Howard McNeely, Carleton Place Auctioneer

“Will somebody make it twenty?”

Howard McNeely has been seeking bids for 40 years

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

Forty years ago a large broad axe fetched a quarter.  Today, if it’s really old it could command a lofty $60.  The crowds were smaller back then, and Howard McNeely, the newest auctioneer in the valley knew just about everyone by his first name.  But times have changed since that day almost 40 years ago when Howard thought he could do what he had been watching other auctioneers do for years.  He thought…..”there’s nothing to this.  All I have to do is stand up on the platform or the back of a truck and ask for bids.”  Well, it turned out not to be quite that simple.

A young Howard McNeely had been following the local auctions for years.  He never paid too much attention to the “stuff” being sold, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the auctioneer.  He was fascinated with the fast talking, the rapport with the crowd, and the obvious delight when a bid was over.

Actually, Howard had had plenty of experience on the stage by the time he first tried his hand at auctioneering, so he wasn’t walking into the job cold.  For years he had an orchestra that toured the Ottawa Valley, and he was well acquainted with standing up before people.  He is probably one of the few people who had an orchestra but never mastered a musical instrument.  But that didn’t stop him from enjoying the toe tapping valley music everyone loved.  He really had two orchestras.  One was a rag tag group who got together for the sheer love of valley music.  It included Ab Duncan, Stewart Comba, Les Neild.  When he wanted to fancy things up a bit he added Jack Peckett and Les’ daughter Elsie on the piano.  Howie kept up a steady patter between songs and dances and found it pretty easy to entertain the crowd, so that the first time he took to the platform at an auction sale, he wasn’t even nervous.  “I had been so used to being in front of people, that I never gave it a thought.  And besides, in those days you knew everyone…everyone!” he said.

Not so today.  Even if the faces of the collectors and dealers are familiar, Howard often doesn’t get to meet them personally.  For that reason, and because the crowds are so much bigger now, Howard finally had to go to a number system like the big auctioneers in the city.  The crowd didn’t like it when he first introduced numbers about 15 years ago, but as he said, times had changed.

Howard’s first sale was on Park Avenue, “just across the fence from where I was born and raised”, and Burnett Montgomery was the auctioneer who set out to show Howard the ropes.  Burnett had been auctioneering for a long time, and the partnership was to last for 30 years.  “All that time we never had a disagreement.  It was a great relationship.  We got along well, and I learned a lot from Burnett” he admits.

The biggest sale Howard ever held was when he sold the Mississippi Hotel by public auction.  All the furnishings went too, and then the big stone heritage building was put on the block.  Howard lives by the adage that discretion is the better part of valor, and insists he cannot honestly remember what the landmark building sold for.

One of the longest running auctions was on a farm on the old Ashton road that took three days to complete.  “It was loaded with antiques, and the dealers were there from all over.  The prices held up for the full three days too” he remembers.

There are items today that couldn’t be given away 40 years ago.  Old milk cans command a good price now, and Gingerbread clocks which sold for $10 in the 50’s would be considered a good buy today if you paid a mere $100.

Although he won’t say from which sale it sold, Howard recently got the bidding up to $6,800 on an old corner cupboard.  “Forty years ago, you’d consider it a pretty good sale if you got that for a whole house full of furniture.”

Over the years Howard has always tried to keep a good sense of humor.  Early in the game he learned if one person in the crowd was entering into the spirit of the sale by bantering back and forth with the auctioneer, you capitalized on that.  Just last week one woman seemed to be in perfect sync with Howard.  They both ended up cracking jokes throughout the entire sale much to the delight of the crowd.

In the early years Howard has sometimes inadvertently sold the same item twice.  It can happen.  Two different helpers will hand Howard the same item after it has been sold….but as a rule the crowd is astute, and there is always someone there to holler, “Hey, McNeely, you’ve already sold that once today.”

Howard remembers an incident from years ago that still makes him chuckle today.  “It was a large sale, with two or three people in on it.  Someone handed me up a baby carriage.  It was in pretty good condition too.  It was one of those old fashioned jobs.  You don’t see them around anymore.  Anyway, I asked for a bid and got one right away.  The bidding went pretty high too.  And it sold to someone.  Then this woman came to me in an awful sweat.  It seems she brought her baby to the sale in the carriage, and was just off looking at something else when I sold it.  Everyone thought it was very funny, because I had to get the carriage back.  The people who bought it were just loading it into their car.  I was a bit embarrassed, but those things happen.”

Right from the day Howard started auctioneering 40 years ago, he has always been on the lookout for stealers.  He remembers one sale where two women were busy loading their shopping bags with small things at a sale.  “But unknown to them Herb Cornell, the Chief of Police was watching them.  It was his day off, and of course they didn’t know he was a policeman.  When he showed his badge they put everything back in a hurry.”

At another sale many years ago, he was aware of a big jackknife that was in the auction.  “It was a beauty..very old, and huge, with a handmade wooden handle.  During the sale I remembered it and asked my helper to hand me the jackknife.  Well, it was gone.  It vanished in a couple of seconds.  That’s all i

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Robert Reynolds Powell, Carleton Place Grocer circa 1920

We Remember Poppa:  Robert Reynolds Powell, Grocer

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

Just before  the turn of the century, a young Valley man earned his living by working in the grocery section of the old Bryson-Graham Department store on the corner of Sparks and O’Connor Street in Ottawa.  He probably missed his home town, because around 1901, Robert Reynolds Powell came back to Carleton Place to clerk in Tom Steven’s store which was situated where the laundry portion of Carleton Place Cleaners is today.  This was where his family and friends and fiancé Elsie Lever lived, and it was good to be home, doing what he liked to do best:  serving the public.

Robert was a devoted employee of Mr. Stevens for 19 years, and then without warning, his boss sold the store without giving young Powell a chance to even make a bid for the business.  It was a cruel blow for an honest young man who had devoted so much of his life to his employer.

There weren’t too many options opened to a young man in Carleton Place in those days, but Robert Powell decided it was now or never.  If he didn’t’ open his own store then, he probably never would.  And so the first of two Powell Grocery locations opened.  He chose the Leslie Building, which now houses the Karate School next to Comba’s furniture store.

It was obvious that many of his customers from his Steven’s days like the young Powell, because his store flourished, and they moved their business to Powell’s Grocery without hesitation.  By this time, Robert was married and the father of four children.  Gladys Lashley, a daughter, remembers that her father bought some stock from an Almonte store when he first opened his doors.  “It was whale meat.  We have no idea why he would stock that, but I remember these cans of whale meat” she recalls. 

The store was right across the street from Central School (the site of the present Post Office), and the young Powell children were expected to go to the store at recesses and noon hours to wait on customers.  Many of them were school mates who came in to spend their money on penny candy, Fern remembers.  The grocery business in the 20s was not like it is today.  Few people had cars, fewer had phones.  So Robert and his young son Bert would go through the town early in the morning to pick up orders from the houses.  They would scurry back to the store to fill the orders, and then Bert would deliver them…free of charge, of course.

Just dropping the groceries off at the back door would be simple enough, but Bert occasionally was asked by the customers to perform other services as well.  Services much above and beyond the call of duty.  He remembers one time being asked by a young bride to step inside and tell her if the cream in the pitcher was sour.  A job the young man remembers with disdain.

Very few items came in packages back in the 20s.  Everything had to be weighed and measured in the store.  Sugar and flour sat in huge bins under the counter, and was weighed out in brown paper bags to meet the customer’s demand.  Molasses came in bulk containers and poured into jars which the customer brought in.  Coal-oil for the lamps was sold in the same fashion.  Dry goods like flour and sugar were weighed out on the old tin scoop scales that sat at one end of the counter.  Christie’s biscuits came in big square tins and sat together in a cluster on a special rack.  Olive Powell remembers her favorite.  “They were pineapple cookies.  Made in the exact shape of a pineapple.  I thought they were delicious.”

Most supplies came in by train and were then delivered by the express wagon from the station.  Every so often, a fruit truck came up from Ottawa to deliver fresh produce.  A hand grinder prepared fresh ground coffee, and bread arrived from Ottawa in huge hampers.  Boxes of berries also arrived by train in season from Western Ontario.  Bananas hung in huge bunches in the front window to attest to the fact that at Powell’s Grocery the customer could get fresh produce daily.

Those bananas caused a bit of concern one day when a huge tarantula spider escaped from a hanging bunch in the front of the store.  “An employee finally caught it in a big open mouthed jar and it was the full bottom of the jar.  It was taken to high school for the science class”, Fern recalls.  Before it made its final trip, it was put on display in the store window, where it attracted much attention from the local people walking past the store.

It was an era when a businessman was honest and gave full value to the customer for his dollar.  Robert Powell believed in honest service, and would not sell as much as a banana if it had a bruise on it.  “Those went home for the family.  We got all the produce which wasn’t up to scratch, or if a box was damaged, it ended up at our house too.”

Mrs. Powell helped augment the store’s profit by doing home baking.  Pies and cakes baked in the Sarah street kitchen of the Powell home ended up in the Bridge street store.  Cakes sold for 30 cents, and pies for a quarter. 

The store was closed on Wednesday afternoons.  That gave the staff a break and Robert time to fill shelves and do the countless other jobs necessary to keep the business running smoothly.  However, Saturday evenings often saw the workers at the store until after 11 o’clock.  Because the farmers would come in early to place their orders, and then go off for a few hours, while the grocery clerks worked frantically to fill the orders before the farmers came back at closing time.

The merchants got along well with each other.  If someone couldn’t fill an order, he could borrow it, or buy it at a discount from his competitor.  And there was a law of ethics amongst the businessmen too.  One time Robert was asked to stock ice cream.  But his friend and neighbour Mr. Keayes sold ice cream and candy just a few doors down.  He knew ice cream would do well in his grocery store, but he wouldn’t put it in, because it would hurt Mr. Keayes business.

Malago grapes were a great treat in those days.  Fern recalls her father one time was asked to measure out a bunch of grapes for a particular customer.  The customer doubted they weighed as much as Robert said they did.  However, after a bit of debate, she decided she’d buy them anyway.  “Not my grapes, madam” Mr. Powell retorted.  “She had questioned his integrity” Fern said.  And that was a cruel blow to Robert, and he put the grapes right back on display.

Robert Powell never took holidays, but often in the summertime, he would take off early on a Saturday and go up to the ball park to watch the local team play.  He had three main interests in life:  his business, his family, and the Methodist Church, which he attended regularly and for which he was a lay preacher.  Every Monday morning, the minister, Donald Munro, would walk down to the store, and the two men would discuss Sunday’s sermon.

The depression hit almost every household in Carleton Place, just as it did all over the country.  Many customers had to be carried on Robert’s books during this bad time.  Some were often unable to pay their grocery bill, explaining that unfortunately they first had to pay their rent, or the installments on the new washing machine, and there just wasn’t enough left to pay Powell’s Grocery.  But Robert continued to carry these receivables, aware that if he didn’t, little children would probably go hungry.

The Powell children remember many happenings while their father was in business, which bring a smile and a chuckle at family gatherings:

Mrs. Mel MacRae delivering fresh eggs to the store, the bride who ordered a pound of pepper (Robert explained he doubted she needed a full pound), Keith Nolan who ordered a loaf of butter, and the customer who wanted straw pillows (shredded wheat), the young girl who would rush into the store and blurt out “Ma wants a pound of butter, a loaf, and ‘thebillofit’”, running the last four words all together.

During the 30s, Robert Powell moved his store up the street to where the “Eating Place” is now located.  Gordon Lancaster was one of his most dedicated and valued employees.  Buddy Bennett was the conscientious delivery boy, who saw that the orders got to the customers in perfect condition.  Dave Bradley, who stood over 6’ tall, was called “Stepladder” because he could just about reach anything in the store on the upper shelves.  He was with the store for years.  Old Nell was the horse that was used to deliver the orders.  She was housed behind the Powell home on Sarah street, and produced three foals for the children to play with.  Robert Powell loved Old Nell, and treated her as a member of the family.

In 1941, after more than a half century in the grocery business, Robert Powell decided to call it quits.  He sold the business to his long time employee and good friend Gordon Lancaster, whom he knew would carry on in the honorable fashion which had become a tradition.

Within a few years, Robert Reynolds Powell was dead.  He died under circumstances which would have pleased him greatly had he had anything to do with the event.  At the close of Sunday Service at Memorial Park United Church one Sunday, Robert collapsed.  All his family except his son Bert was there when he died.  Upstairs, the choir was singing one of his favorite hymns…”Oh, Master, let me walk with Thee.”

James E. Bennett – Early Carleton Place Butcher

James E. Bennett: Early Carleton Place Butcher

By Mary Cook

The Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

James E. Bennett had no way of knowing that the small butcher shop he opened in the late 1800’s would see four generations of Bennett’s in the business before the final chapter closed on one of the best known butcher shops in the Ottawa Valley.

Old photographs show a wiry, golden haired man of moderate stature.  He was born in Ferguson’s Falls in 1860, and came to Carleton Place as a child of 9, supposedly to take over his father’s blacksmith shop when he was old enough.  The shop was located in the empty lot between the Valleytown apartments and the first stone house going west on High Street, which is now a private parking lot.

But young James had no intention of becoming a blacksmith.  In an era when it was expected a son would follow in his father’s footsteps, young Bennett went off to be a herdsman for a well known businessman G. Arthur Burgess.

Around 1884, James E. Bennett decided being in business for himself would offer much more reward than looking after someone else’s cattle.  And so the first Bennett’s Meat Market opened its doors.  The store was located where Goofy’s Ice Cream parlor now stands.  The spot was considered a prime location.  Here some of the main businesses of the day were neighbors and a steady stream of people passed the shop each day.

He hired Charlie Devlin to help out and the two of them did all the work…and it was all done by hand in those days.  One side of the shop held a large plank anchored just down from the ceiling.  Huge meat hooks held beef quarters, where the lady of the house could come, look over the selection and make her choice.  Hand saws prepared the meat, because electricity was yet to come to Carleton Place.

A two wheel cart, hauled by horse, carried a box with a lid on the back, and a step for the driver; from the cart, deliveries were made all over town.

James E. Bennett soon outgrew the small shop next to the bridge.  An  opportunity came up to move across and down the street, and the young businessman jumped at the chance.  He took his three sons, Harry, Gordon and Austin, “Onnie” into the business with him.  It was a location that was to see almost 70 years of continuous business by the next two generations of Bennett’s.

The store was a massive stone structure (unchanged today) that stood on the corner of Bridge and Bell Street.  It was distinguished by a huge tea pot that hung from the corner of the store between the first and second storeys.  The pot advertised Salada Tea, and one day in the 20’s when the town was celebrating Old Home Week, Ted and Jack Voyce climbed a ladder and painted the massive tea pot red commemorating the event.  No one knows where the tea pot is today.

In the very early days, before Bennett’s built their first abattoir, the shop had to close down in the afternoons so that the butchers could travel the countryside buying their meat.  They would arrive at the farms, strike a deal, slaughter what they had bought, and head back to town.  The first abattoir was on the 7th line of Ramsay near the old lead mines, and almost back to back with the Anglican Cemetery.

 In the winter time, the store also closed in the afternoon, but then it was time to haul ice from the Mississippi River.  The shop had an ice box, and two ice houses held the year’s supply.  Each day, ice had to be hauled into the shop to fill the ice box.  The Bennett’s didn’t have that problem in the winter.  The butcher shop was so cold the meat froze overnight, and stayed frozen all day.

All the Bennett’s, right from that first James E. who started the business in the 1800’s possessed a wonderful sense of humor.  James’ grandson Bill, remembers a woman coming into the store for a quarter’s worth of cooked ham.  It was a blistering hot day.  Bill’s grandfather James looked her square in the eye and said, “Hell, lady I wouldn’t open the fridge door for a quarter on a day like this.”  Apparently, the ice would melt as quick as you would look at it, and Bill says if his father was going to open the ice box door, it was going to be worth his while.

James E. Bennett built three houses in the Flora Street area.  One of them is occupied by his grandson Bill and his wife Lois.  Behind the house were stables where up to five horses were housed.  They were used as delivery horses for the meat market, and they knew the routes as well as the men who drove them.  One old horse, the story goes was so familiar with the routine of the business that when Findlay’s Foundry whistle blew at 12 noon, the horse headed for Flora Street with or without the driver.  “You better be on that cart when the whistle went, or the horse went home without you”, was the saying of the day.  In the morning a delivery man went door to door picking up order for meat.  There were no telephones, and this was the way the business ran.  The lady ordered from the delivery man, he rushed back to the store, filled the order and rushed back out to deliver it so she could cook it for the noon meal.

Ledgers of the day reflected the simple way of life and how business was carried on.  Some entries carried only the first name of the customer, or it might simply state the last name and beside it how much was owed.  It could read “Bells…12 cents”.  The amounts were small, and when the account was paid, there was no receipt given.  A simple pencil line through the entry showed the debt was cleared.

There was co-operation between the shops too.  Sometimes a ‘debtor’ would leave a shop in a huff…invariably it was over a bill.  Bill says, “someone would rush over to the other butcher shops and say Mrs. So and So left us and she owes .40 cents.

Well, he’d send the message back…’she won’t get a cent of credit from us until she pays the .40 cents.’  That’s how business was done in those days.”

As stated in a previous story, much business was carried on in a reciprocal manner.  Bennett’s had agreements with at least two other merchants in town.  Cameron’s blacksmith kept their horse shod, and Bennetts supplied their meat.

Once a month a tally was made to settle the difference.  The same system worked with Nichols Mill.  The mill supplied all the lumber Bennett’s needed, and the meat market filled the Nichols meat needs.  Once a year, the two businesses would have a reckoning.  The tallies were usually just a few dollars apart.  They’d say, just forget it.

Wipe the slate clean and let’s start over again, Bill Says.  After James died, his three sons took over the business.  By the time the second world war broke out, Onnie was on his own as everyone who worked for him joined up, leaving no staff to run the store.  Young Bill was taken out of school in Grade 11.  He was to remain working alongside his father for more than 40 years. 

Bill remembers the store he did chores in when he was just a little boy, long before he knew he would eventually be taken into the business.  “There were meat counters all along the back.  The floors were covered with sawdust.  Barrels of pickles, herring and sauerkraut lined the walls, and we built a little booth for Dorothy Malloch.  She was our cashier, and when you got your meat from the counter you took up a little slip of paper and paid Dorothy.  Later Isobel Wylie and Ruth Ferguson joined the staff.  A big stove sat in the centre of the floor, and boy did it got cold at night.  And in the daytime, when the fire died down, we’d throw in a roll of wrapping paper if we ran out of wood.  It was cheaper than wood, too.  It didn’t give off much heat, but it kept burning all day long.”

The first electricity the store had was purchased from Art Burgess who built a small power plant east of the present Medical Centre on Lake Avenue.  Burgess sold power to several industries and businesses before the town was hooked up to outside power.  For the first time Bennett’s were to have electric refrigerators.  It was perhaps the biggest improvement ever seen in the business.

As a young boy Bill always had a pony to the envy of all his friends.  “But Dad had an ulterior motive in buying me a pony and cart.  It was his way of initiating me into the business at an early age, because while everyone else was out playing, I was expected to use the pony and cart to deliver meat,” he says.

The business grew during the war.  But the workload of looking after the rationing books was enormous.  That job had to be done when the store was closed and the place was quiet.  There was never enough butter and bacon to go around, and it was a “first come, first served system.”

Prices went up during the 40’s.  They were a far cry from what they were in the early days of James E. Bennett, according to early ledgers.  Two pounds of beef sold for .14 cents; two and a half pounds of steak for .23 cents, and pork chops and sausages for .12 cents a pound.

As the seventies came to a close, the Bennett’s Meat Market was approaching almost 100 years of continuous operation.  Onnie was ready to call it quits.  And so was Bill.  The business was sold in 1978 ending an era unmatched by any other retail business in the town’s history.

James E. Bennett had established a reputation for honesty and service early in the game.  It was carried on for three generations.  The businessman left his mark politically as well.  Like almost every other merchant he took his turn in municipal politics, holding the office of mayor from 1904-06.  He set a pattern for what he expected the business to be…a service industry that met the needs of the town honestly.  He probably expected his sons, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to carry on as long as they were able to do so, and in the same fashion.  Had he lived, he would not have been disappointed.  Today, the old stone building still serves as a meat market, as Danny Joly continues to meet the same high standards set by that original butcher more than 100 years ago.  James E. Bennett would be pleased.

The Lime Kiln

The Lime Kiln…99 years of history

By Mary Cook

Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

 

The Ottawa Valley, and particularly Lanark County was fast gaining a reputation in the lime industry just before the turn of this century.  An enterprising local industrialist, Napoleon Lavalee (after whom Napoleon Street was named) capitalized on that reputation and built what was to be a long lasting, Carleton Place industry.  When the end product was realized, lime was carted off to help build some of the most prestigious buildings in the Nation’s Capital.

Napoleon Lavalee built the first kiln on the very site of the present one in the mid-1800s.  It was a crude affair, but served the purpose well.  Many years later the new owner Bill Cameron updated the equipment, and laid the foundation for what was to become a major contributor to the lime industry in Eastern Ontario.

The stack kiln Bill Cameron built was more efficient than the “pits” put in by Napoleon Lavalee.  They rose high in the air, looking like big chimneys.  New buildings were added to smooth out the operation, and for many years…going into the 20s, Bill Cameron was able to offer steady employment to a clatch of hard working employees.  Then the 30s rolled in with all their ramifications.  There wasn’t an industry untouched by the depression.  There was no exception.  But Bill Cameron was a very unusual man.  He felt for his employees, most of them trying to support big families on meager wages.  To lay them off would have been devastating.

Margaret Lesway Henderson was just a little girl when her family moved next door to the lime kiln on Napoleon Street.  She remembers very clearly those depression years.  And she especially remembers how Bill Cameron did everything in his power to keep his men working.  The lime business had slowed to a crawl.  So the men were sent to the bush lots to cut cedar.  Cord after cord of cedar was hauled into the yard.  Bill Cameron must have wondered if he would ever use it all, when, and if the lime business ever picked up again.  “I was just a young girl, but I can remember so well those huge piles of cedar.  And every day the workers would haul in more.  Mr. Cameron stock piled the wood just to keep his men employed, because the alternative was to lay them off, and that would have meant terrible hardships for many of the town’s families,” Margaret recalls.

George Briscoe of Beckwith Township was Bill Cameron’s shanty man.  Through good management, the business held on all through the 30s.  With the 40s came a new interest in the lime business, and prosperity.  In 1944, Bill Cameron was ready to call it quits and he sold the Lime Kiln to another enterprising young businessman, Stuart Neilson.

The Napoleon Street business saw its greatest changes after Stuart Neilson took it over.  He moved it from a piece meal operation to an efficient, more scientifically run business.  It became a 24 hour pursuit.  It was moved from a rather primitive procedure to a sophisticated performance that saw many changes and innovations in the Napoleon Street business.

The procedure had to basically remain the same, but Mr. Neilson made vast improvements.  He changed the shape and the functions of the kilns and was able to produce twice as much lime as the old time kiln.

However, many of the jobs leading up to the burning didn’t change or changed only marginally.  Trucks replaced the horse-drawn wagons for hauling the limestone into town from the 4th and 5th concessions of Ramsay.  Shirley Sheinfield can still see in her mind’s eye those trucks lumbering up past her house on Napoleon Street, and the familiar sounds relative to the procedure of burning lime.  “You heard this steady ‘bang’ all the time.  That was when the big pieces of limestone would be dropped into the kiln.  It was like thunder, and it was constant,” she says.  She also remembers a horse by the name of Queenie.  The horse was used to power the winch which hauled the limestone up to the top of the kiln.  “Queenie was kept in a field across the road.  Of course, there were no houses there then…just an open field.  And I can still hear the man who drove the horse yelling ‘giddyup Queenie’.  I guess those are sounds you never forget, because they were so constant”, Shirley said.

John Neilson, Stuart’s son, remembers the horse powered winch very well.  He was just a young boy when his father put him to work.  “My job was to drive the horse to operate the winch.  It was a simple operation.  The lime was broken into big chunks in the quarry, then transported into town on the trucks.  This breaking process was done by hand with big mallets.  Then the pieces were loaded into big steel boxes.  The horse was driven in continuous circle to wind up the cable which hauled boxes to the top of the kiln.  Then the boxes of lime were tilted at the top by a tripper, and the limestone fell down into the kiln for burning.  But it was my job to keep that horse going”, John remembers. He also remembers his father as being a hard task master.  There were no privileges just because he was the owner’s son.  “He demanded when I did a job, that it had to be done right, or I would have to do it all over again”, he recalls.

Margaret Henderson remembers the yards as a great place for adventure.  There were many things to interest a young child back in the 30s.  Piles of stone were everywhere, and the robins and ground sparrows used to build their nests in the piles.  “We used o position ourselves in front of the piles and watch the birds in their nests.  We would even see the eggs hatch out.  I remember the horse too.  I’m not sure if it was Queenie, because the horse I remember never had a driver.  It just knew and would slow down or stop altogether, and then the man on the top of the kiln would let a roar out of him, and the horse would start up again.  I can remember that.  We used to think that was very funny.  Our biggest joy was at Christmas time.  Those sleighs filled with limestone would go up the street, and we kids would run and jump on the back of them and get a ride.  We loved that.  We weren’t allowed to go back where the lime was being ‘drawn off’.  That was considered a very dangerous place for a child.  But I remember one time two young lads were back there where they weren’t supposed to be.  Well, one dared the other to jump in the ashes which had been taken out of the bottom of the kiln.  You’d never know they were hot to look at them.  The young lad jumped in and he was very seriously burned.  He spent months in the hospital, I know.  We were never allowed back there, and I don’t know how those got there, but they did”, Margaret reflects.

She also remembers that the Lime Kiln had the only well on the street.  “We were all allowed to use it.  Everyone who lived on that part of Napoleon Street would go up to the Lime Kiln with their pails and bring the water home.  It was years later when water was finally put up the street and we didn’t have to haul it from the lime kiln any longer.”

John Neilson remembers when the business ran 11 months of the year and employed up to 15 men.  “Dad kept it going 24 hours a day.  We fired with slab wood, and it took a lot to keep it going, but it was a big business right up to about the mid-60s, and hauling in limestone was stopped altogether in the early 1970s”, he said.

By the time this account of the lime kiln is read by Canadian subscribers, most of the antique equipment will have gone on the auction block.  A sale today (Wednesday) will all but eliminate the workings of the Lime Kiln.  Old machinery, an antique truck, bits and pieces of history of one of the town’s long time industries will have gone to the highest bidder.

But for people like Shirley Sheinfield and Margaret Henderson, memories of that site will be with them always.  Last week Margaret took a walk past the lime kiln, up the street she called home for many years. “So many……..flashed that part of the old drive shed where Mr. Cameron kept a beautiful old buggy.  It was very fancy.  It had lights on it, and a lot of brass.  We kids used to pry open the little window closed to our house, and we’d crawl in and sit in that buggy and pretend we were somebody really important.  I can remember those weigh scales and the sounds of those trucks rolling over them.  I remember the day a team of horses ran away, and how if I hadn’t stepped back, they would have run right over me.  Last week I saw those piles of ashes.  We kids would get huge cardboard boxes and climb to the top of the ash pile and slide ….was having as much fun as we were having.  It will be hard to see that landmark gone.”

But that’s exactly what is going to happen to whatever remains after the auction sale today.  John Neilson said the last fragments of the yard will eventually be cleared away.  When the final board is hauled away, all that will remain will be memories.  Lime is still being manufactured.  But the process is much different.  The calcining remains the same, but large rotary lime kilns have replaced the primitive stacks.

It will take a long time to clean up the final remnants of the business Napoleon Lavalee started almost 100 years ago, but the memories of the site will remain with many for years to come.