Interview with Mr. Gordon Steedman conducted on 21 June 1978.
Gordon Steedman, now a resident of St. George, had lived in Harrisburg since he was born. His father was assistant agent at the railway station when Harrisburg was a major stop on the railway line.
Interviewer: Mr. Steedman, have you lived in Harrisburg all of your life?
Mr. Steedman: You might say in Harrisburg, because you know where the church used to be, down from there across , you know where Bruce Bannister lived? We lived one down. We were in Wentworth County, yet we were near enough.
Interviewer: Did your parents live in Harrisburg?
Mr. Steedman: Yes. My mother died and then we went back to Harrisburg. My mother came from Branchton and my father came from Harley. He had been there since 1908. He used to work for the C.N.R. He was baggage man or assistant agent or whatever you want to call it. In 1930 they did away with all these jobs and although my dad had a lot of seniority, we had to move away for a couple of years. But that was in the 1930s and everybody was slashing. We went to Wyoming from Harrisburg and then we went to Dunnville all within about a year and a half. Then they decided they needed a caretaker at Harrisburg station and dad came back to Harrisburg to take that position.
Interviewer: What did a caretaker do?
Mr. Steedman: A caretaker looked after the station. He looked after the switches. I wish I had a nickle for every switch I've lit. They didn’t have electric switches in those days, you see. You used to have to walk all the way from Harrisburg half way to Kay's bush or half way to Nixon's bush and there was a switch there. Then there was down east of Harrisburg and there was another one west of Harrisburg. We had to light all these switches, you know, and there were switches all the way along the track.
Interviewer: We don't know much about the railway ;is tat ion, do you know anything about it?
Mr. Steedman: I don't know much about it either. George got the picture from somebody in Harrisburg, I think they are both dead. I think it was May Blask and her husband that got the picture blown up for George. That was quite a station. It was just to the west of the present railroad. It used to come down from St. George, you see and the one branch line went to Gait and one to Hamilton and there used to be one going to Brantford. Both of the two stations that have been in Harrisburg were found in the V of where the tracks met. Down where I lived there used to be an old bridge similar to the one at the entrance of St. George. It was just as high and just as long. It cut across over there by Bethel Church and back onto the main line. I've been over that train tracks hundreds of times when I was a little kid, you know. That’s the only way we had to get to town to buy groceries. There were cars in those days. Reid, my brother and I used to go to town to buy groceries and at night we used to come back on the night train.
Interviewer: So that station was down in a little V. I read that it was cut down in a gully.
Mr. Steedman: Well it was in a cut, really. There are banks all around it. It’s down below the bridge.
Interviewer: Well how did people get down to the station?
Mr. Steedman: Well, there was a set of stairs down the hill that people could get down. I think that there are two photos of the two stations in the books. (Mr. Steedman’s daughter had done a project on Harrisburg with several pictures.) When they put the main line to Brantford a lot of that changed. This used to be the main line of the Grand Trunk Western. It would take you to Toronto or wherever you wanted to go.
Interviewer: We read that there were about 150 men working for the railroad at that time. Is this true?
Mr. Steedman: I guess so. I think there were 48 who worked in the station alone.
Interviewer: Would all of those employees have lived in Harrisburg itself?
Mr. Steedman: They wouldn't live too far out anyways, because there would have been no means of transportation into the village besides walking.
Interviewer: The town must have been a lot bigger then. I read that there have been a lot of buildings torn down.
Mr. Steedman: Oh, yes there are a lot torn down. I could show you in Harrisburg where houses used to be and there are not any now. (Mr. Steedman showed us a map and where the two lines are and where some of the settlement of the town was). I can remember from when I was a kid when there were grocery stores on either side of the bridge. There was one on our side and one on the other. There also used to be a school in Harrisburg, a little red brick school house where I got my education.
Interviewer: What do you remember about the industries of Harrisburg?
Mr. Steedman: There was a brickyard and it was on the road to St George. They got the materials right from the ground on-.that area. I worked that ground for a while and I well remember had a garden there. All the time we used to unearth bricks there. I guess it was a pretty big business. There was also was a nother brick yard across the bridge. Mr. Card, Nicholas Card, he was a white haired old man when I was a boy and he ran that. I guess they must have done a lot of business. From there to where the school was there were a lot of clay pits. There was a livestock yard. The farmers used to have livestock and bring it in to be shipped by train and they had big walls and a big stable where they kept the pigs and cattle until they were ready to ship them.
Interviewer: So the town was ready and really growing, and they switched the line in about 1905.
Mr. Steedman: I would say about 1930. It was right around the depression time. Now they might have built that main line to Brantford before that, but up until 1930 all the trains used to go through Harrisburg. I can remember when there wasn't a half an hour between when a train went by. But I guess that Brantford had better water facilities and they started making the main line from Paris around through the way it is now. There were eight lines or ten tracks wide in Harrisburg at one time, I remember that.
Interviewer: What was the town like when you were growing up then?
Mr. Steedman: It was still busy. When I was a kid there were a lot of passenger trains and we used to meet them. I went to the one room school in Harrisburg, and the teacher had every;-one under control. There were probably 50 pupils up there and Arlene Rath was one of the teachers. She was Fred Rath’s sister. We had a United Church. There's nothing there now. Some go to Troy to church and others to Brantford or St. George. They tore it down but it was closed about I960. We had just built a whole new part on it, too.
Interviewer: Do you recall any organizations?
Mr. Steedman: When I was growing up, things were kind of rough and we never had too much money and from about age 15, my first job was about 45 c. an hour. But we had dances and we got together in other people’s houses.