and change back in my pocket, and kept walking, taking in all the sights along the way.

midway 2

Photo: 1967 Old Home week,  David Bromley (clown on the left) Fred Mather (clown on the right)

I heard a man’s voice yelling at me, and it startled me so much that I jumped.  I looked toward the man timidly, and he was in a game booth, right behind a food cart, and he had a table set up with some wooden milk bottles, stacked in a pyramid.  He had a baseball in his hand, and called to me to come and knock over the milk bottles. It scared me so much that I just walked away.  I wasn’t used to strangers.  We knew everyone out on the Third Line, and lots of the folks in Perth as well.  None of the people we knew ever yelled at us like that, right out of the blue, and certainly not a stranger.  I walked quickly away, not looking back.

ring toss

The people that operated the games made me nervous.  They had a lot of tattoos, which was something we never saw in those days.  Many of them were a bit too aggressive. I’d played some of those games before, and although I won, I didn’t get the big stuffed bears and dogs that were hanging along the top and sides of their booth.

carnie

I’ll never forget the first time I played a game.  The back wall of the booth had four or five rows of balloons blown up, and they were stuck to the wall.  I thought I’d have no problem hitting one of the balloons, so when the man yelled at me to come and play, I thought it would be a sure thing.

prize every time

He said it was $1.00 for three darts so I handed him my money, and he handed me three darts.  Sure enough, the balloons weren’t that far away, and I hit and burst all three of them.

3 darts for a dollar

 

He reached down under the table, into a big cardboard box, and handed me a mangy looking stuffed snake.  It was about six inches long, and had an orange felt tongue, badly stitched onto its mouth, and two black felt eyes, that weren’t even lined up.

I looked up at the big stuffed bears and asked him why I hadn’t won one of those.  He said that my prize was a ‘small’ and if I wanted a ‘large’ prize I’d have to play and win, trading up to a ‘medium’ then win a certain number of ‘mediums’ and then I’d finally get one of the big bears. Holy cow!  Talk about disappointed!  What kind of scam was that?  Folks from Bathurst Township were used to other people dealing with them fairly. This game seemed like out and out trickery, and I wasn’t very impressed.  Still, I didn’t want to tell Mother that I’d just wasted my money, so I kept it to myself.  I didn’t even want to tell my friends that I’d been fooled like that.  I just felt stupid.

I walked by all of the other game booths, and watched people play.  Some folks walking around the fairgrounds were actually carrying one of the great big stuffed animals.  I wondered to myself how many of those mangy stuffed snakes they’d had to trade up in order to finally claim the big prize.

Perth Fair 1956

Photo: Perth Fair 1956 – L to R –  Wanda Mahon, Bette Duncan, Mary Douglas, Marsha Ann Nichols, Heather Murphy, Bill Redman (Bill operated the concession stands for the March Midway)

I walked past the last game in the midway, and there was a rough-looking older woman, holding a bunch of short, wooden fishing rods, with small black metal squares on the ends.  There was a round aluminum tub of water on the ground, and floating along the surface of the water were dozens of little yellow plastic ducks, and they each had ‘S’, ‘M’ or ‘L’, marked on their heads in black marker – small, medium and large I guessed.  I must have been staring too long at the tub of ducks because she called out at me to come and play.  She said everyone is a winner.  Not to be tricked again, I asked her what the prizes were, and she showed me.  She didn’t have huge stuffed animals, but it was only fifty cents to play, and you could fish in the tub until you caught a duck.

fishing game

I dug into my pocket, and pulled out two quarters, gave them to her, and she handed me a fishing rod.  By this time, after watching other folks play for a few minutes, I had figured out that the heavy black square on the end of the rod was a magnet, and that each of the yellow plastic ducks must have a magnet inside so they would stick to the line.  I looked down into the tub, and I could see that there were about forty or fifty ducks marked with an ‘S’, maybe ten marked with a ‘M’ and there were only three that I could see marked with an ‘L’.   I took my time, and positioned my rod right over one of the ‘L’ ducks and plunged it into the water.  Wouldn’t you know it, just my luck, the magnet had stuck to a duck with an ‘S’, the lady pulled it out of the tub, and handed me a prize.  It was a 45 rpm record in a paper sleeve.  I thanked her, and looked at the label.  It was the Shirelles’ song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”  Hmmm.  Well, the record was a few years old, but we had a record player at home, and some plastic adapters to play 45s, so this didn’t seem like such a bad prize after all.  Not bad for fifty cents!

The late August sun was working its way up into the sky, and I thought it must be close to noon.  I was starting to feel hot, and decided to head up to the buildings, and cool off inside.  The exhibit halls at the Perth Fair were grey metal arched buildings, with straight walls, and rounded roofs.  One of the buildings was known as the Commerce building, and it had lots of different vendors selling their products and services.  The other building was the Homemaking building, and this is where you could find exhibits of sewing and fancy work, vegetables, flowers, canned goods, maple products, and of course home baking.  It’s also where you could find our Mother!

Home Baking

As I walked closer to the building, there were two tables set up, right outside of the entrance.  One person was raffling off a quilt made by Mrs. Bert Frizzell, and the other was selling tickets for the annual draw to win a baby beef. Sure enough, as I approached the main door, I spotted Mother, standing along one of the baking counters, talking to Evelyn Bothwell, and Margaret Campbell.  Mrs. Willard Shaw and Mrs. Archie Ferguson were working at the next counter, arranging some of the craft displays.  The ladies all nodded and smiled at me, knowing that I was one of Mother’s ‘helpers’, responsible for carrying her baking in to the building each year, the evening before the judging took place.  I usually had a meringue pie on my lap, in the car, on the way into Perth, and there were countless trays of muffins, loaves, cakes, pies, cookies, bread, rolls and biscuits to carry, carefully, into the building each year.  Along with all of those tasty treats, she would also enter photography, flowers, vegetables and sewing, but it was the home baking competition where her talents shone.

maple syrup and honey display

Mother spotted me, smiled excitedly, and waved me over to the counter.  “Your Mother won the most points in the baking category again!” Mrs. Bothwell exclaimed, and the ladies pointed out all of the red ribbons and tags, behind the glass counter.  Mother beamed, and said that Mrs. Bell from Balderson had come very close to beating her, and that she’d have to stay sharp for next year!

prize ribbons     most points in baking 1965

There were also many other folks who won prizes at the Fair that year as well.  There was a gate prize each year, and the ticket number would be drawn, called out, and the winner received ten pounds of Balderson Cheese.  Now who wouldn’t want that!  They estimated that the crowd that year was around 15,000 and I’m not sure who won the gate prize, but someone went home that night with a big slab of the best cheese in the county.

mammoth cheese

One of the most popular events was the harness racing, and the winner was Eddie Norris of Perth. There was also a Tractor Rodeo – contestants had to drive tractors through an obstacle course pulling wagons and manure spreaders.  In the 14-18 yrs. division some of our local lads had a good showing.  Bill Poole came 1st, Allan Lowry was 2nd, and Brian Miller of Drummond Centre came 3rd.  In the 19 yrs. and over division Mervin Conboy of Maberly took first place, with Jack James from Middleville taking 2nd, and our neighbour from the Third Line, Wayne Conboy taking 3rd.

Donald Hossie, another neighbour, was the top winner in the seed and grain competition, and Mrs. Robert Moodie won the Sewing and Fancy work class with no less than 23 firsts! Mrs. John Auchterlonie, also from the Third Line, took top honours for her vegetables and fruits, and Mrs. Isobel Kent came first in the Flower competition.

flowers Perth Fair

giant pumpkin

Ray Poole was the winner of the best bale of first cut hay, and our neighbour, John Miller of Glen Tay, won for the best dairy cattle.  John’s sister Ruth Miller, won for the best senior calf.  Other winners from the Third Line included Paul, Dale and Jane Brady, winners for their 4H dairy cattle entries. In some of the other 4H competitions local lads Alfred Bowes and Brian Miller, John Miller, and Linda Bell of Balderson were winners.

showing calf      4H logo

Everyone enjoyed the light and heavy Horse Shows and the livestock competitions.  That was the first year that Charolais cattle were introduced into the mix, and so it was quite special to see them in the arena.

Horse and Charlolais at the Fair

showing calf # 2

showing at the Fair # 3

My good friends came to the fairgrounds that Saturday afternoon, and we had a wonderful time, riding the Scrambler, and the Tilt-a-Whirl, screaming, laughing, and then feeling dizzy on our walk back down the ramp, at the end of the ride.  We were all a little nervous about riding The Bullet, because while one of the two cars was right side-up, the opposite car was up-side-down.  We stood there quite a while watching other people riding, and screaming, and laughing, before we got up enough nerve to try it out ourselves.  I didn’t really like being upside-down, and some of my change fell out of my pocket, onto the ground below.  Luckily, one of our neighbours Linda Brady saw it fall, and she stood there and waited, until the ride was finished, and hung onto my change for me.

bullet ride

As always, the Grandstand shows at the Perth Fair were great entertainment for people of all ages!  Beautiful late summer evenings, clear skies, all the rides lit up, the scents of delicious food in the air, and wonderful live music, made those nights magical!

grandstand 2

grandstand

bandstand 3 edit

Everyone always came out to see the famous Trans Canada Hell Drivers!

Hell Drivers 1969Hell Driver clown

Hell Drivers at the Fair

Along with the Grandstand entertainment, one of the highlights of the Fair that year, was the Old Time Fiddlers competition on Sunday, and the musically-gifted Dawson Girdwood walked away with the top prize. Barb Closs from Lanark came second in the step-dancing competition, although we thought she should have come first, she was such a talented performer.  Watching the fiddling and step-dancing was a memorable finish to the Labour Day weekend.

Dawson Girdwood

Dawson Girdwood

The last night of the Fair, as always, was bittersweet.  We knew that it was almost over for another year.  I walked through the midway one more time, all the way to the Lion’s Hall.  The ladies in the Lioness Booth were packing up their big jars of mustard and relish, and some of the nearby vendors were starting to clean their food carts, and take them apart.

midway 4

Some diehard fans of the Fair were still playing games; taking a last spin at the Crown and Anchor wheel, or throwing one last pitch at Skeet ball, not wanting the fun to end.  Although it was getting late, there were still a handful of people on the rides laughing and screaming. The good-natured folks running the rides didn’t seem to mind and they gave these last few stragglers extra long rides.

As I walked back up through the midway, I took one last look behind me, as if I wanted to freeze the moment in my memory, then I reluctantly climbed into the car.  Dad started up the engine, and drove through the side entrance, onto Cockburn Street.

It was a wonderful fair!  I sat in the back seat of the car, tired from the busy weekend, as Mother chatted excitedly to Dad, already planning her exhibits for next year’s fair.

kids driving away

School would be starting soon, and the days would grow cooler, and the sun wouldn’t feel quite as strong as it did for the Fair.  In the weeks to come we’d bring our jackets down from the attic, and spend our evenings doing homework, instead of riding our bikes up and down the Third Line. As the daylight hours dwindled down we’d begin to see the onset of nature’s paintbrush, and its random strokes of yellow and orange, dotted across the maple trees in our yard. This would be our last taste of summer for a long while, and what could possibly be a more fitting way to finish off the season, than a glorious sunny weekend spent at the Perth Fair!

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Perth Fair 1963

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This story is an excerpt from:

Memories of Home Drummond North Elmsley

The story ‘A Day at the Fair’, first published in
“Lanark County Calendar: Four Seasons on the Third Line”   ISBN 978-0-9877026-30
some photos from: ‘Perth Remembered’, and from ‘Perth Fair’
L C Calendar book cover

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St. Vincent de Paul Church – DeWitt’s Corners

St Vincent de Paul church

Summer in the country was a time for swimming in the Tay River, hanging out with friends at the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store, and regular bike rides up and down the Third Line.  There were farm tractors, hay-wagons, mothers outside hanging their washing on clotheslines, and daisies and black-eyed-Susans waving in the ditches, as I flew by on my old red bike.

old bike

I always passed by the familiar farms and houses along the way – Mitchell’s, Conboy’s, pedaled like lightning past Heney’s, so their dogs couldn’t catch me.  I continued past Radford’s, Siebel’s, Mitchell’s, Kerr’s, Closs’, heading up the Third Line toward Kyle’s, Perkins’ and Doyle’s when one day, something unusual caught my eye.

A stylish wedding party was entering St. Vincent de Paul Church; a bride in a flowing white gown, three bridesmaids dressed in pastel pink, carrying matching nosegays.  Several cars were parked outside, decorated with pink and white tissue flowers.  I pulled over to the side of the road to watch the procession. The old Catholic church had been around for as long as I could remember, and appeared as proud and majestic as ever on that hot summer day so long ago.

wedding couple   bridesmaids

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church, instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.

Long before St. Vincent de Paul Church was built, Roman Catholic services were held for 69 years, in the home of Mrs. Ed. Lee on the Third Line.

Mrs. Ed Lee

The people of Bathurst petitioned Bishop James Vincent Cleary for a church of their own. They needed a suitable, conveniently located place to erect a new church building.

John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

The paperwork was completed, and the land on lot 11, between the 2nd and 3rd concessions of Bathurst Township was donated by John and Mary DeWitt on July 26, 1889. To ensure that the transaction was legal, the land was sold for the token sum of one dollar to the Kingston Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

DeWitt deed

 

DeWitt deed part 2

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

Pastors who have served St. Vincent de Paul:
Rev. T.P. O’Connor  1889-1899

Rev. John O’Brien – 1899-1901

Rev. J.H. McDonough – 1901-1912

Rev. P.J. Keaney – 1912-1917

Rev. J.J. Keeley – 1917-1926

Rev. J.V. Meagher – 1926-1928

Rev. L.B. Garvin – 1928-1934

Rev. Walter Whalen – 1934-1940

Rev. J.W. Callahan – 1940-1947

Rev. W.L. Terrion – 1947-1952

Rev. J.C. LeSage – 1952-1976

Father Karl Clemens – 1976 – 1983

Father Richard Whalen – 1983-1985

Father Liam Tallon  –  1985 – 1993

Father Karl Clemens (back) – 1993 – 1998

Father  Lindo Molon – 1998 – 2006

Father  Mark Ruckpaul   – 2006 – 2012

Father Aidan Dasaah – 2012 – 2014

Father Jan Kusyk – 2014 –

 

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One of the weddings in the early days of St. Vincent de Paul Church – Henry Edmund Hagan, son of Hugh Hagan and Agnes Bennett, Westport, married Anna Victoria Jackman Hagan, daughter of John Jackman and Matilda Nagle, Wemyss, on 25 September 1918. Henry was 25 and Anna was 17.  (according to Richard Frizzell, their grandson on his mother’s side – ” Family history has it that she married so young in order to escape having to rear her 4 brothers and sisters after her mother passed away in 1916.”)

Hagan Jackman wedding jpg

St. Vincent de Paul wedding Richard Frizzell's maternal grandparents

According to their grandson, Richard Frizell, “Henry and Anna farmed up on the mountain in Westport until 1956 or 57. They sold the farm and moved to Glen Tay. They had 5 children; my mom, Vera, was the oldest girl.”

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Father James Keeley St. Vincent de Paul

Father James Keeley – served St. Vicent de Paul from 1917-1926

ArchbishopannouncementPerthCourierOCt171930p6

Oct. 17, 1930 – visit from the Archbishop

June 26 1931

June 26, 1931 – Dance at DeWitt’s Corners

 

I recall that Father J.C. Le Sage was the Priest of the parish from 1952 through to 1976.  Fr. Le Sage was well-liked, and a good friend to many of the local parishioners.   He was known to be extremely intelligent, and it was widely believed that he had come from a very capable family.  He had a reputation for being an excellent business manager, and ensured that the Church was in good repair.

Father LeSage McNamee weddiing 1955

wedding of Peter and Mary McNamee – September 24th,  1955, with Father J.C. LeSage

During his time serving at DeWitt’s Corners he hired an exceptionally talented Dutch painter who cleaned and restored the wood ceiling of St. Vincent’s, and painted the interior of the building.  He was also instrumental in building a parish hall in Stanleyville (the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Hall) to serve both parishes (St. Vincent de Paul in Dewitt’s Corners and St. Bridget’s in Stanleyville).  Because of his excellent fiscal management, the total costs for the new hall were paid off quickly. Along with Fr. Le Sage’s sound business sense, an active Catholic Women’s League helped to raise money for the church, and assist with local charities.

Rev. J.C. Le Sage

At the age of 67, Rev. Father LeSage suffered a heart attack at his home, near Stanleyville, and passed away on September 13, 1976.

Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 1Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 2Nov 4 1976 p 14 Fr. LeSage part 3

 

St. Bridget's sign

 

Dec 22 1977 p 8 Christmas St. V de P

December 22 1977 – ad for Christmas Eve Services

March 22 978 p 14 display ad Holy Week

March 22, 1978 – ad for Holy Week

In 1979 the parishoners from DeWitt’s Corners and Stanleyville, sponsored a family of seven ‘Boat People’, who had fled their homeland for Canada.

Aug 22 1979 The Boat People

August 22 1979 – sponsoring the ‘Boat People’

Sept 12 1979 picnic

September 12, 1979 – A picnic in Stanleyville

Nov 21 1979 St V de P complete

November 21, 1979 – St. Vincent de Paul Anniversary

Nov 21st 1979 special mass

November 21 1979 – special mass planned

Nov 28 1979 St V de P anniversary photo

November 28 1979 photos of St. Vincent de Paul anniversary celebrations

Dec 19 1979 Nativity Scene

December 19 1979 – Nativity Scene

Dec 19 1979 Junior Choir

December 19 1979 – Junior Choir

October 1 1980 Annual 40 Hours of Devotion

October 1, 1980 – Annual Forty Hours Devotion

March 11 1981 Shirley Scott

March 11, 1981 – Shirley Scott is new president of St. Vincent de Paul CWL

Dec 2 1981 CWL anniversary

December 2, 1981 – CWL Anniversary

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker

October 20 1982 Guest Speaker display ad
October 20, 1982 – Guest Speaker

August 17 1983 Farewell Mass

August 17, 1983 – Farewell Mass for Fr. Karl Clemens

 

St. Vincent de Paul, the pretty red brick church at DeWitt’s Corners, has served the community for well over a century.  Both residents and seasonal visitors from nearby cottages have found comfort and a sense of belonging, inside these stately walls.

June 8, 1983 - Summer Schedule

June 8, 1983 – Summer Schedule

Many weddings, christenings, and funerals have taken place over the past hundred years, and to those of us who grew up in this neighbourhood, St. Vincent de Paul will always remain a memorable place, in our hearts.

 

hands bible

 

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photo of St. Vincent de Paul church c. 1970s, courtesy of JoAnne Cavanagh Butler
photo of wedding -Peter and Mary McNamee 1955 with Father LeSage – courtesy of Mary McNamee
photo of wedding – Henry Hagan, to Anna Jackman Hagan, and photo of Father Keeley- courtesy of Richard Frizell
(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”)

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