Tag Archives: Glenayr Kitten Mill

Stories from the Old Kitten Mill

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From Up the Line–Steve Evans

Hazel Mitchell was born in Dalhousie across from the Dalhousie Township Hall and moved to Lanark December 5, 1926. She worked at the Kitten Mills for over 30 years and was the longest that lived on the Main Street of Lanark.

For most of the 20th century, Lanark and its Glenayr Kitten Mill was a hub for textile production in Ontario. Since its closure in 1997, the mill has sat abandoned and it was the mill that made the village of Lanark a pretty bustling place. And then the mill closed down and now there’s nothing there. Lanark sadly  still hasn’t recovered from the mill closure.

 

 

 

historicalnotes

E. MITCHELL

 
Obituary
 

MITCHELL, E. Hazel Peacefully at Lanark Lodge, Perth on Tuesday August 3rd, 2004 Hazel (Scott) Mitchell in her 98th year. Hazel was born January 3rd, 1907, she was predeceased by her husbands Albert Mitchell and by previous marriage, Edward Labelle; she was the cherished mother of Fern (Boyd) Roberts, Eric (Dianne) Labelle and Everett Labelle; step-mother of Frank (Doris) Mitchell, Arnold (Shirley) Mitchell, Elizabeth (late Des) Vaughan, Agnes Emon, Merina (Jim) Elliott, Florence (Tom) Healy; she will be sadly missed by many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Hazel was predeceased by sisters Mabel Swerbrick and Frances Munro and brothers Harold and Orville Scott. Friends may pay their respects at the Young Funeral Home, Lanark Thursday August 5th from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Funeral service will be held in St. Andrew’s United Church, Lanark Friday at 11:00 a.m. Interment, Greenwood Cemetery, Middleville. In remembrance, contributions are suggested to the Alzheimers Society of Lanark County, the Lanark Lodge Memorial Fund or the First Baptist Church, Lanark.

 

Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Aug. 5, 2004

 

 

The Glenayr Kitten Mill (A Reminiscence)

From Ottawa Valley Irish

 

(The year before I was married, which was thirteen years ago, I lived in Scotland.)

One day, about fourteen years ago now, while perusing the wares at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, I felt a curious and unexpected wave of nostalgia. This place in Edinburgh, Scotland was so strikingly similar to a place my mother used to take us to in Ontario, Canada (now, what was the name of that place that Mum used to take us to? … it was in Lanark, and there was something Scottish about it … and something to do with a kitten … ), so uncannily reminiscent of the Glenayr Kitten Mill of my childhood. The piles of jumpers (but we called them ‘sweaters,’ of course) all laid out on wooden tables; the firm but friendly salesladies; the general air of solid but unpretentious quality … all of a sudden, I was back in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, Canada, that is).

I have to admit, I bought a cardigan that day, just on the strength of that memory.

The Glenayr Kitten Mill outlet in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, that is) was the kind of place that we (my sisters and I, that is, though certainly not our mother) loved to hate. So fusty and old-fashioned, and please, mum, don’t make us wear those sweaters! that’s not what the popular girls are wearing, and the mothers of the popular girls only shop at the Bay. But our pleas fell on deaf ears: our mother has always known a bargain when and where she finds it, and bargains are what she found at the Glenayr Kitten Mill.

As I now recall it, the Kitten Mill had an impressively no-nonsense integrity: no frills; no fuss; just good, sturdy value at a fair price. But it wasn’t until years later, while looking at jumpers at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, that I began to appreciate the Kitten Mill for what it had been: a little piece of the Scotland-to-Canada knitwear tradition that had already, alas, all but died out when our mother took us to the Glenayr for new sweaters.

(And it wasn’t until I lived in Scotland for a year that I began to truly appreciate the fundamentally Scottish character of so much of “English” Canada, or of “English” Ontario, at any rate. I recall going to the Waterstone’s on Princes St. in Edinburgh to look for an Alice Munro book [which I found, btw] because there was this story that I just hadto reread: I had heard something earlier that day that had so uncannily reminded me of this Munro story, and something had finally just clicked about Scotland and Canada…)

 

 

 

 

relatedreading

Down by the Old Kitten Mill

Linda’s Mail Bag– Do You Have any Info on my Blanket?

You’re from the Village of Lanark You Say?

 

 

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Down by the Old Kitten Mill

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Once upon a time Lanark Village, Ontario was the place to go on weekends when you wanted to enjoy a lovely Saturday or Sunday.  It is, and was no different, than the small town that you and I grew up in– except it had the Kitten/Glenayr Factory and outlet shops that once attracted thousands of people to the picturesque village.

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Photo- Linda Seccaspina
The village was first settled in 1820 by Scottish immigrants who named it after the town of Lanark in Scotland. It soon became a major hub for the lumber and textile industries, both of which used the Clyde River. It runs through the village, as once a source of power and as a transportation route to move logs east to the Ottawa River.

Until the 1990s the major employer in the village was the Glenayr Kitten Mill which produced clothing and offered their products at several factory outlet stores in the village. Dave Markle started the Glenayr Knitting Mills in 1935, and in 1940 he purchased the Munro Mill in Lanark which at that time only had 12 employees.

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Photo- Linda Seccaspina

in 1953 the mill was the backbone of Lanark, and some still called it the Clyde Woolen Mill. Markle made lots of improvements in the old grist mill, with new machinery now making men’s woolen socks, blankets, and motor rugs. In 1945 the Markle brothers bought the large two storey stone building on the main street by the Clyde River and used it as a store. It also housed the former bank of Ottawa and after that the Nova Scotia bank.

The main part of this stone structure was built by Boyd Caldwell as a general store in 1860, and enclosed somewhere in that building is the original store built in 1850. Allie McIntyre was once the manager for many years and said the store once had carried over $30,000 of stock. T.B. Caldwell carried on the business until 1909 and then sold out to W.J. Robertson. When Robertson died the business closed.

Markle installed knitting machinery and they made fine quality men’s wear and ladies sweaters. The key man at the Glenayr Mill was Tom Kear who had learned the trade in Toronto. It now had 125 employees and in 1943 they began knitting sweaters and made colourful ski sweaters under the Hudson’s  Bay brand. The mill worked at full capacity to turn out those famous Kitten cardigans and pullovers For a time both mills operated until the original plant was closed and attention was focused on the mill located in the heart of the village. In 1982 the company was still purring and Mr. Markle took over the former 5 cents to a dollar business to open yet another store.

The Kitten Factory  at one time had a payroll of over $200,000 that turned over three times in local businesses before it left the village. In 1984 the Kitten Mill employed 200 people and had a sportswear plant in Toronto. Seventy-five of those 200 employees had been with Markle for over 25 years. His son Derek was superintendent in the Lanark Mill,  and all the fabric was made in the Lanark plant. They also used to clear out the excess inventory through their store.

The textile industry lasted for about 170 years, but was finally defeated by the flood of cheap Asian imports into North America. After the Kitten factory closed in 1992 the town just was not the same and one by one the businesses closed down, and now it’s just a shell of what it once was. The Kitten Mill was no frills; no fuss; just good, sturdy value at a fair price. As Lynnette Stanfield said,

“I had been led to believe it was just for “the old dears” taking the constitutional drive to Lanark and stopping for tea at the tea room – but I soon learned there was gold to be found!”

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Photo- Ottawa Citizen 1952

When did it all end?

When did the innocence stop?

Dying villages give way to the urban areas where memories are few. Huge box stores are replacing the mom and pop shops in small towns where no one knows your name when you enter the store. It is a time now when people want it all, but if they stopped one second and remembered a passing memory maybe they wouldn’t want it anymore. Then maybe small towns and villages wouldn’t be dying by the second.

 

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Newspaper ads from the Carleton Place Canadian files from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.

 

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Glenayr Kitten Mill | by shensicle Glenayr Kitten Mill | by shensicle

 

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historicalnotes

 

Earl Donaldson–
Great story . My uncle spent his whole working life as Mr Fix It there . He set his own hours and could weld and fix anything . Tom Kear never got the credit he deserved , for keeping the mill running . Wages were not high , but nobody was chained to their position . Numerous others who worked there , deserve a lot of credit . My mother even worked there thanks to Tom Kear . Made me feel proud , while in Nottingham England in 1963 , saw an item in a shop window , displaying a ladies sweater made by Glenayr Kitten Mill Lanark Ontario Canada . The mill is now an eye sore , and the middle of it is about to collapse . Those were the days !

 

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 Photo–Lanark & District Museum

 

The village was first settled in 1820 by Scottish immigrants who named it after the town of Lanark in Scotland. It soon became a major hub of the lumbering and textile industries, both of which used the Clyde River which runs through the village, as a source of power and as a transportation route to transport logs east to the Ottawa River.

The textile industry lasted for about 170 years, but was finally defeated by the flood of cheap Asian textiles into North America. Jobs in the textile industry moved overseas.

Logging has continued, although in a much reduced manner. Wood is harvested chiefly for the pulp industry or for firewood. In 1959 a major fire destroyed many of the main commercial structures and a number of homes in the village’s centre. Most buildings were inadequately insured. Replacement buildings are highly functional in their design. The village has the Lanark and District Museum featuring exhibits of local history.

Until the late 1990s, the major employer in the village was the Glenayr Kitten Mill, which produced clothing and offered their products at several factory outlet stores in the village. Several of the buildings are still known by their numbers (e.g. Kitten Factory #1) to local residents. The Clyde Woolen Mills was the founder of these properties.-Wikipedia

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Newspaper ads from the Carleton Place Canadian files from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum.