Strolling High Street in the 1940s – Part 2

As we said in Part 1 of Strolling high Street, 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.

In Part 1, we walked along with Bill on his way to school on the south side of High Street and, now, at the end of his school day we join him as he walks home on the north side of the street.


Walking home from School in Southampton by Bill Carson
(Historical photos by Bruce County Museum Archives)

Early High Street
Southampton Public School

In the 1940s, at the end of the school day, Bill Carson would leave Southampton’s Public School, which is now part of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre and housing the Archives, offices and Bruce Power theatre.

As he headed along Victoria Street and rounded the corner on to High Street, he first came to St. Paul’s Anglican Church.  It was here that he and friends, Bill Harmer, Bill Knowles, Ray Trelford, Art Trelford, Bob Trelford and Carmen Nickle sang in the Anglican Boys’ Choir.  The church has stood for more than 160 years and its anniversary was celebrated in 2019.

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Passing by the church, there was a vacant lot when Bill was a young boy but, today, there is a house, #240 High Street.  The home was built by the town’s blacksmith, Mr. MacIntosh, and then the James Porter family lived there.


Beside the home was an empty lot that would eventually become the IGA grocery store built by the Cowling family.  Today, it is Martin’s Home Hardware.




Although the original blacksmith shop no longer exists, it would have been where Roberto’s Pizzeria and a beauty salon now exist.  During the 1940s, Bill Carson would stop and watch the blacksmith as he shod horses while next door Gordon Knechtel, who was an expert machinist, had an old shop that was filled with metal working equipment.  “Gordon kept the Town Hall clock working,” says Bill Carson, “and his son, ‘Lefty’ also worked in the shop.”

Almost everyone in Southampton has visited Armen’s cafe at one time or another.  The popular barn-shaped cafe features a wide variety of specialty foods on the menu that owner Armen Higgins has gleaned during his world travels.

Armen’s however, is a recent building by Southampton historic standards and stands on part of the property where the blacksmith and machine shop were.


As Bill continued his walk, the next building he encountered was owned by the Orange Lodge.  The Protestant-based organization that came from England was originally formed in Canada in Brockville, Ontario.  The original group of Loyalist settlers were dedicated to maintaining their religious convictions and loyalty to British Institutions symbolized by their flag – the Union Jack.

Derelict buildings – Orange Lodge (R)

The Lodge met upstairs in the building and the side door of the Lodge remains today.  Historian Bill Streeter’s mother was the last ‘Mistress’ of the Lodge before its decline.  The Mistress presided at all meetings and was responsible for order, decorum and good government in the lodge. She was the custodian of all lodge property and saw that the Constitution and Laws of the Association were observed.  Today the two joined buildings have been left derelict. In the adjoined red brick building are apartments where the Porter family lived before buying the MacIntosh home at 240 High Street.

Continuing west, Bill walked past the H. Harmer Furniture store.  Herb Harmer not only had the main furniture store in Southampton but … he was also the local mortician who practised in the rear of the store.  Son, Bill Harmer and Bill Carson were best friends. “Ken Logan and I used to sit in the family living room and listen to Herb as he told us the many tales about his adventures in the ‘Big War’, WWI,” says Carson.  The store is now the Paul Eagleson Furniture stored.

Historic Saugeen Metis

Beside Eagleson’s store is the Historic Saugeen Metis office and meeting facility in what was the original Pentecostal ‘Bethel’ Church. Upstairs today is an apartment but it was once the parsonage.  Today, the Pentecostal Church is a new building located between Southampton and Port Elgin. “My father actually attended Bethel when he was a boy,” says today’s Pentecostal Pastor, David Baker.

Where D. C. Johnston Realty is today on the Northeast corner of High Street and Albert Street (Hwy. 21), the original yellow-brick building was formerly Southampton’s bank, the Bank of Hamilton that later became the CIBC.  In addition to the Bank, it also housed the Bruce County Health Unit where Bill Carson’s mother worked.

Crossing Albert Street (Hwy. 21), Bill Carson would walk past the Southampton Hotel that went through many name changes – the Teehan Building, the Gilbert Hotel, Southampton Hotel, Lowery Hotel and, today, the Outlaw Brewing Company.  The building was originally built by John Patrick Teahan who had moved from Windsor, Ontario in the mid-1880s and, locally, it was known as the Upper hotel based on its distance from the lake (Huron).  According to Carson, “… the beer parlour was always full on Saturday nights”. Upstairs were professional offices where Dr. Laird had his medical practice prior to building his home at 135 High Street.  The family apartment was also upstairs where the Teahans lived with their seven sons, one daughter and a grandmother.

Next door to the hotel, local BoyScout leader Linc Doll and brother-in-law Cec Soden had the town’s bakery and shop before they moved across the street and opened the five-and-ten store.  Today, it is the Dizzy Bird Coffee shop.

While today Sister’s is a high-fashion ladies wear store, in Carson’s day, it was Jim Farley’s Pool Hall.  “We used to sneak in to watch the big pool games,” says Carson.  “Then, Jim told us that we could no longer come in without a note from our mothers but our favourite hang-out was ‘Dad’ Huber’s pool hall across the street.”

Next door to Sister’s was the Gilberts’ Gift Shop owned and operated by Dorothy Gilbert and her mother.  Upstairs, the school’s Latin teacher, Mary Lamb and her son, Jim lived.  On his walk home from school, Bill Carson would stop at the Gilberts’ and pick up the Globe and Mail for his parents.

Beside the Gilberts’ was the Wells Confectionary owned and operated by Mrs. Wells and son, Stewart, who was also the last teacher to teach at the French Bay-Scotch Settlement roads at Saugeen First Nation Reserve #29.   Today, it is the Room 797 restaurant.


A fond memory for Carson of the next store was the soda fountain and ice cream at Delong’s Drug Store. Started by Orin Delong, his son Ross carried on the business and the old-fashioned drug store on the main street was a local hub that was visited almost daily by many Southamptonites until its closing.  Ross Delong was a close friend of Bill Carson’s father.  Today, the store has been replaced by a complex made up of three-businesses that include Re-Max Realty, L & Co. ladies wear and re Mind Wellness, with apartments on the upper level.

Downs Pro Hardware, that was recently sold, was originally the Matheson hardware store, started by Leland Matheson and his twin sons.  “I remember the dark oiled hardwood floors,” says Carson, “and how the store had almost anything that anybody would need.  Doug Helwig worked there for years and would do house calls for plumbing, window and screen repairs.”  In the front corner of the store, Ellis Mallard also had his insurance office before moving across the street to where Hills Insurance is today.  Mike and Jean Downs, owners of Pro Hardware for 35 years, carried on the inventory tradition that Matheson had started, but the era has come to an end.

Where Logan’s Mens Wear, ‘the Southampton store’, is today was once the Southampton telephone office.  Here, the switchboard operator was “Central” to place a local call. If there was a fire siren, you could check with Central and she would tell you the location.

Although Virginia Greathead did not work out of the telephone office, she was the 911 operator of the time. Working from her home on Thompson Lane or in the basement of the Southampton Town Hall, she maintained some 40 phones for emergencies.  Virginia Greathead was a former Parker of the Fitton-Parker Furniture family.

“A place of some of my greatest memories,” says Carson, “was the Esquire Theatre. I would go to the theatre on Saturday afternoons where I watch Superman or a good Roy Rogers cowboy show or one of the good old musicals.  The films arrived by train, would stay a few days and would then be replaced.”  Today, it is the Highview Restaurant next door to Logan’s.


Miller’s Insurance was once the dairy and cold storage owned by Bill Campbell where, in the days when fridges were rare, everyone had a rented cold storage locker.  “The storage was part of the local dairy business and my mother had a fairly large locker,” explains Carson.  “We would make regular trips to the locker in the summer to pick up meat, vegetables and fruit that had been frozen.  It was actually a place where neighbours would meet.”

Next door, was the coal and lumber business owned by Bob McVittie.  Coal was brought in by boat and unloaded at the docks on the Saugeen River. “Climbing the coal pile in the winter was a big deal,” says Carson.  “After my dad died, my mother worked in the store.  While the coal supplied most of the furnaces in Southampton, legend has it that the coal pile also supplied some furnaces that Mr. McVittie didn’t know about.  The lumber business was eventually taken over by William ‘Hap’ Rogers.”  Today, it is The Hamptons, a ladies wear store.

Canada Post

On the Northeast corner of High Street and Grosvenor Street, was a vacant lot until 1953 when the new Post Office was built. Bill Carson remembers working in the new building during the summers and holidays for a number of years.  “George Streeter and his family lived in the apartment upstairs,” remembers Carson.  “The new post office was a big change from the old one (Thorncrest Outfitters today) where Jim Clancy was the postmaster.”

Across Grosvenor Street was, and is, the Walker House that was owned by Harvey Mahon and then Bob Mahon.  Carson remembers when there were separate beverage rooms – one of the men and one for the ladies with escorts.  “It was locally known as the Lower hotel as it was closer to the lake (Huron).  There was no dining room at that time.”

Between the Walker house and what is known as the little white house is Hampton Travel with little known history of the building.





Next was a little white house, that still stands today.  Here, Tom Livingstone and his wife lived while they operated the five-and-ten store.  “They had no children,” says Carson, “and I remember that Tom always invited me to the annual Rotary Dads and Children Christmas Party as my own dad was away during the war.”

The house was later sold to Dr. Don Mercer and wife, Sybil.  Everett Short, who owned and operated the newspaper, the Southampton Beacon, lived here.

“Because we lived across the street, his son, Don, and I became very good friends,” says Carson.



Next door was the home of J.B. and Birdie Clark.  JB was a retired manager of the CIBC in Southampton and Birdie and Carson’s parents were close friends.  “I remember that the Clarks would hold court on their front porch throughout the summer and my parents would walk across on a sunny summer afternoon for drinks, as JB was famous for his ‘old fashions’.  Their daughter Kathleen eventually married Paul Hooper from Toronto and they had two daughters.”



The last house on Bill’s walk was built by George McAulay and Laird McAulay, who was  the Town Clerk, and his wife,Wilma, inherited the home where they raised their two sons, Donald and John.  Before graduating in medicine, Don was an expert water skiier who participated in events at the CNE in Toronto.  When the Lairds moved to a new home, Bill Campbell and his wife, who owned and operated the Southampton Dairy and cold storage (Miller Insurance), then lived in the house.  Campbell built a new processing dairy, that is now the Southampton Meat Market, and delivered milk by horse-drawn wagon.  Jim Dobney (Dib) delivered milk during the summers door-to-door, including the cottages on the north shore across the Saugeen River and Bill Martindale was the last driver on horse-drawn wagon.

Following Bill Carson to and from school in Southampton has been a fascinating history lesson of an earlier time.  It has also given us a peek into the families whose descendants still call Southampton home.


*With background provided by G. William Streeter and Sybil Mercer.  Some sites may be        subject to change