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Clara Farr

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Clara Farr
First name Clara
Last name Farr
Community Paris


Story

This interview has been contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was taken in the late 1970s or early 1980s by a volunteer for the Paris Public Library. An interview with her son, John Anderson, is also available in this collection.

Interview

Interviewer: Mrs. Farr, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your family and when you came to Paris?

Mrs. Farr: I came here in 1911 before the First World War and my father worked out at Oak Park Farm, halfway between here and Brantford and we moved to Paris in 1912. My father started to work on the railroad. Later, we moved to the Junction and lived. My mother worked in the Penmans Company. Later when the war started my father started at Adams Factory on War Works. I went to school here at the downtown school, Central School, the old Central School that they just tore down.

Interviewer: Were you employed in Paris?

Mrs. Farr: Not while I went to school. Later the war broke out and I went to school then. In 1918 my mother died with the flu. That was in October and in November the war stopped. I must tell you about the war stopping. Everybody was so excited and all the bells and everthing rang in Paris. At that time I lived up on Church Street, my mother died on Church St. I remember Joe Bradbury and his sisters and the Buzbees and the Robbs and old Mr. Robb running to the bell and of course all us children running to the bell too. As we rang the bell on November 11, we went up in the air and down again. This was in the old Town Hall. We used to have a up there. Every six o'clock in the morning and six o'clock at night us children used to go down there and ring the bell twice daily. Mr. Robb used to pull on the rope and go up with it. We used to have a good time. Well then in March my father sent us to England, my sister and I. We were over there for two years. And then I came back, Penmans brought me back out here again and I started in Penmans, and I paid my own way back to Penmans which was very nice, and I worked there for twenty-five years until the strike, I was in on that big strike and I didn't go back in. I started on house work for Mrs. B. X. Bailey and Dr. Dunton and later I landed at Penmarvian and I worked there for eighteen years. Of course I was married and had three children in three years and then my husband died. I brought my children up and of course in days there was no pension or anything else like there is today. I brought my children up and then about four years after that I remarried again to a fellow I had gone with before I met my first husband. He was a good fellow but later he joined the army .and he took to drinking and he was never right after that. Today he is resting, he died with cancer later. I have got a good family, I have no problems. I have Jack, Norman, Ruby, Sally and Louise. My son Norman is in the army and he'll be retired in another six years, he's at Camp Borden. Jack lives in Paris, Louise lives in Hamilton and Sally lives at 60 Fairview Dr., Brantford, and Ruby lives in Princeton. They are all good to me.

Interviewer: Can you tell me about the strike at Penmans?

Mrs. Farr: Oh, that was something! I never owned a fur coat in my life and somebody was good enough to bring me a fur coat so that I could go on the picket line. We had dances, we had parties. Mind you we had a good time but to me it didn't turn out right. They didn't co-operate together, you know, it was one of those. Part was scared to do this, the other half was scared to do something else. But;; later it had come back. I don't think there is any bad friends over it, if there is it is their own fault, I have none.

Interviewer: I understand that there was quite a bit of violence at that time. Were you scared at all during the strike?

Mrs. Farr: No, I wasn't scared. But there was a lot of violence then We had about sixty policeman here. They couldn't go in because the policemen stood on each side of them. Of course in those days strikes weren't as frequent as they are today. Then you see there was Penmans on the Flats and there was Penmans No. I and we couldn't be at both places at the same time, that was another thing.

Interviewer: What about Penmarvian when you worked there? It would be in good shape then.

Mrs. Farr: It was always in good shape until I left. I can't say it was ever in bad shape, when I worked there. I had a wonderful life, I had a alot of friends and the old folks were wonderful. It was a beautiful place.

Interviewer: I think it is a little run down now.

Mrs. Farr: Well it hasn't been used you see. That must be going down and down and down and of course we used a special kind of oil, I used to mix my own oil to keep the wood up and if they don't know that they wouldn't know what to put on it, would they? Tony was gardener there too, this is how I got in with him and of course I left there before he did. I went out to the White Horse and worked. I also worked at Broadway Manor, I was cook there. I went to Broadway Manor to get away from the old people if you understand what I mean, I wanted to get with the young people and then they turned it into a Nursing Home. Well then, on top of all that I was living here, Tony wasn't here at the time, and Mr. Wilson and them came to see me and asked me if I'd like to work out there, because I wasn't working at Broadway Manor because they had turned it into an old folks home.

Interviewer: What was Broadway Manor before it was an old folks home?

Mrs. Farr: Y.W.C.A. - Young Christian Women's Association. Yes, it was that for years and years. That was what it was built for. That is something you didn't know. Then you see, people named Rose bought it, and when they turned it into a nursing home I said no more, because I'd given my life to old people and I didn't want to have to do that again, I wanted to get away from it. So, I was home here one day and this car drove in and it was Mr. Wilson and his helper and they came in and asked me to go to the White Horse and be salad maker. I thought that would be kind of nice, something different for a change, but it was to get my vote to get them a liquor permit. They got the liquor anyway. I stayed at the White Horse and then I retired myself from the White Horse and I was home here and Mr. Collins, the man who owned the taxi before, came and asked me if I would like to dispatch. So I dispatched because I owned the taxi businesses before when my first husband was living, that's what we did. I dispatched for Mr. Collins and I retired from there and I haven't done anything since. I've got my old age pension and that's it. I do whatever I want now, very, independent. Well that is my life, except for bringing up my children and I can't say anything about them because they are wonderful.

Interviewer: Can you tell me anything about the Grand Valley Railway?

Mrs. Farr: Well it ran from the corner of Willow Street to Brantford, and before that it ran from here right along this river to Gait. They took that out and put in the new one. When we used to go to Brantford there was no cars in those days and they used to have the open cars. We used to go up over the hill and we had a ball on that too. When I lived at Oak Park Farm, they built this railroad and my family and myself, before we moved to Paris, were one of the first to ride on that. So, I've ridden on both railways.

Interviewer: What about social life in Paris when you were a young woman? What did you do for amusement?

Mrs. Farr: Oh, skating and we used to go swimming in the Grand River, swimming in the Nith River, skating and all that sort of thing.

Interviewer: Were there very many dances and that sort of thing sponsored for the young people?

Mrs. Farr: Oh yes, there was boys scouts and guides and all that sort of thing, of course not quite as popular as it is today, but there was. My father was also caretaker for the Anglican Church for thirty-five years and this is one thing I am very pleased about, the talks about putting the old bell on the Anglican Church lawn because I am Anglican and I was brought up in the church. I was raised right on that Church Street hill and that was all old gravel when I was there.

Interviewer: When the Depression was on you were in Paris then. Were you alone with your children then?

Mrs. Farr: Yes , but I worked. And then when the war was on my son Jack started to work at Cockshutts in Brantford, it is the White Farm now, and he lost two fingers and an eye. I was working at Penmans at the time and they couldn't do anything for him until they got me to Brantford. I often think that he did as much in the war as some of them that went overseas because he lost that eye and two fingers for the war. This was the second war. I have a good family, I have no complaints about any of them.

Interviewer: Can you tell me any changes in Paris since you have been here?

Mrs. Farr: Yes, all the houses up on top and the new territory, it was the same after the war, they built up there by the cemetery and made that new territory.

Interviewer: What about changes in businesses, store owners and that type of thing.

Mrs. Farr: Yes, there is a lot of change in the downtown area. There are not enough grocery stores, I'll say that. There used to be Tincknell's, Walker's McCosman's, there used to be the A&P and there was the Dominion all on the main street. The only stores that are there now that used to be there years ago that I can remember are, first the Barber Shop, that never changed. There is Hall's, there's Inksater's Shoe store, and there's the seedsman, Rutherfor's, I think that's about all. All the others have changed. Really, when I first came to Paris, they didn't have the show. They had a show right there along by Hall's place. It wasn't where Hall's is because Hall's has never changed. But, there was a show in there. Well then they built the Capitol over by the Royal Hotel. My father used to take us every Saturday night. We used to go to the show every night and when we would come out of the show my mother and father used to go into Taylor's and buy the funnies and we used to finish the Saturday by reading the funnies. Those were the days. Also I've lived in houses in Paris where there was no hydro. We've had lamps and stoves. Oh, we used to have a ball, even with my own children. I lived in a house at the Junction that had no hydro, no nothing and we had more fun living that way than later. We used to sit around the stove and make things and do things and listen to the old radio.

Interviewer: I understand that at one time the Junction was a socially active place because the railway went through there and apparently there were a lot of hotels there.

Mrs. Farr: Yes there was a hotel up there that I remember, it's still there but I don't think that they have it as a hotel anymore. It is the red brick place where the garage is up there, on Market Street, that used to be a hotel. Now before I came here I lived on 79 Capron with my son Jack and that's up in that territory so I've lived all over Paris in my life, if you understand. I've been here longer than I've ever been any place in my life. I don't think I'll ever move from here.

Interviewer: What about this park, Willowdale Park? It is a beautiful place. How did you get started on it?

Mrs. Farr: Well, we have pooled together with it and worked with it together, there are no differences. He has no relations at all over here. He looks after me and I look after him. Everybody knows him, he belongs to the Legion and so do I, we are life members at the Legion. He never goes in a hotel and he doesn't smoke and I'll have to show his work when are finished here. And I'll show you my part-time job.

Interviewer: Mrs. Farr, you have answered all my questions, and very well at that. Is there anything else that you would like to tell me?

Mrs. Farr: Only that the High School got changed. The High School used to be up on top of the King Street hill there and that is all changed. The downtone hasn't changed that much, only that they have put new streets in and cement in. When I was young, they had all gravel roads in Paris. On the Church Street hill we used to take our sleighs and start at the top of the hill and go right down. We used to have a good time on the old bridges, the old steel bridges, in Paris. I remember putting my tongue on the old steel bridge and the frost hanging on to my tongue. We used to have a good time, I'm telling you. We used, to do things that they don't do today. Of course they have more today to go along with. We learned to crochet and we learned to knit, and sew and all those things. And then at school they used to teach us even to cook. Over at the old school downtown there, they used to have a place where we could go and learn how to cook. Times have changed. My mother is buried in the Anglican Cemetery which you don't hear very much of. This park, many people don't know is here. We made it ourselves. It was a piece of the gravel company and we bought it off the gravel company. They used to throw all their junk in here. There aren't many who know it's here. When we bought this land it wasn't a park then. We named it ourselves and planted a lot of trees ourselves. We have our own water here, we don't have town water. We have a well right there and the drinking water goes from a pipe right down to a tree down there. I have a pump in the house and we have on the tree down there drinking water. There is a chap every so often comes and tests it.

Interviewer: When you came here, did you come by yourself?

Mrs. Farr: I was here first, yes. The house was built but it wasn't finished, there were no bricks on it or anything so we finished it.

Interviewer: Is there anything else that you especially remember that you would like to tell me?

Mrs. Farr: Oh, I must tell you something. You know where the Salvation Army is? Well we lived up on Church Street, this is just before the war ended, and we had some company at the house and we heard this awful boom and a lady or a man got killed in that. It blew up yes, the Salvation Army blew up. That was about 1917 or along there someplace. Of course they built this other one back up there. And on the other side there used to be a garage and we used to go up the back of that, a lot of them used to go to high school at the back of that, along the river there. And then there used to be an old show in there, I forget the name of that, I don't know where you'd find about that. And then there was sulphur water back there. Later they made a place on the main street for it but it didn't stay too long. We used to go up there and get the water and drink it and we used to think that was great. We'd go down in the Nith River and swim. This show was across from the Salvation Army, I can remember them tearing that down.

Interviewer: What about recreation areas?

Mrs. Farr: There used to be one downtown and then there used to be one right across the way over there. It was down the back of Penmarvian and all in there.

Interviewer: Can you remember any stories about Bobby West?

Mrs. Farr: Oh yes , we used to always talk to Bobby West when I lived at the Junction. He would take the kids for a ride in the boat. A lot of people were a little nervous of him but he was a good fellow. He was a good swimmer. I was in the church for thirty- five years and I had to dust chairs, I couldn't get away with it. Well then when I went to England I went to work on a farm when I was over there. My father had no relations here and he sent us to England until we were old enough to look after ourselves and then Penmans brought us back out again. Penmans would bring people in to work and you would give so much out of your salary so you could pay for the trip. I always remember getting off the train in Brantford, my sister and I weren't supposed to get off the train in Brantford but we did anyway because we knew Brantford by going there all the time. And we said, "Oh well, we can take the old Grand Valley home." But we didn't know where to find our father when we got back. We knew Monteight's, they used to live further down Willow Street here, and when we got off the station we went to their house and when we asked where our dad was, Mr. Monteith said, "Oh the man who just got married last week?" We didn't know that we had a stepmother. I had an interesting life. She was a good woman. She was Olive Bean, Tom Bean's sister. So that was the way it went.

Interviewer: What was you father' s name?

Mrs. Farr: Emmanuel Snell.

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