It would be difficult to find anyone who is more passionate about history, particularly local history, than William (Bill) Streeter of Southampton and, at Monday night’s Council meeting, he was presented with the Municipal Heritage Conservation Award.
His nomination came from Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt and was supported by Council and the Municipal Heritage Committee. The Vice-Deputy Mayor noted that, “Bill has only had a brief history on our Municipal Heritage Committee, but in that time, he has done an extraordinary amount of research and development in many projects.”
The award is presented in recognition of heritage-minded individuals in Saugeen Shores who are involved in conserving heritage either by protecting original buildings and surroundings or through educating others and it seemed only fitting that Bill received the award on Remembrance Day given his passion for all things historically military.
According to Heritage Committee Chair, Joyce Johnston, the Committee received nominations in late spring and used the following criteria in making its recommendation:
- Voluntarily promote the importance of preserving significant heritage structures
- Those who show leadership in restoration and preservation of heritage buildings, sites, etc.
- Acknowledge individuals for long standing service in an organization dedicated to maintaining cultural heritage
- Show appreciation for personal collections of local artifacts, heritage photographs or memorabilia – which they share with the community to promote appreciation of heritage.
Each year, the Town presents the award to promote and celebrate the valuable role that individuals or organizations play in ensuring that structures and stories from the past continue to be present in our community.
A life-long Bruce County resident, Bill Streeter was born in the Count and attended elementary school in Southampton and was, in fact, part of the first graduating class from G. C. Huston School in the 1955 inaugural year. He then went on to attend Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) in Port Elgin, which was located in what is now the Maple Square Mall, and graduated in 1959.
He left in 1960 to try his luck in Toronto and started working at Goodyear Tire in October 1960 as a Junior Accountant. Bill met his soul mate the beautiful Gail Perry at the bowling alley on Southampton’s beach and they had two children, Blair (Marianne) and Paula (Alec) and today there are four grandchildren, Benjamin, Ocean, Caleb and Luc. The couple had a wonderful life with their family and traveled extensively visiting 70 countries, which Bill is continuing, having recently visited China.
They have owned property in Saugeen Shores for 50 years and have always spent holidays and vacations in the community year around. Bill retired from Goodyear Canada in 1998 after 38 years and moved to Saugeen Shores, part time initially and eventually permanently in 2010. Since that time, he has been actively involved in the community – volunteering for the Southampton Rotary Club, the Saugeen Shores Planning Committee, and subsequently for the Saugeen Shores Municipal Heritage Committee. He is an active member of the Bruce County Historical Society, the Southampton Golf & Country Club, the Chantry Seniors and is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 155 and assists them with historical matters.
With a family filled with its own history, it is no wonder that Bill has a fascination with the past.
On his paternal side of the family, his grandfather was sent to Canada as a Home Child in 1886 at 11 years of age. The clearing-house for these children was in Stratford and he was eventually assigned to farms in the Walkerton area. He later worked in Cargill in the lumber mills until moving to Chesley where he worked at the Krug Brothers Furniture factory. His sons and grandchildren also worked there until the factory was closed. (Perhaps, a topic for a future interpretive plaque!!)
Bill’s maternal ancestors arrived in the community in 1851 from New Brunswick where they had worked as rafts men on the St. John River. His great-great grandfather died in the fall of the same year, along with his brother, when the boat the Saucy Jack, sank off Chantry Island in Lake Huron. His great-grandfather was just a toddler at the time. Both his grandmother and his mother were born on the Doll Sideroad at the family pioneer farm.
Since joining the Municipal Heritage Committee, Bill has done extensive, and intensive, research on many projects, including:
Commemorative Banner Project
Bill has a passion for local history and for the role that members of the community have played in defending our country in past conflicts. Bill works closely with the two local Royal Canadian Legions, to locate photos of soldiers that are recognized on the Cenotaphs in Southampton, Port Elgin, Saugeen First Nation #29 and Saugeen Township. This year, 48 soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice have been recognized; 24 in Port Elgin and 24 in Southampton. Bill is now working diligently to locate photos on the remaining 33 soldiers. From the banner project, Bill has been able to document the history of each soldier, where they were born, died, and found information that documents their military careers.
Mosquito Bomber Plaque, Southampton – In 2016, Bill took a special interest in the Mosquito Bomber Fighting Plane. During the Second World War, the Dominion Plywoods Factory, formerly located on Albert and Adelaide Streets, played an important role in supporting the Allied Efforts in Europe. The plaque highlights the Bomber and the work of many Southampton residents at that time. Bill met with the volunteers at the Aircraft Museum in Windsor, whose project is to reconstruct a Mosquito Bomber. One of the volunteers attended the plaque unveiling and donated an actual wing tip from the Mosquito Bomber, which is currently located in the Mayor’s office, proudly on display.
Agricultural Plaque of Saugeen Township – Bill met with several local farmers, to develop the story of agriculture in the former Saugeen Township. He feels that the interpretive plaque tells the story of the development of agriculture from 1851, when it started, to where it is today. The plaque is located on Bruce Rd. 25 East at the South end of Port Elgin.
New Plaque – Ladies in Uniform – With all the work on the Commemorative Banner Project, Bill discovered that the community has also had women who went to war enlisting in WWI as nursing sisters and in WWII in non-combat roles. He is currently researching 17 ladies’ stories and pictures, to highlight on a future interpretative plaque.
Heritage Outreach – Bill also attends events such as the Marine Heritage Fair and Pumpkinfest every year, to spread the word about heritage. He feels it is very important to promote heritage in a positive and interesting way.
With an exceptional memory for facts and dates, Bill remembers businesses that existed when he was a child, who owned them and worked in them. In addition, he remembers who built and owned individual residences, when they were sold and who bought them. More than simply facts however, he remembers the nuances of family histories of the area and those things that make the history of families interesting.
Research – over the last eight years, Bill has researched projects and made presentations in the community to several organizations including Rotary, Legions, Probus and the Chantry Centre etc., particularly around military history.
Bill’s talks have included, ‘A Tour of the WWI Canadian Western Front Trenches in Belgium and France’; ‘WWI and WWII Soldier stories’; Canada and the Victoria Cross; From Zeeland to the Rhineland Dec. 44 to March 45 with the First Canadian Army; Our Community and its Role in National and World Conflicts; The 100 Days Offensive; The History of Agriculture in Saugeen Township; First Nations Projects; and many more. Many of Bill’s historic stories are published by the local media, the Royal Canadian Legion’s Newsletters and various historical booklets.
Also having been an avid curler, after starting in Southampton in 1956 and ending in 2018 after 62 years of curling, Bill has curled with and against some of ‘the’ best curlers. He, in fact, started curling when the Southampton Curling Club was a two-sheet attachment on the north side of the old tin shed arena, on natural ice.
The Municipal Heritage Committee congratulates Bill on his well-deserved award and looks forward to working with him for many years to come.
In his acceptance speech, Bill told another historic story only recently discovered … and revealed that he has several more projects lying in wait …