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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.