Harry Townsend
First name Harry
Last name Townsend
Age 71
Date of birth May 9,1909
Community Oakland

Mr. and Mrs. Townsend 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 Debbie Urban and Joanne Vamos interviewing Mr. Harry Townsend at his home in the City of Nanticoke, July 4, 1980.

Debbie: Where and when were you born?

Mr. Townsend: I was born in this house in 1909.

Debbie: So have you lived in this house all of your life?

Mr. Townsend: Yes.

Debbie: Could you tell us the names of your parents?

Mr. Townsend: My mother's name was Mary Ada Counter and my father was Alfred Townsend.

Debbie: Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mr. Townsend: I had four sisters and no brothers.

Debbie: Could you tell us their names?

Mr. Townsend: You want their married names? Well my oldest sister married a Mattice and the next one which is 86 years old this month, married Elwood Anders at Oakland and my next sister married Mortecai Westbrook who is originally from Oakland and resides in Woodstock. My youngest sister married a Learmouth, Jim Learmouth and they live in Brantford at the present time but they lived in this township all their lives.

Debbie: Could you tell us the kind of toys you played with when you were young?

Mr. Townsend: I can remember getting a jack-knife when I was about five years old and I went ahead and cut my finer, was about the first thing I did. I remember my father gave me a little pig and I raised this pig. She had little ones and I sold the little pigs and bought me a bicycle.

Debbie: How far did you go in school?

Mr. Townsend: To grade four.. .senior fourth is what they called it in those days. I might add that at that time I think the school teachers got between three, four hundred dollars, a year for their wages. I had quite a few teachers and I don't know whether I got along at school very fast or not, not the way they do now, I was about around fourteen or fifteen when I quit. And then I helped on the farm.

Debbie: Do you remember anything about the school? For example, the kind of sports you used to play?

Mr. Townsend: Oh yes. They used to heat the school with wood. They'd hire men to cut the cord wood and then the children all had to pile it in the woodshed. They gave us a couple of bats and two or three balls to play with for that. And they put up a net for a baseball diamond. I just can't remember when they had a school fair. They used to have a school fair and Mt. Pleasant and Oakland and East...

Joanne: In the fall I think.

Mr. Townsend: Yes. It'd be in the fall and we all had little plots. They used to supply us with seeds, in those days— little bag of seed potatoes, or corn whatever. You had to look after it and they came and inspected it . It was quite a big fair too. They all competed and they gave ribbons and prizes. I remember each school had a parade... they competed and I remember we were all dressed up to represent the different countries. I remember one fellow dressed up like Uncle Sam and he put on a false beard and a big hat and they went to a lot of work and East Oakland won the prizes that year.

Joanne: How ah far did you have to go to school?

Mr. Townsend: A mile and a quarter I walked to school. I think I started when I was about five.

Joanne: Could you tell us about the school?

Mr. Townsend: It was a one room school and I think here was around sixty ah /pupils/ at some of the times. It varied of course through the years. It was fairly large, you see this school was supported by Townsend and Oakland. It was called a union school and they took the taxes from both places to support the school.

Joanne: Could you tell us about the exact location of the school?

Mr. Townsend: Well, the location of the school is on the old Cunningham farm and they had the post office there. It was called East Oakland because they had to have a name and so they called it East Oakland. Cunninghams used to go to Scotland and get the mail and come back and then people went to their place and come picked up their mail. Then Mr. Cunningham donated an acre....The log school was in Townsend Township just across the road so they built the new school on this acre of land which is in Oakland Township, you see. So that was how they got the schoolyard, it was donated. They closed the school in June 1963 or 1964 and then the pupils in Oakland Township went to Oakland the ones in Townsend Township went to Boston.

Joanne: Can you remember the names of any of your teachers?

Mr. Townsend: I had so many teachers it's pretty hard. Some of teachers only stayed six months. I guess we must have been kind of bad kids. Well, I had I had quite a few teachers and I just can't recall all of them, but I started with Miss Statler and there was Kiss Emmet, Mrs. Wallington ...Miss Stacey, Miss Drown...Oh gee, there are some of them I'm sure I forgotten. My father was trustee when I went to school and I remember going to the mailbox... the teachers would apply to my dad for a job and when I come in with the mail I'd have my arms right full of applications.

Debbie: Still talking about the school—did the school put on any special events?

Mr. Townsend: Well, the only event that really, I could recall was we always had a Christmas concert arid they were well attended by all the families and their children. The school would be full and they'd have songs and little plays. I recall one time they built bleachers at the back of the school to accommodate the people. They always put up a platform out of planks and a big Christmas tree. They really went all out for that you know, in those days, that's a long time ago.

Joanne: What were the Christmases like for you at home?

Mr. Townsend: Oh, we always had a great time at Christmas. All my sisters came home and sometimes they'd come—if it happened to be through the week so their husbands come— they'd stay two or three days and we'd celebrate Christmas...

Debbie: That sounds nice.

Mr. Townsend: But, I guess they call that the good old days. Of course eventually today I think Christmas is quite a holiday. My wife's family is a big family and we go there some. I think there's about forty of us when we all get together and have Christmas dinner.

Joanne: What were Halloweens like for you?

Mr. Townsend: Well, at Halloween we used know they used to have those little houses out at the back. The boys had a great time going over and tipping them over and they'd chase us up and down the roads, you know. Of course, we didn't do to much damage I don't think, but we done somethings. I remember one night we went to a neighbours place and how we ever done it I'll never remember. We put an old democrat up on top of a garage and I was amazed how we ever done that. Came out in the morning the democrat was up in the air. I guess they had a harder time getting it down then we did putting it up.

Joanne: Did you used to ride around in the democrat?

Mr. Townsend: Oh yes. When I farmed here I used to have about six horses. That was after We were married even and then we got rid of the horses and got tractors.

Joanne: Do you remember your first car?

Mr. Townsend: Quite well. My dad never had a car, never could drive a car. But I got a model T car and for the first car I thought it was pretty good. It was a second hand one then, it was a ford ya know, that had three pedals on the floor instead of a gear shift—the clutch and the reverse and the brake. You held the clutch in half way for neutral, instead of—you know how neutral is with a gear shift.

Debbie: So do you remember the kind of things you user! to do when you were a teenager?

Mr. Townsend: Well, afterwards we'd go and see the girls with the cars you know (laughter) I think about the same as young people do today maybe, more or loss, not quite the same. ut uh, we used ta go down to Dover, one thing or another like that.

Joanne: When wore you married?

Mr. Townsend: We've been married 2-39 years now and we was married the 28th of June. I forget what year now. How long ago is that?

Debbie: I think, 1941.

Mr. Townsend: Well it could've been.

Joanne: What was your wedding like?

Mr. Townsend: It was a house wedding and we were married in Oakland. The man that owned the house—my mother-in-law lived there but the person that lived there before her had a blacksmith shop—Kitchen's blacksmith's shop. And of course he passed away. I remember Helen Kitchen—she married Lloyd Vivian. We had all the friends there and then we took a big trip up to Wasaga Beach. We were farming then and we didn't have long to stay.

Joanne: Is this where you sot tied down right after you were married?

Mr. Townsend: Well I lived here all my life. Yes, we settled down here. My father was dead thon and I've always lived here. I could go on and say that six years ago we sold the land and severed a lot. It's a half an acre hero and this is the old hone. There was a log cabin here when my dad was just a boy and then they built this house. Some Scotch people came from Scotland built these sort of houses and they called it the rough cast house. It's a different kind of a house. It's not made out of cement but it's made out of a lime and gravel and it's uh...I can't just tell you, I could figure it out but it's over a hundred years old, this house is. And still quite comfortable and warm—we heat it with a dual furnace. I used to cut wood but of course now I don't have to.

Joanne: Do you remember when electricity first came in. Was it always here?

Mr. Townsend: No, it wasn't here until after Edna and I were married and she can remember dates a lot better than me. I'd have to check with her to know just how long.

Joanne: It'd be a lot longer because you're out so far away.

Mr. Townsend: Well yes, they didn't have hydro down this road. And it was quite awhile getting down. Some people seem to have hydro quite a bit before we did. In order to get it to come down you had to have so many people on the road to apply for it and if they wouldn't why you'd lose out or else you had to pay extra, you see.

Joanne: Is that the same with telephones?

Mr. Townsend: They used to have the telephone hero before they had the hydro. They had what they called the Southeren Telephone. It wasn't the bell at that time. It came from Waterford. My father had that when I was a boy* They had the telephone quite a while but they didn't have hydro.

Debbie: Did you have any children?

Mr. Townsend: Yes. We have two new daughter living. Our oldest daughter is Mrs. Wesbrook and then Barbara married David Logan near Wilsonville. The daughter between the two passed away in December, she was 37. She wasn't well, she was sickly.

Debbie: What congregation do you belong to?

Mr. Townsend: The United Church at Oakland.

Debbie: Were you ever involved in any Church activities?

Mr. Townsend: Well, I sing in the choir at Oakland.

Debbie: Could you toll us any special thing that the church does or any kind of events they hold?

Mr. Townsend: Well my wife's involved with the U.C.W. and the men seem to try and get something going but it kind of fizzles out. (chuckles) We tried to have clubs but don't have very much success with it. But when I was young why we went to....What do they call that? Where they had boys parliament? There was Canadian Girls in Training, I remember that I was always interested. We had a boys' group something as similar and they had boys' parliament. I remember going to a conference up at Paris one time, the whole group of us went camping up there—it wasn't Boy Scotts. We went to the church and they had a fellowship ring—that's what they called it and all the young people stood up and put their arms around each other /The circle went all the way around the church at Paris. We were there for three nights and they billeted us up there.

Debbie: It was all boys?

Mr. Townsend: Yes, it was all boys. I used to play ball at Oakland but that wasn't affiliated with the church, that was— was separate. They had a community ground there at that time. It was down, by the old L.E.&.N. tracks. I guess you sort of know where they are they're just east of Oakland there. On the south side there—I think there's about six acres there. They had a good community ground, ball diamonds there and they used to have their community meetings there, played ball there.

Joanne: Were you on a special team.

Mr. Townsend: Oakland Team.

Joanne: Did you play other towns?

Mr. Townsend: Well, we played in a league like, you know. Harley and different leagues now, I just forget. There was one up near Brantford there who used to play in the league at that time. Scotland and Oakland were first...

Joanne: Did you ever win any trophies?

Mr. Townsend: No, I don't recall that we did. Not the years that I was playing anyways.

Joanne: Did you ever belong to any other kinds of groups, like a Lion's Club or Legion or anything?

Mr. Townsend: No I never did. My father used to be an Orangeman, and they used to try and entice to be an Orangeman but I never was to interested.

Joanne:: What's an Orangeman?

Mr. Townsend: Haven't you ever heard? Have you ever heard of King William of Orange? They had a fight. It was a battle in England at one time. It was sort of a religious war against the Catholics. This was years ago and the Orangemen, they sort of died out. On the twelfth of July —I think there was some big battle they wore commemorating. The Orangeman had a parade, and I think they still do at Toronto. But they used to have it in Brantford. I used to go that; I would be about a half a mile long of all different lodges, they'd have have bands and dressed up like the Scotch and wear their kilts and bagpipes. It was quite a display.

Debbie: Do you remember, did they have any fads or fashions when you were a teenager?

Joanne: What kind of clothes did you wear when you were younger?

Mr. Townsend: Oh...I don't think they were too much different. We used to have what they called Christie hats. They were right flat on the top and kind of went around—straw hats they were and they were hard. As far as the clothes went, I think that maybe the pants were sort of tighter, not as wide at the bottom but about the same. It changed over they years. I can remember when they wore long skirts. Then the war came along and their skirts went way up above their knows and they called them flappers...

Joanne: In the twenties?

Mr. Townsend: Yes. That's quite awhile ago.

Joanne: Did your wife wear dresses like that?

Mr. Townsend: Well, no, my wife's a little younger than I am.

Debbie: Do you remember anything about the twenties?

Mr. Townsend: Well, I remember when the First World War started. They had pretty good times and I remember one thing that shoes at that time got up to about fifteen dollars a pair.

Then of course we had the Depression, and I remember how bad things were then. You could go to Brantford at that time and if you went alone to the factories, why they'd have big signs, NO HELP WANTED, that's all you'd see at any factory. There wasn't anybody doing anything and nobody had any money. But they all seemed to have a pretty good time. There was relief I guess but there was no unemployment /insurance/ or anything and people just got along with what they could. They'd come out to the farms and they work and the farmers would give-would give them a bag of potatoes. The farmers had no money and the people in the city had no money and it was quite a life.

The Depression made us older people a different breed I guess, some of us maybe more so then others. I think that it made us more cautious. We was afraid and we saved our money for something. I don't know what because we can't take it with us. But young people today I think we made them that way. I think that the government has done the same. Everybody has in fact. Money is made to be spent and there's lots of it and it's a different area. More pressure though, I think today. In the time when I was young you know, everybody had lots of time, and if we don't get the hay in today why...There was some people that was, I suppose making lots of money.. But a lot of the farmers just kind of took it fairly easy you know.

When I became a young man I started drawing milk for the farmers to Villa Nova's milk factory. It isn't there now. Every farm—they varied of course, ten to twenty cows was the average on every farm and they all had a few chickens and they all had some pigs. But of course today it's all specialized and it's a different life. The pressures are great and I don't know whether it's a good world yet. Some people are optimistic and some are not but I think that there's a lot to be said for it yet today. I know that young people have a lot of pressures and older people too, today you know. It seems as though a lot of people are insecure at these times now. They have a feeling of insecurity but maybe it'll turn for the better, I hope.

Debbie: Do you have any hobbies that you do now?

Mr. Townsend: Yes, six years ago we sold the land and I had been trying to sell it to a young farmer and offered him fifty acres for 15,000.00. He thought that was way too much, he couldn't make it out of growing corn at that time. He came back to see me and he wanted to rent and I said "I'm sorry I can't rent it to you," He was a good friend of mine, and he said "Well why can't you?" And I said, "Well I've sold it." I got a good many dollars more for it then, than what I asked him and he said, "Well, what are you to do?" and I said "I'm not going to do anything." (laughter)

I didn't do anything for a few weeks and I began to start walking up and down the road. Finally I got a job as a security guard. They hired me at the Aquatic Centre at Brantford at the time it opened and I was security guard there for a few months. But that didn't work out because I'd go to work towards night. There was more than one of us you see and I took a shift and my time went from about six' o'clock to eleven o'clock at night and I closed it up. But Edna and I we didn't have any social life then cause I was away. So I quit that and then I talked to a friend and he said "Why don't you drive school bus?" So, then I went and applied for a job driving school bus and I wasn't that young either and I didn't know whether they'd want me. But I drove school bus until I was 68 and I had a little bit of a health problem, not very serious, but I was sick for awhile. So I decided to give that up and I haven't done much. So there I was and I didn't have a job so I bought an organ as a hobby and I'm taking lessons. I don't know whether I'm very musical or not but I'm sure putting in a lot of time. (laughter)

Debbie: That's great! Do you remember they types of businesses that were around Oakland when you were younger^

Mr. T. Are you referring to the village of Oakland or Oakland Township?

Joanne: Either one.

Mr. Townsend: Well. In Scotland the Hunters has been there over since I can remember in their lumber business. When I was young there was two stores in Oakland and then later on there was three stores in Oakland. One was the Baldwin's store. There used to ^e a hotel right at the corner where there is a store now in Oakland. There was an old man, quite well renown his name was Tim Shavelear and he had a town hotel there. They used to have quite roaring times there, I guess. Then the post-office which is situated at Oakland down at the bottom of the hill. And there had been different ones in there. The McEwans owned it at one time and then the Howies. There was some in between that, that I can't just recall now. And of course the mill—the Smith's Mill and the Vivian Mills have been in business for many years, ever since I can remember.

Joanne: Where did you used to go swimming when you were younger, if you went swimming?

Mr. Townsend: Oh yes, I learned to swim in the old MacKenzie Creek. It runs down behind our farm here. It was just a mudhole and I've often looked at it and just shudder to think that I ever went swimming in there (chuckles) When I was a kid. We used to go skinny dipping there, I think they call it (laughter) and had quite a lot of fun. Nearly every night we'd go swimming and I learned to swim there. Then at the east Oakland pond I went swimming quite a lot. But of course as time went by they began to test the water and told us it wasn't fit to go swimming in. So we went to the lake some but didn't swim as much?

Joanne: Did you used to ride around in bobsleighs?

Mr. Townsend: Yes, I in fact, I drawed milk with bobsleigh. The roads were all closed up in those days. Their snow ploughs somewhere in the front of the truck and they weren't much good and they used to have to dig the roads out. I remember one winter they dug the roads out by hand and they had a whole bunch of men. I drove a team on bobsleighs with a rack on it and drawed the milk on that and it's about eight miles. I'd go to Villa Nova in the winter and uh it was Ward Rice owned the factory and he'd say, "Well put you horses in." He'd feed the team, give me my dinner and then I'd come home after dinner. And it's about a sixteen mile trip with a bobsleigh.

I remember one time that it snowed here in November and this road was never—we could get out the bottom way but the road was never cleared out all winter. So in March we dug it out. The men on the road went and we took shovels and dug it out to get through. Well, at that time the mailman walked. He'd come as far as the school up about there and then he'd walked down and bring our mail. Not every day but he'd bring it, you know, letters and things.

I remember there was an English lady that had never had a cutter ride and so one day—we were digging this road, we didn't do it all the day, you know. We kept at it, kept dicing it out and of course by the time we got it dug out it was blown back in. But this one day we looked up and here my wife was coming with the cutter. This lady was from England and never had a cutter ride so she hooked up the horse to the cutter and give her... on the cutter. You don't see too many of those anymore only out on the front yard of somebody's place or some thing with flowers in it.

I remember one New Years—a niece, her husband was at war and she came out for New Years to our place. It came up a big storm and she couldn't get out with the car. She was here for a couple of days. Finally she wanted to get home because she was afraid her pipes would freeze up—the fire might go out. So I took her" with the cutter to Oakland and when we got to Oakland why the L.E.&.N. was snowed in about a half a mile from I the station. So we went on up to my sister's at Oakland Mrs. Anders. We were going to go up there and there was a bus came out and was going through to Delhi or some place and he turned around and he said, "I'm going back to Oakland" She got on the bus; and was able to get to Brantford. That was something that I remember about the winters we used to have.

Debbie: What bad winters!

Mr. Townsend: Well they didn't have the equipment to clean the roads, that's where it is. Now, when the snow comes the ploughs get out and we're never snowed in—well as might be for a half a day. But those were different days. I guess we lived through then, it was healthy and everything was all right (laughter)

It's a funny thing, you know, this, when you look back uh at our country and see how far we've gone since I was born. It'd be interesting to stick around for another seventy years to see what happens. But of course many things can happen. We may go into a sort of a recession or depression and slow things up and we may go along as we are pretty well for awhile but you know that's the future isn't it?

Joanne: Do you remember anything about election times around here? What were election times like?

Mr. Townsend: Oh, I remember, I think I voted nearly every way there is to vote. My father was a very true, conservative and of course if you was born a conservative you had to be a conservative, you know in those days, it was that way. I remember going to Brantford with him at night, you know. And at the Expositor they had a big balcony along. They used to come out and they had bulletin boards that they put up and they'd put the returns and they'd come out and speak in loud speakers to the people down on Dalhousie Street. If they done pretty good why they had a parade with a team and they burnt brooms. They carried brooms as torches along the street and they celebrated and then of course they went over to their headquarters and had a big rousing time. I think they're quite a bit the same as they are today.

Joanne: What about the municipal elections?

Mr. Townsend: Well, I think that they are quite a bit like today's. Some people went to vote and uh...

Joanne: Most didn't.

Mr. Townsend: They'd tried to get the rest to come, (laughter) And offered them rides and things like that.

Joanne: Do you remember anything about the town hall in Oakland at all?

Mr. Townsend: Yes. It was a brick building. I do remember that but I don't remember much about it. They used to call the town hall where Ander's electric store was.

Joanne: Just to finish things up here pretty well, what's your overall impression? How do you like living around here? You must like it you've stayed here along time.

Mr. Townsend: Well, this is home and as they say "There's no place like home." Some people seem to have to move, they just can't be contented to stay anywhere, you know, they want a change. There's not many of my old friends loft here now. In the olden days we used to have work bees like for thrashing and all the farmers went. We had a big meal and it was sort of a fun time too you know. The men tried to see how many pieces of pies they could eat and had a lot of fun. But this is all gone and the people across the road, I've never net them and they've been here three years I think. That's the way it is more or less. It used to be that way in the city, that you didn't know your next door neighbour. But you have your friends and they're not necessarily in the same community even. Of course we go to church at Oakland and we have our friends up there but it's quite a change.

Joanne: Have you ever thought about moving closer to the city or Oakland or anything like that?

Mr. Townsend: Well, a lot of people ask me that and it was more or less a sort of financial thing. Our property is not that valuable and when we sold it we didn't get as much money as some families. If I'd sold the house, of course I'd got more for the farm but I'd had to spend forty or maybe sixty thousand to buy a house. I'd have to move and I guess when your roots get pretty deep—when you're born in a place—and well I've lived here for 71 years now, so I guess you get used to it.

Debbie: It's a long time.

Mr. Townsend: (laughter) Yes. I had no desire whatever to ever go anywhere. I don't know where I would even want to go, you know. The wife and I all our lives worked hard. In fact, a few years before we quit, her and I milked 25 cows. We used to keep forty head of cattle and then it got so I couldn't do the work myself so it was costing me more. In haying time I used to go down and get about four, five Indian boys and they came up and put the hay in. It kept costing more so finally we had a chance to well the land.

We don't care to travel that much. But, we took a trip to Hawaii and we went to Florida and places like that. We like to go on the senior citizen's bus trips and have quite a lot of fun. We got quite a few friends that do that. And that's about it I guess.

Joanne: It's still good to come back home though.

Mr. Townsend: Oh yes, we often say that, "There's no place like home."


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