Lewis Burtch
First name Lewis
Last name Burtch
Age 70
Date of birth January 1, 1910
Community Oakland, Scotland

Mr. Burtch 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 Joanne Vamos and Duane Brandow interviewing Lewis Burtch his home near Scotland, Ontario July 7, 1980.

Joanne: Could you tell us where and when you were born?

Mr. Burtch: On the old home farm, in East Oakland Township ah 1910.

Joanne: Do you know anything about the event of your birth that maybe your parents might have told you?

Mr. Burtch: Well, I didn't know much about what was going on at that time I guess. But I had a first cousin that lived about a half mile from our home and the doctor went from my cousin's place to our place and delivered us not too far apart. Hazel Bonham, a cousin of mine, that's—aw you don't want all that stuff.

Joanne: Well, that's okay. Okay, so where exactly is your farm where you grew up, in Oakland Township?

Mr. Burtch: Well, it's east of Oakland, two concessions. Right on the South-east corner ah...

Joanne: Who were your parents? Your mother's maiden name.

Mr. Burtch: Well, mother's name was Elizabeth Cunningham—Mary Elizabeth Cunningham and my dad was ah Herbert Oscar Burtch.

Joanne: Did you have brothers and sisters?

Mr. Burtch: Yes, I have two brothers. Had a little sister but she died when she was an infant. My mother was born not too far from our old homestead. My dad, he was born and raised in Mount Pleasant. That isn't too far away.

Joanne: What school did you go to?

Mr. Burtch: East Oakland.

Joanne: East Oakland. Did your mother also go to East Oakland?

Mr. Burtch: Um... I couldn't say.

Joanne: Probably, though if it was there.

Mr. Burtch: Could be, could be.

Joanne: Do you remember anything about the school that you could describe to us? What it was like?

Mr. Burtch: Wall it was um (laughs), I have no answers for that.

Joanne: Okay. Umm, how far did you have to walk to school?

Mr. Burtch: About one mile.

Joanne: What was it like growing up on your parents farm? What kind of things did you do to help?

Mr. Burtch: Well, I guess we had lots of fun. I was always sort of athletic. I always played hockey and ball. And ah, seemed though there was lots going on. I think maybe young people today, missing a lot of the things we used to enjoy when we were younger. Ah, a real good horse and buggy was just as nice as any sports car could be driving now. My dad he had good horses. In fact, my grandfather Cunningham, he was kicked with a horse and killed. That's the way he died. He had, from what they tell me-I don't really remember grandfather Cunningham because I was just a wee-a little fellow at that time. But ah, he used to have race horses. In fact, he had a track on the old farm. My two aunts—my mother had four sisters and two of them used to drive those horses with my grandfather around this track, to race them. I don't know, I think I had a lot of fun when I was a young fellow.

Joanne: That's kind of neat having race horses and driving round the track. I'm going to ask you about holidays now. I'm not sure if you'll be able to remember a whole lot, or if it was any different than it is now. But what were Christmases like when you were young?

Mr. Burtch: Oh, they were pretty fine. My mother, she liked to decorate. She would go out-we had a cedar hedge like on the west side of our home. She would go out and pick some cedar boughs or ask some of us boys to do it and she made wreaths, you know and tied them all up and then string popcorn on a string for the Christmas tree to decorate it with, you know. She had a lot of fun decorating. That was her thing. She was pretty fine.

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

Mr. Burtch: I guess there wasn't the great variety there is today but most anything I guess what would answer the purpose. I can remember I used to have...I think at one time I was given some little cars, you know, like the railroad train cars. They had a little hook up on one end of them and umm...then you see years ago the women, the ladies, they used to lace-do their shoes up with a button hook. I had some of those and I'd figure they were the horses, you see. Well when you're a kid you know...

Joanne: Crazy imagination.

Mr. Burtch: You imagine all kinds of crazy things you know. Oh I

don't know, I guess I used to find lots of things to play with probably.

Joanne: Do you remember what Halloween's were like at all, when you were younger?

Mr. Burtch: Well, we used to go out a little bit. But my folks... I don't think we did any damage really but you know, just little things. I guess maybe we used to do wrong, in that respect. My parents just didn't let us do everything we wanted to do which I' m very thankful. It didn't seem right at that time, but when you get older you realize that they were right and you weren't.

Joanne: Did you belong to any kind of clubs or organization when you were younger? Were there any clubs for younger people around?

Mr. Burtch: Well, like I say I used to play ball for Oakland and I

also used to play for Boston's two teams and ah, after we were, we had a real good ball team at Oakland.

Joanne: Do you remember any other people on that ball team?

Mr. Burtch: Oh, very well. Wilford Crumback. Do you know him?

Joanne: I've heard of him.

Mr. Burtch: Hw was one of the best softball pitchers ah, you know, around-like for a county league-he was really good. We usually won out at-like our division and we'd play off at toUmmaments or at one thing or another.

Joanne: Did you play in Oakland? Was there a ball diamond in Oakland?

Mr. Burtch: Well, do you know where the old L.E.&.N. tracks is at Oakland? I don't suppose you'd remember the old community grounds there.

Joanne: No.

Mr. Burtch: Well, the fence is still there-the post and everything you see and ah, that's where we played our home games there.

Joanne: Did you have crowds come out to watch?

Mr. Burtch: It was a lot of interest at that time. Like I said we had a real good team and people, they seem to like to come out you know and support us.

Joanne: Was there any place around here that you went swimming when you were younger?

Mr. Burtch: Just the old swimming hole at the pond. (laughs) Later years I used to go over; I guess that's where I learned to swim. Ah, I don't know. We lived far enough away from it that ah, we didn't seem to get over there too often. And then, sports was-well ball was more my

My brother and I used to, after chores, we'd practice and often we'd be playing ball several times a week. But than as you got older why there were other things to be involved in.

Joanne: Of course.

Duane: So who was all on the ball leagues? What other teams did you play against?

Joanne: Other towns?

Mr. Burtch: Well, there was Mount Pleasant. They were our rivals, we used to have a just nip and tuck between us. And there was Scotland, Burtch and ah, I believe Wilsonville had a team then too, maybe. I don't know, it was too long ago.

Joanne: Was there ever any hockey teams or was that later?

Mr. Burtch: Oh yeah, we used to play hockey.

Joanne: Umm, what kind of clothes did you used to wear when you were younger? What were the fashions like?

Mr. Burtch: Oh, Gee...

Joanne: Have the clothes changed very much?

Mr. Burtch: Right now I don't think that they're... I was thinking of a grey suit I had. I always thought it was pretty smart. I think it had quite, fairly wide pant legs about like they are now. Used to have a-a black sweater with a high neck here. I used to think that was pretty sharp. (laughter)

Joanne: What kinds of things did you used to do when you were at the dating age? Like when you and a girl went out or anything. What kinds of things were there to do around here?

Mr. Burtch: Don't she ask the most personal questions? (laughter) Well, what did we do? Well, there was, there was picnics you know. And there was lots of ball games to go to and there was the odd show. Ah, I don't think I ever was too much for shows. I was always too much for playing ball and hockey. Seems as though we were doing it all the time, if I wasn't girling or something like that,

Joanne: Did you have a car to drive around in or a democrat or...?

Mr. Burtch: Wall, I think maybe ah...see I was born in 1910. Well my dad, I think he bought his first car in 1917. Well when I was about sixteen I started roaring around a bit. Then I was seventeen why I guess my dad used to let me have the car. I guess he was pretty good to me—uh, I used to have it anytime I wanted. But I never abused it you know. I guess maybe that's the reason he let me have it.. Then you could fill the tank up then for about two bucks. (laughter) Yeah.

Joanne: Did you have to crank it and everything like that?

Mr. Burtch: Well the first one we had, I think we did crank it and everything like that. I know we had to be awful careful to lay your thumb back, or if it would kick back it was liable to break your arm. So you would take a hold of it like that you see, instead of like that. If it kicks then it won't. But the one that I drove-well was my older brother. That's the one he used to run around in. He used to put the top back on it, you know after he got away from home.

Joanne: Yes. (laughter) Just bomb around.

Mr. Burtch: Yes. He had a cut out on (laughter) But the one I drove had a starter on it. It was quite a buggy.

Joanne: Ah huh. I was going to ask you would only be about between ten and twenty in the twenties. Do you remember a lot about the twenties? They called them the Roaring Twenties. Were they like that around here?

Mr. Burtch: I don't know but I can remember the Dirtv Thirties (laughter).

Joanne: All right. Could you tell me about them then? How did they affect you and your family?

Mr. Burtch: Well I guess we always made out pretty good, but uh, I tell you, going through the days when the Depression was on made you realize the value of a dollar. I can remember my dad, he used to hire a real good fellow for a dollar a day. Pitch hay all day for a dollar a day, or hoe. That don't seem so much now though does it?

Joanne: No. (laughs)

Mr. Burtch: But uh, some of those figures that my dad—that I was showing you from the diary my dad carried-would give you a little idea of what things were like back when the Depression was on. I know my dad built our house in 1916, I was about six years old then, I guess. I faintly remember a few things about it; like getting in road of the carpenters and one thing or another. But that was like a four story house; basement all through it, upper part, upstairs and a big attic which could be finished off if you wanted to. We built that in 1916 for $3000.

Joanne: Wow, that was probably a lot then though.

Mr. Burtch: Slate roof... Well, I don't know about that. I suppose that was the way things were, I suppose that was enough money but when you realize what real estate is now, why. (laughter) And you know, the way it wars built there was—it had a slate roof you know and when it was finished off it was quite a nice home. We thought so anyway, when we lived there.

Joanne: Did you go fight in the First World War?

Mr. Burtch: No. No. I was too young for that.

Joanne: Oh. Did the war affect your family at all?

Mr. Burtch: No, not really, my older brother Wallace he was 10 years older than I am. In fact he is still living. He lives in Toronto in the summer and in Florida in the winter. He's 80 years old and plays golf five days a week. (laughter) Find that he's fresh as ever was. He's really in good shape for his age, Wally is.

Joanne: Did he fight in the war?

Mr. Burtch: No, he was too young. Well he didn't go to war. Now whether it was because he was a farmer's son or the age. Exactly how would that figure out now?

Joanne: If he was 10 years older-then he would have been twenty. He was born in 1900, so he'd have been fourteen years old, when the ah, war started.

Mr. Burtch: Yes. He wasn't quite the right the age I guess and my second brother he was he was out of it too. We were very lucky that way. I guess. No, the war didn't really affect us any.

Joanne: When were you married Mr. Burtch?

Mr. Burtch: June, 1937.

Joanne: And where did you settle down after you were married?

Mr. Burtch: On the home farm. It was a big house and dad put an addition on the back part and we each had our own living quarters, which worked out very well. My mother was very easy to get along with an my wife is to so they got along real well.

Joanne: Oh, that's good. Where did you get married? In Oakland?

Mr. Burtch: In Oakland Church.

Joanne: That's another question. Do you belong to Oakland United Church...

Mr. Burtch: We still belong to Oakland Church...

Joanne: In what ways are you involved in the church at all. Is there anything special you do there or any groups you belong to?

Mr. Burtch: Well, no not really. We attend quite regularly. About the only thing I ever do is maybe I passed once behind an usher or something like that.

Joanne: What about your wife? Does she belong to any groups in your church?

Mr. Burtch: Well, different women's organizations she belongs to. She's a very busy person she...gots lots of ambition. And she ah...she's a terrific cook and she likes to keep her house nice and she sits down while she's going, there's a couple things on the wail here she did. (needlepoint) And my youngest oldest daughter...she really likes them so she'll get those and my other daughter, she thinks there pretty nice too, so she made another set for her. So they will both will get a set and there's a lot of work in them. She's always doing something like that. She's out daughter or she's always helping some dine. That's the way it should be I guess.

Joanne: Could you describe her when you were first married. Like maybe what...what kind of clothes she wore or what she was like?

Mr. Burtch: You ask the darnest questions. (laughter) Well, I don't know, she was a...she was always a pretty nice person. She had lots of friends I guess, lots of girlfriends.

Duane: Could you tell us your wife's name and when she was born?

Mr. Burtch: She was born in Cainsville...ah...she was born see... about 6 years difference...

Joanne: About 1916?

Mr. Burtch: 1916 I guess. June 17, 1016.

Joanne: And what was her ah maiden name?

Mr. Burtch: Catherine Roberta Tottle, William Tottle's daughter. She had an older sister and two older brothers.

Joanne: I'm not sure if you had hydro... then. Did you have hydro out in the farm when you were younger? Do you remember when it was brought in?

Mr. Burtch: Yes, quite awhile. In my early years, no we didn't have it but I can't...! I guess I should be able to tell you the year we got it in. But as soon as it was available we did have it put in. It was pretty nice sometimes after using oil lantern (laughter) and the oil it. We went from, like coil-oil lights to gas lamps and gas lanterns which we thought that was pretty nice at that time. But when the hydro came in that was really great.

Joanne: When the hydro came in did they have to come and wire your house and everything like how did you get the hydro all through your home?

Mr. Burtch: Well, a fellow by the name of Alf Edy, he lived at Maple Grove...ah...he did all our wiring in our house and our barn. I guess they do it just like they do it now. Thev run it along the joints in the house, you know...just like they do it now. I guess it's not very much different really. Only difference is they use different kinds of material now then they didn't that time...which is I guess an improvement. Which a lot of other things are as well.

Joanne: What about the telephone? Did you always have a telephone?

Mr. Burtch: As long as I could remember we had telephone Joanne: Did you have the radio?

Mr. Burtch: Oh yes. We had pretty well anything that went along. I know we had a Victrola which was pretty nice. I think my dad he traded a horse for this thing, (laughter) That's when my older brother was growing up and ah, lie used to belong to a glee club-Mt. Pleasant glee club. There was ah quite a number of young people belong to it. and they used to go to each others homes for these parties. I can remember when they would come to our place. They'd move the furniture out to the veranda and take up the rugs and they had a real tine of. Not nothing wild or anything but a real nice time, you know, I don't know, it seems though anymore a lot of young people seem to have to have...booze or they don't have good time, but uh...0h, I guess there was some of it going on then but we didn't see much of it at that time. My parents mother especially, she was really against it and my dad ah-he always had a bottle in the house but I never seen him use it. Ah...I guess it was for medicinal purposes probably. We're sort of brought up that way which I'm kind of thankful for it's ah...I've had no objections for anyone that drinks as long as you know, within reason, in fact it's a little bit, I guess, good for a person if you know how to handle it. There's so many people don't know how to handle it. Spoils it for everyone.

Joanne: Did you have to have a drivers licence when you were first driving when you were younger?

Mr. Burtch: Uh...yes. I guess there were. Got one when I was seventeen I believe.

Joanne: Were there any community newspapers? Was there a newspaper from Oakland?

Mr. Burtch: You got me there I...there was a farmers advocate, I can remember that. Now ah...reading a newspaper at that time was the farthest thing from my mind when I was a kid. I couldn't say about that-now there probably was.

Joanne: Did you ever belong to any clubs like the Lions club or the Legion or anything like that?

Mr. Burtch: No, I never did. I know when they started the Lions there in Oakland...they approached me about it and I told them that...course at that time we were pretty busy on the farm you know, it was hard to get help, told them I didn't think I had time. Well, they were going to have a supper and they bound I would come- come up and try it. I attended the first meeting and I come to the conclusion after seeing what went on and what they expect of everyone...that it would be a little bit too much. You were suppose to attend and if you weren't there why you were... some penalty you'd have to pay. So I thought, that wasn't for me. I'd always belong to a gun club. I used to belong to the Brantford Rod and Gun club for quite a few years. But other than that, I guess maybe there was always lot to do on the farm you know.

Joanne: Could you tell us if there's any changes that come out in your mind? Changes from the way things are now from back then?

Mr. Burtch: Oh ya. (laughs) The little country store back when I was growing up, well they had one in Oakland but it was run by the Baldwins. And after our ball game—like our practise and ball games-why that's where a lot of the young people would end up at the store. You'd buy a bottle of pop for a nickel and an ice cream come for a nickel, you know and you'd hang around there quite a little bit and...why sure you'd have a little idea what the stores were like.

Joanne: Oh yes.

Mr. Burtch: You know you'd have barrels sitting here with something in and ah...if you'd order some flour or sugar they go to a container and get it out and weigh it out for you and you know. It's all together different than it is now. Now it's you know, all packaged and that's one reason that everything is so expensive I think, progress. People just got to have it that way. Which I guess is good.

Joanne: Do you remember any blacksmiths that were in the area?

Mr. Burtch: Yes. My dad he always had quite a number of horses and that was one of my jobs was to take them to the blacksmith's shop. There was one at Oakland run by a fellow by the name of Harold Kitchen. That was like in my when I was real young. I-one.

Duane: Could you tell us where that Kitchen one was?

Mr. Burtch: Going south on Old 24, right there in Oakland where the store is on top of the hill and the service station, Just as you drop over the hill on the left hand side of the road, right on the side of the hill there. I used to take them over to Mt. Pleasant quite a lot. That was my Saturdays job.

When they built the Cockshutt road...course at that time there wasn't any big laternals or any bull dozers or tractors: it was all horse equipment. My dad had a team of horses-a pair of black percherons. He hired a man to drive then and it was a couple summers I think he was on-built the Cockshutt road here. The fellow that drove them, his name was Reg Patis and he would— he had a cart that he took on behind the one horse when he went to work and when he'd come home, why he'd lay down on this cart and the horses would run themselves. Somebody phoned up one night and told my folks that a team of horses was going down the road without a driver (laughter) When Reg heard about it, he thought that was a great joke. (laughter) He thought a lot of his team. Sunday mornings he'd take and groom them off and wash them and put peonies in their hair.

Joanne: Do you have any overall impression of looking in the area of Oakland Township.

Mr. Burtch: Well! It was always a good neighbourhood. We always had real good neighbours. Ah. ..right across the corner was a fellow by the name of Charlie McIntyre. His son lives in Oakland now Reg McIntyre. He was a big Herford man at one time. He had a huge barn and now I think at one time he owned about two hundred and some odd cows.

In 1932, I believe it was Charlie had a big fire there. It burnt the barn down and ah...I know I can remember that day quite well. I know I happened to be out in the barn and my folks came and hollered at me and told me that Charlie's barn was on fire. So when I went across the corner I could see the smoke coining out the top of the barn. I got over there and there was no one there but my uncle Charlie. Actually he wasn't my uncle Charlie but we used to call them Uncle Charlie and Aunt Nellie and they used to, used to call my folks Uncle Herb and Aunt May. You know, we were quite close neighbours. I helped Uncle Charlie get his cattle out an ah...we had them all out of the long row and there was still some heifers up in the box stalls. That time the sparks and things were coming down the floor. So Uncle Charlie said to me, "Lewis you better get out of here." So he went one way and I went the other. But a day that I'll never forget. There was some horses burnt and some young cattle but...

Joanne: Was there a fire department that came to the rescue.

Mr. Burtch: No, the roads were blocked with so many people coming on horseback to get there. No, he just...On the north-east corner of the barn there was a chicken coop and people are funny when... .people gat excited you know and it seems to effect their thinking and people start throwing these chickens out of-they thought they was going to burn too.

I can remember my Uncle Charlie. He was runnin out there in his sock feet. He didn't have his shoes on and he says, "We can save this building." and they started a bucket brigade and they did save it. It is still there today. It was a real strong wind that day and ah, see we lived right across the corner, south-east of their place and ah that night the windows on the front of our house was warm from the heat and that.

Joanne: Is there any other neighbours around here that you could remember their names?

Mr. Burtch: Well ah... south of us was Merit Crumback, that's Wilfred's father that I was telling you about. And then there was Delmar Whiting. Mrs. Whitey, she passed away just not to long ago. You probably read it in the paper. And then on the other side of the road there was Cunningham's. There was Cox's lived right across from Cunningham's and then Georges Crumback he lived...oh, I could go on. I can remember all of them. Which is of no interest to you, I guess.

Joanne: Well it is, in a way.

Mr. Burtch: We use to have syndicate there. You know what that is? There's a bunch of fellows, get together and they say, "Well now, maybe we're having a little trouble getting someone to do our thrashing..." see, it was all thrashing at that time,"...or fill our silos... So we'll just buy an outfit and we'll do our own." here was about eight or nine fellows went into this.. there was two Crumbacks there was a McIntyre, there was two Burtchs, there was two Bonhams—that's seven. I think there was about eight people in this syndicate. At that time there was a lot of rail fences and they used these rails for firing the steam engine you see. They were a good bunch of follows, you know they got along well together. And that want on for quite a few years and ah I guess you could say that it turned out to be quite a success you know. When fall came, why they cut their corn and they put it in with the...a lot different outfit than what they have now. But it did the trick. Course everything was on a much smaller scale then. You know, instead of having maybe sixty, seventy—a hundred now why, maybe they'd have anywhere's from a dozen to twenty or to thirty it that time you see. So everything was a bit smaller.

Joanne: That's a good idea. That's the only way to do it, too. Because not everyone can afford to have one machine.


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