Eletha Sutherland
First name Eletha
Last name Sutherland
Age 72
Date of birth January 1, 1908
Community Oakland, Scotland

Mrs. Sutherland in 1973


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 Duane Brandow and Debbie Urban interviewing Mrs. Sutherland at her home in Oakland, Ontario on July 9th, 1980.

Duane: Mrs. Sutherland could you tell us when and where you were born?

Mrs. Sutherland: I was born in Elgin Manitoba in 1908. (laughs)

Duane: Would you be able to tell us anything about the events of your birth that maybe your mother told you about?

Mrs. Sutherland: Nothing.

Duane: So when you came to Oakland Township where exactly did you first settle, and when did you come here?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh dear, I think it was 1946 we came here.

Duane: Was it you and your husband?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, he was in the army when we bought this place. He was just back from overseas.

Debbie: So your husband, is he from the same place that you are?

Mrs. Sutherland: No.

Debbie: Where is he from?

Mrs. Sutherland: He was born in 1904 in Manitoba too, but it was at Eden Manitoba.

Duane: Which school did you go when you were in Manitoba?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, we moved before that. I started school at King Edward in Brantford. My mother was a Westbrook. She was born just a mile south of here where the Peterson's live now, well no, they aren't Peterson's—she's remarried. I'll think of it after a while.

Duane: Could you tell us a bit about your family, your mom and dad and your mom's maiden name?

Mrs. Sutherland: My mother was Emmy Westbrook and my father was born in Brant County. They moved to Western Canada I think about 1893 or something like that. And then they moved back and forth several times. I don't think I ever lived more than two years in one place in my life until I came here to live in this house.

Debbie: Was your mother a relation to the Westbrooks of this area?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, Mordecai Westbrook had a large family. There was twelve children in the family, but they're nearly all gone from here now. Karl McEwan is a descendent of the same family that I am.

Duane: Could you tell us anything about the Westbrooks?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well yes, I know a little bit about the Westbrooks.

Duane: Their homestead. you told us where that was but was it always there?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes. According to the Tweedsmuir History that you looked at—the map—why that was the family homestead. It's a mile directly south of here, at least one concession whatever that is. I'm used to miles in the west but it's the next road over.

Duane: Were they Empire Loyalists?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes. My mother is a descendent of the Shavers from down at Duff's Corners down where the Shaver cemetery is. My mother is a descendent of that family and they were United Empire Loyalists that came here in the 1790s.

Duane: What is your grandmother and grandfather's names?

Mrs. Sutherland: My grandmother's name was Mary Jane Damiels but I don't remember her. I think she was dead before I was born. Then you see we lived in western Canada so I never got to know my relatives until we came back. My grandfather was Mordecai Westbrook.

Duane: Did you have any brothers and sisters?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, I had two brothers.

Duane: Could you tell us what their names were?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes. One was Floyd and the other was Ray. Now I could have toll you one thing about my birth that I didn't say because it didn't come to me then. You see Floyd was seventeen years older than I am and he was on a ball team. He was awfully annoyed to think that he couldn't have the horse and buggy to go to his ball games because they didn't know when they would have to go and get the doctor when I was born. It was the most aggravating thing because he was sixteen-seventeen years old you see, and it was a nuisance for me to be coming along. (laughter) My other brother was ten years older than I am.

Duane: When you came to Oakland, do you remember any of the businesses that were around here?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well yes, I remember because of course I visited here often before that and while I was going to University from 1932 to 1936 Oakland was my home. The businesses would be the Baldwin store up there where the municipal office used to be and the Shaeffers were on the corner where the Bradshaws are now. At one time there used to be a blacksmith shop just down the street a little ways. Mr. Kitchen had that.

Debbie: Do you remember what they sold in those stores at that time?

Mrs. Sutherland: Everything.

Debbie: I guess they had things for farming like tools or hardware.

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes. I don't remember of any cloth. Now there could have been but I don't remember much about the cloth. Maybe I wasn't interested. (chuckles) But things weren't packaged the way it is now, you know, things were more in open containers than they are now. I do remember that.

Duane: What church do you and your family attend?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oakland United Church.

Duane: How are you involved in the Church?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, where do you want me to start? I taught Sunday school for years and then I had Explorer groups for nine years.

Duane: What does the Explorer group actually stand for?

Mrs. Sutherland: They were nine to twelve year old girls. It's a forerunner of CGIT and it's not just the United Church. Anglican, Baptist, all of them have explorer groups. It's a church orientated group. You studied missions and you had various topics just like the CGIT do.

Duane: Was there anything else that you were involved in with the church besides the Explorers and Sunday school?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh yes, I've been an elder of the church and I've been president of the UCW.

Debbie: Could you tell us about the UCW, what kind of group they were and what they did?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well the UCW is the money making group of the church. They help support missions mainly and they also have suppers and bazaars. Then of course we had meetings where sometimes we would have a speaker and this sort of thing. I've been president of that too.

Duane: Could you tell me what Christmases were like when you were younger?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, they were rather quiet because I was the only child or at least I was so much younger that my brothers were away, I can't remember Christmas with my brothers home, but I can remember Christmas as a child. I would be the only child so of course I got toys and I would play with them I suppose. But we didn't have big Christmases, because we were in the west and the rest of the family were down here.

Debbie: What kind of toys did you get?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, usually I seemed to get books to read and then dishes for to play with the dolls and so on.

Debbie: Do you have anything special that you ever received, something that really meant something to you? A special gift?

Mrs. Sutherland: When I was very young I got a doll that meant a lot to me and that was in Wesley church in Brantford. We were living there in Brantford at the time. In the times when they used to have a Christmas concert in the church, you know and Santa Claus came and there was this lovely doll at the top of the tree and it was my doll. (chuckles)

Duane: How about Hallowe'en?

Mrs. Sutherland: I was never too fussy about Hallowe'en. Of course you see, as a child I never went out on Hallowe'en because I lived on a farm in the west and you were miles away from everybody else. I never became involved in Hallowe'en until I was in school and then we always had a party. I used to take my own youngsters out. I remember one night somebody scared my little girl. She was only two and I had taken her out for the first time and somebody with a black face on scared her terribly. I think maybe that browned me off on Hallowe'en.

Duane: Did you ever go to any of the garden parties here in Oakland?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, I have been there, but I don't know as much about them as some others that have lived here and lived through them more. I can tell you about one garden party. I think that was in 1933. I was home from McMaster and I was there in Oakland for the summer and it was on the 24th of May, At my sister-in-law's who lives where Mrs. Wilson lives now across from the church—I was ironing and there was a sudden clap of thunder and a bolt of lightening and it hit me. It blew all the radios that they had—we didn't have TV's then. We had to get the doctor—it knocked me out and burnt my arm. You could just see every vein right up my arm where it hit and it knocked me out, but luckily there was something on the floor. I was ironing out in the garage, you see, and I was standing on cement floor but there was a linoleum underneath me where I was standing and I guess that saved me from getting...

Debbie: You're lucky.

Mrs. Sutherland: And Mrs. Lloyd Vivian—they were decorating out in the church barn at that time and Helen had crawled in underneath the stage part of the church to get something. All of a sudden all the lights went out and she was in there and this big clap of thunder and I'm telling you we had quite an exciting little while. However, the garden party went on. without me because I was in bed. I haven't liked thunder and lightening ever since.

Debbie: Oh. I don't blame you!

Duane: What kind of decorations did they have?

Mrs. Sutherland: I don't know of anything special. I suppose a bunch of bunting. I think it was bunting and that type of thing Helen was after.

Debbie: What's bunting?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, it's something heavier than a cheesecloth, something like flags are made of only I think a cheaper quality. It'd be red, white and blue and then they'd—because instead of paper which would just be destroyed each year, this bunting was saved. I never really felt it but it's heavier than cheesecloth and thinner than flags or something in that area.

Duane: Could you tell me when and where you were married?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, I was married in Oakland on July 11, 1936 and if you watch the papers this week they will tell you how hot it was that July because it was the hottest July they ever had in Ontario, I think. It was 100 degrees—we got up to 110 degrees (F) or something that week. And I'm telling you that was a hot day.

Duane: What is your husband's name?

Mrs. Sutherland: Ronald Sutherland.

Duane: Could you describe your wedding?

Mrs. Sutherland: (chuckles) Yes, I suppose. As I said it was a very hot day and it was outside under the rose arbour—the rose arbour has since been dismantled up there. I had just graduated from McMaster the 18th day of May. That was two months before and so I wore my graduation dress. I had some friends there who helped with the serving and hoopers supplied the food, I know that much.

Duane: Then after you were married did you settle in the house that you're living in now?

Mrs. Sutherland: No, no. Oh no. My husband came down from Saskatchewan to be married and then we went back there and we wont to Herschel, Saskatchewan where he had a hardware store. We lived there for three years I think. Then in 1941 we came back to Ontario and he enlisted in the army. I lived here in Oakland for a while and then I went to Mt. Pleasant and lived in Mt. Pleasant for a few years till we bought this place.

Duane: Did you have any children?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, two.

Duane: Could you tell us their names and a bit about them?

Mrs. Sutherland: One was Floyd and he was born in Rose town Saskatchewan, October 1938. Laurel was born in Regina in February, 19.H.

Duane: When your husband came to Oakland Township what did he do for a living?

Mrs. Sutherland: You see, he enlisted and was overseas for some time until he was an invalid at home. But he was in the army until after practically everyone else was discharged because he worked in Toronto in the Horse Palace, that's where he had his room. He was there until nearly every—because he worked on discharges after he came back from overseas.

Duane: What was it like when your husband had to go to War? What was there to do like in the village without your husband?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well I didn't live here, you see I lived in Mt. Pleasant then. Well at first I was here because I was staying with my brother but then after that I moved to Mt. Pleasant and it's—it's lonely, I guess that's about all.

I remember one night—we had a little brown cocker spaniel who was our constant companion and it was Ralph Stratford up here that came to the door. His car went off into the ditch and he wanted to get help or something. He came to the door and it was so funny because the neighbour's dog was at his heels and our dog was in front of me. It was the middle of the night, you know, when I got up to answer the door. Here I had my dog in front of me and the neighbour's dog was at his heels and he was just begging for some help. (laughter) I always remember that because, you know, you didn't know who it was in the middle of the night and you're alone there with a couple of children. It wasn't pleasant but I survived.

Duane: Do you remember election times around this area—provincial or federal or municipal?

Mrs. Sutherland: I remember election when I was still in Mt. Pleasant that I went to vote proxy for my husband. I can remember I voted for myself and then I could vote for him too, you see.

Duane: When you first moved here do you recall any of your neighbours that were around?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh yes.

Duane: Could you tell me their names?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes. Next, on the east side—since this verbal I have to give you directions—it was Grandma Secord who lived there. We called her Grandma Secord. She lived until she was 96 or something like that and she was the dearest soul. She had the nicest garden and she used to come over here and help me peel pears. I suppose it was for something to do. Then after she died her son came to live there. He was married to my aunt you see, my mother's sister and they lived there, after that. Across the way was Mr. and Mrs. Charlie McIntyre. Mrs. McIntyre was so deaf, we had such a time but she used to go to all the church meetings with me and Institute meetings. I had a little pad and I'd write down everything so she knew what was going on. I was always writing notes to Mrs. McIntyre. She lived until she was 9^1 or something too.

Debbie: That's a beautiful home they have.

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes and their son Reg McIntyre lives there now.

Duane: Do you remember anything about the Town Hall?

Mrs. Sutherland: No, the Town Hall was gone by the time I came to live here and know anything about the Town Hall. I know where it was and that's all. I've seen pictures in the Tweedsmuir History and that's as far as my knowledge of that is because as you see I'm not a native. (laughs)

Duane: Do you have any special hobbies or crafts that you would like to tell us about?

Mrs. Sutherland: I knit. I'm learning to crochet. I'm bound I'm going to so I've got a book. I do the odd bit of macrame just for my own satisfaction such as...(points to a macrame hanging) I get a plant given to me and I'm not going to buy them so I'll make them myself.

Debbie: Yes. I like those. It looks nice when you've got plants hanging around like that.

Duane: When you first came to Oakland was there any hydro in most of the houses?

Mrs. Sutherland: I can remember in 1928, I was here on a visit and in 1928 they wired Mrs. Andrews' house. That was in the fall of 1928.

Duane: Could you give us your overall impression of the area? Has it improved or has it went backwards?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, I think it's really improved. Now you take that new area, that where the new houses are up there. That used to be just a wasteland, now it looks a lot better. I know there's more noise and vandalism and this sort of thing but then that's just a change of times, I know that. At Christmas time we used to have bulbs out here on the trees. Well, we don't do that anymore cause they just get broken. Somebody takes them and smashes them out here. So now we put something in the verandah instead but uh, that's just a change of ways.

Debbie: When did you start teaching here in Scotland?

Mrs. Sutherland: I started in the fall of 1956.

Duane: You said you supply taught at Maple Grove and East Oakland and Oakland schools. Could you describe each of the schools?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, they were all one-room schools at that time. Maple Grove and East Oakland were definitely the old style, you know, windows on both sides and that style. The Oakland school burnt down, I think in 19^1 and then this new school had been built. Not the extension en it but just the old part was when Miss Murdoch the teacher took ill and I supplied there for six weeks.

Duane: Do you remember any of the teachers that were teaching in East Oakland when you were supply teaching there?

Mrs. Sutherland: Well, Miss Murdoch was the one that was here. I can't tell you who was at Maple Grove 'cause I was just there about 3 days. Biff Marr was one of the students, I remember that. (chuckles) Then at East Oakland the teacher had to rewrite some exams or something or other. I know I used to get a ride down with somebody as far as Smith Mills—well it was Margery Gatward's husband, Phil Gatward. Then I walked to the school and then I got a ride home on the school bus at night because the bus came home from Waterford.

Debbie: When you first started teaching at Scotland, what kind of things did you do at school? For example, school fairs or any special events.

Mrs. Sutherland: No. There was never any school fair and we never had a Christmas concert, you know, from 1956 that time on. Now we would have Christmas parties in our individual rooms but really never a Christmas concert.

Debbie: What grades did you teach?

Mrs. Sutherland: I started with a four and five room. The five was split because the five-six was in Anne Kemp's room. The next year I had the five-six. Then I graduated from that and went on and had the six-seven. But then after I had the heart attack in 1960 I went back to teaching in 1962. Then the teacher that was in the room downstairs left, I think it was Mrs. Goring. So I took the downstairs room and somebody else went upstairs so it would be less strain on me going up and down the stairs.

Duane: When you first went there do you remember the other teacher you were teaching with?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, sure.

Duane: Could you tell us their names?

Mrs. Sutherland: Anne Kemp had the 5-6 room; Mr. Avery had the 7-8 room and Mrs. Riddoch was there. (chuckles)

Debbie: Yes. She's been there for a while! I was told that you would be a good person to talk to about the Eastern Star.

Mrs. Sutherland: I have been a member of the Eastern Star for fifty years —fifty years plus two now and that's about all I can... Well, I have been Worthy Matron and I have been secretary of it so I know a little bit about it.

Debbie: How do you get to become a Worthy Matron?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, well, you're elected and it takes four years. There are various offices to do ceremonial work and you usually have a few of those offices first—sort of in preparation. Then it takes four years because you start as an associate conductress which is one who conducts candidates through the ceremony of initiation. Each one of those takes a year. Then there's an associate matron, it's like a vice president. Then when you become Matron why, that is—your president. Since it's a woman's organization the woman is in charge although there is always a man along with her who is called a worthy patron. He is sort of a co-chairman.

Debbie: Are the Masons and the Eastern Star alike?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, they're twinned. You can't belong to the Eastern Star unless you are a wife, mother, daughter, sister or widow of a Mason.

Debbie: Well, how does the man become a Mason then?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, well he joins the Masonic order on his own. The Eastern Stair is an affiliate, the women's side of that. But you need a few men in it as well. There's always a place for a Mason as well.

Duane: So, if you wanted to become a Mason do you have to get someone to sponsor you?

Mrs. Sutherland: They do. They're always searching for some new candidates and so they're usually out after anybody that they think would want to join. And it is only a protestant organization.

Debbie: Do you remember your most interesting experience in Oakland?

Mrs. Sutherland: I don't know whether you'd call it interesting or horrifying.

Debbie: Well, could you tell us about it?

Mrs. Sutherland: It's the time—you were there (looking at Debbie).

Debbie: Oh, was I?

Mrs. Sutherland: Yes, that terrible storm we had and Paul Kormos was off with somebody doing public speaking and that terrible storm came up. I telephoned—I was supposed to be vice principal I suppose—and I telephoned and telephoned and tried to get the buses to come. But no, there was no storm in Brantford, no storm in Brantford.

Debbie: I don't remember that.

Mrs. Sutherland: You don't remember it? You must have gotten home alright.

Debbie: Maybe that's it.

Mrs. Sutherland: Because you see, the buses couldn't come and we couldn't get the kids home.

Debbie: Was that in the winter then?

Mrs. Sutherland: It would be February or March, 1971. We had youngsters there. We didn't stay all night because what was left eventually—went over to Margaret Hunter's. Oh, she must have had fifteen staying at her place all night. There was no way you could get up north at all. Smiths came in snowmobiles and took a lot of kids home. But I know that Paul Kormos was away in Brantford and eventually got home. What a time. All I did was run around and count youngsters to make sure I hadn't lost anybody in the snow, (chuckles) We tried to keep track of everybody and we didn't dare let you go home until somebody came for you, because it was just t6o stormy.

Debbie: Did any of the kids stay in the school?

Mrs. Sutherland: Not in Scotland, we got them all out. Shirley Campbell and Margaret Hunter and Mrs. Bowen and people like that, brought in food and fed you all for your suppers. Somebody may have come from up town and taken a whole string of you home. But it was too stormy for the country kids to go anywhere. Maybe we let you out early.

Debbie: You'd think I'd remember that.

Mrs. Sutherland: Because it was terrible, but Paul Kormos had somebody for public speaking. Well, I think Laurie McNelles was the public speaker that year. He had her in Brantford and eventually he got back and was I ever glad to see anybody and let him take the responsibility, (chuckles) But we had everybody sitting everywhere eating sandwiches and trying to keep peace. But in Northfield they stayed all night. There was a bunch of them. They took in bedding and stuff with the snow-mobiles. It was a very bad storm. It was worse than I ever remember.

Debbie: Well the kids, how long did they stay there? Were they there for a long time?

Mrs. Sutherland: In Scotland, no. By supper time we had them all bedded down in somebody's house in the village. I know we got home. Ronald came to get me and we had the truck and we managed to get home. But you couldn't see where you were going. It was a terrible storm.

Debbie: What about Oakland, how do you feel living in this area as compared to other places you've lived?

Mrs. Sutherland: Oh, I like it, it's lovely. We go back west every year or every couple of years to visit relatives. All my husband's relatives are out there, you see and we go back there to visit. But, oh, this is a garden. Yes. I like it. I've never lived in a city in my life so I like a small community.


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