The Bear in the Middle of Clayton November 1944

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The Bear in the Middle of Clayton November 1944

In the old days a farmer was liable to find his wagon sitting astride the roof of his barn when the sun came up the morning after Halloween. This entailed more work than the boys would have cared to do in a legitimate cause. Many a young man who shined at hoeing potatoes didn’t mind doing a lot of heavy work in the interests of hilarity. The mysterious occasion—Halloween—passed off quietly in Almonte. The weather was good and the children indulged in the modern pastime of calling on their neighbors looking for treats. Owing to wartime conditions they did not fare so well this time. It was difficult for people to get candies and the old standby—peanuts —were out of the question. 

Those who were fortunate had a store of apples on hand but they were expensive this year and it was impossible for most people to hand them out with the old time prodigality. So far as is known the town was free from the old time tricks—tricks of a destructive nature. In years gone by it was the practice for the town constable to swear in a number of deputies to keep down rowdyism. Nothing like that was necessary on that Saturday night. Chief Wm. Peacock had no trouble coping with the situation because, as it turned out, there was no situation to cope with. The Clayton Bear in Clayton however was one funny incident that people there were still chuckling over. 

A well known practical joker of the village decided he would give the children a scare. In town they were going around visiting the various houses. This young man got under a buffalo robe and walked on all fours down the Road accosting the crowd of youngsters. He growled like a bear and hoped in the darkness he would be mistaken for the real McCoy. The boys and girls listened to the ferocious grunts emanating from under the buffalo robe and then they got wise. 

Arming themselves with sticks and stones they chased the bear off the road helping him along by applying kicks to that part of the robe under which they surmised a certain part of his anatomy showed. The growls of the bear changed to genuine howls of pain as the robe and its contents sought safety in flight. It is said one of the sad experiences of the bear was that his forepaws passed over a spot where cows had recently mooched along in their homeward journey with consequences that can better be imagined than described. 

And that wasn’t all. A vicious dog decided to take a hand in the game. That was the last straw so far as Bruin was concerned. He suddenly emerged from under the robe and the last seen of him he was going over a fence with more speed than any bear ever could display. 

Taking it generally the war had its effect on the observance of Halloween this year. There were fewer entertainments on that night than of yore and in the towns the absence of young people in the armed forces and in positions -which made it necessary for them to Jive, in the city was painfully apparent. 

Photos from

Rose Mary Sarsfield

 There are still a few copies of my book available for those who haven’t gotten a copy yet, or as a Christmas gift to someone with ties to Clayton. They are available at the Clayton Store, the Mill Street Books or from me. rose@sarsfield.ca

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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