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Thorning Revisited

by Stephen Thorning - 1949-2015

Community news from the Mapleton Township area

The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015.

Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.


 91 years ago - January 1927

Bitterly cold weather did not hit the area in 1926/27 until the latter part of January.

Overnight temperatures hovered between -16 and -20 on the Fahrenheit scale (about -27 to -29 Celcius), bringing delight to the hearts of the coal dealers.

The cold spell produced the inevitable rash of flu and colds. Older people seemed to suffer the most in 1927, and many shuddered as they recalled the flu epidemic of eight years prior (the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the First World War).

The month began with municipal elections on Jan. 3. Drayton’s council, led by Reeve J.G. McEwen, had been returned by acclamation, but there were heated campaigns and some upsets in the townships. Good weather resulted in a strong turnout of voters. In Maryborough, Joe Arbuckle decisively defeated six-term reeve John A. Thompson for the top position.

In Peel, C.G. Stickney, a former reeve and warden, made his comeback by beating Wes Fletcher, deputy-reeve in the old council, by a 2-1 margin. The electors returned the balance of the 1926 council. Auctioneer Harry Parr, in his first attempt at public office, lost by 18 votes.

Announcements from Queen’s Park early in the year promised changes for everyone. Premier Ferguson announced that his government would reduce the tax on alcohol, which then was sold only in drug stores, by prescription, for medicinal purposes. He also intended to legalize the sale of beer in hotels and served with meals. For motorists, there would be an increase in the speed limit on provincial highways from 25 to 35 mph, and regulations would require all vehicles to have lights at night.

After several years of dormancy, the Drayton Orange Lodge reformed, and began 1927 with a growing membership and lively meetings.

The Women’s Institute movement ranked far higher in importance, with strong, active groups in virtually every community. Drayton’s was the largest in the area; the regular January meeting of the Drayton WI attracted more than 90 women to hear a talk by Mrs. William Mitchell on “Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive All Year,” and to watch a demonstration on making lamp shades for electric lights.

In church news, Rev. Dan Mackay moved to town from Bolton to take up his duties as minister of Knox Church. His induction service took place on Jan. 20. Zion United Church took pride in its second-hand organ, but it came at a price. The instrument had been removed from Drayton’s Christian Church, which disbanded due to declining support. The former members joined other congregations, leaving the Spring Street church vacant.

Goldstone’s Ladies Softball Team staged the entertainment event of the month with its production of The Face at the Window in Drayton’s town hall on Jan. 12. The evening included comedy and clog dancing between acts by “Scotty” Mills, and a dance following the play in the council chambers, with music by the Moorefield-based Kopas Maryborough Orchestra.

Hockey attracted many enthusiasts. The continuation schools of Drayton and Palmerston played a series of weekly games against each other beginning Jan. 15. The Palmerston Black Hawks trounced the Drayton Resolutes 5-0 in the opener.

The Junior Farmers organized a small league, with teams based in Palmerston, Drayton and Rothsay. Drayton had no arena in January 1927. Games were played on an outdoor rink.

Palmerston’s Intermediate team generated a strong following throughout the area. Playoffs started at the end of the month, and Canadian National Railway found it profitable to run a special train from Drayton, Moorefield and Palmerston to the series opener in Listowel. About 500 fans bought tickets.

An epidemic of jack rabbits overran the townships. This was not a native species, but a European introduction. Hunters claimed they could easily bag three or four on any afternoon they cared to go out.

On the 30th, the Moorefield Farmers Club held its annual banquet and meeting, with about 75 present in Thompson’s Hotel. Following the meeting, those present watched films screened by the county Agriculture Representative, R.H. Clemens, at the township hall.

Despite many diversions, and the lure of listening to the radio, local libraries still enjoyed public favour. The supporters of the Glen Allan public library made plans for a box social in February. In Alma, a fire the previous spring had destroyed the accommodation, but the books had been saved.

The library reorganized in January 1927 with a new board. Frank Fairweather agreed to act as librarian, with temporary quarters in his office. He had been storing the books since the fire. The new executive agreed to order 100 more books immediately, and to arrange for visits by the provincial travelling library.

66 years ago - January 1952

Heavy snowfalls coupled with mild temperatures caused damage to roofs and other structures.

Among the casualties was an old brick barn opposite the Palmerston hospital. Its roof collapsed under the weight of the snow. Superior Motors was using the barn for storage at the time, but it had historical interest, having sheltered cattle used in the production of the first smallpox vaccine in Ontario. Local history buffs hoped that the structure might be repaired.

Organized hockey had commenced regular schedules in late December, but soft ice required the postponement of some games at the beginning of January. On Jan. 4 officials decided that the ice was sound and proceeded with the game. Players found the ice very soft and sticky, as Drayton lost to Cassels 10-6. The season didn’t get any better for Drayton later in the month on more solid ice. The local favourites lost to Baden by a score of 13-1 on Jan. 16.

The Intercounty Rural League enjoyed a very good start to its season, with many Rural League games out-drawing Intermediate hockey in attendance. Fans enjoyed the freewheeling games - played by teams from Palmerston, Clifford, Moltke, Ayton, Drew, Teviotdale and Beehive - on the ice at the Harriston, Palmerston and Mildmay arenas. Play could be rough; one match-up between rivals Palmerston and Clifford produced 27 penalties.

While hockey enjoyed wide popularity, other amusements were readily available in 1952. Club 23 at Teviotdale hired the Gene Dlougy Orchestra for Friday night dances during January and February. Originally from the west, this orchestra worked out of Toronto in 1952.

Palmerston’s Norgan Theatre followed a policy of showing recent movie releases, with two shows every day except Sunday, and additional matinees.

Manager Lew Young approached council for permission to schedule midnight movies. Councillors dithered on the issue, then set it aside without giving a firm yes or no.

Those unhappy with the Norgan’s feature films could go to Harriston, or to the weekend showings at the Drayton Town Hall.

*This column was originally published in the Drayton Community News on Jan. 11 and 18, 2002.


Vol 51 Issue 11


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