Comment on Perth Remembered—One of our things was finding ways to sneak into the fair without paying the entrance fee. Our best plan was, days before the fair we would dig out a space below the wire fencing on Cockburn side of the fair grounds. We would then cover it up with twigs and small branches. Then in the evening under cover of darkness…we would open up our dugout area and crawl under the wire fence. Oh those were the days!
THE PERTH FAIR published in Perth Remembered
This picture (c. late 1800’s early 1900’s) would have been taken at the fairground location in off Wilson Street behind where the Planing Mill was and the Metro Store location now around what is now Alvin Street and Clyde Street. This land was sold as it became to small for the fairgrounds and became a housing development known as Fairholm Park. Some homes from Herriot Street were moved here when they were building the Wampole Houses. The fairgrounds were then located at the present location.
The following article is from September 2nd, 1954 – The Perth Courier
1817, a year after the town of Perth was founded, was one of great hardships and privation. The crop of potatoes was destroyed by frost and rust ruined the wheat crop. Some families were forced to live on wild leeks and other herbs found in the woods until the Government came to their aid with additional half rations and averted famine.
In spite of all these hardships and rigors of carving a home from the vast Canadian wilderness, these early pioneers found time to give thought to the improving of their live stock and their community. According to a newspaper clipping of 1838, an organization known as the Perth Agricultural and Live Stock Improvement Society, was organized which offered the services of a recently purchased horse of outstanding quality. It is not know exactly when this society was formed but in the July 11th issue of 1843 of the Bathurst Courier had a report of a director’s meeting of the “Perth Agricultural Society”. In 1846 the society was reorganized and renamed the South Riding of Lanark Electoral District Agricultural Society. Fortunately this awkward and unwieldy title was soon shortened to the South Lanark Agricultural Society.
The location of the first Fall Fair has apparently been lost in the lapse of time as no definite record has so far been located. In 1852 records show that the fair was held at the Town Hall and the Market and lands around the building. All prizes were listed in pounds, shillings and pence. Among the classes to be exhibited were: Best span of working horses – 1st – £1, 2nd – 10s – Best yolk of oxen over 2 years of ages – 1st £1, 2nd-15s – Best 20lbs of clover seed 1st 15s, 2nd 10s and Best bushel apples – 1st 5s – 2nd 3s.
The first real home came in March of 1874 when the society purchased 7.5 acres of ground at a point just north of what is now the junction of Highways 7 and 15 know locally as Greenlee’s Corners. Here they erected a number of buildings.
By 1882 the society had progressed to the point where a premium list and regulations for the annual exhibition to be held at Perth, September 27, 28, and 29 was issued in booklet form with classes for live stock, fruits, flowers, vegetables and handicrafts.
As the grounds were a considerable distance from the town proper the directors of that time considered that it would be to the advantage of the society to dispose of the property in favour of a location nearer to the centre of town, As a result a new site, west of Wilson Street was purchased in July of 1891 the former ground being sold.
In a few years, however, it was decided that the new grounds were too small, so these in turn were sold and converted into a housing project, following the purchase of the present grounds at the southern boundary of the town in May of 1912. This site equipped with an excellent half-mile track had been the scene of many athletic events. The Agricultural Society immediately proceeded to erect buildings.
THE PERTH FAIR (story appeared – September 2nd, 1954 – The Perth Courier
With information gathered from the diaries of the early settlers, one can almost picture those first Fair days. The early morning stillness broken by the squealing of the wooden wheeled potash carts of the new settlers as they bounced and jolted their protesting way along the Rockeby road. Travelling all night or stopping at the home of some friend along the way, they were always among the first to arrive, ready to exchange their loads of potash with G.S.B. Roberts or some other merchant for groceries or dry goods and a little change to take in the Fair.
All through the morning farm wagons kept rumbling into town, Father, Mother and the youngest perched upon the high pole seat, while the other children, along with two or three of the neighbors rode in the box upon a thick carpet of marsh hay, their noisy babble adding a certain air of festivity to the occasion. Every once in a while the son of one of the older established and more prosperous farmers would pass with his girl, on the way to the fair, the new side spring buggy or two wheeled gig, drawn by a fast horse, the pride of the owners heart.
Around 10 o’clock in the morning the oldest boy, ably assisted by one or two neighbor lads of around the same age (for persons necessary to deliver live stock shalt be admitted free), began to arrive leading, pushing, driving or hanging on to some reluctant member of the animal kingdom. In fact, it can be gathered from the accounts, that persons with a broader sense of humor, had more fun watching the arrival of some of these exhibits than at the fair itself.
What with McCallum’s Tavern “setting up the good stuff”, and William Lock’s Brewery offering malt whisky at 4 shillings a gallon, it is safe to assume that some at least partook freely. Many of older members of the community can still recall the horse races on to create a diversion, or a spirited way home from Perth Fair. Neck and neck, wagon or democrate bounding on the cobblestones; it was take to the ditch and let them pass, or be run over.
Yes, Perth Fair fifty to a hundred years ago was something to look forward to and many were the hard bargains that were driven to earn the necessary funds to attend. One district resident recalled an agreement whereby he arose at five o’clock every morning from June to September and travelled more than a mile to bring the cows in from pasture for the morning milking, in order to earn 50 cents to take in Perth fair. He also recalled planting and tending widow’s garden all Summer for a dollar, extra money being required to attend the Marks Brothers Show on the evening of the fair, for it was said locally that your were not considered a man until you had been permitted to stay and see Marks’ Show, while the rest of the family went home to do the evening chores. It did not matter that you had to walk eleven miles after midnight or that your hair rose when you heard those pursuing footsteps as you passed through the loneliness part of the road.
Speaking of the Marks Brothers Show. No history of Perth Fair could be written without recalling these brothers of Christie’s Lake a few miles from Perth. On fair nights fifty years or so ago, the Perth Town Hall was crowded, as hundreds came to this big entertainment feature of the year, to watch, with necks craned above uncomfortable starched collars, the flying ankles of the dancers, or to cheer the valiant “Gerry the Tramp”, as he arose ragged and uncouth, to rescue the heroine from the clutches of the dapper villain.
PHOTO: Two different eras with a track and field event on the race track in the early 1900’s to the popular harness racing at the Perth Fair. The picture on the top would be at the fairground location in off Wilson Street behind where the Planing Mill was and the Metro Store. This was known as Fairholm Park. The picture at the bottom at the current location.
THE PERTH FAIR – September 2nd, 1954 – The Perth Courier
In this day of speed, a bicycle race would arouse but little interest. This was not the case away back in the era of the “High Fronts”, when only the more daring young gentlemen of the community even dared to clamber up upon “those infernal contraptions”, as angered horsemen were wont to call the first bicycles, with their high front wheel and small rear one, that rattled along doing its best to support the rider perched high above the wide spread handle bars.
It was only natural then that the bicycle race held at Perth Fair, some time in the late eighties was considered an event of great importance. The race, a quarter mile affair, was held on the road before the grounds, with the finishing line somewhere between the two gates. Down the road they came, with the rider of the bicycle having the largest front wheel well in the lead. The pedals being fixed to the front axle, the riders swung their feet free as they crossed the finish line, and coasted on down the road, the winner swerving sharply through the gate, to strike a cow that was being led to the ring. The resulting excitement still bringing smiles to the faces of those recalling the incident.
One of the last events to take place at the old fair grounds at Greenslees’ Corners was the balloon ascent. Although the passage of time dimmed the event in the memory of many residents of the district, here are some of the details upon which most accounts agree:
The balloonist and crew, having spent the morning and most of the afternoon inflating the bag over a fire in a pit, made final preparations for the ascent by hauling the parachute into a tube-like affair suspended above the balloon. The balloonist clambered into the basket and upon a given signal the crew cut the anchor ropes. Up shot the balloon leaving a breathless, spellbound crowd below. When considerable height was reached, the balloonist proceeded to do acrobatics on a trapeze, finally dropping from the basket feet first, followed by the parachute, which opened after an agonizing second or two. A great cheer went up as the south wind begin to drift the parachute and its passenger off towards the marsh lands north of the town. With one accord the young and more energetic set out in hot pursuit, breaking part of the high board fence at the back of the grounds in their haste. The balloonist meantime had drifted ever so gently down to land, (so some reports say), in a small tree, from which he was assisted by many willing hands and a couple of fence rails.
The feature attraction of the 1913 fair was a Texan show, complete with wild horses and beautiful cow girls. The first evening in town, the star bucker of the show, “The hoss that hed neva bin rid’n”, decided to prove that he was all that they said he was, by kicking the end out of the horse barn. One farmer in recalling the incident, said he thought more people went to see the hole in the stable wall, than went to see the Show.
In 1945 the society was able to purchase a large shed from one of the local Churches, and was moved to the fair grounds where it was placed upon a permanent concrete foundation.
I am sure there are countless memories and stories of the Perth Fair. Do you have one? Come and bring the family and enjoy yourselves to this years edition of the Perth Fair and make more memories.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)
I have been writing about downtown Carleton Place Bridge Street for months and this is something I really want to do. Come join me in the Domino’s Parking lot- corner Lake Ave and Bridge, Carleton Place at 11 am Saturday September 16 (rain date September 17) for a free walkabout of Bridge Street. It’s history is way more than just stores. This walkabout is FREE BUT I will be carrying a pouch for donations to the Carleton Place Hospital as they have been so good to me. I don’t know if I will ever do another walking tour so come join me on something that has been on my bucket list since I began writing about Bridge Street. It’s always a good time–trust me.