Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years in North Simcoe – December 1st to 7th, 1959

The photos found in this blog post are the property of Huronia Museum, Midland, Ontario. Any reproduction for commercial use without permission is prohibited.  Any other distribution must credit Huronia Museum.  Please contact the museum with any questions you may have. 

Click on photos to enlarge.

    Free Press Herald headline of December 2, 1959; GUNMAN  NABS  $2500  IN ELMVALE  BANK  ROBBERY. Elmvale’s Toronto-Dominion Bank has been the scene of much extra-mural activity in the last week, climaxed by a $2,500 robbery Monday afternoon. Friday afternoon, the Elmvale bank had been coupled with Midland post office in an alleged “bomb scare”. A man had walked into the bank and told assistant manager John Rumble, “If you don’t give me some money, a bomb will explode in the Midland post office at 2.30 p.m.” Nothing came of the Friday episode on either count, but Monday’s affair was “for real”. Waiting until all the customers had left around 3 p.m. the armed bandit escaped with $2,500. Approaching the teller, Mrs. Pauline Miller, he shoved a shopping bag through the wicket, with a note reading: “This is a holdup, fill this bag”. Mrs. Miller said she looked up, saw a gun pointed at her, and complied with the order. As the bandit left, she ran to Mr. Rumble and told him what had happened. Mr. Rumble went to the door to see if he could see the robber. Two other employees, John Bell and Marian Graham, went to a window and were able to get the licence number of a car pulling away from the bank. It headed west on Highway 92 in the direction of Wasaga Beach. No arrests had been made by mid-morning yesterday. 

    Thirteen people are homeless and an estimated S40,000 in damage was caused when flames ripped through a combined grocery store and lunch bar and two-storey frame home in the village of Phelpston early Saturday morning. The blaze, which taxed the facilities and men of Wasaga Beach and Elmvale-Flos fire departments, broke out in the lunch counter about 1.30 a.m. Saturday. When it was finally subdued, the two-storey business establishment owned by Reno Chaput and the frame home of Joe O’Neil were in ruins. Both buildings have been Phelpston landmarks for more than half a century. When he discovered it, Mr. Chaput, 37, made several unsuccessful attempts to extinguish the fire with bomb-type wall extinguishers.  When he was unable to control the flames he and his wife, 36, bundled up their three children. Collette, 8, Gerald 7, and an infant, Jacques, and got them out of the building. Assisted by Bernard O’Neil and Joe Fair, Mr. Chaput returned to the burning structure and led Mrs. Bernard Toner 73, and her sister, Mrs. Frank Loftus, in her seventies, out of the smoke-filled second storey apartments. At times they had to crawl on the floor to keep from being suffocated. Mrs. Chaput suffered minor burns.

Edwin Toner examines some of the wreckage of the combined restaurant and grocery store, owned by Irene Chaput, which burned in Phelpston early Saturday morning. Mr. and Mrs. Chaput, their small children and two elderly women escaped from the apartment upstairs.

    Penetang Fire Department was called to a boat fire late Thursday night when flames were discovered on the “Nadine”, a converted Fairmile tied at Penetang dock. A young couple in a car at the dock noticed the flames and reported it to Sgt. L. Robillard, who turned in the alarm. Firemen experienced some difficulty in bringing the flames under control, although the damage was mainly confined to the engine room where the blaze apparently broke out. The “Nadine” is owned by Rev. L. Brechin of Newmarket. 

    Tragedy struck a Midland family of six persons Friday morning, leaving them homeless after fire gutted the interior of their small frame home at 374 William Street. Forced to seek temporary shelter with relatives were Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Smith and their four children, Barbara, 8, Terry, 6, Susan, 2, and Cindy, a baby, only a few weeks old. The Smiths have another son, Brian, in hospital in Orillia. More trouble hit the Smiths Sunday when Cindy had to be sent back to the hospital. Mrs. Smith said the baby had not been well even prior to the fire. 

 Seemingly “miles” of fluorescent lighting have to be strung high up under the roof to provide illumination for the huge (75,000 square foot) Greening Wire Co. plant in Midland. Here, some 30 feet from the floor, two employees off Bumstead Electric, Wyevale, are connecting wiring in one of the long strings, prior to placing the lights in place.


Two employees of Bumstead Electric, Wyevale, are connecting wiring in one of the long strings, prior to placing the lights in place.

Smiling happily for the cameraman, these five youngsters were having a great time learning to skate at the family session in Midland Community Centre Sunday afternoon. Held weekly, the event is sponsored by Midland Figure Skating Association. Conduct on the ice, by both grown-ups and youngsters, is strictly regulated to prevent accidents to the young beginners. A section in the middle of the ice is roped off to provide a safe area for beginners.  (No names were taken)


A letter from Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission read to a meeting of Midland PUC, announced that free hydro power would be provided to rural consumers to operate washing machines, licensed radios and electric pumps for water pressure systems. The object of the offer is to extend the benefits of cheap electric energy to farmers, who have not in the past taken advantage of the benefits offered by hydro, the letter stated. * * * Noting that both systems were undergoing constant modification, Hon. Wm. Finlayson, K.C., predicted that Communism and Capitalism would “continue to walk parallel roads”. Mr. Finlayson was the principal speaker at the ninth birthday party of the Midland Y’s Men’s Club.  * * * Customs collections at the Port of Midland up to the end of November 1934, amounted to $104,072.98, or $56,886.63 more than was collected in the same period in 1933. Capt. Humphrey Colquhoun, the consul for Costa Rica in Toronto, deeded 15 acres of his estate on the Sturgeon River to the Toronto Black Watch Association, and the Canadian Scottish (16th Battalion) Association. The land was to be used as a summer camp for the wives and children of men who served with the Black Watch. * * *  The chemistry department of the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph conducted experiments with oats, barley and potatoes on the farms of Eric Simpson and Mr. Griffin, near Elmvale. Substantial increases in the yields in all three crops were obtained through relatively minor outlays for commercial fertilizers, it was noted. 

   Singer Motors celebrated their first anniversary in business with an ad in the Free Press, this is the message from Marsh Singer along with photos of the staff and building. It had previously been Leitch Motors, then MacNeil Motors, now Singer Motors and followed by Roger Hunter Motors. The location is currently operated as Adco Tire and Auto Inc.

This is the anniversary of our first year in Midland. We want to say Thank You to all those who have done business with us during the year. We would like to thank the friends who helped us to get settled in Midland. We do appreciate it. We hope you feel, as we do, that we have honestly done our best to please our customers and we hope you will continue to have confidence in us.

Pictured here is a car which has just come out of our shop. After being repainted and thoroughly reconditioned mechanically, this 1956 Chevrolet Deluxe Sedan is now ready for resale. 

Illustrated above are a few of the many modem testing machines we have in our shop. The distributor calibrating machine shown on the right has become almost a necessity to perform a proper tune-up on modern day cars. 

Don Moreau and Gord Jones, salesmen. 

Frank Gendron, bookkeeper and Don Dahmer, service manager. 

Alex Widmeyer, shop foreman and Ken Ward, parts manager. 

Marsh Singer, owner of Singer Motors, corner of Fifth & Vinden Streets. 

    County Herald headline of December 4, 1959; MAY  GET  NEW  ICE BREAKER  IF OUTLAY  JUSTIFIED;   A letter from Transport Minister George Hees was in reply to a request from Georgian Bay Development Association officials for further information on the winter berthing of the department’s new ice-breaker “Alexander Henry.” The transport minister said the “Henry” would be berthed at a lakehead port. He said surveys showed that, while there are some ship movements in the bay area at a date earlier than that on which navigation opens in Lake Superior, the heaviest traffic at the beginning of the season is at the lakehead. “In fact,” he said, “we have been doing ice-breaking there for quite a number of years with a rented vessel.” He explained that, as the Alexander Henry was fitted with ice-breaking capacities, specifically to take over the icebreaking task at the lakehead, and as no money has been authorized to continue to hire a vessel for the lakehead work, the treasury board had advised him it will not approve funds for the continuation of this rental arrangement when the “Henry” was provided for that purpose. Transport Minister Hees stated that the Georgian Bay request for ice-breaking facilities was a “new request” whereas the lakehead operation is a “longstanding commitment, upon which shippers have come to rely.” He added, however, he was willing to “look into the need” in the Georgian Bay area. 

    First Yuletide decorations were erected this week on Midland’s King Street by members of the public works department. Scots pines, obtained on the weekend by Midland Junior Chamber of Commerce members under the direction of Jim Clark, were mounted on parking meter standards. About 15 Jaycees made the trek to Orr Lake where trees were obtained from the Department of Lands and Forests. Large pines at the post office were obtained at Lafontaine. All trees were hauled to Midland on trucks loaned by Beaver Lumber and the town. Jaycees will erect candy canes on street light standards Tuesday night. Another added Yule decoration this year will be Santa-Clauses purchased by the merchant’s committee of the chamber of commerce. 

Bob Bates, manager of the Agnew Surpass shoe store, found this dead jack-rabbit behind his store when he came to work. (Fur lined slippers maybe?) 

Midland assessor, Ian McLung kept the “scoreboard” up to date at Midland nomination meeting Thursday night. This year’s session in the municipal building saw seven more nominations submitted than last year. Attendance was more than double the 1958 mark.

One of the largest crowds in many years turned out for Midland’s nomination meeting in the municipal building last Thursday night. They nominated a total of 32 candidates (seven more than last year). Five achieved seats by acclamation and 15 more are contesting seats in Monday’s election. 

Lining up to sign on the dotted line, these candidates were snapped at Midland’s nomination meeting last week. Left to right are Bev Keefe, Neville Keefe, Herb. J. Beauchamp, Alex Macintosh, W. H. Keller and Clerk W. A. (Bill) Hack. Bev Keefe was acclaimed to the public school board when his brother, Neville, withdrew. Mr. Beauchamp became reeve by acclamation. Both Mr. Macintosh and Mr. Keller face elections, the former seeking to return to the PUC and Mr. Keller in a three-way fight for the mayoralty. 

If all of Mrs. Hector Adams’ grandchildren were old enough to vote in the municipal elections Monday, Dec. 7, she would have a fair amount of support. She has twenty of them. The first Midland woman ever to run for municipal office, aside from the school board, Mrs. Adams will oppose Wm. Orr in the aldermanic race in Ward 2. 

    FM radio reception — the most popular new development in high fidelity programming is now available in Midland. Midland, indeed, is the first community north of Toronto to have access to FM radio programming. FM — it means frequency modulation — was the brainchild of Major Armstrong, the holder of many of the key patents for standard radio broadcasting, and started its tidal wave of popularity after World War II. Now, in Europe, over 75 per cent of all radio broadcasting is on FM frequencies and an increasing number of FM stations are being licensed in the United States and Canada. 

Family skating Sunday afternoons at Community Arena has become a very popular innovation in Midland this season. Above, Mr. and Mrs. Morland Mount help daughter Sonya, 4, in her debut on the silver blades. A special roped-off area in the center of the ice surface has greatly increased the safety of the younger tots just learning to skate.

    Oldest businessman on Midland’s King Street, where he operated an express service for more than half a century, Angus C. McNabb died at his home, 310 Hugel Ave., early Monday evening. In his 76th year, Mr. McNabb was born on a farm near Orillia on May 14, 1884. One of a family of five boys and three girls, Mr. McNabb is survived by only one brother, I. P. McNabb of Toronto. Before he had reached his 16th birthday, Mr. McNabb started out as a messenger for the Canadian Express Co. in Orillia. For three years he drove an express wagon around that town. Then he joined the old Grand Trunk Railway as an express messenger out of Toronto. Many of his runs took him to Toronto and North Bay. On July 1, 1908, Mr. McNabb took over the old Canadian Express Company agency from the late Mr. McCallum. The firm is now a part of the Canadian National Express system. Horses provided the motive power for the express wagons when Mr. McNabb took over in Midland and he kept three of them on the go. He purchased his first truck in 1928 and later acquired a small fleet of them. Mrs. McNabb, the former Ada Smith, predeceased her husband in October 1954. One of Simcoe County’s most ardent curlers, Mr. McNabb also served for many years as a director of Midland’s Arena Gardens. Rev. L. Self of Knox Presbyterian Church will officiate at the funeral services, to be held Thursday afternoon. 

CADEAU — To Mr. and Mrs. Donald Cadeau, Port Severn, at St. Andrews Hospital, Midland, Wednesday, November 25, 1959, a son.  
FRASER — To Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Fraser, 187 George St. Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Thursday, November 26, 1959, a daughter.  
HARDY — To Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Hardy, 275 Eighth St., Midland, at the Penetanguishene General Hospital, on Thursday, November 26, 1959, a son (William Douglas).
Jessome — To Mr. and Mrs. Jessome, 307 Queen St., Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Tuesday, November 24, a daughter.
LARMAND — To Mr. and Mrs. Edmond Larmand, Victoria Harbour, at St. Andrews Hospital, Midland, Thursday, November 26, 1959, a daughter.
LATOUR — To Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Latour, 318 William St., Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Tuesday, November 24, 1959, Twin daughters.
SHIELS — To Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Shiels at the Toronto Western Hospital, Tuesday, October 27, 1959, a son, (Stephen Patrick).
 WILKINS — To Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Wilkins, 285 Queen St., Midland, at St. Andrews Hospital, Friday, November 27, 1959, a son.

Penetang police moved into new quarters last week, transferring from the fire-damaged town hall to the library basement. Almost a month was required to renovate the-new quarters. Besides an office for police and a two-cell lock-up, the new police headquarters provide space for holding the weekly magistrate’s court sessions. Spectator accommodation for court sessions will be at a premium because of the smaller quarters. It is expected Penetang council will use the court facilities for council meetings until the town is able to erect a new municipal building. The double lock-up has been built of steel and has steel barred doors. Doors in the old cell-block in the town hall were partly made of wood. A washroom, convenient to both the cells and office, has been installed. 

A quick look at the front page, December 6, 1939. 

    VASEY 1939 — The worst fire in many years occurred last Wednesday afternoon when flames consumed Alvin Drennan’s store and the adjoining dwelling house, his sixty-foot barn, garage and stable, and the dwelling house belonging to Hilton Steer. For a while it looked as if Cleve Long’s general store across the road might go too, but fortunately, the combined efforts of a bucket brigade of 200 farmers, who swarmed in from all over the country, were successful in confining the conflagration to the one side of the road. The loss was estimated at $7,000 and was partially covered by insurance. The fire started when Norman Brown, an employee, was adjusting a gasoline lamp generator. Some gasoline, which spilt from the lamp on to his hands, became ignited and the lamp dropped to the floor and exploded. The store immediately filled with black, suffocating smoke which in a few minutes gave place to flames. Brown hastily spread the alarm and soon villagers and farm folks from miles around were busy fighting the fire, water being thrown on the flames with buckets. Fire extinguishers were also used. It was soon evident that the Drennan store could not be saved. The furniture was lifted out of the building occupied by Mr. Brown and his family at the rear of the store, just in time to save it from destruction. The Hilton Steer home was the next to take fire. It was a frame house seventy years old, and being partly of cement construction, it burned more slowly. The volunteer firemen with their buckets of water managed to save the Steer blacksmith shop. The gasoline in the Drennan pumps exploded and a drum of oil added to the conflagration. 

    The Bell Telephone Company has just completed a changeover to its rural lines running out of Midland to the common battery system. In the future, the subscribers will get a connection with central by the simple process of lifting the receiver off the hook as is done in town phones. It will no longer be necessary to ring the bell. Altogether there are five rural lines running out of Midland, all to the south through Wyebridge and there are altogether some 32 subscribers. At present, the maximum number of subscribers on any one line is eight.

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