The House of Industry, in Bathurst, just outside the town limits, is the latest creation of the kind in the province, and competent judges claim it is easily the finest House of Refuge in Ontario. It is up-to-date in every respect, built of the beautiful Bathurst cream-colored freestone, and is commodious enough to accommodate not only our own homeless poor, but the friendless indigents from Renfrew and Carleton Counties, which, under arrangement, send their poor to the Perth home for keep and house comfort. J. M. Walker for the Perth Courier, 1905
Before the construction of this building the only alternative place to house indigent residents was in the county jail. This building was locally known as “The Poor House”. It was described as “the finest House of Refuge in Ontario”. There were farm buildings in the back fields that lead down to the Tay River. In the early days was sustainable as a working farm. In 1948 it was known as Wiseman’s Chronic Hospital, Tayview Nursing Home in 1967 and since 1985 the building is home to the Perth Community Care Centre.
The House of Industry, Perth on the Christie Lake Road, c 1905. Photo by John Hart.
People on relief here may have to become teetotallers if they want to keep their welfare cheques. No cheques in a crackdown on welfare costs, town council voted Tuesday night to put all welfare recipients on the prohibited list of the Ontario Liquor Control Board. This could mean that anyone caught imbibing or even buying liquor will not receive public assistance.
The decision could set off a battle between town authorities and the provincial legislature. The Liquor Control Board says it cannot be done, but Mayor Arthur Smith is prepared to accept the challenge and fight it through. “A municipal council hasn’t the right to put people on the interdicted list,” stated C. E. Woodrow, board solicitor, in a telephone interview. “Only a judge can put the names on the list or an order from the Liquor Control Board. Council can send the names in and they will be dealt with accordingly.” “I intend to press this,” was Mayor Smith’s reply.
There are about 10 families on relief in Almonte and the town’s share of welfare costs this year is about $1,000. The mayor, who admits he is not a teetotaller, proposed the action. He cited a case of misuse involving a couple who had drawn a $20 relief voucher and allegedly was found drunk the same night. Council passed the motion unanimously.
Mayor Smith said he “had no objection to any drinking, but I am opposed to a person in receipt of public welfare spending money on drinks in the hotels. I’m not a teetotaller myself.” There is little likelihood a man on relief will not be able to pop into the Almonte Canadian Legion Hall for a beer. Won’t be stopped “It would be illegal,” said President Murray Comba, of Branch 240. “I wouldn’t stop them from coming in, providing their membership is paid up.”
A senior official of the department of welfare said overall prohibition for Almonte welfare cases was not possible. Individual cases of abuse regarding liquor can be dealt with, he said. “Blanket prohibition,” said Miss Kate Macdonnell, secretary of the Ottawa Welfare Council, “is neither effective nor proper. People on relief, just like everyone else, have the right to spend their money the way they want. If things get out of hand, there are legal provisions for dealing with the individual cases only.” Ottawa Con. Ellen Douglas Webber, whose portfolio is welfare, said the move was illegal and ridiculous. “If we tried to do that in Ottawa, we would have hundreds of lawsuits on our hands.”
Author’s Note- Aside from a few photographs there is hardly a trace that remains of the Tunney’s Pasture shanty village (the north end of Tunney’s along the Ottawa River) that existed for 25 years.
The poor constructed makeshift homes with cardboard, tar paper, and were built with earth floors, no electricity, no water, and of course no sanitation. The residents of Squatters Paradise as it was called, scoured Hintonburg and Wellington Village for anything they could use to improve their homes.
1943- It was under friendly compulsion that I spent a day with the Children’s Aid Society. Mrs. M. Jean Henshaw, executive director, had been “hounding” me for months to see the clinic and travel with the social service worker on her rounds.
It was an experience I will never forget, and my admiration for the social service worker has grown by leaps and bounds. Unless one has actually visits the Children’s Aid Society when a clinic is in progress, and travelled on their regular rounds, there really is no conception of the type of service offered the community by this society.
In the clinic chubby and very thin little children who looked worried were coming in for their regular examination by the clinic doctor. There was much crying at first. But the woman doctor in charge who is also a mother, intrigued the youngsters with a doll and a rattle, and soon gurgles and laughter were heard as the child was weighed and given a check-over.
The increase in the work of the Children’s Aid Society in Ottawa may be gauged by the figures since the outbreak of war. Prior to September, 1939, the Children’s Aid Society cared for 140 families a month, and during the past month there were 773 families, involving 3,000 children. Members of the staff have doubled. In Ottawa and Carleton county there are some 400 foster homes, and some of these people have been persuaded to care for as many as six children at a time.
They receive $15 to $18 a month per child and the society clothes them and provides for additional expenditures. Considering the number of children that pass through the agency in a day, it is extraordinary the amount of sympathy and personal supervision that is given them. If the child comes in for examination, each foster mother has to bring the child in at stated intervals. If the child is found to be underweight, cod liver oil and vitamins are supplied. Teeth are examined and, if necessary, the foster mother is told to take the child to the dental clinic.
When an underweight child is found to have taken a dislike to porridge, orange juice and the necessary vitamin foods, other means are found to give them to her. Sometimes a child is being cared for by a foster mother, and her own parents are able to have her home again. Prior to this she is given a thorough examination and checking.
Each morning a member of the May Court Club helps in the clinic at the Children’s Aid Society. An average of six new complaints are received and investigated each day by the society. By law these complaints have to be investigated, regardless of the person involved. If objections raised are too strong, the police assist and it has been found that the people who object the most are usually those who are guilty of neglect.
Children’s Aid Society officers have been chased with knives and threatened with everything “under the sun”– but they remain placid “under fire,” and never give in. They see terrible sights. Children neglected, neither fed nor clothed, while the mother is out drinking or playing cards. They are on duty day and night, because complaints of crying children from neighbours’ houses often come in the middle of the night. Emergency placements are now often made by families who ordinarily would never have called on the Children’s Aid Society.
The mother may be taken seriously ill and with no maid in the home is helpless unless aid is given to her by the society. When we started on our visit we went first to a “squatter’s pasture” which is situated more than half a mile from the street, and we had to tramp through slush to see these children. The plight of the people living in these hovels is appalling. There are about 10 of them; drinking water is unavailable and they carry their water from the Ottawa river, having cut holes in the ice. Sanitation, of course, is lacking.
The people in “Squatter’s Pasture” have been forced to live there because of the housing shortage in Ottawa. The trip was made, essentially, to see that children in one family are attending school. High rubber boots were needed and the people in the huts were living in veritable individual Noah’s Arks. The water was at least three feet deep.
Some of the “houses” are made of tar paper, over soft wood; some with a window, some without and one with a blanket for a door. I could imagine how the wind howled through the blanket when the weather was registering about 25 below zero. In one eight by twelve house a man, his wife and newborn babe exist. It has a door, but no window. The home we called at was about 18 by 18 which sheltered a father, mother and four children. They sleep on a three-quarter bed and a cot. The father has a job and receives about $12 a week. To go to school in Nepean, the children have to walk three miles. If they attend an Ottawa school, and because they live “over the line,” the father has to pay $4 per month per child and he finds this price prohibitive.
A boy of 14. with dirty face and unkempt hair, opened the door at the next house visited. He was staying home from school to keep the children, while his parents were out working. The call had been from the neighbours that the younger children were not being properly looked after. The worker found that one child, lying in an untidy cot had hurt her hand. “She just ran a nail into it,” casually said the boy and the worker recommended that it be thoroughly washed and cleaned and said she would get in touch with the parents when they came home from work.
Another way in which society helps is to budget civilians’ and soldiers wives. The next call was made to a soldier’s wife, whose husband is overseas, and who had asked for aid. She had been sick and has a couple of children going to school, and just wasn’t making ends meet. So the worker called to give aid in budgeting.
An adoption case was the next on the program of the worker and a sympathetic hearing was given to the mother in the case, who did not want her child adopted. The child wanted to be adopted by the people who had “raised” him. Each problem presented to the society is an individual one, and has to be worked out to suit its own situation. Children are cared for from the time they are born until they are 16 years of age if necessary.
A typical recent emergency is one of a boy aged 14, who arrived in town from another province. He had an accident and was taken to a hospital. The society was notified and after much trouble finally located the boy (who certainly might be termed as “difficult”) in a foster home on a farm. Finally his uncle was located and he was put on the train and sent home. This is just a typical day at the Children’s Aid trying to deal with the shanty town.
At 8 a.m. one day early in July of 1975, on Teskey Street in the section they call “Irishtown,” Mrs. Annie Spinks who was into her ’70s, and Mrs. Tina Napier who was into her ’60s, picked up a pick and shovel and dug a small hole to start a $70,000 water and sewage project. Mrs. Spinks and Mrs. Napier had waited 40 years for those water and sewer pipes. To celebrate, they and a crowd of about 100 locals filled the bottoms of paper cups with Canadian champagne. Then the bull-dozers moved in.
“We could never have done it without Algonquin College,” said Stan Mills, a communications engineer and leader though everyone’s title is vague – of Almonte Community Builders, the citizens’ group that is bringing water and sewers to Irishtown. This is the part of Almonte that visitors seldom visit; the roads are unpaved. The small wooden houses are dilapidated and Algonquin College decided to something about it. The connecting link between government and Irishtown was made up of people like Marion MacAdam, freshly graduated from Algonquin in those days. but it wasn’t like that all the time.
In January of 1902– it was reported that a man named Leach, living in Irishtown section, had smallpox. It seems that he had returned from the shanty and was slightly ill. It was thought, he had an attack of chicken-pox, and having had a relapse a physician was called in, when he pronounced it smallpox. It was determined to close it some of the schools for two weeks to await developments.
Strict measures were taken to quarantine the afflicted family and many devout wishes were expressed that the physicians may be mistaken in their diagnosis. Measures were being taken to have all the children in the schools vaccinated who have not yet undergone the operation– as the children in Carleton Place had been in the past few weeks.
In Almonte Doctor Kelly would “make his rounds” every day, stopping in the homes, and visiting the sick person and the family. It was then only natural that the doctor should fulfill the three concurrent roles of physician, friend and counsellor.
Mrs. Kelly would frequently go along with the doctor on his rounds “to hold the horse”, little knowing that the hazard of the horse was, in those days, almost as great as the hazard of fire. One day in Irishtown the horse balked at her restraint, and John Gilpin’s famous ride through Islington was repeated with Mrs. Kelly being taken on a wild ride through the streets, across the bridge, and through the subway until the horse came smack up against the door of the foundry where two moulders seized the bridle and rescued the terrified Mrs. Kelly.
In the 1890’s St. Mary’s purchased the house for use as a separate school. Paddy and his family moved to another house at the top of the hill in Irishtown, exchanging one hill for another.
A kind of afternoon drowsiness had crept over Irishtown. We passed Barney Lunney’s store with the blind down over the front window, crossed the bridge over Jimmy Moreau’s creek, and soon after went by Bob Scissons’ store. After that came the houses of the people who lived in Irishtown, the McGraths, the O’Mearas, the Gormans, until we came to Fanny Dolan’s house, the last on that side of the street until you reached Sadler’s on the edge of town.