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.