Almonte in the Twenties

We see a lot of changes in Almonte since those far-off days. Perhaps the greatest of all are along Mill Street. Turkey Fair was an annual event, taking place on or about December 10th each year. There was generally sleighing by that time of the year. Some years fowl had to be brought in by buggies and sometimes a few automobiles were still running as some of them kept going until the snow got too deep. Roads then were only kept open for horse drawn vehicles during winter months. Some fowl was brought from Darling, Bellamy Road and surrounding country. Some came as far as twenty miles or more.

The turkeys, chickens, geese and ducks were bled and feathers removed but they were not eviscerated except on request. Many buggies parked along the sidewalks, but West's yard was the main parking place. Mr. West bought fowl, also Chas. Hollinger from Ferguson's Falls as well as buyers from other places. The town was patrolled by one policeman, but others were sworn in for the Agriculture and Turkey Fair. A few of the Police officers in those days were Wm. Watchorn, Joe Burnett, Jas. Cochrane and Wm. Peacock.

Mr. West's store was perhaps the busiest in town. He ran a General Store, also taking in exchange farm produce, wood, etc. Matt Ballentyne, Miss McFarlane and Miss O'Keefe were some of the employees. Beside West's store was Wylie's feed store operated by W. A. James. Wm. Waddell had a small store, then the Rexall Drug Store by M. R. McFarlane. Wilfred Snedden, Wilbert Connery and Raymond Robertson served their drug apprenticeships there, and perhaps many others. Next was W. E. Scott's furniture and funeral parlour. The Standard Bank, formerly the Sterling Bank was next along the street.

H. H. Cole ran a grocery stores, also a Men's Clothing Store. His son Ben looked after the clothing part. J. F. Patterson's Drug Store was on the next corner along Mill Street. Meredith and Graham Ireton, Ed. Carey, Bill More, Geo. Bowland and others served their drug apprenticeships with Mr. Patterson. Knight Bros. Hardware was bought out by N. S. Lee in 1925 and is still in operation, although enlarged some by taking over the former drug store.

We will list some of the business places of that day further along the street, but not all in order. Taber's Ladies Wear, Merchants Bank and later bought by W. H. Stafford. (It had once been owned and operated by John McKinnon), McLean's Bakery, Woosley's Barber Shop, M. R. Young Men's Wear, Clement Bicycle Shop, Dr. McGregor, dentist, and Taylor Bros. Hardware (they opened a Garage on Bridge St. in 1928 with Cliff Robertson as manager.)

Eugene O'Reilly had a store on the corner of Mill and Brae Streets and they closed out their business in 1928. Later on J. H. Proctor opened a boot and shoe store, also a harness shop in the back part of the building. On the other corner of Mill and Brae was the Bank of Montreal, then Smolkin's store, Jas. Cochrane's Men's Wear, W. James Barber Shop, George Eades Boot and Shoe Store (Needham and Son, bought out Geo. Eades later on), A. B. Lotan's Butcher Shop and on the second floor of some of these buildings were four places of business - A. Allan, tailor; R. A. Jamieson, lawyer; T. R. Patterson, dentist; Greig & Greig, lawyers. Mr. Pittard's printing office was next. He once was editor of the Almonte Times paper. Then was W. D. Lea's bakery and Laura and Nellie Hogan's Millinery shop. Though the Hogans now are retired from business they will long be remembered, not only for their millinery work, but also for the kindness they showed to all who called at their shop.

Further along Mill street was Peterson's Confectionery, Ivan Duncan's Barber Shop, Telephone Office, W. Lawford's Store, James Moreau's store, then the Dominion Store. The last store on the block was Fred Robertson's, who sold out to Wm. Pimlott in 1928.

Across Mill Street on the corners was Rooney's Pool Room and Barber Shop. Doyle Bros. had a store next door. Further down Mill Street Dr. Johnson had his dentist office and then James Hogan's Pool Room and Barber Shop. The Post Office was next. It was a busy place, Wesley Horton hauled the mail from the station to the Post Office and vice versa. Dr. J. T. Kirkland was the Postmaster, Mrs. Kirkland also worked in the post office, as well as May Eades, Annie Laurie and later others were employed. Maurice and Mary Kirkland helped during the Christmas holidays. Mr. Pollock looked after the Customs Office on the second storey of the post office building. Mayme Laurie was his helper and later on Miss Scott worked for him.

On Little Bridge Street was the Thoburn Mill, Dr. Kelly's house and office, Ben Baker's store, and a Chinese laundry. Then along that side of Mill Street were some apartment buildings. In the Nontell block on the ground floor was a cafe and also a store run by O'Kilman's. George Glickman bought him out in 1925 and later on a Mr. Evoy took over the store and Mr. Glickman moved across the street. On the second floor were two apartments, one of which was occupied by the Nontells. On the top storey a long hall ran the length of the building with a row of rooms along the back and another row facing the street. Most of the rooms were rented by millworkers. The writer had a room on the back row in 1927 and '28 for $1.50 per week. Louis Peterson had a front room rented. He worked long hours making ice cream at his plant which was further down Mill street (no eight hour working days then). George Comba's funeral parlour was next, then the Gazette office. Next was the Penman knitting mill, which employed a lot of help. Mr. Bert Gunn was superintendent for a number of years. Across from Lee's Hardware were two houses. In one J. H. Proctor had his harness repair shop and D. L. Woods had a photo shop in the other. Chas. Black operated a garage across from Harry's Motors. The building was taken down a long time ago. In the back part of the next building was Peterson's Ice Cream plant, in the same location, but on a much smaller scale than at the present time. However, it must pay to advertise. The following is an advertisement that appeared in 1925 in the local paper -

"The talk of the town" - our new ice cream, purest, richest and most delicious ice cream you ever tasted. Try some, order some. Peterson's Confectionery."

J. B. Wylie's feed store was next. It was burned down. Next was the Yorkshire Mill and between there and the stone bridge was a building that had been used as a blacksmith shop, cobblers shop, etc. That pretty well takes in the business places on Mill Street in the twenties.

Below is a notice that might be of interest to some - "Notice: All drivers of Motor Vehicles must keep to the right hand side of the street while in Almonte and must be on the right hand side when they stop their cars. The by-law under which this order is issued will be strictly enforced. W.W. Watchorn, Chief Constable, 1925."

The following item is rather humorous - Women may be as able as men at automobile driving, but we as expert pedestrians always jump faster and further when we find ourselves in the path of a woman driven car. Anon.

The farmers for miles around hauled stove and cord wood to town. Some town people had bush lots in Wolfe grove and cut and hauled their own wood. Robert Giles, Mr. Nontell and some others had circular saws and did sawing for man people. Wood and coal were the fuels used for heating and cooking. Thos. Leishman hauled coal to No. 1 Mill and other places in town. He had a brake on one of the wagon wheels to help hold back the wagon on the hills. Ernie Little looked after the hauling of the freight, while the Waddell men did the express. Eddie James did a lot of work for the town with his team, including the sprinkling of the streets in summer to keep down the dust. There were six mills in town, all working, plus Whylie's flour mill and Young's planning mill.

Radios were in use in those days, but attachable ear phones had to be used.

The question is often asked "How did people manage without so many thing that are in use now and taken for granted?" Half a century ago there was no pasteurized or homogenized milk, no waterworks in town, except some private systems operated from their own wells or cisterns, no television, no ploughed road for automobiles, no snow tires, no school buses, no gas or electrically heated homes. However, in the humble opinion of the writer, the majority of the people were happier and more contented than they are now, even with all the comforts and luxuries of this fast moving day and age.

Earl Munro - Almonte, Ontario.