Tag Archives: the island

Growing up on the Coleman Island in the 40’s and 50’s Marg McNeely

Growing up on the Coleman Island in the 40’s and 50’s Marg McNeely

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Growing up on the Coleman Island in the 40’s and 50’s– Marj McNeely

Many of my generation who grew up on the “Island” will remember the story of the island.

I am Margaret (Tosh) McNeely youngest daughter of Florence and Cephas Tosh. I had 5 sisters and two brothers who were Dorothy, Mary, Adelaide, Elsie, Roberta, George and Robert. We lived at the corner of Top Street ( Carleton) and Wellington Street.

First off we always considered the main three streets on the Island to be called Top Street, Second Street and Bottom Street. We never really called them by any other name or ever knew what they were called but we do today. There were three bridges going onto the Island, one called Stone Bridge, one called Back Bridge and the other one called Front Bridge. After you cross the Back Bridge as if you were going into the Rosamond Estate they had a huge set of stairs that took you up to Union Street. We used them many times for a short cut to my Uncle Alec and Aunt Chrissie Tosh’s farm at the end of Union Street and I’m sure many of the mill workers used them when going home after work. I have read in the local paper that they are restoring the steps for the new Coleman Island Trail.

For fun on the Island we spent a lot of our days and nights playing on the Power House lawn, playing games like hide and seek and tag. Our parents never had a problem finding us as that was one of our favourite spots to play. Other times we played on the huge wooden hydro poles that were beside Voyce’s house on Top Street. Sometimes after a good rainfall we always headed to the Producer’s Dairy lawn to pick dew worms for fishing. A few of our swimming spots were underneath the old blacksmith shop at Gary Houston’s house, at Rock Bottom on the Tosh farm and also at Brown’s Dairy located in part of the town they called New England. Some of the lads swam in the Flume at the Flour Mill and use to jump from the railroad bridge into the Flume. In the making of the film “Our Town is the World” in Almonte Clarence Craig jumped off the railroad bridge five times for the them and they paid him $5.00 for every jump. There were quite a few local kids in the movie including myself along with a few lads from west end Ottawa. The National Film Board made this movie for the United Nations and it was shown all over the world to try and show people no matter what race you were you could still get along. I have a copy of the film which my husband purchased for me from the National Archives.

While they were filming the movie they took all of us to the Superior Restaurant for lunch each day and it took about two weeks for them to finish the film. They also paid us $15.00 each for acting in it and we were thrilled and thought we were millionaires.

The woollen mill that was on the Island was called #1 and to this day I never knew why. We always knew when it was 12:00 noon because the mill blew a whistle for the employees to go home for lunch and then again at 1:00 for them to go back. The mill employed many Almonte people and it’s hard to believe that the building today is condominiums. We use to sneak into the back of the mill and play on the bales of cotton until we got chased out of there by Stuart Tosh. Fishing in the falls at the Back Bridge was a favourite past time and catching polywogs and watching them grow into frogs.

In the winter time we use to slide on the hill next to the mill and went from the Top Street to the Bottom Street and never worried about cars as at that time there never were many cars around. I remember at one time that wee Georgie Edmonds ended up with a broken leg after getting caught in a snowbank on his way down the slide. At the end of Top Street above the falls the river would freeze enough for us to skate on and there was an old cave there where we use to build a bonfire to keep us warm. We skated many hours at the old rink on the Island until it collapsed in 1952. I also remember sneaking upstairs in the old rink and pound away at the old organ they kept there.

Most of the people that lived on the Island were the Horton’s, Giles, Houston’s,
MacGregor’s, Smithson’s, Leishman’s, Delong’s, Hudson’s, Walker’s, Black’s, Warren’s, Baker’s, Proctor’s, Lotan’s, Edmond’s, Voyce’s, Cruickshank’s, Ritchie’s, Julian’s, Majury’s, Morton’s, Miller’s, Knight’s and of course the Tosh’s. My grandparents George and Mary Bond lived on the Bottom Street.

The person I knew as old Benny Baker lived on the Second Street and he use to buy people’s old clothes by the bagful for 50 cents and I had no idea what he did with them. There was also a man called Romeo Landry who lived near the river on Wellington Street who use to come to our place and amused my parents by the hour by playing on the old organ we had. There was a lady from Arnprior who came to the Voyce’s residence every couple of months and give some of the local ladies hair perms. Another lady by the name of Molly MacGregor loved comic books and traded them with everyone. Grant McDougal ran a little store on the Island for things like milk and bread.

Old Doc Metcalfe with his vivid red hair had his office on the Island and his niece Isabel lived with him and was his nurse. He had a race horse penned up behind his house and we use to peek through the fence to get a look at him.
Over the years Doc Metcalfe’s memory was getting a little short and after visiting a patient at their house he would come out and set his medical bag on the back of his car then drive away and forget it was there. We always thought that was pretty funny.

There were other times that we ventured off the Island like playing in Spring Bush in the spring of the year, sliding on the hills there in the winter and skating at the new arena that was built near the Catholic Church. We loved Abbie Lotan’s store on the Main Street and whenever we found coke bottles we would take them to his store and he would give us a couple of pennies in return and of course we ended up buying candy. His store was like a little cafe and he made the best Hamburgs around. Abbie also lived on the Island with his family. Another treat was going to Peterson’s ice cream to get mellow rolls. I am sure many people today would not know what a mellow roll was in fact I’ve had to explain it to a few people.

One major event was going to the O’Brien theatre on Saturday afternoon but first stopping at the Superior Restaurant for 5 cents worth of peanuts which seem to last through the whole show. Many times I use to take Sheila and Brian Tosh with me. There use to be a water fountain at the end of the Stone Bridge in what I thought they called Metcalfe Park at one time and we always had to stop and get a drink.

I remember back that we had ice delivered to our house to put in the old fashioned frigs and also milk and bread being delivered too. On cold days the milkman left the milk in our doorway and it use to freeze and expand the cream and push the lid up.

We eventually moved off the Island when I was about 10 years old as my Dad started a restaurant on Mill Street called Tosh’s. After several years he moved to a bigger premises and was then called the Mill Restaurant.

Looking back there are very few of us left who remember the good times we had growing up on Coleman Island.


Michael Doyle Addendum to Marg’s wonderful reminiscence of Coleman Island: The Romeo Landry she mentioned, who lived in a house by the water, was actually my Aunt Mamie’s ‘boyfriend’ and she owned the house in which he lived. We used to visit Romeo often and have him play one of the many pianos and organs he had in the house. Mamie was quite the real estate tycoon for the times, considering she only had wages from her job at the mill. She owned at least three houses in town that I know of. I also remember the lady from Arnprior who came to my Grandma Voyce’s house to give several local ladies their perms. As children, we were of course, booted from the house while all this was going on but we were fascinated by the hair curlers and the awful smell. 🤓🤓



Sharon Attisano Photo
Mom, Aunt Elsie, Aunt Margaret and Barbara Ann— with Margaret McNeely.


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The Mississippi Curling Rink After “The Island”



An early curling picture from curlinghistory.blogspot.com— This is not from Lanark County- but in the late 1800s they used to curl on an outdoor rink was made on the Mississippi River opposite the fairgrounds



A group of curling enthusiasts formed a club under the name of Mississippi Curling Rink Ltd. They raised funds, acquired a mortgage and built a new three-sheet rink on the “market” facing onto Brae Street, which they rented to the Almonte Curling Club (ACC).


During the summer, negotiations were continuing with the Mississippi Rink Co., Ltd.(see today’s story on the old Almonte rink) But, to the chagrin of ACC members, the company sold the property to a commercial firm and liquidated the Limited company. Therefore, there was no place for the members to curl.


December 16, 1954, The Almonte Gazette

Renovated Rink With Artificial Ice Is Formally Opened By Local Curler’s On Wednesday

Following a short ceremony on Wednesday evening, when veteran curler Mr. J. H. Martin cut the ribbon and president M. R. Young threw the first granite, the Mississippi Curling Club was declared open for its 101st season. Mr. Young presided over a large gathering of members of the men’s and lady’s clubs which filled both rooms. He explained the chain of events leading up to the climax of curling in Almonte, a renovated rink with three sheets of artificial ice, a new second storey club room with a modern kitchen for the ladies and men’s club room newly decorated. ”

When the installation of artificial ice was talked of in April,” said Mr. Young, “this one and that one offered to give $100.00 However another man said “I’ll give a thousand dollars.” and that gave the club the heeded encouragement. He gave credit to canvassers and special praise to the building committee who had given most generously of their time. The building committee is composed of Mr. M. R. Young, chairman, J. L. Erskine, S.R. Sissons, Major J. H. W. Currie, and Murray Comba. The next speaker was Mr. W.A. Metcalfe, who expressed great pleasure in the fact that the Mississippi Curling Club’s greatest need, the installation of artificial ice, was now attained.


Men curling in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1909-Wikiwand

Mr. Metcalfe assured the audience that it was in large measure due to the untiring efforts of their president, Mr. Young, that the present happy state was reached. Mr. Young, he said, had stood by curling in good days and the bad days and is now in his 19th term as president. He called on Mr. James Miller of Carlton Place, District Representative of the Caledonia Club who brought greetings from the mother club and also extended his personal congratulations.

The next speaker was Mr. George L. Comba, who traced the history of the Mississippi Curling Club from its humble beginnings 100 years ago to today. Mr. Comba he was indebted to Mr. G. W. Willoughby of Ottawa, former resident of Almonte, who is now in his 96th year, for much of his information of the early days.

Mr. Willoughby was an ardent curler as was his father before him, and was able to recall many interesting incidents. Curling began here, said Mr. Comba on the mouth of the Indian River and wooden blocks were used as stones. Later, an outdoor rink was made on the Mississippi River opposite the fairgrounds, and the first closed rink was on a site on or near the present fairgrounds.

The next rink was on “The Island” (see today’s story)  a combination building which housed the skating rink as well as the curling rink. That building was outmoded the present structure was then erected at Brae Street. This was operated successfully for a growing membership which brings the club up to date. A point stressed by Mr. Comba that should be of principal pride to local curlers, is that the Mississippi Club stands in 6th place on the roster of the Caledonia Club. He said the present membership has great traditions to maintain, but predicted continued success through co-operation for the next hundred years.



December 16, 1954–During the evening a sing-song was enjoyed with Mrs. Harry Walker at the piano and Mrs. R.A. Jamieson, Mr. Martin Maxwell, and Mr. George Rodger leading. Mrs. Doris DeSadeleer contributed a humorous solo. “This Old Rink Was Getting Shaky” with Mrs. Harry Walker as accompanist. At the close, Mr. Young thanked the Lady’s Club for their efforts and all others who had assisted, with special thanks to Mr. Arthur Lockhart who gave his time in painting free of charge, and also Mr. Charles Finner for bringing his PA system

Almonte Curling Club History-click here

MAYOR GEORGE L. COMBA WHO presided over the civic administration of Almonte during the most depressing period in its history. He will probably be returned to office by acclamation at the nominations Friday nigh

COMBA, George L. – At Almonte on Tuesday, May 21, 1957, George L. Comba, beloved husband of Emily Mason, father of Murray Comba, Almonte; (Emily) Mrs. Donald Blanchard, of Bristol, Quebec; and brother of (Jean) Mrs. David Rankin, Trenton, New Jersey; (Phyllis), Mrs. Emil Zarella of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Charles of Calgary, Alberta, and William of Port Arthur. Resting at his home, Church St., Almonte. Funeral service Friday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at the Almonte United Church. Interment Auld Kirk cemetery. Masonic service at his home, Almonte, Thursday evening, May 23, at 8 o’clock. In lieu of lowers please send contributions to Naismith Memorial Hospital Fund.

Ex-Mayor of Almonte, George L. Comba, Passes – A well-known resident and one-time mayor of Almonte, George L. Comba died in hospital Tuesday of last week after a short illness. He was 66. Born in Pakenham, he was a son of the late Charles Comba and Sarah Jane Dunlop. He was educated in Almonte schools. Prior to enlisting in the RAF in the First World War, Mr. Comba was a prospector in British Columbia. While overseas in 1917, he married the former Emily Louise Mason at London, England. He returned to Canada in 1919, and opened a furniture and undertaking business in Almonte. Mr. Comba left the furniture business in 1943, and carried on with the undertaking business with his son. Mr. Comba at one time was mayor and reeve of Almonte and formerly warden of Lanark County. He served as secretary-treasurer of North Lanark Agricultural Society, and had been secretary of Almonte Public School Board and East Lanark High School Area for 37 years. He was honorary president of the Canadian Legion, Almonte Branch, and a charter member of that organization. He was also director of the N.L.A.S. He was a member of the United Church, Granite Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, past patron of Eastern Star, belonged to the Shriners of the Ottawa Temple; was a member of Almonte Curling Club, Almonte Lawn Bowling Club, Gemmill Park Commission and Almonte Library Board. He leaves in addition to his wife, one son, Murray, Almonte; one daughter, Mrs. Don (Emily) Blanchard, Bristol, Quebec;. two brothers, Charles, Calgary, and William H., Port Arthur; two sisters, Mrs. David (Jean) Rankin, Trenton, N.J., and Mrs. Emil (Phyllis) Zarella, Gerard College, Philadelphia. The body rested at the Comba Funeral Home, Almonte, from where the funeral left to Almonte United Church for service at 2 p.m., Friday, May 24. Rev. J. R. Anderson officiated. Burial was in Auld Kirk.


Related reading:

Perth Courier, Feb. 15, 1889

Mr. James Templeton, 85 years of age, while on a visit here, made an appearance at the Perth curling rink and played for a time with much skill.  He has been a curler for 67 years—an ordinary man’s lifetime.

Perth Courier, March 6, 1885

Mr. F. B. Allan was the winner this year of the gold medal presented for the yearly competition by Mr. William Lees, M.P.P. to the Perth Upon Tay Curling Club.


Related reading:

The Almonte Skating Rink on “The Island”


Want to read about the Carleton Place Curling Club?

Facts You Might Not Know About Carleton Place for our 150th Birthday – Part 6– Fire and Ice


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun

The Almonte Skating Rink on “The Island”



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Photo from the Almonte Gazette


ALMONTE’s Skating and Curling Club January 1903- Almonte Gazette-1903-01-02-08

When Almonte undertakes to do a thing she usually does it well, and when Contractor Donaldson undertakes to do a thing he does it both quickly and well. For the past two or three years the erection of a large rink has been discussed spasmodically, and some preliminary steps towards the accomplishment of that end were undertaken, one of which was the formation of the Almonte Rink Co., but not until this year did things assume practical shape.

Now, however, Almonte is the possessor of what has been pronounced by competent judges to be the best skating and ending rink in the Ottawa Valley. The building, a cut of which is given above, is situated along the bank of the Mississippi river, on the island, between the bridge and the falls above the Rosamond Woolen Co’s, mill, on a site for which- the Rink Co. are largely indebted to Mr. B. Rosamond. It is a very convenient location, easily reached from, any part of the town. The skating rink is 80 x 18 feet, the roof being sustained by seventeen- wooden  arches forty-five feet high, both ends being anchored to the concrete piers upon which they are set, and every pier less than two feet high is anchored to the rock below with 2 inch iron and 1 inch bolts, so that there is no danger to the structure ever moving.

Along each side of the building outside the arches is a lean-to about nine feet wide, which with the platform at each end will give accommodation to nearly 1,500 spectators. Along the sides the platform is in three steps, each one being a foot higher than the one in front of it. This will enable everybody to see what is going on upon the ice.

Between the skating and curling rinks are two waiting rooms, fitted with lockers, etc., for the skaters, a refreshment room and the waiting room for the curlers. Upstairs are dressing rooms for the hockey players with lockers in each, a band stand, and two club rooms. These are reached by a stair from the vestibule of the rink, in which is the ticket office. Even the minutest description of the rink would fail to convey a correct idea of the immense size of the building.

In each of the arches there is nearly one thousand feet of lumber; 165,000 feet of lumber and 210,000 shingles were used in the construction of the rinks, and three tons of nails, including half-a-ton of shingle nails were required in the work. One-and-a-half tons of iron rods and bolts are used to stay the arches and otherwise strengthen the building, and through 1,500 panes of glass the light of the sun enters in. The curling rink, at the south end of the skating rink, is 43 x 143 feet, with a five-foot platform up the centre. This building, too, is set upon concrete piers, as are also the poses in the centre which support the roof.

The rink is well lighted, and ventilated, and is a bright and comfortable building; The curling rink and the waiting rooms are lighted with incandescent lights and the skating link with arc lamps. The contract was given to Mr. J. Donaldson for $4,870 on the 14th of October, ground was broken on the following day, and on the 21th of December the contract was taken off his hands completed. They deserve great credit for the manner in which he rushed the work through, for the quality of material used, and for the  neatness and excellence of the work done. Mr. Win. Hart was overseer of the work and Mr. Geo. Garvrn had charge of the machine work, and upon both of these gentlemen the architect bestowed the warmest praise. Mr. J. P. McLaren, of Ottawa, was the architect.

Peggy Byrne added–“Murray Guthrie skated in this building and they had moccasin dances after – he could tell you a few stories about this relic’.


So Where Was the Ice Palace?

The Old Carleton Place Arena

So What Did You Wear Ice Skating?

Your Carleton Place Trading Card–Meet Number 7 — Brian Trimble

The Figure Skaters of Carleton Place

Skaters Under Ice? Ring That Bell!

Falling Through the Ice- One Reason Indoor Rinks Were Created