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Newmarket marks 1964 with growth, sporting glory, and end of Specialty whistle

In this week's Remember This, Newmarket History Hound Richard MacLeod highlights the memorable moments of a transitional year in the town's history

Let’s take a closer look at another year in Newmarket’s history. I received several requests to examine the town during the year 1964, so I have gone through the records and chosen some highlights. 

As 1964 begins, the world is still shook up following the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The Beatles have arrived in North America and it seems that the world will never be the same. That is the backdrop to our look at 1964 in Newmarket.

The year finds us with a fresh council and a few new faces in the administration of the town’s business. Our mayor is W.A. Kent, our reeve is P.S. Legge and our deputy reeve is C.J. Salisbury. Council consisted of Seneca Cook, George Richardson, Alex Doak, Tom Surgeoner, Tom Taylor and George Knapton. Several of these councillors would go on to bigger and better things in the local political arena, as you will immediately recognize. 

Grant Blight was the town clerk-treasurer, William Errington was the town solicitor and Russel Broadbent the bailiff.

Our police department had grown over the last seven years to 13, in keeping with the growth in our population — about 5,000 since 1957. Byron Burbidge was still chief with Fred Mason as chief onstable. They were joined on the force by Jim Leeder, William Hill, Harry Diamond, George Heppell, Donald Deyo, John G. Williams, Ross Sealy, James O’Holloran, William Wait and Gail Palmer.

The skating duo of Guy Revell from Newmarket and Debbie Wilkes from Unionville are in the sporting news, having been crowned North American Pairs Skating Champions and receiving an Olympic bronze medal in Innsbruck, Austria this year.

Bob Forhan was in the headlines as he joined the Canadian Men’s Olympic team in Austria, scoring three goals in his first two games, leading Canada to victory. 

Newmarket’s first triplet birth since 1949 takes place at York County Hospital in January when Mr. and Mrs. Knott welcome three bouncing boys to the world.     

In February, a long list of local musicians passed their Royal Conservatory of Music qualifications, including Keith Evans and Gail Rettie – Grade X piano; Peter Stephens, Jeanne Valentine, Karen Brookfield, Veneta Goebel, Lorraine Kearns, - Grade VIII piano. 

Also in February, the Newmarket Fire brigade is tasked with fighting a stubborn blaze at Norman Fry’s Red and White Store, located just to the north of Myers on the east side of Main Street. 

Lieut. Gov. Earl Rowe opens the new east wing of York County Hospital on March 25, adding 144 beds to the total, bringing the total capacity to 257 beds.

A modern dry cleaner opens in the old Slessor Motors building at 361 Eagle St.  The article talks about their cutting-edge facilities, and a new law office is opened on Main by Claire D. Morrison, formerly of Stiver, Vale, Peppiatt and Errington.

Charles Boyd assumes the position of president and chair of the board of York County Hospital, having joined the board in 1958 and served as vice-president.

Big news in April was the new heating plant being installed at the Office Specialty, affording a cleaner burn and more efficient heating at a cost of $56,000. This would eventually signal the disappearance of the Specialty whistle.

In May, council hired Fred Counter to run the facilities at the Peter Gorman Pool at a salary of $1,000. Seven salesmen at Brad Walker Motors, Robert McGee, Ronald Doner, Fred Dow, William Forhan, Delbert Gibney, Brian Million and Harley Rankins are honoured for their sales prowess at a dinner in Toronto.

Grant Blight begins the process of obtaining a new chain of office for present and future mayors. My uncle, George Luesby, is commissioned to design the figures to be used.

Sadly, in June, the familiar sound of the Office Specialty whistle sounding in the morning (the town’s morning alarm clock) and at noon falls silent.  This was the last of the local industrial whistles.

In entertainment news, the Roxy Theatre on Main announced that the June 3 showing of the movie Tom Jones broke the theatre’s 15-year record of most tickets sold for a film with more than 5,000 tickets purchased.

Wrestling returns to Newmarket Arena on July 8 when the ‘Beast’ took on ‘Alaskan York Eric’ and local hero Ron Doner took on the 600-lb. wrestling bear. 

On June 24, Rev. Francis Marraco officially opened and blessed the new separate school on Carlson Drive and a service was held at St. John’s on Ontario Street.

Eleven new teachers join the staff for the September semester at Huron Heights in July, including Jessie L. Adams, David Beaton, Julianna MacKenzie, Laura Sheperd, Claude Martin, David Boss and William Sutherland. 

In August, Terry VanZant reaches the third round of the Ontario Junior Tennis Championship. There were eight other Newmarket players who participated: Mike Archambault, Alan Giles, Jack Hurst, Don Paul, Ken Kyle, Lovell Mount and Laurie Swinghammer.

A new Senior ‘A’ Hockey team begins operation in August for the upcoming season, joining Collingwood, Midland, Orillia and Barrie. Turk Broada, former Maple Leaf great, assumes the position of coach.

A local celebrity, Fred Smith, celebrates his 50th year as an auctioneer in August, one of the most colourful men I have ever had the pleasure to meet and such a wealth of information on our history. 

Two members of the famous West family, Bud and Linda, distinguish themselves and our town in competitions at the CNE. Bud, who was 13, came first in the senior brass competition and won a $100 scholarship to further his musical education and his sister, Linda, 11, placed second in the piano solo category. Both went on to distinguish themselves, following in the footsteps of their famous father, Art West.

Newmarket High also added new staff to its roster with 24 new teachers, bringing the total to 40. Added were H. W. Hill who took over for F. Bradley as vice-principal, Helen Bugler, Helen White, Ruth Christman, Helen Campbell, May Fournier, Jean Crowe, William Simmons, Arlene Lundgren, Anne Senghbusch, William Emigh, Don Lewis, and Julie Varga. L.G. Shepherd is principal, and Mr. Lockhart continues on as supervising principal for both NHS and Huron Heights.

An addition is added to Stuart Scott School in October with a crowd of 400 witnessing the official opening.

Newmarket Teen Town gets a new executive with David Smalley – president; Karen Peat – vice-president; Sharon Sokol- secretary; and Connie Cuppage – Treasurer.

A new feed mill opens in October, called the North York Farmers Co Op at Leslie Street and Davis Drive. 

Three plebiscites are held in December, asking if citizens are in favour of sports being allowed on Sundays, if public funds should be used to support local bands and if the fee for using the bus system should increase to 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children, eliminating the bulk purchase price.

A Christmas concert by the Norma Jackson Singers is held at York Manor and at Green Acres. From the photo, I can see loads of local ladies I remember as part of their group. 

And thus ends 1964. I have endeavoured to cover the highlights of the year and I hope that I have brought back a few memories to mind. I encourage you all to add your memories of 1964 and we will examine another year in Newmarket’s rich history soon.

Sources: The Newmarket Era; The Memorable Merchants and Trades 1950 – 1980 by Eugene McCaffrey


Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years. He writes a weekly feature about our town's history in partnership with Newmarket Today, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.