We continue our examination of Newmarket’s historical timeline with the year 1978. As the year opened, we still had the same people in charge at council but by December 1978, we would have an acting mayor, Robert Scott, as Robert Forhan would decide to resign his position as mayor to assume the position of regional chairman on Dec. 14, 1978.
Our population had increased again, now sitting at 25,133. It seems that our population growth had prompted calls for Newmarket to obtain city status by our 100th anniversary as a town in 1981. This was not the first time someone called for us to become a city and it wouldn't be the last.
A water pipe burst at the historic former Alexander Muir School in January, but a decision was taken not to fix it until the future of the school was determined.
Newmarket moved forward on what they called a strict taxi bylaw to head off locally the issues being experienced in Toronto on Jan. 16. This new all-encompassing set of regulations promised to address vehicle and driver licensing, insurance requirements and the correct display of cab licences. Licences would cost $150 for the first year and $100 every subsequent year and would be non-transferable. Fines were set at $1,000 for violations and the taxi tariff was clearly set out.
The Newmarket Ministerial Association pushed forward with a plan for a non-denominational chapel at York County Hospital in January.
On Jan. 30, proposals were received by council for the building of an arts centre. Hopes were still alive that perhaps the old Alexander Muir School would fit the bill.
We had an amalgamation of two taxi services in February when Reliable Taxi, which has operated for 19 years decided to sell to A & B Taxi. The resulting taxi company would have 18 taxis in total and one courier vehicle. Len O’Neill of Reliable Taxi was retiring, and Marg Bray had taken a position with the new company.
Charles E. Boyd and Sharon Nash were awarded civic awards on Feb. 3. Honourable mention scrolls were awarded to Jack Groves of Santa Claus parade fame, and Verna Smythe for her years of charity work.
A new plaza / mall was proposed on March 20, 1978 for the east side of Yonge, just north of Slessor Motors. The plaza was to cover 191,000 square feet and even before it was started, complications regarding road congestion and access were being raised.
On March 17, the final mass was held at the old St. John’s Church on Ontario Street, with a fair amount of nostalgia in the air. The new 900 seat St. John’s Chrysostom Roman Catholic Church was to open officially March 19 and be concelebrated by Archbishop Pocock.
While not a local item, April 12, 1978 signalled the end of an era, 64 years to be exact, as Burkholder’s General store on Leslie Street in Queensville was set to close.
In February, Newmarket enjoyed a winter carnival in the downtown area as close to 8,000 people jammed the venue. Huron Heights would become the overall sports champion and take home the Challenge Cup. The Kinsmen Club sponsored the event, and it is said that 2,000 hotdogs, 3,000 cups of coffee and 4,000 servings of beans were dished out.
Plans for the new library addition were finally unveiled on April 17 with the total cost sitting at $475,000, part of which being paid by the province.
The cost to use the bus or take a taxi went up in April with the bus costing another nickel per ride and taxi fares increased by 50 per cent. The cost to rent town facilities increased in April.
A new realtor made their appearance April 3 when Royal Trust opened a branch in the Newmarket Plaza. They were to boast 10 agents and three secretaries at the location with Ron Ploder the new manager.
The legal aid office moved out of the old town hall to 406 Botsford St. May 15.
In August, it was announced a new skateboard park would be opening in the downtown area. The $270,000 project, according to owner Art Beamish, would take over the former Underwood Broadloom Mills building on Main Street. The facility would be 5,500 square feet and the cost to get in was set at $1.50 while renting a board would cost between 50 cents and $1.
Dr. Tom Dales, a local vet, was recognized as one of Canada’s top breeders of golden retrievers. Dales came from a prominent local family; his grandfather John Wesley was one of our first doctors and father Lowell Dales had established the area’s first hospital on Main Street.
The historic Alexander Muir School was put up for public auction in August by the school board with a reserve bid of $100,000 set. If you wondered why the town was not successful in its attempts to save it, the town’s bid was only $5,000 at the time.
This news item caught my eye. In August, the town purchased a new computer for payroll and other town administration at a cost of $26,000 per year for five years. I had forgotten just how expensive those initial computers were back then.
The town decided it would take over the management of Fairy Lake, including the park, from the conservation authority to better utilize the park.
A contest was unveiled to solicit ideas from the public on how the town should proceed with the redevelopment of Main from Millard Avenue to Water Street. The prize money was set at $500, $300, and $200. One certainly had to give the town credit for being persistent over the years, don’t you think?
The Ghost Canal was back in the news in August when a new book by David Ross highlighted the story of the project nationally. East Gwillimbury also decided to designate the lock in Holland Land as historic. No such move by Newmarket, though.
Radio station CKAN made its debut Aug. 2, 1978, under the management of a group brought together by Brad Walker, a car dealer on from Davis Drive. The 10,000-watt station would be limited to broadcast only to Richmond Hill in the south, Bradford and East Gwillimbury in the north. Ray Twinney was part of the ownership group.
Air conditioning came to the old town hall in August as the province had decided to use the courts there until 1980 when the $12-million courthouse would open at Eagle and Yonge streets.
In September, our Newmarket Rays fastball team would come within a game of winning the Canadian Senior Men’s Softball championship, a step in their quest to make it to the world championship.
On Sept. 16, the Lions Club stocked the lagoon at Upper Canada Mall with 205 rainbow trout for the fourth annual fishing derby with 18 being caught. Carmen Jenkins won the largest fish competition, weighing in at 13.5 inches. A total of 375 fishermen signed up to compete.
Plans for the new $1-million Bell building on Mulock Drive were unveiled in October with a June 1979 completion date. The specs on the new building were for a 20,000 square foot unit to house installation, repair, engineering and construction crews.
The Happy Hoppers, a modern Western square dance group, began lessons to the public in October under the direction of Mac Marcellus at various locations around town. I can remember several dance enthusiasts I knew who availed themselves of the opportunity.
Plans were submitted by Sterling Trust in October for a three-storey, 5,000-square-foot professional office building at Davis and Bolton. Sterling Trust would occupy the first floor of the unit with construction to begin that fall and be completed by early summer 1979.
The election in November 1978 brought only one new face to council, Frank Patterson replacing Tom Taylor. The top vote getter was Bob Scott. Craig Cribar won a seat as trustee on the York Region School Board. It was reported that 45 per cent of Newmarket’s eligible voters participated and advanced poll were extended to two days.
The Protestant cemetery on North Main announced that it was running out of space for burial plots and that the new 37-acre location in Bogarttown was estimated to be five to seven years away from being developed. You will remember that fairly recently, the future home of the cemetery in Bogarttown was sold to a developer for housing units.
In December a new proposal for a multi-tiered parking garage on the west side of Main between Botsford Street and Park Avenue was being proposed. The town owned the land and while they loved the idea, they postponed it for future consideration.
Garfield Wright resigned as chairman of the Regional Municipality of York on Dec. 7 and Bob Forhan, our mayor, won the position. Because this move was unexpected, Bob Scott was pressed into the position of acting mayor until an election for a new mayor could take place in early 1979.
To end this review of the year 1978, I thought we would look at a couple of the social items of note for the year. Elman Campbell was elected chairman of the Newmarket Historical Society for 1978. Ronald David Pelrine was the first 1978 baby, being born at York County at 2:12 a.m. Jan. 1. Auctioneer and character Fred Smith was the subject of a Global news feature as he is Canada’s oldest practising auctioneer.
A great story surrounded 16-year-old Maureen McCaffrey winning the award named after her sister, 15-year-old Michelle McCaffrey, two years earlier. The award was awarded to the student who made the honour roll in their third, fourth or fifth year of study and, on Oct. 27, Maureen was one of 37 students who won the Michelle McCaffrey Honour Award. That night 201 students received diplomas and awards, the valedictorian was Jennifer Smart and two other students, David Brown and Douglas Kukurudza, were honoured for their scholastic achievements.
That wraps up our look at the year 1978.
Sources: Clippings from The Newmarket Era and The Newmarket Courier; The Memorable Merchants and Trades by Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; The History of Newmarket by Ethel Trewhella; Stories of Newmarket
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.