Brantford in the 1970s - Post 21

Brantford was no longer a city in transition. Change was well underway. New suburban housing and commercial developments were being built, primarily in the north end. The downtown began its rapid decline as the commercial centre of the City, it would be supplanted by Lynden Park Mall and strip mall developments along King George Road. The manufacturing sector was humming along nicely; there were well paying jobs available for young men right out of high school. The optimism of the decade did not foresee economic events that would culminate in the 1980s that would forever change the City.

Politics / Municipal Affairs

Richard Beckett was mayor between 1961 and 1970. He was followed by Howard Winter in 1971/1972; Winter’s third stint as mayor. Charles Bowen was mayor between 1973 and 1980. Mayors and Aldermen served two-year terms. The term Alderman was replaced by Councillor in 1999.

 Richard Beckett (1919 - 1983) served as Mayor of Brantford from 1961 to 1970. Before that he served 5 years as Alderman beginning in 1953. He was the Progressive Conservative MPP for the riding of Brantford from 1971 to 1975.  Howard Winter (1907 - 1997) was active in municipal politics for 28 years beginning in 1944 when he was elected as Alderman for Ward 5. He served as Mayor three times, between 1950 and 1953, in 1956, and from 1971 to 1972.  Charles Bowen (1923 - 1992) served as Mayor of Brantford from 1973 to 1980. He was first elected to council in 1963 as Alderman for Ward 5. Bowen was re-elected to council in 1988 and served a final there year term.  Images courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Richard Beckett (1919 - 1983) served as Mayor of Brantford from 1961 to 1970. Before that he served 5 years as Alderman beginning in 1953. He was the Progressive Conservative MPP for the riding of Brantford from 1971 to 1975.

Howard Winter (1907 - 1997) was active in municipal politics for 28 years beginning in 1944 when he was elected as Alderman for Ward 5. He served as Mayor three times, between 1950 and 1953, in 1956, and from 1971 to 1972.

Charles Bowen (1923 - 1992) served as Mayor of Brantford from 1973 to 1980. He was first elected to council in 1963 as Alderman for Ward 5. Bowen was re-elected to council in 1988 and served a final there year term. Images courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The NDP tried to introduce party politics in the 1970 municipal election by running a slate of candidates, in order to remove the clique they felt ran the City. All the NDP candidates were defeated.

Derek Blackburn was elected Member of Parliament in the 1971 Federal election representing the NDP. It was the third time he contested the riding. Blackburn served in the House of Commons for 22 consecutive years.

 Derek Blackburn (1934 - 2017) was the New Democratic Party MP for the federal riding of Brant from 1971 to 1993. Born in Sault Ste. Marie and raised in Stratford, Blackburn was a teacher at Paris District High School before he became MP.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Derek Blackburn (1934 - 2017) was the New Democratic Party MP for the federal riding of Brant from 1971 to 1993. Born in Sault Ste. Marie and raised in Stratford, Blackburn was a teacher at Paris District High School before he became MP. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Provincially, Mac Makarchuk of the NDP represented Brantford between 1967 and 1971. Makarchuk was defeated by Richard Beckett, the former mayor, in the 1971 election. Makarchuk defeated Beckett in the 1975 election and won the 1977 election.

 Mac Makarchuk (born 1931) was the New Democratic Party MPP for the riding of Brantford from 1967 to 1971 and from 1975 to 1981. Before he became MPP Makarchuk was a journalist for the Brantford Expositor. He was elected to City Council in 1972 and again in 1982. In 1959 Makarchuk offered to underwrite a national championship for Canadian university hockey but his offer was rejected by the eastern champion University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Ultimately the University Cup was established in 1963.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Mac Makarchuk (born 1931) was the New Democratic Party MPP for the riding of Brantford from 1967 to 1971 and from 1975 to 1981. Before he became MPP Makarchuk was a journalist for the Brantford Expositor. He was elected to City Council in 1972 and again in 1982. In 1959 Makarchuk offered to underwrite a national championship for Canadian university hockey but his offer was rejected by the eastern champion University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Ultimately the University Cup was established in 1963. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1970, a local group proposed opening another radio station in Brantford to break the CKPC monopoly. Surprisingly it was CKFH in Toronto that thwarted the bid because CKFH wanted to increase its power and the new Brantford station’s frequency would interfere with those plans. The CRTC sided with CKFH. CKFH is now known as CJCL, The Fan 590.

The St. Leonard’s Society established a half-way house for men released from jail in 1971. The house was located on Elgin Street. In 1979 the Society opened the St. Leonard’s Pallet Company to provide employment and job skills training for offenders and other employment-disadvantaged persons. The services provided by St. Leonard’s has continued to expand. In 2002 the agency was renamed St. Leonard’s Community Services and the Pallet Company was closed.

The need for housing for seniors continued to grow. Lorne Towers in West Brant, a 159-unit high-rise opened in 1972. Brant Towers, adjacent to Lorne Towers, a 200-unit high-rise, opened in 1975. In 1972 an apartment hotel for seniors able to live independently, at the corner of Charlotte and Darling Streets, was approved by the City. This is the site of Charlotte Villa.

 Royal Visit. Between 25-June-1973 and 5-July-1973 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip toured Canada, visiting Prince Edward Island on the centenary of PEI’s entry into Confederation, the tercentenary of Kingston which was established as Fort Cataraqui in 1673, and Regina, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the RCMP. On 28-June-1973 the train carrying the Queen and Prince passed through Brantford. The train did not make a stop in Brantford.

Royal Visit. Between 25-June-1973 and 5-July-1973 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip toured Canada, visiting Prince Edward Island on the centenary of PEI’s entry into Confederation, the tercentenary of Kingston which was established as Fort Cataraqui in 1673, and Regina, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the RCMP. On 28-June-1973 the train carrying the Queen and Prince passed through Brantford. The train did not make a stop in Brantford.

In 1973, the City was twinned with Osijek, Yugoslavia as part of the World Federalists Movement - Canada’s mundialisation programme, conceived to promote peace and order in the world. A number of visits and exchanges were held between the two cities but the initiative came to an end by the end of the decade due to rising tensions between Croatia and the Yugoslavian republic.

A flag committee was formed in 1974 to invite entries from the public for the creation of a City flag to mark the City’s centennial in 1977. Entries were received primarily from school children which was disappointing to the committee, who had hoped to engage all local citizens. The design selected was criticised and panned by the community. A new design was developed based on the Canadian flag in 1975. The revised design was formally dedicated on 15-March-1976.

 City of Brantford Flag - First Draft. This design was selected by the flag committee but was criticised by flag experts and panned by the community.

City of Brantford Flag - First Draft. This design was selected by the flag committee but was criticised by flag experts and panned by the community.

 City of Brantford Flag - Approved Design. After the original design was rejected by the community, this design was developed with input from flag design experts. The flag was formally dedicated on 15-March-1976.

City of Brantford Flag - Approved Design. After the original design was rejected by the community, this design was developed with input from flag design experts. The flag was formally dedicated on 15-March-1976.

In May 1974, an unexpected flood along the Grand River caused over $1 million dollars in damage in the City. Flood waters breached the dikes and flooded the water treatment plant damaging the pump generators resulting in the issuing of a boil water advisory for three days.

In 1974, Council approved plans to establish a City-run day care centre at Greenwood Park. The daycare centre, now known as the Beryl Angus Municipal Children’s Centre opened in 1976. City Council voted in May-2017 to close the daycare centre. It was the only municipally-run daycare in the County.

In 1974 Colborne Street was reworked and widened and Pauline Johnson Drive was eliminated.

Rumours in 1975 that Council was preparing to remove the chip wagons from Market Square caused the formation of a Save Our Chip Wagons Committee and the circulation of a petition. Alas, the rumours were unfounded.

Library services were provided at the Carnegie Building downtown. This facility was inadequate to meet the needs of the citizens; it simply wasn’t big enough. In 1975, the St. Paul Avenue branch was opened to serve the north end of the City. In a 1979 report to Council, three alternatives to provide better library services were made: build a new library, expand the current library, or split services between two locations. A new main library would finally open in 1992.

 City of Brantford Flag - Approved Design. After the original design was rejected by the community, this design was developed with input from flag design experts. The flag was formally dedicated on 15-March-1976.

City of Brantford Flag - Approved Design. After the original design was rejected by the community, this design was developed with input from flag design experts. The flag was formally dedicated on 15-March-1976.

Operation Lift, now called Brantford Lift, was established in 1976 to provide transportation for those experiencing physical difficulty to get around the city. 

The intersection at Brant and St. Paul Avenues was reengineered to provide acoustic and tactile feedback for the blind, the first of its kind in North America. Audio alerts signalled when to cross the intersection and a concrete textured sidewalk with grooves for a cane were installed.

 Cockshutt Bridge - On 3-December-1976 the present Cockshutt Bridge over the Grand River was opened. The bridge connects Erie Avenue in Brantford with the Cockshutt Road in the county. It is the eighth bridge built at this location. Ignatius Cockshutt built the first bridge in 1856. The need to replace the bridge became urgent when the Ontario Provincial Police declared in 1974 that the 1932 bridge was unsound and would not allow their officers to use the bridge.

Cockshutt Bridge - On 3-December-1976 the present Cockshutt Bridge over the Grand River was opened. The bridge connects Erie Avenue in Brantford with the Cockshutt Road in the county. It is the eighth bridge built at this location. Ignatius Cockshutt built the first bridge in 1856. The need to replace the bridge became urgent when the Ontario Provincial Police declared in 1974 that the 1932 bridge was unsound and would not allow their officers to use the bridge.

In 1977, City Council formed a Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee to identify heritage buildings in Brantford and prepare a list of buildings worthy of protection. This was in response to the demolition of the fire ravaged Hotel Kerby in 1976 despite protests from the cultural and heritage community.

In 1977, City Council introduced a by-law to regulate smoking in public places. Downtown merchants opposed the by-law for fear of losing customers to the suburban malls where they had space to create smoking areas. Council abandoned the initiative because of concerns over enforcement of the by-law.

Between 1972 and 1977 the local United Way campaign was the first in the country to achieve its fund-raising goal for five out of the six years.

In 1979, Council approved the closing of Grand River Avenue. This was done in conjunction with the rebuilding of the Lorne Bridge and the development of the Ring Road, now Icomm Drive. This closing forced traffic from North Ward and Holmedale onto Brant Avenue to access the downtown, West Brant, and Eagle Place.

Regional Government

Brantford’s future was dependent on growth and growth meant expanding the city. Brantford’s last major expansion occurred in 1955. Since that time two small pieces were added to the City; Northridge Golf Course in 1960 (136 acres), and the Cedarland Park area in 1966, bounded roughly by Memorial Drive, Dunsdon Street, Greenfield Road, and Ashgrove Avenue (193 acres).

Surrounding counties (Waterloo, Wentworth, Haldimand, and Norfolk) were adopting regional governments and there was pressure on Brant County to either join one of these new areas or remain independent. A 1973 report commissioned by the City recommended a one-tier system, the province recommended a two-tier single county with Brantford holding the majority of the votes. The County favoured a two-tier system that would include Haldimand County and most of Norfolk County. The Civic Administration Board called for the amalgamation of the City of Brantford with Brantford Township in 1973 and the Brant Area Local Government Review Committee recommended a one-tier or modified two-tier system. None of these recommendations gained any traction. Tension between the City and Township centred around commercial development in the Township that threatened the viability of the downtown. In 1974, the City annexed 1,487 acres from the Township. This area included Brantwood Park and Lynden Hills Estates. In 1978, the City sought to annex another 5,400 acres from the Township. Annexation talks continued into the early 1980s.

Brantford Expressway / Highway 403

The Brantford Expressway, first conceived in 1958, was to become Brantford’s Conestoga Expressway (Kitchener-Waterloo) or EC Row Expressway (Windsor), connecting West Brant to Highway 403. The first section of this road between Mount Pleasant Street and Ontario Street finally got underway in 1971. This road included a bridge over the Grand River. It was opened to traffic in 1972. The next section was supposed to be four-lane section between Ontario Street and Lynwood Drive. A citizen’s group was formed to oppose this section because they felt the route was ill-planned, costly, and environmentally unsound. The Six Nations objected to the route because it ran across the Glebe property behind Pauline Johnson Collegiate. In 1973, the province decided to reduce the road to a two-lane arterial road. As the debate raged on, this section did not get built; in fact, it’s still not built. By 1976 the roadway was called the Brantford Southern Access Road, commonly referred to as the BSAR. Today the portion between Powerline Road and Colborne Street is called the Wayne Gretzky Parkway and the portion between Erie Avenue and Colborne Street West is called the Veterans Memorial Parkway.

Highway 403 was still simply a bypass of the City. It was not connected at either end to another 400 series highway. Travellers still needed to use Highway 2 and 53 to travel east and Highway 2 or Highway 53 to travel west of town. Highway 2 and 53 east of the City was very busy. The completion of Highway 403 was vital to the economic development of the City. Highways had replaced the railways as the economic lifelines of cities and towns. Highway 403 was designated by the province as a top priority since 1968 but no extensions east or west were built during the 1970s. Note that the provincial representative for Brantford at Queen’s Park for seven years of the decade was not a member of the ruling government.

Downtown

A new official city plan was received in March 1970, a replacement of the 1951 official plan. The state of the downtown core and what to do about the Market Square dominated the discussions at City Hall. Mayor Richard Beckett suggested forging ahead with downtown revitalisation even without the support of federal or provincial money. As a first step, Beckett advocated for the construction of a parking garage to address the issue of inadequate parking. The block bounded by Market, Dalhousie, Queen, and Colborne Streets was the suggested location of the parking garage. This suggestion was supported by the downtown merchants. How would the downtown have fared if parking were available in the centre of the core rather than behind the downtown on the former canal basin?

A looming threat to the downtown core as the main shopping district of the City was the announcement of plans in 1970 to build two shopping malls in the north end of the City. One proposal was to convert the Brantford Plaza, anchored by Woolco, to an enclosed shopping mall. The other proposal was for the development of what would become Lynden Park Mall, at Park Road North and Lynden Road, with K-Mart and Simpson’s as the anchor stores. Development of the Market Square before the new malls were built was deemed essential if the downtown was to remain a viable shopping and commercial district.

In October 1972, Humber Oak Corporation presented a proposal to City Council for a development that was to include a department store, supermarket, banks, offices, shops, a restaurant, and parking for 180 cars. The downtown merchants opposed the plan as presented because it lacked two essential elements: a hotel and a high-rise apartment complex; there needed to be a resident population so the downtown would remain an active space. Despite these concerns, the City agreed to lease the square to the company in July 1973. The company expected the development, anchored by a Metropolitan store, to be ready by August 1974. In June 1974, plans were scaled back as Metropolitan had pulled out and the company could not arrange financing. A curse had been placed on development of the Market Square by a Six Nations medicine woman in 1904. According to the Six Nations, Market Square was to always remain a public space with a farmers’ market. Private development of the Square conflicted with this cherished belief. This curse was renewed by clan mother Alma Green in 1974. By the end of 1974, development plans had been halted.

Local industry saw the state of the downtown as an impediment to attracting talent to the City. When local companies toured prospective employees around Brantford, after the tour ventured downtown, the question “How far away is Burlington?” was often asked. Burlington was considered a more desirable place to live. Downtown was seen by many residents to be a scary place.

A pedestrian mall was attempted during the summer of 1974, but it too was a bust, since it only exacerbated the parking problem by removing parking along the mall portion of Colborne Street.

 Colborne Street Mall - summer of 1974. This is east end of the mall at Market Street.

Colborne Street Mall - summer of 1974. This is east end of the mall at Market Street.

A 1975 development proposal failed due to financing issues. In 1977, two proposals were received by the City and council accepted the proposal from Brantford-based, Homestead Projects. Homestead proposed developing Market Square and the area around the square, as well as constructing a parking garage. Their parking garage would necessitate the closing of Market Street. This project received monetary support from the province. The project had its detractors: Alma Green renewed the curse yet again, Eagle Place residents opposed the closing of Market Street, heritage advocates worried about the fate of heritage buildings and some downtown merchants objected to the plan. To add further insult, a Toronto-area planner commented that the downtown looks like a slum and that no knowledgeable major developer would invest in it. An agreement was signed between the City and Homestead in June 1979. Homestead struggled to get the project underway on their own. In October, Homestead announced that Campeau Corporation, one the Canada’s biggest real estate firms, would become a partner. In November, Eaton’s agreed to be a part of the development. Homestead and Campeau could not agree on the terms of their partnership. Homestead found a new partner and Campeau and Eaton proposed to continue to work together. The City opted for the Campeau/Eaton consortium.

The Brantford Downtown Association was replaced with the Business Improvement Area in December 1977. A Business Improvement Area permits the City to levy an improvement tax on downtown businesses. The tax is used to improve the area and promote the downtown as a destination.

Moving traffic through the downtown core was still a problem. Improving traffic flow through the downtown would require the phasing out of on-street parking in the core and the synchronisation of the traffic lights. More off-street parking would be needed to replace the lost on-street spots. The purchase of the Forbes Brothers car dealership property at Darling and Queen Streets in 1972 was in response to the need for additional off-street parking. It took the City until 1978 to conclude an agreement with the Ministry of Transportation to synchronise the downtown traffic lights. Dalhousie and Colborne Streets were part of Highways 2 and 53 through the City.

 Intersection of Brant Avenue and Colborne Street. Bridge Street was open to connect Dalhousie Street traffic to Colborne Street and the Lorne Bridge. Grand River Avenue was open and connected to Greenwich Street, across the bottom go the picture. Weston’s Candies was still in business, until 1976. The Forbes Brothers sign was a landmark at the intersection. ( Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society )

Intersection of Brant Avenue and Colborne Street. Bridge Street was open to connect Dalhousie Street traffic to Colborne Street and the Lorne Bridge. Grand River Avenue was open and connected to Greenwich Street, across the bottom go the picture. Weston’s Candies was still in business, until 1976. The Forbes Brothers sign was a landmark at the intersection. (Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society)

Fire

Fires continued to plague the downtown. A fire on 11-January-1970 damaged six businesses at the corner of George and Dalhousie Streets: Miller and Miller law offices, Varga and Frank realtors, Ideal Cleaners, OK Shoe Store, Rainbow Fabrics, and Karek's Food Specialities. All available fire trucks were needed, and off duty firefighters were called in to fight the blaze.

On 27-September-1972, a fire destroyed the Brantford Clinic, located at 54 Brant Avenue. The rear portion of the building and medical equipment was lost. This is now known as the Central Professional Building.

The Formpac fire, 36 Morton Avenue East, on 6-November-1973 destroyed the factory and warehouse costing the city 200 jobs. It was Brantford’s most costly fire to that time with the loss estimated at between $4 and $5 million. The plant was built by Grace Containers and opened in 1964. The name of the company changed to Formpac on 1-April-1971. Formpac made foam meat trays and egg cartons. Formpac did not rebuild the plant.

A fire destroyed the Belmont Hotel, 155-159 Colborne Street, on 29-May-1974. The Belmont was built around 1860. It housed 44 tenants at the time. The hotel was not rebuilt and the property remained vacant until Massey House was built in 1980.

 Belmont Hotel fire, 29-May-1974. The site would remain vacant until Massey House, now Laurier’s Grand River Hall, was built in 1980.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Belmont Hotel fire, 29-May-1974. The site would remain vacant until Massey House, now Laurier’s Grand River Hall, was built in 1980. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Squires Court at 97-99 Dalhousie Street, now a Laurier academic building, caught fire during the early morning hours of 15-October-1975. The hotel was built in the 1890s and opened as the Woodbine Hotel. In 1914, the name was changed to The Strand Hotel. It became the Squires Court in the early 1970s. One person died in the fire. Two months after this fire, on 29-December-1975 fire destroyed three businesses a few doors west of the Squires Court; B.B. Submarine, Beauty of India, and Brunswick Billiards. Pauwels Travel and the Brass Monkey again suffered damage. Fire broke out twice in 10 weeks on either side of these two businesses.

On 14-February-1976, a fire destroyed the building and five businesses at the corner of Dalhousie and King Streets: Mike’s Camera Shop, Mr. Tony’s Hair Stylist, Tuxedo Corner, Brant Art Shoes, and the Sub Tub. This building housed Lough’s Drug Store on the corner since 1931. Lough’s closed in 1975.

 Lough Block fire, 14-February-1976. Dalhousie and King Streets. The site remains vacant.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Lough Block fire, 14-February-1976. Dalhousie and King Streets. The site remains vacant. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Hotel Kerby, at the corner of Colborne and George Streets, burned on 29-July-1976, and shortly thereafter the building was razed because of the structural damage sustained during the fire. The Kerby was once Brantford’s pre-eminent hotel and the largest hotel in Canada West when it opened on 24-Aug-1854. The hotel was closed between 1858 and 1865 and then became a barracks for the local militia. In 1872, J.C. Palmer bought and reopened the hotel.

On 31-August-1976, the vacant former H.E. Mott factory was destroyed in less than an hour. The building, located on the east side of Clarence Street between Wellington and Nelson Streets, was originally occupied by the Verity Plow Company, then later by Goold, Shapley, and Muir. Mott bought the building in 1934 and operated there until they moved to a new factory on Wadsworth Street in 1958.

A fire on 14-December-1978 damaged the business of Brant Screencraft, located at 1 Alfred Street, in the former Bixel Brewery building.

Police

The 1970s was a tumultuous time for the Police Department. There was division between duty officers and supervisory officers. In addition, the cost of policing and officer pay provided The Expositor with plenty of stories throughout the decade. In 1971, the police commission recommended up to a twenty percent pay raise in order to bring Brantford police salaries in line with other Ontario departments of comparable size. By 1974, the cost of policing was estimated to be four times higher than 1964. A 1976 pay increase for police resulted in a doubling of salary for police officers in six years. A 1977 report by the Ontario Police Commission revealed that policing costs in Brantford were now 25 percent higher than other Ontario cities, a dramatic change from the pay situation in 1971.

In 1971, Brantford Police formed their first Emergency Response Team.

In 1972, the thin red hat band was added. Almost all municipal forces in Ontario used the thin red band to differentiate  municipal forces from the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP. In August-1972 a computer was installed and connected to the Canadian Police Information Centre in Ottawa. Brantford was the 30th centre in Ontario to do so. Initially this allowed the police to do motor vehicle checks but eventually was expanded to provide information concerning people, criminal records, gun, and stolen property. The Volkswagen Beetle, colloquially called the VW “bug”, was introduced to the police’s fleet for patrol purposes.

 Brantford Police Department’s new 1972 Volkswagen Beetles patrol vehicles.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brantford Police Department’s new 1972 Volkswagen Beetles patrol vehicles. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1976 a police motorcycle was reintroduced into service. The use of motorcycles was eliminated in 1973 due to noise issues. The 1976 model was quieter.

Industry

As the 1970s began the local economy was stagnant. Population growth was slow and unemployment levels were high. Brantford was added to the provincial government’s list of slow growth areas making it eligible for provincial loans for new businesses and local business expansion. The City also became eligible for federal Local Initiative Programme grants. These programmes had the desired effect. Massey-Ferguson bought 187 acres between Henry Street and Highway 403 to double their land holdings. Keep Rite, G.W.G., Sonoco, S.C. Johnson, Gates Rubber, Hussman, and Crown Electric all undertook major plant expansions. By 1973, the unemployment rate had been reduced to 5 percent from 10 percent in 1970, one of the best rates in the country.

Massey-Ferguson announced an expansion in late 1973 that would create 600 new jobs and announced another expansion in 1975. White Farm announced an expansion in 1974 which demonstrated its commitment to the City. In 1977, Harding Carpets and Inmont announced increases to their plant’s capacities.

The growth created demand for more land for housing and industry. The Easton Road, Copernicus Boulevard, Dalkeith Drive area was set aside for industry rather than housing in 1975, because the City’s supply of available vacant industrial lands was virtually used up.

Offsetting some of the employment gains were factory closures. Canadian Westinghouse closed their television plant on Greenwich Street in 1971 costing 250 jobs. Strikes in 1969 and 1970 and a rising Canadian dollar were cited as the reasons for the closure. Sterling Action and Keys also closed in 1971 because of Japanese competition. In 1972, National Grocers closed their Brantford operation. Brantford Cordage, Canada’s largest rope and twine maker also closed in 1972 after 70 years in business because of tariff reductions on incoming rope and twine. In 1975, Weston Foods closed the Paterson candy factory on Colborne Street because the factory was obsolete resulting in 165 jobs lost.

 Brantford Carriage / Bay State Abrasives Factories 1976 - Brantford Carriage Company (left foreground) opened this factory on Pearl Street in 1888. The company was acquired by the Cockshutt Plow Company in 1911. By the late 1940s this factory had become a parts warehouse for the Cockshutt Plow Company. The building was demolished in 1984 because it was structurally unsound. White Farm Equipment declared bankruptcy in 1985. Saorsie Co-operative Homes now occupies the site. This redevelopment started in 1989. Bay State Abrasives (right building) began at this location as Brantford Emery Wheel Company in 1910. It became the Brantford Grinding Wheel Company in 1920. Bay State Abrasive acquired the factory in 1939. The factory was closed in 1989 by Florida-based Abrasive Industries when production was moved to the U.S.  I  mage courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brantford Carriage / Bay State Abrasives Factories 1976 - Brantford Carriage Company (left foreground) opened this factory on Pearl Street in 1888. The company was acquired by the Cockshutt Plow Company in 1911. By the late 1940s this factory had become a parts warehouse for the Cockshutt Plow Company. The building was demolished in 1984 because it was structurally unsound. White Farm Equipment declared bankruptcy in 1985. Saorsie Co-operative Homes now occupies the site. This redevelopment started in 1989. Bay State Abrasives (right building) began at this location as Brantford Emery Wheel Company in 1910. It became the Brantford Grinding Wheel Company in 1920. Bay State Abrasive acquired the factory in 1939. The factory was closed in 1989 by Florida-based Abrasive Industries when production was moved to the U.S. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Labour

Labour unrest continued into the 1970s. The Texpack strike, which began on 16-July-1971, when 200 Canadian Textile and Chemical Union workers set up picket lines, was the most notorious. Texpack was a manufacturer of hospital supplies. The union was seeking a 35 cents an hour wage increase, a cost of living allowance, improved welfare provisions and vacation and statutory holiday pay improvements. The plant continued production, bringing in replacement workers from Hamilton. The strikers attempted to stop the shipment of goods into and out of the plant and prevent the replacement workers from entering the property. Windshields were shattered, factory windows broken, fire bombs were thrown, threats were made against the replacement workers, and gun shots were fired. The Police were called to escort office workers into the plant. Determined to break the strike, the company resorted to recalling laid off workers and advertising for permanent replacement workers. Violence on the picket line escalated. An injunction was issued to limit the number of picketers. The struggle and violence by the strikers against the company was reported daily by The Expositor and CHCH-TV in Hamilton. On 25-August-1971, what started out as a peaceful demonstration of 700 people turned ugly, with even firefighters being pelted with stones when they tried to put out a fire started by the demonstrators. The next day the police’s riot squad was called out for the first time because of continuing violence at the plant. On 3-September the Police ended their escort protection for buses entering the plant citing escalating costs and the diversion of police from elsewhere in the City. On 18-October the workers voted 102 to 19 to accept a new contract.

In 1971 there was a two-month strike at Watson Manufacturing, a six-week strike at Trailmobile, and a five-week walk out at Gates Rubber.

Workers at Massey-Ferguson struck four times in six years between 1968 and 1974; a seven-week strike in 1972 was followed by another strike in 1974. White Farm workers went on a six-day strike in 1977, the first strike at the company since it opened in 1877.

In November 1979, elementary teachers of the Brant County Board of Education went on strike, claiming they were the lowest paid teachers in the province. This was the first time teachers went on strike in the county. Parents pressured the two sides to negotiate and the strike ended after 21 days.

Education

In 1972, the Brant County Board of Education decided to close a number of aging elementary schools because of the high cost of renovations to bring them up to contemporary standards. New schools in the north end were built but there was still an imbalance regarding enrolment and overcrowding. Portable classrooms were added to the most overcrowded schools and children were bused to other areas of town where schools were below capacity. Cedarland Public School, 60 Ashgrove Avenue, opened in 1977 and was immediately over capacity.

A mini theatre and new classrooms were added to North Park Collegiate in 1971. A new library and resource centre was added to Brantford Collegiate Institute in 1973. In 1974, the semester system was introduced to North Park Collegiate and Pauline Johnson Collegiate. This meant students took up to four courses for a semester rather than up to eight courses all year long. North Park Collegiate introduced an innovative twist; rather than four 75 minute periods a day, North Park had five periods a day, a 75 minute period in the morning, followed by a 45 minute period, and then a 60 minute period. After lunch there was a 75 minute period and a 45 minute period, which was the same subject as the morning 45 minute period. Every day the subjects moved by one period so each week a student experienced each course at a different time of the day for different lengths of time each day.

In 1978 French immersion was introduced by the Brant County Board of Education. French immersion started with kindergarten and grade 1 at Dufferin School. By 1987, the school was completely French immersion and was renamed École Dufferin.

The Andrew Donaldson Development Centre opened in 1973; a facility for children with cognitive and physical disabilities). The Lansdowne Children Centre also opened in 1973 with the move of the Brant County Cerebral Palsy Centre to Lansdowne School. It was designed to assist in the integration of physically disabled children into local schools.

A study commissioned in 1970 by the Brantford Regional Board of Trade confirmed the need for both a university and college of applied arts and technology in the City. The lack of higher education opportunities was a factor in the slowing of economic growth in the area. In 1971, the provincial commission on post-secondary education recommended a satellite university campus be established in the City. A local committee looked at establishing a variety of courses in town offered by a consortium of area universities. The consortium idea proved unworkable when trying to reconcile all the requirements of each institution regarding fees, course content, and transfer of credits. Mohawk established a satellite campus in the Braneida Industrial Park in 1973. This campus was closed in 2013 and Mohawk withdrew all programming in Brantford in 2014.

The Ontario School for the Blinded celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1972. The new senior school complex was opened in 1973. In 1974, the school was renamed the W. Ross Macdonald School. Macdonald was a long time Liberal Member of Parliament and Senator. He served in the House of Commons from 1935 to 1953. He served in the Senate from 1953 until 1967. He was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1949 to 1953. Macdonald was leader of the government in the Senate from 1953 to 1957 and 1963 to 1964. He was leader of the opposition in the Senate from 1957 until 1963. Macdonald served as Ontario’s 21st Lieutenant Governor from 1968 to 1974.

 W Ross Macdonald - Macdonald served in the House of Commons from 1935 to 1953. He served in the Senate from 1953 until 1967. He was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1949 to 1953. Macdonald was leader of the government in the Senate from 1953 to 1957 and 1963 to 1964. He was leader of the opposition in the Senate from 1957 until 1963. Macdonald served as Ontario’s 21st Lieutenant Governor from 1968 to 1974.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

W Ross Macdonald - Macdonald served in the House of Commons from 1935 to 1953. He served in the Senate from 1953 until 1967. He was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1949 to 1953. Macdonald was leader of the government in the Senate from 1953 to 1957 and 1963 to 1964. He was leader of the opposition in the Senate from 1957 until 1963. Macdonald served as Ontario’s 21st Lieutenant Governor from 1968 to 1974. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Mohawk Institute, an Indian residential school, closed in 1970. In 1973, the Woodland Cultural Centre was created at the former school to be a resource and research facility for the heritage and culture of the Woodlands people. The Centre also included a museum that would collect and display native/Indigenous artefacts.

Health and Wellness

The Brantford General Hospital’s School of Nursing, established in 1912, was transferred to Mohawk College in 1973. The hospital turned four floors of the nurses’ residence into a community centre for mental health patients.

The Fire Department transferred operation of the ambulance service, a service it had operated for 60 years, to a private operator from Hamilton.

In 1979, the Minister of Health asked the Brantford General Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital to submit a plans to rationalise services and reduce costs; this included cutting the number of active care beds. The hospital rationalisation committee recommended transforming St. Joseph Hospital into a chronic care and rehabilitative centre and closing the Emergency Department. The St. Joseph Board rejected this proposal. Both hospitals did agree to reduce the number of active care beds. As negotiations between the two hospitals dragged on, the Ministry of Health moved to impose its preferred solution on the hospitals, and the community.

Celebrations

Brantford celebrated two 100-year anniversaries in the 1970s. The Brant Bell Centennial commemorated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in Brantford in 1874. In 1977, the City celebrated the 100th anniversary of its incorporation as a city. Both events were moderately successful and occurred despite organisational disarray, a lack of cooperation between groups, and late planning for the various organised events.

 Brant Bell Centennial Logo.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brant Bell Centennial Logo. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Ideas for the Bell Centennial began in 1969 but by 1972 no firm plans or committee to lead the celebration were in place. A wide range of ideas were proposed for activities and memorials: an arts centre, a production on the banks of the Grand River involving a cast of 50,000, a world-wide telephone bill lottery, a musical production, and a parade. The marquee exhibit was to be the Telescience 100, a portable hands-on exhibit of telephone equipment, that would be housed in a temporary geodesic dome located in the Darling Street parking lot downtown. The plan was to have this exhibit tour Canada after the summer of 1974 and then end up in a permanent purpose-built museum in the City. A massive two-and-a-half-hour parade with 10,000 participants was one of the highlights of the year. An original musical, celebrating the history of the City and Bell, was performed in the rotunda of City Hall. The International Villages Festival, celebrating Brantford’s cultural diversity, was launched as part of the Bell Centennial festivities. The idea of creating a national telecommunications museum to highlight the past, present, and future of telecommunications was first raised by the Bell Homestead Committee in 1974.

For the City’s centennial celebration, promoter Arthur J. Kelly suggested creating an historical extravaganza on Kerby Island in the middle of Grand River. Kelly said his production would make Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments look like a Sunday School pageant. Kelly successfully organised Brantford’s 1967 and 1974 parades. The year also included a civic party on 31-May-1977, featuring a 190-foot birthday cake; a parade and picnic; and a musical production that paid tribute to the working men of Brantford.

 Molson Canadian beer bottle promoting Homecoming Week during the Brantford Centennial.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Molson Canadian beer bottle promoting Homecoming Week during the Brantford Centennial. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Arts and Culture

It turned out that the new Civic Centre was not an ideal venue for the performing arts or cultural events, so the community again focused on developing a space for arts and culture events.

ArtsPlace opened in 1972 in the Temple Building, on Dalhousie Street next to the Post Office. It was Brantford’s second art gallery. A 1973 consultant’s report prepared for the Art Gallery of Brant identified the need for an arts centre, ideally located downtown. The report suggested an arts complex could be the City’s centennial project. The complex could be centred around the Capitol Theatre, now the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts, and would require, in addition to the existing theatre, a 550 seat studio theatre, a 25,000 square foot visual-arts centre, and convention and meeting rooms for 200 people. City Council’s Executive Committee approved the idea as a centennial project. In 1975, the City began negotiations with Famous Players to purchase the theatre. The asking price of $1.2 million was too high for City Council. An independent group representing a number of local organisations began a campaign to raise money to buy the building. Enter Arthur J. Kelly with an ambitious plan to raise the money to buy the theatre.

 Arts Place by the Art Gallery of Brant that brought an art gallery and art classes to the downtown.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Arts Place by the Art Gallery of Brant that brought an art gallery and art classes to the downtown. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1978, Kelly convinced Famous Players to give him a year to raise the money. Kelly’s plan included a $5.20 levy on each person in the community and a two-day annual festival on the banks of the Grand River, featuring a symphony orchestra on the first night and a rock band on the second night. Kelly then organised a concert for Kerby Island, in the middle of the Grand River, for August 1978 featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler. Kelly hoped the concert would attract 70,000 people. However, ticket sales were slow and Kelly struggle to make even a meagre pre-payment of the orchestra’s US$66,000 fee in July. The orchestra was caught up in the novelty of the event and worked with Kelly even though the finances were looking grim. The show went on and was watched by an estimated 20,000 people. Tickets were priced at $5.20 per person, but only about 11,000 tickets were sold. Because the concert took place in the middle of the river there was no way to control who got to see the show and if they had a ticket or not; people simply watched from the banks on either side of the river. The concert reportedly loss about $40,000. A lawsuit was launched by the orchestra for payment of services rendered. The lawsuit named Kelly, the City, the mayor, and an alderman. Kelly always acknowledged that the debt to the orchestra was his, and his alone. The case was settled out of court in 1981.

In 1978, the National Museums of Canada rekindled discussions of building a telecommunications museum and in 1979 the Secretary of State made a $20,000 grant available to study the idea. The thought was this museum could draw up to 300,000 people a year. It was estimated to cost $9.1 million and could open in 1982. However, interest from the telecommunications industry was tepid and contributions from the industry was an important aspect of funding, so plans were shelved.

Movies

A few movies were filmed in the Brantford in the 1970s. The Hard Part Begins, directed by Paul Lynch and starring Donnelly Rhodes was filmed here in 1973. It was released in 1974. In 1977 Paul Lynch was back in town filming Blood & Guts, starring William Smith and Henry Beckman. Both of these films are catagorised as Canadian loser films, where the hero doesn’t get the girl. Both films pop up on television from time-to-time. Another film I seem to remember but cannot find anything on was The Stranger, made about 1978.

Sports and Recreation

In July 1971, the National Hikers and Campers Association held their 12th annual and first international campvention at the newly developed 435-acre Brant Park. 30,000 campers from across North America descended on Brantford. Brant Park became a city within a city.

 National Campers and Hikers Association Campvention, Brant Park, 11-July-1971.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

National Campers and Hikers Association Campvention, Brant Park, 11-July-1971. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

A new Lions Park was developed in West Brant on 33 acres of land at Gilkison and Edge Streets. The new park included an arena, a running track, and playing fields. The new park was to replace the old Lions Park at Market and Ontario Streets because the new Brantford Southern Access Road bridge was built on a portion of the old Lions Park lands. The new arena opened in December 1971. A second ice-surface was added to the North Park Arena and the facility was renamed the North Park Recreation Centre. The second arena opened in 1972. The complex was renamed the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in 1982.

To this time, the City only had one indoor public swimming pool, at the YM-YWCA at Queen and Darling Streets. To address the need for a second indoor pool the North Park Aquatic Centre was built, and opened in 1974. It was an eight-lane, 65-metre Olympic sized pool and diving facility, built adjacent to the North Park Arenas. The complex hosted the 1975 Canadian National Diving Championship, a testament to the quality of the facility.

 Aquatic Centre. Construction of the Aquatic Centre, 6-November-1973.

Aquatic Centre. Construction of the Aquatic Centre, 6-November-1973.

Discussions regarding the revival of Mohawk Park continued. The condition of the lake remained the major stumbling block. A 1975 report recommended making the park a day-use park that would include pools, playground equipment, an amphitheatre or a pavilion. The public felt differently and wanted the park rehabilitated but left in as natural a state as possible.

The Brantford Braves won three Ontario Baseball Association championships: 1970 (the City’s first in 35 years), 1975, and 1976.

In 1971, the Brantford Warriors won the Mann Cup, for the national Senior A lacrosse championship. The Mann Cup has been awarded since 1910. The trophy is one of the most valuable in all of sports as it is made from solid, albeit low-karat, gold. This is Brantford’s only Mann Cup championship team. The Warriors lost the 1972 Mann Cup to the New Westminster Salmonbellies, the same team they beat the year before. Gaylord Powless was the star of the team.

 Gaylord Powless was from the Six Nations of the Grand River. Gaylord was a gifted and intuitive lacrosse player. He was nicknamed the Marvellous Mohawk. Powless played for the Oshawa Green Gaels, a Junior A team from 1963 to 1967, winning four consecutive Minto Cup national championships between 1964 and 1967. During his time in Oshawa he was a close friend and classmate of Bobby Orr. Gretzky played hockey like Powless played lacrosse, the game came to them, they were always two moves ahead of the play. Powless turned pro in 1968 and played for teams in Montréal, Detroit, Syracuse, Rochester, Portland, Brantford, Brampton, and Coquitlam. Knees and back injuries led to a shortened career, he retired in 1977 recording 1,000 career goals and assists. He then went on to coach until he succumbed to cancer on 28-July-2001, at the age of 54. The arena in Ohsweken is named after Powless. Gaylord was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame on 19-April-2017. The Gaylord Powless Award is given annually to the most sportsmanlike player in Ontario Junior A lacrosse.

Gaylord Powless was from the Six Nations of the Grand River. Gaylord was a gifted and intuitive lacrosse player. He was nicknamed the Marvellous Mohawk. Powless played for the Oshawa Green Gaels, a Junior A team from 1963 to 1967, winning four consecutive Minto Cup national championships between 1964 and 1967. During his time in Oshawa he was a close friend and classmate of Bobby Orr. Gretzky played hockey like Powless played lacrosse, the game came to them, they were always two moves ahead of the play. Powless turned pro in 1968 and played for teams in Montréal, Detroit, Syracuse, Rochester, Portland, Brantford, Brampton, and Coquitlam. Knees and back injuries led to a shortened career, he retired in 1977 recording 1,000 career goals and assists. He then went on to coach until he succumbed to cancer on 28-July-2001, at the age of 54. The arena in Ohsweken is named after Powless. Gaylord was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame on 19-April-2017. The Gaylord Powless Award is given annually to the most sportsmanlike player in Ontario Junior A lacrosse.

The Brantford Forresters won the 1971 Ontario Hockey Association Intermediate A championship. Brantford teams also won the championship in 1947 and 1964. In 1972 the Brantford Forresters moved to Senior A. The team was known as the Forresters between 1972 and 1975. In 1976, they were renamed the Brantford Alexanders. The team was named for Alexander Graham Bell. In 1977, the Alexanders won Brantford’s first national hockey championship, the Allan Cup.

Brantford had been in the running for an OHL Major Junior A franchise since 1974 when it seemed almost certain the Hamilton Fincups would move to town. Instead the Hamilton team was sold to another Hamilton group and the Toronto Marlboros ended up playing 20 games at the Civic Centre in the 1974-75 season. The Marlboros did not return in 1975-76 because of conflicts over ice time with the Brantford Alexanders Senior A team. The Fincups almost moved to Brantford in 1976 but that deal fell through as well. Finally, in 1978 the Hamilton Fincups moved to Brantford and were renamed the Brantford Alexanders. The team moved back to Hamilton for the 1984-85 season. The team made the play-offs five out of the six years it operated out of the Civic Centre.

In the boxing world, Frank Bricker’s boxers, training out of the Branch 90 Legion continued to have success. Gary Summerhayes won the Canadian light-heavyweight championship in 1973. Gary’s brother, John, won the Canadian lightweight championship in 1974. Then in 1978 Gary won the Commonwealth light-heavyweight title with an eleventh-round knockout of Australian Tony Mundine. This duplicated a feat achieved by Brantford boxer Gord Wallace in 1956. Gord was also coached by Frank Bricker.

 The Summerhayes Brothers, John, Terry, and Gary, with their trainer Frank Bricker.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Summerhayes Brothers, John, Terry, and Gary, with their trainer Frank Bricker. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Wayne Gretzky first made the national news in 1971 at the age of 10. In that year, Gretzky scored 378 goals and had 139 assists for the Nadrofsky Steelers. In 1975, Wayne moved to Toronto to continue his career away from the pressure and negative attention he received from other players’ parents, including the parents of his teammates in Brantford. In 1977, Gretzky was drafted third by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. On 12-June-1978 Gretzky signed a personal services contract with Nelson Skalbania owner of the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Racers. The contact was for seven years and US$1.75 million. Gretzky only played eight games for Indianapolis. On 2-November-1978 his contract was sold to Peter Pocklington, owner of the Edmonton Oilers.

Retail and Commercial Changes

Brantford Mall

Expansion of the Brantford Plaza began in 1971. The expansion added 65,000 square feet of new space that included a drug store and a three screen cinema, Cinemas 3. This was Brantford’s first multiplex theatre. The largest theatre sat 500; the other two accommodated 300 patrons each. Woolco increased its floor space by another 15,000 square feet. Construction was completed in 1972 and the shopping centre was renamed Brantford Mall, Brantford’s first full enclosed shopping mall. The mall featured Woolco and Loblaw’s as its anchor stored. Super City Discount Foods was rebranded to Loblaw’s. Loblaw’s closes their store at 10 King George Road at St Paul Avenue, the store that launched the suburban shopping centre in Brantford. The space is renovated into the largest Home Hardware Store at that time. The changes at the Brantford Plaza were a counteroffensive to the pending development of Lynden Park Mall at Lynden Road and Park Road North.

In 1973 the Brewer’s Retail builds a new standalone store at the Brantford Mall and the Flash gas bar rebrands to Gulf. In 1976 the Brantford Mall undergoes another expansion with the addition of a Right House store. Right House moved from downtown Brantford to the mall. The addition also included an LCBO outlet. This expansion gave the mall two traditional anchor stores and a large grocery store.

 Grand opening of The Right House at Brantford Mall, 29-September-1976.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Grand opening of The Right House at Brantford Mall, 29-September-1976. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Lynden Park Mall

Lynden Park Mall opened in 1974 in two stages. The anchor stores Kmart and Sears opened on 1-May-1974. Constructions of the mall continued after the anchor stores opened and the mall proper that connected to the two stores opened on 1-August-1974. Lynden Park Mall featured a Miracle Mart grocery store, Sneaky Pete’s Restaurant and the Tudor Arms, Royal Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, People’s Jewellers, Coles Bookstore, Laura Secord, Camerama and many others, about 80 stores in total. The Kmart store closed in 1998 after Kmart Canada was acquired by the Hudson Bay Company. The Sears store closed on 14-January-2018.

 Lynden Road being widened and rebuilt in November-1973 in anticipation of the opening of Lynden park Mall in May and August 1974.

Lynden Road being widened and rebuilt in November-1973 in anticipation of the opening of Lynden park Mall in May and August 1974.

 Shoppers queued up for the opening of Sears at the Lynden Park Mall on 1-May-1974.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Shoppers queued up for the opening of Sears at the Lynden Park Mall on 1-May-1974. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Kmart Lynden Park Mall  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Kmart Lynden Park Mall Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Miracle Food Mart Lynden Park Mall  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Miracle Food Mart Lynden Park Mall Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Towers

Towers Department Store (566 West Street) and Food City (410 Fairview Drive) opened in 1971. These stores were owned by the Oshawa Group and built with a common area between them featuring a cigar store and fast food restaurant. Towers was acquired by the Hudson Bay Company in 1990 and this store was rebranded to Zellers.

Towers_TTT_Logo.gif

King George Road

The Red Barn Restaurant closed in 1972 after only three years in business, shortly after Burger Chef closed, after only two years in business. McDonald’s opened their first Brantford location in May-1972 at 73 King George Road. More changes on King George Road include the opening of the Ponderosa Steak House at 67 King George Road in 1972 (it is now the Red Lobster), Pop Shoppe opens at 157 King George Road at Oxford Street. Pizza Chief moved to the old Burger Chef location at 45 King George Road in 1974, Wendy’s opened their second restaurant in Canada at 64 King George Road, the site of the old Red Barn restaurant, Wendy’s first Canadian restaurant opened in Hamilton, and Mother’s Pizza Parlour opened in 1975, it is now the Harvey’s restaurant on King George Road. The reincarnated Mother’s Pizza Parlour opened in 2015 at King George Road and Oxford Street only to close in March-2018. Baskins & Robins opens at 53-55 King George Road in 1978. Shoprite Catalogue store opened in 1972 at 250 King George Road, the present location of Al Dente restaurant. During the early 1970s catalogue shopping became all the rage. Within ten years only Consumers Distributing remained.

 Ponderosa Steak House. A steak dinner complete with potato, vegetable, and salad was $1.89 in 1972.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Ponderosa Steak House. A steak dinner complete with potato, vegetable, and salad was $1.89 in 1972. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Soda glasses promotion at Mother’s Pizza Parlour and Spaghetti House. These glasses still appear in many cupboards in the city.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Soda glasses promotion at Mother’s Pizza Parlour and Spaghetti House. These glasses still appear in many cupboards in the city. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Shop-Rite_logo_Web.jpg

Downtown

In downtown Brantford Loblaw's closed their store at 20 Darling Street in 1971. The Strand Hotel on Dalhousie Street closes in 1971. The hotel is renovated and opens in 1972 as the Squires Court featuring exotic dancers. Woolworth’s enlarged and modernised their store in 1972, installing escalators, the first escalators in Brantford. Mike Suerich opens Mike’s Camera Shop at 40 Dalhousie Street, in the Lough’s Block. Mike was the Manager of the camera department at Woolco before he ventured on his own. Paul’s Furniture and Sound moves to 225 Colborne Street from the Mohawk Plaza. The Mohawk Plaza store opened in 1970. In 1976 Paul’s buys the old National Grocers Building at 251 Colborne Street and relocates the store. The Art Gallery of Brant opens Arts Place at 76 Dalhousie Street in 1972 bringing an art gallery and workshop to the downtown. The Art Gallery of Brant merged with Glenhyrst in 1986. Don Heys a long time employee at Parson’s Radio and Electric opens his own store, Don Heys Appliance, 193 Colborne Street in 1975. Dirty Dan the Discount Man opens a second location in the old Canadian Tire Store at Colborne and Clarence Streets. They close their Erie Avenue store in 1977. Walker’s Stores is acquired by Marks and Spencer in 1975. Marks and Spencer’s closes this store in 1977 as the two suburban malls drain business from the downtown. The Dominion store at Market and Darling Streets closed on 26-March-1977. The 10 full time employees were transferred to the St Paul Avenue store and to stores in Hamilton and Cambridge. The building was purchased by the Toronto Dominion Bank in September-1976. Plans are for TD to close their branch at Dalhousie and Market Streets after this new 4,500 square foot space is renovated. Also in 1977 the Prince Edward Hotel at the corner of Colborne and Bridge Streets changes its name to the Best View Hotel, the Woolworth store is rebranded Woolco and the A & N Store (Army & Navy) opens in the former Right House location, 147 Colborne Street. The Bank of Nova Scotia opens their new bank building at 170 Colborne Street at Market Street in 1979. The building was located across the street from their long time branch which was demolished and replaced by Massey House, the new administrative office for Massey Combine Corporation. Cowboy’s night club (now Club NV) opened at 234 Colborne Street in 1980. A & N Store closes in 1980 due to diminishing downtown retail traffic.

 Woolco in downtown Brantford. This store was enlarged and renovated by Woolworth’s in 1972 and rebranded Woolco in 1977. The building is now the home of the Brantford Public Library.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Woolco in downtown Brantford. This store was enlarged and renovated by Woolworth’s in 1972 and rebranded Woolco in 1977. The building is now the home of the Brantford Public Library. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

East End

Pat Alonzo Music moves to 971 Colborne Street, way out by Garden Avenue, in 1972. Tim Hortons opens its second city location in 1973 at 640 Colborne Street across from Pauline Johnson Collegiate. H Salt Esq. Fish & Chips opens next door to Tim Hortons (634 Colborne Street). In 1974 Canadian Tire moves from its downtown location at Colborne and Clarence Streets to the former Gamble Department Store building at 573 Colborne Street. Jarmain Cable TV moved their studio from the Canadian Tire Plaza to 23 Henry Street in 1975. McLennan’s Lunch, a long established East Ward hamburger and hot dog restaurant closed in 1977. Wendy’s opens their second city location at 656 Colborne Street, across from Pauline Johnson Collegiate.

 When Tim Horton first opened in Brantford it was known as Tim Horton Donuts. It was later abbreviated to Tim Horton’s. In the 1990s the emphasis on Donuts was removed and replaced with Always Fresh. The apostrophe was also dropped.

When Tim Horton first opened in Brantford it was known as Tim Horton Donuts. It was later abbreviated to Tim Horton’s. In the 1990s the emphasis on Donuts was removed and replaced with Always Fresh. The apostrophe was also dropped.

HSaltFishAndChips_Logo_Web.jpg

Car Dealerships

Mohawk Ponitac Buick opens a brand new facility at 141 King George Road in 1974. Gamete Eatery & Entertainment (formerly Wacky Wings) now occupies this location. Len McGee Motors becomes Ted Scherle Plymouth Chrysler, 135 King George Road, in 1977. The dealership becomes Brantford Chrysler Plymouth in 1979. Al’s Shoe Factory Outlet is now located at this former car dealership.

Additional locations

Pop Shoppe opens their second location at 206 Henry Street in 1973. This is now the site of the Pioneer gasoline station, next to the German Club. Tim Hortons opens their third location at 615 West Street in 1978. McDonald’s opens their second location at 27 Stanley Street, the former A & P store in 1979. McDonald’s occupies about two-thirds of the building. Calbeck’s Food Markets opens their fourth Brantford location in 1979 at 225 Fairview Drive at Hayhurst Road. This store featured indirect lighting, light was reflected off the ceiling rather than from the ceiling. Calbeck’s also had stores in Paris, Waterford, Simcoe, and Port Dover.

 Calbeck's fourth store in Brantford opened at the North Park Plaza on Fairview Drive in 1979. This photo shows the in direct lighting used in the store. The lights fixtures hang down from the ceiling and cast the light upwards to reflect off the ceiling.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Calbeck's fourth store in Brantford opened at the North Park Plaza on Fairview Drive in 1979. This photo shows the in direct lighting used in the store. The lights fixtures hang down from the ceiling and cast the light upwards to reflect off the ceiling. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

PopShoppe_Logo_Web.jpg

A & P closes both of their Brantford stores, 43 King George Road and 27 Stanley Street in 1974. These mid-1950’s store are no longer offer the range of products to be competitive against newer and bigger super markets.

Brantford in the 1960s - Post 20

The 1960s were a time of growth and optimism for Brantford and Canada. The post war boom that took hold in the 1950s exploded in the 1960s as the City expanded with new suburban subdivisions and the accompanying suburban amenities. Downtown, with its congestion and old deteriorating buildings, began to lose ground to new modern, spacious, bright, sprawling suburban stores and plazas that offered plenty of free parking.

 Aerial photo of Brantford, 1960  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   a) Lake Erie & Northern (LE&N) Railway bridge to Port Dover, b) Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway bridge to Waterford, c) Great Western Railway bridge to Tillsonburg, d) Lorne Bridge highway 24 & 53, e) Downtown, f) Scarfe Paints, g) Massey-Ferguson Market Street South complex, h) Koehring-Waterous, i) Earl Haig Pool, j) Erie Avenue, k) Tutela Park.

Aerial photo of Brantford, 1960 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

a) Lake Erie & Northern (LE&N) Railway bridge to Port Dover, b) Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway bridge to Waterford, c) Great Western Railway bridge to Tillsonburg, d) Lorne Bridge highway 24 & 53, e) Downtown, f) Scarfe Paints, g) Massey-Ferguson Market Street South complex, h) Koehring-Waterous, i) Earl Haig Pool, j) Erie Avenue, k) Tutela Park.

City Council

As the 1950s ended, the issue regarding allowing cocktail bars and licensed dining lounges to operate in the City continued to be rejected by council. Finally, a petition forced City Council to hold a referendum on the issue. The issue was contentious with raised emotions on both sides. On 23-January-1960, 68 percent of eligible voters voted in the favour of the motion. The last Council of the 1950s had been testy and citizens were tired of it. In the December-1960 municipal election voters elected a new mayor and seven new aldermen, only three aldermen were returned. A referendum was held during this election on whether to allow Sunday sporting events and Sunday movie screenings. Sunday baseball was played at Agricultural Park until 1957 when the Parks Board unexpectedly rescinded its permission. Voters voted in favour of allowing Sunday sports and movies.

Municipal Affairs

In 1964, the idea of a regional government was proposed by Brantford Township, when they requested a study of creating a single tier municipality for all of Brant County. By 1969 there were suggestions that Brant County would become a part of the proposed Haldimand-Norfolk region. Brant County never joined with Haldimand and Norfolk. Since that time the Haldimand-Norfolk region disbanded in 2001, and Brantford remains a separate municipality from Brant County, although the County townships and Town of Paris amalgamated in 1999 to form a single tier municipality.

Securing the long-term adequacy of the City’s water supply remained an important issue. Brantford was dependent on the Grand River and the water’s quality and taste were poor. A long standing joke in Waterloo County was “flush your toilet, Brantford needs the water”. The Ontario Water Resources Commission recommended the construction of a pipeline from Lake Erie to serve Brantford and the lower Grand River watershed. The cost of the project caused the City to reject the recommendation. They also felt that Lake Erie’s water quality was no better than the Grand River and was expected to get worse. On 7-September-1960, the water treatment plant finally opened and with that the hope for taste and odour-free water.

In 1960, the Department of Health reported that the smoke and dust pollution in Brantford was worse than in Toronto due to the number of manufacturing plants in this small city. Although the City had bylaws to deal the problem, bylaw enforcement was the issue, and Council refused to commit funds to hire an enforcement inspector.

Up to 1967 garbage collection was a municipal department. The service provided by the City included bringing garbage cans to the street and returning them after collection, known as set out and take back. In 1967, the garbage collectors went on a lengthy strike. Someone set fire to the landfill site. In the aftermath of the civic disruption garbage collection was contracted out and set out and take back was eliminated.

With the Cold War at its height in the early 1960s, the City rejected the idea of building a community fallout shelter. Instead residents were advised to construct their own; a project that was estimated to cost about $120.

In January-1963, the City merged the Parks Board with the Recreation Commission. This was done to eliminate duplication and achieved by appointing the same members to both Boards since neither Board was keen on merging.

Downtown

The deterioration of the downtown core was of concern to City Council throughout the 1960s as the downtown represented 25 percent of the City’s tax revenue. The downtown was already getting national attention regarding its poor condition and empty properties resulting from numerous fires; many of these hotel fires. It was during this decade that overhanging business signs were eliminated, to improve the appearance of the downtown.

According to a 1966 survey, 83 percent of City residents were concerned about the appearance of downtown. As suburban plazas were being developed, retailers still saw the value of being downtown. Eaton’s acquired the Walker’s store chain in 1965 and converted their store in the Arcade Building, at the corner of Colborne and Queen Streets, to Walker’s. In 1969, Woolworth’s announced their move to an expanded location at the corner of Colborne and Market Streets, now the location of the Brantford Public Library.

 Downtown Colborne Street, 1963  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Downtown Colborne Street, 1963 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1967, a joint federal and provincial funded urban renewal study of the downtown was released. Two years in the making, the report concluded that the bulldozer was the only solution for many parts of the downtown because almost a quarter of the City’s substandard buildings were in the downtown core. The 1969 Central Brantford Urban Renewal Scheme called for sixteen projects to be carried out over sixteen years to demolish, rehabilitate, and conserve downtown buildings by means of public and private funding. The study recommended the creation of pedestrian malls along Colborne Street and George Street to replace vehicle traffic with pedestrian traffic. All planning came to a halt in December-1969 when the Federal government choose not to support the project.

Through various committees and authorities, the City embarked on an endeavour to increase the supply of off street parking spaces with the goal of eliminating on street parking in the downtown core. Traffic in the core continued to increase and more traffic lanes would be required to handle the volume. In 1965, the properties west of The Expositor building along Dalhousie Street to King Street were acquired.

In January-1965, a new system to synchronise the traffic lights in the downtown was implemented and finally seemed to provide relief to drivers, after numerous attempts since the 1950s to implement a workable solution.

 Market Street, 1960  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Market Street, 1960 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Fires

Fires in the downtown started to change the appearance of the downtown as many of the burned building were reduced to empty lots.

On Saturday 14-January-1961, a fire destroyed Wycliffe Hall 189-191 Colborne Street. Wycliffe Hall was built in 1860 and was the City’s first YMCA. The fire also destroyed three businesses, George's Electric (185-187 Colborne Street), Buehler's Meat Market (191 Colborne Street), and Black's Shoe Store (189 Colborne Street). These buildings were located along the centre and east portion of the present Brantford Public Library.

On 31-January-1962, a fire destroyed the Brant Hotel located at 81-89 Dalhousie across from what was then the Capital Theatre and is now the Sanderson Centre. Despite the fire, patrons continued to drink in the men’s bar until they were ordered out of the hotel by firefighters.

 Brant Hotel Fire, 31-January-1962. Located at 85 Dalhousie Street, the hotel was built in 1858 and was called the American Hotel. It was renamed to the Brant Hotel in 1923. In 1960 a group of Toronto businessmen bought the hotel and made extensive renovations. The hotel had 80 rooms. The eastern portion of Harmony Square now occupies this location.   Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brant Hotel Fire, 31-January-1962. Located at 85 Dalhousie Street, the hotel was built in 1858 and was called the American Hotel. It was renamed to the Brant Hotel in 1923. In 1960 a group of Toronto businessmen bought the hotel and made extensive renovations. The hotel had 80 rooms. The eastern portion of Harmony Square now occupies this location.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

On 4-March-1962, the Bodega Hotel at the corner of Market and Darling Streets burned down. TD Canada Trust now occupies this corner. The building was built by the Canada Permanent Trust Company in 1966.

The Belinda Shoe Store and Aragon Restaurant (128 & 130 Colborne Street) were burned out on 12-July-1965. A building used by the U.A.W. Local 458 on 55 Darling Street burned down on 4-March-1965. It was located behind the Temple Building. It is now a parking lot.

On 11-January-1970, six businesses along George Street (between Dalhousie and Colborne Streets were damaged by a major fire: Miller and Miller law office, Varga and Frank realtor, Ideal Cleaners and Dyers, OK Shoes, Rainbow Fabrics and Karek’s Food Specialties. The Hotel Kerby suffered smoke and water damage. All fire trucks and firefighters, including off-duty firefighters, were needed to fight the blaze.

Federal and Provincial Representation

In the 1962 federal election, Jim Brown defeated Conservative incumbent Jack Wratten to take the riding for the Liberals, a riding Brown held throughout the sixties. Brantford had been a Liberal held riding since 1935 interrupted when Wratten was elected for one term in the Diefenbaker sweep in 1957.

Provincially George Gordon held the riding of Brantford for the Liberals from 1948 until 1967 when, with the support of labour, Mac Makarchuk won the riding for the NDP.

Soldiers

Two Brantford born soldiers rose to leadership positions in the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1960s. In August-1961 Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Walsh, born in 1909, was appointed chief of the general staff of the Canadian Army. Walsh was the last officer to hold this appointment as it was eliminated in 1964 with the beginning of the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces. In 1966, Rear-Admiral William Landymore was appointed to the position of chief of the Armed Forces Maritime Command, one of the six commands of the newly integrated Canadian Armed Forces. His command did not last long. Landymore criticised the unification of the Armed Forces and the destruction of the Navy’s identity and resigned his command effective 5-April-1967.

 Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Walsh

Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Walsh

 Rear-Admiral William Landymore

Rear-Admiral William Landymore

Market Square

The City considered the redevelopment of the Market Square as the key to a revitalized downtown. The property was viewed as the most valuable and underused parcel in the City. City Hall was seen as inadequate and an eyesore; this was identified as early as the 1890’s, yet sixty years later it was still the seat of municipal government.

On 21-January-1964, the Ontario Management Corporation agreed to purchase the Market Square for $450,000. The sale of the Market Square was supported by the Board of Trade, the Brantford Labour Council, local merchants, and residents through a referendum vote. The Farmers’ Market vendors protested the relocation of the Farmers’ Market to the east end of the canal basin parking lot on Greenwich Street, now Icomm Drive, as the location was deemed out of the way. The Six Nations Confederacy also protested the proposed sale of Market Square for private development; the site was always intended to remain a public gathering space. Demolition of City Hall began on 28-Apr–1965. The developers were unable to develop the Square according to their initial proposal and their revised plans did not meet with Council’s approval so in February-1967 the City foreclosed on the mortgage and retook possession of the property. By the end of the decade Market Square remained undeveloped and the downtown continued to deteriorate.

City Hall

The original idea was to sell Market Square and redevelop the site with a City Hall, department store and underground parking garage. This idea never materialised as City Council balked at committing to a 15 to 20-year lease for office space. Instead Council decided in April-1964 to build at the corner of Wellington and George Streets, the site of the former YWCA. A design competition was held and 38 submissions were received. Toronto architect Michael Kopsa’s Brutalism design was selected. The design is polarising yet was progressive and forward thinking at the time; “the symbol of a new-found spirit of progress and confidence in Brantford’s future”, as proclaimed by The Expositor. The City Hall and Provincial Court House are cited by architects as an excellent example of well-executed Brutalism buildings. The new City Hall was officially opened on 28-November-1967 by Governor-General Roland Michener.

 Demolishing City Hall, 28-April-1965  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Demolishing City Hall, 28-April-1965 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Market Square, September-1965 after the demolition of City Hall. Looking north towards the corner of Dalhousie and Market Streets. The steel skeleton in the top centre of the picture is the new Canada Permanent Trust Building, now the downtown branch of the TD Canada Trust.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Market Square, September-1965 after the demolition of City Hall. Looking north towards the corner of Dalhousie and Market Streets. The steel skeleton in the top centre of the picture is the new Canada Permanent Trust Building, now the downtown branch of the TD Canada Trust. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Housing

The housing supply crisis of the post WWII years had abated, however, housing for low income families and the elderly continued to be in short supply. New subdivisions began to be built in the City: Mayfair, the Memorial Drive area, and Orchard Park on the north side of Colborne Street east of Sheffield Avenue. These new housing developments did not address the need for low cost accommodation. This shortage led to increased demand from the Children’s Aid Society to provide families with rent subsidies and saw an increase in the need for foster care as evictions increased. The City along with the Ontario Housing Corporation built affordable housing units behind the present day McDonald’s on Stanley Street and on the former Winston Hall (Nurse’s Residence) property in Eagle Place. By the end of the decade plans were underway for the Lorne Towers seniors’ complex on Colborne Street West, a 159-unit high-rise that opened in 1972. The Government supported housing but was never able to keep pace with the demand for affordable housing.

 Aerial photo, Mayfair Gardens  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   A) Barnes Avenue, B) Highway 403, C) Tollgate Road, D) Mayfair Gardens subdivision, E) Highway 24, F) Brantford Plaza, Woolco, G) Dunsdon Street, city limits, King George Road reduces to two lanes as it enters Brantford Township, H) Dingwall Motors, Mercury-Lincoln dealer, I) Farmers’ Dell Plaza, J) Dairy Queen, K) Dunsdon Legion Branch 461.

Aerial photo, Mayfair Gardens Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

A) Barnes Avenue, B) Highway 403, C) Tollgate Road, D) Mayfair Gardens subdivision, E) Highway 24, F) Brantford Plaza, Woolco, G) Dunsdon Street, city limits, King George Road reduces to two lanes as it enters Brantford Township, H) Dingwall Motors, Mercury-Lincoln dealer, I) Farmers’ Dell Plaza, J) Dairy Queen, K) Dunsdon Legion Branch 461.

Social Services

In addition to the demand for low cost housing, nursery school spaces were not keeping pace with demand as more families saw both parents working. In order to increase the spaces available Council amended zoning bylaws to allow nursery schools in residential areas and in churches.

In 1963, Brantford became the first city in Canada to offer the Meals on Wheels programme for seniors.

Police and Fire

Brantford’s new Police and Fire stations opened in 1954. They were built on the former canal basin and as a result both buildings experienced structural problems as the buildings settled. While it appeared that the settling problems of the Fire station were addressed in the 1950s, as the 1960s progressed the Police station was faced with a further sinking of the floors, which resulted in crushed sewer pipes, pulled out interior plumbing, twisted electrical conduit, cracked walls, and jammed door frames. In 1964, the Police moved to temporary quarters at Winston Hall while repairs to their station could be made. By this time Winston Hall had been condemned by the Fire Department but the move was made nonetheless.

Fire Station number 2 opened at 311 St. Paul Avenue in 1960 to deal with the growth of the City in the north end. Today, this station can no longer house all the latest firefighting equipment and accommodate female firefighters so a new fire hall to be located on the site of the closed Fairview School will replace this station. In 1965, the Fire Chief, Chief Charles Townson, asked for a third fire station to be built in the east end of the City. Fire station number 3 was finally built in 1976 but was located in the north end of the City, near the intersection of Fairview Road and the Wayne Gretzky Parkway.

 Fire Station No. 2, opened in 1960  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Fire Station No. 2, opened in 1960 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Industrial Developments

On 2-January-1962, it was revealed that the White Motor Company of Cleveland had purchased Cockshutt Farm Equipment from the Winston Sanson Florida Corporation, a Florida land development company that controlled Cockshutt. The prize for White was Cockshutt’s new rotary axial combine harvester which soon set the new industry standard for combine harvester design. This Brantford engineered combine was introduced under the White name. Cockshutt tractor production ended in 1962. After that Cockshutt branded tractors were supplied by Oliver Farm Equipment Company, a White Motor Company subsidiary. In 1969 Cockshutt Farm Equipment, Oliver Farm Equipment, and Minneapolis-Moline were merged to form White Farm Equipment.

 Aerial photo, Cockshutt complex  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   A) Massey-Ferguson Verity Works, B) Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway, C) Westinghouse Canada, television plant, D) Cockshutt complex, E) Mohawk Street, F) Harriett Street, G) Tom Street, H) Crandall Avenue.

Aerial photo, Cockshutt complex Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

A) Massey-Ferguson Verity Works, B) Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo (TH&B) Railway, C) Westinghouse Canada, television plant, D) Cockshutt complex, E) Mohawk Street, F) Harriett Street, G) Tom Street, H) Crandall Avenue.

In 1959 Brantford Coach and Body purchased land in Cainsville to build a new modern one floor facility to specifically manufacture highway trailers. In 1965 the Brantford Coach and Body subsidiary was sold to Nova Industrial Corp and renamed Brantford Trailer and Body. The old production facility on Mohawk Street was sold to Sternson Ltd and all manufacturing was consolidated at the Cainsville site. In 1968 Nova sold Brantford Trailer and Body to Trailmobile Canada Ltd, who operated the plant until it was closed in 1990.

Trailmobile_Logo_Web.jpg

In September-1962, Massey-Ferguson announced it was building a new plant, the North American Combine Plant, on land on Park Road North, adjacent to the CNR rail line, that the company acquired in 1955. The new 550,000 sq ft plant and office complex opened in June-1964.

In October-1962, Canadian Celanese announced the closing of its factory, putting 340 people out of work. The company cited increased and stronger competition as the reason for the closing. Canadian Celanese acquired the former Slingsby Manufacturing mill in 1959.

Great Western Garment Company acquired Kitchen-Peabody Garments Limited in August-1965. Kitchen-Peabody was founded by Charles Kitchen in 1911. Jeans and garments were produced under the GWG and Levi’s brand name at the Brantford facility. Of interest, Kitchen-Peabody paid their workers in cash until 1960. The plant employed 300 workers at the time of the acquisition. The company, later known as Levi Strauss Canada Inc., closed its Brantford operations in March-2004.

In 1965, the City began development of the Brantford North Eastern Industrial Development Area, Braneida. This industrial park was built along the new Highway 403 on the eastern edge of the City.

 Aerial photo, Braneida, East End  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   A) Highway 403, B) Park Road North, C) Massey-Ferguson North American Combine Plant, D) Ladish Co. of Canada, E) Henry Street, F) Chicago Rawhide Products Canada Ltd., G) Elgin Street, notice the street is not yet connected to the portion south of Stanley Street, H) St. Joseph’s Hospital, I) Orchard Park subdivision, J) Bow Park Farm. Established in 1866 by George Brown. Run since 1978 by the Hilgendag family, K) Stanley Street, L) Arrowdale Golf Course, M) Sonnenhof German Canadian Club, N) Morton Avenue, O) West Street.

Aerial photo, Braneida, East End Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

A) Highway 403, B) Park Road North, C) Massey-Ferguson North American Combine Plant, D) Ladish Co. of Canada, E) Henry Street, F) Chicago Rawhide Products Canada Ltd., G) Elgin Street, notice the street is not yet connected to the portion south of Stanley Street, H) St. Joseph’s Hospital, I) Orchard Park subdivision, J) Bow Park Farm. Established in 1866 by George Brown. Run since 1978 by the Hilgendag family, K) Stanley Street, L) Arrowdale Golf Course, M) Sonnenhof German Canadian Club, N) Morton Avenue, O) West Street.

Labour

The late sixties was a tumultuous period in labour/management relations in the City.

Two major work stoppages occurred in 1967, a ten-week strike at Barber-Ellis, a stationary and envelope manufacturer, and a month long strike at the City’s works department. The latter resulted in the contracting out of garbage collection in the City. In 1968, there were ten strikes. 2,100 United Auto Workers (UAW) workers went on strike for thirteen weeks at Massey-Ferguson seeking wage parity with their American counterparts. The workers gained better fringe benefits but not the wage parity they were seeking. The City’s white collars workers walked off the job for 12 weeks effectively shutting down civic services. The workers were asking for higher wages and job security.

In 1968, a strike at Chicago Rawhide on Park Road North turned violent resulting in smashed car windows, mass protests, shoving matches between workers and the police, and a woman being hit by a car. Workers from other unions joined the picket line. A settlement was reached in March-1969. Chicago Rawhide was located at the corner of the Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Henry Street, where the Leon’s Plaza is now located. In 1969, strikes occurred at Stelco Fasteners, Harding Carpets, and Westinghouse. 

Education

As the 1960s began, increases in elementary school enrolment started to level off but high school enrolment continued to increase. Even with the opening of Pauline Johnson Collegiate and North Park Collegiate there still was not enough space for students and additions to these facilities and Brantford Collegiate Institute were approved in 1962. This marked the biggest expansion to schools in Brantford ever and still more spaces would be required by 1964.

Herman E. Fawcett Secondary School, located at 112 Tollgate Road, opened on 3-January-1967. The school was named for Fawcett who was principal at Pauline Johnson Collegiate for 10 years before taking on the role of school inspector. The school was built under the auspices of the Technical and Vocational Training Assistance Act passed by the Diefenbaker government in 1960, and designed to accommodate 600 students. The Act made funds available for training and employment related programmes; to assist the provinces in setting up vocational schools. The school offered three-year, non-credit, occupational programmes graduating students with a certificate of training. Glen Wier was the first principal. Credit courses replaced the non-credit courses in 1976. In 1995, the school was renamed Tollgate Technological Skills Centre and became a magnet school for the Board of Education.

A 1963 review of City public schools recommended the replacement of Bellview, King Edward, and Alexandra schools due to their age and population redistribution in the City. Three new public elementary schools opened in new subdivisions between 1964 and 1967: Russell Reid in Mayfair, Grand Woodlands, and Centennial. In October-1963, the Board decided to put libraries in all the elementary schools over a three-year period, although this plan was not implemented until 1965.

 Alexandra School  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Alexandra School Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1962, secret repairs were made on weekends at Ryerson School which was located on Oak Street, the current site of Branch 90 Legion, because the building was in such poor condition. The repairs were done in secret so as not to alarm parents. Because of this situation the City approved a new Ryerson School to be built immediately on Sherwood Drive, adjacent to the baseball diamond at Cockshutt Park. It would be built as a senior public school, housing only grade 7 and 8 students. The move from the old Ryerson School on Oak Street to the new school on Sherwood Drive occurred in November-1965. In 1967, Joseph Brant School on Erie Avenue opened as a senior public school.

 Ryerson School  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Ryerson School Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1961, St. John’s College relocated to the Cockshutt Estate on Dufferin Avenue. At this point the Catholic High School ended co-ed education and created a new Catholic high school for girls, Providence College. St. Bernard’s School, located at 65 Sky Acres Drive, opened in October-1961. The school shared the building with Providence College until the Providence College campus opened in September-1963. Starting in 2003, St. Bernard’s was the only school in the City to offer an instrumental music programme for senior students. St. Bernard’s closed in June-2013. Providence College merged with St. John’s College in September-1970.

During this decade, the Catholic school board also opened the following elementary schools: in 1963 St. Peter’s, 175 Glenwood Drive; in 1964 St. Thomas Moore; in 1965 Christ the King School, 165 Dufferin Avenue; St Paul in 1968, 159 Mary Street; and St Patrick in 1969, 322 Fairview Drive. The Catholic County Board opened St Leo School, 233 Memorial Drive, in 1964.

In 1967, the provincial government built a new senior school at the Ontario School for the Blind, replacing the 96-year-old original school building.

New, innovative programmes were introduced by the public-school board: driver training, summer school, French in elementary schools, sex education in high schools, and a programme for gifted children at Agnes Hodge School. In 1968, North Park Collegiate moved to a credit system eliminating traditional grades. Children with special needs would also be accommodated in a new Jane Laycock School on Mount Pleasant Street. The Brant Sanitarium donated one acre of land, at 39 Mount Pleasant Street, in 1961. The school opened in 1962. The school is now known as the Lansdowne Children’s Centre.

 Jane Laycock School designed to accommodate children with special needs opened in 1962 on Mount Pleasant Street. It is now known as the Lansdowne Children’s Centre. Jane Laycock was Ignatius Cockshutt’s sister. She established and endowed the Jane Laycock Children’s Home in 1851 to care for orphans and poor and neglected children in Brantford.

Jane Laycock School designed to accommodate children with special needs opened in 1962 on Mount Pleasant Street. It is now known as the Lansdowne Children’s Centre. Jane Laycock was Ignatius Cockshutt’s sister. She established and endowed the Jane Laycock Children’s Home in 1851 to care for orphans and poor and neglected children in Brantford.

Brantford had been trying to secure a post-secondary education institution for what seemed like forever. In 1961, the province announced it would create trade schools, known today as Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. Brantford lobbied the government for such a school in 1961 and 1965 but both times was passed over. In 1969, Mohawk College in Hamilton agreed to establish a satellite campus in Brantford on Elgin Street, in conjunction with the Brant County Board of Education, to offer retraining and continuing education programmes.

On 1-January-1969, the province amalgamated urban and rural school boards to create a county system of school boards. Although County ratepayers faced large tax hikes to equalise contributions across the City and County, the process here went rather smoothly.

Public Health

St. Joseph’s Hospital opened a school for certified nursing assistants in 1960. Meanwhile the Brantford General Hospital’s School of Nursing soldiered on using the inadequate and aging Winston Hall in Eagle Place as a nurse’s residence. Winston Hall was a building built during World War II as temporary housing for war workers. It was intended to be demolished after the war. In spite of the poor location relative to the hospital and the rapidly deteriorating condition of the building, City Council showed no interest in replacing the facility. In February-1962, the fire department condemned Winston Hall forcing the City’s hand. In April-1964, a new nine-storey nurse’s residence and school opened. The nurse’s residence building was Brantford’s tallest building when it opened.

 Nurses’ Residence. The residence, in the foreground, opened in April-1964, to replace the residence at the condemned Winston Hall. The residence accommodated 208 students in single rooms. The low two-storey structure in the middle, connecting the residence to the hospital, housed the School of Nursing.

Nurses’ Residence. The residence, in the foreground, opened in April-1964, to replace the residence at the condemned Winston Hall. The residence accommodated 208 students in single rooms. The low two-storey structure in the middle, connecting the residence to the hospital, housed the School of Nursing.

The Brant County Board of Health set up a family planning clinic in 1966, in defiance of a 1908 provincial law prohibiting such clinics. Brantford was one of only five cities in the province with a family planning clinic.

The Brant Sanitarium closed its tuberculosis division in 1968 because of declining incidents of the disease. In its place the Sanitarium used this space to accommodate chronic and cognitively challenged patients and children with cognitive and physical challenges.

Centennial Projects

The City contemplated a number of ideas for civic centennial projects: an auditorium-concert hall for Glenhyrst, a hearing centre for seriously deaf children, a Grand River Parkway, a mobile library, an addition to Glenhyrst’s art gallery, a civic centre, and an addition to the Brant County Museum. It was decided to pursue the latter two projects since they were supported by the seven municipalities that comprised Brant County.

Arenas

The recurring quest for an arena and auditorium first raised in 1938 continued as the 1960s dawned. The Arctic Arena, the City’s only artificial ice surface was condemned and closed in the spring of 1960. The City had established the Brantford Civic Centre Committee in 1958 to drive the process to construct a new arena. The committee found little appetite amongst the residents, industry, and organisations to support the project. The Brant Figuring Skating Club thought of building a 200-seat arena, the Arctic Arena sat 3,500. Brantford was faced with the prospect of not having a location for hockey come wintertime. The Optimist Club raised $12,000 and the City contributed $7,300 to repair and reopen the Arctic Arena. The arena reopened in December-1960. The Arctic Arena closed in the spring of 1967 when the Civic Centre opened.

 Arctic Arena interior from 1961. The arena was located at the base of the West Street hill opposite Harris Avenue where a commercial plaza exists today. Brantford’s first artificial ice surface opened in December-1926. The building was condemned and closed in the spring of 1960 but was repaired and reopened in December-1960 because it was still the only artificial ice surface in Brantford.

Arctic Arena interior from 1961. The arena was located at the base of the West Street hill opposite Harris Avenue where a commercial plaza exists today. Brantford’s first artificial ice surface opened in December-1926. The building was condemned and closed in the spring of 1960 but was repaired and reopened in December-1960 because it was still the only artificial ice surface in Brantford.

 Arctic Arena demolition in 1968. The arena finally closed in the spring of 1967 after the Civic Centre opened.

Arctic Arena demolition in 1968. The arena finally closed in the spring of 1967 after the Civic Centre opened.

In January-1961, City Council contemplated purchasing the Arctic Arena. In April-1961, a Toronto firm floated the idea of building a small Maple Leaf Gardens and bringing a Junior A team to town. The Civic Centre Committee proposed a 1,500-seat facility funded by the city and public subscription. Council and the Committee then considered a 2,000, then a 2,500-seat arena. In October-1961, City Council agreed to purchased land on Market Street owned by Massey-Ferguson for a new arena and auditorium complex. The Toronto proposal was rejected because of financial conditions attached to the project. Council allocated money to the arena project in its 1962 budget with the proviso that a public subscription campaign be launched. Still nothing happened as the residents showed little interest in supporting the project. In July-1963, Mayor Beckett proposed a new civic centre as a centennial project. With still no progress being made on building a new arena the Brantford Labour Council in December-1963 asked City Council for permission to lead a fundraising campaign. Their goal was to raise $600,000. They asked all their members to pledge one day’s pay per year for three years. In May-1965, the fundraising goal had been met however tenders for the project came in higher than expected so fundraising continued. On 19-May-1966, 3,000 people watched the sod-turning ceremony held on the Market Street site. On 25-March-1967, 2,000 attended the official opening ceremonies. Louis Armstrong was the first big name performer to play the Civic Centre in April-1967. In September-1967, the new expansion NHL franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins, opened their pre-season training camp at the Civic Centre. The Penguins played their first exhibition game on 23-September-1967 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 1967, another arena opened in Brantford. North Park Arena was located in a field behind a church adjacent to North Park Collegiate on North Park Street. A second ice pad was added in 1972. The Brant Aquatic Centre was added in 1974. It was renamed the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in 1982. On 26-December-1997 a third ice surface, the privately built Brantford Ice Park, opened. The arena complex was demolished in 2011 to make way for the new four-rink Wayne Gretzky Sports Complex which opened in September 2013.

 Aerial Photo 1969  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   A) North Park Arena, B) North Park Track and Field Stadium, C) North Park Collegiate & Vocational School, D) North Park Street, E) Fairview Drive, F) Hayhurst Road, G) Centennial School, H) Memorial Drive, I) Powerline Road, J) Park Road North, K) Briar Park Subdivision, L) Cameron Downs Subdivision, M) Cooper Towers apartment complex, N) St Patrick School, O) Baxter Street, P) Pusey Boulevard, Q) Waddington Street.

Aerial Photo 1969 Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

A) North Park Arena, B) North Park Track and Field Stadium, C) North Park Collegiate & Vocational School, D) North Park Street, E) Fairview Drive, F) Hayhurst Road, G) Centennial School, H) Memorial Drive, I) Powerline Road, J) Park Road North, K) Briar Park Subdivision, L) Cameron Downs Subdivision, M) Cooper Towers apartment complex, N) St Patrick School, O) Baxter Street, P) Pusey Boulevard, Q) Waddington Street.

Highways and Railways

Planning for the Brantford Expressway, later referred to as the Brantford Southern Access Road, began in 1958. To deal with increasing automobile traffic congestion in the City, a 1964 traffic study report recommended more one-way streets and restrictions on downtown on-street curb parking during rush hours in addition to the construction of the expressway. The idea of the Brantford Expressway was to build a limited-access expressway to connect Colborne Street West (at Oakhill Drive) in West Brant with Highway 403. The Brantford Expressway was approved by Council in November-1966 and was expected to be completed by 1995. The Ontario government had land banked property in the Shellard’s Lane area in West Brant and the Brantford Expressway was integral to moving residents to and from this area to Highway 403 and beyond to destinations west, north and east. On 21-February-1969, the City and provincial government signed an agreement to fund and build the Expressway. The first portion of the Expressway between Mount Pleasant Street and Ontario Street which included a new bridge over the Grand River opened in 1972. Construction of this section was approved by Council in 1966.

 Map of the route of the Brantford Southern Access Road as proposed in 1966.

Map of the route of the Brantford Southern Access Road as proposed in 1966.

Tenders for the construction of the first portion of Highway 403 through Brantford were invited in May-1963. This portion ran from Paris Road in the west to what is now Garden Avenue in the east. A connector road was built between the terminus of the eastern portion of the highway with Highway 2 and 53 in Cainsville until Highway 403 was completed to Hamilton. This connector road is now Garden Avenue, County Road 18. What is notable about Highway 403 is that it was built through Brantford rather than around it. This portion of Highway 403 opened on 31-October-1966. My Dad and me travelled on the new highway the day it opened. The western portion of Highway 403 connecting with Highway 401 at Woodstock was completed in 1988. The eastern portion connecting Brantford with Ancaster opened in August-1997. A party was held on the highway on 15-August-1997 to celebrate the completion of Highway 403 between Woodstock and Hamilton, through Brantford.

Highway 24A that connected Galt with Paris was originally planned to be extended to Simcoe, along Rest Acres Road to Highway 53 and then along a brand new portion to Simcoe through Scotland. However the Department of Highways decided to number the new route between Highway 53 and Simcoe Highway 24 and abandoned the extension of Highway 24A south of Paris. On 18-August-1967 the newly aligned Highway 24 opened. The portion of the original Highway 24 that ran along Mount Pleasant Street through Mount Pleasant and Waterford to Simcoe was decommissioned and the new Highway 24 alignment followed Highway 53 through West Brant, past the airport. The new Highway 24 met with Rest Acres Road at Highway 53.

Passenger train service on Canadian National Railway’s Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway line between Fort Erie, through Brantford, to Stratford, was discontinued in 23-April-1960.

Electric operation on the Lake Erie & Northern Railway ended with a special excursion train on 30-September-1961. Diesel engines from the Canadian Pacific Railway replaced the electric cars after this. In 1962 freight service on the LE&N between Simcoe and Port Dover was discontinued. In 1965 LE&N trains began using the TH&B track between Brantford and Waterford and the LE&N tracks between Brantford and Waterford were abandoned.

 Brantford Railway Stations. Before the automobile and trucks and hard surfaced roads the railway was the dominant method of transportation. Brantford was connected to neighbouring cities and towns by rail and these railroads all had stations in town. Today only two stations remain and only the VIA Rail station is still in use. The TH&B station on Market Street South is vacant, the tracks to the station were removed this summer. Brantford’s railways and their station locations are shown on the map.  1) Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich 1854, 2) Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich / Buffalo & Lake Huron / Grand Trunk 1855 - 1881, 3) Grand Trunk 1881 - 1905, 4) Grand Trunk / Canadian National / VIA Rail 1905 - present, 5) Great Western / Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell 1871 - 1948, 6) Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell 1876 - 1877, 7) Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie 1889 - 1894, 8) Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo 1894 - 1896, 8A) Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo 1896 - 1954, 9) Lake Erie & Northern / Brantford & Hamilton Electric 1917 - 1954, 10) Lake Erie & Northern 1916 - 1917, 11) Brantford & Hamilton Electric 1908 - 1917, 11A) Brantford & Hamilton 1908, 12) Grand Valley 1902 - 1915, 13) Grand Valley 1915 - 1916, 14) Grand Valley 1916 - 1929.

Brantford Railway Stations. Before the automobile and trucks and hard surfaced roads the railway was the dominant method of transportation. Brantford was connected to neighbouring cities and towns by rail and these railroads all had stations in town. Today only two stations remain and only the VIA Rail station is still in use. The TH&B station on Market Street South is vacant, the tracks to the station were removed this summer. Brantford’s railways and their station locations are shown on the map.

1) Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich 1854, 2) Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich / Buffalo & Lake Huron / Grand Trunk 1855 - 1881, 3) Grand Trunk 1881 - 1905, 4) Grand Trunk / Canadian National / VIA Rail 1905 - present, 5) Great Western / Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell 1871 - 1948, 6) Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell 1876 - 1877, 7) Brantford, Waterloo & Lake Erie 1889 - 1894, 8) Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo 1894 - 1896, 8A) Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo 1896 - 1954, 9) Lake Erie & Northern / Brantford & Hamilton Electric 1917 - 1954, 10) Lake Erie & Northern 1916 - 1917, 11) Brantford & Hamilton Electric 1908 - 1917, 11A) Brantford & Hamilton 1908, 12) Grand Valley 1902 - 1915, 13) Grand Valley 1915 - 1916, 14) Grand Valley 1916 - 1929.

The CNR subway on Clarence Street was widened to four lanes in 1963. Up until that time the subway was the same narrow subway still found on Murray and Rawdon Streets.

 Railway Subway. This subway is the Murray Street subway and is the same that was located on Clarence Street until it was replaced in 1963.

Railway Subway. This subway is the Murray Street subway and is the same that was located on Clarence Street until it was replaced in 1963.

Street Name Changes

In 1962, a new laneway, east of Raleigh Street, St. Mary’s Lane opened. In 1965, Brewery Lane which ran south from Colborne Street West near Welsh Street was renamed St. Mary’s Lane. Brewery Lane marked the western edge of a brewery that operated at this site under various names; Spencer Brewing and Malting Company, West Brantford Brewery, Brantford Brewing and Malting Company, and finally Westbrook and Hacker Brewing Company; between 1845 until 1910 when the brewery was destroyed by fire.

Arts and Culture

Glenhyrst saw its fortunes reverse as the decade progressed. In 1960, it was deemed to be a unique asset in all of Canada, extremely busy, and paying its way. In 1969, when the gallery’s plan for expansion had stalled, the Art Gallery of Ontario stated that the gallery was too small and did not meet the AGOs security and environmental standards to mount exhibits of loaned AGO pieces.

In 1964, Brantford hosted what was planned to be an annual event, Maytime Brantford; the City’s equivalent of the Calgary Stampede. It was supposed to be Mardi Gras like, with a historical pageant, musical productions, parades, sports events, and a midway. It did feature a large art exhibit that displayed 260 paintings and sculptures; but mostly it was a midway and public support was poor. City Council withdrew their financial support for the 1965 festival and that was the end of Maytime Brantford.

In 1967, Arthur J Kelly of Burford mounted the largest centennial parade in Canada. The theme of the parade was local and national history. The parade included 105 floats and 5,000 marchers and lasted two and a half hours. It was watched by 50,000 people.

Sports and Recreation

The Kiwanis Club leased Mohawk Park from the City in 1960 in a bid to restore the park as a major summer attraction and a destination for family recreation. The Club wanted to offer boating, sailing, fishing, and a sandy beach. The club upgraded the sporting facilities and launched a pontoon boat, the Kiwanis Queen, to take people on pleasure rides on Mohawk Lake. The efforts of the Kiwanis Club did result in an increase in park campers. However in 1965 the Department of Lands and Forests deemed the lake dead; it was full of sludge and debris with oxygen levels too low to support game fish. This announcements hurt the reputation of the park and curtailed efforts to revive it.

In 1963, the first bantam-aged (age 15) baseball team from Brantford won the provincial championship. The team was assembled from the best players in the city to compete for the championship. 

In 1968, it was again proposed to redevelop the Arrowdale Golf Course property for housing.

The Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League won five consecutive league championships between 1959 and 1963. They were the second IBL team to accomplish this feat; the Galt Terriers won five consecutive championships between 1927 and 1931. The Red Sox would win six championships in a row between 2008 and 2013 and seven championships in eight years between 2006 and 2013.

The Brantford Warriors won the Canadian Senior B lacrosse championships in 1963, 1967, and 1968.

Middleweight boxer Gary Summerhayes won the 1967 Canadian amateur middleweight boxing championship. Gary was 18. Gary was trained by boxing training legend Frank Bricker. In spite of his win Gary was not selected for the Canadian team for the 1968 Pan-American Games. He was not viewed as an Olympic style fighter.

Swimmer Sara Barber competed for Canada at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1962 British Empire Games in Perth Australia. Sprinter Debbie Miller competed for Canada at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

In 1969s the CanAmer Games were launched pitting athletes from Brant County against athletes from Berrien County, Michigan. The games were designed to foster peace, harmony and an understanding of our countries by the young athletes. The games alternated each year between Brantford and Benton Harbor, Michigan. The first games were held in Brantford between 8-August and 10-August 1969. The athletes from Berrien County won the first annual competition.

CanamerGames_Logo_8861_Web.jpg

The Proliferation of the Automobile

The rapid adoption of the automobile after the war not only added to the congestion of the downtown shopping district but facilitated the development of suburban amenities because the automobile made them quickly accessible; and parking was plentiful. 

The earliest area of suburban development occurred most rapidly along Colborne Street, between Rawdon Street and Garden Avenue. This area became part of the City of Brantford with the 1955 annexation of Brantford Township lands. It had a higher population density than the lands along King George Road. Development along King George Road began in earnest in the 1960’s

Strobridge Motors was the Mercury and Meteor dealer; Brant County Motors sold Ford, Monarch, Falcon, and Ford Trucks; Kett Motors was the dealer for Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, Valiant, Imperial, Simca, and Fiat; Forbes Brothers was the Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac dealer; and C.W. Smith Motors replaced Andreasen Motors as the Pontiac, Buick, and Vauxhall dealer.

In 1960 Gordon’s IGA at 67 Erie Avenue at Eagle Avenue becomes Gordon’s Red & White. The IGA Foodliner opened at the Pleasant Plaza, 164 Colborne St West. The Brant Motel (now the Grand Motel) opened at 780 Colborne Street, west ofJames Avenue. Brantford’s first Pizzeria, Little Caesars, operated from 37 King Street at Darling Street but only lasted about a year. Stan’s Variety Drive In at 212 King George Road and Forsythe Avenue opened. It is now a Cash 4 You payday loan store.

The Mohawk Plaza next to Pauline Johnson Collegiate consisted of: Steinberg’s (originally Grand Union which opened in 1956, it became Steinberg’s in 1959), Mohawk Bowl, Frank Chapel Department Store, Mayfair Hair Styles, Vince & Tony’s Barber Shop, Mohawk Pharmacy, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, Home Economics Food & Freezer, Speed Wash Laundry, Beese’s Delicatessen, and the Shake ’n Burger.

1961

The Oriental Restaurant (104 Market Street) next to the Bell Telephone building opened. The A & W Drive In opened at 67 Charing Cross Street. The Quickee Drive In at Colborne and Puleston Streets was renamed Robertson’s Drive In. The White Horse Carry Out, serving Kentucky Fried Chicken, opened at 55-57 Erie Avenue. This is currently the empty lot at Erie Avenue and the BSAR.

A number of motels in the city got a new name: the Beauview Motel (950 Colborne Street next to Cainsville School) is renamed the Twin Gates Motel, (the motel was renamed The Galaxy Motel in 2015) the Brant Motel becomes the Grant Motel, and the Gage Motel (568 Colborne Street opposite Iroquois Street) is renamed Four Star Motel.

The Paramount Theatre on Dalhousie Street closed on 6-May-1961. Bell City Cabs began operating from 1 1/2 King Street. John Hogewoning opens Hogewoning Motors at 60 Waterloo Street. John was a mechanic with Andreasen Motors. Hogewoning Motors will become the first Toyota dealer in Ontario in November-1965.

 Paramount Theatre, originally the Hext Carriage factory, was remodelled into a theatre in 1913. It was known as the Brant Theatre. In 1951 Paramount Theatres bought the theatre and changed the name to the Paramount. The theatre showed its last film on 6-May-1961.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Paramount Theatre, originally the Hext Carriage factory, was remodelled into a theatre in 1913. It was known as the Brant Theatre. In 1951 Paramount Theatres bought the theatre and changed the name to the Paramount. The theatre showed its last film on 6-May-1961. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

1962

The Sherwood Inn (700 Colborne Street at Locks Road), next to the Sherwood Motel, opened. A fire at the Bodega Hotel at the corner of Market and Darling Streets on 4-March-1962 gutted the top floor and the roof. The hotel was subsequently torn down. Canada Permanent Trust built the building on the Bodega corner that TD Canada Trust now occupies in 1964. Terrace Hill Dairy at the corner of West and Dundas Streets was sold to the Borden Company on 1-August-1962. The Farmer’s Dell Plaza at the corner of King George Road and Somerset Road opened. The Alexander Motor Motel at 123 King George Road, next to the Farmer’s Dell Plaza, opened. The motel is now rental accommodation and Angel’s Family Restaurant occupies the front of the building.

The Brantford Plaza, Brantford’s first large scale suburban shopping plaza, opened. Woolco, the anchor tenant, opened it’s 90,000 square foot store on 24-November-1962. This was Woolco’s fourth store in Canada. The plaza could accommodate 2,000 cars. It was built for $1,250,000 and required the demolition and relocation of the Tranquility Fire Hall. The plaza featured the following stores at opening: Discount Foods; Woolworth’s, designed to keep Zeller’s out of the plaza; The Chalet Restaurant, featuring Gentleman Jim’s steaks; United Cigar, Store; Reitman’s; Carlton Cleaning Carousel; Boyce’s Stationery; Scarfe’s Decorating Centre; Terry & Lynn Shops; Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; Kern’s Jewellry; Agnew-Surpass Shoes; Styletex Textiles; Wally’s Barber Shop; Bridie Shoe Repair & Luggage; and the Flash Gas Bar with its three distinctive umbrella shaped concrete canopies.

 Woolco Department Store. This is a picture of the Hamilton store. There was no parking directly in front of the Brantford store. Note the zigzag canopy at the entrance to the store, this design feature was very popular in the 1960s. Woolco opened their first store in Columbus, Ohio in July-1962. Six more stores were opened in 1962, two in the U.S. and four in Ontario - Sudbury, Hamilton, Windsor, and Brantford. The first Canadian store opened in Sudbury. The Brantford store was the company’s fourth.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Woolco Department Store. This is a picture of the Hamilton store. There was no parking directly in front of the Brantford store. Note the zigzag canopy at the entrance to the store, this design feature was very popular in the 1960s. Woolco opened their first store in Columbus, Ohio in July-1962. Six more stores were opened in 1962, two in the U.S. and four in Ontario - Sudbury, Hamilton, Windsor, and Brantford. The first Canadian store opened in Sudbury. The Brantford store was the company’s fourth. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

1963

The Hamilton Automobile Club opened their first Brantford office at 431 St Paul Avenue, kitty corner from the Loblaws on King George Road. Beaver Lumber moves to their new location on King George Road and Fairview Drive. The College Theatre, 310 Colborne Street closed. It became Talk of the Town Billiards in 1964. It is now 310 Sports Bar & Grill.

 College Theatre at 310 Colborne Street, with seating for 550 people, opened on 6-April-1939 The theatre closed in 1963. In 1964 it became Talk of the Town Billiards.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

College Theatre at 310 Colborne Street, with seating for 550 people, opened on 6-April-1939 The theatre closed in 1963. In 1964 it became Talk of the Town Billiards. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The last horse drawn milk wagons in the City made their final trip on 31-May-1963. Terrace Hill Dairies had six horses remaining in 1963, down from the 35 they used in 1959. Traffic conditions in the City were cited as the reason for removing the horses from the road.

 Milk tickets from the Terrace Hill Dairy. A household would buy a booklet of tickets and then place a ticket in the empty milk bottle for the milkman to redeem with a fresh quart of milk. Many homes built after WWII featured a milk shoot where empties were exchanged for full bottles along with any other milk products a household required.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Milk tickets from the Terrace Hill Dairy. A household would buy a booklet of tickets and then place a ticket in the empty milk bottle for the milkman to redeem with a fresh quart of milk. Many homes built after WWII featured a milk shoot where empties were exchanged for full bottles along with any other milk products a household required. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Dingwall Mercury replaces Strobridges Motors as the city’s Mercury dealer. Stanley Motors on King George Road and Wood Street becomes the city’s Studebaker dealer.

The Shanghai Restaurant relocates from 89 Colborne Street West to 907 Colborne Street, next to the Bell City Motel. Koster’s Cream-EE Freeze ice cream shop and building is moved from Brant Avenue and Bedford Street to the Brantford Plaza and is renamed Dairee Delite.

Construction began on the water tower in the north end of the City, south of Highway 403 and east of King George Road, behind St. Pius X School.

 Construction of the water tower in the City’s north end, behind St. Pius X School.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Construction of the water tower in the City’s north end, behind St. Pius X School. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

1964

The Inn of the Jolly Baron, 666 Colborne Street opened. The Inn featured a 40 unit motel and lounge. A banquet room accommodating 800 people was added later. The Inn, operated by the Bielak family, became Brantford’s premiere hotel and banquet facility.

Clark’s Discount Department Store opened at Colborne and Iroquois Streets. The plaza featured an adjacent and connected Discount Foods store.

 Clark’s Discount Department Store and Discount Foods. Clark’s would be renamed Gambles in 1968. Note the Gates Rubber factory behind Clark’s. Star Bowling Lanes is at the top centre of the photo just above Iroquois Park.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Clark’s Discount Department Store and Discount Foods. Clark’s would be renamed Gambles in 1968. Note the Gates Rubber factory behind Clark’s. Star Bowling Lanes is at the top centre of the photo just above Iroquois Park. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Royal Bank opened their new branch at Brant Avenue and Bedford Street, the former location of Koster’s Cream-EE Freeze. Robertson’s Drive In, across from Pauline Johnson Collegiate, rebranded as Robbies.

1965

Checkered Flag Hobbies, a slot car racing facility, opened at Mohawk Plaza, next to the Steinberg’s. Pat Alonzo’s Music Studio opened at 37 Alfred Street.

Stanley Motors Studebaker changed to Stanley Rambler with the demise of the Studebaker automobile company. Dingwall Mercury moved from the corner of Dalhousie and Clarence Streets to 135 King George Road, the old Stainless Steel Products factory. C.W. Smith Motors moved to a new facility at 100 Market Street South. This location is now the Brantford Convention Centre. Hogewoning Motors moved to 249 Murray Street and became Ontario’s first Toyota dealer.

Discount Foods at the Brantford Plaza and Clark’s Plaza rebranded to Super City Discount Foods. Gordon’s Red & White on Erie Avenue became Gordon-Guscott’s Foodmaster with the building of a new store at 43 Erie Avenue (the area’s finest grocery store). Walker’s Department Store replaced Eaton’s in the Arcade Building on Colborne and Queen Streets.

A second White Horse Drive In featuring Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in the Farmer’s Dell Plaza. Robbies Carry Out opened their second location at 6 King George Road next to the Loblaws.

Cable TV arrived in Brantford. Jarmain Cable TV opened an office at the Clark’s Plaza and began service on 16-August-1965 in Eagle Place. West Brant and Holmedale were added in September, downtown and the North Ward in late September, and the north end of the city in the winter. Jarmain built150 foot antennas on Old Onondaga Road, 2 miles east of Brantford that made 9 VHF channels available to local residents for $4.50 a month. Local community access television started in 1970.

1966

Dingwall Mercury sold their Brantford location and became Northway Mercury headed by local entrepreneur John Czarny. Northway Mercury moved to the corner of Colborne and Alfred Streets. North Park Chrysler Plymouth opened at the former Dingwall Mercury location at 135 King George Road. The Pioneer Gas Bar with its distinct canopy opened at 281 Colborne Street at Echo Street. The canopy was hit by a truck in 2012 and had to be taken down.

 ioneer Gas Bar, 281 Colborne St. This distinctive canopy covered the gasoline pumps between 1966 and 2012.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

ioneer Gas Bar, 281 Colborne St. This distinctive canopy covered the gasoline pumps between 1966 and 2012. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Woolworth’s in the Brantford Plaza closed due to poor sales. Their worst day total sales since they opened in late 1962 was 25 cents. Burroughs Furniture moved from 318 Colborne Street, next to College Skate Exchange, to the former Woolworth’s store.

The Dutch Shop opened at the Mohawk Plaza.

1967

San Frano’s Drive In opened on Charing Cross Street and Hill Avenue. The restaurant was started by brothers Sam, Frank, and Romeo.

1968

Tim Horton’s opened their eighth store at 20 King George Road and Borden Street. Country Style Donuts opened at 198 King George Road, just south of Forsythe Avenue. Maria’s Pizza opened at 430 Colborne Street.

Clark’s Discount Department Store rebranded to Gamble’s Department Store. Dirty Dan the Discount Man opened at 67 Erie Avenue; they were noted for their cheap cigarettes.

Brantford’s first Datsun dealership, Highway Datsun, opened at 874 Colborne Street at Rowanwood Avenue, across from St. Peter’s School. Kett Motors at Dalhousie and Charlotte Streets becomes Len McGee Motors Chrysler Dodge.

The Holiday Inn opened on Holiday Inn Drive. It is now the Best Western Brantford Hotel and Conference Centre. Holiday Inn Drive was renamed Holiday Drive in the 1980s.

 The newly built Holiday Inn on what is now Holiday Drive. Top left is the Massey-Ferguson Combine Plant and top centre is the Ladish Company of Canada factory that operated between 1953 and 1996. It is now the location of the Mabe Distribution Centre and The Expositor.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The newly built Holiday Inn on what is now Holiday Drive. Top left is the Massey-Ferguson Combine Plant and top centre is the Ladish Company of Canada factory that operated between 1953 and 1996. It is now the location of the Mabe Distribution Centre and The Expositor. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Steinberg’s becomes Miracle Food Mart in 1968. The Loblaw’s in downtown Brantford at 197-199 Colborne Street closes.

1969

The Coca-Cola bottling plant on 20-26 Morrell Street closed.

Brant County Motors is renamed Brant County Ford. Stanley Rambler is renamed Stanley Motors - American Motors. Len McGee Motors takes over North Park Chrysler Plymouth to become a full line Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth dealer and consolidates their operation at 135 King George Road.

Harvey’s opened at 578 Colborne Street across from Gamble’s. The Red Barn opened at 64 King George Road. Wendy’s built their second Canadian restaurant at this location after Red Barn closed in the 1970s. Burger Chef opened across the street at 45 King George Road. This became the long time site of the Pizza Chief restaurant which also opened in 1969, but at Morrell and Burwell Streets in Holmedale. Moose Winooski’s was located at this location and now the restaurant is known as Sociables.

RedBarn_Web.jpg

In 1969 Calbeck’s purchases the Miracle Food Mart store at the Mohawk Plaza. The Shake ’n Burger becomes the Centennial Restaurant.

Consumers Distributing opens at 331 King George Road across from the Brantford Plaza.

Alexander Motor Hotel at 125 King George Road is converted into the Farmer’s Dell apartments.

Brantford in the 1950s - Post 19

During the 19th century, Brantford led Ontario in expanding municipal services for its residents and had a well-developed infrastructure of city services. It was able to do this because the early civic leaders understood they were in competition with newly developing cities and towns to attract capital and settlers.They reckoned that a progressive and modern town would be an attractive place to settle and invest. However, by the end of the First World War, Brantford needed to be rebuilt and modernised. In addition, demand for new services continued. Providing funding for these services while keeping taxes low required compromise

By the mid-20th century, Brantford’s standing as a leading and progressive municipality in Ontario and Canada began to diminish. The depression and war years had taken their toll on City services as the funding levels had not kept pace with demand and routine maintenance. The continued postponement of needed expenditures by municipal governments during these periods only delayed the inevitable. The baby boom that started after the war further compounded the situation as demand for school space and City services soared. A perfect storm hit Brantford.

The Brantford we are familiar with today began to take shape during the 1950s.

City Council

As the 1950s began, Brantford was faced with a substantial services deficit. Boundary expansion, traffic congestion, lack of downtown parking, industrial expansion, hospital overcrowding, expanded and new schools, arena and performing space, and sewage treatment all competed for Council’s attention and funding.

Years of inadequate funding meant property tax increases were necessary, but tax increases are unpopular and Aldermen, now called Councillors, were elected to one year terms, so their performance was constantly under scrutiny. Two year terms were adopted in 1957. Short election terms equate to a focus on short term achievable goals. Noble, long term intentions do not always translate into popularity. Longer term goals can be ignored when a pressing current issue has the attention of voters.

Brantford had become a victim rather than a beneficiary of its conservative fiscal policy. Brantford would finally abandon its pay-as-you-go philosophy in 1957 because the need for capital expenditures could no longer be met unless financing could be spread over the life of the project through the issuing of municipal debentures.

Tension among councillors increased during the fifties. Disagreements over civic spending, the appointment of a new city clerk in 1956, the consideration to add a City Manager, the entitlement of Aldermen regarding City assets, allegations of bribery, and a parking meter scandal created a circus like atmosphere at council meetings.

Boundary Adjustment

Brantford’s ability to increase its tax base was being hampered by a lack of land to develop. This lack of serviced land caused industries to pass Brantford by. In 1952, Canadian General Electric built its $8 million heavy equipment plant in Guelph Township because space was not available in Brantford.

There were two possible solutions, annex land from Brantford Township or amalgamate with Brantford Township. The City and the Province favoured annexation of Township lands. Despite the missed opportunities for Brantford to attract large industrial developments, negotiations between the two councils was pursued lackadaisically. When talks finally began in earnest in 1952 the two sides were far apart. The City was seeking 3,400 acres and the Township was offering 500 acres. Faced with an impasse, Brantford appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (O.M.B.). Brantford withdrew their appeal in January 1953 to allow for further discussions but these talks also failed so the City reapplied to the O.M.B. but this time asked for 7,900 acres of land which included the suburban Township subdivisions adjacent to the City. The Township argued it would dissolve as a community since its tax based would be decimated. The City countered that it was stagnating. In October 1954, the O.M.B. ruled in the City’s favour. The annexation would be effective on 1-January-1955. With this annexation, the City’s population increased from 37,000 to 50,000. The total area of the City increased by 350 percent, from 3,178 acres before annexation to 11,078 acres after. Little opposition was received from Township residents affected by the annexation. However, anxiety surfaced in 1956 when former Township residents received their tax assessment and were upset by the property tax increases.

City Council commissioned a Master Plan to guide the development of the new enlarged City. This plan was needed to assist Council in the prioritising and costing of municipal improvements. Had plans been developed in the past, the City would likely have avoided some of the problems that came home to roost after the war.

 Annexation of Brantford Township lands to 1960.  Image courtesy of the City of Brantford Planning Department

Annexation of Brantford Township lands to 1960. Image courtesy of the City of Brantford Planning Department

Market Square

In 1950, the sad condition of City Hall and the relocation of the Farmers’ Market headed Council’s list for downtown improvements. It is interesting to note that as early as 1895, City Hall was regarded as an eyesore and an embarrassment to the City, yet fifty-five years later it was still the seat of municipal government. Given its location in the bustling retail and commercial centre, City Hall sat on prime land that was not producing revenue for the City. In 1951, Council decided to move the Farmers’ Market to the canal basin on what was then Greenwich Street, now Icomm Drive, its present location. By the end of the fifties, the Market remained on Market Square. In April 1951, a Toronto development company proposed to purchase and develop the Market Square but nothing further became of the proposal. In 1958, an American investment syndicate made a verbal offer of $1 million for the Market Square to build a five-storey building and 400 car underground garage. Again, nothing became of this proposal but the proposal did note that the downtown was vulnerable to suburban developments and the downtown needed a catalyst to remain relevant and vibrant. The City did take one step in 1957 regarding City Hall when it purchased the Y.W.C.A. building and property at the corner of Wellington and George Streets for $67,000. As the 1950s ended no decision was reached on what to do with Market Square. Debate ensued around keeping City Hall on site, selling the property outright, or converting the property to a parking lot.

 YWCA on Wellington Street at George Street. Site of the Brantford City Hall.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

YWCA on Wellington Street at George Street. Site of the Brantford City Hall. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Downtown

Traffic downtown was a mess; rush hours were accompanied by gridlock. This situation was the result of no alternative routes for through traffic to avoid downtown. In June 1951, the Brantford and Suburban Planning Board’s traffic study made the following recommendations: convert Colborne and Dalhousie Streets to one-way streets, implement parking restrictions, convert the Market Square into a parking lot, locate the bus terminal just outside of the downtown area, purchase land for off-street parking, and synchronise the traffic lights on the newly configured one-way streets. The downtown merchants were not in favour of one-way streets, but despite their protests City Council decided to implement one-way streets on a 4-month trial basis. On 4-August-1954, Colborne Street, Dalhousie Street, King Street and Queen Street became one-way streets. The public supported the changes and on 6-November, the change was made permanent. Strangely, City Council twice declined to act on synchronising the traffic lights on these one-way streets, in 1954 and 1958. In 1957, eight more streets were converted to one-way.

The Brantford and Suburban Planning Board’s traffic study also indicated a need for 500 off-street parking spaces. 200 spaces were opened on the canal basin along Greenwich Street in November 1950 and all-day parking meters were installed on Market Square in January 1951. The planning board report also noted that it would be in the interest of the downtown merchants to build their own parking lots or have the City provide parking lots for a fee and to refrain from using street parking for their staff and themselves. Failure to increase the number of parking spots available downtown would render the downtown vulnerable to suburban plazas that provided free parking. The Board’s warnings were not heeded and the downtown parking problem continued.

 1952 aerial photo of downtown Brantford and Market Street South industrial basin.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   a) Armoury, b) Prince Edward Hotel, later the Best View Hotel, c) William Patterson & Son Co. Ltd., Confectionery & Biscuit Manufacturers, d) Federal Building, e) City Hall, f) Hotel Kerby, g) Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell (CNR) freight shed, h) Lake of the Woods Flour Mill. The mill closed in 1956 and was demolished in the early 1960s, i) Victoria Bridge (Market Street South), j) Interchange yards between the Lake Erie &Northern Railway (LE&N) and the CNR, built over the canal, k) LE&N Railway station, l) LE&N line to Port Dover, m) Greenwich Street, n) Scarfe & Company, paint and varnishes, o) CNR rail line to Tillsonburg, originally the Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell Railway, p) Massey-Harris Company, South Market Street plant, q) Waterous Limited, later Koehring-Waterous, then finally Timberjack, r) Freight yards of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (TH&B).

1952 aerial photo of downtown Brantford and Market Street South industrial basin. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

a) Armoury, b) Prince Edward Hotel, later the Best View Hotel, c) William Patterson & Son Co. Ltd., Confectionery & Biscuit Manufacturers, d) Federal Building, e) City Hall, f) Hotel Kerby, g) Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell (CNR) freight shed, h) Lake of the Woods Flour Mill. The mill closed in 1956 and was demolished in the early 1960s, i) Victoria Bridge (Market Street South), j) Interchange yards between the Lake Erie &Northern Railway (LE&N) and the CNR, built over the canal, k) LE&N Railway station, l) LE&N line to Port Dover, m) Greenwich Street, n) Scarfe & Company, paint and varnishes, o) CNR rail line to Tillsonburg, originally the Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell Railway, p) Massey-Harris Company, South Market Street plant, q) Waterous Limited, later Koehring-Waterous, then finally Timberjack, r) Freight yards of the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (TH&B).

Transit

The rapid rise in automobile ownership was taking a toll on the City’s transit revenue. 1949 was its last profitable year. In 1952 the transit service posted its first deficit which quickly multiplied in the coming years. To compound matters, the 1955 annexation increased the services’ geography significantly. The City wanted the service to run on a self-sustaining basis but deficits continued to escalate. Service cuts were implemented and in 1956 Sunday service was discontinued. Reducing service rarely results in increased ridership.

Housing

The emergency housing complex established at the former pilot’s training school at the Airport was becoming a distraction for the City. The community was not located in the City and received no City services. The community was established to alleviate the post war housing crisis. As the housing situation began to improve in the 1950s, the City was intent on closing the community rather than investing in maintenance. In June-1953, the remaining residents were asked to vacate the community as the buildings were rapidly deteriorating. In 1959, a survey identified a need for geared to income housing and plans were made to build 50 rowhouses in Eagle Place with the assistance of the provincial government. 

Bell Homestead

Brantford and Boston have long had a friendly competition regarding the claim as to where the telephone was invented so it came as a pleasant surprise when, on 7-May-1950, the Boston Sunday Herald wrote the following: It was during a vacation at Brantford in July 1874 that Bell first conceived the principle that underlies not only telephony, but television, radio and sound motion pictures as well… This recognition of principle always constituted for Bell the actual invention of the telephone. On 12-September-1953, the Historic Site and Monument Board of Canada unveiled a cairn to commemorate the invention of the telephone in front of the Bell Homestead. The Homestead would finally receive its designation as a National Historic Site of Canada on 1-July-1996.

Black Sunday 24-September-1950s

The afternoon of Sunday 24-September-1950 will always be remembered by those who lived through it. Shortly after 1PM the skies over Brantford began to darken. Street lights came on and cars needed their headlights. Darkness descended over Brantford and the northeastern United States. By 4 PM the sky began to brighten and the roosters began to crow. Speculation as to the cause of the phenomenom included an eclipse, an atomic explosion, a tornado, a snowstorm, a flying saucer, and the U.S. Army trying to see if it could block out the sky. The odd darkening was attributed to high altitude smoke from forest fires in Northern Alberta and British Columbia. At that time forest fires were allowed to burn freely if they burned more than 10 miles from roads, rail lines, and communities. This darkening of the sky phenomenon has been reported throughout history, since biblical times, notably in 1547, 1706, and on 19-May-1780, 18-April-1860, and 19-March-1886. In 1915, Scientific American magazine cited a U.S. Forest Service Bulletin which listed 18 dark days between 1706 and 1910.

Edward Barbarian, Brantford’s Bad Boy

On 13-June-1951, Edward Barbarian was found, shot to death, in a ditch near Mount Pleasant. He was 28. He was a short, husky man, always impeccably dressed. He was tough and he was mean; people were afraid of him. He carried around a .38-calibre revolver. His police record began in 1939, when he was 16. He was convicted of robbery, theft, burglary, bootlegging, and receiving stolen goods. He spent two years in jail and 4 years at the Kingston Penitentiary. Barbarian’s name was synonymous with gambling, bootlegging, and racketeering. He was also a lady’s man; good-looking, alluring, and dangerous. He cruised around town driving a 1946 Cadillac. Barbarian’s fronts were a cigar store on Queen Street and the Golden Rail Restaurant at 63 Dalhousie Street. He was known to erupt in fits of rage from time-to-time and once threatened to kill every cop in town. His murder remains unsolved. Barbarian’s demise may be attributed to ahmot, the Armenian word meaning to never bring shame to the family.

War Memorial

In 1955, Mayor Reg Cooper made the completion of the war memorial a priority. The memorial was to be commemorated on 11-November but a delay in the supply of the stones pushed back the unveiling to July-1956. The Remembrance Gallery honours the sacrifice of 339 Brant County men and women who died in the Second World War and the Korean War. 

Police and Fire

Two relics from the 19th century remained in use well beyond their designed lifespan, the fire station on Dalhousie Street and the Police Station, behind it, on Queen Street. These buildings were designed to serve the needs of 1900 Brantford, not a modern and expanding City. In 1952, the City decided to replace these antiquated facilities with new buildings at Greenwich and Newport Streets, built on reclaimed canal basin land (a former carp pond). The new stations opened in 1954 and were immediately beset with problems due to the land they were built on. As the buildings settled, walls cracked, pipes broke, and telephone and electrical problems occurred. The floors in the fire station sank two and one-half inches in 3 years. In 1955, the Canadian Underwriters’ Association recommended three more fire stations be constructed, more firefighters hired, and firefighting equipment updated. In 1959, a tender was issued for a second fire station to be constructed at St. Paul Avenue and Dundas Street.

Fires continued to rage throughout the 1950s. Wood framed buildings with wood flooring, dried out after decades of use where prime to ignite at the slightest provocation of carelessness. Many of these fires often stretched the resources, men and equipment of the fire department to their limit. Major fires included the blaze at Gazer Mill Stock Co. on Grey Street, near Park Ave, in May-1951, the Loblaws store at 197 Colborne Street in January-1956 (the store was located in the building adjacent to the east side of the present Library building), the Agnew-Surpass store at 166 Colborne Street, just west of Market Street, in November-1958, and the Stedman’s Bookstore fire in January-1955 which required every fire fighter and every piece of equipment in the City to fight. To complicate the situation, a break in the water main downtown forced the fire fighters to pump water from the covered canal on Water Street. Within 24 hours after the Stedman blaze had been put out, store manager Bill White started to reorder merchandise to restock the store at a temporary location from memory, aisle by aisle, shelf by shelf.

 Aerial photo of Greenwich St, 1955.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   a) Brantford Hydro substation, b) CNR connecting track to the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (TH&B), c) CNR rail line to Tillsonburg, d) Fire Station, e) Newport Street, f) Police Station, g) Masonic Temple. Brantford Mosque since 2005, h) Former Brantford Hamilton Electric Radial Railway line, i) Clarence Street.

Aerial photo of Greenwich St, 1955. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

a) Brantford Hydro substation, b) CNR connecting track to the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (TH&B), c) CNR rail line to Tillsonburg, d) Fire Station, e) Newport Street, f) Police Station, g) Masonic Temple. Brantford Mosque since 2005, h) Former Brantford Hamilton Electric Radial Railway line, i) Clarence Street.

Bridges

The need to replace the Ava Road bridge that crossed over the CNR tracks and connected Brant Ave with Paris Road was identified as early as 1924. Although the bridge was an important thoroughfare into Brantford, the bridge was in Brantford Township. Canadian National Railways was also difficult to negotiate with. Discussions regarding the replacement of the bridge were renewed in 1951 and an agreement was reached in 1954. The 1955 annexation put the bridge within the City limits. In 1957, it was decided to build the bridge at a 45-degree angle rather than at right angles as per the original bridge. Land was purchased from the Ontario School for the Blind to accommodate this change and in August 1959 traffic began travelling over the new bridge.

 Ava Road Bridge.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society   The dashed line identifies the proposed route of the new bridge to cross the Canadian National Railway’s mainline tracks connecting Brant Ave with Paris Road. The new bridge opened in 1959.

Ava Road Bridge. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The dashed line identifies the proposed route of the new bridge to cross the Canadian National Railway’s mainline tracks connecting Brant Ave with Paris Road. The new bridge opened in 1959.

In 1957, the Brantford and Suburban Planning Board had determined that the Lorne Bridge was no longer adequate to carry the increasing amount of traffic using the bridge and that within five years the traffic congestion would be unbearable. The Board recommended a new bridge be located upstream of the Lorne Bridge, however, a 1958 consultant’s report recommended that a new bridge be constructed one-half mile downstream of the Lorne Bridge. This bridge was eventually built as part the Brantford Southern Access Route, now known as the Veterans’ Memorial Parkway. The bridge opened to traffic in 1972.

Highways and Railways

Around the turn of the 20th-century, the Grand Trunk Railway acquired land north of the City to construct a bypass to divert their freight trains around the City rather than travelling through the City. When the Grand Trunk commenced work to excavate and grade the right-of-way the railway discovered a high water table which rendered the land useless as a rail right-of-way. The ground turned to quicksand as it was excavated. In 1947, at the behest of William Henry Summerhayes, the chair of the Brantford and Suburban Planning Board, discussions between Brantford Township and the Canadian National Railway, the successor to the Grand Trunk, began to acquire the railway’s right-of-way. Negotiations concluded in 1954 for Brantford Township to acquire the abandoned right-of-way. The right-of-way ended up in the City after the 1955 annexation of Township lands. The intention was to build a highway to carry through traffic away from the centre of Brantford and to open up the north end to residential and industrial development. In 1959, the Department of Highways agreed to build a limited-access expressway along this route; the projected cost was $4 million. In 1958, the City began to plan for the Brantford Expressway, later to be known as the Brantford Southern Access Route.

In November 1949, the Echo Place Association asked City Council to build a road along the Brantford Hamilton Electric Radial Railway right-of-way to provide another route into town. This request would result in the construction of Glenwood Drive.

Highways 2 and 53 between Brantford and Hamilton was a very busy two-lane concrete highway. The concrete surface was laid in 1929. In the summer of 1950, the highway was widened to four lanes from the junction of Highway 54 to the county line. A second bridge over Fairchild Creek for east-bound traffic was added at this time. A few years later the four-lane highway was extended to Binkley’s Corners, at the junction of Highways 2 and 8 near Hamilton.

Passenger train service between Brantford and Tillsonburg on CNR’s Burford subdivision, formerly the Brantford, Norfolk & Port Burwell Railway ended on Saturday 24-April-1954 when mixed train M328/M329 made their final runs. Rail service on this line commenced on 1-January-1878. On Saturday 25-September-1954, the last Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo passenger train left Brantford for Hamilton, ending 59 years of passenger service on the line. The freight office moved to the closed passenger station until the station building was sold in 1969.

On Saturday 23-April-1955, the Lake Erie & Northern Railway made its final passenger service run between Galt and Port Dover. On 25-April, Canada Coach Lines began bus service over this route. The station remained vacant after passenger service was discontinued and was demolished in 1958. Passenger service had long been unprofitable for the railway but their requests to end passenger service was continually denied by the Canadian Transportation Commission. In order to hasten the demise of the service, train schedules were purposefully set to frustrate the travelling public especially with respect to connections between the Lake Erie & Northern line with that of the Grand River Railway which travelled between Brantford, through Galt, to Kitchener. With the popularity of the automobile it was only a matter of time before passenger rail service was discontinued.

 Train departing the  Lake Erie & Northern station  bound for Port Dover. Passenger service ended on the LE & N on Saturday 23-April-1955.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Train departing the Lake Erie & Northern station bound for Port Dover. Passenger service ended on the LE & N on Saturday 23-April-1955. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Passenger train service on Canadian National Railway’s Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway line between Fort Erie, through Brantford, to Stratford, was discontinued in 23-April-1960.

Street Name Changes

In 1958, a few street names were changed. St. George Road was renamed King George Road to avoid confusion with St. George Street. Brant Street in West Brant was changed to Sherwood Drive to avoid confusion with Brant Avenue. Burford Road was changed to Colborne Street West.

Industrial Developments

The City’s economy was closely tied to farm implements and textiles. After the post war boom, the manufacturing economy began to settle down. As the fifties wore on, lay-offs began to mount, by 1954 Brantford was the hardest hit community in Canada with over 4,000 people looking for work, in a City of 52,000. Employment began to slowly improve and in 1959 Massey-Ferguson’s employment peaked, just below the record levels of 1950, and Cockshutt’s situation was also vastly improved.

Massey-Harris built a new foundry, named the M Foundry, at its Verity complex in 1950. In August 1953, Massey-Harris merged with Harry Ferguson Companies to form Massey-Harris-Ferguson. The name was shortened to Massey-Ferguson in 1958. In 1956, the company purchased 118 acres of land on Park Road North and Henry Street as a reserve to eventually replace some of its older factories. In 1960, all production at Massey-Ferguson’s Market Street complex was discontinued and all personnel were laid-off. During the 1950s, Massey’s began to build factories in other countries and it became cheaper to manufacture the products produced at the Market Street factory overseas. The Market Street complex was one of the original Massey-Harris plants. The complexed was razed except for the warehouse at the north end of the property. The Brantford and District Civic Centre would eventually be built on the site.

Cockshutt faced a different situation. The stock of the company was undervalued. The company kept large reserves of working capital and cash to self-finance its expansion and thus paid small dividends. The company carried no debt. English Transcontinental, backed by American investors, began buying Cockshutt stock at depressed levels. By 1958, they had amassed over thirty percent of the company’s stock and demanded a reorganisation of the Cockshutt Board with English Transcontinental in control. The beginning of the end for Cockshutt began. The value of the company was less than the sum of its parts. The great dismantling and liquidation of the company would begin in 1960.

Changes at Brantford Cordage were also underway. The United Auto Workers organised the workforce and the family atmosphere at the plant began to dissolve. The UAW demands were greater than a textile oriented union more familiar with the industry made. It was clear to C.L. Messecar, owner and manager of the factory, that the union demands would disrupt the delicate balance of the cost structure of his business. Messecar sold the business to the Gairdner Group in Toronto, who combined it with Davis Leather Company of Newmarket, to form Tancord Industries. It was purely a financial play, to use the tax losses accumulated at Davis Leather to offset the profits from Brantford Cordage. Davis Leather closed down three years after the amalgamation.

In 1953, Gates Rubber announced plans to build a factory in Brantford; two years later it announced plans to triple the size of the plant. A.G. Spalding and Brothers announced in February 1954 that they would build a new plant in West Brant. The Brantford Screw Company purchased 50 acres in West Brant for a plant expansion at their Colborne Street West and Welsh Street facility. Canadian Westinghouse moved its radio and television division to the City in 1954. In 1959, Harding Carpets announced a major expansion to its Holmedale plant.

  Canadian Westinghouse  moved their television and radio division to a plant on Greenwich Street in 1954. Westinghouse closed this plant in 1971. The three and a half story building to the left is now Brant Instore and the foreground building is Ingenia Polymers.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Canadian Westinghouse moved their television and radio division to a plant on Greenwich Street in 1954. Westinghouse closed this plant in 1971. The three and a half story building to the left is now Brant Instore and the foreground building is Ingenia Polymers. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Koehring Company of Cleveland bought the Waterous Company and brought the production of cranes and excavators to Brantford. In 1957, Koehring’s closed the foundry, dropped the sawmill equipment line of products and sold off the boiler products line. In 1959, an addition to the factory was made to accommodate the production of large forestry operations equipment.

Announcements of new plant openings and expansions were accompanied by plant closings. In 1952, the Canadian Car and Foundry malleable iron foundry on Usher Street was deemed surplus by its owner Avro Canada and production was moved to Montreal. The company’s buildings were quickly demolished and the land was sold to the CNR who built rail sidings. In 1959, Slingsby Manufacturing Company, located at 270 Grand River Avenue, suspended its operations putting 300 people out of work. Brantford Washing Machine Company, located at 16-18 Grey Street, closed as the company consolidated its operations in Toronto. Universal Cooler, located at 146 Sherwood Drive, shut down minutes before signing a new labour contract with the United Auto Workers, citing difficult union negotiations and poor expansion opportunities. The company moved to Barrie. Copeland Refrigeration Company moved into the vacated factory.

  Canadian Car and Foundry  plant on Usher St. It began as the Pratt and Letchworth Foundry in 1905. Pratt and Letchworth was a Buffalo based company. Canadian Car and Foundry purchased the plant during WWI. The foundry closed in 1952 and was demolished. The building marked A, the old pattern shop, is the only remaining building of this complex. It is now the location of Board of Your Flooring.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Canadian Car and Foundry plant on Usher St. It began as the Pratt and Letchworth Foundry in 1905. Pratt and Letchworth was a Buffalo based company. Canadian Car and Foundry purchased the plant during WWI. The foundry closed in 1952 and was demolished. The building marked A, the old pattern shop, is the only remaining building of this complex. It is now the location of Board of Your Flooring. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

  Slingsby Manufacturing Company Ltd  Started by William Slingsby, a Yorkshireman, in 1872.The company grew from 15 employees to over 800 by 1947. The plant was located on Grand River Avenue at the foot of St Paul Avenue. Canadian Celanese of Montreal acquired the company on 13-February-1959.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Slingsby Manufacturing Company Ltd Started by William Slingsby, a Yorkshireman, in 1872.The company grew from 15 employees to over 800 by 1947. The plant was located on Grand River Avenue at the foot of St Paul Avenue. Canadian Celanese of Montreal acquired the company on 13-February-1959. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

  FitzJohn Coach of Canada  In 1949, FitzJohn Coach of Canada was established by the FitzJohn Coach Company of Muskegon, Michigan, in an old hangar at the Brantford Airport. General Motors could not keep up with the post war demand for city buses, thus allowing smaller companies like FitzJohn to fill the void. The company started off strong in Brantford but faded after 1952. In 1958 the facility was sold to Blue Bird, allowing Blue Bird to expand into Canada. FitzJohn produced a total of 197 buses at the Brantford facility.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

FitzJohn Coach of Canada In 1949, FitzJohn Coach of Canada was established by the FitzJohn Coach Company of Muskegon, Michigan, in an old hangar at the Brantford Airport. General Motors could not keep up with the post war demand for city buses, thus allowing smaller companies like FitzJohn to fill the void. The company started off strong in Brantford but faded after 1952. In 1958 the facility was sold to Blue Bird, allowing Blue Bird to expand into Canada. FitzJohn produced a total of 197 buses at the Brantford facility. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

  Expositor Building  In 1950 the Expositor built a modern addition onto the west end of their existing building. When the $180,000 addition was completed the cupola and corner entrance would be removed.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Expositor Building In 1950 the Expositor built a modern addition onto the west end of their existing building. When the $180,000 addition was completed the cupola and corner entrance would be removed. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Labour

Labour relations in the 1950s were not too tumultuous. A major strike at Cockshutt was averted in May 1950 with the assistance of the Ontario Labour Minister. The U.A.W. was able to get the work week reduced to 40 hours per week from 45 hours and provide fully funded pensions.

A strike at Harding Carpets, located at 85 Morrell Street, began on 23-August-1956 and lasted for 91 days. The Canadian Textile Council was seeking reduced weekly hours without a reduction in pay, an improved pension plan, and better medical coverage. There were verbal and physical confrontations on the picket line. Police were called to the picket line on a number of occasions. Violence peaked on 23-October when 40 policemen clashed with strikers who were supported by members from other unions, when they tried to clear the picket line to allow people to leave the plant. In the end, workers received a pay raise and improved pension and medical coverage, but not a reduced work week.

At Robbins & Myers, located at 58 Morrell Street, workers struck over wages and hours of work issues in 1959. This strike lasted 16 weeks.

Education

Lack of space in schools reached crisis proportions in the early fifties. Classes at Brantford Collegiate Institute were large, with up to 50 students in a class, classrooms were scarce, the student-teacher ratio was high, and the teachers faced a heavy workload. The City spent less on education than cities of comparable size in the province. Where the common practice was to allocate one-third of tax dollars to education, Brantford allocated one-quarter. In 1950, the Board of Education working with the City identified the Glebe lands on Colborne Street as a suitable site for a new high school and arranged a deal with Six Nations council to acquire the site. This site was the former location of No. 20, Canadian Army Basic Training Camp during World War II. Although Six Nations Council supported the land sale, ratification of the agreement by the reserve residents was necessary and the voters on Six Nations did not ratify the agreement.

The Board of Education needed to find another site. Twelve locations were considered including the Arrowdale Golf Course, Mohawk Park, and a portion of Mount Hope Cemetery. In 1951, the Board opted for a 12 acre Mohawk Park site but then balked at the price the City asked for. In the meantime, with no site yet selected, attendance at BCI had reached 1,400, in a school designed to hold 900. In 1952, the School Board built an eight-room annex behind BCI to alleviate some of the overcrowding. The Board returned to the Glebe site as their preferred choice. In February 1953, the Six Nations voters agreed to sell 90 acres of the Glebe property to the Board of Education for $160,000 and the right to name the school. Pauline Johnson Collegiate Institute opened in January 1955 but this second high school did nothing to alleviate the overcrowding in the vocational department of BCI. Vocational subjects were going to be needed at Pauline Johnson.

Enrolment continued to rise in the high schools and it was clear a third high school was needed. In 1956, the Board decided to build a third high school on Wood Street, between what is now Metcalfe Crescent and St. Paul Avenue. Even though the Board was now moving quickly to begin construction of the third high school, BCI and Pauline Johnson were over capacity and the expectation was that the new school would still not provide enough space to accommodate all the expected 2,700 students. The Wood Street site would have to be abandoned when the School Board learned that the Department of Highways planned a four-lane highway behind the school, depriving the school of any campus space. A new location on North Park Street was identified and construction began in 1957. North Park Collegiate did not open until January 1960 which necessitated the implementation of a shift system at BCI to accommodate all the students. BCI student attended the school in the morning and North Park students attended in the afternoon. An addition to Pauline Johnson was also underway and would open in the spring of 1960.

 Drawing of Pauline Johnson Collegiate as it appeared on the cover of the 1956-57 yearbook - Owanah.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Drawing of Pauline Johnson Collegiate as it appeared on the cover of the 1956-57 yearbook - Owanah. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Brantford Catholic High School moved into the former Cockshutt Estate on Dufferin Avenue in 1951. The high school opened in 1941 in the basement of St. Ann’s Catholic School on Pearl Street with one grade nine class. A new class was added every year until 1951. An addition was made to the school in 1958 and the school’s name was changed to St. John’s College in 1959. The Dufferin Street campus remained in use until 1981 when expansion of the former Providence College campus was finally able to accommodate all students at one site.

Elementary schools were also under pressure. Between 1945 and 1952, elementary school enrolment increased by over 1,000 students. The Brant County Board of Education went on a building spree. Fairview Memorial School, located at 34 Norman Street, opened in 1947. In 1988, the school was converted to house alternative and special education classes. In 1992, it became a French-immersion school, École Fairview. The school closed in June 2016. Prince Charles School, located at 40 Morton Avenue, opened in 1949. In 1953, Thomas B. Costain School, located at 16 Morrell Street, opened. Costain returned to Brantford to officially open the school. Coronation School on 54 Ewing Drive opened in 1954. The school closed in June 2014. It reopened in September 2016 as a French-immersion school, École Confederation. F.C. Bodley Public School, located at 365 Rawdon Street opened in 1955. Bodley was the architect of more than a dozen City public schools built between 1924 and 1960. The last school Bodley designed for the Brant County Board of Education was North Park Collegiate. F.C. Bodley School closed in June 2006. Agnes Hodge Public School, at 52 Clench Street, opened in 1956. It was named after the women who organised the City’s first Home and School Association. Woodman Drive Public School, located at 51 Woodmand Drive, and Oak Hill Drive School opened in 1958. Oak Hill Drive School closed in June 1983. Greenbrier School opened in 1960.

The Board tried other ways to alleviate overcrowding. In 1959, the first portable classrooms to be used in the City were installed at Prince Charles Public School and Fairview Public School.

The Catholic Board of Education was also busy building four new schools. Our Lady of Fatima, located at 120 Ninth Avenue, opened in 1954. It closed in 2009. St Pius X School on Wood Street was built in 1954 and doubled in size in 1956. The school closed in June 2012, was razed, and rebuilt, opening in September 2013. Holy Cross School, at 358 Marlborough Street, opened in 1958. St. Theresa School, located at 12 Dalewood Avenue, opened in 1959.

 St. Pius X School on Wood St in 1954. The school built an addition in 1956 to double the number of classrooms. In 2012 the school was razed and rebuilt, opening in September 2013.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

St. Pius X School on Wood St in 1954. The school built an addition in 1956 to double the number of classrooms. In 2012 the school was razed and rebuilt, opening in September 2013. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

In 1951, a Royal Commission Report on Education found the conditions at the Ontario School for the Blind, renamed the W. Ross MacDonald School in 1974, deplorable. The report found the school building to be …inadequate, antiquated, dilapidated, dismal, poorly lit and constitute a fire hazard of the first order…. After the report was released, the Ontario Department of Education quickly announced plans to update the older building and build a new junior school.

In 1951, salary arbitration was used for the first time in Ontario when forty of the fifty teachers at BCI submitted their resignations in protest of the salary being offered them. The teachers were awarded an increase of $800.

Public Health

By 1952, the Grand River was known as The Grand Sewer and was reported to be one of the six worst polluted rivers in North America. Brantford was the only large centre located on the Grand River without any type of treatment plant even though residents voted for the construction of a primary treatment facility in 1946. Concerned about the condition of the river and the implications to the health of Brantford residents, the Board of Health began lobbying the Provincial Board of Health to force Grand River communities to build sewage treatment plants. In October 1957, engineers determined that a primary and secondary sewage treatment facility would cost $2.9 million. The City was financially prepared to build a facility because it had been collecting a special tax for this purpose since 1946. Construction began in 1959 and the facility was officially opened on 7-September-1960.

It should come as no surprise to the reader that the conditions at the Brantford General Hospital were terrible and dangerous. The wards were overcrowded and sunrooms and corridors were being used to house patients. The nurse’s dining room and the kitchen facilities were inadequate. The hospital only had two and a half operating rooms when six were needed. A 1951 Grand Jury report found the original hospital building to be: obsolete in design and function as well as presenting a very dangerous fire hazard. The recommendation was to demolish the building as soon as possible. The Hospital had been running a deficit since 1934 so this impacted their ability to modernise and upgrade the facility. The Grand Jury recommended that the Hospital reorganise itself with a focus on administering the hospital more like a business. In May 1952, the Hospital appointed a business administrator and finished 1954 with a surplus.

Between 1945 and 1950, hospital admissions doubled. The increase in admissions was attributed to an increase in the City’s population, new health insurance schemes, and a declining fear of hospitals amongst the public.

Drastically improved facilities for the City were required. The Hospital Board considered extensions to the existing building, a new hospital in the Township or across the street from the current facility, and even a private hospital. But the Board was split on how to proceed in spite of a dire need for action. The catalyst to action came by way of the Sisters of St. Joseph who proposed a new 150-bed hospital in the City. The Brantford General Hospital now had competition for funding. The Board quickly proposed a $2.8 million plan for a six-storey addition and the modernisation of the Hospital. In 1954, taxpayers voted to support the plans of both hospital groups with the BGH getting $1.8 million dollars and the Sisters of St. Joseph, $1 million.

 Brantford General Hospital after the completion of the rebuild in 1960.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brantford General Hospital after the completion of the rebuild in 1960. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

St. Joseph’s Hospital, a 135-bed facility, opened on 15-August-1955. In December 1955, work at the BGH would begin on Wing A, the Westview Pavilion. It officially opened on 1-June-1957. In 1959, Wing B, the John H. Stratford Pavilion, opened. Amidst all the planning for the expansion of the BGH, Wing B was designed with no elevators. An oversight no one caught.

 St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1955 on what was then Park Road North. The building has been repurposed to St. Joseph’s Lifecare, a long-term care facility. St Joe’s closed their maternity ward in June-1972. The Ministry of Health closed the hospital 2001.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1955 on what was then Park Road North. The building has been repurposed to St. Joseph’s Lifecare, a long-term care facility. St Joe’s closed their maternity ward in June-1972. The Ministry of Health closed the hospital 2001. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Nursing school was provided at the BGH but the residence for nursing students was located at Winston Hall in Eagle Place (124 Ontario Street), not conveniently located to the Hospital. Winston Hall was built as a residence for war workers. It was designed as a temporary structure to be taken down after the war but was pressed into continued service because of the housing crisis in the City. A new nurse’s residence was desperately needed. Remember the fear City Counsellor’s had regarding building cheap temporary war time homes mentioned in my earlier columns? Their concern was that the homes would not be dismantled but continued to be used and become unsightly. This example demonstrates that their concern had merit. A new nurse’s residence would not open until 1964. It was built on BGH property south of the hospital.

To alleviate some of the overcrowding at the Brantford General, Alderman John Noble proposed a hospital for the chronically ill, on the grounds of the Brant County Home for the Aged and Infirm. Noble made it clear the facility was not a hospital but rather a care facility. In November 1954 a new 80-bed facility opened. It was named the John Noble Home.

 Newly opened John Noble Home in 1955.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Newly opened John Noble Home in 1955. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Arena / Performing Arts Centre

In 1950, Mayor Howard Winter declared that the construction of a new arena would be a priority for the City. Brantford needed a modern facility if it was to compete with neighbouring municipalities as a desirable place to live. A bylaw was prepared to issue $650,000 in debentures for the construction of a multi-use building to be built on the canal basin, where the Farmers’ Market is today. The building would house a 1,200-seat auditorium, banquet hall, and an arena seating 5,000 for hockey and 7,000 for concerts. The community felt there were more pressing issues, a sewage treatment plant, new schools, and a new hospital, and defeated the bylaw, but by only 374 votes.

In 1953, Brant Arena Limited proposed to erect a privately owned 3,500 seat arena and multipurpose facility at the entrance to Mohawk Park. The company abandoned its plans one year later.

As discussions and proposals for a new arena and civic centre made headlines during the 1940s and 1950s, the Arctic Arena deteriorated. The Arctic Arena’s owner was reluctant to invest in the arena, the City’s only indoor artificial ice surface, because of the expected construction of a municipally owned facility. In May 1959, the arena building was condemned as a fire hazard and closed. That left the City with only two outdoor artificial ice rinks at Lions Park that were constructed in 1954. In 1958, the City’s Planning Board recommended a site for the arena on Wood Street, between what is now Metcalfe Crescent and St. Paul Avenue, where North Park Collegiate was first planned to be. Edmund Cockshutt, in addition to leaving his Glenhyrst estate to the City, left $5,000 towards the construction of a new arena as long as construction commenced by January 1959. As the 1950s closed, Brantford did not have an indoor artificial ice arena.

In the 1950s, the Paramount and Capitol Theatres were the only concert hall venues in the City. The Rotary Club lobbied for a multi-purpose auditorium to be included in the design for one of the new high schools. The Board of Education supported the proposal but was not willing to assume any financial burden for the auditorium and the idea died.

The Odeon Theatre, located at 50 Market Street, opened on 17-December-1948. The opening film shown was Blanche Fury starring Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger. The Brant Theatre, located at 77-79 Colborne Street, was purchased by Paramount Theatres Limited in 1951 and renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1960. The Esquire Theatre, located at 65 Colborne Street closed on 25-July-1955. The 982-seat theatre opened in 1937. The building was demolished in July 2010 along with the rest of the south side of Colborne Street, between Market Street and Brant Avenue. The 447 seat College Theatre, located at 310 Colborne St, opened in 1939. The theatre closed in 1956 but then reopened in 1957 before closing for good in 1962. After the theatre closed it became the Talk of Town Billiards; it is now the 310 Sports Bar & Grill.

The Breezes Drive-In Theatre on Powerline Road opened on Saturday 22-May-1954. The theatre was built on a 12-acre site and accommodated 500 cars, but had room for an additional 1,000 cars. The screen measured 48 feet wide by 40 feet high and was designed to handle CinemaScope when it became available with the addition of wings to the edge of the screen. The theatre featured baby-bottle warmers to encourage families with babies to get out for a night. The theatre opened showing the 1951 film, I’d Climb the Highest Mountain, starring Susan Hayward and William Lundigan, and the 1948 film, When My Baby Smiles At Me, starring Betty Grable and Dan Dailey.

Arts and Culture

Lorne Greene, Mel Tormé, Gracie Fields, Glen Gould, the National Ballet of Canada, and Barbara Ann Scott all visited Brantford in the 1950s. Barbara Ann Scott skated in front of a packed house of over 2,000 at the Arctic Arena in 1950. Scott won a gold medal for Canada in figure skating at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The Universal Mixed Choir placed first at the Chicagoland Music Festival in 1952, the second time a Brantford Choir achieved this distinction. In 1949, the Universal Ladies’ Mixed Choir placed first. The Cockshutt Male Choir disbanded in 1957. The choir performed in 180 concerts before more than 60,000 people over its 22 years.

 Cockshutt Male Choir in 1950.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Cockshutt Male Choir in 1950. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Edmund Cockshutt willed his estate, Glenhyrst Gardens, to the City in 1951 with the proviso that the grounds be used as a horticultural centre and the residence as an art gallery. Cockshutt passed away in 1956 and the art gallery, now known as Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant, opened in 1957. With this gift, Brantford became the only city in Canada to own its own building dedicated to art, crafts, and hobbies.

 Edmund Cockshutt built his estate at Glenhyrst in 1922. The mansion was designed by Brantford Architecture F.C. Bodley. Cockshutt donated the estate to the City of Brantford upon his passing in 1956.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Edmund Cockshutt built his estate at Glenhyrst in 1922. The mansion was designed by Brantford Architecture F.C. Bodley. Cockshutt donated the estate to the City of Brantford upon his passing in 1956. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Brant Historical Society opened the Brant County Museum in their new location at 57 Charlotte St in June-1952. The nucleus of the Society was formed in 1890. Its small collection was housed in the library which at the time was located in what is now Royal Victoria Place at the corner of Dalhousie and George Streets. The Brant Historical Society was formed at a meeting held on 11-May-1908. The Society operated a museum in the Carnegie Public Library until it bought its own property in 1951.

 Brant County Museum in 1960. The Aboriginal Mask was added over the front door in 1959. An addition was added to the north side of the building (left side) and opened in November-1966. The Mask was removed from the museum in 1996.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brant County Museum in 1960. The Aboriginal Mask was added over the front door in 1959. An addition was added to the north side of the building (left side) and opened in November-1966. The Mask was removed from the museum in 1996. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Sports and Recreation

Mohawk Park declined during the decade. The track was now used for stock car racing and the grounds and buildings were badly in need of maintenance, yet the park proved popular with residents attracting over 100,000 visits during 1955. During the 1950s, City Council considered selling some of the park for Pauline Johnson Collegiate, using some of the park for a new arena, and selling some of the land for residential development. In 1956, the City spent $5,000 to clean up and beautify the park. Vandalism, drinking, and rowdyism at the weekly dances in 1959 caused the City to padlock the concession stand and dance pavilion in September.

 Mohawk Park Dance Pavilion. Vandalism, drinking, and rowdyism at the weekly dances in 1959 caused the City to padlock the concession stand and dance pavilion in September.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Mohawk Park Dance Pavilion. Vandalism, drinking, and rowdyism at the weekly dances in 1959 caused the City to padlock the concession stand and dance pavilion in September. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Agricultural Park was renamed Cockshutt Park in 1957, after the Cockshutt family who donated the 19-acres of land to the City in 1901.

Earl Haig pool was overhauled in 1956 after water from the Grand River began seeping into the pool.

 Earl Haig Pool, ready for the summer season 1955. The pool opened 7-July-1923 in Swimming Pool Park. The park was renamed Earl Haig Park in 1929 at the request of the Canadian Legion. The pool was closed in 1930 due to a spinal meningitis outbreak and remained closed until 1942 because of the difficult financial times the City was experiencing. The pool was overhauled in 1956. In 1982 the site was rebuilt and renamed Waterfront Park.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Earl Haig Pool, ready for the summer season 1955. The pool opened 7-July-1923 in Swimming Pool Park. The park was renamed Earl Haig Park in 1929 at the request of the Canadian Legion. The pool was closed in 1930 due to a spinal meningitis outbreak and remained closed until 1942 because of the difficult financial times the City was experiencing. The pool was overhauled in 1956. In 1982 the site was rebuilt and renamed Waterfront Park. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Bowling gained in popularity and four new suburban lanes opened in the 1950s. Brantford had two bowling alleys downtown. In 1953, Echo Lanes at 750 Colborne Street and Star Lanes at 144 Mary Street opened. North Star Lanes, at 61 Charing Cross Street opened in 1959. Mohawk Bowl, next to Pauline Johnson Collegiate, in the Mohawk Plaza opened in 1960.

 The Esquire Theatre was constructed in1937. It sat 982. The theatre was built in the Art Deco style and featured a Thunderbird centred over the second storey. The ground floor was clad in Vitrolite, an opaque pigmented glass. The theatre closed in 1955.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Esquire Theatre was constructed in1937. It sat 982. The theatre was built in the Art Deco style and featured a Thunderbird centred over the second storey. The ground floor was clad in Vitrolite, an opaque pigmented glass. The theatre closed in 1955. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Sunset Drive In newspaper ad from 1958.   Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Sunset Drive In newspaper ad from 1958.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Northridge Golf Course opened in 1957 and the debate began about closing Arrowdale Golf Course and using the land for housing. It was decided to allow Arrowdale to operate for one more year. Arrowdale is still open and the debate over its future continues, 60 years later.

 Brantford Golf and Country Club clubhouse from the early 1950s.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Brantford Golf and Country Club clubhouse from the early 1950s. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Brantford Nationals won the Ontario Senior B hockey title in 1950 and again in 1951 under the name the Brantford Burtols. The team moved up to Senior A in 1952 but had to withdraw from the circuit in 1953 because the Arctic Arena was not large enough to seat the crowds needed to support the team financially.

Brantford’s tradition of fielding competitive basketball teams started early. Men’s and Women’s teams won several Ontario titles and in 1957 the Bel-Aires won the Canadian Senior B Ladies basketball championship.

After winning the 1949 Senior Intercounty Baseball League Championship, the Red Sox lost the 1951 championship in seven games. Baseball was popular in Brantford and fan support was very good during the early 1950s. Support waned in the mid-fifties and the team almost folded in 1955. However, by the end of the fifties fan support had returned and the Red Sox won the 1959 title, the first of six championships in seven years, winning five titles in a row. In 1957, the Parks Board rescinded its permission to allow Sunday baseball games to be played at Cockshutt Park. The Sunday sports debate would rage for four years.

 Watching the Brantford Red Sox practice at Cockshutt Park in the spring of 1954.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Watching the Brantford Red Sox practice at Cockshutt Park in the spring of 1954. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 Jimmy Wilkes was an outfielder in Negro League Baseball between 1945 and 1950. He spent two years in the Brooklyn Dodger organization before joining the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League in 1952. He settled in Brantford and worked for the City. He helped the Red Sox win five consecutive Intercounty titles between 1959 and 1963. He continued as an empire in the Intercounty league for another 23 years.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Jimmy Wilkes was an outfielder in Negro League Baseball between 1945 and 1950. He spent two years in the Brooklyn Dodger organization before joining the Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League in 1952. He settled in Brantford and worked for the City. He helped the Red Sox win five consecutive Intercounty titles between 1959 and 1963. He continued as an empire in the Intercounty league for another 23 years. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Football struggled in Brantford for fan support although the 1957 Brantford Tiger-Cats made it to the Eastern Canadian final in the Intermediate Ontario Rugby Football Union.

Gord Wallace achieved success in the boxing ring upsetting British champ Ron Turpin in the light-heavyweight class in 1955 and defeating British boxer Ron Barton for the British Empire light-heavyweight championship in 1956.

 Gord Wallace became the British-Empire light-heavyweight boxing champion in 1956 defeating British boxer Ron Barton.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Gord Wallace became the British-Empire light-heavyweight boxing champion in 1956 defeating British boxer Ron Barton. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Swimmer Sara Barber represented Canada at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. At 13, she was youngest athlete at the competition. Sara competed in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, and the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Sara also competed in the 1958 and 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the 1959 Pan-American Games.

Piston Pushers

In the early 1950s, a group of young men began hanging out over their mutual love of cars. They would cruise downtown and race on weekends. In December-1953 they met to discuss organising a club. Piston Pushers was formed in June-1954. In 1955, they registered their club, elected an executive, and started to hold regular meetings at the Starlight Dance Hall on Colborne Street at Locks Road. They called themselves Piston Pushers. There were 14 original members. They wore red jackets with white lettering. Shake N Burger, Koster’s Drive-In, S&S Root Beer and A&W became favourite hangouts. They opened their first clubhouse in 1956. In 1958, they moved into a former Esso station on Highway 2 beside Fairchild Creek and remained there for 25 years. The Piston Pusher name on the building was well known to motorists travelling between Brantford and Hamilton. Although no longer their clubhouse, the old building on Highway 2 remains standing.

 Piston Pushers’ long time club house on Hwy 2 & 53 located next to Fairchild Creek. The club occupied the building for 25 years. The building still stands.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Piston Pushers’ long time club house on Hwy 2 & 53 located next to Fairchild Creek. The club occupied the building for 25 years. The building still stands. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Proliferation of the Automobile

After the war as the economy returned to peacetime production, the automobile became the centrepiece of the growth of the economy. Cars were cheap to operate and the burgeoning highway network was enticing to the motorist, especially because there was a concerted effort to convert the highways to hard-surface, all-weather roads. As the population took advantage of their new-found freedom of movement, motels started to be built along the highways to accommodate travellers, replacing the cabins of the 1930s and the downtown hotels. Motels offered parking at your door.

Highway 2 was the major east-west thoroughfare in Ontario until Highway 401 was completed in the late 1960s, and the highway between Brantford and Hamilton carried a high volume of traffic. The first motels in the City were built along the eastern end of Colborne Street. The first motel was built by H. Sumler at 950 Colborne Street. It became known as the Beauview Motel in 1954, then later the Twin Gates Motel. It is now known as the Galaxy Motel. Next came the Gage Motel at 568 Colborne Street in 1951, followed by the Bell City Motel at 901 Colborne Street, in 1953, The Mohawk Motel located at 769 Colborne Street, in 1955, the Sherwood Motel at 797 Colborne Street, in 1959, and finally the Brant Motel, 780 Colborne Street, in 1960. Of all these motels only the Brant Motel no longer exists.

 Beauview Motel, the first motel in Brantford, opened by H Sumler on Colborne St E. For years it was known as the Twin Gates Motel. It is now known as the Galaxy Motel.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Beauview Motel, the first motel in Brantford, opened by H Sumler on Colborne St E. For years it was known as the Twin Gates Motel. It is now known as the Galaxy Motel. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 The Mohawk Motel opened in 1955 on Colborne St E. It is still operating today under its original name.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Mohawk Motel opened in 1955 on Colborne St E. It is still operating today under its original name. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 The Sherwood Motel opened in 1959 on Colborne St E. It is located adjacent to the Sherwood Restaurant.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Sherwood Motel opened in 1959 on Colborne St E. It is located adjacent to the Sherwood Restaurant. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Improved roads also supported the development of suburbs adjacent to existing cities. Since these suburbs were located farther from the downtown commercial areas and were not serviced by city buses, suburban plazas began to be built to cater to the needs of the people in these new subdivisions. The demand for parking spaces downtown exceeded the supply, and downtown was congested with traffic. The suburban plazas featured big new stores, were easy to get to, and offered free parking. The new subdivisions were carefully planned with separation between residential and commercial areas, which meant that a car was a necessity to travel to these plazas.

The first suburban plaza was built by Loblaws at the gore of St. George Road, now King George Road, and St. Paul Avenue, in 1953. This store was known as a Super Market and was two to three times the size of a grocery store of the period, 10,000 to 12,000 square feet as opposed to 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. The A & P built two stores, the first one in 1953 on St. George Road, opposite Elmwood Avenue, and the second store in 1956 at Dalhousie and Stanley Streets, where the McDonald’s restaurant is today. Grand Union opened at the Mohawk Plaza, next to Pauline Johnson Collegiate on Colborne Street, in 1956. The store became a Steinberg’s in 1958. The location eventually became a Calbeck’s and finally a Price Chopper. It is now the location of Brantford Surplus. Dominion Store opened their new modern super market on St. Paul Avenue and St. George Street in 1959. Calbeck’s had two locations, at 61-73 Murray Street, and at 106-108 Colborne Street West, which opened in 1951. Calbeck’s first used the term super market to describe their stores in 1954. In 1955, the Colborne Street West store was called Super-Save and the Murray Street store was an IGA. The Murray Street store was branded Super-Save in 1957. Gordon’s Groceteria at 67 Erie Avenue became Gordon’s IGA in 1956, then Gordon’s Red and White in 1960. In 1965, a new store was built at 43 Erie Avenue. It was first known as Gordon-Guscott’s Foodmaster, and then later Gordon-Guscott’s Super-Save. The IGA Foodliner opened at the Pleasant Plaza Shopping Centre at 164 Colborne Street West, at Welsh Street, in 1960.

 Loblaws was located in the first suburban plaza built in the City in 1953, on King George Rd and St Paul Ave.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Loblaws was located in the first suburban plaza built in the City in 1953, on King George Rd and St Paul Ave. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 The Grand Union Super Market opened in February-1956. It was located next to Pauline Johnson Collegiate. The super market became a Steinberg’s in 1958. The plaza was built out in the late 1950s adding the TD Bank and the Shake ’N Burger in 1959 and Mohawk Bowl in 1960. Today the store is occupied by Brantford Surplus.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Grand Union Super Market opened in February-1956. It was located next to Pauline Johnson Collegiate. The super market became a Steinberg’s in 1958. The plaza was built out in the late 1950s adding the TD Bank and the Shake ’N Burger in 1959 and Mohawk Bowl in 1960. Today the store is occupied by Brantford Surplus. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Minard-Gerow Pharmacy, the first modern drug store in Brantford opened on St. Paul Avenue at Dublin Street in 1956. It was located in one the first suburban strip malls in the City across from the new Loblaws Super Market.

 Minard-Gerow Pharmacy, the City’s first modern drug store, opened in 1956 on St Paul Ave at Dublin St kitty corner from the new Loblaws.  Image courtesy of Sheila Minard

Minard-Gerow Pharmacy, the City’s first modern drug store, opened in 1956 on St Paul Ave at Dublin St kitty corner from the new Loblaws. Image courtesy of Sheila Minard

Drive-In restaurants also started to appear, again catering to the motoring public. George Koster opened Koster’s Cream-EEE-Freeze on Brant Avenue and Bedford Street in 1953. In 1965, the building was moved to the Brantford Plaza on King George Road and the name was changed to Dairee Delite. Koster also opened a drive-in on Highway 2, Koster’s Drive-In. Dairy Queen opened two locations in Brantford. The Echo Place outlet at 930 Colborne Street was the seventh Dairy Queen in Canada. It opened in 1954. The second outlet opened in 1955 at 113 St. George Road, now King George Road. In 1956, Mac’s Drive-In opened at 666 Colborne Street. It became Nick’s Drive-In in 1957 and Bill’s Drive-In in 1960. Stan Bielick opened the Shake ’N Burger at the Mohawk Plaza on Colborne Street in 1959. The Shake ’N Burger featured a drive through take out window. To eat on site, the driver turned on their headlights and a cowgirl roller skated to your car to take and deliver your order. The Quikee Drive-In opened in 1959 on Colborne and Puleston Streets. The business became Robertson’s Drive-In in 1961 and was later rebranded Robbies. Robbies' King George Road location, next to Loblaws, opened in 1965.

 Koster’s Drive-In was one of the early drive-ins established just outside the city. Koster’s was located next to what is now the Crossroads Antique Market, formerly the Cainsville Mall, 1146 Colborne St E.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Koster’s Drive-In was one of the early drive-ins established just outside the city. Koster’s was located next to what is now the Crossroads Antique Market, formerly the Cainsville Mall, 1146 Colborne St E. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

 The Cres-Mar Dining Lounge became the Pow Wow Drive-In on Hwy 2 & 53 to Hamilton. It is now the China King  Restaurant, 1320 Colborne St E.  Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

The Cres-Mar Dining Lounge became the Pow Wow Drive-In on Hwy 2 & 53 to Hamilton. It is now the China King  Restaurant, 1320 Colborne St E. Image courtesy of the Brant Historical Society

Of local interest, the Shanghai Restaurant opened as the Shanghai Chop Suey House at 89 Colborne Street in 1956. The Oriental Restaurant opened at 104 Market Street, next to the Bell Telephone Building in 1960.

In 1957, the Cainsville Post Office closed. It was established in 1854. Roy Pierson was the retiring postmaster.

Brantford 1945 to 1950 - Post 18

In August-1945, Brantford turned its attention to how the post-war world would unfold. War production at the local factories had come to an end, servicemen returned home and assumed the jobs they left, and women left the factory floors. The City had to catch up with the backlog of unaddressed infrastructure and municipal needs put on hold during the 1930s and war years.

War Matters

On 3-October-1945, thousands of cheering residents gathered at the train station to welcome home the 54th Battery; the first unit from Brantford to be deployed overseas in December-1939. The last of the war children from England left for England in December-1945. Over 100 war brides move to the City. The No. 5, Service Flying Training School closed in 1944 and the No. 20, Canadian Army Basic Training Camp was closed in February-1946. The Brant County War Memorial Association was resurrected to determine a suitable means to honour the causalities of war. The day nurseries funded by the Federal government were threatened with closures, however the Charlotte Street nursery continued operating with municipal and provincial funding. Demand for nursery spaces remained strong as women continued working, but moved from the factory floor to the office.

Rationing

Rationing did not disappear after the war ended; some items were removed from rationing while others were added to the list. Nylon stockings were removed from the list in February-1946 and there was an immediate rush to purchase them. Sugar and molasses were removed in November-1947. Meat was added to the list in September-1945 and was not removed until February-1947. Meat was rationed to prevent starvation in the newly liberated countries in Europe. Restaurants operated under a meatless Tuesdays and Friday order from July-1945 until August-1947.

Municipal Affairs

The pay-as-you-go practice of City Council continued but the need to address the accumulating capital deficit meant tax increases for the first time since the war began. The idea of financing improvements over time was given serious consideration by council given the built up demand caused by years of frugality but adoption of this practice would wait until the 1950s.

Finally, after decades of debate and discussion, in January-1946 the City started to address the issue of inadequate street signs by installing new ones. Plans to replace City Hall began in haste in 1946 and an offer was made for the Market Square, but no proposal for redevelopment ever materialised.

Traffic congestion and parking were two serious issues facing the downtown. Commercial activity in Brantford was concentrated in the downtown because no suburban plaza’s yet existed. To address the congestion issue, the City considered: increasing the number of traffic lights installed (up to 25 more), prohibiting all turns at major intersections; introducing parking restrictions at rush hour; and twining the Lorne Bridge. Motorists suggested synchronising the traffic lights but no civic department ever took responsibility for this.

Parking meters were introduced in December-1946. 312 were installed, the largest number of automatic meters in any city in Canada. At first they were a novelty, but very quickly became a nuisance for motorists.

Transit ridership increased dramatically during the decade. Ridership went from 2 million riders in 1940 to 7.4 million in 1945 with further increases through the remaining years of the decade.

Chip wagons, i.e. kiosk selling french fries bathed in apple cider vinegar and dressed with salt, first appeared in 1948. The wagons were greeted heartily by the public but with disdain by the downtown merchants. The merchants felt the wagons had an unfair advantage because they paid no rent or taxes, only a $75 licence fee. Initially the wagons had to move around throughout the day but could occupy a parking space after 5PM by feeding the parking meter. The City passed a bylaw limiting the number of wagons to four and allowed them to set up on the Market Square.

 Example of a Market Square Chip Wagon. Reputed to be the best french fries in Canada.

Example of a Market Square Chip Wagon. Reputed to be the best french fries in Canada.

A dog pound was set up and a dog catcher hired in 1947.

Postwar Brantford had no sewage treatment plant. Raw sewage from homes and factories flowed directly into the Grand River. This was common practice for communities along the River and resulted in objectionable drinking water. The drinking water was treated and safe, however it tasted bad. The City considered pumping water from Lake Erie for drinking but it was deemed too expensive. The solution was to clean up the River. The water quality of the river was so poor that the chairman of the Grand River Conservation Commission commented: “No self-respecting fish will live in the Grand River.” In 1946, residents voted to build a primary treatment plant. City Council decided to build the plant only after the City raised the money to pay for it, continuing the policy of pay-as-you-go. As the decade closed, no work on the plant had commenced.

Brantford started to experience power shortages in 1948. Because of low rainfall conditions, Ontario Hydro set power quotas for municipalities in southwestern Ontario and began rotating power interruptions. Factories started to work on Saturdays and close Mondays to conserve power. For a time power was cut off at noon for 20 minutes and between the hours of 4:30 PM and 5:30 PM and between 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM. This became a nuisance for all residents and businesses.

In 1949, the Fire Chief recommended that the City build a new fire hall to replace the station at Dalhousie and Queen Streets. This station was overcrowded, lacked training space, and was located on a busy and congested street.

The growth of Brantford during the 1940s led to the beginning of talks regarding the annexation of land from Brantford Township. Land in the City for industry and housing expansion was scarce.

Housing

The housing crisis that plagued Brantford during the war years only got worse as servicemen returned home and factories expanded to meet the peace time demand for their products. By 1945, 300 wartime homes had been built in Brantford and the Committee on Civic Housing estimated another 500 homes would be needed.

There were many roadblocks faced by the City to get the houses built. The Legion lobbied that the homes be made available to returning veterans first. There was a building materials shortage. Many neighbourhoods did not want the homes in their neighbourhood because they were seen as cheap, temporary housing that would devalue their homes. Local builders showed little interest in building this type of housing because they viewed these houses as a waste of scarce materials; and the relentless housing demand raised the price of labour and materials to the point that the homes were no longer economical to build. The City converted the barracks at two decommissioned Defence Department training facilities into apartments for families and single rooms for single men. However the City was competing with Massey-Harris who wanted access to these buildings for their workers. More than 750 people lived in the converted barracks at the airport in the late 1940s.

Public Health

No hospital expansion occurred during the war years after the Queen Elizabeth Pavilion opened in 1940. Yet demand for services increased with the population. In December-1945, the hospital board proposed that the John H. Stratford building be replaced by a modern 8 storey 105-bed building, and a 200 bed nurses’ residence. Overcrowding was an issue and had been for decades. Regarding the raising of funds for the expansion the hospital board chair noted that if the City and County were able to raise over $75 million for Victory Bonds the capacity likely existed to raise $1 million for the hospital for the health of the community.

 The Stratford Hospital main building before it was demolished and replaced in the 1950s.

The Stratford Hospital main building before it was demolished and replaced in the 1950s.

The City contemplated ending the fluoride experiment with the City’s drinking water because of costs until the Provincial government agreed to share in the costs.

Education

When Victoria School was rebuilt after the fire in 1944 and reopened in 1946 it became the City’s most modern school. More schools were needed to serve the population. It was not uncommon for Kindergarten classes to have more than 40 students, and elementary school enrolment exceeded graduations by 200 students. In July-1948, construction of Princess Elizabeth and Lansdowne schools were approved, the first new elementary schools built in the City in 25 years.

In 1946, the Local Council of Women drew attention to the deplorable conditions that existed at the Mohawk Institute, a residential school run by the Anglican Church. The Council noted that the students had insufficient food and clothes, no infirmary or sick room, no medical or dental services, no recreational facilities, and cold, damp, drab rooms. The Department of Indian Affairs promised an enquiry but did nothing. Conditions in 1950 were unchanged.

Arena / Civic Centre / Art Centre

During the war, the City struck a Recreation Projects Committee that investigated 32 arena and auditorium complexes in Canada and the United States. After the war, discussion began in earnest about the need for a new arena or civic centre for the City and County that would support various activities, e.g. public assembly, music and drama productions, lectures and forums, convention and exhibit space, hockey and skating, basketball, badminton, bowling, and gym classes. In December-1945, residents voted to support the idea of a multipurpose civic centre. There was division within the community as some groups advocated for separate facilities, an arena for sports and a theatre for the arts. In 1947, the mayor suggested a partnership between the City and Board of Education to build a theatre at Brantford Collegiate Institute and suggested the Board of Trade launch a campaign to fund an arena with three ice pads. By this time public interest was waning on the idea of a new arena and the proposals were shelved.

Arts and Culture

The arts and culture scene really picked up after the war. The Cockshutt Male Choir, under the direction of, first, Frank Holton, and then, George Smale, and the Brantford Ladies’ Choir, later renamed the Universal Cooler Ladies’ Choir, under the direction of Frank Holton, continued their winning ways tradition. The Ladies’ Choir placed first the 1947 Kiwanis Festival in Toronto and won the 90th Eisteddfod competition in Utica, NY. In 1949, they won first prize at the Chicagoland Festival after placing second in 1948.

In November-1945, the first Brantford Music Festival (now known as the Brantford Kiwanis Music Festival) was organized by the Ontario Music Teacher’s Association and attracted over 400 entries. The Eaton Operatic Society restarted after the war and their annual show performed to sold out audiences. The Brant Drama league was revived and revamped presenting their first production, The Late Christopher Bean, in 1949, while the newly organised Lyric Opera Guild presented two short operas. In March-1949, the dormant Brantford Symphony Orchestra was relaunched. The orchestra, under the direction of Frederick R. Godden, was made up of 44 local musicians.

The Odeon Theatre on Market Street opened on 17-December-1948. The first feature film shown was Blanche Fury starring Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger. The theatre sat 998. The Sunset Drive-In opened on Wednesday 5-May-1948 on Highway 53 opposite the Brantford Airport. The drive-in theatre’s screen was 56 feet high and the complex accommodated 500 cars. The lot was expanded to 721 cars when a second screen was added in the 1970s. On 23-November-1948, a downtown radio store demonstrated television for the first time in Brantford showing a fuzzy black and white picture on an 8 inch by 10 inch screen, broadcast from WBEN-TV (now WIVB) in Buffalo.

 The Sunset Drive In on Highway 53 across from the Brantford Airport.

The Sunset Drive In on Highway 53 across from the Brantford Airport.

Sports and Recreation

In 1948, Last Mark, a horse owned by Jim Fair of Cainsville, won the King’s Plate.

The Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League won their first championship in 1949. Attendance at the games at the beginning of the season was 2,000 and steadily increased until a record crowd of 5,378 watched the Red Sox defeat Waterloo on 18-September for the championship. This was the heyday of the league. Softball was also popular, drawing between 1,500 and 2,000 fans to the games at Earl Haig Park three and four nights per week.

In August-1948, Earl Haig Park was renamed Lions Park to recognise the commitment of the Lions Club who planned to invest $100,000 over ten years to upgrade the park facilities. These improvements were to include improved drainage of the baseball diamond, increased seating, more floodlights, a club house, public wash rooms, and a children’s playground. Major renovations were also completed at the baseball stadium at Cockshutt Park, formerly known as Agricultural Park, where the Brantford Red Sox played, and continue to play. Additions included new stands to seat 3,000, concrete dugouts, ground resurfacing, a new press box, scoreboard, and lighting.

Industrial Developments

The cancellation of war contracts had an immediate impact on employment as many men were laid-off but as the conversion to peace time production began there was soon a labour shortage. 

By the 1940s, the Adams Wagon factory on Mohawk Street became Brantford Coach & Body's main manufacturing plant. The former Brantford Carriage factory on Pearl Street was relegated to being a parts warehouse. The production of wooden farm wagons ceased in 1941. The company transitioned to the manufacturing of stake bodies, steel dump bodies complete with their own hydraulic hoists, and all types of trailer bodies. In 1947, the workers voted to insert the Rand formula into their collective agreement; this meant all workers had to have union dues deducted from their pay.

 Brantford Carriage factory on Pearl Street. Used as a warehouse for White Farm Equipment before it was sold and demolished.

Brantford Carriage factory on Pearl Street. Used as a warehouse for White Farm Equipment before it was sold and demolished.

In 1944, Waterous Limited became the first Canadian manufacturing company to reach its 100th anniversary. The company closed for the day to honour the milestone. Donald Waterous was president of the company at this time. There was no family member in line as a potential future president so in April 1947 Donald accepted an offer from Modern Tool Works Ltd. of Toronto to buy the company. The company was no longer in the hands of local ownership. The new owners took the company public with a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange and began to modernise the factory.

 The Waterous factory complex on Market Street across from the present day Civic Centre.

The Waterous factory complex on Market Street across from the present day Civic Centre.

Ruddy Freeborn achieved success after the resurrection of Ruddy Manufacturing factory in 1937 and started producing reach-in refrigerators for retail use and refrigerated display cabinets for food stores. In 1948, Hussman Refrigeration Company of St. Louis purchased Ruddy Freeborn. In 1950, a new modern factory was constructed on Frank Street in Holmedale and by 1954 the plant on Elgin Street was closed with all production transferred to the new facility.

During the late 1930s and early 1940s the engineers at Cockshutt were working on two company-altering products. The self propelled combine harvester was introduced in 1944 and in 1947, after years of selling rebranded tractors built by others, Cockshutt introduced their own Cockshutt designed and built tractor, with live power take off (PTO). Live PTO ensured continuous power to towed equipment even when the clutch was disengaged. This innovation, developed here in Brantford, forever changed the tractor industry and within a few years it was difficult to sell a tractor without live PTO. Cockshutt expanded their production facilities by converting the new plant built for Cockshutt Moulded Aircraft during the war to tractor and combine assembly. In 1947, the workers voted to insert the Rand formula into their collective agreement.

Massey-Harris constructed a new foundry at their Verity complex and predicted a need for 800 new workers within two years as their production ramped up.

The introduction of the self-propelled combine harvester would forever alter the business of Brantford Cordage. The popularity of the combine harvester drastically reduced the need for binder twine. Between 1948 and 1951 Brantford Cordage replaced and changed virtually all the equipment in their factory to remake the company. Although binder twine was still produced production was focused on the more profitable baler twine and ropes.

James Hillier

James Hillier was born in Brantford on 22-August-1915. He grew up on Hill Street and was a graduate of Brantford Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto. Hiller perfected the electron microanalyzer in 1941 while working at the RCA Labs in Princeton, New Jersey. Hillier and colleague Albert Prebus built the first North American electron microscope at the University of Toronto in 1938. Hillier rose through the ranks at RCA. When he retired he was the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist of the RCA Labs. Hillier remained involved with the Brantford community and established the James Hillier Foundation in 1993 to award annual scholarships to Brant County students pursuing an education in Science. James Hillier Public School on Queensway Drive was opened in 1950. Hillier is buried in the Farringdon Cemetery on Mount Pleasant Road.

 Dr James Hillier with his Electron Microscope.

Dr James Hillier with his Electron Microscope.

Thomas B. Costain

Thomas Bertram Contain was born in Brantford on 8-May-1885. He attended Victoria School and Brantford Collegiate Institute. He wrote for the Brantford Courier and the Brantford Expositor. He became editor of Maclean’s magazine in 1917 then went on to become the fiction editor at the Saturday Evening Post in New York City in 1919. He worked for Doubleday Books (1939-1946) as an editor and was the head of 20th Century Fox’s story department (1934 to 1942). His first novel was published in 1942, when he was 57. Costain went on to write 22 more books. His 1950 novel, Son of a Hundred Kings, was about an orphaned boy who grows up in Balfour, which was based on his experiences in Brantford. His books were translated into 17 languages. In 1947, Costain began his sponsorship for an annual short stories contest for students in Brant County secondary schools. Thomas B. Costain Public School on Morrell Street was opened in 1953. Costain is buried in the Farringdon Cemetery.

 Thomas Bertram Costain.

Thomas Bertram Costain.

CKPC

Evelyn Feely became station manager of CKPC in 1940, the first woman in Canada to hold this position. She was replaced in 1941 by Florence Buchanan. In 1941, CKPC moved to the frequency 1380. In 1946, the station increased its broadcast power from 100 watts to 1,000 watts. The station received an FM radio licence in 1947 and CKPC-FM began broadcasting in 1949, simulcasting the AM station’s programming.

Arcade Building

The Arcade Building built in 1916 on the site of the Crompton’s Department Store that burned down in 1915 was Brantford’s first shopping mall. The building was home to over 30 businesses, including radio station CKPC, a ballroom, and a recreation club. In 1944, Eaton’s bought the building. The building operated as an Eaton’s until 1965.

Bell Telephone Building

In 1947, the Bell Telephone Company of Canada purchased the old Digby home, a stately colonial house, on the corner of Market and Wellington Streets. Three generations of Digby’s practised medicine from this house starting in 1835. Of particular note is that one of the world’s first business telephones was installed in Dr. Digby’s residence which connected him to Samuel Tapscott’s apothecary at 24 Market Street. When the new Bell Telephone building opened in April-1949 it marked the introduction of direct dial service to the 14,000 telephone subscribers inBrantford, replacing operator placed calls. In June-1949, Bell’s eldest daughter, Elsie May Grosvenor, unveiled the statue of Bell in the portico of the new building.

Years of neglect of the City’s infrastructure and services caught up with Brantford after the war and through the late 1940s,1950s, and 1960s Brantford had to catch up to meet the demands of its residents. This, of course, posed a problem for City Council who had to meet the demands of the residents for services while keeping taxes affordable. Brantford began to change, leaving behind the large, hulking, heavy brick architecture of its past.

Brantford During World War II - Post 17

Precautions in case a war broke out in Europe began in April-1939. All fully-fit unemployed war veterans were to report to the Canadian Legion. Men would be needed to guard the Brant Hydro sub-station between Brantford and Paris, the sewage treatment plant, armoury, and the Canadian National Railways track infrastructure. However, most were confident that war would be averted.

War Declared

Canada declared war on Germany on 10-September-1939. When war was declared, the mood was sombre, there was no euphoria like there was in 1914; city life would be disrupted. Veterans started to report for active duty. In response to the call for service, the City and Board of Education guaranteed that anyone leaving for the war would have their job to return to. The Brant-Norfolk Aero Club was conscripted for the training of pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The first unit from the 54th Battery at the Brantford Armoury arrived in England before the end of 1939, the only local unit to land overseas as a separate entity. The 69th Battery was mobilised in May-1940 and the Dufferin-Haldimand Rifle in July. Men were not eager to enlist because the stories of the horrors the fighting men of the First World War experienced were well remembered, so the federal government announced conscription for home defence as of 15-July-1940. This announcement was accompanied by a sharp increase in marriage licence applications because married men could avoid overseas service. Enlistments in Brantford remained low throughout 1940 compared to other centres cause jobs were plentiful and because of the First World War horror stories.

Training Camp and School

In 1940, No. 20, Canadian Army Basic Training Camp, was established on the Glebe lands where Pauline Johnson Collegiate now stands. As of 1942, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps were also stationed here. In April-1940 the federal government announced the establishment of No. 5, Service Flying Training School, as a part of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the site of the present Brantford Airport. In January-1942 the Canadian Women’s Air Force joined the men at No.5 school. The school graduated over 2,000 pilots in four years of operation.

These bases had their own dance bands, drama leagues, cricket, hockey, and baseball teams, wrestling and boxing matches. Service personnel assisted in harvesting local crops and digging out the city after particularly heavy snow storms. These camps were a boon to local merchants given the payroll of service personnel. The City ensured that the men and women of the camps were made to feel welcome by organising clubs for them, providing free bus rides, raising money for camp improvements, and acquiring books for camp libraries.

Percy Nelles

Notably, Percy Nelles, who was born and raised in Brantford, rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy; Canada’s first full Admiral. At the outbreak of WWII, Nelles held the rank of Rear Admiral and was chief of the naval staff. During the war Nelles rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral and was promoted to full Admiral upon his retirement from the navy. Nelles also served with the Royal Navy during his career.

 Percy Nelles

Percy Nelles

HMCS Brantford

The government decided to name destroyers after Canadian rivers and corvettes after Canadian cities and towns. On 6-September-1941 HMCS Brantford was launched in Midland, Ontario. Local organisations supplied the ship with knitted articles, books, records, and a loud speaker system. HMCS Brantford began her service as an escort ship and ended the war as a training ship. The ship had a range of 3,500 nautical miles and a complement of 61 men and 5 officers. The ship was decommissioned on 17-August-1945 and was sold off for conversion. In 1950, the ship became a whale-catcher. In 1972 it was converted to a tugboat. The ship was broken up in 1976.

 HMCS Brantford

HMCS Brantford

Conscription

The government’s initial position was that there would be no conscription as this was a divisive issue in the First World War. The government then modified their position and adopted compulsory training for home defence, however a faction of the population wanted conscription for overseas service as well. Brantford’s M.P. W. Ross Macdonald favoured conscription for overseas service as did Brantford City Council and the Canadian Legion. In April-1942 the government held a national plebiscite on overseas conscription and it was supported by two-thirds of the voters in nine provinces. Quebec voted against the measure. Even though overseas conscription was supported by the majority of Canadians the government was hesitant to reinforce Canadian units with conscripts until near the war’s end when the final push to defeat the enemy was on, after the D-Day invasion.

Rationing

In order to protect the war supply lines, the government encouraged citizens to reduce their consumption of staples. This request went unheeded by the populace and as a consequence the government imposed rationing in 1942. Staples such as sugar, flour, meat, butter, tea, coffee, evaporated milk, silk stockings, tires, and gasoline were all subject to rationing and available only by presenting the merchant with the appropriate ration coupon. In order to celebrate a special occasion like a wedding, family and friends would contribute ration coupons to the bride’s family so a wedding reception could be held. Silk stockings posed a particular challenge because when Japan entered the war, the supply of silk was almost entirely cut off, and bare legs for women at the time was not fashionable. Tires and gasoline also posed problems as the availability of new or used tires was restricted to essential war work. These restrictions led to a spike in the theft of tires and gasoline. Bicycle use surged during this period.

 Gasoline ration coupon

Gasoline ration coupon

Fundraising

Fundraising for countless war-related causes was continuous throughout the war years: Victory Bonds, War Savings Certificates and Stamps, milk funds, and British air raid victims to name a few. The Victory Bond drives in Brantford (there were 10 drives over the course of the war) raised over $775,000, the equivalent of over $10 million today. During these bond drives, the Expositor noted that citizens could either pay increased taxes to support the war effort or buy Victory Bonds and earn interest on their money. Equally important to the various fundraising drives were the scrap collection drives; rubber, metal, glass, newspaper, and rags were all scavenged. The rail and bridge of the old Great Western Railway mainline between St George and Paris was scavenged, melted and used for war purposes.

 Victory Bond poster designed by AJ Casson in 1941. AJ Casson was a member of the Group of Seven. The Group was financially supported by Brantford-born artist and Group member Lawren Harris.

Victory Bond poster designed by AJ Casson in 1941. AJ Casson was a member of the Group of Seven. The Group was financially supported by Brantford-born artist and Group member Lawren Harris.

Wartime Paranoia

As happened during the First World War, paranoia and fear swept through Brantford. In May-1940, City Council passed a resolution to establish a Citizens’ Committee that would identify subversive elements. The government established the Home Guard to keep an eye on these subversives. The Guard were volunteers, WWI veterans under the age of 50. The Board of Education required all staff to take the pledge of allegiance and threatened to expel students that refused to salute the flag. In June-1940, the Police investigated over 100 reports of disloyalty. Most complaints were from anonymous sources. The Police attributed the reports to petty jealousies, fights between neighbours and spite. Spies were regularly reported to be working in the City. When Italy joined the Axis alliance in 1941, the Italian community in Brantford came under suspicion and scrutiny.

In February-1941, the City was designated as a vulnerable point because of its wartime industries and because it was within range of German bombers. 400 volunteers were recruited and air raid preparations were organised and practised. However the designation was suddenly withdrawn without explanation in September. The City was aghast. The designation was reinstated in January-1943. Censorship and government controls and restrictions were imposed. Mail could be opened and read by government agents. In 1941, City Council asked the library to remove all books by Charles Lindbergh, a known pacifist and admirer of Hitler. No action was taken on this request.

Industrial Capacity

The factories in the Brantford had largely recovered from the depression when WWII broke out. Although Brantford had the industrial infrastructure for wartime production it lacked adequate human resources. Workers flooded in from across the country and women returned to the factories. By 1942, Brantford factories were operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week turning out gun mounts, munitions, truck cabs, boilers, and aeroplane wings. Cockshutt and Massey-Harris produced war supplies alongside their regular products. In 1940, Sternson and Sonoco enlarged their facilities, Brantford Cordage announced a record output and in 1941 Harding Carpet achieved record profits. Cockshutt opened Cockshutt Moulded Aircraft Ltd in December-1942 producing moulded plywood for the fusages of Avro-Anson multi-engine trainer. In 1944, Waterous Ltd. turned 100, the first Canadian company to achieve that milestone.

Housing

The demand for labour and the resulting surge in workers and their families moving to Brantford resulted in a severe housing shortage. Since demand outpaced supply, evictions became common as landlords were able to increase rents faster than the occupants were able to meet the increases. This especially affected the families of service men. Even though the federal government imposed rent controls in December-1941 many landlords ignored the regulations and evictions continued.

City Council asked the Crown Corporation, Wartime Housing Ltd., to help alleviate the housing shortage. Even with the help of Wartime Housing, construction of new houses could not keep up with demand because the company was faced with material and labour shortages. Originally the intent was to construct temporary structures that would be dismantled after the war but Council felt that this would likely never occur, once built, the houses would remain. Many were built on slab foundations without basements. Over the ensuing decades most of these home owners would dig out a basement. Wartime homes can be found in Holmedale, Eagle Place, and along Elgin Street west of Arrowdale Golf Course. These houses provided little relief for the housing shortage and people lived wherever they could find a place: in spare rooms, empty factories, and camping in Mohawk Park. Living conditions during this time were crowded.

In 1941, Brantford’s population was 32,660; two years later it had grown to 35,000. The sudden increase in factory production due to the war combined with the closing down of the street railway on 31-January-1940 led to a crisis in public transportation. The new buses did not have the capacity of the street cars, nor did the City have enough buses to meet the demand for service so buses were often crowded, all the time. And with production focused on the war, the acquisition of new buses was a slow process, and even as the bus fleet was expanded, overcrowding persisted throughout the war. Oddly enough, Sunday bus service did not prove popular when it was added in December-1942, even though the factories were working seven days a week and the public had clamoured for Sunday service. Sunday service ended in May-1943. Sunday service was re-introduced after the war and proved to be very popular.

Labour

During the war, labour stoppages were rare. The Ministry of Labour had little patience for labour disputes if wartime production was impacted. Because of the demand for labour, the workers’ bargaining position improved. Regarding labour relations, management preferred the use of Industrial Councils to settle labour disputes. Industrial Councils were company controlled bodies comprised of management and workers. Unions continued to try to organise workers but management made it difficult. In 1943, the United Auto Workers (UAW) were successful in organising Canadian Car & Foundry, but Cockshutt workers voted to continue using the Industrial Council. In 1943, the Provincial legislature outlawed the use of Industrial Councils because they lacked the separation between management and labour. By the end of the war, the UAW represented workers at Cockshutt, Massey-Harris, Brantford Cordage, and Robbins & Myers.

The labour shortage was acute in Brantford throughout the war. Retired workers were asked to return to work, farmers were conscripted in the winter months, and BCI opened vocational classes geared to war work. Workers could be moved from jobs the government deemed non-essential to those supporting the war effort and were fined if they refused to move. As war production declined, the need for farm implements to repair war damaged units took up the slack and labour needs remained high with hundreds of positions going unfilled. Between September-1942 and June-1945 14,371 women were in the workforce. The first day care nursery in Ontario opened on Charlotte Street in November-1942 to accommodate the working mothers.

The labour shortage had far reaching consequences, tradesmen were difficult to find, gas meter readers could not get into residents houses to read their meters because residents were at work, the City was seriously short staffed, the hospital suffered a nursing shortage and curtailed visiting hours, farmers could not recruit enough able bodies to bring in the harvest, and students left school before graduation to take on factory jobs; my father being one of them.

Municipal Affairs

In 1939, the province tried to change the terms of municipal politicians from one year to two years or until the end of the war, as a cost savings measure but this was rejected by voters. City Council continued their pay-as-you-go philosophy adopted during the 1930s, and avoided capital expenditures. This was to allow taxpayers to spend money supporting the war effort. This resulted in tax reductions, debt reduction, and budget surpluses. Because of the industrial boom, the need for relief payments was virtually eliminated. One of the most contentious municipal issues during this period was where to locate the garbage dump. As you can imagine all suggested locations were soundly rebuked by the various neighbourhoods adjacent to the recommended sites which included West Brant, Eagle Place, and the North End; the North End being the area just north of Grandview. Street name signs were problematic for the City. They were not installed at each corner or even adjacent corners making Brantford resemble a labyrinth rather than an organised community for visitors.

The daylight savings time issue did not disappear. Brantford held fast to standard time all year long even when neighbouring municipalities adopted daylight savings time; even the Army camp and Air Force school adopted daylight savings time. In January-1942, the federal government made daylight savings time mandatory for the whole country.

The Queen Elizabeth pavilion at the Brantford General Hospital opened in October-1940 but the city’s rising population and nursing shortage continued to strain the abilities of the hospital to meet the demand for services. In 1940, Brantford became the first city in the world, with a population over 25,000, to be diphtheria free for ten years. This was the result of the immunisation programme instituted by the Board of Health in 1928. In June-1945, Brantford added sodium fluoride to its drinking water becoming the first city in Canada, and the second city in the world to do so.

Earl Haig pool, closed since 1930, reopened in 1942. Jennie Steer became the first woman elected to Brantford City Council in 1942. Plans for a new arena were revived in November-1944. Earl Haig Park was the preferred location. When the Civic Centre was finally completed in 1967, it was built on the site of the former Massey-Ferguson complex on Market Street South, adjacent to Earl Haig Park. The City wanted the federal government to ensure that the airport built to serve the flying school would remain open as a commercial facility. The training school site airport on Burford Road replaced the St. George Road airport. On 27-April-1970, the airport was transferred from the federal government to the City.

Education

The Brantford Catholic High School opened in September-1941, becoming Brantford’s second high school. Victoria School on Richmond Street, now Victoria Academy, was gutted by a fire in February-1944. It would be rebuilt and reopen two years later. Over 1,800 students from BCI joined the armed forces during the war years. 135 never returned from battle.

Recreation and Entertainment

During the war, the recreational needs of the community and the service men and women stationed in Brantford were coordinated by the Community Wartime Recreational Council, formed in 1942. The council organised dances, special events, social clubs, baseball and hockey leagues, and popularised basketball.

Because of the shortage of players, senior hockey and baseball suffered. The Brantford Jr. B Lions won the provincial championship in 1940-41, the first Ontario hockey championship for a City team in 51 years. Fred Hunt went on to play with the New York Americans and New York Rangers, Leo Reise played for the Chicago Black Hawks and won two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, and Tommy Ivanoff, later known as Tommy Ivan, went on the become the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings and later General Manager of the Chicago Black Hawks. In 1945, the Waterous Ladies’ basketball team won the city, intercity, and provincial championship and then won the Dominion Intermediate A crown.

Dancing and going to the movies were popular pastimes. The dance pavilion at Mohawk Park attracted over 15,000 people in 1942. Popular entertainers like the von Trapp Family Singers, Gene Autry, and Gracie Field appeared in Brantford. The Canadian Choir disbanded because of a significant decline in its membership and the Schubert Choir delivered their final concert on 23-April-1941 because conductor Henri K. Jordan was retiring.

End of Conflict

On 7-May-1945, Brantford went wild with the news that the war in Europe was over. Stores, factories, and government buildings shut down for two days of merry making. Only the Bell Telephone offices remained open handling a record number of calls. This scene was repeated on 14-August when news of Japan’s surrender reached the city.

Brantford During the Depression - Post 16

We have in Brantford, a microcosm, expressive in a way, of the whole Dominion of Canada, which is composed in part of great manufacturing and industrial centres, surrounded by great agricultural areas. - from Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s speech at the Brantford Armoury in 1930 in front of an audience of 5,000 and broadcast over a country-wide radio hook up, that opened his re-election campaign.

Brantford During the Depression

The bubble burst on 29-October-1929. That day marked the beginning of a long descent into misery and heartache for the working man. The stock market crash was the manifestation of an economic system that was unsustainable. The repercussions would be far reaching and long lasting. Boom and bust cycles have existed since the beginning of the industrial revolution but the world and Brantford never experienced a bust as was to come. Up to this time, the federal and provincial governments did not play a large part in the economy. They did not run any social programmes to speak of. No social safety nets were in place to ease the burden of those about to lose their jobs. The burden fell on the unemployed themselves and municipal governments. The most disadvantaged workers during this period were single men, because they did not have families to support; they were the first to be laid off, the last hired for civic relief projects, and allotted the least number of hours.

The stock market crash led to food lines and relief programmes becoming common as the 1930s progressed. The problems Brantford would encounter were exacerbated by a lack of diversification in the city’s industrial base.

Industry

The sudden drop in the stock market and the tales of gloom that followed caused the general population to reduce their spending. This happened in spite of the press, business, and government leaders telling the public that all was well and there was nothing to fear. On 25-April-1930 the Expositor wrote: The present is no time for pessimism in Canada. On the contrary, all the indications confirm the wisdom of those who have insisted that the present depression throughout the Dominion is merely temporary, and not justified by actual economic conditions.

The farm implements industry was impacted by the failure of the 1929 grain crop in western Canada. This directly led to a reduction in orders for both Massey-Harris and Cockshutt’s. Both companies asked the federal government to raise the tariffs on foreign made farm implements but the Liberal government of Mackenzie King took no action.

In September 1930, over 1,100 were unemployed in the City, the worst situation since 1921. The situation started to look promising for the farm implements industry when the new Conservative government of R.B. Bennett, elected on 28-July-1930, announced a 25 per cent tariff on imported farm implements. But a million dollar deal that Cockshutt had negotiated with the Russian government was lost when the federal government placed an embargo on Russian products entering Canada. In 1931, Cockshutt posted a $500,000 loss, Massey-Harris suffered a 50 percent decline in their business, and Brantford Cordage shut down indefinitely because they objected to new taxes imposed by the federal government.

During this time, the City worked feverishly to stimulate the local economy with various campaigns: Made in Brantford Week, Buy In Brantford, Spend for Prosperity, and Shop At Home, all designed to get residents to buy Brantford produced goods. In addition, the Industrial Commission continued their efforts to attract new companies to the city. This resulted in Kester Solder Company of Chicago, Sterling Action & Keys, Universal Cooler, Sonoco Products Company, Turnbull Furnace Company, H.E. Mott, W.J. Campbell Electric, and the Coca-Cola Company to set up operations in the City.

In 1933, some companies started to show improvement in their sales. The stocks prices of Cockshutt, Massey-Harris, Waterous Engine Works, and Brantford Cordage made appreciable gains and Harding Carpets posted a profit. Cockshutt managed to survive the Depression years because they employed tight money controls and added to their cash reserves during the 1920s.

By 1936, factories reported significant increases in their workforces. The federal government reduced the tariffs on farm implements but Cockshutt and Massey-Harris did not suffer from a drop in business as they expected. In 1937, Massey-Harris reported their first profitable year since 1929.

 Cover of a brochure developed by the Brantford Industrial Commission designed to attract new industries to Brantford

Cover of a brochure developed by the Brantford Industrial Commission designed to attract new industries to Brantford

Goold, Shapley & Muir, a manufacturer of steel windmill towers and small stationary gasoline engines, struggled through this period. The company’s product line stagnated in the 1920s and the company did not come up with new innovations. The company soldiered on but the Depression took its toll and in 1934 the company was liquidated after 47 years in business.

GooldShapelyMuir_Engine

 

Another company to close was Ruddy Manufacturing, formerly Ham & Nott. Ruddy produced refrigeration cabinets that were cooled electrically. Ruddy produced special refrigerators, cold storage doors, ice cream cabinets, and soda fountains. As the Depression took its toll on new store building and modifications, sales plummeted and the plant was closed in 1933. In 1937, the plant was reopened under new management and a new name, Ruddy Freeborn, as the business climate started to improve. 

Rumblings of war in Europe resulted in orders to local firms from the Department of National Defence. Now the companies faced another problem, too many jobs and not enough men.

Labour

In 1937, Canada Carriage & Body Company, which was the renamed entity for the merged Brantford Carriage Company and Adams Wagon Company, became the first factory in the city to be organised by the United Autoworkers. However, the union had to withdraw its charter because of funding problems and because they received no support from the company to collect union dues. The union managed to again organise in 1942 and got the company to deduct union dues from the payroll, a first for a Brantford company.

The economic conditions were favourable to union organizers who provided workers with an alternative to company run unions. Workers felt that the companies were using the Depression as an excuse to reduce their wages and weaken working conditions. Labour unrest occurred at the Brantford Washing Company in 1935, Canada Car & Foundry Company in 1936, Dominion Radiator & Boiler Company and Kitchen Overall & Shirt Company in 1937, and with the projectionists at the College Theatre in 1939.

Relief Programmes

As the number of men on relief swelled in 1930, city council responded by arranging for public works projects that would provide employment, like they did during the economic downturn of the early 1920s. The relief burden was more than the City could bear on its own and measures were taken to reduce the relief rolls by disqualifying single men. Provincial money for public work projects became available in the fall of 1930 and these funds were directed to the construction of sanitary sewers and dikes along the Grand River. In November, federal funds provided assistance to begin work on the Canadian National Railways cutoff north of the city. Tracks were never laid along the cutoff. The intent of the cutoff was to allow through freight trains to bypass the city. The cutoff ran from Garden Avenue to Paris Road. Freight trains continue to run through the City along the CN mainline to this day. The work on the cutoff became the foundation for Highway 403 through Brantford which was built in the 1960s. The highway through the city opened on 31-October-1966.

In order to lessen the municipal relief burden, the provincial and federal governments began to cover one-third each of the relief to individuals for groceries, fuel, and rent. Although grateful for provincial and federal assistance, the City was determined to deal with its problems locally as much as possible.

By the summer of 1931, 1,900 men were on the relief rolls in Brantford and over 3,100 registered as unemployed, the fifth highest unemployment rate in Ontario, this, in a city of 30,000. In October, Brantford sent 140 men to work camps in northern Ontario to work on the Trans-Canada Highway. However by the spring of 1932 fewer than 25 Brantford men remained. The working conditions were horrible. In 1931, the City organised the Community League to oversee and coordinate all the relief agencies in the city regarding the raising of money for the relief effort. This was an arm’s length agency independent of city control. This model was initially so successful that it was copied and implemented by the provincial government. However, as the relief rolls swelled and the poor economic situation continued unabated, the social need outstripped the Community League’s ability to supplement and fund the relief effort, while at the same time trying to meet the directive from the Minister of Public Works to slash its inadequate relief allowances even further. In August-1933 the Community League disbanded. A more permanent solution was needed.

The Community League was superseded by the Brantford Welfare Board that was tied to the City’s administration. As always, fairness and favouritism became issues with the Board and abuse allegations where regularly raised diverting attention and resources to investigation rather than providing support.

Relief numbers declined significantly in 1937 and 1938 but rose again in the first half of 1939. Even though the number of families on relief was declining, costs continued to increase because the federal and provincial contributions decreased. Their funding decreased because the economy was improving. The relief rolls and costs began to decline after the outbreak of World War II; in 1940 there were 226 families on relief compared to 1,245 families in 1939.

Relief matters were complicated during the decade by the arrival of the unemployed looking for work. Early in the decade, transients were tolerated and supported with free meals offered at the Police station but by 1938 the local citizenry had become less tolerant and the free meals were discontinued. The transients were largely single men.

Civic Matters

In 1931, City Council reduced the pay of city employees by ten percent. In 1932, all honoraria for civic officials were eliminated, including the $750 that the mayor received. However in 1933, the mayor received a raise and councillors voted themselves an annual honoraria of up to $200. Councillors to this point in the city’s history had not received any remuneration. The City’s financial situation was made worse because as relief payments increased, the ability of citizens to pay their taxes decreased. As a consequence, the total amount of unpaid taxes continued to grow. By 1935, the situation had become so severe that efforts were taken to collect the tax arrears by appealing to the citizen’s sense of obligation and the implementation of an instalment plan. It also helped that, by 1935, the economy started to improve.

On 25-May-1933, the Governor-General, the Earl of Bessborough, officially unveiled the Great War Memorial, honouring Brantford’s war dead. Proposed shortly after the end of the World War I, the completion was a long time coming.

Although civic improvements projects were curtailed during the 1930s, the Parks Board continued their efforts to beautify the City and provide functional recreation facilities. In 1935, Tutela Park was changed from an active sports park to a passive beauty spot; sports events were moved to Earl Haig Park. Mohawk Park remained a popular attraction although as the decade progressed the park moved away from hosting sports activities to that of leisure and recreation. In 1938, serious consideration was given for the construction of a combined arena and auditorium but World War II intervened. This project would finally come to fruition in 1967, 29 years later, with the opening of the Brantford and District Civic Centre, largely underwritten by the Brantford Labour Council.

Schools in the City fared no better. Teacher’s salaries were reduced, school renovations were kept to a minimum and no new schools were built. School closures due to budget constraints were avoided. In 1935, the school board introduced a free swim programme for boys offered through the YMCA. The CBC began to broadcast education programmes on the radio and the school board embraced the radio as a teaching tool. Because of the unemployment situation, attendance at BCI increased and many students returned after graduation for more work-oriented commercial and vocational courses.

The Brantford General Hospital suffered through the 1930s with a chronic space shortage and lack of an isolation ward. A hospital expansion was proposed in 1929 but it was defeated by City Council because of the fear of an economic downturn. In 1938, the Sisters of Saint Joseph proposed building a 50 bed hospital in the City, but this was rejected by the City. Instead the City finally proceeded with an expansion to the Brantford General Hospital and in July 1939 sod was turned for the construction of what would become the Queen Elizabeth Pavilion. St Joseph’s Hospital was eventually built and opened in 1955.

Interestingly a motion was passed by City Council in December 1936 supporting the Eugenics Society of Canada’s call for the sterilisaton of the feeble minded.

Pastimes and diversions

Brantford had an active choir community of national and international renown. Brantford was known as the city of choirs. The Schubert Choir, conducted by H.K. Jordan, was recognised as one of the best unaccompanied a cappella choirs on the continent. The choir performed at Massey Hall and at the New York’s World Fair. The Canadian Choir, under the direction of Frederic Lord, was formed in 1930 and sang in Albert Hall in London and the Town Hall in New York City. Lord was the organist and choir director at First Baptist Church. Press reviews for both choirs were outstanding everywhere they performed, The Cockshutt Male Choir was organised in 1935 and was under the direction of Frank Holton. Holton was the organist at Wesley United Church. Holton also organised the Brantford Ladies’ Choir. Choirs were also organised in the city’s public schools.

The Brantford Boys’ Band was started in 1931 and gave their first concert in 1932. In 1933 the dormant Brantford Symphony Orchestra was revived for one concert. It was a 75 piece ensemble with 30 musicians from Hamilton, conducted by Harold Vansickle. The Brantford Music Club brought vocalists and musicians to town as did the Brantford Community Concert Association, and the Kiwanis Club sponsored yearly operetta productions. The Brantford Drama League emerged to sponsor drama festivals, run apprenticeship programmes for aspiring actors, and produce one-act and full length plays at its Playhouse in West Brant. During this period Brantford no longer had a suitable theatre to stage productions. The Temple Theatre, now the Sanderson Centre, was converted in 1930 to exclusively show movies. The Grand Opera House was demolished in 1931. Only the Brant Theatre, primarily a movie theatre, BCI, and the Armoury remained, inadequate as they were, to host theatre productions.

The miniature golf craze took the city by storm in 1930. This led to the establishment of seven courses in the city. Deteriorating economic conditions snuffed out this craze the following year. Roller skating became all the rage in 1933 to the point where skaters became a traffic hazard. In order to provide skaters with a safe area to skate, Water Street, between Market Street and the Lake Erie & Northern train station at the Lorne Bridge was roped off in the evenings. A refreshment booth and improved lighting were installed on the street. Chain letters were also a popular pastime.

Circuses were a popular attraction. Brantford had its own circus company for 22 years, the Y Circus. The company produced an annual Easter event that was the city’s biggest annual entertainment attraction. It attracted sold out crowds. The circus’ run ended in 1935 when its organiser, George Mosely, moved to Owen Sound.

The City’s swimming pool at Earl Haig Park was closed in 1930 due to a spinal meningitis outbreak then remained closed thereafter because of the difficult financial times the City was experiencing. So citizens returned to the river to swim and beach areas were developed in West Brant, Eagle Place, and Holmedale. A proposal was made in 1939 to reopen the pool but the costs were deemed too high.

Brantford had professional teams in both baseball and hockey but both teams folded in 1930; the baseball team midway through its season. Sports continued to thrive at the amateur level. Brantford’s most successful hockey team during this era was the Brantford Lions who won their junior B group in 1937, 1938, and 1939. The team was coached by Tommy Ivan, who left to coach the Chicago Black Hawks. Jack Sewchuk went on to play for the Boston Bruins. My father played on this team in 1939.

 Brantford Lions Jr B hockey player, my father, John Jackowetz, 1939. Photo was taken on Usher St. The Broad St hill is in the background.

Brantford Lions Jr B hockey player, my father, John Jackowetz, 1939. Photo was taken on Usher St. The Broad St hill is in the background.

The Maich brothers, Joe, Bill, Don, and Peter, dominated in the boxing ring. Bill won the Canadian amateur heavyweight championship in 1933 and went on to represent Canada in the British Empire Games in England in 1934.

Brantford Street Railway

During the 1930s, a battle was fought between those that valued and wanted to keep the street railway and those that thought of themselves as progressives that wanted to convert the system entirely to buses. The increase in automobile ownership and the Depression were contributing to a decline in the ridership and revenue of the street railway. These events eventually wiped out the intercity radial railways. The Brantford & Hamilton Electrical Railway which opened its line between the two cities on 23-May-1908 made its final run on 30-June-1931. Transportation service between the two cities was replaced by buses.

In October 1932, a two month trial of bus service was implemented and all street cars were withdrawn. After the trial, citizens voted two to one to return to street car service.

In 1934, the street railway, hydro, and water commissions were merged into the Public Utilities Commission. One aesthetic result of the merger was the elimination of innumerable poles carrying hydro, telephone, telegraph, and street railway lines. The proliferation of poles along Colborne Street was such that residents referred to it as Poleborne Street.

In 1936, the slow implementation of buses to replace street cars began. The future was buses, not street railways. The route along Market Street to Terrace Hill Street was switched in buses. In 1937, buses began running to West Brant, the street car tracks to Mohawk Park were removed, and the street car barns on Brant Avenue were remodelled to accommodate buses. In May 1938, a bylaw to replace the street cars with buses was again defeated. Finally in December 1939 a bylaw calling for the gradual motorisation of system was approved. The street car made its last run on 31-January-1940. It is interesting to note that street car systems that were common in Ontario municipalities and largely removed during the 1920s and 1930 and now making a comeback.

Law enforcement

The last person hanged at the Brantford Jail was Joseph Bomberry in 1932. He was executed for the murder of his common-law wife.

The raising rate of automobile ownership added new problems for police to deal with. Traffic accidents, Highway Traffic Act charges, and gasoline theft where new and growing problems. Downtown traffic and parking were also significant problems for the City and the police. Drivers charged with certain types of careless driving began to be referred to as Brantford driving by the police magistrates across southern Ontario. To combat the challenge of the automobile being used more regularly in criminal activity, two-way radios were introduced in police cars in 1937.

The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, A Film

In 1939 Twentieth Century-Fox released the movie The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. City Councillors were outraged to learn that no scenes of Brantford were included in the movie and only one passing reference to Brantford was made in the film. City Council called on the Ontario Censor Board to ban the film unless changes were made to give Brantford its due regard and place in the story. The Censor Board ordered the temporary suspension of the film on 18-April. Twentieth Century-Fox then cancelled all bookings of the film in Canada. They then added a prologue to the film for Canadian screenings which included two shots of the Bell Homestead, two of the Bell Memorial, and a scroll which contained a statement by Bell that the invention took place in his father’s home (the Bell Homestead) in 1874.

 Movie poster - The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1939

Movie poster - The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1939

Royal Visit

On 7-June-1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Brantford on their 1939 Royal Tour. A fifteen minute stopover at the CNR train station was reluctantly granted after fierce lobbying by civic officials and Brantford’s M.P. W. Ross Macdonald. Over 50,000 people showed up at the train station, some as early at 2:30 in the morning to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. In a break with protocol the couple refused to sit in the chairs provided for them so they could better experience the visit.

Brantford in the 1920s - Post 15

Industry

After the First World War, civic enthusiasm was great and there was a sense that prosperous times and growth would continue, employment would grow, and the number of people on relief would diminish. Local industry retooled for a post war boom and the city reviewed their list of civic projects put on hold during the war.

The Dominion Bureau of Statistics reported as of 1918 that Brantford ranked fourth in the country in the export of manufactured goods, eighth in the amount of salaries and wages paid, and eleventh in the number of employees.

Brantford boomed after the war because the city’s Industrial Commission aggressively pursued new businesses. The following companies set up operations after the war: Robbins & Myers, Bluebird Appliances, S.C. Johnson Company, Holstein Friesen Company, and A.C. Spark Plug Company, and Slingsby’s announced an expansion. By the end of 1920, although the unemployment rate was negligible, those requiring relief was increasing, likely caused by workers moving into the city because of the prospects of jobs only to find few available. As orders that flowed into the city’s factories slowed, the companies were expecting an economic slowdown and indeed in 1921 it happened. As relief rolls swelled, the city undertook relief work projects constructing sidewalks and sewers in Eagle Place and the reconstruction of the Murray Street bridge. In 1920, Buck Stove Works was sold to the McClary Company of London, Ont. The company continued to expand in the 1920s but was closed down entirely in 1931. Brandon Shoe Company never rebuilt after its fire in March of 1923. Canadian Machine Telephone Company closed, and the Wm. Patterson Company was forced into bankruptcy, it reorganised and reopened and then was sold to George Weston by the end of the decade. This factory remained in operation until 1976.

In 1925 the economic situation started to improve, unemployment declined and the relief rolls grew smaller. By 1927 Harding Carpets, E.A. Gunther Company, and the Huron Cordage Company began operations. Orders for manufactured goods were increasing. Expansions were underway at the Dominion Flour Mills, Verity Works, and Niagara Silk. Tariffs on agricultural implements were lowered a few times during the decade making business tougher for this sector of industry, but they successfully adapted.

City Changes

The Lorne Bridge was a safety concern to the city yet council continued to put off any action to rebuild or replace the bridge. When a road roller crossed the bridge, all traffic had to be stopped so the roller was the sole occupant of the bridge. Money for a new bridge was approved by ratepayers in 1920 but inaction continued because of concerns regarding the cost and the type of bridge to be built, iron or concrete. Finally in 1922 council approved the construction of a new reinforced concrete bridge. Port Arthur Construction won the contract in March 1923. The bridge was largely completed by January 1924 and opened to traffic. The official opening occurred on 11-August-1924, with Lieutenant-Governor Harry Cockshutt cutting the ribbon.

The city saw little boundary expansion since 1891. In 1908, the portion of Holmedale west of Morrell Street and south of Dufferin Avenue, including Waterworks Park and in 1914 Westmount Boulevard were annexed. In 1920, the Parkdale (the area south of Aberdeen Avenue and west of Erie Avenue) and Bellview (south of Emilie Street between Erie Avenue and Mohawk Street) areas of Eagle Place were annexed. The folks in the Grandview district, centred around Grandview School on North Park St, resisted annexation and did not become part of the city until 1954.

The debate regarding what to do with City Hall and the Market Square continued to rage after the war and throughout the 1920s. Even though City Hall was voted the City’s greatest eyesore, no progress on these two files were made.

On 28-December-1918 the Brantford Courier, the voice of the Conservative party in Brantford, ceased publication. The paper began in 1833 as The Sentinel.

Horse drawn cabs and livery stables began to disappear. The automobile had clearly taken hold. The popularity of the Saturday Night Parade, which saw a crush of people descend on the downtown, was joined by increasing automobile traffic.

A housing shortage continued in Brantford throughout the 1920s. It followed the ups and downs of the industrial economic cycle. Factories experienced difficulties attracting new workers as they expanded and new ones were built. Building apartment buildings to alleviate the shortage was not welcomed for fear they would turn into overcrowded tenement slums. However by the end of the 1920s apartment buildings started to appear.

Brantford’s immigrant population, i.e. non-British immigrants, continued to remain a convenient target for blame when the occasion arose. They were seen as competitors for jobs. The city police commissioners wanted these “enemy aliens” in the city deported. Although nothing came of the matter, their request was endorsed by city council.

Although prohibition was repealed federally in 1919, it continued in Ontario. A number of referendums were held in the early 1920s and all were defeated in Brantford. In May-1925 the Liquor Control Act was passed in the provincial parliament and local hotels started selling beer again.

On 10-June-1925 the United Church of Canada was created with the merger of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational churches.

The City agonized whether to adopt daylight savings time. It was not popular with the citizens of Brantford. Every time this issue appeared on the ballot it was defeated but it was continually resurrected. In 1929 the motion was finally approved.

Roads

After the war, two toll roads in the area remained. In 1918, the Paris Road and then in 1920 the Cockshutt Road became public roads.

The first manually operated traffic control signals were installed on Market Street at Dalhousie Street and Colborne Street in 1920. In 1927 automated signals were installed. Stop signs were introduced in 1925.

As automobile use dramatically increased, improved road links with surrounding municipalities resumed after being stalled during the war years. In July 1921 the province began work to build a new road to Hamilton. This concrete highway was completed in August 1922. In December 1923 a new concrete highway was completed to Paris. These roads, once known as Highway 2, have since been bypassed by Highway 403. The bow string bridge over Fairchild Creek along Highway 2 was built in 1931 and is still in service. It was rehabilitated rather than replaced in 2006.

Street Railway

The street railway expanded to meet the demands of passengers. Service was extended to Terrace Hill, a new loop was built in Eagle Place, the Holmedale line was extended, and service was reintroduced to West Brant over the new Lorne Bridge to replace the bus service that replaced the street cars over the old, failing Lorne Bridge. Even though the system was expanded ridership declined during the economic downturn at the beginning of the decade. Increased automobile registration and a growing number of taxi cabs operating in the city had a negative impact on ridership. Compounding the problem was that the system grew too big in size which adversely impacted passenger’s travel times. The street railway was never able to recover its operating costs, even after wage and staff reductions were implemented. Brantford Transit deals with similar problems today.

 Map showing the Street Railway System. The system reached 51 of 57 factories in the city.

Map showing the Street Railway System. The system reached 51 of 57 factories in the city.

Airport

Brantford’s first airport, or air harbour as it was called then, was developed on 85 acres of land on what was then called the St George Rd, now known as King George Road, in 1929. The facility was located where the Home Hardware and Fairview School are now. The facility was officially opened on the weekend of June 6 and 7, 1930. On 16-May-1932 passenger air service between Windsor and Toronto was inaugurated. Canadian Airways Limited, flying a seven passenger Fairchild 71 monoplane provided daily service, except Sunday. The newly formed Brant-Norfolk Aero Club provided pilot training and held small meets. It struggled through the depression but it survived.

War Memorial

A priority for the city was the creation of some form of memorial to commemorate the over 600 soldiers and nurses who died in the war. In 1921 a War Memorial Association was formed to plan the building of a memorial. Their task was to consider the form, location, and financing of the memorial. A hospital, a new City Hall, and a monument were all considered. In 1923 a memorial was proposed on land near the Armoury that would include park land and a provision for a future City Hall, financed by a fundraising campaign. Given the state of the economy at this time, the plan was placed on hold. Instead a small cenotaph was provided by the Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) in the Armouries Gore Park across from the Armoury. This memorial now resides in Tom Thumb Park, a block to the west, in order to make room for the Brantford Walk of Fame. In 1927, with an improving economy, the fundraising campaign for the memorial was launched and Canadian sculptor W.S. (Walter) Allward was commissioned to design the Brant County War Memorial. Allward designed the Bell Memorial and the Vimy Ridge monument. The memorial was dedicated in 1933. The Memorial Gallery surrounding the war memorial was dedicated on 2-July-1954. The figures representing the men and women who served was unveiled on 12-Sep-1992.

Government

Civic elections occurred yearly. Mayors typically served for only two terms. When Morrison Mann MacBride tried to secure a fourth consecutive term in 1921 The Expositor launched an all-out campaign against MacBride. The newspaper’s position was that “The Brantford mayoralty should not be made a life job for any man”. MacBridge was reelected as mayor in 1925.

In 1921, city industrialist Harry Cockshutt was appointed the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, a position he filled until 1927. Harry brought informality to the position and travelled extensively around the province promoting unity within the province, the county, and the Empire. Cockshutt revolutionised the office in Ontario. Regarding his tenure, The Globe wrote, “Col. Cockshutt has broadened that function materially and most acceptably…Old prejudices have been broken and new interest created in the other fellow’s problems.”

Public Health

On the health front, the city lived with an overtaxed hospital. This was most noticeable when flu outbreaks struck the city. Although no major expansion of the hospital occurred, an x-ray department was installed in 1923 and a crippled children’s wing opened in 1927. The stock market crash in 1929 scuttled expansion plans the hospital’s Board of Governors were contemplating.

Two contentious public health issues of the day were smallpox vaccinations for school children and pasteurisation of milk. Both were rejected by the citizens. Parents saw vaccinations as an assault against their defenceless children. The Medical Officer of Health saw it as a solution to minimise the outbreak of the disease among school children. The pasteurisation question was solved in 1921 when the city ordered that all milk sold in the city had to be pasteurised or be fresh milk from tuberculin-tested cows.

Education

Overcrowding at schools was common throughout this period. It was particularly acute at Brantford Collegiate Institute. In the early 1920s the province increased the age a student had to be before they could leave school. This resulted in enrolment at BCI going from 565 in 1920 to over 900 in 1923. Overflow space was opened up in Grace Anglican Church, St Jude’s Anglican Church and Central School. In 1924 a new wing was opened at BCI with eight classrooms and two woodworking shops. A technical wing and an improved auditorium opened in 1929 and the school could now accommodate 1,500 students.

Conditions at elementary schools were such that in 1919 the system could not accommodate 153 children. To rectify this situation Major Ballachey School on Rawdon Street opened in 1919, Graham Bell School on Grand Street opened in 1923, and Riverview Public School on Wade Avenue opened in 1924. Major Ballachey and Graham Bell are still in operation. Riverview closed in 2006. The Catholic Board opened St. Ann’s School on Pearl St. in 1923. St. Ann’s closed, along with St. Basil’s (1910), in 1978. Health and schools became more closely aligned in the 1920s as more extensive medical inspections of school children began to be conducted in schools.

Entertainment

The Temple Theatre, a 1,600 seat theatre, designed by Thomas Lamb, a New York architect, opened on 22-December-1919. The theatre offered a programme of vaudeville and silent films. In 1929 Famous Players purchased the theatre and made it one of the first theatres in Ontario wired for sound. It was renamed the Capital in 1931. The City purchased the theatre in 1986 and on 11-December-1989 it was renamed the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts.

A municipal swimming pool opened in 1923, at the location of where Waterworks Park is today. In 1929 it was named Earl Haig Park. This provided a safer alternative to the Grand River. The park also had a merry-go-round, a dance pavilion, and games of chance. The YMCA, built in 1912, contained an indoor swimming pool. Also in 1923 development started on Arrowdale Golf Course on Stanley and Elgin Streets. The golf course opened in 1927. Improvements continued to be made to Mohawk Park that focused on picnickers and tourist campers. A dance pavilion and boathouse were constructed and the sports fields where upgraded but the park never regained its pre-war prominence.

Arctic Arena

Brantford’s first artificial ice surface was built by Ellston Cooper, owner of the Arctic Ice Company. The Arctic Arena opened on 27-Dec-1926. It sat 3,500.The arena was located at the bottom of the West Street hill, across from Harris Street. Until this arena opened, Brantford only had the natural ice surface of the Alfred Street Arena, which opened in 1912. The Arctic Arena was demolished in May-1968 after the Brantford & District Civic Centre opened on 25-March-1967.

Radio

In 1922, Tom Brown received an amateur experimental broadcast licence and started his radio broadcast experiments over station 3TP. In 1926 Brown began broadcasting as an amateur station under the call sign 10BQ. 10BQ was known as the “Little Station on the ‘ill”, and was located at 12 Terrace Hill Street kitty-corner from the hospital. 10BQ remained on the air until June-1934 when its licence was suddenly cancelled by the Canadian Radio Commission.

Brantford’s first commercial radio station CFGC began broadcasting on 17-March-1926, out of a studio in the Hotel Kerby. Due to financial difficulties the station’s final day of broadcast was 5-June-1927. CFGC stood for Canada’s Finest Growing City.

CKCR started broadcasting from the home of owner John D Paterson in St. George in March 1926. A studio was then established above the Bank of Montreal on Main St. In January-1928 a fire destroyed the studio and shortly thereafter it moved to the 4th floor of the Arcade Building in Brantford, at the corner of Colborne and Queen Streets. The station continually experiencedtrouble finding sponsors and advertisers in Brantford so in 1929 the station was sold to Kitchener interest and on 22-July-1929 began broadcasting from Kitchener. In 1965 CKCR became CHYM, and in 1992 CKGL.

In 1923, Wallace Russ began broadcasting from his living room in Preston, Ontario. This was the beginning of CKPC. In 1927 Cyrus Dolph bought the station and continued broadcasting from Preston. In 1933 Dolph sold the station to his daughter Florence Buchanan and she moved the station to Brantford. CKPC began broadcasting from the old CKCR studios in the Arcade Building on 29-Dec-1933. The PC of CKPC stands for Preston, Canada. CKPC stills operates today from its studios on West Street, although the station is no longer locally owned.

The 1920s were a period of growth and optimism for Brantford but the city’s star position as one of largest industrial centres with respect to manufacturing exports started to diminish, superseded by other cities in the country.

Brantford During World War I - Post 13

The First World War would cause changes in Brantford unlike anything the City had ever seen. During this period there was a demand for men for the front; shortages of food, fuel, and labour; and a pandemic. At the beginning of the war the City’s population was about 25,000.

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, of Austria-Hungary, and his wife on 28-June-1914 led to a chain of events that triggered four years of misery and horror. Tensions quickly escalated in Europe causing the Expositor to write in an editorial on 31-July When needs arises, Canadians one and all are Britishers. Britain's declaration of war on 4-August was met locally with unrestrained enthusiasm. In Brantford the farm implements industry was concerned about what the effects of that war would have, there was a fear that the Lake Erie & Northern Railway’s construction would be in jeopardy causing hardship for local labourers, and there was concern that food prices would increase.

Immediately local men raced to volunteer for service fearing they would miss the war, and wartime precautions went into effect - railway bridges in the city were to be guarded and wireless transmission equipment would be removed. The city’s attention turned from local matters to national and international concerns. By November-1914 500 men had left Brantford to fight.

W.F. Cockshutt, Brantford’s Member of Parliament during this time, sought permission to organise a Brant County battalion. The 125th battalion was the result of Cockshutt’s efforts. A second Brant County battalion, the 215th, was organised soon after.

Various methods were used to induce enlistment: the call to duty, patriotic rallies, public shaming, editorials, posters, and pressure from the churches, wives and girlfriends. Those whom avoided volunteering were referred to as slackers and subjected to ridicule. The recruiting rallies were very popular at the beginning of the war. They occurred every Sunday night at the Brant Theatre. The Brant Theatre was located at 77 Dalhousie Street, across from the Temple Building, roughly where the Bodega Inn is now.

 The Hext Carriage factory at 77-79 Dalhousie St was remodelled into a theatre in 1913 by J. O’Reilly, the owner of the American Hotel next door. It was known as the Brant Theatre. In 1951 the theatre was renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1960.

The Hext Carriage factory at 77-79 Dalhousie St was remodelled into a theatre in 1913 by J. O’Reilly, the owner of the American Hotel next door. It was known as the Brant Theatre. In 1951 the theatre was renamed the Paramount Theatre. It closed in 1960.

As the war dragged on, enlistments plummeted, requiring the need for conscription in 1917. The idea of conscription was well received by the citizens in Brantford, although no so much by those about to be conscripted. The stories from the trenches coupled with the increase in pay offered by local factories contributed to men wanting to stay home.

At the beginning of the war, as the soldiers paraded to the train station to leave the city they would be accompanied by bands and townsfolk to cheer them on. By 1917 the soldiers paraded to the train station alone.

Brantford changed in other ways. Residents from enemy nations were deemed enemy aliens. These enemy aliens were divided into two camps: threats to security and those who posed no risk. The government interned the former while the latter had to report to the police monthly. People of German, Austrian, and Turkish descent were highly suspect. Hostilities even went beyond war issues; in 1918 foreigners, that is, those who spoke with an Eastern European accent, were barred from using the city run swimming area on the Grand River.

There were constant drives for money to support the war effort - Victory Bonds; the Patriotic Fund, to care for soldiers’ dependents; the Red Triangle Fund, for the comfort of soldiers overseas; the Red Cross and various relief funds, for the victims of war. Money was also raised locally to meet the needs of local army units. As enlistments declined so too did the community’s ability and willingness to contribute ever more dollars. By the end of the war Brantford and Brant County contributed over $1.2 million. This is equivalent to almost $22 million today.

As expected, food prices increased. Initially this was offset by an increase in wages but as the war dragged on the price increases exceeded wage increases. This resulted in the popularity of Victory Gardens, where residents would grow food to meet their own needs. Shortages were common for staples such as; meat, bread, canned goods and heating fuels. Coal was particularly hard to come by during the winter of 1917-1918. The city attempted to alleviate the situation by intervening to control the distribution of coal based on need. The end result was that no one was satisfied with the availability and distribution of coal; residents, local businesses, farmers, and especially the coal dealers.

The war also had a negative effect on many of the city’s industries, especially Massey-Harris, who relied on a large export shipments to Europe. The winter of 1914 - 1915 witnessed unemployment and economic hardship. However in 1915 the situation turned dramatically. Slingsby Mills, Brandon Shoe Company, Adams Wagon, Kitchen Overall & Shirt Company, Goold, Shapley and Muir, Waterous Engine Works, Ker and Goodwin, Cockshutt’s, and Dominion Steel Products started to receive war orders from the federal government. The city workforce went from underemployment to a scarcity of workers. The need for workers was so acute that women for the first time entered the workforce in large numbers. The need for factory workers to fuel the war effort led to the abandonment of virtually all civic improvements and created farm labour shortages. The business outlook for 1919 was promising as Europe needed to rebuild and resupply itself. One shift of note was the continuing use of women as bank clerks and tellers after the war.

One of the few city changes during the war was the city’s takeover of the street railway and the purchase of brand new street railway cars. In 1915 the Lorne Bridge was declared unsafe and costly repairs would be required. These repairs were not undertaken. The bridge was finally replaced in the early 1920s. The Lake Erie & Northern Railway was completed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. This gave the CPR a connection with its mainline at Galt and all the way south to Port Dover.

 The Lake Erie & Northern Railway Station. It also served as the terminus for the Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway. The station opened in 1916. The B&HER ceased operations in 1931. LE&N passenger train service ended in 1955. The station was demolished in 1958.

The Lake Erie & Northern Railway Station. It also served as the terminus for the Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway. The station opened in 1916. The B&HER ceased operations in 1931. LE&N passenger train service ended in 1955. The station was demolished in 1958.

One the health front, during the war the Brantford General Hospital opened new wings and a smallpox hospital. The Brantford Sanitorium opened a new pavilion. Smallpox vaccinations for school children were made mandatory, then quickly rescinded due to negative public reaction. The first case of the Spanish flu which swept through Europe sickening and killing millions arrived in Brantford in the fall of 1918. By the time the epidemic had passed, 2,500 cases of the flu had been reported and over 250 people died as a result of the flu.

Prohibition went into effect in Ontario on 15-September-1916. With the battle against alcohol won by the temperance forces, attention was focused on the proliferation of pool halls in the city.

The war affected sports, entertainment, and recreational activities too. Sports were especially hard hit because of a lack of players available. Baseball limped along with local factory and regiment teams but hockey and soccer largely disappeared. Live theatre and filmed entertainment continued at the city’s theatres.

On 24-October-1917, the Bell Memorial was unveiled during a driving rain storm and cold weather. The memorial was designed by Canadian sculptor Walter Allard. Many thought that the memorial was too abstract, however, it propelled Allard to fame and led him to to create the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, his most renowned work. It was at the unveiling of the memorial that Bell confirmed Brantford’s claim as The Telephone City …I am prepared to state that Brantford is right in claiming the invention of the telephone here.

 Alexander Graham Bell posing in front of the newly unveiled Bell Memorial

Alexander Graham Bell posing in front of the newly unveiled Bell Memorial

When the war ended, the announcement was met by the ringing of the fire bell and church bells and the blast of factory whistles. Factories and stores closed and everyone converged on downtown making as much noise in celebration as they possibly could.

The pressing question for the city and its citizens was, what does the future hold for Brantford?

Brantford in the Edwardian Era - Post 12

For the majority of her reign Queen Victoria was in mourning for her dearly departed Albert; shebecame a recluse after his death. Edward VII, her son, who succeeded her in 1901, was the complete opposite. Edward was a pleasure seeker, leading the commonwealth into a new, lively age of art, fashion, and travel.

 King Edward Vii

King Edward Vii

Canada celebrated the first decade of the 20th-century with an abundance of wealth unmatched in the country’s brief history. In little more than 70 years Brantford evolved from a rugged backwater community where living conditions were harsh to a socially and economically diverse city of the industrial age.

The years between the 1901 and the start of the Great War saw a sustained period of industrial growth. The fiscal caution of the 1890s was replaced by confidence and the city moved rapidly forward garnering a national and international reputation for manufacturing excellence. During this period there were recessions and labour disputes but the city’s workforce and roster of companies grew.

In the first few years of the 20th-century Brantford Cordage started up and major additions were completed at Pratt and Letchworth, Brantford Carriage Works and Verity Plow. Cockshutt completed their new factory on Mohawk Street and Buck Stove Works moved to a new and larger location. Ham & Nott, Waterous Engine Works, and Massey-Harris announced expansion plans.  By 1903 4,000 people, in a city of 18,000 were employed in the manufacturing sector. In mid-decade Barber-Ellis, Canada Glue, and American Radiator set up operations in Brantford.

The first slow down occurred in 1907, a world-wide phenomenon. The economy improved in 1908 and in the next few years Canadian Machine Telephone, Brandon Shoe, Crown Electric, and Brantford Computing Scale started up. Cockshutt and Brantford Carriage both made large additions. This continued growth however never reached the heights of growth of the first years of the new century.

A pressing issue of this era was who should provide the services the growing city needed. Was municipal ownership of public utilities to be expanded? Private operators were commonly under capitalised and constantly struggled trying to keep up with demand. The small size of the local market prevented operators from earning adequate returns to improve and the expand service. In 1905 city run garbage collection began, replacing private contractors. Ownership of companies providing telephone service, electricity, gas, and the street railway were constant sources of debate.

It is interesting to note that by the turn of the 20th-century the City Hall on Market Square was deemed to be an eyesore and an embarrassment to the city yet it would remain in place and in use for another 63 years.

 Brantford's first City Hall

Brantford's first City Hall

During this period three more railways were built. The Grand Valley Railway began operating to Paris in 1903 and to Galt in 1904. The Brantford & Hamilton Electric Railway commenced service to Hamilton in 1908 making 18 rounds trip a day. Service continued on this line until 1931. The Lake Erie & Northern travelled south to Waterford, Simcoe, and Port Dover and to Galt and north to Kitchener and Waterloo via the Grand River Railway beginning in 1916. Passenger service on the LE & N ended in 1955.

In 1905 the Grand Trunk Railway’s mainline was diverted to run through Brantford, 51 years after the Great Western bypassed Brantford because the city refused to pay a bonus to the railway to put its line through Brantford. The main streets in Brantford began to be paved in 1908 in response to the expansion in use of the automobile.

In 1908 the Brant Historical Society was organised, dedicated to researching the history and archaeology of the County and to “excite a greater appreciation of the efforts of the early settlers”.

The constant growth in manufacturing was such that the Post Office on George and Dalhousie Streets, now Laurier Brantford’s Post House, could no longer handle the municipal and federal business in Brantford. A new Federal Building commenced construction in 1913. Today this once important local symbol of the federal government has been deemed surplus to the government’s needs and is to be sold off.

The winter of 1913-1914 saw the return of hard times. The economic slowdown combined with patriotic commitment to England meant many men were available to enlist for the war after Great Britain declared war on Germany. However, fewin Brant were aware of the issues and circumstances that provoked the war. War was seen, and sold, as an adventure and a gallant pursuit, rather than the horror it truly was. As the war progressed and the stories of the terror and suffering reached Brant, fewer and fewer men were willing to commit to the cause. However demand for war supplies and equipment soon provided the factories of Brantford with scores of contracts.

As American influence began to exert itself in Canada, efforts to strengthen ties with England, the mother land, increased. Some considered it inevitable that Canada would join the American Union. The on-going debate about whether to remain committed to England or form a closer relationship with America culminated with the Reciprocity Treaty (a free trade agreement) the Laurier government negotiated with the United States. Local industrialists thrived in the high tariff environment that existed and were not anxious to see their American competitors invade Canada and steal away their markets. Farmers were hopeful for an agreement but industry and urban forces against the Treaty led to the defeat of the Laurier government in the 1911 elections. Free trade with America would prove elusive until 1987 when the Mulroney government signed the Free Trade Agreement.

Brantford At the Dawn of the 20th-Century - Post 11

By the turn of the 20th-century the business leaders of Brantford had transformed the City into an industrial powerhouse. As the 19th-century came to a close Brantford was number three in Canada in manufacturing output exported, surpassed only by Montreal and Toronto. The earliest manufacturing industry in what is now Brantford was shoemaking. Arunah Huntington and W.D. Dutton both started their shoemaking businesses in 1819.

        Arunah Huntington

       Arunah Huntington

The population of the City in 1901 was 16,685. Brantford was the thirteenth largest city in the country. A number of factors contributed to Brantford’s rise to industrial prominence.

  1. For reasons not clearly understood, every era develops hot spots for entrepreneurs, e.g. Silicon Valley. During the 19th-century as the industrial revolution took hold in North America, Brantford was an entrepreneurial magnet. When new technologies are introduced, barriers to entry are low and anyone with an idea and some money can start a business to exploit the technology. Many of these ‘idea’ people landed in Brantford.
  2. Transportation. Brantford was a quiet inland village that was arduous to reach by road, so trade was local. Ambitious and driven people recognised that the Grand River could be made into a waterway to provide cheap and easy access to the Grand Lakes and the Erie Canal. Brantford thus became an important grain and farm produce distribution centre. The commerce that the canal created led to the early building of the railway to Brantford, a more reliable method of transportation that operated year round. Brantford no longer was constrained by poor road transportation.
  3. Capital. Many of the businesses that started or moved to Brantford were able to secure financing locally. The merchant class, established in the early days of the village, created a pool of locally available capital. These capitalists, today we call them venture capitalists, wanted the town to grow. Growth was good for their businesses. The returns on providing financing were also lucrative to the financiers. This class was led by Ignatius Cockshutt.
  4. City Council. The City Council was populated with successful businessmen. As a consequence, the Council took an aggressive stance in encouraging new industries to establish operations in Brantford through preferential tax treatment and bonuses paid to companies to locate here.
  5. Marketing. Marketing in the 19th-century was accomplished by demonstrating the prosperity of the community. Public buildings were elegant and substantial, e.g. the County Courthouse. City services were also developed: fire protection, street cars, library, water works, gas works, electricity, and a hospital. Brantford had everything you would expect in the old country or large North American cities.

In 1901 there were 45 manufacturing businesses in the City. Farm implements and machinery factories were the largest employers but there were also woodworking factories, foundries, woollen and cotton mills, pickle and biscuit factories, binder twine makers, carriage builders, distillers and vintners, saddlers, flouring mills, and packing houses. Farm implements output represented about a third of all industrial shipments.

Railways were the drivers of the industrial revolution, helping to get manufactured goods to market. Three railways served the City, the Grand Trunk Railway (1854), with direct connections to Buffalo via the International Railway Bridge, the Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo Railway (1894), with its connection to the Michigan Central Railway system at Waterford, and the Lake Erie & Northern Railway (1916) connecting Brantford to Port Dover and the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline in Galt. In 1905 the Grand Truck Railway diverted its main line to run through Brantford, rather than Harrisburg, and built a new train station that operates to this day. An electric radial railway line to Hamilton opened in 1908. 25 passenger trains a day passed through Brantford in 1901.

 Original Grand Trunk Railway Station

Original Grand Trunk Railway Station

In 1902 the cornerstone of the new public library was laid. The library opened in 1904. The first locally owned automobiles appeared in 1903. Movies started to be shown at the Theatorium in 1906.

Notable manufacturing and commercial enterprises operating in Brantford in 1901:

Brantford Packing Company - meat packing.

Cockshutt Plow Company - farm implements.

Adams Wagon Company - wagons and carts.

Waterous Engine Works - steam engines, boilers, saw-mill machinery, road rollers, rock crushers, fire engines, and pulp making machinery.

Mickle, Dyment & Son - lumber - lath, shingles, sash, doors, blinds, and other building supplies.

Snow Drift Company - baking supplies, spices, and coffee.

Massey-Harris Company - farm implements.

Brantford Starch Works - culinary and laundry starches.

Brant Roller Mills - flour mill.

Goold, Shapley & Muir Company - wind mills, iron and wood pumps, and bee keepers’ supplies.

Slingsby Manufacturing Company - bed and horse blankets, flannel sheetings, and yarns. Dean Braund's Ardency Corporation operates out this mill building today on Grand River Ave.

 Slingsby Manufacturing Company

Slingsby Manufacturing Company

Schultz Brothers Company - construction, box-making, and washing machines.

Mathew K. Hallaron and H.B. Gardner - cigars.

J.S. Hamilton & Company and Pelee Island Wine and Vineyards Company - wine.

Brantford Box Company - cigar boxes and paper boxes.

Canada Cycle and Motor Company (CCM) - bicycles.

Scarfe & Company - varnishes and shellacs.

Turnbull, Howard & Company - hardware. Located on the corner of King and Colborne Streets, the current location of The Crawford Collective.

 Turnbull, Howard & Company

Turnbull, Howard & Company

Fleming’s Restaurant - the present location of Brant Stereo on Market Street.

 Fleming Restaurant

Fleming Restaurant

Brantford Adds Municipal Services - Post 10

We take for granted the services Brantford has available for its residents. Two hundred years ago this area was scrub oak, cedar trees, and swamp with a road passing through. As settlers moved in and tamed the wilderness they also endeavoured to improve their developing community. As the settlement grew, services were added. Ignatius Cockshutt was a leading driver to build the services the residents sought which led to the development of a desirable and prosperous community.

Bridging the Grand River

The first wooden bridge across the Grand River was built in 1812. It did not last long, probably days or a few weeks. Over the years other wooden bridges were built but were washed away with the spring floods. A covered toll bridge was built in 1841. This bridge lasted until 1854 when it washed away. At this time, a foot bridge and ferry service was introduced but did not serve wagon movement well. In 1857 an iron bridge was constructed. This bridge was washed away in 1878 and was immediately replaced by a wrought iron bridge in 1879. It was named the Lorne Bridge after the Marquis of Lorne, Canada’s Governor General at the time. This bridge was replaced in 1924 with a reinforced concrete arch bridge which was reconstructed in 1980.

Post Office

A post office was first established at “the Ford” in 1825. Throughout the next 55 years the location moved regularly. Finally in 1880 a Post Office and Customs Office was built on the north east corner of George and Dalhousie Streets. Home mail delivery was instituted in 1898, as were street letter boxes. Residents no longer had to go to the post office to pick up and mail letters. In 1915 the post office relocated to the new Federal Building on Dalhousie and Queen Streets were it remains to this day.

Library

A Mechanic’s Institute, the forerunner to the modern library existed in town in the early 1830s but closed in 1837. It was revived in 1853. The Institute was supported by fees paid by its members. In 1884 the Mechanic’s Institute was converted to a free library. The Carnegie Library, the Public Library’s first permanent home, opened in 1904. It was built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. The present Brantford Public Library, a former Woolco Department store, opened in 1991 replacing the Carnegie Library.

Fire

A fire brigade was first organised in 1836. It included most of the abled-bodied men in the village numbering between 40 and 50. During the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s new volunteer brigades were organised. Finally in 1889 a City fire department was established with fully paid members. A fire hall was constructed on Dalhousie and Queen Streets. The department moved to a new headquarters at Greenwich and Newport Streets in 1953. In 2000 the present headquarters on Clarence and Wellington Streets opened replacing the Greenwich Street building.

Police

The earliest form of “police” protection in the village was that of night watchmen. Henry Peckman was hired by the Town as high bailiff in September-1847, he was the Town’s first official officer of the law. The requirements to be a high bailiff at the time were to be big and strong. The terms high bailiff, high constable and chief constable were used before police was adopted in the early 1870s. Thomas McMeans was the sole officer from 1854 until 1875. He was supported by ward constables. A Police Commission was established in 1875, Thomas McMeans was made chief and was supported by a force of four men. These men did not wear uniforms. In 1885 the department was reorganised and uniforms were introduced. Police headquarters was at City Hall until October-1889 when a Police Station was opened on Queen Street, between Dalhousie and Darling Streets. Detectives were introduced in 1912. The first police car was acquired in 1916; the first motorcycle in 1928. In December-1953 the Police moved into a new building at Greenwich and Newport Streets. The Auxiliary Police Force was started in 1962. In 1991 the Brantford Police Service replaced the Brantford Police Force and in November-1991 the Police moved into their new headquarters on Wayne Gretzky Parkway.

Water Works

Water service began with the need to fight fires. In 1849 a well and pump was put in place on Colborne Street. In 1861 six cisterns were constructed throughout the Town. The water works was organised in 1870 as a private concern under an arrangement with City Council.  In 1889 the City acquired the water works and plans commenced immediately to provide drinking water to the City’s households.

Gas works

The Kerby House and Ignatius Cockshutt’s store were first lit by gas in 1854. In 1855 the Brantford Gas Co. was organised and the first gas street lamps were installed. This gas was synthetic, made from coal. Natural gas first started being used in Brantford in 1906 after the Dominion Natural Gas Company took over the local concern.

Hospital

In the early years, temporary hospitals would be constructed in times of small pox and other epidemics, but no permanent facility was built. In 1884 a public subscription campaign was launched to rectify this situation. In 1885 John Stratford donated a hospital and seven acres of land to the City. The hospital was named the John H. Stratford Hospital until 1910 when it was changed to the Brantford General Hospital. The original buildings and additions were out of date by the late 1940s and began to be replaced with the buildings we see today. For a time Brantford had two hospitals. St. Joseph Hospital, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, opened in 1955. It closed in 2001.

Electricity

Electric lights appeared on city streets in 1885, powered by electricity from the Alfred Watts power generation station located at the locks of the old canal, at Beach and Locks Roads. Watts organised the Brantford Electric Light Co. and financed improvements and expansion until 1892 when he sold the business to the Brantford Electric and Power Company. In 1894 direct current for motive power purposes, that is to drive electric motors, began to be generated and distributed. In 1897 alternating current for motive power purposes was made available. Until then, power was generated solely for lighting. Keeping up with the burgeoning demand was taxing on the company. In 1908 hydro-electricity generated from DeCew Falls near Thorold began to power Brantford needs. This change rendered the local generating plant at the locks obsolete. The plant was decommissioned in 1912.

Street Railway

The first street railway system was formed by Alfred Watts in 1879 but no service was ever initiated. In March 1886 the Brantford Street Railway Co. began service using 6 cars and 14 horses. In 1893 the service was electrified and extended to Echo Place and Cainsville in the east, West Brant along Colborne Street West and Mount Pleasant Street to the Farringdon district, to the train station along Market Street to the north, through North Ward to the School for the Blind, and through Eagle Place to the south. The Company purchased Mohawk Park in 1895 and developed it into a recreation destination. The Company went into receivership in 1912 and was taken over the by the City in 1914. Bus service was introduced to Terrace Hill in 1916. Service to Paris was provided between 1914 and 1929 by rail, then by bus. Buses began to replace the street cars in August-1937. The last street car ran in 1939.

Sewage System

The initial sewage system was built between 1889 and 1893 and drained sewage to the flats east of the Mohawk Chapel where the present day sewage treatment plants lies.

Brantford Becomes a City - Post 9

Beginning of a village

A village at the crossing of the Grand River, commonly referred to as Brant’s Ford, started to develop in the early 1820s. Between 1818 and 1823 the population in and around the crossing grew from 12 to 100. The catalyst for growth beyond 1823 was the completion of the Hamilton to London Road, which crossed the Grand River at the settlement. However growth proceeded slowly because the land was Haudenosaunee territory; white settlers could not acquire title to the land they occupied. In 1827 the village, now numbering about 250, formally adopted the name Brant’s Ford; it was quickly shortened to Brantford.

Village of Brantford

On 19-April-1830 the Haudenosaunee surrendered 807 acres of land at the Grand River crossing to the Crown. This land, formally held by Chief John Hill, would become the village plot where settlers could acquire title to land.

The village survey was completed by Lewis Burwell in June-1830. This was the third survey or plan for the village. The first was prepared by Joseph Read in 1824. Burwell used this plan to prepare a preliminary village plan dated 22-October-1829. Village lots were first offered to the lot settlers for £10 a lot. Lots were later sold at auction with an upset price of £10. Settlement was largely around the river crossing and what is now the downtown area but little settlement occurred east of Clarence Street or north of Darling Street. Much of the village was swamp land, especially east of Clarence Street and north of Wellington Street.

The boundaries of the original 807 acre village site: starting at the Lorne Bridge north along Bridge St to West St, then east along Henry St / Freeborn St, site of the Arrowdale Golf Course, south along Stanley St to East Ave then west to Alfred St, south to Greenwich St, south just west of Clarence St S to where Market St S meets the Veterans Memorial Pkwy interchange, west along the Grand River back to the Lorne Bridge.

Town of Brantford

Lobbying to make Brantford a county town began in 1842. Public meetings were held to establish committees and subscriptions to build a court house, jail, and school, but nothing came of these. The Town of Brantford was incorporated by a special Act of the legislature on 28-July-1847. The population at this time was about 3,000. The first meeting of Town council occurred on 9-September-1847. At the time of incorporation Brantford was located in Wentworth County in the District of Gore.

The area of the Town doubled when 937 acres where added to the village boundaries to constitute the new Town. The boundaries of the new Town of Brantford: starting in the northwest corner at St Paul Ave and St George St, east along St George St to West St, north to Henry St, east along Henry St / Freeborn St, Ava Golf Course, south along Stanley St to Colborne St, then south between Rawdon St and Iroquois St to Greenwich St, west along Greenwich St, then south along Port St, west along Superior St, south along Eagle Ave, but not including Eagle Ave to the Grand River, west across the Grand River to Walnut St, south to Mount Pleasant St, west behind the Stelco Fasteners factory, continuing west along Raleigh St, then north at Shellard Lane along the property lines for McLean Foundry, Brantford Cordage, the Knights of Columbus Hall to the Grand River, west across the Grand River to St Paul Ave, and finally north to St George St.

Initially Brantford was divided into seven wards. That was reduced to five in 1850 and has remained that way ever since except for the brief introduction of a sixth ward in 1981-82. Councillors commissioned the construction of a Town Hall on the Market Square in 1849. Brantford architect John Turner prepared the plans for the Town Hall. Council moved into the new Town Hall on 7-October-1850. Brantford became a port of entry in 1852. It remains a port to this day.

County of Brant

In 1851, six townships: South Dumfries, Burford, Brantford, Oakland, Tuscarora, Onondaga, and the Towns of Brantford and Paris were joined to form the Provisional County of Brant. To achieve full county status a court house and jail needed to be built. The court house and jail, designed by John Turner, were completed in 1852. On 6-November-1852 a petition was prepared by the Provisional County of Brant to separate from the United Counties of Wentworth, Halton, and Brant. The first council meeting of the County of Brant was convened on 24-January-1853.

City of Brantford

The City of Brantford was proclaimed by a special Act of the Provincial Parliament on 2-March-1877 to take effect on 31-May-1877. Brantford at this time withdrew from the jurisdiction of the County of Brant. The population of Brantford at this time was 10,600. Dr J.W. Digby mayor of the Town of Brantford in 1877 became the City’s first mayor. Dr Digby’s father was the Town of Brantford’s second mayor from 1848 to 1849. The land area of the City remained the same as the Town. The next annexation of land from Brantford Township did not take place until 1891 when 707 acres including the northern portion of Eagle Place and the eastern portion of Holmedale became part of the City.

Brantford never experienced periods of boom. Throughout its existence growth was measured; steady and consistent.

Version 2

Conditions in Brantford in 1877

The stores on Colborne Street had wooden verandahs which extended across the sidewalk. Horses were hitched to the verandah posts. The roadways were crude, dirt roads. They became muddy and almost impassible with any load of weight in wet weather. The sidewalks were plank boards. Market Square was a hive of activity on market days. There was no municipal water or sewage system. Typhoid fever was common and expected as a matter of course. There was no garage pick up, as a result bonfires were a common form of sanitation. There was no hospital. Firefighting was done by volunteers however a waterworks for firefighting was installed and expanding. There was no organised Police force, simply a chief and a few constables and night watchmen. Streets were not well lit. Oil and gas lamps were used. Electric lights first appeared in 1885. Street cars did not appear until 1886. Livery stables were numerous and many residents owned horses. There was no home delivery of mail; mail was posted and picked up at the post office. Summer pastimes included verandah and garden parties and in winter show shoeing, skating, and sleigh rides. Regarding spectator sports, horse racing and lacrosse drew crowds.

The Rise of the Farm Implement Manufacturers in Brantford - Post 8

The railway revolution in Ontario began in the 1850s. Railways conquered inland distances like no other form of transportation to that time. Quick and relatively unfettered access to the interior of the province was now possible. Buffalo was 24 hours away via steamer using the Grand River Navigation Company’s waterway. When the railway arrived in Brantford in 1854, travel time to Buffalo was cut to 4 hours.

Because travel was so difficult, local economies served local needs; blacksmiths, wagon makers, farm implement makers, were all small enterprises selling mostly to residents in their immediate vicinity. Moving anything large and heavy overland was virtually impossible given that the poor road conditions could not support the weight of heavy shipments. Rail changed that. Large, heavy objects could be moved easily beyond the local trade area. Small enterprises could grow because their markets expanded. Economy of scale could be achieved resulting in lower prices, further expanding markets. Change was not immediate, but gradual. Railway development didn’t proliferate in Ontario until the 1870s. In the meantime, as we recounted in last month’s article, manufacturing continued to develop in Brantford, attracting entrepreneurs, skilled tradesmen, and capital.

Farm implements manufacturing

Large scale production of farm implements, which was the main economic driver of the City’s economy for over 100 years, did not begin until the 1870s. This development would result in Brantford ranking third in Canada for the export of manufactured goods by 1905, surpassed only by Montreal and Toronto.

It is not a coincidence that the farm implement industry took root in the 1870s. During the 1870s and 1880s, Canada levied a high tariff on imported farm machinery which made Canadian produced machines less expensive than their imported counterparts.  Canadian manufacturers usually got started by initially licensing American designs. As they grew and prospered they began to innovate and on many occasions led the industry in innovations, e.g. Harris’ Brantford open-end binder which allowed grain of any length to be cut and tied, or Cockshutt’s riding plow. These companies grew beyond Canada to worldwide enterprises.

A. Harris, Son and Company

A Harris, Son and Company was founded by Alanson Harris in Beamsville in 1857. In 1871 Harris moved the business to Brantford where he formed a partnership with his son J. Harris and J.K. Osborne. The firm was incorporated in 1881. The company focused on the development and production of harvesting machinery - mowers, reapers, and self binders. The original factory was located on the south side of Colborne Street below George Street. By 1882 the company had relocated to “Cockshutt Flats”, Market Street South on the site of the present Civic Centre.

By 1890 the farm implement industry was dominated by the Massey Company of Toronto and A. Harris, Son and Company of Brantford. These two companies achieved their position through technology leadership and aggressive marketing. The companies amalgamated in 1891. The combined entity became known as the Massey-Harris Company Limited. The company built the world’s first self-propelled combine harvester in 1938. In 1958 the company was renamed Massey-Ferguson. The company closed its Brantford operations in 1988 after going into receivership.

Verity Plow Company

The Verity Plow Company began operations in 1857 manufacturing plows in Exeter, Ontario. Soon the company was producing mowers, reapers, and stoves. In 1875 the stoves patents were sold and Verity concentrated efforts on plow production. Business grew to the point that better facilities were required and in 1892 the company moved to Brantford, into the former J.O. Wisner premises at Wellington and Clarence Streets (discussed in April’s column). In 1895 the company became affiliated with the Massey-Harris Company. This allowed the company to focus solely on plow design and development while Massey-Harris provided the the exclusive sales organisation for the company’s output. Their factory burned down in 1897 and a new facility was built on Greenwich Street, at Murray Street, in 1898. Massey-Harris wholly acquired Verity in 1914. The factory buildings were demolished in 2014 as the property undergoes environmental remediation.

Cockshutt Plow Company

The Brantford Plow Works was started in 1877 by James G. Cockshutt, who had an idea he could make a better plow. He wanted to make every item so well that its reputation would drive growth. The company, financed by James’ father Ignatius Cockshutt, developed and produced stoves, scufflers, and walking plows. Cockshutt created the first plows specifically designed for breaking prairie sod. This helped the company achieve a leadership position with western Canadian farmers. The pioneering J.G.C. Riding Plow became known as the plow that opened the west. The name of the company was changed to the Cockshutt Plow Company when the company was incorporated in 1882. The company started production where the casino parking lot is today. In 1903 a new complex covering 23 acres was built on Mohawk St. In 1945 Cockshutt introduced the world’s first live power take-off (PTO) tractor. In 1958 the company was taken over by a British mercantile bank and the name of company was changed to Cockshutt Farm Equipment Limited. White Motor Company acquired the company in 1962 and the company was renamed White Farm Equipment in 1969. By the 1975, the Cockshutt name was no longer used on any White made equipment. In 1985 operations in Brantford ceased.

In thirty years the farm implement manufacturing sector grew exponentially. By the end of the 19th century Massey-Harris and Cockshutt alone employed 35 percent of Brantford’s workforce.

Manufacturing Takes Hold in Brantford - Post 7

Inland community economies in the first half of the 19th century were local. Because of the poor conditions of the roads most staple items were crafted locally. This would change with the coming of the railways in the second half of the 19th century. The railway permitted goods manufactured inland to easily and speedily reach ports and other communities along the railway. The railway allowed small manufacturers with innovative ideas and products to grow through economies of scale; their goods were no longer confined to a local market. 

The opening of the of the Grand River Navigation Company’s canal to Brantford in 1848 turned Brantford into a busy forwarding centre, especially for flour, but also timber and agricultural produce. Then the arrival of the Buffalo, Brantford, & Goderich Railway in 1854 combined with Brantford’s central location all combined to attract industry to the Town. However, the farm implement manufacturing companies that built Brantford’s economy did not start to develop and flourish until the 1870s.

The Earliest Manufacturers

As discussed in my February column, Philip VanBrocklin started Brantford’s first manufacturing company, the Brantford Engine Works in 1844. This would evolve into Waterous Engine Works and become the first Canadian company in continuous operation for 100 years. It lasted 148 years. VanBrocklin started by producing stoves and plows.

Pottery

In 1849 Justus Morton, who emigrated from Lyons, NY, established Morton & Co, at the corner of Dalhousie and Clarence Streets, where the Husky gasoline station is today, to produce stoneware. The company was locally known as Brantford Pottery. It was one of the earliest stoneware manufacturers in Ontario. In the 1870s the company enjoyed a near monopoly of the market for stoneware in southwestern Ontario. By the mid-1880s glass and sheet-metal ware began to chip away at the stoneware market. The company underwent several ownership changes, name changes and two fires, yet continued to produce stoneware through to 1906 when it closed.

Stove works

In 1850 B.G. Tisdale started a foundry which became known as the Brantford Stove Works. The company produced stoves and stove furniture. Stoves were a common product produced by foundries. William Buck started a tin and stove business in 1852 which he later merged into the Victoria Foundry. In 1866 the company moved from its west end Colborne Street location to premises on West Street bounded by Brant Avenue and William Street, were Tom Thumb Park is today. The business incorporated as the William Buck Stove Company in 1897. Buck’s Radiant Home stove for the kitchen and Happy Thought stove for the parlour became household names across Canada, Europe and Australia. In 1903 the factory moved to Elgin Street at the railway underpass, just east of Clarence Street. The McClary Company of London purchased the company in 1920 and the factory closed in 1931 when all manufacturing was moved to London.

Railway workshop

The Grand Trunk Railway Workshops were established in 1854 by the Buffalo, Brantford, & Goderich Railway. The workshops, which produced castings and railway equipment, were located along the Grand Trunk Railway tracks on Usher and Sydenham Streets. The workshops were closed and moved to London in 1897 when the City of Brantford aided the Toronto, Hamilton, & Buffalo Railway to complete its line from Brantford to Hamilton ending the Grand Trunk’s monopoly in Brantford. The workshop employed about 300 men at the time of its closing. Pratt & Letchworth, of Buffalo, NY, took over the works in 1900 and manufactured malleable iron castings. In 1912 Canadian Car and Foundry of Montreal purchased the company. It closed in 1952 when all operations were moved to Montreal. The company occupied all the land where the railway sorting yard is now. The pattern shop of Pratt & Letchworth is still in use today as retail space on Usher Street across from Yates Castle.

First farm implement manufacturer

Jesse O. Wisner came to Brantford from Wayne County, NY in 1857 and engaged in the manufacture of fanning mills. The company Jesse started became the Town’s first farm implement manufacturer. Jesse’s son, Wareham, started his own company in 1871 making seed drills. Father and son merged in 1872 to become J.O. Wisner Son & Co. The company amalgamated with the Massey-Harris Company in 1891. Their factory was located at Clarence and Wellington Streets.

Candies and biscuits

In 1863 William Paterson and Henry B. Leeming established a baking, confectionary, and cigar factory on the north side of Colborne Street where the parking lot of the Royal Bank is today. Lemming left the business in 1872, it was then solely operated by Paterson until his son joined the business in 1894. The business came to be known as William Paterson & Son Co. Limited. The business grew steadily making biscuits, chocolates, and candies. Cigar production was discontinued during WWI. George Weston Ltd bought the company in 1928. The plant operated until 30-May-1975.

Carriages and wagons

Carriage and wagon production began in earnest when Adam Spence founded City Carriage Works in 1857. Spence made carriages, wagons, buggies, and sleighs in a factory on the north side of Colborne Street between Charlotte and Clarence Streets. In 1864 a fire burned the factory to the ground. Spence rebuilt on Colborne Street at Echo St, where Laurier’s Dalhousie Centre is today. In 1866 Thomas and John Hext opened the Brantford Carriage Works at Dalhousie and Queen Streets. The output from this operation was largely sold throughout southwestern Ontario. Neither of these companies grew to become substantial, long lasting companies. Brantford Carriage Works ceased production in 1891. Adams’ Wagon Company started in Paris in 1863 and moved to Brantford in 1901, at the behest of Harry Cockshutt, to grow Brantford’s industrial base. The company located at the corner of Mohawk and Greenwich Streets. Adams manufactured wagons and buggies. Adams was acquired by Cockshutt Plow Company in 1911. In 1929 Adams was merged with other Cockshutt carriage companies and renamed CanadaCarriage and Body. In 1938 Canada Carriage was renamed Brantford Coach and Body. A new plant was built on Shaver Street in Cainsville in 1958 to replace the antiquated Mohawk Street factory. Brantford Coach and Body was sold to Trailmobile Canada in 1968. This plant closed in 1990 and production was transferred to the U.S.

The early manufacturers suffered regular setbacks, fire being the most devastating, but they rebuilt and continued. The boom and bust cycle of the economy caused havoc and companies changed hands on a regular basis. But there was a sense of optimism andthe Town continued to grow and attract new businesses. However, the best was yet to come.

The Railway Comes to Brantford - Post 6

During the first half of the 19th century, settlers began to populate south-western Ontario. Trade and travel were restricted by the poor road conditions in the region. Money in general was scarce and this had a huge impact on the ability of the government and private interests to build and upgrade the travel infrastructure: roads, canals and railways.

The construction of the railways in the middle of the nineteenth century was the catalyst for the economic development of Ontario. Railways facilitated the inland development of the province. Access to larger markets resulted in greater outputs from farms. More goods became available locally and manufactured goods could easily be shipped beyond the local market.

The first two railways constructed in Ontario were the Great Western Railway, construction began in 1851, and the Buffalo, Brantford, & Goderich Railway (BB&G), in 1852.

The Great Western was conceived to run between the Detroit River and the Niagara River moving freight traffic from the U.S. midwest to the east coast crossing southern Ontario, a shorter route than an all American route south of Lake Erie. The route was surveyed in 1847 and Brantford was by-passed, the route ran north of the Town through Paris and Harrisburg.

A couple of developments led to the decision to by-pass Brantford. The road from Detroit through London to Hamilton already passed through Brantford; it was thought that the railway would closely follow the road; so the Town did not offer the railway a bonus to build through Brantford. In addition Sir Allan MacNab and Dr Hamilton, two directors of the Great Western, wanted to build the railway through Hamilton and along the northern edge of the Dundas Valley. This route favoured their land holdings, rather than a more southerly route by-passing the Niagara escapement. The southern route was a less challenging route from an engineering standpoint. This route would have placed Brantford in a more favourable position on a route to London.

As it became apparent that the Great Western would pass the Town, local merchants, led by Phillip VanBrocklin, organised The Brantford & Buffalo Joint Stock Railroad Company in 1849 to connect Fort Erie with Brantford. A ferry would provide the final link to Buffalo. The line would terminate in Paris at a junction with the Great Western. Brantford and Buffalo already had a trading relationship via the Grand River Waterway; the railway would provide an all weather, 12 month connection.

The route between Paris and Fort Erie was surveyed in 1850 by William Wallace, the chief engineer for the New York City Railroad. In 1852, the railroad was chartered as the Buffalo, Brantford & Goderich Railway. The extension to Goderich was designed to open up Perth and Huron Counties to development and to capture freight traffic on the upper Great Lakes and funnel that traffic through Buffalo, maintaining Buffalo’s dominance as a conduit for mid-west America trade. The line was the only railway in Canada over 50 miles in length built without the aid of Government funds.

Besides VanBrocklin other prominent local investors included Ignatius Cockshutt, Arunah Huntington, Archibald Gilkison, James Christie, George Wilkes, John Kerby, and John Lovejoy. James Wadsworth, the mayor of Buffalo, was the first president of the company. Brantford’s VIA Rail station is located on Wadsworth St.

The line reached Brantford on 13-January-1854 and Paris, connecting with the Great Western, on 6-March-1854. The Great Western line through Paris opened 15-December-1853.

The line through Brantford built in 1853 is still in service; from Paris across the Grand River on a trestle 80 feet above the river, along Highway 2 to the VIA Rail station then heading straight in a south east direction through the east end of Brantford to Cainsville. The north-east diversion just east of the train station to Harrisburg and Lynden opened in 1871.

Initially the company appeared set to prosper but a series of financial debacles would push the railway into bankruptcy. The line was under capitalised. This resulted in a line that was poorly built and labour unrest when payrolls were missed. In protest, the workers damaged railway equipment and tore up miles of tracks. Labour unrest made people reluctant to use the railway. There was also evidence that the decisions of the railway’s directors placed their personal interests above the company’s. This was not unusual for the time. The railway ran out of money in 1854 and had shut down completely in the fall of 1855.

The Great Western made a low-ball offer to buy the company but the offer would have resulted in substantial losses to the English bondholders so the bondholders reorganized the company as the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway (B&LH) in 1856. The line reopened in November 1856. Despite the financial crisis of 1857, construction of the line to Goderich continued and was completed in June 1858.

Traffic along the route never came close to initial expectations. Lake freighter traffic through Goderich required transshipment at both Goderich and Fort Erie proving more costly than an all rail route through the U.S. In addition, Goderich harbour was ice bound in the winter months. A bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo was finally opened in 1873 permitting through traffic to Buffalo.

Suffering financially, the Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway entered into a joint management agreement with the Grand Trunk Railway in 1864. The B&LH provided the Grand Truck a direct route between Sarnia and Buffalo, through Stratford. Because of continued poor financial performance, the Grand Truck acquired the B&LH under a perpetual lease in 1869.

The existence of the railway, much like the construction of the Grand River waterway, spurred the development of manufacturing in Brantford. For an inland town, Brantford developed reliable transportation connections to the outside rather early.

Before the railways, travel to Hamilton from Brantford by road took 7 hours; Toronto, one day; Buffalo via the Grand River waterway, 24 hours; but by train to Buffalo, 4 hours, and that included 18 stops along the way. The increase in speed was staggering. The railway was the equivalent of a 400 series highway in its day.

Brantford Becomes A Town - Post 5

The population of the area grew slowly but steadily since the arrival of Joseph Brant and about 700 of his followers in 1784. In fact, this region has never experienced a surge of new residents; population inflow has always been measured and steady. Initially, white settlers trickled into the area.

Brantford's population growth: 1805 - 1,      1818 - 12,      1823 - about 100,      1827 - about 200, 1832 - 350,       1837 - 1,200.

The settlement that was to become Brantford was referred to by many names in its early years: Mississauga Hill, Brant’s Fording Place, Brant’s Ford, Grand River Swamp, Grand River Ferry.

Because Brantford was sited on “Indian Lands”, title to the land a settler occupied was not possible. This is the reason the village grew so slowly in the beginning. Mount Pleasant, Oakland, Waterford, Burford, and Ancaster where thriving villages in 1820 and centres of trade and exchange in their districts. Brantford was little more than a river crossing and trading post.

During the 1830s Brantford was a rowdy, and at times a lawless frontier village. Settlers from England, Ireland, Scotland, America, and United Empire Loyalist and native Canadians began moving to the area as title to land became available after 1830. Cheap whisky, an abundance of navvies working for the Grand River Navigation Company, rival gangs and the political conflict between the Loyalists and the Reformers meant that brawls were a common occurrence. The village had no police to keep order. Battles with clubs and axe handles were not uncommon especially around election time.

By 1835 the Mohawk Village, which served as the catalyst for settlement and development in this area, was vacated. By 1844 settlement was centralised on the current reserve.

Early medicine

In the earliest days of the settlement, settlers had few medical resources. Pioneer women provided care and administered herbal remedies to their families and acted as practical nurses and midwives. Anyone with knowledge of herbs and medicines was considered a doctor. Allan Ellis of Mount Pleasant was one of these early doctors. The first doctor by profession in Brantford was Dr John S Thomas. He arrived in the late 1820s. Dr Gilpin settled in Brantford in 1832. Dr Alfred Digby began his practice in 1835.

Newspapers

The first newspaper published in Brantford was the Sentinel. It was launched in 1833 by David Keeler from Rochester, NY. The Sentinel represented Conservative interests. The Sentinel merged with the Courier in 1839. The Brant County Herald, sometimes referred to as the Brantford Herald, edited by Wellesley Johnson, was first published in 1840. The Herald represented Reform interests. It ceased publication in 1861. The Tribune was started by John Steele in 1841 and folded shortly thereafter, after Steele’s untimely death. The Tribune served the Clear Grits after a schism developed in the Reform ranks. Henry Racey began the Conservative Expositor in 1852 after a dispute with Courier publisher Henry Lemmon.

Fire Fighters

The first fire brigade was organized in 1836. About 50 men formed the volunteer brigade. Their pumper was a box on a carriage. Water was poured into the box from buckets and then pumped to create pressure. The water, under pressure, was sprayed from a hose. The hose mechanism resembled a goose’s neck and the fire-fighters were nicknamed The Goose Neck Company.

Worship

When the Village of Brantford was organised in 1830 the closest place of worship was the Mohawk Chapel. The 1830s and 1840s saw the major faiths organise and establish churches. The first church to be built in the village was Grace Anglican, in 1832. It was built at the corner of Albion and West streets were the present church is located. The Inghamite Church was organised in 1833. A frame building was erected in 1839 on Mount Pleasant St, on the grounds of the present Farringdon Independent Church. The name was changed to Farringdon because it was built on a section the Farringdon Farm. The First Baptist Church was established in December 1833. The present church was constructed in 1857. The First Presbyterian Church was organised in 1834. A church was constructed in 1845 at the corner of Wellington and George streets. In 1901 it was relocated and renamed Alexandra Presbyterian Church. The British Wesleyan Methodist Church was established in 1835 at the corner of Market and Darling streets where the TD Canada Trust building now stands. St Basil’s Roman Catholic Church was established in 1840. In 1842 a frame church was built at the corner of Crown and Palace streets at the location of the present church.

Brantford in 1845

George Wilkes recalled in his later years that the village in 1845 was bounded by Colborne St to the south, Clarence St to the east, Marlborough St to the north and West St to the west. The main business district was located on Colborne St near the bridge crossing the river. The school was still located on Market Square. 

Brantford’s first manufacturing company

American Phillip Cady VanBrocklin started Brantford’s first manufacturing company, Brantford Engine Works, in 1844. His foundry, located on the present site of the Federal Building, produced stoves and plows. In 1848 Charles Horatio Waterous, another American, joined what was then called VanBrocklin, Winter and Company to help reorganise the business. The business under Waterous' direction moved to producing saw mills, boilers, steam-engines, and heavy fire-fighting equipment. In 1855 Waterous entered into a partnership with a foundry in Brantford and a foundry in Brockport, NY to purchase the business. The new firm was named Ganson, Waterous and Company. Ignatius Cockshutt provided some financing for the factory. In 1864 a new partnership of Waterous and George Wilkes took over the business and renamed it C.H. Waterous and Company. After struggling along for most of the 1850s and early 1860s C.H. Waterous and Company started to prosper. The company was incorporated as the Waterous Engine Works Company Limited in 1874. Cockshutt continued his financial participation in the company. In 1879 Waterous bought out Wilkes and Cockshutt. In 1928 the business was renamed Waterous Limited. In 1944 Waterous became the first Canadian manufacturing company to operate continuously for 100 years. In April 1947 the family sold its shares of the company to a group of businessmen who controlled the Modern Tool Company of Toronto. In 1953 the Koehring Company of Milwaukee acquired Waterous renaming it Koehring-Waterous. Koehring-Waterous was sold to Timberjack Equipment of Woodstock in 1988. The Finnish company Rauma Repola acquired Timberjack in 1991. After 148 years in business, the oldest Canadian manufacturing company was closed down in 1992.

Town Status Granted

Brantford was granted town status on 28-July-1847 by a special Act of the legislature. The population of the community had reached 3,000. At that time Brantford was located in Wentworth County in the District of Gore.

The election for town council was held on 6-September-1847. The first meeting of town council occurred on 9-September-1847. The original voters list consisted of 328 male inhabitants of the community. William Muirhead was elected mayor by the first town council. William Muirhead and his brother came to Brantford in 1828 buying land in West Brant on the Clench Tract. Muirhead was the agent for the Bank of Montreal and the Canada Life Assurance Company.

The town was divided into seven wards: West, North, South, Kings, Queens, Brant, and East with one elected councillor from each ward. The first Council meeting was held at Bradley’s Inn at King and Colborne streets. Council then rented a former chapel on the northwest corner of Market and Dalhousie streets (now Laurier’s Johnson Building) until the Town Hall was completed in 1850. The Town Hall was designed by Brantford architect John Turner. In 1849 the number of wards was reduced to five, Kings, Queen, Brant, East, and North, and each ward elected three councillors.

Canal Fever Strikes Brantford - Post 4

Travelling through southern Ontario in the late 18th century and early 19th century was a chore. Early settlers used trails long established by the Indigenous peoples, but these trails were foot paths, not ideal when trying to move possessions to new settlement areas or crops to market. Many of these paths were widened and upgraded to support the movement of troops and wagons but these early roads were rough and muddy and often impassible. Passage over these roads was often best in the winter months. It was cold, but the surface was hard and permitted smooth travel by sleigh.

The entrepreneurs in the area realised that making the area more easily accessible would improve their situation. Needed goods and staples could get to the area more easily and more importantly goods and crops produced in the area could get to an expanded market hundreds of miles away. They also saw a potential lucrative money making opportunity in the tolls the waterway would bring.

In the early 19th century canals were all the rage in North America. Canals leveraged the existing river systems and made the interior of the continent more easily accessible. Early canals in eastern North America included: the Erie Canal (1825), Lachine Canal (1825), Rideau Canal (1832), and the Welland Canal (1830).

Grand River Navigation Company

These canals all preceded the Grand River Navigation Company, a company chartered in 1832 to make the Grand River navigable from Brantford to Lake Erie, a river distance of 60 miles. The waterway would make it easy and inexpensive to ship and receive crops and goods, leveraging the water transportation system throughout the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, crossing New York State to the Atlantic coast.

The Grand River Navigation Company was pivotal in the development of Brantford. It led to the early arrival of the railway into Brantford and then provided the motive power for electrical generation making Brantford one of the earliest cities in Canada with electric power.

A proposal for a navigable Grand River to Brantford first gained public attention in December of 1827. Local men that supported the proposal included: James Racey, John A. Wilkes, and Warner Nelles. The chief promoter of the waterway was William Hamilton Merritt, the promoter and builder of the Welland Canal. The prime motivation to develop a navigable waterway was the significant reduction in transportation costs versus land transportation, a three-quarters cost reduction if not more. The area was rich in timber and gypsum, and flour milling was beginning. Flour became a major commodity to ship via the waterway. These commodities would all benefit from inexpensive, reliable water transport. Seven dams and locks would be required between Dunnville, on Lake Erie, and Brantford. Competing canal ideas were floated in 1828; connecting the Grand River with Burlington Bay, or to Hamilton, or to the headwaters of the Thames River. But it was the original proposal that prevailed.

To construct the waterway, land would be required to build the dams, the locks, wasteweirs, towpaths, and mills. About two-thirds of the required land was Haudenosaunee land; land they did not give up willingly.

Work commenced on the waterway in 1834. Initial financing was provided by William Merritt (¼ of the stock); David Thompson (¼), a Grand River miller; a number of Brantford’s leading citizens (¼); and the Six Nations trust fund (¼), which was used without the consent or knowledge of the Haudenosaunee people. Money was scarce in the 1830s and as a consequence the company was inadequately capitalised.

The Grand River was navigable from Dunnville to Cayuga. Five dams and locks were required for the 9 miles between Cayuga and Caledonia. From Caledonia the river was navigable to Cainsville. The locks and dams were completed in 1836 and navigation to Cainsville was possible. Construction on this portion of the waterway continued until 1840, to complete the towpaths, build the mills and repair and reconstruct the failing dams and locks. The workmanship and quality of construction was poor; many of the low cost bidders had no experience in building dams and locks.

The Brantford Cut

Three more locks, a dam, and a three mile canal would be required from Cainsville to downtown Brantford. This avoided following the twelve mile river course between Cainsville and Brantford. Getting to Brantford was essential if the navigation company was to generate sufficient revenue to become a successful business concern. Work on the Brantford Canal began in 1842 and was completed in the fall of 1848.

Construction of the canal was fraught with numerous problems causing lengthy delays in construction; the Company’s ongoing struggle to raise money due to the scarcity of capital and the Company’s dire financial condition, low tolls fees charged by the Company to use the waterway (designed to encourage traffic), labour unrest within the workforce building the canal, and the difficulty acquiring land at a fair price.

Tolls revenues increased substantially after the waterway was completed through to Brantford but they were not sufficient to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the waterway, and servicing the large debt incurred to build the waterway. It took fourteen years to complete the waterway from Dunnville to Brantford.

Legacy of the Grand River Navigation Company

The development and opening of the Grand River waterway fundamentally changed Brantford. Brantford was no longer another inland settlement that traded locally. The condition of the road system at the time did not encourage the development of trade over distance. It was too costly and difficult to move large, heavy goods. Brantford became a sea port in the loosest sense. Brantford became a port of entry in 1852, unusual for an inland city. The Port of Brantford remains in force to this day.

With the completion of the canal, goods could be loaded on a barge in downtown Brantford and reach anywhere in the world through a well-developed water transportation system. This encouraged local entrepreneurs to begin manufacturing goods because they could economically ship them to distance points. It also attracted entrepreneurs to locate in Brantford.

The waterway established a connection with Buffalo, a thriving, vibrant city of 42,000 in 1850. Buffalo was one day travel by Steamer and so became a favourite travel destination for local residents because of its ease of access. Buffalo was the gateway city from the interior of the continent, to the Atlantic seaboard and beyond by way of the Erie Canal. The St. Lawrence Seaway would not open for another 111 years.

The waterway attracted railway interest because the town was already established as a shipping point and there was business to be had immediately. When the railway arrived in Brantford in January 1854, the fortunes of the Company diminished rapidly. The railway reduced travel time to Buffalo to four hours. The railway started to syphon traffic away from the waterway. The railway operated twelve months a year, the waterway did not.

From a purely financial point of view the waterway was a failed commercial venture, but its development forever changed the fortunes of the town. Perhaps if the waterway had been completed to Brantford in the mid 1830s rather than the late 1840s, just before the emergence of railways, a different outcome may have occurred. The arrival of the railway occurred too soon after the waterway was completed and gave the Company little time to reap the harvest of increased revenue and turn the venture around financially.

The Town of Brantford had become financially involved with the Company in 1851. In 1859 the Town foreclosed on its mortgage with the Company because the Company could no longer continue financially. From 1860 to 1871 the Town managed the Company. Haldimand County then purchased and operated the waterway except for the Brantford Canal which was retained by the Town. In 1875 the Town sold the canal to Alfred Watts for $1. By 1880 all waterway traffic had ceased. In 1885 Watts started generating hydro electric power by harnessing the water flow of the canal at the dam at the Grand River. Power generation continued until May 15, 1911 when the power house was closed.

Visible Today

Some readers may be surprised to learn Brantford had a canal. Most of the Brantford Canal is still visible to this day. The canal starts at the Grand River just south east of Beach Road. It follows Beach Road and crosses under the Locks Road bridge, then flows along Mohawk Road, into Mohawk Lake, then along Greenwich Street to just west of Alfred Street. From Alfred Street the canal was covered over in the 1930s. The Brantford Mosque is built over the canal. The downtown parking garage is also built over the old canal. Wharf Street and Water Street fronted the canal.

For a thorough history of the Grand River waterway, pick up a copy of Bruce Hill’s book The Grand River Navigation Company, available at the Brant Museum & Archives, 57 Charlotte St, Brantford, Ontario.

Brantford Becomes a Village - Post 3

I started these articles on local history asking the questions: What were the attributes of locations and the circumstances of time that saw certain areas develop? Why did some communities prosper and thrive while others stagnate or disappear? Who were the early players and what were their dreams?

The significance of the location of what would become known as Brantford, was that Indigenous peoples’ trails converged here, at Market Square, which became a trading centre; and the Grand River was easier to cross at this location. It was a natural gathering / meeting place.

White settlement in the vicinity of Brantford grew slowly. Population estimates of white settlers was mostly anecdotal, through recollections of the early settlers - 1818, about a dozen people; 1823, about a hundred people; 1827, between two- and three-hundred. Word of the desirability of the area was spreading. In 1824 Joseph Read prepared a village plan. So by the mid-1820s it was clear that the settlers were contemplating organising the settlement. In 1827 the settlement was officially named Brant’s Ford which quickly became Brantford. Lewis Burwell prepared a preliminary survey of the area and a plan for the village in 1829. Burwell based his plan on the plan prepared by Read.

1830 was the tipping point for Brantford. On 19-April-1830 the Natives surrendered 807 acres of land to the Crown as a town plot. The land was the farm of Chief John Hill. Burwell’s second survey was completed in June-1830. His village plan consisted of eight streets running east / west and thirteen streets running north / south. The shape of the original village plan resembled a parallelogram. Land was then sold to the current landholders.

Burwell’s map shows the business in existence at the time and the land holders of property under Brant leases. Joseph Brant and his heirs did not sell the land in this area, they granted leases, typically 999 year leases. On his final plan Burwell set aside six blocks: Market (Square), Public Square (Victoria Park), County Court House, Market (Alexandra Park), Kirk (Presbyterian Church) of Scotland (block immediately north of Alexandra Park), and Burying Ground (Central School). Burwell also designated six church properties: Episcopal (Grace Anglican), Methodist (where the downtown TD Bank is located), Presbyterian (where the City Hall is located), Congregational (Dalhousie St, second lot from the corner of Charlotte St), Baptist (Bridge St), and African (corner of Peel and Dalhousie Streets).

In 1830 Brantford was described as not much of a place, a thin scattering of frame and log houses along Colborne St. Nothing but scrub oak and a swamp filled with thick cedar trees.

 In May of 1831 the sale of land by public auction was held and the pace of development picked up considerably. With land (and title) available, settlers began to arrive in greater numbers; English, Irish, Scots, Canadians, and Americans.

John A. Wilkes erected a distillery in 1830; William Kerby opened a distillery and grist mill in 1831, William Spencer built a brewery in 1832. These provided a market for locally grown grain. John Lovejoy and William Dutton built hotels.

Brantford’s most influential citizen in its formative years was Ignatius Cockshutt. Ignatius first arrived in Brantford from Toronto in 1829 to help his father’s partner open a general store. Ignatius was 17. The business quickly failed and Ignatius returned to Toronto. Sensing the opportunity in Brantford, Ignatius returned in 1832 to manage the Brantford branch store for his father. The Brantford store performed so well under Ignatius’ management that the family closed their Toronto operations and moved to Brantford in 1834. This store, a general store in the broadest sense, was the foundation of the Cockshutt business empire that bankrolled the Cockshutt Plow Company. Cockshutt and its successor companies operated in Brantford from 1877 to 1985.

No place of worship existed in Brantford until Grace Anglican Church was completed in 1832. The current church replaced the original white frame building. Before that, the Mohawk Chapel was the closest place of worship.

By 1832 a daily stage coach ran between York, Brantford and Niagara, and three times per week between Brantford and Detroit. These services made Brantford accessible but the condition of the roads were horrendous. Travelling by stage coach was physically demanding.

In 1832 a visitor to Brantford described the village as follows: "This thriving village (Brantford), is quite a neat and stirring little place....It is situated on the bank of the river, which is here a stream of some importance....There is a handsome bridge erected over it, opposite the town. A grist mill, running four pair of stones, is located within its limits, and several saw-mills are in operation nearby. There are about a dozen mercantile stores....a considerable number of mechanics shops that make a good appearance and two pretty good taverns in the village....The settlements on either side of the road, for some distance, are extensive and quite dense.” (from Gary Muir’s Bits and Pieces of Brantford’s History: Brantford in the 1830s).

This is quite a contrast to the 1830 description of the village. In just a couple of years Brantford really started to develop and take shape.

The first newspaper published in the village was The Sentinel. It was launched in 1833 by David Keeler, who moved here from Rochester, NY. The name of the paper was changed in 1839 to The Brantford Courier and Grand River Commercial Advertiser, published by Thomas Lemmon, Keeler’s father-in-law. The Courier’s final issue was published on 28-December-1918. Its subscriber list was sold to the Brantford Expositor.

Popular past times in Brantford in the 1830s included: drinking, almost every store in town sold liquor, whisky sold for 12 ½ cents a gallon; fighting, from too much drinking; gambling, which led to drinking and fighting; and the Bee, from barn raising to corn shucking to quilting, the Bee provided for gossip and drinking. Residents also enjoyed swimming, fishing, sleighing, and horse racing. With the lack of diversity in entertainment and cheap liquor readily available, it is understandable why drinking was such a popular past time. The availability and abuse of spirits is what led to the temperance movement and ultimately Prohibition.

In 1832 Brantford had a population of about 350. By 1837 the village had grown to 1,200.

In 1833, Lewis Burwell reported that Brantford had several merchandising stores, a gunsmith, a blacksmith, a saddler, a lumberyard, two hotels, saw mills, grist mills, a brewery and two distilleries. This activity was largely located in what is now the downtown area. Because of the primitive conditions of the streets and roads at that time Queen and Wellington was considered far away and out of the way. East Ward and North Ward were all bush with a few log huts. West Brant was cleared and farms were established.

Brantford Takes Shape - Post 2

The arrival of the Haudenosaunee hastened settlement in the Grand River Valley of Upper Canada. Joseph Brant, travelling along the Detroit path, led his people to the Grand River Valley in the fall of 1784. Not only did Brant encourage his non-Native friends to the area, other non-Natives were attracted by the prospect of trade and barter with the sizeable Native population.

The first settlers that arrived found a land covered in a thick forest. The first order of business was to clear the land and build homesteads. The homes were small and simple, round logs caulked with woodchips and clay. There were no glass windows, rather openings covered with oiled paper to make them translucent. The earliest settler’s settled beside rivers and creeks and worked their way inland over time. The land was rich, providing an excellent yield for crops. This was a land where settlers could prosper. A productive farm could be established within six or seven years.

In 1793 Benaijah Mallory and his father-in-law Abraham Dayton claimed land in the Burford area. Dayton built the first house in what became Burford. Thomas Horner also arrived in 1793 and built the area’s first saw and grist mills. Whiteman’s (white man) Creek was named after him.

Of note, Joseph Brant moved to Burlington in 1798, building a fine home overlooking Lake Ontario on land granted to him for his loyal service to the King during the American Revolution. Brant passed away in Burlington in 1807. His remains are interred at the Mohawk Chapel.

The Ellis and Sturgis families accepted Brant’s offer of land in the Mount Pleasant area in 1799. The village of Mount Pleasant was the first trading centre in the area. It was named by Henry Ellis in 1800 because it reminded him of his home in Wales. There is no mount or high ground in Mount Pleasant, it is located on an unbroken plain.

The Mohawk Village that Brant started was still the principal and largest settlement in this area. The first inhabitant in what would become Brantford was John Statts. (Published histories of the area identify him as John Stalts but recent research suggests that the spelling of his last name may have been misinterpreted, the double t at the end of his name interpreted as l t because only one t was crossed. Reviewing settlement records indicates that the surname Stalts was unique whereas there is evidence of the Statts surname in Upper Canada.) John built a log hut in 1805 where the Boar War Memorial now stands in front of the Armoury. This location was near the ford, a shallow spot on the Grand River used as a crossing. Enos Bunnell built a cabin nears Statts’ two years later. This site was called Mississauga Hill, because it was a favourite camping ground of the Mississaugas.

The exact location of the ford has been debated for decades. Local historian, the late Robert Deboer, researched this extensively and through his efforts, the location was determined to be between the Lorne Bridge and the TH & B railway bridge connecting Brant’s Crossing with Fordview Park. A plaque in Lorne Park identifies the location of the crossing.

Jacob Langs settled in what would become Langford in Brantford Township in the earliest days of the 19th century. In 1806 John Oles Sr. and Issac Whiting settled along Fairchild’s Creek.

The opening of the London Road to the Grand River crossing from Hamilton in 1810 made the countryside more accessible The road was rough, little better than a path. By 1812 it became a corduroy road (logs laid side by side) to facilitate troop movements. In 1815 the road was planked, graded and levelled, but by no means was travel on this road quick or comfortable; a trip from the Grand River crossing to Hamilton, a distance of 23 miles, took seven hours.

Non-Native settlement at the Grand River crossing was slow. Thirteen years after Statts built his log hut, 1818, the population at the crossing consisted of 12 people. However things were about to soon change. Marshal Lewis arrived from New York in 1821 and built a grist mill. Lewis reportedly constructed the first bridge across the Grand River at the crossing. Consider H. Crandon, a carpenter from Massachusetts, arrived about the same time.

By 1823 the London Road was completed to London and the population at the crossing was about 100. The completion of the road and the potential of trade with the Natives attracted business and tradesmen to the crossing. Three trading stores were operating owned by John Aston Wilkes, S.V.R. Douglas, and Nathan Gage; two shoe shops owned by William Dutton and Arunah Huntington; and a blacksmith shop established by William Qua.

Wilkes store was opened and run by his sons, John and James. Wilkes Sr. joined them in 1825. Wilkes became a large landowner in the area. Huntington, who came here from Vermont, possessed keen business instincts and amassed a small fortune with his business and money lending enterprises.

Up until 1820 mail had to be collected in Ancaster, when a post office was established in Burford. A post office was opened at the crossing in 1825.

The community continued to grow slowly. A school was opened on what is now Market Square in 1826. By 1827 between two and three hundred non-Natives lived in the vicinity of the crossing. The settlement needed a name. Marshal Lewis suggested Lewisville; Robert Biggar of Mount Pleasant, who owned land at the crossing and built the second bridge across the Grand River, lobbied for Biggar’s Town; John Wilkes wanted Birmingham, his home town. Since the place was at the location were Joseph Brant forded the river, Brant’s ford, this name gained unanimous approval. The ‘s was quickly dropped and Brantford was born.

Since the settlement was located on Native territory the settlers were concerned with the legalities of their land transactions; they did not have clear title to the lands they acquired. This situation resulted in the slow growth of the settlement during the 1820‘s. In 1830 the Natives surrendered 807 acres to the Crown, for 5 shillings, as a town plot. The settlers could then obtain formal titles to their properties. The site of the village was the farm of Chief John Hill. Lewis Burwell, the deputy surveyor to Peter Robinson, Commissioner of Crown Lands, was tasked with preparing a survey of the area and a plan for the village. Lewis’ village plan consisted of eight streets running east / west and thirteen streets running north / south.

Brantford, the Earliest Occupations - Post 1

When I travel I often wonder why and how the places I visit were created out of the wilderness. What were the attributes of locations and the circumstances of the time that saw certain areas develop? Why did some communities prosper and thrive while others stagnate or disappear? Who were the early characters and what were their dreams? I will be writing about local history. Let me begin with settlement in the Brantford area.

During the last ice age most of Canada was covered by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. This glacier advanced and retreated a number of times. It was the advance and retreat of the glacier that altered the geography of southern Ontario. When the ice finally retreated, about 12,000 years ago, Glacial Lake Warren was formed in the Lake Erie basin. Brantford / Brant was under this lake, but near the shore line. Notice how the topography of Brantford rises from south to north; the rise to Terrace Hill from the downtown. The glaciers shaped the land and created the Grand River Valley which was left with rich deposits of fertile soil and gravel.

The earliest human occupation of this area after the retreat of the ice can be traced back about 12,000 years ago. These people were nomadic leading a subsistence lifestyle. Between 10,000 and 3,000 years ago, the climate warmed, and the population became less nomadic settling into particular geographical areas. The period that followed saw cultural and horticulture development and communities established.

The early European records suggest that the people living in this area were the Attawandarons or Neutrals. The French called them Neutrals because they remained neutral during the continuing conflicts between the Iroquois to the south and east and the Huron to the north. Recollet missionary Father La Roche Daillon was the first European to record his visit with the Attawandarons in 1626. He found 28 villages in his travels in the Neutral’s territory, with the principal village, Kandoucho, located near present day Brantford, although the interpretation of this record is in dispute.

Father Daillon described the Grand River Valley as the most beautiful place he had seen in all his wanderings; a luxuriant valley featuring great stands of trees of all types, nut trees, fruit trees and bushes and plants, and ample variety of game, fish, and birds. Notwithstanding Father Daillon’s description of abundance, the Neutrals experienced periods of feast and famine which kept the population in check. They numbered between 12,000 and 40,000 over their period of occupation. European infectious diseases and periods of famine led to their declining numbers. The Neutrals were driven from the area in 1651 after being annihilated by the Iroquois in their conflict with the Huron over the fur trade. Of those that remained some were assimilated by the Iroquois and the others migrated west to Michigan and beyond.

The area was used by the Iroquois as an extended hunting ground and remained largely permanently uninhabited until 1690 when the Mississaugas moved into the Grand River Valley.

The Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois, are a First Nations confederacy comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. They are also known as the Six Nations.

Meanwhile in the American colonies, discontent was fomenting between the settlers and the crown after the Proclamation of 1763, which closed off the western frontier to colonial expansion. As unrest in the American colonies increased, it became clear to the British that a rebellion against the Crown was forming so the British enlisted the support of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk, and a man of influence with both the British and the Iroquois, to help them fight the rebellion and keep the American colonies under British rule. When the British lost the war and the Americans gained independence, many of the Iroquois loyal to the British, based in the Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes region of New York State, migrated north of the Great Lakes along with their loyalist neighbours and friends. 

Brant lobbied Frederick Haldimand, the Governor of the Province of Quebec (which at the time included what is now Ontario) for compensation for their support of the Crown and the subsequent loss of their land in America. On 25-October-1784 Haldimand granted “to the Mohawks and all those that followed”, “a tract of land, six miles in depth, on each side of the Grand River” from its mouth to its source. This land was purchased by the Crown from the Mississaugas.

At the time of the land grant, south western Ontario was identified by the British as ‘Indian’ lands, as per the Proclamation of 1763. European settlement was focused in what is now southern Quebec, eastern Ontario and the north eastern and mid-Atlantic United States.

In the fall of 1784 Joseph Brant, encouraged many of the Haudenosaunee to follow him and settle in Grand River Valley. They forded the Grand River at a shallow spot south of the present day Lorne Bridge and stopped at a site that was to become known as the Mohawk Village, where the Mohawk Chapel is located. The Mohawk Village was located on an oxbow-shape bend of the Grand River, situated on a high gravel ridge above the flood plain where corn could be easily grown. The geography and climate around Brantford was similar to the Finger Lakes region. Brant and his followers were able to transfer their crops to this area of the land grant tract.

John Smith, a loyalist, and his son-in-law John Thomas, friends of Brant, were persuaded by Brant to come to the Grand River Valley with the Mohawks. Early white settlers included the Nelles, Dochsteders, Youngs, and Huffs, all military veterans. In 1788 Alexander Westbrook and Benjamin Fairchild (Fairchild’s Creek is named after him) moved to the district.

Brant eventually began to lease and sell certain sections of the land grant planning tocreate a fund for the long term benefit and support of the Haudenosaunee in this area.

Brant realised that the Six Nations people alone could not utilise all the land granted so he encouraged his non Native friends to the area. Blacksmithing, schools and other European trades and services integrated well in their traditional homeland therefore would also work well in this area.