Dr. Archibald Albert “Archie” Metcalfe — The Man with the Red Toupee – John Morrow

Dr. Archibald Albert “Archie” Metcalfe — The Man with the Red Toupee – John Morrow
Hi Linda

Here is the story I mentioned about Dr. Metcalfe — John Morrow.

Dr. A. A. Metcalfe

Dr. Archibald Albert “Archie” Metcalfe served the medical needs of the town of Almonte for about 65 years.

Born November 3, 1869 in Ramsay Township, the youngest child of Hugh Metcalfe and Jane McLean, he attended Almonte High School, then trained as a teacher before undertaking his medical training, teaching for a time at McDonald’s Corners, then attending Queens University in Kingston to obtain his medical degree before taking advanced studies at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His first “business card” appears in the Gazette in 1896, along with similar cards for Dr. Robert Burns, Dr. John F. Hanly and Drs. Dennis P. Lynch and John K. Kelly (Lynch and Kelly appear to have had a joint practice at the time). Dr. Metcalfe’s office is listed as being in the Post Office building.

On April 10, 1900, he married Isabella Mitchell McCallum, who was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the daughter of Archibald McCallum and Helen Shannon; the wedding took place at Pinehurst and was reported in the Gazette as being very private:


The social event of the week in town was the marriage on Tuesday evening, at ‘‘Pinehurst,” of Dr. Archibald A. Metcalfe and Miss Isabella M. McCallum. It was a quiet affair, none but a few friends of the contracting parties being present. There were no assistants. Rev. Mr. Mitchell officiated, assisted by Rev. Mr. Hutcheon. At the conclusion of the ceremony the wedding party was given an elaborate dinner by Mr. B. Rosamond, M.P., after which the newly-wedded pair drove to their home on the Island, which has been fitted up as an office and residence. The groom is one of our most esteemed citizens, and the bride, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, who came to town about a year ago, has already won the warm friendship of a large circle of friends. The gifts were numerous and elegant. The handsome and happy pair have the good wishes of all who know them.

Copied from the Almonte Gazette

April 12, 1900

Dr. Metcalfe served for many years, starting around the time he was married, in a variety of elected public offices, including Mayor and public utilities commissioner, retiring from this only a few months before his death on February 1, 1962, at the then-recently opened Almonte General Hospital. Earlier in his career he had been instrumental in establishing first a cottage hospital on Ottawa Street about 1903 and the Rosamond Memorial Hospital on Clinton Street in 1909, working along with doctors Kelly, Lynch and Hanly (and probably some others I am not aware of).

During the Spanish Flu pandemic at the end of World War I, he himself was stricken with the flu, but managed to recover; however, the flu did leave him with a few reminders: he had a fever high enough to destroy all his hair follicles, leaving him completely bald. He tried to cover this up by wearing a red toupée; when some of the nurses at Rosamond Hospital got the chance they enjoyed putting adhesive tape inside his hat, sticky side down, so when he removed the hat at his next stop the toupée came off with it.

Another after-effect of the flu was a short-term memory loss, which probably explains the following comment on the front page of the Gazette in announcing his passing:

He had a cheerful disposition and was friendly if he had

any use for a person at all. One of his saving graces —

one that is well worth mentioning— was that he could

have a great argument with some person today and

be just as friendly with him when he met him on the

street tomorrow.

These short-term memory lapses also led to some interesting situations. For about a year my mother’s uncle, Nelson Dunlop, had a car that was identical to Dr. Metcalfe’s—even the keys were identical (my dad had a somewhat similar situation in the mid 50s with identical keys for two totally different cars, a 1937 Chev Master Coupe and a 1947 Buick Special). Every time Uncle Nelson took that car into Almonte for any reason he had to make sure Dr. Metcalfe’s car wasn’t in sight or he would end up having to find Dr. Metcalfe’s whereabouts and exchange cars. If he couldn’t track the doctor down he would have to go to the police station and wait until the doctor called in to report his medical bag missing.

Another episode stemming from Dr. Metcalfe’s short-term memory lapses happened on November 8, 1942. The day before he had pronounced my great-grandmother Euphemia “Famie” (Wark) Napier dead, then he showed up at the family home om Teskey Street during the wake wanting to talk to her about something; one of the family members had to lead him to the casket to prove that she had died.

About 11 months later Dad’s sister, Fannie (Morrow) Reckenberg of Arnprior, was in the Rosamond Hospital for the birth of her son, Robert (that’s another story involving some Arnprior doctors). While she was in the hospital Dr. Metcalfe delivered a baby girl one day; the next morning he asked one of the nurses to prepare that baby for some minor surgery. When the nurse asked what kind of surgery, he said he was going to circumcise the baby. With that the nurse started laughing and asked if she could be present for the procedure. Dr. Metcalfe commented that she had been present for many circumcisions in the past and wanted to what was so interesting this time. She responded that she had seen many baby boys being circumcised, but it would be the first time to see a girl being circumcised and several other nurses also wanted to view the procedure. One of them had to go to the nursery and bring the newborn to the OR to prove their point, and everybody in the hospital new about it before the day was over.

Dr. Metcalfe had learned to drive a car when the Ford Model T came out and had some difficulty adjusting to the much different transmission in newer model cars when Ford discontinued their old standby. In order to make sure he could shift gears he would keep the clutch pedal depressed, burning out 2 or 3 clutches every year. A mechanic reportedly asked him one time why he didn’t get a car with an automatic transmission to which he responded “Do you want me to kill myself for sure?”

Another time he took his car to the garage for something one of the mechanics connected a smoke bomb to the engine. Of course, when he started the car the smoke bomb exploded, sending him back into the garage to have someone check to find out what was going on. Another time, I believe, one of the mechanics put a piece of Limburger cheese on the exhaust manifold of one of his cars. You can imagine the smell that would create when the car got warmed up.

During Isabella McCallum Metcalfe’s last illness leading to her death in 1937 her niece, Ishabel Guthrie, came over from Scotland to look after her, and remained with her Uncle Archie until his passing in 1962. Since Archie and Isabella had no children (that lived anyway) Ishabel inherited the house and continued to live there until shortly before her own death.

The story behind the building of that house is also very interesting. Apparently during Canada’s Prohibition years Dr. Metcalfe and local druggist James Patterson had a rather lucrative dodge around the liquor ban. The night before any big party in town Dr. Metcalfe would spend some time writing “scripts” for medicinal liquor (I believe this may have been a cough syrup base). The next morning there would be a lineup to his office door, where he would issue the scipts (prescriptions) for 25¢ each, and there would be another lineup outside Patterson’s Drug Store where Mr. Patterson would fill them for 50¢ each. Both men made enough money during this period to build new homes with three courses of bricks in the walls instead of the more usual two.–John Morrow

As a sidelight to this, one day a rather inebriated gentleman showed up at the office of Dr. John F. Dunn looking for a similar prescription, which Dr. Dunn refused to issue saying he would only give it out if he felt the person requesting it actually needed it, and the individual requesting one at the time definitely did not need one. When the inebriated gentleman persisted Dr. Dunn, who had been either a wrestler or boxer (possibly both) at Queens University, picked him up by his collar and belt and threw him out of the office. Dr. Dunn would have been in his late 40s or early to mid 50s at the time.


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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