1930s


CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

Deseronto CIBC in October 2012 (from Google Streetview)

The CIBC branch in Deseronto will be closing its doors for good this summer, bringing to an end more than 120 years of banking history in the town.

The Bank of Montreal was the first firm to open a bank in Deseronto: Herbert Osborne took this photograph of its original Main Street branch in around 1895:

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

Bank of Montreal, c.1895

In 1904 the Bank of Montreal built a new structure at Centre and Main on the corner of the park lot.

DESCOM-06-23

DESCOM-06-23

Shortly after the Bank of Montreal opened its new building, the Standard Bank opened a branch in Deseronto, in September 1905. Seventeen years later, a new brick building, the current CIBC branch, was constructed on the south side of Main Street. Here is the bank under construction:

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

2009.26 CIBC-09-02

And here is the finished building in the 1920s:

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

2009.26 CIBC-09-15

In 1928 the Standard Bank was taken over by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. During the Great Depression it was common practice for banks to rationalize their branches and transfer customers to another firm. The Bank of Montreal closed down in 1932 and its customers were moved to the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

This is how the building looked in 1933:

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

2009.26 CIBC-09-17

The Bank of Montreal building was taken over by the Town of Deseronto and became the Town Hall in 1945, with Council holding its first meeting there on November 15th of that year. In 1961 the Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada to become the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The CIBC Deseronto branch celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.

Another family mystery this week, this time from across the Atlantic with a story which starts in the small Lincolnshire town of Brigg in England. The person we’re interested in is a man called Preston North, a tailor who was born there in 1859 to Frank and Jane North.

At the time of 1901 census of England, Preston North was living in three rooms in a house in Paradise Place, Brigg, with his wife, Martha (née Little) and their eight children: Caroline, Alice, Lucy, Frank, Preston, Charles, Percy and Robert. A 41-year-old tailor of the same name (and who was born in Brigg, Lincolnshire) is also listed as living in a boarding house in Pontefract, Yorkshire. The Pontefract Preston North is listed as single, rather than married. Interesting…

1901 census North family

1901 census entry for the North family (UK National Archives: RG13/3102 f.42 p.35)

By the time of the next census, in 1911, Martha is listed, still living in three rooms in Paradise Place with her six sons (Harry is the youngest, born after the 1901 census), but Preston is not at home that night and is not to be found anywhere else in England through the census records, although the fact that Martha lists herself as married rather than widowed suggests that Preston is still alive somewhere.

We don’t have access yet to the 1921 census records, so will have to wait a few years to see what they might tell us. What we do know is that Martha died in Brigg in 1924 and by 1933 Preston North was living in Deseronto. In that year he sent a postcard to his grand-daughter in England which showed the Bank of Montreal in the town (the building which is now the Town Hall).

On the postcard, Preston North noted that the bank had closed down due to lack of business (this happened in 1932 as a result of the Depression).

His great-grand-daughter also owns a letter which was written in Deseronto by North in 1939 (when he would have been eighty years old).

Letter from Preston North, 1939

Letter from Preston North, 1939

He wrote:

Deseronto
Sept 14th 1939

Dear Alice and all at home,

The war has started

I was glad to get your letter on sept 12th and I did not get any other letters you sent before Christmas. It is a fight to the finish Canada has gone to a finish no fooling this time.

Returning men are going up by the thousands and no turning back. They have got into Warsaw and the women are fighting like tigers.

I am very well but I don’t work much only at my own clothes. 3 years war if not more. Hoping to hear from you at any time. Give my best wishes to all.

From your father Preston North

Deseronto Canada xxxx Bye bye

The story in the North family in England is that Preston started another family here in Canada and never returned to England. They don’t know where or when he died, or when precisely he came to Canada.

On September 12, 1944 an old man called John North was buried in the Deseronto cemetery. Could this have been the man formerly known as Preston? (The name of the North’s second son was Preston John North, so it’s possible that his father shared his middle name as well as his first name. Or just borrowed it!)

UPDATE, January 23, 2013

Some new information about John Preston North has emerged. On June 19th, 1915 he married Chloe Anne Lalond in Kingston, Ontario. He claimed to be 42 years old (he was actually 52) and a bachelor who had been living in Kingston since 1910. This would explain his absence from the 1911 UK census. There was a family story that this man was a bigamist, and this evidence seems to confirm that this was the case. In 1916 John Preston North was living in Napanee when he signed up to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force. By this stage his real age was 57, but he claimed to have been born in 1872 and to be 44. So not only was North apparently a bigamist, but he also seems to have been a habitual liar!

The Archives here in Deseronto has a rather patchy selection of local newspapers for the twentieth century. There’s a good run of The Quinte Scanner from 1968 to 1982 but apart from that we really only have lucky survivals of The Deseronto Post and a few editions of the Daily Intelligencer, Belleville’s newspaper. Finding out what newspaper we have for a particular year or decade involved consulting two different lists, the contents of which are not easy to absorb.

We’ve now combined the information from those lists into a single online resource. It’s a Google Calendar into which each newspaper edition has been entered as an event. If you have a Google account, you can view the newspaper calendar, which we’ve made public. From the calendar page, click on the small Add to Google Calendar symbol at the bottom right. This will add the newspaper calendar to your Google calendar page.

In order to see what we have for a particular year, you need to install the ‘Year View’ feature for your calendar (in Google Calendar, go to the ‘Settings’ page, then ‘Labs’ to do this). Once you have the Year View, you can use it to get to a particular year, then click on any month to see if we hold any local papers for that particular time period. The picture below is of the month of October 1925, where we have two issues of the Deseronto Post and three of the Daily Intelligencer. Click on the image for a closer look.

Newspapers for October 1925

This is just an experiment, really, but it’s already proving useful in making it much quicker to answer questions about whether we have any newspapers for a particular date.

Deseronto Public Library traces its roots back to the foundation of the Deseronto Mechanics Institute in 1885. Mechanics’ Institutes were established as a means of providing educational opportunities for working men. Many of them provided lectures, social events and reading rooms for the use of their members, who paid an annual fee for access to these facilities.

Dr John Newton

A public meeting was held in the Town Hall on October 27th, 1885 to discuss “the propriety of forming a Mechanics Institute in the Village of Deseronto”. The attendees were assisted in their deliberations by Mr McGowan and Mr Scott, members of the Napanee Mechanics Institute. It was unanimously resolved that it was “expedient to form a Mechanics Institute in Deseronto” and Dr John Newton, Deseronto’s physician and Reeve, was elected as the President of the Institute.

On November 11th, the first Library Committee was established “to select books and prepare a catalogue”. At the same meeting it was agreed that “Mr E. A. Rixen be Librarian and Miss Millie Anderson be Assistant Librarian”. Ebenezer Arthur Rixen was the Rathbun Company’s  accountant and his involvement with the library was to continue for many years. The Mechanics Institute library would be open from 7pm to 9pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays and 3pm to 5pm on Thursdays.

Deseronto House Hotel

Rooms for the Mechanics Institute were secured from George Stewart, one of the Directors. The location of these rooms is not known but Stewart was the proprietor of the Deseronto House Hotel on Main Street and it is possible that the rooms were located within that establishment. In May 1887 the Institute paid for gas lighting to be installed in the rooms rented from Stewart. 80 feet of gas pipes were needed, at a cost of 15 cents a foot.

The first salaried librarian to be employed by the Mechanics Institute was Alva Solmes, who was also the caretaker for the rooms. He was taken on in May 1889 at a salary of $25 a quarter. Mr Solmes was a 43-year-old shipwright who had been born in the USA. By this time, the Institute was looking out for new accommodation and in 1890 the Directors were discussing building a new library with an adjoining Opera House. Estimates for such a building were received in September of that year but the depressed state of trade at the time meant that the idea was shelved.

Colp Block

In October 1890 the President of the Institute, Frederick Sherwood Rathbun, reported that he had obtained new accommodation for the Institute in Godfrey Colp’s new block. This building was situated on the southwest corner of Edmon and St. George Streets. The rent for the new rooms was to be $150 a year, payable quarterly. The Institute moved into its new home in 1891 and a new caretaker/librarian, Arthur P. Brown , was employed in the same year.

The Institute faced financial problems and by the mid-1890s was running an annual debt in excess of $300. Efforts were made to increase membership but the problem was resolved when a change in the law in 1895 permitted the conversion of Ontario’s Mechanics’ Institutes into free Public Libraries. Ontario had passed the Free Libraries Act in 1882, the first of its kind in Canada, which allowed municipalities to establish public libraries supported by tax dollars rather than membership fees. The 1895 amendment resulted in Mechanics’ Institute libraries being converted into free libraries from May 1, 1896. If the Directors of the Institutes agreed, the management of the libraries would be taken over by a Public Library Board and funding provided by the municipality. As a result of this Act, the number of public library boards in Ontario rose from 16 in 1894 to 54 in 1896. At this date, the annual running cost of the library in Deseronto was $250.

F. S. Rathbun

A public meeting in the Mechanics Institute on April 10, 1896 elected the first Board for the Deseronto Public Library. Its Chair was Frederick Sherwood Rathbun, Treasurer of the Town Council and brother of Edward Wilkes Rathbun, Mayor of Deseronto and head of the Rathbun Company. The new Public Library took over the Mechanics Institute’s books (including their Minute Book!) and premises and continued to employ Arthur P. Brown as its Librarian at the same salary as before. A set of Rules and Regulations for the library were drawn up.

Arthur P. Brown was born in Ireland in 1847 and came to Canada in 1881. His time as Librarian was not without its moments of controversy.  In 1898 the Board noted that he was refusing to lend certain books to particular individuals. It was decided that “we should not have books in the Library about which there was any reasonable doubt” and a number of books were “expunged entirely” from the collection as a result, including Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles: now seen as a classic, but apparently too controversial for some of Deseronto’s citizens in 1898.

The Board minutes noted on October 1st, 1901 that “many complaints are being made of the discourteous treatment received by the patrons of the Library from the Librarian”. It was resolved that the Secretary of the Board “be empowered, on a recurrence of the treatment complained of, to call a special meeting of the Board with a view to the selection of a suitable successor to the present Librarian”. Despite this reprimand, Mr Brown continued in the role of Librarian until 1915, with a total of 24 years in the post.

By the early years of the twentieth century the condition of Colp’s block was giving the Library Board cause for concern. At this time, the millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie was funding the construction of public library buildings: over 2,500 around the world and 111 in Ontario. The Board wrote to Carnegie in 1901 asking about the construction of a library in Deseronto. At this time, the Town Council was using the Library’s rooms for its meetings and it was hoped that a shared building suitable for use as a Library and Town Hall could be funded. However, the terms of the Carnegie grants were for dedicated library buildings only and so the chance of having a Carnegie library in Deseronto was lost.

Fire Hall, 1976

In June 1909 the Library moved to rooms above the Fire Hall on Edmon Street. The move was costly: the Librarian being paid $1 a day to move the books. It took 20 days to complete and the cost plunged the Library into another financial crisis. A meeting was held on October 28th, 1909 at which it was noted that the Board wanted to discuss the future of the Library with the Mayor and Reeve as “funds were exhausted and the Board was in debt”.

Scorched books

The Library continued to function in its location on Edmon Street until 1931 when a fire in the building caused extensive damage to the books. Some of them were sold off after the fire but others were trimmed and returned to the shelves. Several of these charred volumes are still owned by the Library. After the fire the Town Council offered the Library Board the old Tribune office on Main Street as alternative accommodation. Insurance money paid for the refurbishment of the property at 309 Main Street and the Library occupied that site for the next 70 years.

Library at 309 Main Street, 1976

The Great Depression saw hard times for the Library again and the Board reduced the salary for the Librarian, Mary Mitchell so much that she resigned at a meeting of the Board on September 19th, 1933 and it was agreed to close the Library until further notice. The closure was short-lived, however, being rescinded at the next meeting of the Board due to the appointment of Dorothy McCullough as Librarian, a post she was to hold for nearly 20 years. Mrs McCullough was succeeded by Helen Tunnicliffe, another very long-serving Librarian. In 120 years of having a salaried Librarian, only thirteen people have held the role:

Alva Solmes 1889-1891
Arthur P. Brown 1891-1915
Helen Cronk 1915-1921
Flossie Hall 1921-1926
Mary Mitchell 1926-1933
Dorothy McCullough 1933-1952
Helen Tunnicliffe 1952-1975
Stella Carney 1975
Heather Granatstein 1975-1977
Gloria Greenfield 1977-1983, 1987-1989
Gail Herman (later Maracle) 1983-1987
Glendon Brant 1989-1999
Frances Smith 1999-present

In 2001 the Library moved to its current location at 358 Main Street. This was once the site of the Deseronto House Hotel, the possible location of the rooms rented for the original Deseronto Mechanics Institute in 1885.

2015.13(2) 7

Opening of Deseronto Public Library at 358 Main Street, July 1st, 2001

 

An interesting new accession arrived by email this week from Ray MacDonald, whose mother, Mary Hawley MacDonald Selby, wrote a series of six emails to her grand-daughter in 1999, when she was in her eighties. The emails describe life in Deseronto during the hard years of the 1930s, when the Hawley family moved here from Toronto in the hope of finding seasonal work in the canning factories. Here’s Mary’s description of the struggle to find clothing:

We never bought new clothes, we wore whatever was given to us in other words “hand me downs”. Shoes did not always fit and were worn past “outgrown”. My feet to this day will verify this. When the soles of shoes were worn through Howard would repair them from old shoes. He then learned how to skin the tread from old Tires to make new soles. The men of the family had one decent pair of trousers and a button up sweater to wear for good and hand me downs for work pants. Never had a suit for over ten years. From l930 to 1939 my Aunts sent their outdated clothes to Mother and I, and we tried to update them to wear. In my first year at high school they sent me a new dress, and I wore it all winter. Each week end it was washed and pressed for the next week. Always had to take it off after School to save it. The next winter I had grown and we Cut it down and made a jumper out of it because I had outgrown it.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into a time of struggle: you can read all Mary’s stories on our ‘About Deseronto‘ site. Her brothers, Howard and Rocky, founded the Hawley Brothers furniture company on Main Street, Deseronto, in the 1940s. This successful firm operated until the brothers’ retirement and Mary describes the early years of the company in her emails.

Technical digression

Sharing the stories was something of a technical challenge: Mr MacDonald sent us the printed emails scanned into a PDF file. I had visions of having to re-type all 10 pages in order to turn them into something that I could share on the About Deseronto site. A colleague from the UK gave me some helpful advice. There are two types of PDF files – some are images only and require optical character recognition software in order to convert them into text (my colleague recommended http://www.paperfile.net/). Others are images and text. You can tell whether you’ve got the latter by searching within the PDF file. If you can find words, then it’s image and text. For this type of file (which is what I had), there’s a useful program called pdftotext which will convert the PDF file into a text file. You can get pdftotext as part of the XPDF download. You have to extract the zip file and then run the program from the command line, after navigating to the directory where the pdftotext program is sitting. You run the program by simply typing ‘pdftotext’ followed by the name of the file you need to convert and the name of the text file you want to create. For example: pdftotext myfile.pdf newfile.txt.

Mary Selby died in 2009, so we are very grateful to her son for sharing these emails with us and for giving us permission to share them with a wider audience.

Deseronto resident Johanna Gordanier visited the Archives today, looking for information on her uncle, Jos van Langen. He was a Dutchman who died in a plane crash in Europe in the 1930s. A little rooting around brought up a Dutch site on plane crashes and a page about the accident. The page is in Dutch, but Google’s translation service did a good job of converting the page into English.

Jos van Langan was an editor for the Dutch newspaper De Tijd. He was on his way home to Amsterdam from Milan, on a flight that would cross the Alps before stopping in Frankfurt. The aircraft, a KLM DC-2, ran into bad weather as it entered Switzerland, flying at an altitude of 5000 metres. Rather chillingly, van Langen recorded the last moments of the flight in his journal. You can see the readings of the altimeter, as the plane descended:

 

Jos van Langen's notebook

 

The pilot attempted a crash landing, but the plane landed awkwardly and the main fuselage was completely destroyed, killing all on board.

The notebook itself is now in the archive of the Press Museum in Amsterdam.

Another passenger killed on this flight was the English artist Arthur Watts. Examples of posters he produced for the London Underground can be seen at the London Transport Museum.

One of Watt’s illustrations featured a plane crash:

 

Flown the Atlantic have ye? Then supposin' you catch my cows and tell them about it!

 

This image (recovered from the Internet Archive) was originally on a website maintained by members of Arthur Watts’s family.

1937 Cadillac LaSalle

This vehicle was once owned by the Deseronto Fire Department. It’s a Cadillac LaSalle, dating from 1937. It is now in France and has been restored by the current owner, who has painted it in the colours of a US Army ambulance.

Does anyone remember this vehicle or know when it was used in Deseronto?

This is how the ambulance looks today:

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