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Oakville is a Special Place . . I was here for four years and that’s when I met Bill because I was a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Telegram. I used to go to crashes on the QEW and Bill was driving an ambulance so we would often show up at the same accident. Bill’s family owned a funeral home and in those days the ambulance and the funeral home went together. Bill worked at the funeral home and drove the ambulance. After four years, I moved back to Toronto, got married, went out West, then to Montreal, and returned to Oakville in 1968. Things haven’t changed a great deal since then. It’s gotten bigger.BILL: Still a great place to live!How did you come to settle in Oakville?BILL: My mother and father came with my two older brothers in 1922, from Erin. My dad had a funeral home up there and he came down here and he opened a funeral home in the old Chisholm home on the southwest corner of Trafalgar Rd. and Dunn St. I was born while he was in that house. I’ve been here most of my life, except for the War, and when I went to school. I went to the University of Toronto and studied passive arts. Ex service men could get a BA in two years. After the War, I had tried to get into medicine, but there were thousands of applications for the medical school and they only took 250 ex servicemen and 250 kids straight from high school, so unless you had a really good senior matriculation, you didn’t have a chance. I wasn’t even close. I spent the summer of 1947 with the Canadian Officer’s Training Corp. I had the choice to stay in the army and get a commission, which I think I probably would have preferred, but before I left, my dad [expressed a wish for me to join] the business, so I did that for the next 30 years, from 1947 to 1976, when I sold it. I still see the truck around town.BILL: My brother started that. He took in Carl Frid as a partner and later sold his part of the business to Carl and went to work at Mohawk College in Hamilton. They had a lovely store.DAVID: I think it used to be where Murron’s Cabinetree is now.Can you describe what Oakville looked like when you were growing up?BILL: I’m going back to the 1930s here. Lakeshore Rd. was called Colbourne St. Lakeshore Rd. was paved in my day. That was a big deal when it was paved. It was also called the Number 2 Highway. The commercial zone ran from the river to Reynolds St. on both sides of Lakeshore Rd. Trafalgar Rd. was known as Dundas,
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or Station Road, in those days. There was the Grey Coach bus service that went along Number 2 Highway and then the CNR railroad that went to Toronto. We had a lot of commuters into Toronto even then. We had many independent grocers and butchers. We also got a Loblaw’s. I remember them coming to town. We used to go to Hewson’s Store, which is now a wine bar [Maluca]. It was a beautiful old fashioned grocery store with oak and glass cabinets and a big old coffee grinder. We used to play out in the back in the sugar sacks. People used to do preserving then, their own pears and peaches and crab apples, so they’d buy sugar in bags. When I worked at Loblaw’s, many bags of sugar were carried out of that store. Hewsen was highly respected and he had a gorgeous store until it closed up.DAVID: You went in and would tell the person behind the counter what you wanted and they would go and get it.BILL: At that time [also], Kerr St. didn’t run straight down to Lakeshore Rd. There was a creek that ran through it. Kerr St. went to the QEW, which was then called Lower Middle Rd. There were two little stores up there. Penmens and Bembers. They sold groceries. Kerr St. came south to the creek, and then picked up after it and went down to the lake. I remember Kerr St. as a dirt road.DAVID: Kerr St. ran into Speers Rd. That’s where the bootlegger was.Do you have any stories about how historical events (such as The Great Depression, WWII) affected your family and the Oakville community as a whole?DAVID: There used to be a lot of farming in Oakville and I can remember by Maple Grove there was a big poultry farm. During the War, old hen houses were turned into a residence with bunk beds, and girls would come from [the surrounding areas] to plant victory gardens and vegetables. In the 1950s it was still going on. That was really the only hangover from the War that I can remember.BILL: I remember during the War, my mother would go to Toronto on the bus and there were three of us overseas and she said she wouldn’t worry about us until she started to walk down Dunn St. towards our house. Heartbreaking time for a lot of people in Oakville. I [also] remember the Depression really well. There were many families in Oakville on relief. They couldn’t get jobs. It was a serious time. Everybody felt the pinch. Even my father, he wouldn’t be paid for funerals. Doctors would be lucky if they got a chicken for a house call. We heard so much about the Depression and suffered in our own house because there just wasn’t a lot of money floating around. I know it had a lasting effect on me and my contemporaries. I am still conscious of spending money.MARILYN: Most people who lived during the depression are still very careful with their money. They don’t buy things they can’t pay for. My mother talked about my dad getting paid by the day and how every day she had to wait until he got home to buy milk for me. My dad worked in reforestation. They were on relief. It affected me. I am sure it was the same thing all over.BILL: A lot of people had big vegetable gardens during the depression.MARILYN: We had an icebox. The iceman came every couple of days. I can tell you that the recession of 2008 was nothing like the recession we had in 1929. People didn’t suffer the same way they did in the Great Recession. I can remember people coming to my grandmother’s store and if they would cut the lawn she would give them a plate of food. They would do anything for food. People were starving. It was a bad time.What was school like when you were growing up?DAVID: Tell us about Miss Lightbourn, Bill.DAVID: She started out in a Howard Ave. house and took in about 2 kids. Then she moved up across from old Victoria Hall. You know where the Curling Club is? To the west of it was Victoria Hall, which was an old building, a musical hall I guess you’d call it. It had a stage. Movies also used to be shown there. Miss Lightbourn did everything from Kindergarten to Grade 8.DAVID: The headmaster at Appleby College had two daughters and he asked Miss Lightbourn to teach them. She did a good job so other people brought their kids to her, and that went on until about 1975, until St. Mildred’s school united with her and became one of the fanciest girls schools in the country: St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School.BILL: I delivered the Toronto Telegram. [A friend and I] would deliver them 6 days a week. It was 15 cents per week. When I was 16, I worked at Loblaw’s. I was the head Saturday boy and I got the job for the summer. Six days a week. My take home pay was $14.99 a week. Loblaw’s used to be in the building where the Roots is now. That was an experience.
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