Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Alex Howell conducted on 25 June 1978.
Mr. and Mrs. Howell have lived on Beverly Street in St. George for most of their lives. Their house is located right beside the site of the old Presbyterian church. The Howell property previously included the farm now owned by Robert Loveless. Mr. and Mrs. Howell were able to tell us a bit about the history of that property and other interesting stories of their life here.
Interviewer: Who were the original owners of the Loveless farm?
Mr. Howell: Well, I'm not sure but it runs in my mind that it was Frank Howell who owned it. He lived to be 101, and in his later years moved to live in a house right across from where Sandy Shantz. It seems to me that Frank Kowell owned the property first. Then there was a Harold Hollingsworth who lived there. He was a wonderful metro singer and later went on to sing at the Metropolitan opera.
Interviewer: Do you know who the original builder was?
Mr. Howell: Mo, my father, Clarke Howell, moved over there from the original Howell homestead, now owned by the Waters.
Interviewer: How many acres were there on the farm originally?
Mr. Howell: 212 acres. When my Dad sold to Shellcraft they kept this 12 acres where I live now.
Interviewer: Who owned the farm from that time until now?
Mr. Howell: First of all, Dad sold the place to Ed Shellcraft. He was killed by a horse one day there. After that, it was sold to a man named Smith. Then KacAlpines got it after that, they were from London. Then I think Humphrey had it, then Russell Kitchen, then Mr. and Mrs. T.O. Loveless bought it.
Interviewer: When was this house built?
Mr. Howell: In 1913 or 1914, just after the farm was sold to Mr. Shellcraft. We lived over in the big house until this one was completed.
Interviewer: Wasn't the old Presbyterian church on this property?
Mr. Howell: Yes, this house is built from it. They bought the church and demolished it. They used the lumber of the church and the brick. The brick is on the inside of this house, there are two layers of brick.
Interviewer: Do you remember a radio station in St. George?
Mr. Howell: Yes. Jack Patterson started it about 1925. It was up over top of the Band of Montreal. It was just a small station but it was the first in the area. But I remember when I was working down in Burlington on the railroad, and I was listening to his station one afternoon. I can remember particularly this quartet – Len Meyers and a few others were singing — it was quite a thrill to here them. Radio was just becoming popular then.
Interviewer: What other kind of things did he have?
Mr. Howell: Oh, just local talent and news. There wasn't a great deal of money to pay out for anything much. I think that practically everyone who contributed to the program did it for free. There were no fees or anything. It wasn't on continuously, it was just on for certain hours.
He later moved to Branfford and then up to Kitchener. When he was in Kitchener he had the Kitchener-Waterloo station. On Sunday night around 9 o’clock, he used to take me up for what they called the Neilsen hour, and it was Dr. Thiel and the Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. They played for an hour. That was across Canada — I think it was about one of the first programs they had across Canada.
Interviewer: Do you know how many men he might have employed?
Mr. Howell: Well, not really. I don't think there were many. Jack did all of the announcing and that was about all.
Interviewer: Where was he located in Kitchener?
Mr. Howell: They were in the Nalper House in Kitchener. First of all he was up in Waterloo in one of those buildings on King St., the right hand side.
Interviewer: What happened to the radio station in St. George?
Mr. Howell: I think it had always been more or less a challenge to Jack Patterson. He wanted to move onto a bigger place, so he moved to Brantford.
Interviewer: Did the Howell's used to own the land across from the farm? I guess its called Gordon’s Gulch since the Hoults moved down there.
Mr. Howell: Yes, we used to own that. There used to be two excavations that were ponds that they had fish in. It was just a hobby I guess with the fellow who owned it. I can't think of his name. It seems to me it was Van Every. It wasn't really anything big. We bought that land from him. Hoults bought it from us. But I can remember, when I was younger and living in the Loveless house, gypsies camping down in the hollow there. They had a circle around with a campfire in the center. In those days, the gypsies went from place to place, you don't see them around much anymore.
Interviewer: We've heard a lot of stories about the organ in the Baptist church...
Mr. Howell: Oh yes. My Uncle Alex and Dr. Patten donated the money for the organ.. My Uncle Alex wasn't married and he always lived with my dad. The old church was burned down and they rebuilt it in 1911. While that church was being built, I went to Sunday School in the Bell Foundry.
Interviewer: We've heard about that. It was a massive building.
Mr. Howell: Oh yes. The worst thing that ever happened was when that building was sold. Bells, for some reason didn't want to see anyone get a hold of it. At one time Beatties wanted to buy it and there would have been a shoe factory in St. George. At that time it wasn't as valuable as it would have been today because the railroad station used to be down the hill and everything had to be taken down or carted down to the station. Well nowadays, the trucks would pull right in to the factory and that would have been ideal today. But that building was sold for $1800 – the whole thing.
Interviewer: Who bought it?
Mr. Howell: A wrecking company of some sort and they just demolished the whole thing. You wouldn't visualize it unless you saw it. It was so big for a little village. It went from just east of Lyons driveway to the corner of Reid Street. Then, there was another addition that went north of that. I remember going down the trail ranges that they used to have at the church, and I remember going by that building and thinking how well built it was. It was too bad it was sold, it could have been very profitable. The town council should have stepped in there. But before they knew,-the building was gone. There was a place from Grimsby in there for a while — Fraser Morris worked there. They made pipeless furnaces and things. But Mr. Bell raised the rent on them and I guess they moved up to Alliston. That is the only company I know of that were in the factory outside of Bell. But I do know that Beatties and a shoe factory and maybe a tire company were interested in the building. Another thing I can tell you about that is that at the time of the war in 1914, it was turned into a munitions factory. I can remember as a kid that there were a lot of people working here and boarding at the hotel. We used to go to the schoolyard and play ball, and I remember a lot of strangers around.
Interviewer: Can you remember anything about Mr. Bell?
Mr. Howell: Well, all I can remember is that they said he was very stubborn. You couldn't change him. That's one reason why it followed down through the family. They seemed to be so obstinate about letting anybody else take it over. Frank Bell used to live in the first house north on Reid Street, on the left hand side.
Interviewer: What about the rest of the family?
Mr. Howell: Ben Patten, he used to live where your Grandma Nixon lives now on Beverly Street, well, he married a sister of Frank Bell. Cyrus Griffith, who used to live up on the corner, back by Morrison's, he married another sister.
Interviewer: Where there any other industries around here that you can remember?
Mr. Howell: Well, Jackson Wagon Works, and the mill. There was a little creamery back down High Street where all of those tires are now. Freddy Uren ran it. He lived there where Charlie Duncan used to live. It was very small. It quit years ago. Malcolms sort of took over the business. I remember when he was there because Blake Uren used to play a lot of hockey for our team here.
Interviewer: Where did you play hockey?
Mr. Howell: There used to tie a rink right north of the old school. When we were kids we used to skate on what we called Reed's pond. Bill Scott lived there then. This is the first place east of Bill Snowball's old place. There used to be a pond between that and Hinans. We used to skate there in the winter time. I think the gully is in there yet.
Interviewer: Was it a good hockey team?
Mr. Howell: Yes, there was John Malcolm, Blake Uren, Tommy Ivan, he went on to the Chicago Blackhawks. He came here from Toronto and they gave him a job at Malcolms and he played here, then went to Brantford and Detroit and on to Chicago.
Interviewer: What else did you do for recreation?
Mr. Howell: All we did was go to school, then come home and get our supper and then go down and play football down there until it was dark. Then se'd come home, and if we had any time we'd do our homework.
Interviewer: Where did you go to high school?
Mr. Howell: We walked up to the station and rode the train out to Brantford. That's where I went to high school. The train left about ten after eight. Then we went to Lynden and we caught a train there. Then we went to Brantford and got there about ten after nine. We used to miss about 20 minutes of the first class, this was at B.C.I. Then we hung around. Brantford until about 7*00 at night, then we got another train back at night. Then we would walk back home from the station. We had a lot of fun though.
When you hear these old timers – Dr. John Benson, and the Paty boys—when they come back and Alex gets talking — oh, boy! You know they made their own fun, they really did.
Mr. Howell: Yes, we rode on the first new train after they switched over from steam. You see, they had steam engines, then they switched to kind of an electric car. We happened to be some of the first ones to ride on it. I still remember when we pulled into Lynden, half the village turned out. You see, we used to go around by Paris and down this way. This used to be a main line for the freights. A lot of the freights didn't go through Brantford, they'd come down through Paris, and straight through here to Harrisburg.
Interviewer: I was going to ask if you remembered going through Harrisburg.
Mr. Howell: Yes, Harrisburg was a busy place. But St. George was a busy place too. When I can remember, there was a train that went through at 8:10 and it went to Brantford. The train I took went on to Hamilton, but we changed in Lynden. Then there.1 was one that came in at 12;30, and then another that came around by Paris and in here at 4:00, then to Harrisburg. If there were any passengers coming up from Hamilton going on to Gait and Guelph they changed and the train was back up into St. George at 4:30. Well then it left at 4:30 to go to Brantford, and at 7:00 it came back to St. George. Then it went down again to Harrisburg and met another train, and then back again at 8:30. Then it went back to Brantford.
Interviewer: Was there a bridge that you had to go over to get to Paris?
Mr. Howell: Oh yes, there was one over 24 highway. It crossed right before Ontario Park there. It just went over the highway. There used to be a sitting at Dumfries and the trains used to meet there and they had an operator there at Dumfries at one time. Mr. Hurley, the operator used to live in that small white house before Lloyd Wehrstein's. That's where he lived — he was an operator for years. They had three operators in Harrisburg because that is where all of the trains used to meet.
Interviewer: Where was this Dumfries sitting?
Mr. Howell: Well, it was just about where highway 24 is now.
Interviewer: Wasn't there another bridge off of Blue Lake road?
Mr. Howell: Oh yes. You know when you go up passed the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead and then you make a turn at the end of the road to go to Paris? Well that bridge was over there to the right — right across that road that goes up to Glen Morris. Then the trains would go right into Paris. The Paris junction was quite a place at that time. All the trains used to get water and coal there, then either go to Brantford or go out to St. George. Unless they had any cars to put off at Brantford, they would route them through here, because it was a direct route straight through to Hamilton.