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REMEMBER THIS: Mid-'50s marked end of Newmarket's prohibition

In this week's columns, History Hound Richard MacLeod returns to his timeline, 1956 to 1959, highlighting the arrival of street numbers, the opening of the library and Gorman Pool, and celebrating the town's centennial

We continue our local heritage timeline series in the year 1956.

One of the first orders of business at council was to open Millard Avenue to through traffic. There was a bit of a pushback from some residents.

In February, the Newmarket Credit Union was formed with Frank Wear as its president. Also, a new subdivision opened just north of Hamilton Corners with 132 building lots. It was said to be a three-year project and would start in April 1956 with 10 initial homes completed.

The scouting movement tends to attract the kind of people who would remain dedicated to the cause for years as evidenced by Jim Nuttall. March 1956 found Robert Martin retiring from his association with local scouting after 46 years.

In March, the Lions Club celebrated its 25th anniversary with those present dancing the night away to the Charles VanZant Orchestra.

Police chief Burbidge presented a report to council detailing local policing for the previous year. He told us that 532 persons had spent time in the police cells in 1955. Fines had brought $7,756 into the town’s coffers, along with $5,473 from the parking meters and $329 from parking tags.

John W. Bowser, an Aurora builder known for his work on the Empire State Building, died March 30, 1956 at the age of 63.

May 1956 brought with it the process of numbering all properties in Newmarket. It was necessary for every property to have a valid street number in preparation for home postal delivery to start. Dr. Howard McCarnan opened his vet office on Eagle Street in May.

Council gives its blessing to a new shopping centre on the old Lewis Farm on Yonge Street at a cost of $1.5 million.

The new library on Park Avenue has its official opening on June 7, 1956, after quite a delay due to the presence of ground water that had hampered the construction.

In June, Charles Boyd, a local real estate developer, pulled off a shrewd business deal when he traded land that he owned on Parkside Drive and Davis Drive, the future home of Newmarket Plaza, with the town receiving land that would eventually make up the Beechwood residential subdivision where he built 57 luxury homes.

Many of you may remember the fire that destroyed the old Era Office on the east side of Main beside Roadhouse and Rose on June 14, 1956. Roadhouse and Rose would also be damaged and the second floor was not replaced until Wes Player undertook its restoration years later. A month later, in July, the Era was sold to C.A. Cathers for $28,000 and relocated over to Charles Street.

A news item in the Era from August tells us the street numbering project is expected to be completed by September but 142 streets still do not have street signs so they will be needed to be purchased before home mail delivery becomes a reality.

Fall 1956 brought the Newmarket Citizens' Band more awards as it placed first at the CNE along with several other events that year. Local painter Kurt Hagen wins a CNE award for his painting, Two Runners.

The rotary dial phone finally arrives in Newmarket, and it is said that mayor Gladman received the first one. The fire alarm system was moved from the waterworks building to the police station in accordance with the installation of the new dial service locally.

The Gorman Pool at the Lions Club Park has its sod-turning on Oct. 4, 1956. The Newmarket Health Unit on Main Street was gutted by fire October 4.

Glenn Phillips’ appointment as a probationary officer with the local police department was announced on Oct. 25. He will replace Const. Arnold Leeder who resigned suddenly.

The Newmarket curlers, under the direction of C.A. Cathers, purchase the old drill hall at the Fairgrounds with the intent of converting it into the York Curling Club in October of that year.

A local pianist Denise Tunney makes her appearance at Massey Hall and a huge contingent of local music lovers head off to Toronto to offer her encouragement.

The year 1957 opens with the same town administration. The Quaker Burying Ground on Yonge east is enclosed this year by a wrought iron fence supported by massive pillars and an inscription reading Friends Burying Ground 1807.

The town’s centennial as an incorporated village would take place this year and the topic of the celebrations have been covered in two previous articles on NewmarketToday.

The Sportsman of the Year award for 1957 was given to the Milton Wesley Legion 426 for its endless contributions to the sporting life of Newmarket. An honour roll was named that included Mickey Smith, Milt Wesley, Matt Walsh, Jack Duncan, Art Lauriault, Cliff Davidson, Jack Groves, Ivan Ruddock, Harold Eaton, Chick Rooney, Charlie Gordon and Bob Benville.

A motion to increase the salaries of council was presented in January. The new pay level proposed would pay councillors $500, committee chair would receive an increase of $100 and the mayor $1,000. Also in January, a $160,000 addition to the Prince Charles School was approved. The extension would provide another eight classrooms.

A.P.V Equipment Canada begins production on Charles Street with 70 employees. The plant is over 47,000 square feet and was purchased from the Hoffman Machinery Company that year.

A Children’s Aid Office opened locally in January at 153 Davis with Betty Graham as its director.

The York Curling Rink was officially opened in February 1957. A photo display is causing a great deal of commotion on Main Street at Dawson’s Ladies Wear where local female high school students have posted portraits of themselves. Edna Markham appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star Feb. 23 to promote the photo display.

In March 1957, a dedication service was held for the new Nazarene Church on the northeast corner of Main and Queen streets.

The town announced it was honoured to host the Gov. Gen. Vincent Massey April 10 and plans began in earnest.

The town celebrated two anniversaries related to local merchants. Bert Budd marked the 30th anniversary of his photo studio and music shop, while Milton Keffer celebrated his 25th anniversary of ownership of the Supertest Service Station on the southwest corner of Main and Davis.

On April 8, our neighbours in Holland Landing lost the Bluewater Shoe Plant to fire, with the fire departments from Aurora, Newmarket and Bradford assisting.

On April 8, 1957, our local Junior Chamber received its charter at a ceremony at the Colonial Restaurant with music by Leon Nash and the John Giovanelli accordion band.

Stan Smith had the position of manager of the new Gorman Pool added to his job description, along with that of arena manager in April.

The big news for local liquor enthusiasts was the official rescinding of Newmarket’s prohibition restrictions on May 2, 1957. The vote was relatively close with the motion passing by 2,094 to 1,269.

Slessor Motors opened its door May 16 on Eagle Street. The opening ceremony was broadcast on an Orillia radio station.

On May 15, 1957, Newmarket appointed John Gibson as our first permanent fire chief. He had been a member of the department since 1928.

A local singing quartet from Newmarket High were all the rage in May when they appeared on a few radio stations singing the popular songs of the day. The group was made up of Anna Morton, Mary Stephens, Marilyn Bone and Helen McCabe.

Newmarket crowned a beauty queen in June 1957 when Faye Rusnell won the crown. The Gorman pool, officially scheduled to open July 16 drew over 1,200 people over the three-day Canada Day holiday.

The Loblaws on Main Street expands over the creek behind the store facing Prospect Street in August.

Things are ramping up for Newmarket’s centennial celebrations in August with a cavalcade of vintage cars making a tour of southern municipalities officially inviting people to visit our celebrations. A photo of five women in an old car graced the pages of the Era as part of the promotion. They are identified as Marg McEwan, Doris Blair, Stella Phillips and Barbara Watt.

I was absolutely flabbergasted when I read that Newmarket formed a Yacht Club at Fairy Lake in August with the intention of cleaning up the pond, making it swimmable and promoting aquatic sports. One of their first tasks was the installation of floodlights in September.

Tenders were called for the construction of a new beer store expected to be 38,000 square feet, Newmarket’s first, on Charles Street in September.

In October, the town re-considered its options for the town bus service as it wished to expand the service even further.

After a series of delays, door-to-door mail service arrived on Oct. 31. Potential mail carriers are listed as Ross Gill, Russel Hughes, Cecil Taylor, John Gable, Locksley Stuffles and Harry Diamond.

From the Dec. 12 edition of the Era, we learn that work was progressing on the new County Administrative Building on Bayview. Beaver Lumber opened on Davis May 30 and Newmarket Cemetery announced in June that a new community mausoleum was being built on north Main. Parris Electric opened its door at 35 Main and the Bank of Commerce opened in the Newmarket Plaza in September.

In June, council announced that going forward, stores would be closed all day Monday and open on Wednesdays. You will remember that previously, Wednesdays were the designated day to close.

In December, the police service announced that James O’Holloran and Russell Smith had been appointed third class constables after their probationary period had elapsed.

The year 1958 brought a new council and A.N. Belugin became our new mayor. It was announced that eligible voters lists indicated that St. George’s Ward held 1,464 voters, St. Andrew’s 1,566, and St. Patrick’s Ward 1,072 for a total of 4,102 persons eligible to vote locally.

The town released some interesting figures in 1958. The town’s population was broken down by age group with the following results: Pre-school children 4 and under – 811, Elementary school age children – 1,437, Secondary school age children – 638, those of working age – 4,120 and Seniors – 1,251 for a total of 8,257.

1958 was the year that Newmarket Dairy, which had been located on Prospect Street, was sold to Glenville Dairy.

The new County of York Administrative Building was officially opened Jan. 23. The new Newmarket fire alarm system is finally put into service for the 22 members of the fire brigade and council authorized the purchase of a new fire truck.

The first steps toward the expansion of the town’s boundaries were taken at council in February 1958 when a motion was passed to annex two blocks of land in Whitchurch Township. The proposal would see Yonge as the western boundary, Mulock on the south, and to the third concession on the east.

There were two businesses who made moves on Main this year. Senecal’s moved into the McNabb Furniture store and the Smith brothers, Robert and Aubrey moved into the former Senecal store, establishing Smith’s Hardware. Glenville Dairy opened on Davis in April much to my delight.

The infamous pickle factory on north Main Street was destroyed by fire in April of 1958. Many will remember the army of rats that marched out as the building burned.

On the sports scene, the Smoke Rings won the O.H.A Junior C title in April. The players and staff would find their place in Newmarket sports lore, particularly owner Peter Gorman, manager Herb Cain and coach Norm Legge.

The Newmarket Police Department grew again in 1958 with 11 police officers and four civilians on staff. We can not forget the four crossing guards in town either.

It appeared that in June 1958 we were finally going to see the publication of the Trewhella History of Newmarket, but it was again put on the backburner until the mid-1960s.

The Scout Hall was set ablaze July 10, 1958, resulting in $2,000 in damage. There was wrangling as to who was responsible for the repairs, but the town eventually stepped up.

The arrival of the Ray Plastics factory along with a 68-house subdivision was announced in August 1958 to be built on the former Lewis property on Yonge and to the east.

Many may recall the fierce storm that hit Newmarket at the end of August when high winds, hail and driving rain toppled trees, smashed windows in homes and destroyed crops. The temperature dropped from the high 80s to the low 50s F over a 15-minute period.

In September 1958, we set a record for school enrolment when the records showed 1,459 children registered in our five public schools, an increase of 92 students.

A plebiscite was conducted in Newmarket in December on the proposal to set a two-year term for council.

Local service clubs marked some milestones in 1958. The Tuscan Masonic Lodge marked it 100th anniversary and the Kinsmen Club received its charter on Nov. 25.

In December, we are told that the new fire alarm system is fully operational. The system works as follow: a dispatcher at the police station picks up a phone and it triggers a signal at the firefighter’s homes. The dispatcher alerts the firemen as to the location. A whistle will blow four times originating from the Office Specialty. I was fortunate to have had four firemen living in my area, so I always knew where the fire was located.

I remember hearing about the big Christmas bash presented by Teen Town in 1958. The committee at the time was made up of Ken Bell president, Elizabeth Giovanelli treasurer, Carol Graham secretary and Dianne Mason executive member.

It was in 1958 that the municipal offices moved to 171 Main across from the Post Office.

Elman Campbell’s 25th anniversary in February 1959 was well attended as the local merchants paid tribute to the man and his business.

Three local pianists, Denise and Kevin Tunney and Kerry Peters, won Kiwanis awards in March 1959 for their piano prowess.

The application by William Haskett for a broadcasting licence for a local radio station was denied by the Board of Broadcast Governors in April 1959.

The Newmarket Optimist Bantam A team won the Ontario Championship in April. The team was made up of Peter McLacklan, Mile Walton, Chuck Goddard, Ray Goodfellow, Randy Legge, David Smith, Terry Cain, Tommy Sinclair, Ed Baiden, Deider Windhager, Dave Smalley and John Gorman.

Newmarket Hydro purchased the waterworks property from the town for $5,000 in April.

News from council in May indicated that parking meters are planned for both sides of Main running north to Queen.

On June 7, 1959, Newmarket’s new dial telephone service comes into force when we switch from manual to automatic dialling.

A committee is organized to investigate the redevelopment of Fairy Lake. It was on Aug. 19 that Ron Doner first began his professional wrestling career here in Newmarket.

Remember the two-day strike by town employees in September 1959? They were eventually ordered back to work.

A new business arrived in October when Warren M. Grimes and his three sons, Phil, Don and Bert, established Grimes Abrasives at 514 Davis near the Bender Casket Company.

A delegation of businesses from the north end of Main (including my Grandpa from Luesby Memorial) pressed council to recognize the 23 businesses there as being equally as important as those below Millard Avenue and to solicit financial support.

Canada’s largest vegetable plant, Holland Rivers Garden Company, opened on Dec. 10 in Holland Landing with over 85,000 square feet for the processing and packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The premier historian of our town, Ethel Trewhella, passed away April 29, 1959, her definitive history of Newmarket still unpublished by council.

The hot movies at the Roxy in 1959 were From Here to Eternity and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The library staff had expanded to three full-time and two part-time staff with Mrs. Skinner still the head librarian.

The initial staff at the Peter Gorman Pool included David Townsley, Elizabeth Gore, John Georgas, Barbara Gendron, Larry Bone and Brian Orton.

The year 1960 brought us a new council with James D. Otton as our new mayor. One of the first things the new council did was to secure the land behind the Elman Campbell store at a cost of $500 to provide right away to a new parking lot planned between Main and the CNR tracks and create a loading area for merchants on the east side of Main.

We learned that during 1959, 250 real estate transfers had taken place along with 43 appeals against assessment. The area annexed by the town would soon have its streets numbered in accordance with town policy at a cost of $1.50 per home.

Rudy Renzies, a master craftsman who taught at Pickering College celebrated his 25th anniversary in 1960.

The new Dominion store opened in February at the Newmarket Plaza.

The two Pickering College operettas this year were Cox and Box and Down in the Valley, starring Carol Graham and Scott McNeil.

Financial news locally centred on Newmarket’s first town budget exceeding $1 million. The budget did have some difficulty passing.

Chief Burbidge asked for three more constables but only one position was added. Preliminary estimates for the planned expansion at York County Hospital top $4 million. The finances of the town bus system are question because of the losses posted.

A celebration took place in May 1960 for Robert Dick, a teacher at Newmarket High who had just completed his 25th year there.

We will continue with the year 1960 next, these years are crammed with goodies and so the amount of information I need to cover will necessitate my being flexible with my cut-off dates.

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, An Old Ontario Town by Robert Terence Carter

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.