In this week’s column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his examination of the pivotal years of 1939 and 1940
Let’s continue our look at the 1939s and 1940s of Newmarket history. When we last stopped by, they were starting construction on the military camp and the first soldiers were about to arrive in Newmarket. You can read the first part here.
Local businesses are starting to reap the benefits of having 3,500 new soldiers in town. The city’s business register indicates that there were approximately 200 active businesses in Newmarket, 99 businesses and trades located on the east side of Main Street and another 91 on the west side of Main Street.
There have been some changes in our council as Dr Boyd has left and Dr L. Dales replaced him as mayor and A. Armstrong replaced Dennis Mungoven on the council. James Sloss was still our chief of police with Kenneth Mount and W. Curtis identified as official agents.
Max Boag is the local customs officer and LP Cane is the postmaster. The local public school board is made up of WH Eves, President, RL Pritchard, Secretary-Treasurer, RE Manning, Dr Charles Edwards, Frank Bothwell and LB Rose.
City records identify 13 municipal properties on the list:
- Fire Station – Main Street West
- Clerk’s office – Main Street West
- Town Hall and Market Square – Botsford Street
- Police Office – Botsford Street
- Water and lighting plant – rue Prospect Est.
- The reservoir, rue Prospect
- Pumping Station – Srigley Street
- Agricultural park – Rue des Pins Est
- Memorial park – Rue D’Arcy
- Widdifield Park – Water Street
- Lions Club Park – From the Church to Lorne Avenue
- York County Hospital – Huron Street (Davis Drive)
- York County Nursing Residence – Next to York County Hospital on Davis Drive
There were also four government properties listed:
- The post office – main street
- York County Registry Office – Main Street
- York County Industrial House – Yonge and Eagle Street
- Dominion of Canada Army Training Camp – Fairgrounds
The wartime entertainment scene has started to heat up. In March 1940, Newmarket’s own group Max Boag performed to a full house at the ‘Y’ Theater at Camp Borden with Polly Dobson and Gene McCaffrey as vocal soloists.
The hot thing in June 1940 was the expected increase in tax revenues, as reported by Mr. Mathews, our city clerk.
Economically, however, all was not rosy. Foreign markets for fine leather products forced the Davis Leather Company to lay off men at the local factory. The office specialty had however been asked to increase production on its government contracts and therefore the specialty would increase its staff, absorbing some of those men who were made redundant at the tannery.
Fundraising campaigns through the sale of war savings bonds and rationing of essential items have started in earnest at the local level. In July 1940, it was reported in the local newspaper that $ 235 in savings bonds had been sold at the local Strand Theater on Main Street.
In addition, local musicians have organized performances throughout the region. Local musicians like Jack Arlitt and Mr. Donnie Cribber on cornet, James Bradford and his father on drums and Harold Gadsby, a local vocal soloist and the Art West Band presented performances to benefit the war campaign.
In October 1940, the first class of trainees arrived for the opening of the Newmarket military camp. There were already over 100 officers and staff here, including the lieutenant. Colonel RB Harkness who was the camp commander and Major B. Hanley who was the second in command.
I mentioned in the first episode of this series that the land in the Connaught Gardens development was turned over to the military camp for its use. For the record, there were, at the time, 81 building plots on the books when ownership was transferred to the military camp.
A local newspaper article tells us that Ross Caradonna, a local businessman and proud new Canadian, donated $ 100 to the local Red Cross and $ 25 to the Veterans Comfort Fund. The generosity of the local business community is highlighted in most publications.
The main news of 1940 was, of course, the initial deployment of our local boys, in basic training and then overseas. The newspaper posted their photos weekly, proudly listing where they had been deployed and quite often giving a bit of background on them.
According to those I had the honor to interview, including my own mother, there was a great sense of pride that our people had left to save the world, but there was also an underlying sense of apprehension and fear on everyone’s lips regarding these young men. , the fear that they will not come back safe and sound.
For some of our boys, it actually was. I think that’s why we opened our hearts to those passing through our military camp, we hoped someone would take care of our boys wherever they were and we in turn were determined to take good care of them. these young men who arrived here even for a limited time.
Under the title “Newmarket Boys Help Whallop Hitler,” published December 31, 1940, in the Newmarket Era, we were introduced to some of the local men who had previously been called up for service. The article lists their name, rank and where they are currently serving. I have included this era page with the other photos for your information. I recognize several of the names listed.
Our boys have been deployed to a variety of destinations. Here is a list of the young men who were now serving their country in December 1941. You may recognize several of them. Some of the young men had crossed the ocean before and were now serving in England. They included: Ate. Don Lyall, Pte. Albert Skelton, Pte. Reg. Bell, Pte. Fred Evans, cap. Tom Smith, Pte. Chuck Harrison, Gunners J and G. Harmon, Sdt. Allan McDonald, Pte. Earl and Walter Wrightman, Pte. Percy Myers, Pte. Wilfred Pipher, Driver Percy Lloyd, Pte. Art Brymer, Pte. R. Chappel, Cpl. Gordon Thompson, and Cpl. Ted Robinson.
Still stationed here in Canada, we have Pte. Vic Bridges, Airman A, Rowland, Lieutenant Dr. Bartholomew, Seaman Joe Gladman, Gnr. Howard Brown, Gn. Art Dobbie, Pte. Elias Fairey, Pte. Roy Chant, Pte. Bob Fontaine, Airman Walter Gilroy, Airman JR Eakins, Sgt. Albert Lindenbaum, Pte. Ross Greenwood, Pte. David Tait, Pte. Percy Pemberton, and Pte. Bill Dowling. And in the service of our military camp, we had Captain Dr Edwards.
The names of these men listed above are just a brief example of the parade of local guys who registered in Newmarket from the fall of 1940, and this will continue until the end of the war.
As you can imagine, the fall of 1940 was a turning point in our history for so many of our local families, indeed for the whole community. The war had taken on a fierce reality for the city, and I believe it profoundly changed the very soul of Newmarket. The streets of Newmarket were now populated by young men from across Canada, of all religions, races and ethnicities. He brought the world to our doorstep.
This will continue for the next five or six years. Every six weeks a new group of 3,500 young men would come in and be absorbed into our community. Some would return after the war and settle in Newmarket. Unfortunately, some would never come back. The harsh reality of the war was now upon the town of Newmarket. It tends to change a community, to anchor itself in the very fiber of the city.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look back at the years 1939 and 1940, two years which I believe were defining years in the history of our Newmarket.
Sources: The Memorable Merchants and Trades 1930 to 1950 by Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; The Newmarket era
Newmarket resident Richard MacLeod the history dog has been a local historian for over 40 years. He writes a weekly article on the history of our city in partnership with Newmarket Today, organizes local heritage lectures and walking tours, and conducts local oral history interviews.