Coleman Island, Almonte, Ontario, was also called “Little Manchester” by many who lived there. My name is John Hudson, and I lived there in the 1930s and 1940s.
We had no TV, no running water, no microwave, no telephone, no on demand hot water, no shower, no bathtub, no electric stove or gas stove, no central heating, and no processed food. CBC had no commercials, ice box (no frig), no garbage collection, but we did have burn barrels and compost piles, no paved roads, some wooden sidewalks, no ball point pens, no taxis, no plastic bags, wringer washer no dryer, no credit cards, debit cards, no school buses, and of course no IPads!
However, we did home delivery for bread and milk, with horse and wagon or sleigh and, of course, Hockey night in Canada on Saturday night. And we wore woolly scratch long johns with a flap in the back, breeks (Scottish term for breeches) and rubber boots. Money was seldom seen or used by children. This was our family during the war years living on Coleman Island, Almonte. We were like everyone else on the Island. Most of the families had someone in the house working for the mill and we were a blue collar community.
We ate three meals a day sitting at the table. We kids were to be seen and not heard, Sunday was taken up by church, and a prolonged social gathering after service which bored me to death, practically the whole day gone–and then it might be lunch at someone’s house! We had the minister and his wife for formal visits, my brother and I had to get dressed up for the event.
We rode the farmers sleighs on Saturday in the winter. You catch a sleigh coming into town and ride it as far as can, then, hop off catch another going back the other way. If there was no sleigh you walked. Sometimes we would do this all day.
The winters were cold, you got dressed in bed under the covers. The only warm place in the house was sitting on the wood box beside the stove, which was a Findlay stove with a water tank on the side to heat the water. My neighbour, Molly McGregor,used to sit in front of the stove with her feet in the oven. One day after I had fallen into the river, through the ice, but managed to get out, Mrs.McGregor took me into her house, dried me off, dried my clothes, lent me her son’s while clothes were drying, I was about 8. She never told my mother, or at least my mother never said a word to me about this mishap.
This was during the war years and #1 was busting with plus or minus 400 labour force producing yard after yard of Army, Navy, Airforce cloth for the war effort. With all those people working there might be four cars in the parking lot. Nine and half hours per day and Saturday mornings til noon.
We had two newspapers delivered by the train from Ottawa, The Journal and the Citizen. You displayed your political preference by the one you purchased. I still get the Citizen.
We lived in a double mill house on Carleton Street, the McAuliffes, Bart and Mary, were our neighbours. My parents, Gordon and Anna Hudson, paid eight dollars a month rent and a dollar for the garage. It was rumoured the mill owned twenty eight homes on and near the Island for their workers. We had a car. Most people didn’t. It was a 1932 Durant six cylinder with free wheeling. My parents were older than most of my friends parents. My dad was one of the first auto mechanics in eastern Ontario He had been a taxi driver , worked for the Grand Trunk Railway in Sherbrooke Quebec, went to architectural school in Sherbrooke and had owned five other cars before being married. He also used to help Ed Scott in the funeral home. Now he was a loom fixer in the weave room of sixty Crompton looms working under Thomas Hudson, his dad who was the boss weaver at #1. Dad worked at #1 for forty years.
My mother, John Anna Grieve Laidlaw (Hudson) came to Almonte in 1920 from the Yarrow Valley in the Borders of Scotland. She was recruited in Galashiels by the Rosamonds who also paid her passage to Almonte. If she stayed a year she did not have pay back her passage fare. She worked as a weaver at #1, was a member of the Bethany United Church for sixty two years. She told us there were six mills in town when she came. She died in 1982.
We had a huge garden on the “bottom street”, along with 5 other neighbours and it took up the whole east side of the street. As well, we had a fenced back garden, which also added to our food supplies throughout the winter.
We were never in the house unless it was raining. The primary mode of transportation was walking. Very few of us had bikes. Most of these young years were spent outside even in the winter. Road hockey, ball, Fort building, marbles, war games. I was always trying to keep track of the Red Army, our Allies then, and how they were doing in the war. The war was foremost in our thoughts at this time.
On the Island at that time there were twenty two boys, don’t know how many girls–girls were never part of our gangs. We always knew by the bells of the various mills, the town clock, and a whistle at the dairy when it was noon and five o’clock. The island is in the shape of steps with dangerous water falls at both ends. There were two dams, one to service hydro needs, the other to provide power to the mill. This was my play ground, and the centre of my world.
Thanks John so much. Have memories, photos? Send them to me Linda email@example.com
- The Ottawa Citizen,
- 15 Aug 1940, Thu,
- Page 27
- The Ottawa Citizen,
- 18 May 1910, Wed,
- Page 1