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REMEMBER THIS: New wing, emergency open at York County

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his series on Newmarket's historical highlights in 1975 and 1976

We continue our examination of Newmarket’s history starting with the year 1975.  As we open the year, our population has grown to 24,142 as the town expands in every way possible.

On Jan. 3, 1975, the Newmarket Library officially opened the aluminum portable extension south of the main library with a hallway connecting the two buildings.

It is hard to believe that it was not until January 1975 that York Regional Police hired its first female officer, a 27-year-old named Joy Davidson, a 10-year veteran of the Metro force. She was assigned to the youth bureau where she had worked at 32 Division in Willowdale.

A cute article appeared in the newspaper in January. It seems a Newmarket lady received five letters all on the same day, but from vastly different locations, some separated by as much as 3,000 miles. It essentially took four days for a letter to come from the Isle of Man, the same time as from right here in Newmarket. While the article was a bit tongue in cheek, it did make the point as to why would it should take as long to come from overseas as it did to come from Newmarket. A foreshadowing of the future perhaps.   

It seems the town found itself a bit strapped for cash in January as treasurer Stuart Parks was authorized to borrow $1 million to tide the town over until taxes began to arrive. This was apparently the case in a few other years. It seems the town paid its portion of mega-projects like the hospital expansion and the Queen Street bridge repair promptly while the various levels of government were tardy in settling their accounts.

A proposal by Tom Taylor in February to rename the Fairgrounds in honour of Roy Smalley was turned down at council. The Fairgrounds were probably Newmarket’s first public park, six acres north of Gorham Street that was purchased by the Agricultural Society in 1865 to house the North County Fair. Sometimes I think council gets it right, heritage means something.

On Feb. 12, 1975, the first five trail star campers were shipped from Travelux, a Canadian company on Kent Drive. It was expected that over 600 units would be produced at this location in 1975.

An old English sheep dog becames the latest Newmarket celebrity in February when Sir Lancelot of Barvan, owned by Barbara Vanword of Newmarket, became the first Canadian dog in 57 years to earn best in show at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. The dog was a contestant on To Tell The Truth and appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated - quite a feat!  

Newmarket took delivery of its new 85-foot aerial fire truck costing over $107,000 on March 5. It was immediately put into service as it was called to a furniture warehouse fire on Yonge Street in Aurora.

In March 1975, the Newmarket Redmen Jr. B hockey club was sold to John Sikura. Newmarket would immediately applied to the OHA for either a Senior or Jr. A franchise for Newmarket. Dan Millar was granted a tryout with the Boston Red Sox in March down in Winterhaven, Fla.

On March 16, 1975, we have another pay increase announced for the mayor and council. Mayor Robert Forhan was voted a $1,500 raise to $10,500. Regional councillor Raymond Twinney now takes home $7,000. Both Forhan and Twinney receive a salary of $8,000 for sitting on regional council.

On April 2, 1975, we converted from the Fahrenheit system to the Celsius system, the first step in Canada’s migration to the metric system being implemented nationwide. For what it is worth, I still use the Fahrenheit system.

On April 4, 1975, Alex Georgas, an extremely well-known and well-liked member of our community, passed. Georgas had emigrated to Newmarket in 1927 from Athens, Greece and opened Victoria Sweets on Main Street featuring homemade candy. He owned a restaurant in Jackson’s Point from 1942 to 1947, managed the King George Hotel on Main until 1952 and finally founded Newmarket Cleaners on Main.

We endured a huge snowstorm on April 9, 1975, bringing high winds and snow drifts up to nine feet high in places. Roads and shops were closed, and the streets were filled with abandoned cars and buses.

Newmarket’s proposal for a three to four per cent growth rate annually going forward was accepted by the provincial government as doable in May 1975. The issue of the downtown area being in a major flood plain was discussed but no real action was taken.

The cost of daycare locally was a topic for discussion at council in May. A committee reported to council that it cost $75 per week to care for an infant. Council expressed shock and decided that they should investigate instituting a sliding scale, with the cost being tied to a family’s financial situation. It was also reported that at Newmarket daycare, the ratio of teachers to infants is 8.5 teachers for 30 infants.

After years of lower taxes, the local tax rate soared in 1975, according to a June report. An example given was a $20,000 assessed home would now need to pay taxes amounting to $582.

The Fairmead school for exceptional students celebrated its official opening on June 18, 1975.

Jan Kudelka was in the news in June, when she appeared at Stratford in two plays, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Comedy of Errors. As you will remember, the entire Kudelka family were involved in entertainment.

In July the town-imposed water restrictions with fines of up to $1,000 for non compliance.

The issue of what to do with the old Registry Office was on everyone’s tongue in August 1975. No one disputed its historical value but as is often the case, the issue of what to do with it was front and centre. Thank goodness the region stepped in and it eventually became the home of the Elman Campbell Museum and the Newmarket Historical Archives.

In August the province released figures on the financial life of Newmarket’s citizens. They indicated that about 0.5 per cent of Newmarket’s citizens were on some form of welfare. The largest group receiving payments were said to be single persons and seniors.

Elizabeth Gillham, a King historian published her book on King’s history, titled Early Settlements of King Township in August 1975 and it immediately became a best seller.

Jack Rettie, the region’s chief administrative officer resigned his post on July 31, 1975, and then subsequently returned to his post on Sept. 3, 1975 after reconsideration.

The year saw an expansion within the York Region Separate Board with the launch of the board’s first junior kindergarten class, the region’s first all-French teaching facility, the system’s first junior high school and the establishment of St. Paul’s Separate School at Quaker Hills.

Argus Camera of Canada put its operations up for sale in September 1975, along with S.E. Woods, which was located on Kent Drive. Both would confirm that they were leaving town.

A private squash club opened in October behind the Purina plant at Davis Drive and Don Mills Road, much to the delight of local squash enthusiasts. 

In September 1975, traffic lights are installed at the corner of Queen and Main Street amid discussions on how to enhance the sightlines at the corner. I remember my Grandpa telling me that they approached him about perhaps moving his shop, Luesby Memorial, even though it was designated as a heritage property.

In October it was reported that only 70 trout out of the 300 put in the lagoon in front of Upper Canada Mall were landed by the more than 400 participants in this Lions Club Fishing Derby. Wonder where the rest went?

The fountain at Fairy Lake was not operational in October and the town indicated the issue would be resolved by the spring of 1976.

On Oct. 3, 1975, the first Newmarket Civic awards were handed out as Elman Campbell and Valentine Seldon were honoured with honourable mentions going out to Charles Boyd, Joan Davenport, Gladys Mitchell and Jim Nuttall.

Newmarket received a total of $106,600 in grants from the province in October for projects such as the Lions Amphitheatre ($8,101), the community centre ($75,000), tennis courts ($18,500) and a Zamboni ($5,000).

In November an announcement was made that five well-lit skating rinks were being planned for Fairy Lake.

In December, the construction of two new elementary schools was announced. The first was an $11-million school in the Flamingo subdivision in East Gwillimbury and the other an $11-million elementary school in the Valley of the Cedars subdivision.   

On Dec. 10, 1975, the official opening of the new 160-bed wing at York County hospital finally happened. Part of the new wing was a new therapeutic pool that was named after Billy Whipper Watson who had spearheaded the campaign to raise the funds, including a telethon broadcast on CKVR-TV in Barrie.

Things at council remained much the same as the year 1976 opened. Our population had gone up to 24,468 though.

As January opened, the stabilization of the Holland River bank was the big topic. With vivid memories of 1954 and Hurricane Hazel, town staff were warning that we needed to take measures immediately if we did not wish the 1954 disaster to re-occur. This was the start of the process to declare the area a flood zone.

The colour scheme on the police cars changed in 1976. The old yellow was replaced by white cars with bright red strips across the hood and down the sides.

A new organization catering to local rug hookers was organized locally in January 1976 with 40 members coming together to meet twice a month.

With the folding of the Rays softball team, rumours resume that the Winston Chubb Security team would relocate to fill the void left by the Rays departure.

The town offered the York County School Board a free building lot for a new school in the Victoria Woods Subdivision to relieve overcrowding at Meadowbrook Public School. In return, the council wanted new sports facilities on school properties.

Newmarket native H. R. MacMillan died in February at the age of 90. MacMillan was best known as the owner of MacMillan Bloedel Limited and was once know as Canada’s richest man.   

The fire department were breathing easier when it was announced in February that the huge gas storage tanks at Ontario and Superior Streets would be removed by April.

In the Era on March 16, 1976 there was a Progressive Newmarket – As It Was 75 Years Ago 10-page supplement by Terry Carter. It featured all the history of the town and preserved in words and photos many of the heritage features that were soon to disappear — one of the reasons why I call Robert Terrence Carter Newmarket’s Official Historian.

The details of the three-day Alexander Muir reunion to take place in August are released in March. Expectations are that at least 3,000 of the over 5,000 students who attended the school from 1912 and 1976 would attend. Illa Haines would be heading up the committee, a fixture of the school in herself.

The Lions Music Festival continues to grow every year. The year 1976 would surpass the previous years, a nice problem to have indeed.

It was announced in March that the 66-year-old Timothy Street bridge was to be demolished and that that it was expected that it would take six months at least to replace it. Part of the project would be the burying of the water channel to protect the area from flooding.  

It was announced in March the library would henceforth be closed on Mondays. As is still the case, the availability of funds for the library continued to be an issue and this was thought to be the answer although figures showed that the savings were estimated to be only $4,000 per year.

The town authorized the Kinsmen Club in March 1976 to place benches throughout town and sell ads to appear on them for $30 per year.  

In April 1976, we had a new bowling champ in our midst when 14-year-old Yvonne Jirkal of Simcoe Street capture the Ontario Junior 5-pin Championship.

A woodworking factory arrived in April, on the site of the trailer factory on Kent, promising employment for 100 locals.

The last of the Davis family of Davis Tannery fame passed on March 26, 1976, when Mabel Davis Webb died. You will recall that she left a large swath of land to the east of the railway tracks to the conservation authority named the Mabel Davis Nature Conservation Area in recognition.

The construction of the Mulock Drive postal plant at Sandford Avenue was announced in April. Set to employ 60 persons, it would sort and distribute all area mail.

In April, the Grace Church opened a daycare with spaces for 60 to 70 children.

A museum opened on May 1, 1976 in the ‘little red schoolhouse’ in Bogarttown to be run by the Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum Board.

A freak snowstorm hit the Marsh on April 26 much to the surprise of all involved. While work came to a sudden halt, it was reported that plants were able to be saved.

A new bylaw was passed by council, effectively increasing taxi rates. The new bylaw sets the fares as 75 cents for the first sixth of a mile and then 10 cents for every additional sixth of a mile, baggage fees were added and the cost to have a taxi wait was increased to 10 cents a minute.

Jarmain Cable, the precursor to Rogers Cable in town, reorganized its channels on May 31 sending local tv addicts scrambling to find their favourite shows.  This was necessitated due to the switch of transmissions to the new CN tower.

Sometimes when I am doing my research for an article, I have a sense of deja vu. In June 1976, the cemetery board announced that it was running out of space. They warned that it would be cheaper to purchase a building lot than a place to be buried if something was not done about expansion. It eventually purchased land on Leslie Street near Mulock, but that land was sold to a developer for a subdivision. Ever get the feeling that issues from the past never really get solved, just passed along to become another generation's problem? 

In June the Ontario Heritage Foundation rejected a request to provide a plaque for the Alexander Muir School signifying its heritage significance provincially. The decision was based on the province’s belief that the school was not of provincial historical significance.

In June a mystery tombstone was found in the backyard of 437 Andrew St. dated back to 1854. It turned out that the stone read Clara E. Pearson, daughter of Lambert and Eliza Pearson, February 2, 1854. It was surmised that the stone may have been stolen from the Quaker Cemetery given its design and inscription.

The question of what would happen to the now vacant Alexander Muir building was swirling in July. There were many suggestions, including a museum but alas the board decided to sell the land for a seniors building. 

July 1976 was an extremely wet month, exceeding the rainfall usually experienced by quite a margin. Reports of the adverse effects of so must rain were reported with 20 per cent of the hay crop spoiled and 40 to 50 per cent has been setback. Extreme weather is not just a modern reality it seems.

York County Hospital opened its new emergency department on July 26, 1976, boasting 11 treatment rooms and three ambulance bays. This was a welcome event as the hospital serviced an area of 750 square miles, three times the area of Metro Toronto.

The Alexander Muir Reunion took place from Aug. 20-22 at the school with a reported 2,500 students in attendance. I remember the parade that meandered along Main Street in celebration.

On Sept. 29, 1976, the town approved the use of its land at Timothy Street East for a 10 to 12-storey, 100-unit, seniors building, encourage by a provincial grant of $100,000. The building was set to be completed by 1978 at the very latest.

The Newmarket Schickedanz Bantam team won the Ontario Baseball Title in September. The top players were Bill Dunlop and Dave Moore, according to coach Frank Kennedy.

The library ran a promotion in September, offering a coupon from McDonalds to those who returned overdue books. It must have been a success as over 1,000 overdue books made their way back home to the library.

Statistics released by Chief Crawford in October indicate that crime had increased a bit year over year. Break-ins, thefts, and arson were up while drug offences stayed the same and murders were down.

The ‘channelization’ or burying of the Holland River was ahead of its Nov. 30 deadline and would come in below estimate.

The Ingram family purchased the Bowlerama location on Davis Drive in September 1976.

September brought the birth of the hospital’s smallest baby, Brendan Orsatti, weighing in at only 19 ounces. 

Thirty-five new Canadians took their oath of citizenship on Nov. 26, 1976, the first to ever take their oath in Newmarket. Usually, the swearing in necessitated a trip to Toronto.  

If you can believe it, the Main Street renewal scheme was resurrected in November 1976 again, same ideas, same objections.

GO bus service expanded its service on Davis in November with an expansion of parking from 60 to 227 parking spaces.

In December it was announced that Second Street, between Pearson and Mulock, would be reconstructed early in 1977. Niagara Street, from Ontario Street to Millard, would host two-way traffic in early 1977 as well.

The 404, it was announced in December, would be expanded northward to the Gormley Road with plans for an extension to Davis in the cards.

Join me when we pick the story up with the year 1977.

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.

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About the Author: Richard MacLeod

Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod — the History Hound — has been a local historian for more than 40 years
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