When honey was more than simply going to the store

Spring is here and, soon with the return of blossoms, hopefully the bees will come back to do what they do best … make honey.

While most of us who want honey today go to the store to buy our sweet treat, in days past, it wasn’t that easy.

The following is a Spring story from early Southampton and how the sweet treat of honey took considerable work, time and effort.


Written from Memory by:
G. William Streeter

When I was born in May of 1942, my mother and my sister Gloria were living in a rental home on MacDonald Lane between Albert and Grosvenor streets in Southampton. My Dad had shipped out eight months earlier, in October 1941, from Halifax with The Perth Regiment as a member of the Canadian Army.

Two years later, about the time that Dad arrived on Juno Beach, on D-Day Plus 4, June 10, 1944, Mom, Gloria and I were moving into the little house on the southeast corner of Morpeth and Grey Streets. There were no homes along Grey Street and the closest neighbours on Morpeth were at the corner of Breadalbane. George Nickels’ cattle were just over the fence to the south of our one-acre lot. Mom had bought the house from Masie Blundell for $550. A young teenage girl from Walkerton, named Patsy Dean, lived with us and mom worked at Dominion Plywoods (today’s Rexall drug store) where they produced components for the Mosquito Bombers.

Dad came home in the early winter of 1945 and the family grew to fill the little house on the corner. Our closest neighbours, a block away, on the southeast corner of Morpeth and Breadalbane were Mr. and Mrs. Dan Trafelet. They had farmed in Saugeen Township before retiring in town. Dan had an apiary on his township farm and had brought his bees to his home on Breadalbane. Behind their home was a small barn, a large vegetable garden and the stand of beehives.

            Dan Trafelet

When I was about 8 or 9, Mr. Trafelet asked me to help him while he was harvesting the honey. He gave me a hat and screen head cover and a bellows attached to a can, that had smouldering wood chips in it. When he opened the hives to remove the honeycombs to get the honey, I would pump the bellows to quiet the bees with the smoke. We would then take the combs to the barn and remove the honey and he would start the process of getting the honey ready for jars and pails. If he needed me to help him, he would stop me on my way home from school.

In the summer, people would be stopping at his home to buy his  honey and the vegetables from his garden. Any time that I helped him, he would give me veggies to take home. One summer when I was 10 or 11, he asked me if I would like to sell his honey and vegetables door-to-door along the shore to the cottagers. I had my Red Flyer wagon and it seemed like a good idea.

He organized carrots, beans, onions, peas, beets etc. into small bundles and had simple prices like 10, 15, 20 or 25 cents each. There were small jars of honey for a quarter. The arrangement was that I got a quarter for every dollar I sold. He would give me a dollar in coins for change. I would pull the wagon down Morpeth to the Breakers Hotel and then go door-to-door south along the beach walk until I either sold out or got to the docks. Then back to Mr. Trafelets’ for the big split. Making a dollar was a big deal for a 10-year-old kid in 1952.

We moved from the little house on Morpeth St. in September, 1953 when I was 11 and I do not think that I got to spend time with Mr. Trafelet after that. He passed away in 1955.

Then, a couple of years ago, I went into a place of business here in town (Southampton) and up high on some cupboards were antique honey pails with “From the apiary of D.TRAFELET, R. R. 1, Southampton ONT.” inscribed on them.

For larger view, Click on Image

Robert Cowling at Cowling Custom Upholstery is a Great Grandson of Dan Trafelet and proudly displays these as a momento of his ancestral past. Some great memories of my past came back to life. Summertime in Southampton meant there was always something for a young kid to do.

In our town, there are other descendent families of DAN TRAFELET, the Local Beekeeper of yesteryear.

This is one of my great memories of the past.
Written March 25, 2022