Marmora Herald- January 2, 1994
I took a stroll down by the beautiful Medical Centre and I stood for a while watching the ever-flowing waters of the Crowe River winding in and around the thin crust of ice along the shoreline. I could hear the rush of the dam upstream and the clink, clink of the flags blowing against their poles by the cenotaph. I stood and gazed at the old steam engine housed there, an arduous attempt by the Lions Club to preserve some of our heritage. The trees along the bank are slumbering, awaiting the glory of spring and, as I stood, my mind's eye began to flow along the river taking in beauty and peace of this, MY TOWN.
I was born here in 1934. My Dad, Jim Sproul, came from Glasgow, Scotland to Deloro in January, 1929, looking for work. Times were hard in the cities and an old Scottish acquaintance told him they were hiring at the Deloro plant. By August of that year my Dad sent for his young bride Isabella and they lived at first with Tommy and Vi Cousins in Deloro.
Later they moved into Marmora into half of the house known as the Clairmont home (later the home of Andre and Anne Philpot and now the Limestone Bed & Breakfast). My mother thought she had come to the ends of the earth. No train, no transportation, no running water, no central heat, no family and no old friends. That first winter someone sold them green wood and my father came home from work many a day to a tearful wife unable to conquer the horrors of wood fires. But those days passed and she became quite capable in time.
The Sprouls finally settled on North Hastings Ave., where I was born. My mother's sister Nettie came to live here for two years. A few people may still remember her. Up the hill from my house lived Joe and Lizzie Doyle, who were like grandparents for me. Joe owned a bus called the "Carryall'.' and it was used to transport workers to and from Deloro.
My parents were faithful members of the United Church and in my. growing up years such aspects of the church as Explorers, CGIT, Sunday School and Junior Choir allplayed a part in my future. The local skating facility in winter was an outside rink behind some of the stores on Front St. and as I glanced up the river today I remembered lazy, warm swims in the old mill pond all summer long. There was .no concern then for pollution. I remember my Dad I catching tubs (yuk) ofmud cats out of the river's dark recesses.
On a Sunday our family and friends would walk across the dam and climb the treacherous path to the west side of the river to picnic. It was such a pleasant place. I still love picnics and maybe I am trying to recapture that long remembered feeling of peace and tranquility at that spot just across the river. An almost forgotten place today, it was the location of the first Catholic Church and a few grave stones endure in their lonely place. Later on people told scary stories about the graves and we kids believed it all and relished in the folklore.
On Front Street I can "remember a genuine Chinese Restaurant. As a kid, a hot dog was a special treat and on the infrequent times I was taken to eat out, I thought the hot dogs were the greatest in the world. People joked about the rotund proprietor's English pronunciations. "Two fly egg, laison pie and lice cleam." I remember hearing also about a stabbing having taken place in this establishment.
My first year at school was in the building now housing the Masonic Lodge. (Torn down in 2004) The next few years were in the junior school (now the Legion ) which also had two high school rooms. The old high school is torn down now. It had two stories and we thought it pretty modern with it's lab and all. As I recall there was a constant smell of rotten eggs from the experi- ments in the lab. Students had to shuffle back and forth from the lower school to the upper school. During my high school years I met Michael John Maloney (Mickey) and my fate to stay my whole life in "my town" was sealed .
In June of 1952, having graduated business, I went to work for the Dominon Bank in the spot now occupied by Hastings Handcrafts. (Now the Marmora Historical Foundation) It was, in those days, a scary place as most banks were. There was one tellers cage, the upper half enclosed with a "chicken wire" as we called it. Michael Forestell was the teller. The hand written ledgers were updated daily and maintained by Lena Sullivan and Dorothy Airhart. Alex Fraser was the Manager.
In August of that year the bank moved to its present location (a former hardware) where the premises were ultra modern for the day. In 1956 the Bank of Toronto and the Dominion Bank amalgamated. In the meantime, the Bethlehem Steel Corp. of Penn. USA was developing an iron ore mining operation here and it changed "my town. Businesses opened up, housing developments rose, people came and prosperity thrived.
Twenty-five years later the mine closed. They said, "my town" would become a ghost town, but I knew better. Often we have occasion to meet people who have moved away. They ask "How are things in Marmora? Same old place? Any new changes?" We stop to think and answer "No, things are pretty much the same" and silently we say, "Thank you Lord".
This is our town, these are my memories. Others who have been born and raised here will have other memories. Take a stroll by the old Crowe River. It will whisper to you. It may even stir up pride in the place I call "my town."