Bill Carson, soon to be 89, remembers well the street that he once lived on and walked along, to and from school in Southampton in the 1940s. High Street has seen many changes since his school days but, too, there remains much of the history as it was then.
We will walk along with Bill, first as he goes to school and, later, on his return home.
Walking to School in Southampton by Bill Carson
(Historical photos by Bruce County Museum Archives)
High Street 2020
Starting at the southwest corner of High and Huron Streets was the Greathead home. Mrs. Greathead and her two sons, John and Peter, built and operated the Greathead summer cabins, while Joe Greathead owned the main grocery store in town (now the Fun Cafe) that was eventually taken over by son, Barry and his wife, Virginia (nee Parker).
Crossing the street to the southeast corner was the Fitton home. Horace and Gladys Fitton with son, Arthur, and daughter, Joan, lived in what is now Chantry Breezes Bed & Breakfast. Horace Fitton was the co-founder and owner of the Fitton-Parker Furniture Factory. Son, Arthur, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) during the war and gained some notoriety when he ‘buzzed’ his family’s home with an Anson Bomber during a training run.
Next to the Fitton home is, still what is known by most Southampton people, as the Bowman House where Fred and Minnie Bowman lived. Fred and brother, Charlie Bowman, operated the tannery on the hill overlooking Fairy (Little) Lake until it burned down on July 31, 1900. Today, there is a wheel and plaque in memory of the factory.
While Fred Bowman built the Bowman House, brother Charlie built Hampton Villa (what is now Hampton Court retirement home). “I can remember Fred sitting in a chair in the front yard and shooting starlings with his shot gun,” says Bill Carson. “Neighbours complained about pellets raining down on their homes but of course, nothing was ever done about it.” After Fred and Minnie died, son Cecil continued to live in the Bowman House.
Continuing up the south side of High Street, the next home is the Carson Home.
Dr. Harry Carson, wife Anne and son, Bill (the author) lived here where Dr. Carson practised as the town’s doctor. During the war, Dr. Carson served in England with Canadian General Hospital #4 and, just before returning home, died of a massive heart attack in England in December, 1945. Anne and son, Bill, continued to live in the home while renting out the medical offices to various doctors. The house was eventually sold to Dr. Don Mercer and wife, Sybil.
As we arrive at the corner of High and Grosvenor Streets, that today includes the CIBC Bank branch, according to Carson this particular corner saw a lot of activity over the years. The Malcolm family had a small house in the middle of the lot with a barn in the back. The building on the corner was once occupied by the Sam Sit Can restaurant, Stanley Steadman Insurance and then a grocery store run by the Raynor family.
Eventually, Everett Short took over the building when he moved the local newspaper, the Southampton Beacon from Albert Street, local Billy Weiss also had a taxi stand here for a while, with a 1948 Chrysler that also served as the town ambulance, and McGuire’s Auction was also at this location.
Crossing Grosvenor Street on our walk is the restaurant, Duffy’s Fish & Chips. Once however, it was Bob Hilmer Jewelry, Gifts and Cameras, where Bill Carson purchased his first camera.
Beside Bob Hilmer’s was Mae Hilmer’s Bake Shop where she sold bread and baked goods provided by Archie Perkins Bakery.
Then, there was the Esquire Grill, owned and operated by Nellie Mahon. Here the only chocolate bars available during the war were the ‘Liberator’ bars and, according to Carson, “You never knew what you were going to find in them. When the war ended, Nellie put out all her good Neilson chocolate bars to the dismay of the other confectionary stores in town.” Later on, the Grill was sold to Milt and Mabel Schreiber from Clinton and it became a major hang-out for the youth.
Next, was the Ira Silverthorne Barber Shop that, until last year, was a ladies’ fashion store, BLISS. Today, the building has been renovated as a commercial rental storefront space with apartments upstairs. Gord Sewell Shoe Repair was next. Carson remembers Sewell’s fondly as a meeting place for his ‘bunch’ that included Bill Harmer, Howard Parker, Bud Morton, Don Short, Bill Knowles and Jim Dobney.
Where there is now a hairdresser (Beauty by the Beach), Clarke Brown built a new barber shop beside a vacant lot that today is a dental clinic.
Beside the barber shop was the Doran Brothers’ Hardware store where owners, Ralph and Maurice Doran, let customers listen to new 78 records before purchasing. They eventually had the first known television in Bruce County It was also here that Carson’s schoolmate, Lorne Walmsley, worked for many years. The Walmsley name is still well-known in Southampton as Gary Walmsley owns GW Signs on Grosvenor Street north.
Southampton was a thriving commercial community. There was Jack McVittie’s Men’s Wear, Mrs. McVittie’s Dry goods store for fabric, Greathead’s Grocery (Fun CAFE) owned by Joe Greathead and where Mrs. Greathead’s famous homemade suckers were sold (they are still a treat today).
Next door was ‘Dad’ Huber’s Pool Room, a popular hang-out for youth. Carson said that he and his ‘buds’ became fairly good snooker players and even made the odd nickel playing ‘pea pool’. “We would leave our schoolbooks there after school, so that we had an excuse to head back to the pool room after supper.” The pool hall was also the bulletin board for events where signs would be posted for ‘hockey or ball game tonight’ or ‘free skating tonight’.
Eventually, the front of the pool hall was rented by Ross Fowler (who helped Fawcett Warder start the Southampton Tennis Club), where the two store fronts became a laundromat and dry cleaner (where the Art Gallery and the Olive Oil Company are today). Then, in 1956, he moved to where the Offshore Bakery is today.
Next was Maundrell’s grocery and butcher shop that had two store fronts. Owner, Art Maundrell was also very involved in the Saugeen Golf and Country Club. Carson remembers the store window that would be filled with turkeys, ducks and geese every holiday season and each bird would have a humorous note attached to it. Today, the two fronts are Hills Insurance office and McIntee Real Estate.
Hills Insurance was previously Ellis Mallard Insurance and Millard was an important personage in the history of Southampton. A retired Ford executive from Windsor, Millard became Mayor and was responsible for many improvements in the town and, particularly, at the area of the Beach and what is today, Millard Boulevard. There were many stories of how Millard convinced a bulldozer operator to move mountains of sand for little cost, other than a “bottle or two”. He also lead the fundraising effort for the Hospital when he was President of Rotary and, when he retired for a second time, his old school friend, Stan Hills, took over the business.
Where McIntee is today was Vic Loghleen’se barber shop and then Camerons Drug store. After Camerons drug store, it became Wentworths Fine Clothes owned by Dick and Ethel Wentworth (1947) who moved from Simcoe.
Next on our walk is what was the Red and White Store and Butcher Shop, that was operated by Pro Montgomery, who formerly owned the pool hall after ‘Dad’ Huber. Eventually, Red and white became Harrigan’s 100 Mile Food Market until the recent retirement of the Harrigans in 2020.
Next door is Thorncrest Outfitters which was once the Post Office. There were two banks of individual boxes, one with keys and the other with combination locks. A General Delivery window was in the centre with two other wickets for parcels, special delivery, CODs and money orders. It was here that Bill Carson worked during the summers and holidays throughout high school and part of university. J. J. Clancy was the postmaster followed by his nephew Jim Clancy. The original wickets are now in the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre (the new post office opened in 1953).
Beside the former Post Office was the Five and Ten Cent Store (Steadman’s) owned by Tom Livingstone. It was the popular place in town to buy stationery, school supplies and sundry items.
Carson adds that “… there always seems to have been a restaurant on the corner (where the Lighthouse Restaurant is today). Lil Johnston (grandmother of Doug Johnston of D.C. Johnston Real Esate) , operated it after moving from the Silver Moon (across Albert St.) and before building Johnston’s Restaurant, a few doors south on Albert Street.”
Crossing Albert Street (Hwy. 21) is the Southampton Town Hall now a historic landmark in Southampton. Before amalgamation of Southampton with Port Elgin and Saugeen Township, Laird Macauley, the Town Clerk, had his offices here as did the Police Chief, Norman Murray, beside the jail cell in the basement. According to Carson, the Chief used to patrol up and down the streets looking for kids riding bikes on the sidewalks (some things never change). The Town Hall auditorium also served many purposes, including featuring travelling magic shows, providing winter badminton courts and for the annual New Year’s Eve party.
Beside what is now the library, was a small building, the Silver Moon Restaurant, and then the Beresford home that is now the Offshore Bakery.
Across the laneway that leads to the Coliseum, Reg Lee’s Garage provided full service gas and repairs to the early automobiles and is now Martin’s Bike Shop and an apartment block.
It was also the place where the youth bought the ‘Jimmie Allan Papers’, a fictitious war hero that was also used to market the gasoline.
Next door was Mrs. Lilly lee’s restaurant (today Judy Rich Law Office). One of the main hang-outs for youth was Lilly Lee’s restaurant until the day when Lilly reprimanded the group and they moved on to Lil Johnson’s new restaurant on Albert Street.
Before reaching Victoria Street and the four-church corner, was the Baptist Church (now the Lutheran Church) where Rev. Silver officiated. He and his wife had one son whom they incredibly named Sterling.
On the southeast corner was, and is, the Southampton United Church, on the northeast corner was the Anglican Manse and on the northwest corner is the Anglican Church.
Turning north at Victoria Street, Bill Carson continued his walk to Southampton Public School.
The next in the series, we will take the walk home with Bill on the north side of High Street and look at the history of the many buildings that are there
*With background provided by G. William Streeter and some sites may be subject to change