Just Beat It! Carnival Riot in Carleton Place



Sometimes you don’t find local epic stories in the newspaper archives. It begins as hearsay, and the more you dig around, the more infuriated you get– until you finally get the story. When I did the stories about the hippies in Carleton Place I kept hearing about a huge fight at Riverside Park in Carleton Place. But, the story only came in drips and drabs, and there was no mention anywhere. Until last week…

At the Town Hall tea celebrating the Queen’s longevity I heard the rumour once again from the St. James table, and Jennifer Fenwick Irwin from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum suggested I ask Duncan Rogers. In the space of 10 minutes of asking I had a copy of a newspaper report in my hands from 1969. Wow Mr. Rogers- wow–is all I can say.

The riot at Riverside Park had nothing to do with the local hippies. It was created by a long running feud between angry local teenagers and a visiting King’s Carnival troupe. Tempers had flared after a town youth had been badly beaten while walking his girlfriend through the park.

Shortly after 1 am on a Sunday night about 150 local Carleton Place youths gathered close to the Carnival at Riverside Park brandishing tire irons and wrenches. The teenagers began to throw rocks and bottles at the carnival workers in their booths The five-man local police force had no choice but to move in quickly. Sergeant Ray McIsaac also summoned the local fire brigade. When things looked like they were getting out of hand he obtained help from 15 men from the Perth division of the OPP to help control the situation.

Mayor James Arnold Julian arrived at 2 am and tried to persuade the teenagers to leave the area. When no one paid attention to his request he threatened to read the *Riot Act. Now my father used to threaten me with the riot act when I misbehaved, but I had no idea that such an act really existed. Whether or not the act was still in place, Julian meant business. Finally, his threats and jets of water from the fire hoses broke the crowd up around 3 a.m. The Carnival decided it was best if they left town, and aided by police protection they quickly left at 6 a.m.

Chief Herb Cornell of Carleton Place said the teenagers had no idea what danger they could have faced. After a week of trouble brewing and tempers flaring, the Carnival people had been ready for them. Some of them carried firearms to protect themselves and would have used them if necessary. The mayor said just one of the carneys could have taken out any 10 local youths and “had them for breakfast”.

“It would have been a slaughter if they had met,” Mayor Julian added.

Only one local youth was arrested with disturbing the peace and three carneys were detained at the county jail and were charged with assault and occasioning bodily harm. So yes Virgina, a riot really happened in Carleton Place

*The Riot Act, which was more formally called ‘An act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters’ actually contained this warning:

“Our sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King.”

The punishments for ignoring the Act were severe – penal servitude for not less than three years, or imprisonment with hard labour for up to two years.


Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
28 Jul 1888, Sat  •  Page 5

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

6 responses »

  1. Was this the last time the carnival was in Carleton Place? I remember going there as a teenager for the first time then suddenly there was no longer a carnival. Not sure if it was in 1969 or early 1970 – 1972

      • Hi Linda! Thanx for posting my comments on Bytown Or Bust website! I am back researching my Kennedy family history. Ray Kennedy who ran Kennedy’s Taxi in Carleton Place, was my uncle. I just now discovered my gramp’s history too. I saved the page. He was Joe Kennedy who married a Maud Killeen, she died, then he married her sister Mary Killeen. I’d like to find some photos too! A

  2. Sorry, my cat laid on my chest and I couldn’t type! As I get older I am more interested in my geneology! I am now 67. BTW, I enjoy your funny blogs! Cheers, (Russ Hook is Nick Kennedy) LONG story!

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