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The  Working Class In Winter
Bonnie Durtnall
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The Working Class In Winter

Tobogganing And Sleighing

 

Guelph has several hills. These include the ones down which Eramosa Road and Gordon Street run. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, children and adults took to sleighing or tobogganing. As with curling and skating, the upper echelons formed groups. Guelph had its own formal association – the Snowshoe and Toboggan Club.

The Snowshoe and Toboggan Club

As was common to many groups at this time, the Snowshoe and Toboggan Club dressed appropriately, wearing ties and outfits in red, white and blue. On January 27, 1886, they opened their slide on Gordon Street. This run was natural and ran 400 yards in length. Fifty lights made it visible to slide down.

Like other groups then and now, they held special events. On March 23, 1886, the Snowshoe and Toboggan Club hosted a formal get together with entertainment by Professor Valliance and Mr. Whitehead – who sang Annie Laurie “that beautiful Scottish ballad.”  In 1887, the 23 Snowshoers of the group met with a “delegation from Australia at the Royal Hotel before tramping a trail around the town. The event was reported at some length in the Mercury. It had this to say after the club arrived at the Boat Club landing:

 On arriving at the hut a good fire was started, the kettle was set a boiling, after which a programme of stories, songs, speeches, etc, was gone through. Everyone had something to do … A very pleasant two hours was spent, when a start was made for town… [on the way back, the Sergeant-Major] “gave a few points in fence jumping, the chief feature of which was showing how to stand on one’s head, and several other acrobatic feats.

The Club also held several winter picnics. They even put together and presented a “Tableaux: in front of City Hall illustrating “Sports in Canada.”

Kids, Streets, Sidewalks and Sleighs

As for the working class children - they found great pleasure in sledding down the hills of Guelph. Unfortunately, the hills they seemed to prefer were those already occupied by streets and sidewalks. The most dangerous at the time in common use was Cork Street, although the hill that makes up Eramosa is deliciously scary for sledding. Dublin Street also featured prominently in news about kids and sleds.

Various reports in the papers of the 1880s and 1890s cited examples of near misses and accidents between vehicles and sleighs. From 1879 to 1893, local paper recorded several examples of complaints about children “coasting” on and “monopolizing” sidewalks. At the corner of Gordon and Fountain House, a boy coasting knocked down a man. The paper stated he was “badly bruised.”

More dangerous was the interaction between sleighs, cutters and other vehicles and children. Two boys got hurt on February 1, 1888 when they ran into a cutter. Later that month, an accident occurred between a bob sleigh and Kenny’s Milk Truck.  Although many children did sleigh without causing any problems, others did not. Several seemed to be tampering with the new electric lighting on these streets. The situation was serious enough in February 1888 for the authorities to state that a number of young sleighers “would be invited to an “At Home” of the Police Magistrate if they did not leave the street lamps alone. 

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Sole Work: Guelph Boot And Shoe Manufacturers: Part 1

Originally, the making of boots and shoes was a craft requiring great skill and training. Like blacksmiths shoemakers had to go through an apprentice system. Shoemakers cut and stitched the leather - usually obtained from a tannery,  in their shops often their homes or an attached small shed/shop. A basic wooden form, called a last, helped to mould the shoe or boot into the proper shape.

Everyone in town would have known where to find a shoe or boot maker. In 1851, a directory lists around 8 boot/shoe makers in Guelph. In 1867, the number had grown to at least 24. This number of independent boot and shoemakers was to shrink as technology reduced the need for their skills.

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Sole Work: Guelph Boot And Shoe Manufacturers: Part 2

Originally, the making of boots and shoes was a craft requiring great skill and training. Like blacksmiths shoemakers had to go through an apprentice system. Shoemakers cut and stitched the leather - usually obtained from a tannery,  in their shops often their homes or an attached small shed/shop. A basic wooden form, called a last, helped to mould the shoe or boot into the proper shape.

Everyone in town would have known where to find a shoe or boot maker. In 1851, a directory lists around 8 boot/shoe makers in Guelph. In 1867, the number had grown to at least 24. This number of independent boot and shoemakers was to shrink as technology reduced the need for their skills.

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Federal Wire And Cable: Wiring the World: Part I

In 1919, Live Wire, a branch of an American company, moved into the basement of a building on Metcalfe (Huron) Street at that point housing Partridge Rubber. The founder, John Godfrey Smith, hired 6 employees to begin with. Their product was insulated wires and cables.

Here, they were to remain growing their product base and slowly increasing the number of employees. By 1926, they had doubled their staff. A year later, with John Kennedy as company president, they had changed their name. Live Wire was now to be known as Federal Wire and Cable . 

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Federal Wire and Cable: Wiring the World Part II

In 1919, Live Wire, a branch of an American company, moved into the basement of a building on Metcalfe Street at that point housing Partridge Rubber. The founder, John Godfrey Smith, hired 6 employees to begin with. Their product was insulated wires and cables.

Here, they were to remain growing their product base and slowly increasing the number of employees. After several years, they relocated to Dublin street north, renting the space from Guelph Carriage Top. By 1926, they had doubled their staff. A year later, with John Kennedy as company president, they had changed their name. Live Wire was now to be known as Federal Wire and Cable -although the name did not legally change until October 21, 1929.

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Brewing Beer In Guelph: Early Breweries

Beer and ale were important to early and even later settlers. Many innkeepers produced it on site – small batches of a select brew they could sell in their hotels/inns. Later, brewers produced product to be consumed and sold to local businesses, including taverns and hotels. These were often small cottage industries.

Guelph had several breweries. The most celebrated of these were Sleeman’s and Holiday’s.  However, these two well-known companies were not the first or the only breweries producing beer and liquor to slake the thirst of Guelphites. Before their arrival, four men and their breweries played prominent roles in providing beer and ale for locals. Two: Hodgert and Harland, were also responsible for giving Guelph's future brewers both the skills they required and/or the facilities they needed to make their own brewing ventures successful ones.

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Making a Clean Sweep: Guelph's Broom Making Industry

Brooms were an essential tool for Guelph’s housewives. Shopkeepers, hotel operators and other service and retail personnel also needed them to sweep floors, the sidewalks in front of their shops and for general cleaning purposes. Unless they could afford to import them from elsewhere, Guelphites purchased and used locally-made brooms.  From its founding in 1827, Guelph provided employment for several small shops during the 1800s. Most were small cottage industries. Like boot and shoe makers, those who worked in this trade tended to work out of their homes.

In the same fashion as many crafts and trades, technology was to negatively impact these small operations. Indeed, the arrival of broom factories was to reduce the need for many of the independent shops. Later, with improved transportation and shipping, the favour was returned as local broom factories succumbed to cheaper imported brooms.

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Making Furniture In Guelph: The Burr Brothers

In 1872, Burr and Skinner operated a furniture factory in a newly constructed 2-storey building on the north side of Oxford. With a workforce of between They manufactured a variety of furniture including bed frames. The business did well, expanding in size b in 1880, 1882 and 1886. 

The company mainly relied on an Ontario market but produced fine furniture that found buyers from Halifax to Vancouver. Burr Brothers Furniture Company remained active until 1901. It was then bought by a conglomerate - Canadian Furniture Manufacturing, Ltd. They remained in Guelph until 1911 when they closed the factory.

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Burrow Brothers Royal Carpet

The Royal Carpet Factory operated in Guelph in a few locations starting off with 15 employees in a shop at the corner of Gordon and Essex Streets. At least two Burrows were involved at this time: Alvin and Harry. The company relocated later that year to part of Allan’s Mill. However, the factory location best remembered was at the corner of Norfolk and Paisley where Market Fresh currently stands.

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