Sunday, 19 March 2023

From Rochdale to Guelph with Ethel Foulds

Sometimes, old postcards reveal themselves through curious coincidences. That was certainly my feeling when British purveyor of postcards Paul Sutton-King, whom I follow on Twitter, tweeted a pic of a real photo postcard of a fancy wedding cake that he had picked up in a flea market in Cheshire. Imagine my surprise to see that the recipient was one Ethel Foulds, resident of 98 Surrey Street in Guelph! Paul kindly shared the card with me and I began my investigation.

The usual sources soon revealed the basics. Ethel Jean Foulds was born in Acton, Ontario, on 23 March 1907, the daughter of William Edward and Eleanor Barwise (née Wilson). William was a Lancashire man, born in Littleboro in 1875, who had emigrated to Canada abord the Tunisian in 1904. He took up work as a tanner in Acton, home of the substantial Beardmore & Co. tannery. He married Eleanor there on 4 January 1905. She too had just arrived in Acton from England, making me suspect that they were bethrothed there and had married once William had got himself set up on the other side of the pond.

(S.S. Tunisian, courtesty of Norway Heritage.)

Nor were the Foulds the only former inhabitants of Rochdale, Lancashire, to relocate to Acton at that time. From the Acton Free Press (22 July 1926), we learn that Mr. and Mrs. Edward Tweedale, plus daughters Phoebe and Sarah, arrived in Acton in July of 1906 with the intention of settling there. On arrival, they stayed at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Sunderland Taylor, who were themselves former Rochdale people. In fact, Mrs. Taylor was none other that Ruth Hannah, née Tweedale, who married Edward in England in 1890 (Acton Free Press, 13 June 1912). They immigrated to Acton in 1903, where Edward took up work at the Acton Tanning Company. Had he spread the good word about Acton to the folks back home? It seems that, by 1907, Edward had made six trips across the Atlantic in the previous two or three years, so something was certainly going on (Acton Free Press, 26 September 1965).

(The fates of these families also illustrate that long-distance travel was not without its hazards. Mrs. Tweedale died only six weeks after her arrival in Acton in 1906. She had suffered from "lung trouble" for some time and her doctor thought sea travel would be good for her (Acton Free Press, 30 August 1906). Apparently not. Mr. Taylor died in 1912 after a "prospecting trip" to a paint factory in Victoria, British Columbia, where he met with a fatal dose of lead poisoning (Action Free Press, 13 June 1912).)

In any event, the Foulds family had better luck. By 1907, they had upped sticks and moved to Guelph, where William is listed as a machinist. He is later listed as a member of the 'Quarter-Century Club,' that is, employees of at least 25 years employment, with the International Malleable Iron Company (or IMICO, locally known simply as "Mall'able Iron") of Guelph, starting from 1914 (Daily Mercury, 29 January 1952). He was raised a Methodist and is listed as a member of the board of the Paisley Memorial United Church (Daily Mercury, 29 July 1927).

(Former Paisley Memorial United Church, now the River of Life Church.)

The Foulds maintained ties with the Old Country. Ships' records show Ethel Foulds and her mother Eleanor traveling from Liverpool to Quebec abord the Virginian on 13 May 1914. Significantly, the message on the back of the wedding cake card sent to Ethel states: "Eva Mae // Cake // April 29/14." I suspect that the two had taken a trip to Lancashire to visit relations there, during which time they attended a marriage featuring the wonderful cake. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down what wedding it might have been. Was Eva Mae the bride? If any Yonners can ferret this out, please let us know in the comments!

(R.M.S. Virginian, courtesy of Norway Heritage.)

It seems that William continued work with Mall'able Iron until shortly before his death on 10 July 1947 (Mercury, 11 July 1947).

The City Directory of 1914 gives the Foulds's address as 98 Surrey Street East (since demolished), where the postcard in question was sent that very year. Around 1917, the family had moved to 25 Wood Street in the Ward, near Tytler School. The house has recently been heightened and expanded, as can be seen in this Street View image from 2009.

Finally, around 1925, the Foulds relocated to their 'forever' home at 149 Kingsmill Ave., a 'shotgun' house located close to the Eramosa river. Since the area was developed around that time, the Foulds were liklely the first occupants of this house.

Just before this move, Ethel Foulds made her own appearance in the City Directory, as a shoemaker in the employ of the nearby Northern Rubber Company. Incorporated in 1919, Northern Rubber manufactured a variety of rubber footwear.

Identified for heritage designation, the iconic building is being renovated for condos as part of a larger redevelopment of the site.

As it happens, there is a panoramic photo of employees of the Norther Rubber plant, taken in 1934.

("Northern Rubber Employees, 1934." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2005.14.2.)

Amazingly, someone included a sticky note that points out an employee in the fourth row named "Ethel." Could this be Ethel Foulds?!

It appears that Ethel Foulds remained with the company until it folded up its tent in 1941. Thereafter, she is listed as an "operator" with the Aberfoyle Manufacturing Company. More specifically, it appears that her job was that of "quiller," which, I gather, refers to someone whose job is to operate a machine that winds yarn onto spools.

I don't have much information on the Aberfoyle Manufacturating Company. The 1943 Canadian Trade Index lists its products as mercerized bleach and dye, and cotton yarns. Its location was later reported not in the town of Aberfoyle but at 69 Metcalfe Street, today 69 Huron Street, in Guelph. A stone's throw from the Northern Rubber Plant, this facility was also in easy walking distance of Ethel's home.

(This plant later became part of the W.C. Wood Company, makers of fridges and freezers.)

At this point, the trail came to an end. Ethel Founds disappeared from the City Directory around 1950. At the same time, her mother, Mrs. Eleanor Foulds (widow of William), was suddenly recorded as a resident of R.R. (rural route) 5 in Rockwood, not far from Acton. What happened?

Records from Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph revealed that William's widow Eleanor died in 1953 and was buried alongside him. Cemetery records also reveal the final resting place of Ethel Jean Foulds, who died in 2001 and is listed as the wife of one Harry Walker. Indeed, an Ethel Walker appears as a resident of R.R. 5 of Rockwood at the right time. Ethel had married and her mother had moved in with her son-in-law!

Unfortunately, there were at least three Harry Walkers in the region of Rockwood, and no record of their marriages resides online. However, the Acton Free Press mentions a Harry Walker "of Rockwood" as a pall bearer at a funeral, accompanied by several brothers. This Harry Walker was born in 1889, farmed in Eramosa township, and had married Jennie McLean in 1919. Jennie died in 1943, which would have made Harry available for marriage around 1950. This Harry Walker died in 1965, and his obituary in the Mercury (3 December) turned up the facts that he had the brothers mentioned in the earlier article and had married the former Ethel Jean Foulds in August 1949. Voilà!

A further look at the Guelph City directories showed that Ethel Walker (wid. Harry) had taken up residence at 149 Kingsmill Avenue in 1967, the old Foulds household. Ethel likely kept possession of the house, rented it out upon her marriage, and returned to it afterwards. She is not listed with an occupation and instead seems to have enjoyed a long retirement.

Harry Walker was buried with his first wife Jennie McLean in Stone United Church Cemetery in Erasmosa Township. Ethel Jean Walker (née Foulds) was buried with her parents in Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph.

If you have any further information about Ethel Foulds or her family, in Canada, England, or elsewhere, please let us know in the comments below!
Speaking of coincidences, shortly after finding and tweeting the wedding cake postcard addressed to Ethel Foulds, Paul Sutton-King reported this: Yes, another random postcard found in England was addressed to Ethel Foulds, this one sent from Acton!

The transcription goes as follows:

Acton Sept 20, 1920
Dear Ethel:
You will be thinking I have forgotten you all, but I have not. I got your lovely card when I came home last Sat. I got some lovely cards for my birthday. will any of you be down for the Fair Wed. love from Alice
At a guess, this postcard may have been sent by Miss Sarah Alice Tweedale, daughter of Edward Tweedale, whom I mentioned above as another emigrant from Rochdale to Acton.

It seems likely that the young Ethel Foulds enjoyed postcards and may have kept and collected those that she received. At some point, this collection may have found its way to relations in the Old Country, who have since dispersed it there. So, keep your eyes peeled, Britishers, and report any more finds!

Saturday, 18 February 2023

Edgewood Park: Eden Mills summer camp

The local papers printed a number of accounts of an interesting new facility in Eden Mills. For example, the 10 September 1924 edition of the Acton Free Press notes that Mr. and Mrs. Nodwell and family of Toronto recently left for Hogtown after spending the summer at their cottage in Edgewood Park, Eden Mills.

In a previous post, I noted that Eden Mills was known early on mostly as a rural village featuring several mills and a modest hotel. However, things had recently changed and the village had become something of a regional destination. At least, it now sported a popular park and summer homes for out-of-towners.

The history of Edgewood Park really begins with the arrival of the Toronto Suburban Railway (TSR) in the village in 1917. Bypassed earlier by the Grand Trunk and the Guelph Junction Railways, the inclusion of a TSR station at Eden Mills promised to lower shipping costs for the produce of the village's mills and the region's farmers.

Of course, the TSR could also bring passengers into town. This meant that people from nearby towns like Guelph, Acton, and Georgetown could easily make day trips to Eden Mills, as could anyone from Toronto who might desire to do so. The commercial potential of this connection was not lost on towns along the route. For example, a fun facility called El Dorado Park was set up at a TSR stop in what is now Brampton. A Ferris Wheel, a Merry-go-round, and other attractions were added to entice daytrippers to buy tickets on the railway.

In 1924 or perhaps early 1925, a group of Eden Mills residents led by Duncan McDougall got together and built a park next to the Eden Mills station. Land was cleared, a picnic area and baseball diamond laid out, and cottages built. In addition, a dance hall was constructed, where acts from Toronto and beyond could drop in by rail and perform for the delight of locals and courting couples.

One of my favourite early ads for the dance venue featured George Wade and his "Corn Huskers", featuring Sid Jackson, the piano accordian expert (Acton Free Press, 18 July 1929):

McDougall added a swimming pool in 1928. Children simply could have swum in the Eramosa river, but a swimming pool was more family friendly. As explained in my post on Riverside Park in Guelph, parks promoted co-ed swimming by building special swimming facilities where boys could be prevented from swimming au natural, as was their wont.

Schools and social groups soon began to hold picnics at Edgewood. The Acton Free Press of 10 September 1924 mentions that, "The Union Sunday School pic-nic was held at Edgewood Park on Monday afternoon, an enjoyable time being spent."

The venue also became an annual host to Labor Day festivities. This holiday was established in Canada in 1894 as part of the movement to celebrate industrial labour and provide workers with more time off the job. The 1925 Labor Day celebration at Edgewood Park as quite a shindig:

The celebration here on Labor Day was a fine success and well attended considering the threatening weather that prevailed. The affair was started off with a Calithumpian parade, headed by Acton Citizens’ Band from the village to Edgewood Park. The hard time prize outfits were won by W. Mino and R. Argo and E. Reid. The first ball game was between Arkell and Eden Mills, and was won by Arkell, and in the second game York Road won from Brookville. The third game was won by the picked team against the W.S. Progress Lodge, of Guelph.
Not to mention the numerous races and horseshoe throwing contest!

Perhaps the most memorable blowouts at Edgewood Park were the company picnics. The Acton Free Press (6 January 1971) makes special note of the Beardmore & Co. picnics. Beardmore & Co. were a leather tannery in Acton, said to be the largest in the British Empire around 1900. Ontarians of a certain vintage will associate Acton with the Olde Hide House, a large leather goods store and a successor to Beardmore, which made it "worth the drive to Acton."

("The Beardmore Tanneries, Acton, Ont," ca. 1910. Postcard courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, PCR-6.)

The 1938 event, held on July 28, was attended by about 500 company employees, their families, and well-wishers. All the usual picnic pleasers were held, including swimming and races for the children, an egg race for the ladies, a fat man's race, and a performance by the Acton Citizens Band. Naturally, the main event was a copious picnic supper.

A special feature of the 1938 edition was the taking of a panoramic picture of the attendees. This was reproduced in the 1971 newspaper thus:

(If anyone knows where a better copy is available, let me know.)

This was not the first panoramic photo taken at Edgewood Park. A photo of the "Nth Erin & Gara. picnic at Edgewood Park, Eden Mills," 1930, is available at a better resolution:

(Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives, A2018.4 ph. 51164.)

Look carefully and you may see that a man near the middle of the picture appears to have a teacup upside down on his head. Why, we may never know.

Attendance at the 1938 Beardmore & Co. picnic was made possible by the use of "nearly all the motor vehicle transportation available" in Acton at the time. This note reminds us that the TSR was no longer operating when the picnic took place. The Railway was in financial difficulty since its inception, since it was hard to compete with private automobiles and hefty, government road building programs. In 1931, the TSR ceased operations and its assets were sold off. However, its downfall seems not to have clipped the wings of Edgewood Park, which remained an established place for regional recreation.

Even so, change did come to Edgewood Park. In 1944, the Park was purchased by the Lutheran Church of the Canada Synod as a location for their annual summer youth camps. The Church had run a Lutheran Boys Camp at Fishers Glen on Lake Erie since 1936. (A Girl's camp was started in 1940.) However, the camp had outgrown the facility there and the Church went looking for a larger one, which led it to Edgewood Park. Around 1,000 people attended the official opening service on 30 July!

Camp Edgewood, as it came to be known (later Edgewood Camp and Conference Centre), provided camping facilities for various youth organizations, not to mention adult and family retreats, Luther League and Synodical Brotherhood meetings, and Salvation Army events. For example, the Guelph YMCA held its annual camp there until 1951, when they moved on to Camp Nagiwa.

In so doing, Camp Edgewood became part of a significant cultural phenomenon: The Ontario Summer Camp. As Sharon Wall (2009) explains, summer camps for city children had become increasingly popular destinations for young Canadians, particularly in Ontario, especially after the Great War and picking up pace after World War II.

Some camps emphasized a 'wilderness' ideal, in which children were taught how to 'rough it' by swimming, canoeing, woodcraft, and sleeping under canvas. These sorts of camps were typically private, sited in more northern areas of the province (as far as Temagami), and catered to the scions of well-to-do city dwellers.

So-called 'Fresh Air' camps were sited near the big cities and were operated by charities. Their clientele were typically children of low-income families who otherwise would have no respite from the noxious fumes of Ontario's major urban centres like the Big Smoke. (The Toronto Star's Fresh Air Fund began in 1901 as a charity to help urban children escape their overheated urban slums.)

In between were 'agency' campus run by organizations like the YMCA that catered to the middle-class and so funded their operations mainly through fees. Like Fresh Air camps, they lay near the big cities and featured less a wilderness experience than a chance to escape urban hothouses for rural idylls and what be called nature literacy. Camp Edgewood fell into this category.

An article in the 12 June 1952 Toronto Globe & Mail provides an insight into the sort of expeience that campers at Edgewood would have:

Enjoy bedtime snack of hot dogs, crawl in creek to find crayfish
By Eldon Stonehouse
Guelph, June 11.—The little red school house was never like this.

Pupils in Guelph have moved out doors for this week to get their lessons under the open sky. So far the idea has been working well, and the pupils, at least, wouldn’t mind if teacher Ron Campbell never took them back under the school house roof.

The children, aged 9 to 13, are camped at Edgewood Lutheran Camp at Eden Mills, a few miles from Guelph. And, while some subject such as arithmetic may be slightly neglected during the week in the open air, other subjects such as art, marine life, birds agriculture and water safety are getting more attention than they have since last September.

Teacher Campbell, who was once a swimming instructor, has 36 young students under his care at the wood-fringed camp. And, while they have been as quiet as they ever were in classroom during the first couple of days, the children are enjoying their lessons more than they did during the first part of the year. (Hot dogs for bedtime snacks have helped.)

The open air schoolhouse is something new for Ontario, although it has been tried in various sections of the United States. So far, the Department of Education is keeping a watchful eye on the camp from Toronto and saying practically nothing. Guelph’s school board hopes that when the department does make its comment, it will be favorable.

The Guelph department launched the idea and put up the first $150. Parents of the Grade 5 children added $1 per day for the period the pupils will spend at the camp. The Home and School Association will pick up what’s left of the cheque after the pupils come back to town.

The children moved into the camp on Monday night, and, after getting accustomed to their new surroundings, were hard at work (hah!) by Tuesday. Monday, of course, was a holiday.

On Tuesday, and each succeeding day, the class was divided into groups, each for a different type of outdoor classroom work. Teacher Campbell took the class in first-aid, and also in water safety at the swimming pool.

Supervisors gave the regular teacher a helping hand with various other types of study. Helen Marr taught art in the dining hall, and Ray Mulford each day took a separate group to a nearby bird sanctuary and on a compass hike through the woods.

The Ontario Lands and Forests Department, although not directly involved, lent a hand too. Representatives just happened to drop into the camp to take the youngsters into the woods and teach them how to identify various trees. This lesson caught on about as fast as any, with the possible exception of Bill Hawley’s historical hikes and marine life studies. He had the children in the near-by creek in the water up to their knees capturing crayfish and underwater creatures for identification.

Keith Barber took another group to near-by farms to let them see what life was like in the rural areas. And, lest there be some need for added physical education, Ernie Berner from the Guelph YMCA was on hand to give the boys and girls some pointers on muscle development.

By the end of the first day at the Lutheran Camp, Ron Campbell had decided the outdoor school was a great idea.

“I wouldn’t mind,” he said, “teaching like this for 10 months of the year.”

Bob Noel, 9-year-old pupil, added his approval. “Gee,” he said, “This is keen.”

But if it rains during the week, it’s back to the books on arithmetic and you know what in the buildings on the camp grounds.
The "Shoebox memories: Edgewood Park" column of the North Halton Compass (2 July 2004) provides a two-page spread of very interesting pictures spanning Edgewood Park's history, which I will insert below. The pictures run from the earliest on page 8 to the later ones on page 9. Page 8:
Page 9:
The Edgewood totem pole reminds us that 'Playing Indian' was a common feature of summer camp programming in that era. As the ersatz totem pole suggests, the point was not mainly to provide education about Ontario's indigenous peoples but to allow modern children to indulge in a confabulated 'primitive' play-acting, which was held to be a kind of theraputic relief from the ails of modernity they faced in city living.

Postcards of Edgewood reveal an interesting dichtomy in its depiction.

The first postcard shows the entrance to Edgewood Park, ca. 1940, featured on page 8 of the Shoebox memories article above:

("Edgewood Park, Eden Mills." Real photo postcard; courtesy of Wifrid Laurier University Archives.)

While the picture does not show any people, their presence is revealed by the semi-orderly arrangement of parked cars near the office inside the camp entrance, whose shadow is visible in the lower-left corner.

The postcard below shows the entrance to Camp Edgewood, ca. 1950.

("The Gates, Lutheran Summer Camp, Eden Mills." From the author's collection.)

This image omits any suggestion of people and instead determinedly shows the camp's gate firmly closed and its religious orientation displayed. The impression it leaves on the viewer is that of a locale under the decided control of its managers and focussed on its sectarian mission. Wall (2009) points out that one of the main concerns of parents sending their kids to camps was the safety, both physical, spiritual, and otherwise, of the facility and its management. The image above seems designed to assure them Camp Edgewood is a secure place.

Another postcard of similar vintage is designed to leave a similar impression:

("Lutheran Summer Camp—Edgewood Park. Eden Mills, Ont.—'Camp chapel'," ca. 1950. Courtesy of Wilfrid Laurier University Archives.)

Again, no people are shown. Instead, the outdoor chapel is featured, with its religous symbols and orderly rows of seating. Though rustic, the impression remains one of order and security.

A futher card in the series shows one of the natural attractions of the Camp:

("Lutheran Summer Camp—Edgewood Park. Eden Mills, Ont.—'Camp stream'," ca. 1950. Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives, A2015.1.3, ph. 45682.)

This card was sent to Mrs. Dundas, Waterloo, Ont. on 7 August 1951, from Betty, who reports

I am having a very nice holiday and I am hoping you are too.

A final view from the same series shows the scene inside the entrance of Camp Edgewood:

("Lutheran Summer Camp—Edgewood Park. Eden Mills, Ont.—'Inside of camp entrance'," ca. 1950. From the author's collection.)

As expected, no one is present but the orderliness of camp is dipslayed in the form of the prominent flagpole, the carefully trimmed lawn and greenery, and the park office looking out from behind it.

This postcard was actually sent through the mail and is postmarked on 10 July 1951. The message states:

Dear Frank [??]

Monday evening and still Hanging on. The sun was shining swell to-day. Can’t get Bill to go in swimming. Love to you all

It's good to know that people were having a swell time at the Camp!

Camp Edgewood was renovated and continued in operation until 2017. It was sold to the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association (EMERCA), who are incorporating it, under the name Edgewood Trails, into a naturalized area.

(Aerial photo of Edgewood Camp and Conference Centre, 16 July 1996. Courtesy of Wilfred Laurier University Archives.)
Works consulted for this post include: Wilfrid Laurier University Archives also has an extensive collection of Camp Edgewood materials.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

The Heffernan street footbridge 3.0

Early in the morning of 5 February 1913, Martin O'Donnell came across a grisly surprise, "the body of a dead man, frozen stiff, in the centre of the through siding near the C.P.R. freight shed, one arm being missing" (Mercury). The body was later identified as Carmillo Angelo, who lived in a boarding house in the "Italian colony" in the Ward.

Forty-two years old, Angelo worked at the Pipe Mill (later the Old Mill) and was probably returning to his boarding house when he was struck by the 8:30pm train from Toronto, which dragged him some distance and severed his arm. He had lived and worked in Guelph for five years and had become naturalized only a couple of months before. He left a widow and five children back in Italy.

The incident occurred in behind the CPR freight shed, formerly the Speed Skating Rink, near the Heffernan street bridge. Angelo's death illustrated the hazard to pedestrians of having a popular pedestrian route, fed by the pedestrian bridge, hard by a railway.

As noted in an earlier post, Guelphites seemed generally happy with the convenience and aesthetics of the second Heffernan street footbridge. However, the proximity of its southern entrance to the Guelph Junction Railway was always problematic.

(This view shows the proximity of the second Heffernan street footbridge to the Gueplph Junction Railway. Postcard published by the International Stationary Co., ca. 1910. From the author's collection.)

In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway was spending money on improvements to its facilities and, in Guelph, aimed to build a new railway station to replace the decrepit Priory, the first building constructed on the townsite. In conjuction with this plan, the CPR made a offer to the City of Guelph: It would build gates at the Eramosa Road railway crossing, and erect a new Heffernan street bridge that went over the tracks, if the city would upgrade the crossing at Allan's bridge (Mercury, 17 November 1909). This would ensure that the CPR would be in a position to build a new railway station at the nearby Trafalgar Square site in the following year or so.

(Indeed, it appears that the board of the Railway Commissioners ordered a new footbridge to be built that passed over the tracks, though I have yet to find a record of the order itself.)

The city seems to have accepted the deal and the tender of Rutherford & Paten, of St. Catherines, was accepted to construct the new bridge.

This was duly not accomplished. The city's Board of Works returned to the old idea that a vehicular bridge should be built to carry street traffic over the river. This plan was not carried out, apparently because the city refused to drain the river for the purpose of construction, as the builders had assumed they would (Mercury, 15 April 1912).

So, the Board reverted to the scheme of having another footbridge constructed instead. New plans were drawn up and a call for tenders issued. Ever indecsive, the City's call for tenders listed two different designs for the bridge (Engineering and Contract Record, 23 April 1913):

Tenders will be received up to April 26th by Board of Works and Sewerage Commissioners for: (1) steel foot bridge, consisting of 2 97-ft. deck spans, 1 through truss at 100 ft. and 6 I-beam approach spans; (2) construction of concrete substructure for the above; (3) alternative tenders for a reinforced concrete bridge on same site. Plans, etc., from City Engineer. $5.00 deposit required for concrete bridge plans.
Option (1) seems much like the previous bridge, albeit with extra approaches and elevation on a concrete substructure. Option (2) was for a newer style featuring 100% reinforced concrete, perhaps reflecting a desire that the bridge might appear more "modern" than the earlier one.

Spoiler alert: A tender for option (2) was selected, from the company of Galbraith & Cate of Montreal. Construction seems to have begun in September and finished around November 1.

("Construction of the Heffernan Street Walking Bridge," 1913. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2013.72.77.)

Naturally, the third Heffernan street footbridge featured in many postcards of the post-Great War era. Its graceful arches and interesting slope were too much for photographers to resist. Consider the view below, taken from Eramosa street bridge upstream.

("Speed River, Guelph, Ont." Published by the Bulman Bros., B. C. Lithography & Printing Ltd, Vancouver, BC, ca. 1925. From the author's collection.)

Another picture taken from downstream shows the same interest in the juxtaposition of the river and the slanting angle of the new bridge.

("Footbridge over the Speed River, Guelph, Ontario." Published by F.H. Leslie, Niagara Falls, ca. 1930. The perforations on the left margin show that this card was sold in a booklet along with other cards, which could be torn out individually for use. From the author's collection.)

The elegant concrete arches of the bridge's substructure invite closeups, as they appear almost like the path a stone might follow if skipped over the river.

("Foot Bridge over Speed River, Guelph, Ont." Published by the Heliotype Co. of Ottawa, ca. 1920. From the author's collection.)

Note the original lighting system featuring inverted-J poles.

Guelphites took to the new bridge as they had with the previous one. It soon became home to the same sorts of uses, such as serving as a "dressing room" for youth taking dips in the Speed (Mercury, 5 August 1926):

A number of citizens have been objecting to the practice of a number of boys dressing and undressing under the Heffernan Street bridge. They state that the practice has become very prevalent lately and, besides being a danger to the boys themselves, is offensive to passers-by. One of the objectors said that while passing over the bridge last night, with a lady, the lads were using extremely bad language and when he remonstrated with them they only redoubled their efforts.
Plus ca change!

A few unusual events were also reported occurring under the bridge. Consider the picture below, showing Guelphites waving to the crew of the HMCS Swansea, the only naval vessel to pass under the bridge (Mercury, 1 April 1953):

The ship, on her way back from battle manoeuvers in the Georgian Bay area, nosed her way slowly down the Speed River to the cheers of amazed and sleepy-eyed early risers.
If you are similarly amazed, then take note of the date of the picture's publication.

Of course, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since its construction, and it experienced a few close calls as it aged. In 1951, the bridge underwent repairs to fix up the cracking and spalling that concrete structures tend to suffer over time. It was closed for four weeks while cracks and holes were sealed with steel mesh and additional concrete (Mercury, 27 July 1951).

In 1971, when the bridge needed further repairs, the Guelph City Council made plans to tear it down. Despite the urgency that was broadly felt to make Canadian cities more modern and shed vestiges of the past, there was a public outcry at the news and the Council reversed its decision, opting for repairs instead.

(Photograph of the Heffernan street footbridge by Gordon Couling, 1982. Courtesy of the Wellington County Museum and Archives, A1985.110, ph. 9510).

In 1990, the Heffernan street footbridge was declared a heritage site and the City Council decided to return it to its original appearance. Thus, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt. As Troy Bridgeman remarked (Guelph Today, 10 December 2019), it remains today one of the most photographed city landmarks. It is also a monument to the vagaries of civic traffic patterns and the survival of old structures in growing cities.

("Repair of Heffernan Street Walking Bridge," 1990. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2009.32.5402.)
("Heffernan street footbridge," 20 October 2019. Courtesy of Peter Burian via Wikimedia Commons.)

Saturday, 17 December 2022

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, 1914

The postcard shows a lovely, summery scene featuring the Blacksmith Fountain in St. George's Square. The streetcars carry passengers in their summer attire, who are probably happy that the open sides let in cooling breezes. Perhaps the driver of the oncoming car secretly hopes to apply the made-in-Guelph cow-catcher on the front to scoop an errant pedestrian out of the way.
("St. George's Square, Guelph, Canada," ca. 1910. Published by the International Stationary Company, Picton, Ontario.)

Although postcard publishers tended to prefer summer photography, postcards were sent all year round, and this card was actually dispatched from Puslinch to Guelph on 31 December 1914, when the Royal City and its surroundings had be socked in under repeated snowfalls.

Addressed to Mrs. James D. McPherson on York Road in Guelph, the message relates to the holiday season:

Dear Jim & Belle:—
We got the photos and you could not have sent us a better Christmas box. Glad to hear baby is growing so well.
Wishing you all
A Happy New Year
Aunt Flora
Of course, the year 1914 was an unusual one in Guelph. The Great War had begun a few months earlier and Canadians were still unsure what it would amount to. Many young men had left with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and were still in Britain training for combat. Herbert Philp wrote a letter home to his family, which they subsequently published in the Mercury (24 December), under the ironic title "Salisbury mud a wonderful thing." In it, Philp speaks eloquently of the frustration of the contingent:
For, despite the eagerness of practically every man in the contingent to be "over the way," we are still wallowing about in England's mud.
Philp explains that the conditions were fine and dry on their arrival, and they pitched their tents in a "slight valley." Then down came the English rains, leaving their modest dwellings with:
ambitious rivulets flowing either through them or snuggling close to their sides. Not a tent but contained a pool of water.
When the weather let up, the tents were moved up slope but the cookhouse remained down in the valley, meaning that everyone had to line up there three times a day, in whatever weather, to get their food. The result was frequenty cold tea and soup and soggy bread at meal times.
(Detail of "Herbert William Philp," no date; Courtesy of William Ready Division, Archives and Research Collections, McMaster University Library, via The Canadian Encyclopedia.)

Philp finishes his letter thus, "But, so far as excitement and entertainment are concerned, Salisbury Plains still runs a close second to the grave."

(Herbert Philp's many and eloquent letters home throughout the Great War have been collected by Ed Butts in the book, "The Withering Disease of Conflict: A Canadian Soldier's Chronicle of the First World War." It is available from the Guelph Historical Society and I highly recommend it!)

War news was a mixed bag. Accounts of terrible battles were featured, but the general tone conveyed the sense that the Allies had the upper hand and German defeat in the near future was still a possibility, though not by Christmastime.

Rumours of German attacks on or in Canada circulated. For example, a national article printed in the Mercury (1 December) related a scheme set in motion for German forces to take over Quebec City. A concrete structure made the previous year near St. Anne de Beaupré by a German movie crew in 1913 was thought to be a bunker intended as a weapons cache for a surprise attack launched by sea. Luckily, British naval superiority had frustrated this plan, it was thought.

The many Canadians of German descent in the region also caused concern. A letter to the Editor (11 December) attempts to address rumours of a German-Canadian fifth column thus:

Editor of the Mercury.
Dear Sir: Who are the meddlers who have been reporting to Guelph authorities that secret meetings are being held in Morriston by the Germans and German-Canadians?
There are no secret meetings held in Morriston to my knowledge. Perhaps the meddlers had reference to the revival meetings, held in the Evangelical church, which are held annually. These meetings are not secret, but sacred, and people of all nationalities are welcome to attend.
Are such meddlars as these throughout the Dominion interested in uplifting our Canada? No, they are too ignorant to realize the harm they are doing their own village and community, also their own country, Canada.
Yours respectully,
A life-long Mercury reader.
As ever, conflict breeds suspicion and mistrust, well-founded or not. Locally, misplaced suspicion of German- and Catholic Canadians resulted in the Guelph Novitiate Raid of 1918.
("Evangelical Ch., Morriston." Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives A2009.124, ph. 31342.)

Compared to previous years, the Xmas shopping ads in the Mercury seemed subdued. Still, they were far from absent. The D.E. Macdonald & Bros. shop urged Guelphites to "Hurry up! Only two more Saturdays before Christmas" (11 December). Extensive gift suggestions for him, her, and baby were provided, along with an illustration of Santa Claus hauling a prodigious sack of goodies.

Similarly, Moore and Armstrong noted that there were only nine shopping days left (14 December): "If you have not got the Christmas Spirit yet, you will have it in large measure when you get to the White House," that is, their store on Wyndham street.

Their illustration also showed Santa Claus carting a super-sized sack of gifts. One can understand the look of relief on the jolly old elf's face at the sight of the very wide chimnney before him!

If nothing else, Santa's message was to go big or go home, or both!

Even Santa Claus was not unaffected by the conflict in Europe. This cartoon shows how low German Kultur had sunk with the war (22 December):

The caption says, "An act of barbarism: Not only are the Germans firing on the Red Cross and flags of truce, but they are rendering the work of Santa Claus difficult and hazardous."

Being magical, Santa had the means to rectify the situation, as shown in a subsequent cartoon (26 December):

Here, Santa deploys what I assume is a stocking full of doorknobs to give Kaiser Bill a jolly good thrashing.

People on the home front carried on. The Guelph Musical Society held a parade downtown on 9 December. The performance was marred somewhat when large bulldog followed the squad down Wyndham street. The drummer found that the dog would bite the drumsticks whenever he raised them to beat the kettle drum. Fearing that he might be "minus a wing" if he provoked the dog further, the drummer ceased drumming and the band had to proceed without their bass.

The animals did not have it all their own way. A bear cub named "Teddy" had been kept as a curiousity at the American Hotel on Wynhdam street for most of the year. Having reached the size of 200 lbs, Teddy was sent Bernard Schario, the butcher, who turned him into roasts and steaks as a holiday feast for the hotel residents (24 December).

The skating season took shape. With the cold weather, Guelphites were soon skating on the pond above Goldie Mill. Skating also began indoors at the Royal City Rink (formerly Petrie's Athletic Park and Rink) at Wellington and Gordon streets.

(Detail of "The Petrie Rink, Gymnasium and Baths," 1898. Courtesy of Guelph Museums 2014.84.2.)

Curiously, the street railway company decided not to open their usual skating rink on Howitt's pond, on the basis that it would not be "a paying proposition" (18 December). In previous years, the rink behind the streetcar barns on Waterloo road had been run as an attraction to get people onto the streetcar system in winter.

Perhaps they had too much competition. The City had decided to fund a rink on the grounds of the Guelph Collegiate Institute on Paisley street. A room in the basement was even made available for people to put on their skates (22 December). Perhaps this level of comfort and style attracted skaters who might have been inclined to travel to the streetcar rink in previous years.

("Collegiate Institute, Guelph, Ont." Postcard printed for Waters Bros., Guelph, ca. 1910. Courtesy of Guelph Museums 2009.20.1.)

The Royal City Rink was also home to Guelph's very first NHL team! Yes, Guelph entered a team in the 1914–15 Northern Hockey League senior series (21 December). Although some of the players trying out for the team were from out of town, lots of local boys turned out to show their stuff, including Allan, Anderson, Stricklerr, Greer, Hayes, Spalding, Ogg, King, Mowat, and Bulgin.

The side lost their first exhibition game against the Dutchmen of Waterloo (26 December). Although the Guelphites mainly acquitted themselves well, the superior size of the Seagramites gave them a distinct advantage, resulting in a 5–2 win for the visitors.

Another tilt against the same team was arranged for the first regular season game. This time, the Royal City skaters were better prepared. The result was a "wild sort of affair," beginning with a dispute over whether one of the Guelph players was a professional—strictly forbidden! The play was very physical and Referee Knell of Berlin (Ontario) "had his hands full."

The police had to be called in to break up a melee after the crowd joined in an on-ice altercation in the second half. Tied at the end of regulation play, the game went ten minutes into overtime before Guelph's centre, McGregor, put the home team up 7–6.

At the Reformatory (or "Prison Farm"), the provincial government announced plans to install an abattoir on site (31 December). The Ontario prison system required 600–700 tons of meat annually in its operations, which was obtained from private butchers. Building an abbatoir at the prison meant that prisoners could be employed to perform the butchering at a lower cost than private butchers, saving the system some $50k a year. In addition, prisoners would learn skills that they could use to obtain regular employment as meat dressers in private industry after release.

("Ontario Reformatory Guelph, Jan. 1915 The Abattoir." Courtesy of Guelph Museums 2014.84.1276, p. 59, ph. 3.)

A final point of interest came with the annual, municipal elections. First, there was some talk of not holding the elections at all, in view of the war situation (17 December). But, the election went ahead as usual.

Besides electing a Mayor, Aldermen (Councilors), and other officials, citizens of Guelph were asked to weigh in on the following by-law, "Are you in favor of municipal votes for married women?" (8 December). The 'Women's Franchise plebisite' was carried by a majority of (male) voters 1140 to 838 (5 January 1915).

Women's groups had long campaigned for women's suffrage in Ontario. In the Edwardian era, efforts tended to focus on municipal voting. In 1914, the Canadian Suffrage Association, led by Dr. Margaret Gordon, had lobbied many Ontario municipalities to hold referenda on extending votes to women. It appears that Guelph was one of 33 municipalities where the effort met with success, albeit for married women only.

Women's role in the Great War led to further support for the cause. In 1917, Ontario women finally gained the right to vote in provincial elections.

In many respects, the holiday season of 1914 was like those of previous years. Even so, as the prospect of the end of the conflict in Europe receded, it was clear that times were changing and that the New Year would bring on many new challenges.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

The Heffernan street bridge: A short span a long time coming

Before 1856, the Rev. Arthur Palmer lived in a handsome stone house on the north shore of the Speed River, today 96 Arthur street north. In those days, there was no footbridge across the river there, so the good Reverend was known to row across the river in his own little boat, where he would disembark to make his way to St. George's Anglican Church, then standing in the middle of St. George's Square.
(96 Arthur street north, as viewed from today's Heffernan street bridge. Author's photo, 26 Nov. 2022.)

Today, the Heffernan street footbridge stands almost exactly that place, a monument to the Reverend's old commute to work.

("Arthur Palmer, 1874." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2009.32.2762.)

But, the bridge did not come into existence straightforwardly. Indeed, for many years, it was a kind of confabulation, a structure that existed only in the desires of commuters like Rev. Palmer. On land, such "desire lines" are paths worn into the ground by many feet passing by the same route through a park or vacant lot. For example, a wide desire line led across the Johnston Green from the corner of Gordon and College streets to Massey Hall, a route that was recently paved by the University of Guelph.

Of course, you cannot wear lines into a river but people can still yearn for a permanent way across them, a sort of fluid line of desire.

Perhaps the earliest record of this particular desire line comes in the 1855 Palmer Survey map. At this time, the Rev. Palmer had bought up a goodly parcel of land along the north bank of the Speed and up across the ridge of the hill behind. (He was then in the process of building his new residence "Tyrcathlen," now Ker Cavan, on the site.) In a detail of the map, a bridge labelled "proposed bridge" is shown connecting the foot of Grange street with Thorp street on the other side.

(Detail of "Land Survey, Arthur Street Subdivision, 1855;" courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 1981X.221.1.)

Proposed by whom? We are not told but the Reverend himself must surely have blessed the plan.

Nothing was done but the desire did not fade. In 1869, a scheme was floated and money pledged to carry it out, with a hearty endoresement from the editor of the Guelph Mercury (7 May 1869):

There is no question as to the desirableness or utility of such a bridge, for it would be of great service to the bulk of the ratepayers living in that section across the river, as well as those residing on the road in rear of the hill on which Archdeacon Palmer’s and Mr. John Horsman’s residences stand.
The Archdeacon himself put his money where his mouth was:
Archdeacon Palmer has with great liberality offered to give twelve feet of land from the road to the river bank as an approach to the bridge, and in addition will give $100 subscription towards the construction of the bridge.
For reasons they do not explain, the City's Board of Works shot down the idea at their next meeting. It was still a bridge too far.
("St. George's Church, 1874." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, Grundy 60. The first footbridge would be built at this site a few years later.)

Headway was made in 1876 when Heffernan street was created on the north side of the river, right where the bridge was to make land. (The street was named after Thomas Heffernan, a prominent merchant.) Surely, bridging of the river, and thus completion of the street, would be accomplished the next year said a column in the paper (Mercury, 5 December 1876).

("T. Heffernan, n.d." Courtesy of Wellington County Museum and Archives, A1985.110.)

This was duly not accomplished. The issue turned on what kind of bridge was to be realized. Some people's desires went as far as a street bridge, which would accommodate general traffic. Others' vision was limited to a footbridge, which would carry only pedestrians. The main difference was price: A full-sized bridge would cost $2,300, while a footbridge would run only $1,500—or even merely $500 for a basic model.

("Goldie's Mill race, ca. 1885." Courtesy of the Guelph Civic Museums, Grundy 225.)

There were many footbridges in Guelph. In the main, these were built into dams so that goods and people necessary for business could be easily transported over the river. The Goldie Mill, for example, had a footbridge that connected the mill on the west side of the Speed to a cooperage on the opposite side. Barrels made for packing flour could be brought from the cooperage to the mill over this little bridge. The general public often used these bridges for commuting or casual purposes. Other such bridges were present at the Taylor-Forbes plant and Presant's Mill, the latter of which was particularly popular.

Even so, a dedicated footbridge not attached to a mill would be a new thing for Guelph. This novelty may have persuaded some townsfolk that the idea was not an acceptable one.

After much wrangling, some funds (perhaps $1000) were allocated by the Board of Works towards construction of a bridge. Local surveyor T.W. Cooper was paid for plans and surveys while builder George Pike began construction of the abutments (Mercury, 15 January 1879). The bridge was on its way!

This was duly not accomplished. Funds ran short and no more were allocated for two years. For this time, only the abutments were present to bear witness to the incipient structure.

In 1881, the Council allocated $500 for completion of the bridge. When no tenders for this modest amount were received, the Board of Works called its own number and set out to construct the bridge using city workmen (Mercury, 5 July 1881). These would be overseen by George Bruce, a prominent local builder and Alderman who was also chair of the Board of Works.

("Captain Bruce, ca. 1870." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, M1991.9.2.147. Besides being a prominent builder and alderman, Bruce had been a member of the Guelph Company of the Wellington Rifles and fought in the response to the Fenian Raids.)

The $500 allocation constrained the structure to a footbridge with a width of 6 feet (ca. 1.8m). Nonetheless, the piers for the bridge were built 20 feet wide (6m) so that a full road deck could be substituted when more money became available (Mercury, 16 Sep 1881). The Mercury editor thought the result incongruous and the pedestrian deck a waste of funds in light of the imminent upgrade.

After many more arguments, setbacks, and changes of mind, the Heffernan street footbridge with railings and a five-foot wide deck finally spanned the Speed river in December 1881.

Curiously, no one seems to have thought to take a picture of this new bridge. At least, I have not been able to locate one. Perhaps it was widely thought unsightly after all!

In any event, once opened to the public, the bridge attracted the usual sort of uses. There were complaints about the smell of refuse dumped off the approach to the bridge behind St. George's Church (Mercury, 16 May 1882). Before municipal waste collection became common, dumping of refuse at or into rivers was a common practice. Besides aesthetic issues, the resulting pile of waste gave rise to bad odours, which were thought to give rise to disease.

As ever, young men were wont to swim in the river near bridges, often in their birthday suits (Mercury, 24 June 1882). This behavior contravened the swimming by-law, which was often honoured more in the breech than the observance.

It also did not take long for a few people to ride horses over the bridge. The Mercury editor called them "stupid cranks" and warned that the practice put women and children on the bridge at risk (15 July 1882). For the townsfolk, the matter of riding horses over the bridge may have cut to the issue of just what sort of a structure it was. I suspect that many people regarded it as akin to a sidewalk: At the time, a sidewalk was a platform, usually constructed of planks, that was laid out in front of businesses or, occaionsally, as a kind of crosswalk. Horses and vehicles were not allowed on sidewalks so that pedestrians on them would not have to trouble about dodging horses or their droppings, as they would on the dirt streets of the day. Businesses might construct sidewalks and keep them clean in order to attract potential shoppers to their windows and storefront displays.

("Douglas street, ca. 1880." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 1991.35.5. Note the board sidewalks on either side of the street.)

Even though it did not approach any stores, the plank deck of the footbridge was essentially a sidewalk in the eyes of many, so that riding horses on them was considered completely inappropriate.

Bridges also afford other, unintended opportunities. On one occasion, a Mrs. W.P. Howard, wife of the sexton of St. George's Church, was seen to act erratically on the bridge and then to climb over the railing, seemingly with the aim of throwing herself into the river. This she was prevented from doing by the intervention of passers-by. The Mercury editor observed (4 June 1889):

It is understood that Mrs. Howard’s mind gets a little unhinged sometimes, and yesterday she managed to elude the vigilance of her friends.
Construction of the Guelph Junction Railway in 1887–88 also changed the bridge's situation. Since the rail line was built right by the south bank of the Speed, pedestrians at that end of the bridge found that they sometimes had to dodge passing trains. This was an especially daunting task at night as the space was not well illuminated.

The bridge might have weathered these hazards well enough but it suffered also from the ancient foe of Canadian footbridges: ice and floods. On 23 February 1893, for example, inspectors from the Board of Works found that the bridge had been raised up two feet on the upriver side due to an ice jam against its piers. Not good! Citizens began to complain and campaign for a replacement.

In 1896, after much discussion of materials and costs, funds were allocated and contracts let. Local builder Thomas Irving (who had worked on the Church of Our Lady) oversaw construction of the stone abutments and piers. Alderman Kennedy, chairman of the Board of Works, supplied the stone, a conflict of interest then not unusual but that did draw comment during a Council meeting (Mercury, 30 Sep 1896). The iron superstructure was manufactured and installed by the Canada Bridge and Iron Company of Montreal.

All was duly accomplished by 29 October when the work was completed and the bridge opened to the public.

Guelphites seemed to like the look of the new structure. Its solid, modern ironwork and graceful catenary curves feature in many photographs and postcards of the era.

("Foot bridge on the Speed, Guelph, Ont." Published by Warwick Bro’s & Rutter, Toronto for C. Anderson & Co., Guelph, ca. 1910. From the author's collection.)
("St. George's Church and River Speed, City of Guelph, Canada," ca. 1900. This postcard was one of "Turnbull's private postals," a very early postcards set in the Royal City. From the author's collection.)
("Footbridge, Guelph," ca. 1900. Postcard printed for the Pugh Manufacturing Co., Toronto. From the author's collection.)
("Foot bridge, Guelph, Can." ca. 1910. Postcard printed for International Stationary Co. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2004.32.61.)
("St. George's Church and Footbridge, c.1910." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 2009.32.2760.)

Despite its good looks and charm, the new footbridge did not address one of the significant disadvantages of the old one, which was proximity of the Guelph Junction Railway tracks to the south end of the bridge. Eventually, this prompted the replacement of the iron bridge with a concrete one that would look familiar to Guelphites of today. However, that is a story for another occasion.

When the old bridge was taken down in 1913, part of it was purchased by the Taylor-Forbes company. The company installed a span over the Speed just downstream from the Guelph Junction railway trestle bridge so that employees who wanted to cross the river there would not have to dodge trains (or walk around by Allan's bridge) to do so.

("Aerial Photograph, Allan's Mill, 1948." Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 2014.84.569. The footbridge can be seen at the left margin, just to the right of the railway bridge, leading from Allan's mill in the foreground to the Taylor-Forbes plant across the river.)

What ultimately became of that last piece of the old Heffernan street footbridge, I do not know. But, whatever the fate of its particular incarnations, the idea of the footbridge retains a firm footing in the minds and desires of Guelphites today.

Works consulted for this post include: