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Tom Cocker
First name Tom
Last name Cocker
Community Paris


Story

This interview has been contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. It was taken in August, 1979, by a volunteer for the Paris Public Library.

Interview

Q: What was your father's occupation?

A: He was a farmer in the 'old country'. He farmed when he first came to Canada. Then he worked in Penmans' in maintenance. I and my brother were born in the old country. I worked when I was 16 or 17 in Penmans. I worked for a chap named Shields end he came to me one day and said that they were going to put me in another room upstairs. The salary was $8.00 per week. I worked 5 days a week and on Saturday until noon. I asked Shields for a raise and he sent me to the manager, R.T. Hall. I was annoyed when he denied me the raise so I quit.

I had a chance to go to the Bank of Montreal. At first I turned the job down. But I went back and got a raise- $8.33 per week. I stayed there for 13 years. Then I was moved to Bronte. I was there for 2 or 3 months. They wanted me to manage both the Clarkson and Bronte banks. This meant I spent 3 days a week at one bank and the other 3 at the other bank. Finally I told my girlfriend that I wanted to leave the bank. At that time Anguishes owned the Palms Restaurant in Paris. The Bather Lou had died and his son, Roy wanted to sell it. I got thinking about and wondered if he would sell it to me. I talked it over with my future wife. She said she would ask her sister who was married to Roy Anguish.

So they thought it would be all right but we did not have any money. But I sold an insurance policy and got $500.00 of it so I put that down on the business. One of the jokes was that the day we took over, after our honey-moon we went to use the cash register and there was no money in it. Naturally, he had taken the money out but we didn't have any money to put into it to start the 'first day's business. We had to ask him for some money to put in the till for that first day end to buy ice cream. I made ice cream end candy too.

Q: What sort of candies would you make?

A: Oh, chocolates, hard candies...When we took over, "Roy was making about 600 gallons of ice cream a year. When we left it about 12 years later we were making over 5000.

Q: What was the counter arrangement like?

A: On one side was the soda fountain. Then behind that were all the booths. On the other side was the candy. In the center we had a big table with all the boxes of chocolates on.

Q: How many booths would you have?

A: 25.

Q: Did you hire extra girls for Saturday night?

A: Yes and we found that high school girls were the best workers. They were very efficient end they stayed on longer too.

After 12 years I went over to Paris Cold Storage. That was a brainwave of mine-I was up looking at an ice cream machine when I saw everyone running back end forth out of a room carrying packages in and out. So me, I was inquisitive so I asked the chap, "Why are those people running in end out of the room?" He says, "Go and have a look." So I walked into this cold zoom with what looked like rabbit cages in it. They were lockers. So that gave me an idea about having a cold storage plant, Roy Anguish and I started it together-they were refrigerator lockers, when we started we couldn't get meat from the packers unless we took a whole carcass-load. We did not know whether we could handle a whole carcass but we eventually got into the meat business. My best customer was the hospital. I got a cheque every month for 32 years from the hospital-for ice cream and meat.

Q: Do you know anything about Dusty (Bobby) West?

A:. He used to come to our place once in a while in the winter with his phonograph. It was on wheels, you know. He would stay until 5 a.m. to keep warm. He wrapped himself in newspapers to keep warm. His mother was from an aristocratic family in England end she skipped out to Canada with the stable groom. They lived up along the river. He had flat-bottomed boats-they leaked like a sive. One episode to show what a keen mind he had: Doctor Hiddells wife from Brantford - she used to visit with my wife- they went down to have a ride in Dusty West's bicycle boat. There used to be an island just before the dam. He would peddle this thing and tell them stories and recite his poetry and they said that he was so engrossed in his poetry that they thought he was going to run into the dam. But just at the last second the boat veered around. I have a lot of his poetry that he used to recite like the one about the time when the dam was being built and the flood came and washed all the machinery away. One man was lost and they used Dusty to find him. They found him down on cabins flats.

Q: What did he do with his time?

A: He played around with those boats.

Q: Did Bobby have a brother?

A: Yes. I don't know where he lived but he used to come to Bobby's once in a while. Dusty had a lot of medals for saving people. Then his house burned up and so did his medals.

Q: When did he die?

A: Around 30 years ago. After his house burned, they put him in the Fire Hall end the fire men looked after him. They managed to give him a bath. He was just a skinny fellow without his newspapers wrapped around him. He used to lead the bend with a hammock wrapped around him.

Q: what were some of the social highlights in Paris in 'the old days'?

A: Oh dances- you know Guy Lombardo? He came down once in a while from London to play in the Fire Hell, That is when he first started up! Then they used to have the odd dance across the road in the old YMCA building in the big room upstairs. (Present Town Hall)

Q: Do you remember John Penman?

A: Oh yes. He was quite aristocratic. When I was working in the Bank he used to come in the bank. They used to have a team of hackney horses. He used to drive them downtown. They also had an old open-air cadillac with a brass front.

There was a Miss Capron- she used to work in the Bank. She was a close friend of the Penmans. She had her holidays end went to Penmans' cottage up north. They had an island up there at Lake Rondo. Miss Capron said the island was all rock and Mr. Penman had barges bring sand in to make a beach. The Neilson candy people bought the island after the estate was closed up. He went down-after he sold out Penmans Mills - to Hamilton and started up a mill called the Mercury Mill. He used to go to Hamilton on the train every morning.

Q: What happened to the Caprons?

A: The last descendent I knew of was Miss Gladys Steuert-Jones. At one time the Capron farm could have been bought for 2200.00. Do you know whet I could have bought the 9-hole golf course for in 1945? $8500.00.

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