Edith Bonham
First name Edith
Last name Bonham
Age 72
Date of birth July 26, 1907
Community Oakland


This interview is a part of the Chronicles of Oakland Township, which was compiled in the summer of 1980. Click here to read more interviews in this collection!

This is Joanne Vamos interviewing Mrs. Edith Bonham at her house near Oakland Ontario, July 17, 1980.

Joanne: Could you tall us when and where you were born, Mrs. Bonham?

Mrs. Bonham: I was born in Brantford 1907, July the 26th.

Joanne: Would you be able to tell us anything about the event of your birth that maybe your parents told you?

Mrs. Bonham: There was a thunder storm.

Joanne: Yes. So, you grew up in Brantford then or did you...

Mrs. Bonham: Till I was seven.

Joanne: So, where exactly did you grow up—settle down in Oakland?

Mrs. Bonham: Near—on Earl Secord's farm... um, near the lower Oakland Mill-Smith's Mill.

Joanne: Could you tell us a bit about your ancestors, your grandparents and your parents? Who they were and where they were from?

Mrs. Bonham: My grandfather was Joseph Wilson and he came from England when he was throe years old and they were three months crossing the ocean by boat.

Joanne: What about—is that your father's side?

Mrs. Bonham: My mother's.

Joanne: What about your father's side?

Mrs. Bonham: I don't know to much about them. They, uh—my father's name was Alvin Porteous and he was uh, born in Brantford.

Joanne: And uh could you tell us about how the little story— how your parents got together that you said before?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, ray mother and my father were cousins and on a picnic they would very often have uh, umm, have good times together. I don't know whether you should, put that in or not. (laughter). It wasn't customary for cousins to marry at that time although they weren't very close cousins. But mother was married and I was born. When I was 18 months my father—stepfather who had recently lost his wife was a widower and they began to uh, court. That's what they said in those days. Eventually they were married and I moved out to uh, Oakland where I now live.

Joanne: What was his name?

Mrs. Bonham: Earl Secord.

Joanne: Do you have any brothers and sisters?

Mrs. Bonham: No.

Joanne: I'm going to ask you about school now. Where did you attend school?

Mrs. Bonham: East Oakland.

Joanne: Could you tell us a bit about the school? Describe it to us?

Mrs. Bonham: Well it was a one-room school and there was a large

furnace in the center of the school room and about 30 pupils attended. The year I tried entrance I bad three different teachers that year.

Joanne: Three different—in one year? (chuckles) Do you remember any of the names of those teachers?

Mrs. Bonham: (pause) Oh...(trying to recall names)

Joanne: Be hard to remember if you had then for such a short time.

Mrs. Bonham: I went to a Miss Facey who is now Mrs. Jim Gribbon… taught school when I went and there was a Miss Scarlet. There was a Miss Emmett, she was the first one I went because I could of either gone to Oakland or East Oakland, because my father had property in both sections-- school sections and I could have gone to either, but I went to East Oakland because I felt that I had met a little girl down there by the name of Gertrude McIntyre at Sunday School and then Miss Emmett was a sister of a cousin of mine.

Joanne: How far did you have to walk to school?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, a mile and a half—two miles.

Joanne: That's quite a walk. Were there any special events or holidays at the school that you can remember, that happened or that you participated in.

Mrs. Bonham: Just arbour day which was quite an event. We cleaned up the yard and then had the afternoon for fun.

Joanne: Oh yes, okay. So you grew up on a farm here? What was it like growing up on your parents farm?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh fine.

Joanne: What kind of things did you have to do. to help out?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, I helped in the house and I drove the horses on implements and loaded hay and loaded wheat and oats.

Joanne: So it was like a general farm? And you had cows too?

Mrs. Bonham: A few. Milked the cows.

Joanne: Could you tell us if there were any changes on the farm, like if there was a barn added, the house changed.

Mrs. Bonham: My father rebuilt the barn. It was on a—he put on, a stone foundation.

Joanne: What kinds of toys did you play with when you were younger?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh I just like to read.

Joanne: Where did you get your books from? Was there a library here that you could go to or did you go to Brantford?

Mrs. Bonham: Well my mother belonged to the library in Brantford. Then the neighbours around here had a travelling library and they would each buy a book and would pass it on from one place to the other.

Joanne: Did you used to have a place where you would go swimming or skating?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, we always used the pond but I never—I didn't learn to swim but everybody else did, but not me.

Joanne: How about skating, did you go skating in the winter?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh yes, that's what we did on the pond.

Joanne: Where there any clubs or organizations that you could belong to when you were young?

Mrs. B: We went to Epworth League and it was held on Friday night.

Joanne: What exactly would you do at Epworth's League?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, I usually went over to my cousin's Reba Secord and we'd go /together/. They had programs and devotional and thon on the way coming home we'd hope that certain people come along at the right time to pick us up. (laughter)

Joanne: I understand. (laughs) Did you ever used to ride around in bobsleighs?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh yes.

Joanne: What was that like? Did they—like there's two different kinds and I'm sort of confused. Do they call them both bobsleighs, there's one that the horses pull and there's one that you just go down a hill on. Now, is that the same kind of thing?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, well, the bobsleighs were the ones the horses pulled but we usually drove a cutter because there was just one horse used on a cutter. Our road from the bend to the corner was full of pitch holes and snow banks so we drove a cutter.

Joanne: I see. Did you or your family belong to one of the Churches?

Mrs. Bonham: They belonged to Oakland United.

Joanne: How were you involved in the church?

Mrs. Bonham: Anything that went on. (chuckles)

Joanne: Do you recall any special events that the church put on throughout the year?

Mrs. Bonham: Well except the garden party which we always had to go up and clean up and help decorate. My mother and father were usually on the programme committee.

Joanne: I'm going to ask you about holidays now. What were Christmases like when you were younger?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, we always went to my grandmother's at Oakland or

no—she didn't live there then she lived in where Richard Clelland lives now.

Joanne: Did you have presents to give out and like a Santa Claus and all—did you sort of celebrate it in that kind of a way?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, after my children were born my dad was always Santa Claus.

Joanne: Oh really?! (laughs) Ever neat.

Mrs. Bonham: And we always had a Christmas concert at Sunday School and usually at school.

Joanne: What about Hallowe'en. Did you used to celebrate Hallowe'en?

Mrs. Bonham: Well you should ask my husband about things like that. (laughter)

Joanne: Gould you tell us anything that maybe like a story that he might tell us that you could tell us?

Mrs. B: I don't think I better.

Joanne: Oh! (laughs) Don't want to commit him to anything,

Mrs. Bonham: He had forgotten all those things he did,

Joanne: Oh yeah, he was a little rascal, eh? Did you used to dress up though and go around for candy?

Mrs. Bonham: No, once in awhile we'd have a party.

Joanne: How about Dominion Day, do you ever remember anything special happening on Dominion Day?

Mrs. Bonham: No.

Joanne: Just like now.

Mrs. Bonham: Just umm, well, we usually had to get in the hay. (laughter) We always had a Sunday School picnic. We went to Port Dover but, uh that was a big event. They had a beautiful beach there at that time and they went up along the...

Joanne: How did you get up there? Did everybody hop in their own separate cars or horses and buggy?

Mrs. Bonham: No, the L. E. & N went there at some parts of the time. Once in awhile we went that way but there were a few cars around and went there that way.

Joanne: Well, May 24th was the garden party, so could you remember any specific garden party in particular that you could tell us about?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, I think those are better left unsaid too. (laughter)

Joanne: Okay. As a teenager what kinds of things were there to do when you ware at the dating age in this area?

Mrs. Bonham: Why they had some good ball games. I went to Waterford High School and anything that went on there we went, we participated in. Do.

Joanne: Do you remember what the fashions were like when you were a teenager?

Mrs. Bonham: Well we had uh--we had garters I know. (laughter) . Those, you know real fancy ones.

Joanne: Yes.

Mrs. Bonham: And I had a pair of black one once with a lady's head on them. I think Bruce bought them for me. (laughter)

Joanne: Do you remember thy kind of hairstyles, did you have long hair or did you...

Mrs. Bonham: When I want to public school I had bangs. You teased your hair and they stuck out all at the sides.

Joanne: Did you get your hair cut off short in the twenties like an awful lot of other women did?

Mrs. Bonham: Well I was a little while before I cut mine off but I did it eventually.

Joanne: When and where were you married?

Mrs. Bonham: I was married at my parents' home outside on the September 5th, 1930. And it was so dry, it hadn't rained all summer.

Joanne: Really. So umm could you describe your wedding to us a little bit? Was it small or big or...

Mrs. Bonham: Well, for that type of wedding it was uh, we had the neighbours around and there was a nice lot of young people at that time, We didn't have refrigerators and my Aunt Belle made the jellied salad and she got up in the middle of the night and came over to see if it was setting alright.

Joanne: If you didn't have refrigerator how did the jellied salad set?

Mrs. Bonham: Like they do now when it's hot.

Joanne: All's I know is that you usually stick it in the refrigerator and that's...

Mrs. Bonham: Well, you know, if you take them out and leave them very long what do they do?

Joanne: They melt. (laughs) Okay.

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, I did catch my veil on the screen door when I came through.

Joanne: Did you go some where on a honeymoon?

Mrs. Bonham: I went to Tobermory.

Joanne: Oh, did you go there in your own car or did you take a train or...

Mrs. Bonham: We drove our car and the minister at that time was Mr. Wilson and he had a cottage in Tobermory, and he gave us the key and that's where we went.

Joanne: Oh that's nice.

Debbie: Yeah, that's really nice.

Joanne: Where did you settle down after you were married?

Mrs. Bonham: Right here in this same house and you've been here ever since? That's right.

Joanne: Did you have any children?

Mrs. Bonham: Two.

Joanne: Could you tell us who they are and where they are now?

Mrs. Bonham: Ruth Latty and Alfred Bonham. Ruth's right next door. We gave them a piece of property to build their home on and uh-and we sold our farm to Alfred in uh...

Joanne: I know a Mark Latty and Jeff Latty is that their parents?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes.

Joanne: Did World War I affect you or your family in any way?

Mrs. Bonham: No, not partic—well, that's about the time I came out here WWI was and it didn't really affect us as far as our family was concerned but some of the boys had been around here, the young English boys were. It affected them and we were quite concerned for them.

Joanne: How about the depression years, how did they affect your family at all if they did?

Mrs. Bonham: Well we were right in the middle of them, 1930...

Joanne: You got married in 1930, so...

Mrs. Bonham: And uh we had a good time. We had a little club like—I never played cards until after I was married and I learned the hard way. Everybody knew how but me.

Joanne: They always beat you all the time. (laughs)

Mrs. Bonham: No, not if I could help it. (laughs) We met about every two weeks, had a little lunch and had a good time. We play 500 and uh...

Joanne: Is that the 500 club?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes.

Joanne: Yes, Mrs. Edy was telling us about the 500 club.

Mrs. Bonham: And then we had uh, oh, Wilfed Crumback's children were little and uh, we'd have—go over to the pond and build a fire and cook some corn and...just amused ourselves I guess.

Joanne: Was it financially hard on you?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, you had to make the best of it, you didn't know any better so just didn't—one day Bruce's father, they lived in the front part of the house and we've always lived in the back and he and I took three bags of potatoes down to Brantford for some groceries for Christmas and we got two pounds of grapes.

Joanne: Then it was a treat too, to having the grapes was it?

Mrs. Bonham: Well no. But there wasn't much comparison we didn't think. But we ate eggs and Bruce was fond of eggs and sometimes we'd call them Chicken a la premature and (laughter) made the best of it. We never went hungry but, we learned to be a—that's where I learned to be a pack rat I guess. I think, "Well, I better not throw that out I might need it some day," which is a very good idea.

Joanne: Did the World War II years affect you or your family in anyway?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, no, because we were just at that period that it took the fathers in the first war and the sons in the second and we were just in between that.

Joanne: You're lucky then.

Mrs. Bonham: Well, I guess.

Joanne: Today, is there any clubs or organizations that you belong to, as of today or an few years ago or anything?

Mrs. Bonham: I belonged to some of the—I belonged to the Eastern Star.

Joanne: Could you tell us anything about the Eastern Star? We haven't any information on that yet.

Mrs. Bonham: Well it's a club for, or it's an organization for men and women both. And your parents or you have to have a Masonic affiliation which is either a husband or son or any family relatives has to be a Mason. We go about from place to place and some people think it's kind of crazy but (laughs) it's very nice for me since I lost my husband I just need that extra push to get going and...

Joanne: Is it an organization where you raise money for causes?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes, they have several projects. Last year they raised about $300.00 a student for those going through the ministry and there was about a hundred and some men or women. They had to complete so many years of theology and then they have to be sure that they're going to go through for ministry or any ministerial work. And besides that they give to cancer and cancer research.

Joanne: How do you raise the money? Do you have bazaars?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes, bazaars and oater to banquets and various ways... and free-will giving like a lot of people just say... well they have memorials for that.

Joanne: Did you belong to the Women's Institute?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh yes.

Joanne: Do you recall anything special in the Women's Institute that you've done.

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, I've been president, I guess that's about the main thing. In the war the Women's Institute really did a tremendous amount of work, in the last war. (WWII) They made tons of jam, even our own institute uh, Oakland institute and we make quilts.

Joanne: How did you send the jam over there? Did you pack it all up?

Mrs. Bonham: I really don't remember. It was uh, I was just, well not interested enough.

Joanne: Not then.

Mrs. Bonham: No, to see how it got there. I just know it was made

and it was mother and that group of women about that time wore really interested in how—I think maybe the government likely shipped it I don't know.

Joanne: Did it go to people who are particularly from Oakland that were in the war or just anybody?

Mrs. Bonham: To, just anybody. They just shipped it overseas and the quilts did the same. And then in the Eastern Star one year they made...the year I was Worthy Matron they had Boots for Britain. Oh, all the money went for children's shoes for the British people. Flossie Anderson can tell you more about that. What great work they did then. They supplies canteens—I don't know haw many canteens they sent overseas. They did a tremendous amount of work. Flossie and Viola and Mr. Edy, that's Verna Edy's father-in-law, helped with that a great deal in this—around in this community.

Joanne: Do you have any crafts or hobbies that you do now?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh not particularly.

Joanne: Do you do all your own sewing?

Mrs. Bonham: Pretty well.

Joanne: I was going to ask you when you were younger did you used to buy your clothes or did you sew them?

Mrs. Bonham: My mother made them.

Joanne: She made all your clothes?

Mrs. Bonham: She'd have been living today she would have been a designer I think.

Joanne: Do you remember anything about the Town Hall in Oakland?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, yes. Well, yes because...

Joanne: Were you ever in it?

Mrs. Bonham: Well the one up on the hill?

Joanne: The one that was on the hill, yes.

Mrs. Bonham: Oh I just remember it being there.

Debbie: You were never in it?

Mrs. Bonham: I never had enough energy to climb up (laughter)

Joanne: That's right, it's way up there. Would you remember anything about elections—municipal elections in particular but any kind of elections. How they've changed from a long time ago to today, or have they changed?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh yes, they've changed,

Joanne: Your husband probably was involved in that a little bit more but...

Mrs. Bonham: No, well he was a member of council but they have changed.

Joanne: Oh, he was a member of council. Do you remember what years that was?

Mrs. Bonham: No. It was when Ward Irwin was uh...

Joanne: Oh yes.

Mrs. Bonham: You know when that was—that was before that anyway.

Joanne: Sixties late—the early sixties. I think Mrs. Gatward started—I'm not sure...sixties?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes, it was before Ward Irwin was—it was, before that.

Joanne: Do you remember the first time that you ever voted?

Mrs. Bonham: Yes, it was before Ward. I wasn't too interested.

Joanne: No?

Mrs. Bonham: I remember when the women first got to vote because Mr. Button made up a little sort of a skit about it.

Joanne: Oh yes. (laughter)

Mrs. Bonham: But I wasn't very interested. I usually vote the way my father did and vote the way my husband did so I didn't worry about it.

Joanne: Did you used to have—do you remember when you had your telephone? Was the telephone always here or do you remember when they hooked it up or put it in?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, it belonged to the wasn't a Bell Telephone when I was young. It belonged to the Norfolk County. It was a division of that and I lived down a side road and the price was going to go up so they all decided they'd strike to have the telephones taken out and uh, when time came they all didn't, but my father did and we were without a telephone for a little while and uh, till my mother really felt as though she just couldn't take it any longer. She sort of isolated so we had it back in again. But it didn't do any good anyway. We had to pay--the rates went up anyway.

Joanne: Yes, that's right.

Mrs. Bonham: OH WE were out of telephone quite often when the hydro or the telephone wires had been down.

Joanne: What about radio, do you remember when you had your first radio?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh yes, I was still at home and we had—the first one we had was at Christmas--the first time had it.

Joanne: Do you remember around what year that might be? In the twenties?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh, I wouldn't remember, (slight pause) No, I don't think I was home. I think I was here and we went home for Christmas and Mother and Dad had a radio. The Bonhams I think had one before that.

Debbie: Did you notice any particular changes in Oakland with

regards to new buildings, the roads, how the roads have changed?

Mrs. Bonham: Well I did the one going down to the mill because the

mud used to be about two feet deep there in the spring.

Debbie: Do you remember—recall any of the buildings like anything different about them.

Joanne: Do you remember any fires or anything like that?

Mrs. Bonham: No, I don't think so. Well we used to sleigh ride on the hill at Oakland going you know, the one down by the post-office which you couldn't do now.

Debbie: No.

Joanne: That's too bad that's a perfect hill for sleighing down. On this farm here, do you remember who owned this farm before you and your husband moved here.

Mrs. Bonham: My father-in-law and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Bonham lived here before that.

Joanne: So that would go back quite a few years then probably.

Mrs. Bonham: Well, they came here after they were married.

Debbie: Do you remember around what year that was?

Mrs. Bonham: Oh no, I wouldn't I guess it's around some place OUT I don't know where it is. It's in the family bible I guess.

Joanne: Could you just give your overall impression on Oakland Township and why you like living here in Oakland Township?

Mrs. Bonham: Well, I-I think it's a good part of the....I'm a farmer, I like a farm and I always have and I think it's a good place to bring up your children. It's close to Brantford, it's close to Simcoe and it's very, very easy TO get someplace if you want to go. Besides, I don't mind driving around Oakland.

Joanne: Yeh, it's nice.

Mrs. Bonham: It's my style.


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