The Walker House Olde Walkervilleâ€™s New Vibe
Ferries & Streetcars The $5 Gift
er lK a W ried m fer ! a ts y ir ge awa H
Special Edition #59
new books from walkerville publishing!
Ti l e
& ES S E X SOR C
Weâ€™ve Come a Long Way!
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Your Neighbourhood Pharmacy is Back. • Offering home visits • All insurance accepted • Everyday LOW prices • FREE city wide delivery & pickup • No $2 co-pay! • Dossettes - Compliance packs available • Help with drug costs & prescription coverage
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519-255-9009 Mon. - Fri. 9 - 7 • Sat. 10 - 5 • Sun. 10 - 4 www.oldwalkervillepharmacy.com
French and Italian Spoken Here!
Download this edition FREE! walkerville.com
christmas 2013 Walkerville Publishing book signings in December!
Dec. 4, 4:30 - 7:30 pm : Caboto Club Pasta Di nner Tecumseh @ Parent
A Model Town: Devonshire & Wyandotte, looking west, 1950 from “A Forgotten City,” Images of Windsor, 1940 - 1980 (see page 18)
Cover Image Wyandotte & Chilver, 1952
From the Publishers
Older Walkerville’s New Vibe
First Electric Streetcar in Canada
The $5 Gift
Hiram Gets Ferried Away
A Forgotten City
500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor
Boys in Brown Dresses
Review Mirror: Images from the Archives of Walkerville Publishing
Lost and Found: Remembering Alec Montroy
How Did They Play In Those Outfits?
The Walker House
Dec. 7, 1 - 3 pm: From the Heart Gifts, 1356 Ottawa St. Dec. 14, 3 - 5 pm: Coles Books, Tecumseh Mall Most Sundays in Dec. 1 - 4 pm: Willistead Manor Coach House Dec. 23 & 24, 12 - 4 pm: Juniper Books, 1990 Ottawa St. Check walkerville.com for additional events.
Design, Sales, Production, Photography & Pretty Much Everything Else Chris Edwards Elaine Weeks 519-255-9527 walkerville.com printed in Canada
After 50+ Years Downtown,
Weâ€™ve Relocated to
home auto business insurance needs Personalized, Local Service
420 Kildare Road, Suite 302 ~ Windsor ON N8Y 3G4 Phone: 519-258-4740 ~ grantandmingay.com
from the publishers
Sincere thanks to ALL OUR ADVERTISERS for making this special edition of The Walkerville Times possible. Please support these fine businesses. Elaine & Chris
ast time you held one of these perky little magazines, you were six years younger (think about that!). Since our Dec. 2007 issue, here’s a brief list of some notable events: • • • • • • • • • •
Barack Obama elected president of the United States – twice. Massive earthquake rocked Haiti Catastrophic British Petroleum oil spill in Gulf of Mexico Apple debuted the iPad Earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan Vancouver hosted Winter Olympics Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, died Kate and William married; had a baby boy Mayan calendar finished its cycle; world did not end Mayor of Toronto made that Canadian city a joke around the globe
Locally, while Windsor struggles from the global economic meltdown of 2007/08 and other issues, Walkerville has been a bright spot. Restaurants, shops and services have opened, and the entrepreneurial spirit fostered by our fearless founder, Hiram Walker, lives on.
Of note, however: recent controversy over the City of Windsor and Willistead Manor Board’s intent to replace the park’s brick paths with a complex of 10 foot wide asphalt roads (Facebook group: Save Willistead Park); concern regarding what some residents are calling the City’s “murder” of mature area trees; and 18-wheelers on Wyandotte (Facebook group: Ban Big Trucks on Wyandotte.) Here at Walkerville Publishing, we’ve continued our efforts to chronicle Windsor’s fascinating history; since 2007, we’ve produced three titles: “Windsor Then”, “500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor” (1st & 2nd edition), and our latest, “A Forgotten City.” And, we were pleased to help the Walkerville BIA develop historical signage for the parkette on Kildare & Wyandotte (installation in near future). Finally, Elaine is very excited to announce Time Trespasser, her novel about a southern U.S. slave-owning, cotton plantation owner from the 1800s, who time travels to 2012. It’s in the editing stage; look for it at walkerville.com soon.
Windsor Youth Centre The
a drop-in for homeless & at risk youth. For two years, WYC has provided a safe haven for youth from 5 - 10 pm every night, plus homework help and creative activities. It’s a friendly, safe place where young people can feel safe, find a hot meal, get info about shelters, plus referrals to other agencies. To donate funds, food, & necessities: thewindsoryouthcentre.org or call (226) 674-0006.
1321 Wyandotte East • near Hall
Wishing all our Walkerville Friends & Customers a Happy Holiday! 1823 Wyandotte St E 519-915-1558
Thank You for Supporting Local Business!
1719 Wyandotte St E 519-256-7282
Who wants to lose 8 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
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Olde Walkerville’s New Vibe The Right Place at the Right Time. Elaine Weeks
ow often does this happen? You start a business that grows so rapidly you have to build a town? Two years after establishing his whisky distillery on the south shore of the Detroit River 1 1/2 miles east of Windsor, American entrepreneur Hiram Walker’s enterprise proved so successful, he did just that. What started as housing for his employees grew into a self-sustaining model town with a strong industrial base where he provided fire and police protection, street lighting, running water, paved streets – even snow shoveled sidewalks. Incorporated in 1890, Walker’s town, ie., Walkerville, was unparalleled in Ontario.
Amalgamated with Windsor in 1935 (despite most town folk voting “No”), the Walkerville of today, still home to Walker’s Canadian Club whisky and the magnificent “whisky Palace” aka CC Brand Centre, embraces its unique past, which makes living, working and playing here a pleasure.
Grand Opening of The City Cyclery on Lincoln Road in Olde Walkerville — just one of many new businesses giving the old neighbourhood a new vibe.
Tree-canopied streets, lined with a diverse mix of majestic homes, heritage townhouses and modern condos, are a delight to explore. Three beautiful landmarks – St. Mary’s Church, built by Walker’s sons to honour their parents, Willistead Manor, designed by pre-eminent American architect Albert Kahn for Walker’s son Edward and his wife Mary, and stately Walkerville Collegiate, opened in 1922 – form the cultural, educational and spiritual nucleus of the neighbourhood. Small wonder Olde Walkerville remains one of Windsor’s most sought after real estate markets. The entrepreneurial spirit Walker fostered is alive and well. Over 80 businesses are located in a uniquely preserved commercial district along Wyandotte Street between Argyle and Gladstone, spilling onto several side streets. At least 50 of these businesses offer an eclectic mix of retail, restaurants and pubs, with several devoted to health, fitness and wellness. With so much to offer, Walkerville is now a trendy shopping and entertainment destination for fabulous vintage, whimsical gifts, original art, superb furniture, state-of-theart bicycles, awesome baby and mothers’ wear, hip fashions, books by local and international authors, quality food products at a recently established general store, and even doggy biscuits – all within easy walking distance. Customers appreciate personalized shopping in locally owned establishments as a welcome change from the mall or ‘big box’ experience.
10 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
And here’s a sign of the times: over half of these businesses are owned and operated by women. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or relax with a steaming cup of coffee and luscious dessert at your pick of restaurants, featuring menus for every taste and budget. After dark, live music by local musicians is de rigeur at several local pubs, restaurants, wit numerous community events and functions at the newly resurrected Walkerville Theatre and Walkerville Brewery. And every weekend, Motown, Disco, Alternative and Salsa has people jamming the bars and dance floors. Olde Walkerville: Windsor’s heritage jewel. Come and savour it. Elaine Weeks is co-owner and Managing Editor of Walkerville Publishing, producers of this magazine and history books featuring Windsor’s glorious past: “A Forgotten City” and “500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor,” available at Poppy Paperie & Biblioasis in Olde Walkerville, and Juniper Books & From the Heart Gifts on Ottawa Street. For other locations visit walkerville.com or call 519-255-9527.
Has Risen From the Ashes! 618 windermere road • walkerville
Please visit us for wholesome eats, scrumptious treats, organic coffees & teas, atmosphere, community and friendly service. Licensed by LCBO Like us on Facebook!
Open 7 days a week! Gift Certificates Available Childrenâ€™s Storytime every Saturday 10:30-11:30
LOCAL Book Signings ! Owen B. Jones: Music From Windsor November 29th 2013 Chris Edwards/Elaine Weeks A Forgotten City December 23 & 24th 2013
1990 Ottawa Street 519-258-4111
Books Bought & Sold
12 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
First Electric Streetcar in Canada Bernie Drouillard
ike many great inventions, the idea for a local electric streetcar took shape during a trip away. Richard Bangham, a street commissioner for the Town of Windsor, was on a vacation in England when he spotted a trolley operating at one of the bathing beaches. Upon his return, he contacted J. W. Tringham, an inventor and electrician, to discuss the potential for an electric trolley line in the Border Cities. Working with only a picture and notes, Tringham commissioned Detroit engineer Charles VanDePoele to design and build a prototype car and line. Parts were sourced in Chicago and shipped to Walkerville, where the trolley was assembled in an out building, which eventually served as the waiting room and car barn, strategically located on the border between Walkerville and Windsor. Soon, the first trolley was completed, measuring 25 feet with seating similar to horse-drawn carriages of the day; the difference being a 10 hp engine placed in the middle. The British American Hotel in Windsor was the terminus for the line, running along Sandwich Street from Walkerville. A short trial run was scheduled for May 24, 1886. Van DePoele pulled on the lever to determine if the contraption could run, initially out of the barn and back—at least that was the plan. Instead, Van DePeole decided to run the car along the track one and a half miles down to the BA Hotel. Meantime, Tringham unaware of the test run, began chasing the car, furiously waving his arm, eventually commandeering a horse and buggy, catching up with Van DePoele at the B.A. On June 9th, the line was officially opened and the festivities were reported by the Detroit Free Press:
Greased Lightning. A Trip on the Windsor Electric Car The nabobs of the town packed in a car – Running a road with no visible means of propulsion “At 2 o’clock yesterday there stood on the corner of Sandwich Street, Windsor, 1,349 persons, not counting the ‘corner loafer’ who had gone into the British-American for his usual half-hourly glass, and Police Magistrate Bartlet, who was out of town at the Presbyterian Assembly. The eyes of the
Three cheers for the Walkerville electric street car!
vast multitude were turned towards Walkerville, as if expecting the arrival of a load of products from that alcoholic town. A sad voiced busman shouted at intervals, “alla bo-o-ord for Walkertown,” but nobody heeded the call. More modern ways of reaching the classic precincts of Walkerville were at hand. By and by, around the bend of the road, there came bowling along an electric car at a lively rate. It looked like a streetcar gone crazy! There were no horses, no steam, no visible means of propulsion, yet the car was full. The passengers hoped to be in a similar condition when the grand free lunch was served, and at press time, their desires were in a fair way of accomplishment. The car came slowly through the dense crowd under wonderful control, and it stopped in front of the B-A Hotel, the present terminus. One of the old Sandwich Street cars, drawn by a couple of living skeletons, came madly from the west at headlong speed for which the Sandwich cars have been long noted. The old car, seeming exasperated at the sight of its new rival, jumped the track and made a dash of it. A crowd of peaceable citizens at once interfered and a fight was prevented. The old car will have to appear before Magistrate Bartlet, when he returns, charged with an unprovoked assault. It is expected that the Chief Justice, with his usual love for preserving order, will send the offending car back to Sandwich. The next innings found the local photographer at bat. The crowd took the statuesque positions, the car was ordered to keep still, fasten its eyes on the sign of “cigars” across the way, and wink as often as it pleased; this spasm safely over, the elect portion of the crowd boarded the car to take the first official trip to the upriver town. Only the Mayor, the Judge, the ex-Mayors, the Town Council, members of the Windsor Press and others of exceptional moral character were allowed on board – the car was packed full.
The eyes of the vast multitude were turned towards Walkerville, as if expecting the arrival of a load of products from that alcoholic town.
“Seems as if we were all members of the press,” said ex-Mayor Cameron, as he hung on by strap in front of Judge Horne, who had as natural secured a seat on the bench. As the car stood there, the citizens had a sight of three different stages of travel. Bradley’s antiquated bus, an old ark on wheels, stood at the centre of the road. This represented the last century. In the centre stood the Sandwich car, now considerably calmed down; it represented the present century, soon to close. On the north side stood the electric car, representing the next century. Van DePoele pulled a cord and the electric car started at a good pace with its heavy load. The motor is in the centre of the car; there stands the engineer with two cords hanging in front of him. Pulling one starts the car, pulling the other stops it. A lever situated at the motor makes the car run in either direction at will. The Walkerville House is situated at the highest peak of this portion of the Alps which overlooks Walkerville. The scenery is superb and awe-inspiring. The entrancingly beautiful track of the Grand Trunk passes in front and to the east rises in peaks and turrets of the imposing distillery, a triumph of modern architecture. The view is best seen through glasseswhich were provided. In the grand banqueting hall of the inn, the notable crowd assembled. Dr. Coventry, ex-mayor Cleary, Mayor McWhinney of Sandwich, Dr. Atkins. Mayor Beattie was called to the chair. The Mayor is a gentleman of diginified presence, has a Gladstonian face and English wide whiskers. He called on Mr. Van DePoele to explain how the car works. Mr. White, M.P., in a tense speech introduced Mr. Tringham, the promoter of the road, the man who introduced electricity and the telephone into Windsor. Tringham was greeted with an enthusiastic reception; he made a short speech. After that, the crowd came back to Windsor, the trip taking but ten minutes.” Bernie Drouillard is an expert on the history of Windsor & Essex County’s public transportation system.
14 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
for the holidays
The $5 Gift Al Roach
lem bought all his presents and had exactly two dollars left. He knew just what he was going to do with that money. He asked me if I wanted to go downtown with him on Christmas Eve and make a purchase. We decided to save the nickel bus fare each way and walk from Walkerville. It was a beautiful evening: clear, snow on the ground, temperature hovering around ten degrees Fahrenheit. Our shadows walked along with us, first behind, then overtaking us and extending out in front as we passed each yellowish street light. We reached the corner of Wyandotte and Ouellette where, in a field on the northeast corner, a sign proclaimed that a bank would be built there as a post-war project. We found the main street alive with joyful last-minute shoppers. We turned north and walked along the eastside of Ouellette toward the river. The wind was developing a bite and I adjusted the metal band over my brown fur earmuffs, drawing them closer to the sides of my head. My feet slipped on lumpy snow, hard-packed by hundreds of shoppers’ boots. “Where is this angel, anyway?” I asked. “At Bartlet, Macdonald and Gow.” “It would be!” Almost to Sandwich Street (Riverside Drive), I pulled my woolen jacket up tighter around my throat and leaned into the wind. We passed Meretsky and Gitlin Furniture, the Tea Garden Restaurant, John Webb Jewellers. We approached the Fleetway Tunnel exit. Across the street was Liddy and Taylor Men’s Wear, the store where Clem and I spent some of the dollars we earned, working Saturdays (for 40 cents per hour) at the A&P on Ottawa Street, to outfit ourselves for the return to school each fall. We were surprised to see the newsstand at the tunnel exit open so late in the evening. The headlines were always the same in those days: success and disasters for the Allied armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, but inside, the comics were still there. War or no war, Li’l Abrner was wrestling for a gun with the four-armed Mr. Armstrong, Brick Bradford was championing the weak against the strong, and Caps Stubbs remained the quintessence of boyhood. In that festive season, all the papers, including The Windsor Daily Star and The Detroit Times were carrying Clement C. Moore’s “The Night
Downtown Windsor: back in the days when a few bucks would go a long way
Before Christmas.” And, assuring eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon that, yes, there is a Santa Claus, as they had done every year since the editorial first appeared in the New York Sun in 1897. Light snow began to fall, powdering our hair and eyelashes, tickling our noses. “What are you going to do with this angel, anyway,” I asked. “Put it on the top of the tree, of course. It’s a beautiful white satin ornament with gold hair and all that. I’m going to put it up there tonight when everyone’s asleep - a kind of surprise for my mother. She’s been wanting one since the cat got the old one last year. Top of the tree looks bare without an angel.” We crossed Park Street, passing the Prince Edward Hotel. Through the revolving doors and down the steps came a live angel in a white satin evening gown; Persian lamb coat and dangling silver earrings. Escort in black coat with velvet collar and fringed white silk scarf. They tiptoed their way (she holding her gown up with one dainty hand) over the icy sidewalk and into the waiting checkered cab. There was to be a New Year’s Eve dance in the Prince Eddy ballroom. Matti Holli’s Orchestra. Three dollars per person. Clem and I would not be there. If we could scrape up the price of admission, we’d likely take our girlfriends ice skating at the arena “to the music of Ralph Ford at the electric organ.” Moments later we passed the Canada Building where Sid Tarleton and his St. Mary’s Church Boys’ Choir had made their annual appearance at 9 a.m. that day, leading the building’s tenants in singing Christmas carols. An old tradition. Across the street was the beautiful new building of Birks-Ellis-Ryri (successors to McCreery’s), and remembered the original McCreery’s
The $5 Gift
We’d seen him many times selling his magazines to the drunks coming out of The Ritz and B.A. Hotels at Ouellette and Sandwich Jewellery Store, located in the Prince Eddy. A stubby little Sandwich, Windsor and Amherstburg Railway Ford bus crunched by, throwing dirty snow on our trouser legs, the first buses purchased after the streetcars were junked in 1939. Ads in this day’s Star, signed by W.H. Furlong, K.C., chairman of the S.W. & A., and F. X. Chauvin, vice-chairman, thanked Windsorites for their patience. The buses were badly overloaded, what with wartime workers and Christmas shoppers vying for standing room in the aisles. Maybe they should have kept the old reliable streetcars. We passed Honey Dew Limited, which served the best orange drink in town, and looked across Ouellette at the sparkling windows of old established retailers such as Burton the Tailor, Esquire Men’s Shop and George W. Wilkinson Limited. (Four decades into the future, these locations will be occupied by One Plus One Ladies’ Wear, Jeanne Bruce Limited Jewellers and Chateau 333 respectively,) In front of the five-story Wilkinson’s store (“Wilkinson’s Shoes Wear like a Pig’s Nose”) stood a Salvation Army lass in her quaint bonnet with the big ribbon. Her little hand bell sounded some-
how shy, matching her sad eyes. An idea. “Why don’t you give your two dollars to the Sally Ann?” I suggested. “It’s Christmas Eve, you know.” “Bah! Humbug!” replied Clem in his best Dickens’ manner. “Charity begins at home.” At the Palace, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross was playing. Starring Frederic March, Claudette Colbert and Charles Laughton. Across London Street (University), past Stuart Stores for Men, the Singer Sewing Machine Store, C.R. Wickens and Son Tobacconist and Gift shop, across Chatham Street, Wright’s Butcher Shop, Grinnell’s Music Shop (piano’s, sheet music, radios, records”), John A. Jackson Limited Men’s Wear, the Star Restaurant, across Pitt Street, past the Canada Trust Company on the northeast corner. We passed the C.H. Smith Company store and saw a small boy standing in front of Bartlet’s, staring at something in the window. We recognized him; we’d seen him many times selling his magazines to the drunks coming out of The Ritz and B.A. Hotels at Ouellette and Sandwich. He must’ve lived over one of the run-down, three-storey brick building on Sandwich. Not exactly Willistead Crescent.
Shiny black hair. Big, staring brown eyes. He was looking at a black lace shawl with a $5 ticket on it. A lot of money in those days. Clem’s pace slackened, reduced to a crawl, and came to a stop. Silence. The boy turned as if to leave. “Nice shawl, kid,” said Clem. A pair of brown eyes looked at him innocently. A bit perplexed. “Uh huh.” A pause. “How much do you have?” Again the artless eyes stared at Clem, taking him in, registering no emotion. Another pause. “Three dollars.” Three dollars, I thought. Three dollars earned the hard way. Long hours after school on that pavement in front of the two hotels, just up the hill from the old Detroit, Windsor and Belle Isle Ferry Company dock. Long weeks, maybe months, of selling magazines at a profit of two cents per sale. Always thinking about the black lace shawl. This, I decided, is going to be interesting. I leaned back against a lamppost to watch closely. “Think of that,” I said. “He’s two dollars short. Now that’s quite a coincidence.” Clem gave me a why-don’t-youmind-your-own-damn-business look. Another pause. Clem looking at the boy. Boy looking back, wondering what was coming next. Me looking at Clem. Finally: “Look, kid, take this two bucks and go in and buy the shawl and don’t ask any questions.” A minute later we were looking into the store, watching the perfumed saleslady wrapping the
shawl in a Christmassy box. A pair of brown eyes watching her every move. Five-dollar bills scrunched up in a grubby hand resting on the sparkling glass counter. Another minute later and he was out of the store, dashing around the corner and heading west on Sandwich Street. He disappeared into a south side doorway near Fifth Brothers Tailor Shop and the Taylor Furniture Company. I thought a certain mother was going to be very happy on Christmas morning. We turned back down Ouellette Avenue. In silence. We stopped at the traffic light at Chatham. The snow was falling heavier now, coating the scene in fresh holiday white. I looked sideways at Clem. “I thought charity begins at home,” I grinned. “You can just shut up.” But I couldn’t get over the feeling that Clem would not need his satin angel. A far more substantial one would be shining down on him on Christmas morning. Al Roach, teacher, journalist & raconteur, published two books about life in Walkerville and the Border Cities entitled “All Our Memories I & II.” The WALKERVILLE TIMES published many of his stories, which can be read at walkervilletimes.com. Al passed away in the fall of 2004.
16 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
Hiram Gets Ferried Away
In their heyday in the 1920s, these little gray smoke-belchers ferried as many as 611,283 vehicles and 568,374 pedestrians in a single year.
by Elaine Weeks
anadian Club distiller and visionary Hiram Walker was more than likely this area’s first cross border commuter. For 21 years he journeyed from his home in Detroit, crossed the river on a Windsor-Detroit ferryboat, than rode to his business in Walkerville. This was often an arduous and time-consuming journey, especially as there was no streetcar service yet, and the road from Windsor to Walkerville hadn’t been paved with cedar blocks; in the spring it was often a sea of mud. Finally, in 1880, he’d had enough. As he always did when faced with a problem, Walker turned this dilemma into an opportunity. He leased the ferry Essex from one of the pioneer shipbuilders in the area, Henry Jenking, whose home and shipyard were located next to his distillery at the foot of present-day Montreuil Street and Riverside Drive. Then, Walker built docking facilities at his business and on his property at the foot of Walker Street in Detroit. That same year, Walker’s ferry was in business. Initially, the service was irregular as it was meant to provide passage for himself and his family only, but in time became a proper ferry service: “Walker and Sons Ferry”, later known as: “Walkerville and Detroit Ferry Company” (1888). For over sixty years, the service would transport people, wagons, horses, bicycles, freight and later, automobiles, back and forth across the Detroit River. Shipbuilder John Oades of Detroit built Walker’s second ferry, a 100’ long wooden boat name Ariel (interestingly, named for the spirit servant of the magician Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest) in 1882, and the Detroit dock
was moved from Walker Street to the foot of Joseph Campau. During the summer months, the ferry service was over a triangular course, from Detroit to Belle Isle to Walkerville, and this was continued for several years. A short time later, a third ferry, the Sappho, (after the ancient Greek poet who supposedly killed herself for the love of Phaon, a ferryman), replaced the Essex, but was later leased to the Detroit, Belle Isle and Windsor Ferry Co.
Ferry Essex at dock in Walkerville with HIram Walker sitting at right
With the rise of the auto, the Ariel was unable to adequately handle their passage so a larger vessel was necessary. In 1913, a steel ferryboat called The Essex II was launched with Mrs. Harrington Walker, (wife of Walker’s grandson Harrington, then president of Hiram Walker & Sons), performing the honours with a bottle of champagne. The design of Essex II was revolutionary for the Detroit River ferryboats: a centre cabin on the lower deck and an
Hiram Gets Ferried Away!
extra wide beam allowed automobiles to drive onto the vessel and continue around the deck in a circle, and could be driven off the boat going forward, not in reverse. This eliminated delays in unloading and reduced the number of accidents. The new ferry had a capacity of 30 autos and 600 passengers. The Essex was so successful it became the standard by which all future ferry steamers on the Detroit River were designed and built. The Ariel was taken out of service in 1923 to be replaced by the larger steamer Wayne the following spring. At 140’ long, she could carry over 40 cars. Her sister ship, the Halcyon, named for the legendary kingfisher whose presence could calm the mid-winter storms, was brought into service three years later, but her name did not ensure an uneventful passage free of ice. Nevertheless, what had been a half-hour passage at the turn of the century was reduced to about 15 minutes. The Walkers were proud of their ferry system. The boats were kept in excellent condition and the grounds around the docks were developed as Riverside Park, where Walkerville’s “beauty and chivalry” gathered for bowling on the green. There was an open pagoda next to it allowing the townspeople to sit and watch activity on the river. Hiram’s ferry company co-operated with the Windsor ferry company. For example, on Saturday evenings during the summer, the Walkerville ferry would run a special boat from the dock at the foot of Bates Street to its own dock in Walkerville, giving town residents direct transportation home from Detroit, as there were no streetcars running from Windsor to Walkerville at night. The auto industry played a huge role in the financial success of the Walkerville ferry. Before final assembly operations were established in Canada, completed vehicles were imported into the country from the U.S. via the Walkerville ferry. Loss of this business and a steady decrease in passengers due to the opening of the Ambassador Bridge in 1929, followed by the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel the following year, took a huge toll on the company. The Detroit and Windsor Ferry Company had already run its last ferry in 1938. Finally, on May 15, 1942, the Detroit and Walkerville Ferry Company ended service, not as
Ferry Ariel: note Walker’s boathouse and a tall ship in background
the public and customs agents assumed with the last boat of the day at 10 o’clock, but with the 6 p.m. boat instead. No official or formal announcement had been made. The company did not want a repeat of the pandemonium that had occurred when the Windsor-Detroit ferry service ended four years before and crowds had boarded the last boat to tear off souvenirs. I can only wonder if Hiram had been alive, would he have supported closing his ferry? I think not. INFLATION HITS FERRY SERVICE! In March, 1923, th e Walkerville ferry service raised its rates: • • • • •
Foot Passenger – 6 strip tickets for 25¢ One-seat runabout or coupe and drive r 25¢ Ford touring cars, fiv e passengers and dr iver 25¢ Heavy or long whee lbase, under 5 passe ngers and driver 30¢ Touring, over five pa ssengers and drive r 35¢
Sources and further reading: The Ferry Steamers – The Story of the Detroit-Windsor Ferry Boats, William Oxford, A Boston Mills Press Book, © 1992 Walkerville’s Last Passenger Ferry, by Al Roach, 1988; walkervilletimes.com/lastferry
18 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
a new book from walkerville publishing
A Forgotten City 5
Images of Windsor
1940 – 1980
5 Walkerville Publishing’s fifth book on Windsor’s remarkable history, A Forgotten City, features 400 pages of rare black & white photographs, largely from 1940 to 1980, bound in a luscious collector’s edition hard cover coffee table book. Now known as “the baby boomer years”— the post WWII era was a period of unprecedented economic growth and ironically, a time when the wrecking ball really began its dirty work. Perusing these 480 photos, anyone alive in those halcyon days may catch a glimpse of the ghosts of their youth, strolling along the busy streets, riding in midtwentieth century Motor City sedans, or hanging out at the corner soda fountain. Others too young to remember might sense they are examining a series of wondrous movie sets and will possibly wonder, “Was this really Windsor?” Yes, forgetting was apparently too easy. We hope this book will help you remember.
$50 by Chris Edwards edited by Elaine Weeks purchase locations: walkerville.com 519-255-9527 cover photo (right-inset): Howard at Glengarry & Aylmer, once known as the Horseshoe Lauzon Stop House, Lauzon & Wyandotte, 1958
tte & Cam
Ouellette & University, 1952
Ottawa Street at Pierre, 1958
Old Sandwich Town, 1962
20 ~ the walkerville times â€˘ Issue 59 â€˘ 2013 edition
Baby Boomer Book Strikes a Chord With Windsorites!
hen Chris Edwards and Elaine Weeks released 500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor in 2012, the couple weren’t quite sure what to expect. Chris had spent a mini sabbatical in Bali, Indonesia, where he assembled pages, images and text for the book, then returned to Walkerville to fine-tune the final design. A promotional video produced by the duo and posted on YouTube soon went viral and was viewed by more than 25,000 people. Demand ramped up even before the book arrived from the printer; by Christmas the book was completely sold out and had achieved Canadian bestseller status. Not quite satisfied with the first edition, and mindful of feedback from readers, the couple spent another six months refining the book in between work on their latest project, A Forgotten City. The 2nd edition of 500 Ways was released in June, 2103, and features more than 60 new photos and numerous edits. For those who may have missed the first edition, this book is a wonderful trip down memory lane. If you are a baby boomer born during or after World War II (or are the child or parent of one) who grew up in Windsor, then 500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor is about – and for you. Think Bob-lo Island, the Elmwood Casino, Skyway DriveIn, retail icons such as Kresge’s, Adelman’s, Smith’s, Woolco), eateries such as the Hi Ho & Dairy Queen, lost movie houses including the Palace, the Centre, the Park, CKLW-TV (Robin Seymour, Bill Kennedy, Romper Room), the Big 8, Detroit City –Rock and Roll Capital of the World – and that’s just for starters! Filled with more than 680 images between World War II and the 21st century, this book is the perfect gift for Windsorites wanting to connect to their past, and newcomers hoping to learn more about one of the most interesting cities in Canada.
If you remember thes e things, then you know you’re from Windsor.
You caught a major act, such as Sammy Davis Jr., at the Elmwo You shopped or worke od Casino. d at Smith’s, Adelman’ s, Kresges, Woolwort Metropolitan, Bartlett’s h’s, , Sentry, Woolco and Kmart. A night downtown fea tured entertainment at The Top Hat, ribs at dessert at The Chick TBQs, en Court, or a movie at the Palace or Capito You know the lyrics to l Theatre. the commercial “Faygo Remembers” or “You’r the Right Track to Nin e on e Mile at Mack.” You pronounce the str eet Pierre as “Peerie ,” Hotel Dieu as “Hotel Bois Blanc as “Bob-l Doo,” o” and “Héberts” as “Ab ars.” A trip to Boblo Island was like finding heaven on earth. You toured the Art Ga llery of Windsor – in Wi llis tead Manor. You went to a high sch ool dance that featur ed Bob Seger, Mitch Alice Cooper... live. Ryder or You worked on a sch ool project at the dow ntown Carnegie Librar You danced on “Swing y. ing Time” hosted by Ro bin Seymour. You parked at the Hi Ho Drive-In and chomp ed on a Grumpy Burge You went to the midnig r. ht movies at Skyway Drive-In on Labour Da weekend. y You bought your pop at the “Pop Shoppe.” You rollerskated at Riv erside Arena to “Build Me Up, Buttercup.” You remember when St. Mary’s Academy wa s blown up- real good! You fired rifles during class at high school. You remember the Pri nce Edward and Norto n-Palmer Hotels when were the tallest buildin they gs in town. You saw the Montrose lying on her side und er the Ambassador Bri You ordered pizza fro dge. m The Volcano, Milano s or Italia, and bragge how great “Made in Wi d about ndsor” pizza is. The local drugstores were Lanspeary’s and Big V. You hung out at the Riv iera, the Sandhill, the Drop In, the Canada the Embassy, the Cra Tavern, zy Horse Saloon, the Fleming House, the CA JPs, Kozaks, the Ottaw N-USA, a, the Erie, the Arling ton, the Coronation, Plu the Radio, Studebake nketts, rs, the DH, the Bridge House, The Drake Ho The St. Clair, etc... use, You visited Hudson’s “North Pole” at Christ mas. Your parents/grandpa rents swam in the rive r at Ford Bathing Beach You know Mr. Belveder . e, Sir Graves Ghastly and the Ghoul.
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22 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
Boys in Brown Dresses Elaine Weeks
ave you ever wondered why little boys — back in the day — wore dresses? I had but never thought to find out why until I re-discovered a 19th century photo from our archives of two Walkerville brothers, Len and Frank Chilver. Their descendant, Charles Chilver, was responsible for developing Chilver Road in Olde Walkerville at the turn of the 19th century. If George White, who I believe was Charles’ grandson, hadn’t identified them for me, I would have been certain I was looking at a couple of little girls. A quick Google search revealed the reason for their cute dresses: they were “unbreeched”. Breeching was the momentous occasion when a small boy was first dressed in breeches (aka britches) or trousers and was once a major rite of passage for boys. From the mid-16th century until the late 19th or early 20th century, young boys in the Western world wore gowns or dresses just like their sisters, with perhaps only small clues like sashes to distinguish them, until they were about two, but sometimes as old as eight. There are various reasons why boys wore dresses. First: it was more practical. It was a lot easier to care for young child who was not yet toilet trained if they wore a dress. Second: the care of young children was considered to be the almost exclusive concern of the mother who generally felt dresses were more attractive for little boys than trousers. Third: Dresses were also easier to make and had room for growth, in an age when clothes were much more expensive than now for all classes. Fourth: It is common practice in human society to distinguish boys from young men, often by clothing or, in primitive societies, by body adornment. Breeching was looked forward to with much excitement, and often marked the point at which the father became more involved with the raising of a boy. Originally, the time for breeching related to when a boy could easily undo the rather complicated fastenings of many Early Modern breeches and trousers.
As well, the “age of reason”, when children attain the use of reason and begin to have moral responsibility, is presumably at the completion of the seventh year, and breeching corresponded roughly with that age for much of the period. For working-class children, it may well have marked the start of a working life. (The 17th century French cleric and memoirist François Timoléon de Choisy was dressed in girl’s clothes until he was eighteen. Born after his mother’s fortieth birthday, he was kept close by her side and dressed in feminine clothing at her behest. At the age of twenty-two, he ran away to Bordeaux where he performed and lived as an actress. See the web link next page to read more about his fascinating life.) By the late 19th century some dresses were made specifically for boys, and these were usually plainer then those for girls. Boys did not, however, always get these “boy dresses”. Many dresses were designated as “children’s styles” for both boys and girls. Some mothers did not like these plainer styles and purchased the more elaborate girls’ styles for their sons. Other boys inherited the hand-me-down dresses of their older sisters. In the late 18th century, new philosophies of child rearing led to clothes thought especially suitable for children. Toddlers wore washable
Boys in Brown Dresses
Boys were not being dressed as girls. In fact, dresses were considered to be children’s wear, not specifically girls’ wear. dresses called ‘frocks’ of linen or cotton. British and American boys over three years began to wear short pantaloons and short jackets; for very young boys the “skeleton suit”, consisting of trousers and tight-fitting jacket, (similar to the romper suit of the early 20th century) was introduced. These were the first real alternatives to dresses. But dresses for boys did not disappear entirely and again became common from the 1820s when they were worn at about knee-length, – sometimes with visible pantaloons as underwear – a style also worn by little girls. The first progression, for both boys and girls, was when they were short-coated — taken out of the long dresses that came well below the feet, which were worn by babies, and have survived as the modern Christening robe. It was not possible to walk in these, which no doubt dictated the timing of the change. Toddlers’ gowns often featured leading strings — narrow straps of fabric or ribbon attached at the shoulder and held by an adult while the child was learning to walk. At the next stage, from the mid-19th century, boys usually progressed into shorts at breeching — again these are more accommodating to growth, and were more affordable. In England and some other countries, many school uniforms still mandate shorts for boys until about nine or ten. The jackets of boys after breeching lacked adult tails, and this may have influenced the adult tail-less styles which developed, initially for casual wear of various sorts, like the smoking jacket and sports jacket. After WWI, the wearing of boy’s dresses seems finally to have died out, except for babies. In the 19th century, photographs were often taken of the boy in his new trousers, typically with his father. The boy might also collect small gifts of money by going round the neighbourhood showing off his new clothes. Friends of the mother, as much as the boy, would gather to see his first appearance. Perhaps as childhood became sentimentalized, it was harder to tell the clothing apart between the sexes; the hair was the best
Believe it or not, here sits Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, at 2 1/2 years of age (1884). In those days, Franklin’s garb was considered gender-neutral.
guide, but some mothers were evidently unable to resist keeping this long too. By this time, the age of breeching was falling closer to two or three, where it would remain. Boys usually had shorter hair, often cut in a straight fringe, while girl’s hair was always long, or plaited. When were pink and blue for differentiating the genders introduced? Post WWI. But, surprise! Pink was for boys and blue was for girls. How did the switch occur? You can thank Madison Avenue. Sources and further reading Historical Boys Clothing, Breeching Boys http://histclo.com/style/skirted/ Dress/breech.html The Middle Ground: Abbe Francois Timoleon de Choisy, thisnik. com/2009/12/01/the-middle-ground-abbe-francois-timoleon-de-choisy/ Why Nobody Cared When FDR Wore a Dress http://www.ashleyperez. com/blog/item/122-why-nobody-cared-when-fdr-wore-a-dress
24 ~ the walkerville times â€˘ Issue 59 â€˘ 2013 edition
Rearview Mirror from the archives & friends of Walkerville Publishing (Many of these photos are featured in our history books at right. Visit walkerville.com for retail locations.)
Wyandotte & Devonshire, looking west, 1910
Sandwich (Riverside) & Devonshire, looking east,1908
Wyandotte near Windermere, looking east,1950
BOOM TOWN! Walkerville, 1885 - sketched from a hot air balloon, Walker Road is at left - courtesy Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd.
A mill stood on site of Hiram Walker & Sons
Adelman’s Dept. Store, 1949 note mannequin
Pitt Street facing west, 1956
Traffic Officer at Detroit-Windsor Tunnel
Robin Seymour, host of CKLW’s Swingin’ Time
U.S. Side of Detroit/Windsor Tunnel, 1950s
S.S. Columbia en route to Bob-Lo Island
Ad for locally built Chrysler “Windsor”
Building The Bridge - Spindling Cables - 1928
Univ. of Windsor, Wyandotte & Sunset, 1970s
Spills, Chills, Thrills- Hot Rod in 1950s
Richmond Block, Ouellette & Riverside, 1990s
Handsome Waiter Serving Tray
A Poopy Swim in the Detroit River, 1930s
Elmwood Casino Dancers
26 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
lost & found
42nd street, Times Square, NYC, Alec Montroy
Remembering Alec Montroy
S When I pass away this art is left. If you can leave a painting, it will help somebody. Alec Montroy, August, 2005
ome people (i.e., my husband) would call me a packrat. I prefer “saver.” By no means do I go overboard like those poor unfortunates on the reality show “Hoarding”, but I do tuck certain things away if I think they can be of future use. Having parents who were products of the Great Depression might have something to do with this habit. Six years ago we put together what we expected would be the very last issue of The Walkerville Times. But what to do with the letters and articles, which hadn’t made it into any of the 58 issues we had produced? Not to mention the letters and materials that kept coming in? I created a file prophetically labeled, “Future Times.” Then, as it does, time went by. Perhaps it was the 462nd person who asked when we were going to do another issue that motivated us for in the summer of 2013, we decided to resurrect The Walkerville Times, if only for one issue. Sorting through my handy “Future Times” file, one particular envelope caught my eye; a hand drawn cartoon of a boy in an Essex Scottish uniform graced the lower left corner. Inside was a letter from an Alec Montroy, replying to a note I had sent him at least eight or nine years ago. I’ll admit, I had forgotten all about the letter and who Alec was.
Remembering Alec Montroy
As I read, then re-read the letter, I felt a range of emotions, In 1939, Alec crossed the Detroit River and joined the Esprimarily regret. Here is the gist of it: sex Scottish Regiment in Windsor. He served over six years. He was a German war prisoner for three and after being libMy dear Ms. Weeks, I take my pen in hand to thank you for your letter. (I do not erated, acted as an interpreter for the British Military Govuse e-mail.)…I believe I explained the idea of reclaiming, in ernment in Celle, near Hanover, at the concentration camp any form, the Windsor that is lost forever: the old hotels (and the Bergen Belsen until its destruction in July of 1945. Back in civilian life he began to learn and practice comdrinking hotels) the riverside train yards, the old car barns, etc. mercial art in all its forms. He did short stints at Michigan and etc. However, the last of the men whose idea this was has passed on and I am a lonely underling with no overseer. So much State College and Wayne University, where he also taught a course on watercolors. Alec was a figurative painter who for a fine idea. I am glad you liked my card. I enclose others of the same ilk. worked in the European style of Pointillism. He loved art and The view of Times Square is from my window – in the evening the life and especially New York City, and lived for many years view was a fairyland of twinkling lights – in the daylight – yecch! at the Chelsea Hotel famous for its many artists in residence. In 1965, Alec was appointed Art Director at Lawrence I will never return to Windsor I’m afraid, but if you or yours ever drop in our neighborhood I would be delighted to greet you. I worked for nearly 40 years on Broadway – making posters and a host of ads of all sorts for Broadway shows and performers – also of all sorts – always fun – always new and always interesting – the result: I have a houseful of paintings of our Rialto – a few I gave away but most are dear to my heart and I never sold – just hogged them – so come on over and we’ll share a touch of what’s warming! Most sincerely, Alec Montroy The envelope contained only his letter. What had I done with the cards? A thorough search of my files uncovered them. Then, I turned to Google for further clues as to who Alec Montroy was and what made him tick. He was born September 23rd, 1918, of French and Native American parentage, in Detroit, Michigan. His father was half Cree and half French, which is where the name Montroy comes from. His mother’s reserve was in Canada. “She was able to board me out to a Welsh family who proceeded to raise me as one more American child. She had been able to get out of the reservation by sheer luck. She was very pretty and someone said, ‘You could be a dancer.’ She didn’t know how to dance. In those days there wasn’t much to it. So someone taught her how to dance enough that she got a job in the chorus line. While working in the chorus line you travel, when you travel you learn. And you get away from people. You break the string. The little silver cord.”
Lobby, Chelses Hotel, Alec Montroy
Weiner Associates, a Broadway advertising agency. He stayed at the firm for 26 years until it closed. His office overlooked 42nd Street and Times Square and in his later years he began to paint what he saw, particularly the theatre district (his Rialto) and the Chelsea Hotel, where he lived among fellow artists for many years. “My first wife died and my two kids were off to school. I was left rattling around in a house. So the Chelsea Hotel had a name for artists and quite a history. It had very good little kitchenettes.
28 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
So I got in there. … I have a painting of the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel … during the days when they had ashtrays in the lobby. I lived there about 20 years before Anna and I moved to Queens. There were many good people there and many a story.” Alec Montroy retired to Rego Park in Queens and passed away December 4th 2006, survived by his wife Anna and a son and daughter from a previous marriage: Elaine and Alec Jr. How I wish I had replied to his letter. The usual excuses: work, kids, etc., seem so trivial now. If given one more chance, here is what I would write: Dear Alec, Thank you for your last letter and your beautiful greeting cards. Your paintings are fantastic. I know you would be happy to learn that my husband and business partner, Chris Edwards, and I agreed with your “fine idea” and have done our best to “reclaim in any form, the Windsor that is lost forever.” I would be delighted to meet you. We are coming to New York soon and would love to drop by and share “a touch of what’s warming.” We’ll be bringing a complimentary copy of “A Forgotten City.” Until then, Elaine Weeks Sources and Further Reading An Interview with Alec Montroy, Pena Bonita, AMERINDA: American Indian Artists Inc., amerinda.org/newsletter/8-4/bonita.htm Yesterday’s New York: Paintings by Alec Montroy, alecmontroypaintings.com
Two New Exhibits at Windsor’s Community Museum
Mooove Over: The Folk Art of George June
Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions 1. Be happy & healthy 2. Laugh more 3. Find meaning, passion & purpose 4. Improve relationships 5. Quiet the mind 6. Set healthy boundaries work/home 7. Live in peace 8. Improve sleep 9. Love myself 10. Get in shape from the inside out To help you “Stick” to your resolutions, contact: Gisèle Harrison, MSW, RSW, RYT Individual/couple/LGBT counselling 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Couples Intensive Weekends EMDR, EFT for trauma Retreats & Yoga 101 Clinical supervision Services disponible en français
email@example.com www.giseleharrison.com Extended health plans accepted (check with your provider)
on-going to April, 2014
Auld Lang Syne: Remembering Windsor/Scottish Heritage on-going to August, 2014
254 Pitt Street West • 519-253-1812 Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10-5 www.windsormuseum.ca
30 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
How Did They Play in Those Outfits? Elaine Weeks
ooking more like they’re wearing dance clothes instead of basketball uniforms, eight members of Windsor Collegiate Institute’s 1905 girls’ basketball team pose jauntily on the school’s front steps. WCI, later known as Patterson Collegiate, was located on Goyeau Avenue in downtown Windsor (now a grocery store parking lot). The only identified team member is Florence Northwood (opposite page, bottom row at left). Coaches and teachers, including Norah Cleary, appear on the top step. Norah was the daughter of noted Windsor lawyer Francis Cleary who left funds for the city to build a civic auditorium: Cleary Auditorium, now St. Clair College’s downtown campus. Basketball was likely the first chance for girls to participate in an active sport requiring some exertion. The game was developed in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith, who taught physical education at the YMCA Training College in Massachusetts, to help keep his young male students in shape between the football and baseball seasons. It was taken up almost immediately by girls in a nearby school and soon spread to women’s colleges and YWCAs throughout the U.S. Miss Cleary, who taught French and Physical Culture to her female students, introduced basketball to them after sending away for a ball and rulebook advertised by the Spalding sporting goods company. As there were no other local teams, her girls traveled to Detroit to play. Women’s sport has certainly come a long way since those early days; and Windsor’s female basketball legacy is stronger than ever. The University of Windsor’s Lancer Women’s Basketball Team, coached by Chantal Vallée, won their third consecutive CIS (Canadian Inter-University Sports) women’s
In the 1900s basketball was the most popular sport for local high school girls and likely their first chance to participate in an active sport requiring some exertion.
national basketball championship in 2013. While the hot, uncomfortable dresses are long gone, gaining the right to play sports of their choosing has not been a slam-dunk for women over the last 110 years. Believe it or not, women were excluded from the Olympics in track and field competition until 1928; the longest race that year was the 800 meters. Despite a world record by the winner, many of the competitors were not properly prepared and several collapsed in exhaustion leading Olympic organizers to consider the race too strenuous for women; the president of the IOC even suggested the elimination of all women’s competition from the Games. Fortunately, such a drastic move was avoided, but it wasn’t until 1960 (!) when races over 200 meters in length were again contested by women in the Olympics. The 1988 Olympics saw local athlete, Dr. Andrea Conlon Steen, participate in the first year women were ‘allowed’ to compete in the 400-meter hurdles. But the struggle for equitable status for women in sport went on. Female ski jumpers had to go to court to win the right to compete in the Olympics as they had been forbidden from participating in every single Winter Games; 2014 will be the first time we’ll see female Olympians soar off the jumps. At the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, canoeing will be a new event but females were shut out of competition until a global outcry prompted organizers to include them. Strange as it seems, over a century after Norah Cleary pioneered the sport of basketball in this region, women continue to face many obstacles in their bid to achieve equity in sport.
Norah Cleary’s basketball may have resembled this vintage stitched leather example.
Windsor Collegiate institute Girls Basketball Team, 1905. Teacher and coach Norah Cleary (top right) introduced the game of basketball to this region in 1899.
TWO LOCAL SPORTS GROUPS ELEVATE THEIR GAME
Leadership Advancement For Women and Sport
Recognizing the need to support females of all ages in their quest to participate and/or pursue career opportunities in sports and fitness, University of Windsor Professor Marge Holman helped found “Leadership Advancement for Women and Sport – LAWS”. To learn more about this organization and how you can help visit their website l-a-w-s.org, or find them on Facebook.
Norah Cleary was inducted into the Windsor-Essex Sports Hall of Fame (WECSHOF) in 2005 in the “Founder” category. This non-profit organization was established in 1981 to preserve the historical sports heritage in Windsor and Essex County by identifying the sports achievements of persons connected with this region. In December, 2013, the 195 Sports Hall of Fame in-
ductees will be recognized in a permanent display at the Windsor Aquatic Complex in downtown Windsor. The WECSHOF Board of Directors invites more women to sit on its board and is making a concerted effort to increase the number of female sports inductees. For more details, or to nominate a local female sports figure, visit wecshof.org.
32 ~ the walkerville times • Issue 59 • 2013 edition
The Walker House Lois Smith Larkin
Men played checkers and cards in the Men’s Beverage Room and in the bar. Ladies met in the Ladies’ Lounge and if they were escorted, they could enter the dining room with the gentlemen. World War II brought many changes in management. Hours of operation were limited; food and alcoholic beverages were rationed. The general look of the hotel changed: couches and carpets were removed from the Lady’s Lounge. Ladies, that is, liberated women, also began to go into the dining room without escorts. (But that’s another story.)
My father, John Ronald Smith, Grand Mason (b.1907-1985)
s a child, I lived at 309 McDougall Street on the corner of Albert Street (above - later London Street, then University Avenue). My home was known as the Walker House, but I was unaware of its social, political or economical place in history. The welcome mat has not always been fully extended to people of colour, (a phrase my father and people of his generation preferred, if he had to be described as other than Canadian). That limited welcome mat was not totally a bad thing. It made us, as a people, aware of our own ability to create and generate our own welcome mats. Our community had its own doctors, ministers, shopkeepers, journalists, musicians, barbers and hoteliers. And so it was that my great Uncle George Smith and my grandfather, John Alexander Smith, purchased the Walker House before the turn of the twentieth century. Two brothers, Mr. Edward Walker and his older brother, Henry, were the sellers and they most likely founded the first, but not the only hotel, owned by black men in Windsor. After the death of his brother George, John A. managed the Walker House until his death in 1940 when George, his eldest son, took the helm. Young George was not the businessman his forbears were so when he enlisted in the Canadian Army at the onset of the war, his brother John Ronald (my father) took responsibility of management intermittently between 1934 and 1939. In 1942 he moved his family to Windsor permanently. The hotel provided clean, adequate lodging for travelers who otherwise might have had to sleep in a less hospitable environment. A good meal was available in the dining room. It was, in general, a social meeting place.
Great Uncle George Smith, second from left, with patrons (c. 1920s)
In 1963, the Walker House, then owned by my father—the last owner of the hotel, was expropriated by the City of Windsor and became a part of Windsor’s history. The site is now the parking lot for Windsor City Hall. On January 13, 2001, my family dedicated a tombstone in Drummond Hill Cemetery on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls, Ontario, to my great, great grandparents. He was an escaped slave from Harford County Maryland and she was an indentured servant from Campbelltown Scotland. Imagine the foresight and courage this man had traveling the Underground Railway, it was reported, with “a woman, small in stature who carried a rifle” in order to have his offspring born free. It made possible the existence of the Walker House and other enterprises initiated by my great grandfather, my grandfather and my father. What a heritage!
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Wyandotte & Lincoln, 1962
Ottawa Street, 1960
After a six year hiatus, The Walkerville Times returns with a new issue focused on one the last functioning 19th century company towns in No...
Published on Nov 25, 2013
After a six year hiatus, The Walkerville Times returns with a new issue focused on one the last functioning 19th century company towns in No...