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By BOB McCARTHY
In the Sarnia Canadian Observer of July 18, 1925, there was an article headlined
“dapper young villagers of 1875 didn’t wear balloon trousers and they didn’t have any eight lunged gas contraptions.”
The following dialogue is based on information from that article.
Dapper Young Villager
“Grandpa, what was it like around here in Point Edward when you were my age?”
“Well young man, I am 50 years older than you are, so if we go back to 1875, I must have been about 18. I grew up in the same home that I live in nowadays here on Michigan Avenue in Point Edward. Just as it is now, Michigan was the main street then too. But there were no sidewalks or brilliant hydro-illumination like we have now.
“Cows wandered freely up and down the streets of the village. Sailing vessels by the dozens docked at the Point with cargoes from every port on the Great Lakes. Why, they carried everything from hairpins to horseshoe nails.
“If we were to go back in time this last 50 years, you would notice first of all a number of changes in raiment among young men in those days.
“When I was your age, we did not wear those newfangled balloon trousers you got on, that red bow tie and those crossword puzzle socks, nor did we take our lady fair out riding in a balloon tired four-lunger over the smooth village roads that are the pride of the Board of Works nowadays.
“No lad, when I was 18, we would hitch up the best horse in the barn, if father wasn’t using him, and bump over the corduroy road to the home of our lady love. In many cases that home was still surrounded by primeval forest. The father in the house then was in complete charge of the household. Nowadays dad seems to only get to take the car out if the boys are not going to be using it.
“Michigan Avenue was the Main Street then and the majority of the homes in the village were built along this road. There were no sidewalks to guide our steps as we walked with our lovers and no streetlights to illuminate the sly kisses we would steal now and then.
“But often the reflected rays of the moon would find their way through the trees and unwary lovers would provide enough gossip to keep the neighbourhood busy for several days telling about what they saw or thought they saw.
“Nowadays, you have all the village boys under observation all the time because the streets are so well lighted.
“The village policeman was unknown then, although there were enough hotels to keep the employees of a fair sized brewery busy and the local stores dispensed liquor to their well-known customers.
“Used to be, back in those bygone days, when one strolled across the village street, he was in no danger of being run over by a fast speeding motor car. Even the cows could amble hither and yon, absolutely carefree unless, that is, they started to eat the neighbour’s carrots.
“The riverfront used to be such a busy place. The Grand Trunk Railway station and the ferry docks were situated there. Sailing ships landed here from every port on the Great Lakes, unloading cargoes for transhipment by rail. The riverfront then was a place of beauty because the Grand Trunk took very great pride in the appearance of the station, considered then to be one of the very best on the system. Now that one-time place of beauty has long since been covered by weeds.
“Boys like me, youngsters back in 1875, who have now ascended the long steps through the years since now see the four large whirlies of the Steel Company Of Canada, which delve into the bowels of monster Great Lakes freighters, each one of which could carry the cargo of a dozen of the sailing ships I remember so fondly from the eighteen seventies. The valuable ore is to be used in the manufacture of everything from hair pins to shop nails.
“Now we can see huge blocks of stone from Indiana and from Kingston brought by ship to the local plant of the Central Canada Stone Company where they will come out as pieces suitable for building beautiful memorials and public buildings.
“Down Sarnia way, we can see the smoke belching out of the Holmes Foundry, where the workman takes crude blocks of steel and shapes them into four cylinder engine blocks, which we will view next when we open up the hood of a new auto just to see what ails her.
“Over on the lake shore, the Sarnia Cement Products pulls the sands that we used to play on when we were kids into their plant to make into blocks, bricks, tiles and all kinds of concrete work.
“Farther up the shore where the mighty Huron rushes to meet the St.Clair, stands the link with the outside world, the Marconi station. Turn on a switch, tap a few keys and you can talk to the ships of the Great Lakes or any of your friends on this continent or even across the sea.
“People like me, who are able to withstand the ravages of time and might still be here 50 years hence in 1975, might be able to drive a flivver over pavements on every street of the city, and if we feel so inclined, we might even be able to just press a button and our flivver will still start to fly for by 1975, motoring will be a tame sport where one will be able to fly above the clouds of smoke belching forth from all the factories hereabouts.
“But now, lad, I am just looking into the crystal ball of the future. Perhaps, it won’t really be that bad.”
With a roll of his eyes, the grand-son replied “Thanks for telling me what it was like in the olden times, grandpa. Now, Millie and me and the rest of the gang are off for the day. I got dad’s REO and we are driving out to Petrolia.”
“Be careful boy. Stay out of the flats and don’t you have no flats.”
HISTORICAL NOTES from the author:
The sub-headline for the article from which this story has been created read
Michigan Avenue was Point Edwards’ main street in the 70s and there were no sidewalks or brilliant hydro-illumination – Cows ambled freely in the village and the neighbors carrots were their objective – sailing vessels docked at the “Point” however from every port on the Great Lakes with cargoes from hairpins to horseshoe nails.