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.

Billy Moore: Boy Scout Pioneer

From The Carleton Place Canadian, 1987

By Mary Cook

It was 89 years ago that a young British immigrant to Carleton Place by the name of Billy Moore began what is now believed to be the second Scout troop in Canada.  The first was formed in Merrickville two years before.  But for Billy Moore, scouting was the best thing that could happen to the young boys of his adopted town of Carleton Place, and he wasn’t long in gathering together a group of boys and marching them over to the Anglican Church to prevail upon Canon Elliott for sponsorship.

 

Billy Moore had fought alongside Baden-Powell in the Boer War in Africa in 1899, and he was so impressed with the British Colonel and his values that when Baden-Powell started the world Scout movement, Billy wanted to be in on the gournd floor.  Billy’s friendships at the time of the Boer War include that of another young Britain, Winston Churchill.

 

Some of the very first member’s included Billy’s own son, Percy,  who was to later lose his life in the first world war.  Other charter scouts included Dawson Emerson, Cecil Bryce, Jimmy Prendergast and Skinny McGuire.

 

The first headquarters were in space loaned to Billy by the Bates and Innes Mills.  It was an old warehouse on Bridge Street, but it served the purpose well.

 

It was here that the movement went on to produce the four youngest King’s Scouts in Canada.  They were all under 13 years of age at the time.  These four young boys were Howard Foote, Jimmy Misner, Walter McIlquaham, and Gibson Craig.  Tests were much harder in those days than they are today.  King’s Scouts had to win five badges which was no easy feat.

 

Max Gladish has fond memories of his early scouting days under the guidance of Billy Moore.  “I remember it cost us five cents a week to belong.  My grandparents lived just around the corner from the Moore’s who at that time lived on Lake Avenue East.  My grandfather, George Turner paid for my first uniform in fact.  They were great friends of the Moores.”

 

Those early scouts remember the camping outings to McCreary’s Shore on the Mississippi as being a wonderful time of fun and learning experiences.  Max was the camp bugler, so he was the first out of bed in the morning.  Everyone slept in tents and Alice Moore, Billy’s widow, remembers taking a few Carleton Place boys into her tent in the middle of the night because they were homesick.  “One young man who will remain nameless because he is a grown man still living here used to cry for home every night.  Nothing would console him.  Eventually, we’d have to bring him in our tent and bed him down beside Bill and me.  This went on for the entire duration of the scout camp,” she laughingly remembers.

 

Billy Moore had a wonderful sense of humor, with just the right ring of discipline in his voice.  He could laugh at little mishaps and setbacks, but he was adamant about protocol in the movement.  Everything had to be done to the letter.  There was no such thing as ‘almost right’.  It was either right or it was wrong!

 

Eventually the scouts moved their headquarters to the Sample Rooms of the Mississippi Hotel.  This is where the countless travelling salesmen set up shop to show their wares to the valley merchants.  But room was made for the scout meetings, and they continued to meet here for many years, compliments of the McIlquham family, owners of the hotel.

 

Sometime before that period however, Tom Graham who was in the scout movement for a few years in the troops earlier days remembers meeting in a building next door to where Knowlton’s Grocery Store used to be….across from the present Maple Leaf Dairy.  He guesses that would be around 1914.  “Billy Moore was awfully good at what he did.  Sometimes though, he had relax the rules.  Some of us couldn’t afford the full uniforms, so we were allowed to go to the meetings with just a tie, or that little scull cap, or we never could have belonged.”

 

It appears that the Scouts moved around a bit with their meeting place.  Probably because most of the locations were obtained rent-free.  At one time some of the original members recall the meetings being held in the Orange Hall as well.

 

Max Gladish remembers how solemn the initiation services were.  Billy Moore demanded and got a high level of decorum.  “It was a bit awesome, but we really felt it was something special to belong to the scouts, and it all came together at initiations.  I can remember all the candles.  I don’t remember too much about the ceremony itself, but I do remember kneeling and the candles, and how Billy would move about initiating us, and stressing the importance of discipline, and being true to the Scouting movement.  He had a great sense of pride and he expected us too to be proud of being scouts.”

 

By 1937, scouting was well established in Carleton Place.  It had been organized for 27 years, and dozens of young boys had joined and gone on to high standing in the movement.  Billy Moore continued to be the leading figure, and he worked at broadening the horizons of scouting on the local level.

 

That was the year a young Max Gladish was one of the scouts who would be trying for his Royal Life Saving Society medal.  Billy Moore was determined that his boys would have a good run at it. “We were taken to the Chateau Laurier for the tests.  I’ll never forget the thrill of swimming in that big indoor pool.  If we were going to be trying for that medal Billy Moore wanted to be sure we had the best possible facilities.”  They passed with flying colours.

 

In the late ‘30s, there used to be a vacant lot on the corner of Albert and Beckwith Streets, across from the present Rebekah Lodge building.  Later Ed Beaton was to build the brick bungalow that is there now.  Billy Moore thought it would be nice if the scouts learned a bit about building.  So he got permission to build a log structure on the site, and he put his troops to work on its construction.  Bill oversaw the building, and the Scouts were understandably proud of the finished headquarters.  It stood on the site for many years.

 

Cliff Bennett, for many years a leader in the local Scout movement, has fond memories of his mentor.  “We all respected Billy Moore.  I recall a Regional Camporee, which was a competition camp for local patrols held at Hopetown.  Billy was the guest of honor, even though by that time he was in his ‘90s and that was in the ‘60s.  He was keenly interested in everything to do with scouting, although his active involvement had passed.  But he always kept up on the troops and I can remember going down to his house at the end of Allen Street next door to the curling club, where he lived out his last years.  Those visits were just like campfire days.  He would talk for hours about early scouting days, and his dreams for scouting in the future.  And he’d talk about the Boer War and his friendship with the scouting founder, Baden-Powell.  It was like being in another time frame.  I cherish those memories of those visits very much,” Cliff says.

 

Baden-Powell once gave Billy a flag.  He was very proud of it, and kept it for many years.  And then as he was less and less able to take an active part in the local scouting movement, he wanted someone who appreciated the history of Carleton Place’s troops to have the flag.  “He gave me the flag.  I was so moved.  But I knew the flag really belonged to the whole Canadian Scouting movement, and so I presented it to the Scout Museum in Canada,” Cliff says.

 

Many years ago, a trophy was made out of a bit of twisted wood.  It was nothing spectacular…just a piece of wood form the Ottawa Valley.  It became the Billy Moore Trophy.