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REMEMBER THIS: Newmarket flourished in 1950s

In this week's column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his timeline series of Newmarket's history beginning in 1950

This article in the series highlighting Newmarket's historical timeline begins in the year 1950, and continues to 1955.

As 1950 opens, we find the same council in office, headed by our mayor, Joseph Vale. We have five members of the police force, including Byron Burbidge, William Hill, James Leeder, Ron Watt and A.S. Leeder.

In his opening of council address, Fred Thompson, head of the local hydro commission, reported the commission had installed 114 new services and 18 services had been changed over in the last year. There had been 35 new streetlights installed, along with 40 poles, 20 new transformers and 30,000 feet of wire. The poles on Main Street would be left until the town-wide conversion was completed and then new light standards would be installed.

Similar reports seemed to indicate that the town business was well in hand as we began the 1950s.

An interesting new business opened in Newmarket this year. The Tillmark Archery Supplies firm opened on North Main, just north of the cemetery in a converted barn. A longtime business, the barbershop of Samuel Elliott Haines located just south of the King George Hotel, was to close after 45 years at that location.

This was the year that a new fire alarm system was installed, which equipped each home of a firefighter with a buzzer, switching away from the whistle system that had served the town for years.

A new heating system was installed in the old town hall at a cost of $5,625, intended to improve the heating in both the hall itself and the adjoining police services office.

A Gilbert and Sullivan operetta opens to rave reviews in March at Pickering College. The production boasts a cast of 60 members headed by Alice Rourke, Moire Jackson, Elizabeth Beer, and the Newmarket girls chorus. The production of the annual operetta became ‘the thing’ in the 1950s.

Newmarket established a new health unit at 126 Main directed by Dr. King. While we are on the topic of medical facilities, York County Hospital reported for April 1950 the following statistics: 254 admissions, 106 operations, 28 considered to be major, and 293 x-rays.

A feature of the town’s entertainment calendar dating back to the beginning of the century was the minstrel show. In April 1950, the Lions Club was in full preparation for this year’s performance. Many of you will remember these shows featuring local talent. The performance would be directed by Alex Eves and play at the old Town Hall April 17 to 22, a sold-out show.

These shows were so popular that they “went on the road’ to the neighbouring communities. The cast was made up of the who’s who around town, with Chester Best, Ang West, Charles Boyd, Ken Ponting, Gene McCaffrey, Jimmy Walker, Terry Doan, Murray Huntley Jack Luesby, Moff Cockburn and director Alex Eves. There was a multitude of other talent who gravitated to this event.

Since we have been keeping track of the number of businesses since we began this series, let us review the year 1951. There was a total of 268 business, 139 on the east side of Main and 129 on the west side. Our population had grown to 4,974.

The town published a report on the ethnic makeup in 1951. Those listed as coming from the British Isles numbered 4,657, and there were 115 from France, 74 from Germany, 43 from Italy, nine declared as Jewish, 277 from the Netherlands, 29 from Poland, 16 from Russia, 36 from Scandinavia and 24 from the Ukraine.

The town also provide us with an overview of the religious denominations: Anglican 1,153, Baptist 802, Presbyterian 442, Roman Catholic 553, United (Methodist) 1,872.

In March 1951, Newmarket’s theatre community entered a one-act play, Arsenic and Old Lace, into competition in Toronto. Now we host the national festival right here in Newmarket.

The first flood lights are installed at the Fairgrounds in September, along with a new scoreboard donated by Ted Robinson, owner of the Marigold shop on Main.

The new vocational wing was opened at Newmarket High Oct. 17, 1951. A new organization called the Newmarket Canadian Concert Association was formed in November and they promptly began to attract major talent to Newmarket.

Robert Yates opened his new jewelry store next to the Eaton’s order office on Main in 1951. He acquired the current store from C.G. Wainman in 1948.

The DeSoto car dealership changed to featuring the Chev-Olds product line and becomes Geer and Byers. They also featured the Frigidaire appliance line to go along with the cars.

In December, an announcement was made that effective Jan. 1, 1952, dairy prices would go up substantially due to an increase in operating costs. I guess the local cows unionized.

The year 1952 opened with the death of King George VI in February. Thus began the historic reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Canada was the first of the Commonwealth countries to proclaim Elizabeth as queen.

The old firehall and registry offices were finally demolished in 1952 as they had become an eyesore and were said to be ready to fall down on their own.

Plans were being put into place for the creation of what we would come to know as Teen Town, as council began to discuss the possibilities of providing entertainment for local youth on an ongoing basis. It wasn’t rock and roll in the beginning but big band music.

In January, council awarded a contract to Ward and Allan to renovate the municipal building at 55 Main for the sum of $6,384.

The Rotary Club received its charter in March 1952. James Law was appointed its first president.

In August, the fourth annual Newmarket trade show took place at the arena with an influx of 1,000 people within the first two hours. The four-day event featured over 30 local businesses.

Pat Boone appeared at the Cedarview Community Church on June 7 for two shows. Did you or your family attend?

If you have read my articles on the various public schools locally, you will remember a report in August 1952 indicated that the number of children registered to attend had jumped by 70 and that plans were needed to build additional capacity.

In September, the town passed a bylaw for the improvement of Main Street, widening and paving the street and rebuilding sidewalks. The money would come from a debenture over a 15-year period.

A new accordion academy, Mundinger’s, opened on Main in October with many locals registering for classes.

A car dealership opened on the corner of Davis Drive and Lundy’s Lane in November. It was a Ford dealership called Tom Birrell and Son’s, the pre-cursor to Brad Walker's.

Andrew Davis, a former mayor, passed in November. Davis was involved in so many aspects of our community life, including his junior hockey teams of the 1920s and 1930s, ownership of the Davis Tannery and his many volunteer efforts. A huge funeral took place and was attended by large numbers of local citizens.

By the end of 1952, the population had grown to 5,699 and there were 395 businesses registered.

March 1953 marked another Pickering College operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, with a cast of 50 and the Pickering College Glee Club.

On March 19, the grand opening of the York County Magistrate’s Court was held in the town hall on Botsford Street.

A new ratepayers association was officially formed on March 26, 1953.

The Bantam Smoke Eaters won the 1953 Ontario Championship. Members included manager Raymond Croutch, coach Frank Hollingsworth, George Robertson, Dan Patrick, Don Bone, Jack Brooks, Jim McArthur, Barry Cook, Wayne Spence, Francis Lewis, Ken Cassavoy, Brian Million, Bob Keffer, Howard Brice, Don Zogalo, Lorne Babcock, John McGuire, Larry Proctor and Ron Egan.

A chamber of commerce was formed on April 21, 1953, with Alex McKay, manager of the Bank of Toronto named its president.

Harry Beer was named the headmaster of Pickering College in June 1953 succeeding R.E.K. Rourke.

In June 1953, the county received as a gift the former Davis home on Bayview Avenue from the estate. This building was to serve as the new home of the county administration building. This home was previously the Denne estate, which E.J. Davis had purchased when he came to town.

It was in July 1953 that we lost a nearly 50-year fixture on Main Street, Frederick Alexander Bowser. When one researches the history of this town, the Bowser name is displayed prominently in nearly every article over a nearly 50-year period.

It was also in 1953 that there was a passing of the torch at the library when Mrs. Green took over the reigns from Doris Cane as chief librarian.

In 1954, H.M. Gladman was elected mayor. A second librarian, Mrs. Jacques, was added to the staff at the library and the fire department expanded with four full-time firemen, John Gibson the chief, William Dunn the deputy fire chief, Robert Peters second lieutenant and Frank Newton as third lieutenant. There were also 13 volunteer members, including Fred Dillman, Bob McCabe, Ivan Gibson, Joe Peat, Ken Craig, Art Ainsley, Denne Bosworth, Lyle Bond, Reg Wilson, Art Williams, Joe Scott, Clarence Curtis and Frank Prest.

In January, the sports news highlighted a high-scoring unit on the Smoke Rings hockey club made up of Bill Forhan, Bob Wilson and George Chadwick.

The musical rage that January was a high school orchestra called the Manhattans who were performing at the Roxy Theatre and were made up of Harvey Burling and Jim Willis (alto sax), Vic Langford (bass), Doug Hines (drums), Mickey Baker (piano), Rodney West, Bruce Smith and Don Langford (trumpet), and Doug Bilbrough and Don Budd (tenor sax).

Councillor Alex Hands proved a real hero in February 1954 when he was on hand to pull Brian Sisler, a six-year-old, out of a swollen creek near his home on Srigley Street. It was also in February that a new home for the aged was approved for construction on Eagle Street at a cost of $3,164,000. It would have 525 beds and employ a staff of 120 people.

R.W. Jelley moved his plumbing business from Main down to Cedar and Timothy streets in March.

The Riddell Bakery was sold to Russell Broadbent in April 1954. Riddell’s had been in business since May 1927 and were a local fixture. Broadbent’s Bakery would go on to be a fixture on Main well into the future.

Your History Hound was born in April, not exactly a world-shattering event I admit, but an important one for me.

Complaints abound about the lack of traffic lights at the corner of Main and Water and a solution is promised by council.

In July, the fire boxes that had stood for over 40 years were removed. The boxes had originally been approved by council in 1887. Along with the old whistle system at the Office Specialty, the system had served its purpose. The boxes were replaced by a central telephone number that called for residents to dial #100 to report a fire.

July also brought a new subdivision to what was then East Gwillimbury, stretching to the northeast from Davis. It provided 133 new homes for sale for $13,000 and would cover a 65 acres portion of land. One could purchase a building lot for $800.

Col. William Pate Mulock, grandson of Sir William Mulock, died in August at the Mulock estate. He had served as his grandfather did and had become our postmaster general, just like his grandfather.

The new bowling alley on Eagle Street owned by Frederick Counter opened to the public in September 1954.

The year 1954 is probably best remembered, except for the year of my birth, as the year Hurricane Hazel hit the town and caused such devastation throughout the area on Oct. 15. I would recommend reading my article on Hurricane Hazel to get the whole story of its devastation and the consequences of its fury.

There were two new staff members that arrived at Newmarket High that year, Mrs. Burgess who taught history, English and art, and Miss Sinclair, who taught P.E. and English.

In 1955, we still had a ward system made up of St. George’s, St. Andrew’s and St. Patrick’s.

It was the first year that the Literary Society at Newmarket High sponsored a Bill Elliott play, Our Town, of course.

In January 1955, the dam at Fairy Lake was repaired, the cost $30,000.

Dr. Mervyn Peever opened his new office in his residence at Church and Park this month.

Tenders are called for the construction of a new library on Park Avenue. Construction on a new wing at the hospital began in February. This new addition would add 52 beds at a cost of $509,000.

In March, Newmarket held an Easter parade along Main with Mr. and Mrs. Lorne Paynter winning best-dressed couple, Tad Gould best-dressed gentleman and Marg Cullen as best-dressed lady.

In April, Sovereign Chocolates arrived on north Main. A new Bell Telephone building was built on the south side of Millard Avenue, necessitating the removal of three houses. A new service station was also going up on Davis at Main on the southwest corner after the removal of an old house. Household Finance arrived in Newmarket, located near Loblaws on the second floor.

Houses were beginning to appear in all corners of Newmarket, springing up like mushrooms. One area where they were advancing quickly was along Eagle Street headed west toward Yonge Street.

In April 1955, the King George Hotel changed hands when Chester Best purchased it for $85,000.

Another frantic rescue from the pages of the Era occurred in May when Sgt. William Hill rescued three children, Cathy Hogan, Carl Hogan and John Fenley, from Fairy Lake while they were hunting for turtles.

In May, a tender for a new 10-room public school on Queen Street just off Davis, to be named the J.L.R. Bell was accepted by council.

An article in the June edition of the Era details the performance of the Betty Gordon Dance Troop in Mount Albert. Those highlighted for their performance were Gale Wilson, Arlene Simmons, Janet MacNab, Helen Ball, Wayne Greenfield and Doug Sheridan. This group was everywhere in the 1950s.

The Bank of Nova Scotia moved into its ‘new digs’ on Main South in June of this year.

In July, we learn that home mail delivery service is just around the corner for Newmarket and area.

In September, our Newmarket Ladies Softball team capture provincial honours in the Intermediate B category and would become a dynasty in the '50s.

New garbage fees arrive in October, with domestic pickup fees set at 85 cents per month. If you were a business, the fees varied according to whether your garbage as deemed wet or dry with a range of $1.45 to $2.85. Restaurants and food preparation establishments would pay $4.25 a month.

Carol Graham won the County Oratorical Contest in November. November also brought the deaths of several of Newmarket’s leading citizens, including George M. Byers, William John Patterson and Dr. C. Stanley Gilbert.

We have now reached the end of 1955. So many events occurred in these five years that I will switch to five-year timelines instead of 10 years as the series continues.

Remember, you can read about many of these events and personalities in more detail on NewmarketToday.

Sources: 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 NewmarketToday, conducts heritage lectures and walking tours of local interest, and leads local oral history interviews.