1967 CENTENNIAL YEAR
It's Centennial, and Marmora hasn't been so excited since the year they shot the elephant. The village folk are bound and determined they'll make it a bash to remember.
So says Betty Lee of the Globe and Mail in 1967
Oldtimers in Marmora say Centennial is the biggest thing to hit the village since 1910, when the circus came to town and they had to shoot an elephant that went off its rocker.
Oh there was that time back in the Forties when the council dreamed up a Village reunion and the folks got so darned excited they paraded down Forsyth Street at midnight in their nightshirts and longjohns.
But Ed O'Connor can't remember a year livelier than 1967, and he's been around the village, perched in Hastings County, about 30 miles due north of the Bay of Quinte, for 91 years.
Ed will admit, of course, that the Royal Hotel fire about 40 years ago, was a dandy of a show. If you get him going, he'll tell you how volunteer firemen rolled a dozen whiskey barrels down the hill to the Crowe River, and how some of the kegs just happen to bust apart when the boys were at their thirstiest. And he chuckled over the way the panicky hotel help dumped the chinaware out the top windows, then carefully carried the bedding down the stairs.
"But I'm so glad I didn't quit and die before this year rolled around, " Ed was saying to Bill Shannon in his brother, Jim's, drugstore the other day. Bill is the Reeve of Marmora and the Warden of the County as well, and everyone knows that the Shannons came to this neck of the woods just as long ago as the O'Connors.
So Bill just grinned when Ed drew himself up to his full 5-feet,5-inches and announced with a shake of his cane:
"Why, I'm so danged Centennial minded, Bill, I might even do something about getting the roof fixed!"
Well, rash talk like that would have set the whole village buzzing a couple of years back. But Marmora has caught such a whopping dose of 1967 fever, that the1,358 folks who live in the place wouldn't be at all fazed if they suddenly saw Ed and his wife, Maude, shinnying over the shingles and stuffing the leaks with Centennial banners. Ever since New Year's, when old Mrs. Nichol and Annie Jones were coaxed down to the town hall to set off the church bells and fire siren, the village has been whooping it up with so many Centennial do's and celebrations, no one flicked an eyelid when Vaughan Glover's supermarket clerks blossomed out in 100- year-old styles at the checkout counters. Then, somehow, it seemed quite natural for the small fry to start wearing velvet pantaloons and poke bonnets to classes, and no one as much as snickered when Ken Gillies, the primary school principal, showed up one morning in frock coat and stovepipe headgear. They even say the kids will have some lessons in those empty, one-room school houses that still stand around the township, though a few villagers scarcely think that's historic.
"Good Lord," Chris Jones was overheard to say, "I went to one of those schools. And if anyone thinks that was a century ago, I'll have his hide."
The first time Rose Brawley and Florence Fluke trotted off to a senior citizen' tea in their sidewalk length Centennial outfits, everyone in Bill Mackenzie's restaurant dropped their coffee mugs and butter tarts and went out on the street to stare. Now, just about every female in the village has stitched herself two or three old-time gowns, and there's a persistent rumor around that Helen Meiklejohn, the Centennial women's committee chairman, is already organizing a fashion parade. If Helen has a hand in it, of course, the affair is sure to come off.
But Chris Jones is already complaining it is pure torture trying to drive her car to Centennial blowouts with all that pesky hem fouling the clutch. "The thing to do," she was advising Dot Glover over coffee at the Meiklejohns' motel the other night, "is to hitch up the skirt, bundle it into a ball and shove it under the steering wheel."
Nevertheless, Jennie Sweet at Eaton's Catalogue swears she is still ankle deep in orders for Centennial dress patterns, trimmings and bolts of gingham and percale. Little boys around the village who wouldn't have been seen drawn and quartered in a bow tie last year are plaguing their mothers now to sew lace on their shirt cuffs for school wear. And since the Centennial Ball, says Miss Jennie, home needlework is becoming more adventurous all the time. The big ball was at the town hall in March, and because everyone had to weara costume or stay at home, fellows rummaged around attics for their grandfathers' wedding suits or scorched off to Belleville to rent outfits.
Well,laugh! Ray Black, who headed up the ball committee, came dressed as a parson, carrying a fat black book with a pint of booze stashed inside. Marg Gray wore a neck-to-knee swimsuit and she says a few of the girls bustles were actually stuffed out with life preservers from Crowe Lake boat houses.
Some of the costumes were a bit out of historical character. Leith Stetson, who owns the jewelry shop on Forsythe Street, came as a French general with powdered wig and all, and that seemed somewhat early for Sir John A. MacDonald's day. Then, Percy Gray wore his regimental dress uniform and, as everyone knows, Percy's military career dates no further back than the Second World War. But no one was too critical. Even after the 90-cent-a-plate special from Mackenzie's was demolished, folks were still kicking up their heels, trying out the waltzes and reels, and declaring it was the best darned party ever put on in Marmora.
Ed O'Connor even came by to pick the most authentic couple of costumes and he was saying, by golly, that lots of suits out there on the dance floor! Reminded him of duds he wore when he was a village buckaroo. He finally awarded the prize to Gordon and Stella Bennett, which could have been sticky, because Gordon happens to be chairman of the village Centennial Committee. But to heck with it, Ed assured Gord with a grin, he was wearing the best costume, wasn't he? Then, everyone in the town hall auditorium started to clap and cheer.
There was so much enthusiasm that night, in fact, just about every Centennial banner decorating the walls was swiped as a souvenir. Ray Black later told the committee that it cost cold cash for the replacements and this had to come out of the $390 collected in ticket sales. There were the expenses for the orchestra and prizes as well, plus 85cents for floor wax. But Ray handed over $20.61 profit to the Centennial kitty and committee members gave him .a standing ovation.
Most village men wore Centennial beards to the ball, but there was a mass shaving early in April. Marg Gray was announcing way back in March that before long, she would refuse to feed anyone who came into her house sporting face foliage and some of the older ladies in the village found themselves admitting their tastes in male appearance had changed drastically since they were girls.
"I used to be able to tell the Daytons from the Grays on Forsythe Street," someone was complaining at a senior citizens meeting earlier in the year. "But behind those beards, they all look the same."
Leith Stetson still has whiskers, but he figures a beard will look in character while he's pushing Centennial mugs and key rings in his store this year. Percy Gray refuses to get out his razor and villagers figure he must spend hours in front of his bathroom mirror getting his whiskers to curl that way. Gordon Bennett. of course, is practically committed to wearing his beard all year. Not only is he boss of the village Centennial program, he teaches seventh grade as well. And nothing looks funnier than a naked face under, an 1867stovepiper. Besides, birthday year has just begun and Gord says you never know when a full-grown Centennial beard might come in handy.
"No sir," Jennie Sweet tells anyone who wants to chat about the celebrations over the catalogue counter."No one can say Marmora isn't Centennial minded. But do you know, there are some places around the country where folks don't even know it's 1967?"
Lots of people who drop by Marmora wonder why the village is so fired up about Canada's 100th birthday. Postmistress Mary Hickey, who heads the Beautification Committee ("clean up, paint up, plant a I tree, neighbor"), is sure villagers figured there would be only one national Centennial in their lifetime so they had better aim at celebrating it in style. Everyone agrees a village needs chairmen like Gordon Bennett and Helen Meiklejohn to keep prodding the tardy, but it's as well to remember Marmora was organizing Centennial committees as far back as 1964. It's true some locals muttered darkly about fool over-eager- ness, but at least the village Centennial project - a $15,000 remodelling of the town hall's, ground floor was ready for people to admire by New Year's.Committee members even had time to beat the village and township councils over the ears so the upstairs auditorium could be sanded and freshly painted for the ball.
Grace Warren, whose grandfather was a township pioneer, agrees Marmora has its share of enthusiasm. But she also feels Centennial caught on because so many folks can recall when both the village and the nation were sprouts and that 1967 simply launched itself on a sea of memories. Then again, it's possible Centennial seems momentous in Marmora because the place is a mere freckle on the map compared with Peterborough, 34 miles to the west, and Belleville, a 30-mile jaunt down to the lake, and it quickly gets hog-tied by its own activities. As Gord Bennett was re- minding someone the other day, there are stacks of Centennial events going on in the cities and if people complain things seem "deader'n a doornail", they haven't bothered to go out and meet the celebrations head on.
In Marmora, though, you have to streak off to the woods to escape those committee bloodhounds, and with only 1,358 people around and perhaps another 1,400 scattered in the township, a Centennial euchre party can likely land smack on the front page of The Marmora Herald. Even so, folks are already talking about the way villagers have grown closer together since the beginning of the year. Lillian O'Connor, who has been working away at a project to supply the town ball kitchen with $50 worth of Centennial-crested dishes ("it was a shame, the way groups had to borrow stuff from all over"), was saying she has lived in Marmora for 23 years now and Centennial has got her chatting to families she once knew only by their telephone listings. It's surprising how a thing like that can happen in such a small community and among people with pretty much the same kind of background.
Apart from summer tourism, the village depends mainly on the Marmoraton Mining Co. for its living. Ten years ago, before the big iron mine was opened down Highway 7 by Bethlehem Steel, local fellows worked together at the old Deloro Mining and Smelting Co. and their grandparents were all a part of the Eldorado boom that turned Marmora into a goldrush settlement in the Eighteen Sixties. When you come to think of it, the whole history of the village seems to be tied up with mines that opened and shut like so many broken gates in a wind and threw men out of jobs or switched them into lumbering, farming or storekeeping. The Sweet family settled near the Blairton Iron Works at Crowe Lake in the early Nineteenth Century (the Hon. Peter McGill of Montreal had a piece of the business there), but after the mine folded, old Mr. Sweet started a bakery on Forsythe Street. Arthur Sweet figures the shop was somewhere near the spot where the old Glover store stands today.
Not many villagers remember that the Shannons at the drug' store were once village tailors and, as Miss Grace likes to tell it, when someone needed a carriage fixed a century ago, they always went to the Warrens. It's hard to remember whether Grace Warren always reminisced like that. But this is Centennial, and Grace, Arthur Sweet and Helen Hardy have personal projects to dig up stories about-the past, and young Jack Golden, publisher of the Herald, has been donating space to print what they have written. Odd how everyone had forgotten Uncle Dick Campion and how he was always asked to sing Annie Laurie at village socials. And just think that the first plank sidewalk in Marmora was put down where Highway14 meets No. 7 today, all because, store customers complained of the mud.
Lord knows what the kids, think of all this nostalgic stuff, but it's interesting that the high school art class painted a mural of an ox-drawn Conestoga and presented it to the Centennial Committee. Helen Meiklejohn had it framed for $26.08 of the $79 collected at the Centennial Craft Show and now it's hanging behind the stage of the town hall auditorium. The Centennial Committee has been thinking a lot about the kids. Gord Bennett is one of those fellows.who talks about the meaning of Centennial and he is always plugging away at the idea that teenagers should never take Canadian citizenship for granted.:
Gord has four boys and he was pretty disappointed when village teenagers were cool about a project he had in mind to send a Marmora youth- exchange delegation to Quebec. Right now, he is asking the high school crowd to tell the Centennial Committee what events of its own it would like help in organizing this year. But apart from a hint that teenagers want a Centennial hop, suggestions have been pretty skimpy. Young Jim McGibbon, who has been gunning that new motorbike of his up and down High- way 7, did mention that drag races on Forsythe Street might be fun.
So far, though, Centennial in Marmora has been pretty much of an adult affair and Ken Gillies, who runs junior hockey, mentioned something of the sort at a meeting recently. Gord reminded him there would be the Centennial regatta on Crowe Lake plus a big program of summer sports. Then there is Caravan Day. It's easy to tell the Centennial Committee feels June 27, the date the Confederation Caravan rolls into Marmora, will top just about everything else planned for 1967. For one thing, as Ralph Neal, Caravan Committee chairman pointed out, people will be pouring into Marmora from Madoc and Havelock and Stirling and some might even come up from Belleville to see what's going on.
Marmora's sudden popularity could lead to some headaches, of course. Maurice Fenton, who has been roped into the committee, was throwing out all kinds of ifs and buts the other night at a town hall get-together. The long lines of youngsters waiting to get into the caravans , worried him terribly ("they'll start fidgeting around"); then there was the problem of how the crowd can be fed. Bill Mackenzie's restaurant holds only about 50 people, and Bill's the kind of fellow who might even take it into his head to close up and enjoy himself for the day. The question of traffic control naturally had everyone groaning. After all, Marmora's main street gets jammed enough on an ordinary summer's day.
But Gord calmed things down by saying extra police would be shuttled in and that volunteer firemen would turn out in old- time uniforms. Someone mentioned dogs would not be allowed in Legion Park while the caravan was there and Helen Meiklejohn suggested there could be a dog-sitting tent set up outside the grounds where folks could check their pooches. Stella Bennett wrote it all down in the minutes. Then, there was talk about a parade of floats from Marmora, Madoc and Havelock ("we hope!" muttered Ralph doubtfully), a reception for VIPs ("we've already got the county warden"), and an antique show in the town hall organized by that nice Peter Beare from the real estate office and an open air art show put on by the high school kids in the empty gas station lot.
Gord figured there might even be a beauty contest on the portable stage provided by the Caravan people, but at that, the committee stared glumly at the table. Everyone finally agreed there had to be another committee to get the parade and stage entertainment going and Pete Empey said Ron Henry at the curling club would be a, fine man for the job.
"He's a great organizer," argued Pete. "And what's more, he can get the day off." Everyone was yawning a bit by then, until Scotty Cook leaned forward and said he felt it had been a terrific meeting and that Marmora should always have a committee like the one sitting around the table. "Strikes me," Scotty said in that no-nonsense way of his, "that the Chamber of Commerce here is stuck in mud it can't pull itself out of. A group like this is exactly what the community needs."
Well, Ralph Neal started to give his speech of caution about the old Booster Club and how it folded after members worked so darned hard to buy that park on the lake. But it was obvious the Caravan Committee was pleased about what Scotty had said and even Maurice Fenton smiled. Once again it proved what villagers were already saying: -that Centennial was turning out to be a year to remember. . Folks are already swapping yarns about what has already happened. No one will ever forget the Centennial Winter Carnival, for example, and the way the youngsters trained their dogs to pull sledges. During the big race, the mutt in the lead stopped to use the bales of hay as a lamp post and all the others sniffed and paused as well. The kids yelled blue murder as they waited. but peopIe in Marmora still guffaw when they recall that day.
Then, there was the fun Jean Borland and the painting class ladies had organizing the Centennial Art Show and the way they persuaded Mrs. Doug Millar, the new United Church minister's wife, to enter a scroll with the words of 0 Canada done in fancy script. The scroll was a. big attraction, but Chris Jones turned up with that picture of roses that looked just like tomatoes and Myrtle Gordon found some pastels she had almost forgotten. Everyone agreed with Helen Meiklejohn the show encouraged people to show all sorts of stuff they never would have exhibited at the fair.
And just the other day, the senior citizens were talking again about the Centennial Craft Show and how old Mrs., Fluke quilted all day with cups of tea balanced on her knees to keep herself going. Sadie Young showed how to decorate a Centennial cake and everyone figured she must have nibbled away at the icing to string out the job for four whole hours. Mrs. Percy Carman brought a purse made from an alligator shot in South Africa and Mrs. Bob Sanderson had a replica of the Last Supper, studded with colored stones. Clean up time was awful, but a hat block was the only item mislaid. And, do you know, the guest book showed visitors came from as far away as Peterborough?
Well. Helen Meiklejohn has been predicting things will be pretty dull next year without Centennial. But, as Ed O'Connor has often said: "Things might look dead on the surface in this village, but folks sure know how to have a good time." Marmora has been discovering itself all over again in 1967. It's possible the place might never be dull again.
~ Betty Lee is a Globe Magazine staff writer ----
The Centennial Cookbook