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Wayne Hutchinson Remembers Growing Up in Lindsay

January 23, 2023

Kent Street, circa 1960

When Wayne Hutchison was growing up in Lindsay in the 1950s, Angeline Street, at the Ross Memorial Hospital was the edge of town. Further west, Fee Motors had a used car lot (approximately where McDonald’s is today), on the two-lane road. It passed through farmland, with Carl Hickson’s Lindsay Sale Barn on the lot to the north. Charlie Walker, a well-known cattle trucker, lived on the lot further north, across Colborne Street. The fairgrounds with their prominent race track, stood right across from the sale barn on Angeline Street. The beautiful old, ornate, red brick Ross Memorial Hospital was situated on the corner, with it circular driveway out front and a nursing school next door.

On the other side of town, Lindsay’s East Ward was a hive of industry. Practically everyone either worked in manufacturing or had a family member who did. In the 1950s, the railway was still a vital transportation link, and most of the East Ward factories had their own spur. The East Ward was home to Schultz Die Casting, who made die casting moulds. Dominion Brake Shoes made automotive brake shoes. Visking manufactured many plastic products including batteries and the edible casings for sausages. The original Canada Crayon Factory was at the present site of Rivera Park, on the East Bank of the Scugog River (it moved to Mary Street in 1965). Varcum Chemical (who supplied many other local factories like Visking and Dominion Brakeshoe) and Northern Casket were located near the CP Rail Line on the east bank.

In the downtown, Peterborough Britten Carpets manufactured carpeting on the corner of Wellington & Cambridge Streets (Spectrum Gym), they later moved to Needham Street. On William Street North, Horn Bros. turned out countless wool blankets (now an apartment building). Lindsay Antenna manufactured TV towers and steel folding chairs finished with fabric strips. For decades, Sylvester’s produced rail cars at the corner of Victoria and Kent Streets (Tim Hortons), and were often seen testing their hand carts on the tracks running up the centre of Victoria Avenue. During the Second World War, many local residents worked at the Arsenal, at the east end of Mary Street. Most of the large factories ran 24 hours a day.

In those days, practically everything a family would need would be within walking distance in Lindsay’s downtown—and consumers had a lot of choices about where they would do their shopping. At the East End of Kent Street, the three-story Eaton’s department store was located on the north side, complete with an elevator. It seemed like it was always a busy place. The first floor displayed appliances and cosmetics, clothing was on the second, while toys were on the third. Eaton’s (like Woolworth’s) had a food counter, serving hotdogs, hamburgers and soda. When they went shopping “my mom or my aunt would leave us at the counter, throw down a buck and ask the server to keep us entertained,” which made shopping much easier with three kids in tow. “The girls at the counter would look after us, they didn’t mind.” Claxton’s (corner of York and Kent) and Simpsons-Sears (near the Olympia Restaurant… it may have been further east in earlier years) were both on the south side of Kent Street. Zellers was at the corner of William and Kent (Shoppers Drug Mart), while Woolworths was right next door.

There were three car dealers, Roy Pett Motors (Police Station), Manley Motors on Lindsay Street and Fee Motors at the corner of Cambridge and Kent (Scotia Bank). Ernie Fee’s was the most conspicuous, complete with a ramp leading cars up to their second-floor showroom. The garage and body shop was located to the south (Nesbitt’s Meat Market). After Ernie retired, his son-in-law Ken Richmond took over. In those days, Bob Mark sold tractors on Kent Street, beside Lindsay Cleaners, while also serving as the driver’s licence bureau. When Wayne’s turn came “I went for a drive around the block with him, then he gave me a licence—that’s all there was to a driving test.”

Downtown Lindsay was equally blessed with a multitude of grocery stores. Joe Lamantia Sr. and his sons Joe, Jim and Gus operated the Central Fruit Market, on the north side of Kent Street, east of Cambridge. His second cousin, commonly called “Cousin Joe” had another grocery store on the south side, between York and Lindsay Streets. A&P was at the corner of Kent and William Street (TD Bank) with a butcher shop on site too.  On the south side between William and Cambridge Streets, Loblaws sold groceries (later moving west of Victoria Avenue, now Home Hardware), then Dominion set up shop after the main street post office was demolished (now Friendly Dollar & Discount). At the foot of Kent Street, Polito’s operated an IGA, with a warehouse next door. The Politos and Lamantias served as wholesalers for many grocery stores in the surrounding region. With so many grocery and department stores, they were not as large as their counterparts are today.

With everything located within walking distance, not everyone took an automobile to do their shopping. If a customer did not have a way to get the merchandise home, retail businesses were expected to provide free delivery. Tommy Teatro delivered for Kent Cleaners, Dominion, A&P and Loblaws. As a young adult, Wayne was happy to go pick up his grandparent’s groceries. Later on, businesses started charging 10 cents for delivery.

The Kent Theatre was a couple doors north of Polito’s IGA (now Academy Theatre), being one of two movie theatres in the downtown. The Century Theatre continues to show movies to this day. In the 1950s, when few families would have a television, kids really loved to go to the movies. “Mom would give us a dollar, and I would take my brother. We would go and find a seat with the kids we knew, and popcorn was ten cents. They always started out with a trailer, featuring productions like the Three Stooges or a cartoon. Back then John Wayne westerns were really popular.”

Pop came in a glass bottle, and much of it was bottled on Caroline Street at the Lindsay Soda Works. They produced Orange Crush, Ginger Ale, Cola, Root Beer and Cream Soda. They also bottled for many other brands like Pure Spring, an Ottawa Company that was very popular in central and eastern Ontario. Much of what a family would consume was actually produced locally.

The theatres were not the only trendy new forms of entertainment in the early 1950s—Lindsay also had its own Radio Station. Pete McNabb owned and managed CKLY which operated as a mixed music station. Its DJs, who were literally disc jockeys, playing LPs, shared a variety of music that was popular in those days. Wayne’s Uncle, Johnny Langton, was one memorable on-air personality, as were John McDonald and Tex Bagshaw. The DJs, would have to plan and execute the programming for their shows, while the station also employed ad managers.

When they weren’t playing cards or gossiping about their neighbours, most families enjoyed spending time together listening to the radio. Back then, radios were significant household appliances, “I remember mom slapping the radio when it wasn’t working right. Once she had to take it down to Earl Kennedy’s to replace one of the glass tubes.” Other popular AM stations included CHEX Peterborough and CKEY Toronto. “I remember listening to Amos and Andy, and Mom enjoyed Bob Hope’s Radio Show. Jack Benny’s radio show was a lot of laughs.” Many of the radio stars successfully made the transition to television.

“I first remember seeing television in 1954 or 1955. My Uncle Charlie bought one for Grandma, and we went over to see it. I thought it was fantastic, here they were entertaining us. On Saturday morning there were cartoons. I remember the Three Stooges, and by the early 1960s our favourite show was I Love Lucy.” In the 1960s, Wayne’s parents bought a colour television. Lindsay families could buy appliances from Earl Kennedy’s (one of the few businesses that carries on in its original location), Morley Greaves (beside Central Fruit Market) or Eaton’s.

Downtown Lindsay had a three storey arena (now Valu-Mart) located right beside the abattoir, and stretching north towards Kent Street. Though there was a pen right beside the rink to hold the cattle waiting to be processed, the packing facility had a towering chimney that made it far less odious than it might otherwise have been. The Lindsay Muskies were then a Junior C team, that packed the rink for many of their games. Few local hockey fans would forget Ma Clayton, banging on a cow bell, yelling out all sorts of humorous lines, and cursing players or the referee, as she made sure they knew how the fans felt. Sometimes she went a bit to far and was escorted out of the game.

The third storey of the arena was home to the Lindsay Kinsmen Band, which provided a wonderful music program for local youth. Sponsored by the namesake Kinsmen Club, it introduced a lot of local kids to music. Every year they played in Lindsay’s Santa Claus parade, and often marched in Fenelon Falls too. Once they played in the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. One year, the Kinsmen Band travelled by train to play at the opening ceremony of the Calgary Stampede. They were awarded 2nd prize for a band of their age, had the chance to visit Banff, and when they train arrived back in Lindsay, the community put on a parade to celebrate their success.

The ball diamond (now Victoria Park) was not far away from the rink and hosted many baseball and soccer games. Spectators would sit on the grass or bring a lawn chair to watch visiting teams come in for tournaments. Perhaps 20 or 30 spectators would come out. Home plate was located at the north end, and if anyone hit the ball into Kent Street, it would count as a home run. Being a fielder was often challenging as the ball took unpredictable hops on the playing surface that was far rougher than the ball parks that we enjoy today. The Ball Diamond subsequently moved to George Street, behind Moynes Ford.

The smell of all the milk and ice cream being processed at Silverwood’s Dairy (Kent Place) was unmistakable across the road at the ball park. Though the aroma did not make anyone want to rush across the street to buy ice cream, Silverwoods was a beloved part of the downtown business community. When visitors arrived at the Lindsay Bus Terminal on Cambridge Street, one of the first sites they would see were the horse stables located just south of Silverwood’s. Though most businesses in town had moved on to delivery trucks, both dairies (the other was McMullen’s located on Regent Street) had horse drawn delivery wagons.

Elwood “Sixty” Coombs was a memorable Silverwood’s milkman. He had been a semi-pro hockey player and it was said that he could skate at 60 miles an hour. As Sixty worked his way up the street, he would carry the milk bottle to each house, then turn around and whistle, so his horse would know to walk to the next house. Sixty always carried a bag to clean up after his horse, and many people would ask for the horse manure to put on their gardens.

Some families grew their own vegetables or kept chickens in their backyard. It was polite to ask neighbours first before setting up a hen house, but most people were more inclined to ask if they could buy a dozen eggs than oppose their neighbours having fowl. The chick hatchery was located on York Street (Coach and Horses Pub). It sold eggs and chicks.

Wayne grew up on Cambridge Street (near Melborne). His father, Bill, ran Bill’s Taxi for more than 30 years, while his mother Hazel took the calls. His great uncle Bert (married Ethel) Hutchinson lived just around the corner and operated Hutchinson’s Movers. It was a busy enterprise, as the had a contract with CN Rail to deliver the goods arriving at the freight sheds on Victoria Avenue (now Community Care Village Housing). When the train rolled into the station at William and Durham Streets, often only a few portable items were unloaded. The furniture coming to town for Tangney’s, groceries, and so many other parcels were handled at the freight yard. He also delivered Northern Caskets from the local factory to Mackey’s and Lloyd Burrows (Stoddart learned the trade from Mackey). Sometimes, when the hearse was not working, he also had to drive the casket to the cemetery.

Two passenger trains a day came to Lindsay, connecting it to Belleville and Toronto. Because his Dad had worked for the railway, they had a CN pass and one year made a day trip to Toronto to watch the Santa Claus Parade. At the Durham Street Station, passengers waiting in a large room, heated with a coal stove.

Like many local families, the Hutchinsons heated their home with coal. Lindsay had three dealers, one on Sussex and Melborne, as well as Baker’s Coal and the Lindsay Coal Company on Lindsay Street—supplied by the nearby rail line. The coal yards had a tractor and loader to fill a small dump truck, which then came to each home. Dumping down a chute into the basement window, each family would have a coal bin in the basement. The coal furnace had to be filled about four or five times a day, and it took care not to get covered in coal dust.

“Dad would have to go down in the middle of the night so his kids wouldn’t catch cold. Some nights before bed, he would get it really fired up and the house would be so hot you could hardly stand it, but it would be cool by morning. Houses were not as well insulated back then, you were lucky to have any insulation at all—and the materials being used were not good for you anyway.”

In those days, families used ice boxes for refrigeration. Campbell & Sons Ice Company came around with the blocks, which would be covered in sawdust—insulation to help the ice survive the summer heat until it could be sold. The ice block went into the top of the fridge, and the meltwater drained into a tray that would have to be emptied—a chore that many people found tiresome. Summers did not seem to be as hot in those days as they are now.

Wayne’s childhood home was just two doors down from King Albert School. From the age of 6 he could walk to school, with his mom watching from her front door to make sure he found his way. Like many town kids, he never took the school bus, except for field trips, like his class’ trip to the Peterborough Zoo in Grade 2 or 3. Lunchtime was a full hour long, so he walked home and his mom made him dinner. The school opened at 8 or 8:30, and students were to report, then they could go out and play in the yard. The schoolyard was quite small until the school board purchased the adjacent lot from Wayne’s Uncle Bert, which allowed for a fenced yard, complete with a swingset. In winter, the caretaker and some of the neighbouring parents worked together to make a skating rink. Wayne was one of the students who volunteered to clean it off, though skating was never something he enjoyed.

Wayne played baseball and soccer with the other kids. In winter, when it was too cold to go outside, the students would play tag in the basement, which was just an open room, rather than a gymnasium like they have today. Cowboys and Indians was one of the most popular games, and as he grew older he played board games like monopoly, and euchre. At King Albert Public School, there was a separate class for each grade, and many students fondly remembered Mrs. Rickman and Mrs. Mann. One of his childhood friends, Ron Ellis, went on to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Canada 1972.

Wayne was in the first class of Grade 7s that attended Central Senior rather than their local public school. Having grown up with the same group of friends through elementary school, it was a big change to be mixed in with students from all over Lindsay. As he was in middle school, national leaders feared that the Cold War might heat up, and began preparing air defences. As John Diefenbaker prepared Canada’s defences, Lindsay received an air raid siren, mounted on a tower on William Street North. Central Senior not only had fire drills, they also practiced for an air raid.

By the time he was 12, Wayne had a job after school. He started out babysitting neighbourhood kids, then moved on to work at Albert Powers Telegraph Office at the corner of William and Kent Streets. Making 50 cents an hour, Wayne bought a bicycle at Torrance’s Bicycle Shop, which was just west of William Street, for about $6. He would pedal around town delivering telegrams, which were typically in an envelope to allow some privacy. The business only lasted about three years after that, but the bicycle proved to be a good investment, as Wayne went on to deliver newspapers for the Lindsay Daily Post, which was also just west of William Street. For carrying 60 papers, six days a week he was paid $1.25.

When Wayne graduated to LCVI (called Lindsay Collegiate Institute until 1963… it was the only Secondary School in town, I.E. Weldon had not yet been built) boys in his year had the choice of whether or not to become cadets. With the Korean War raging, it had previously been mandatory to receive this basic training. While he was there, LCVI started the machine shop, with Mr. Nicholls as teacher. Wayne preferred to focus on commercial studies, learning from Art Truax. Art went on to be Mayor of Lindsay and the City of Kawartha Lakes, and later on in life, he would serve with this former student on Victoria County Council. Another of Wayne’s classmates, Barbara Kelly was the second Mayor of the City of Kawartha Lakes.

While he was in Grade 10, General Motors visited the school, to recruit young workers, promising them education to become engineers or millwrights, if they would like. They offered really good wages, $10 or $12 an hour, and a lot of his classmates went to work in Oshawa, spent their whole career there, and retired with generous pensions. “I wasn’t excited about assembly work, I had worked at Deyell Printer for one year and that was enough for me.” Throughout his high school days, Wayne always had a job after school, and in the process worked for many downtown businesses, including La Mantia’s Central Fruit Market and Peterborough Britton Carpet. The school did have a memorable football team, a roster filled with a lot of big farm kids. They played on the field between Central Senior and LCVI.

But as Wayne was growing up, Lindsay was really changing. Premier Leslie Frost was very interested in his hometown, and ensured that it was served by Highway 7. An Ontario government building was constructed on the northwest corner of Kent and Angeline, that would house the Ministry of Natural Resources, with an OPP station right behind it. The town’s population was growing, but many of the pillars of the existing economy were melting away. It would not be long before the last passenger train left Lindsay, as this old railway hub would receive much of its freight on 18-wheelers. But few could have imagined that manufacturing was at its peak, and as years passed, more factories closed, as fewer new ones were created. NAFTA can be taken as the end of Lindsay as a manufacturing town and today, of all the factories listed above, Northern Casket is the only one still manufacturing in town. But as industries disappeared, new opportunities emerged, as the downtown was beautified with main street plantings, some new shops in the place of the most decrepit, and before long an exciting new Aquatorium and recreation facility.

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