I Remember When — The man went around to trim the wicks on the street lamps

The Sault Evening News put together a booklet of recollections by readers of the newspaper back in 1923. I will be sharing some of these from time to time. I did take the liberty to correct some of the grammar to make it easier for you to read. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have.

Laurie Davis

The first school I went to after coming from England in 1872, was located in front of Ft. Brady. There was a weatherboard loose on the south side of the school, and under it was a bees nest. In the higher grades, there were some boys who were live wires, who would pull this board and let it fly back, letting the bees fly out and some of them lit on my face and arms. There was an old Indian by the name of Narcisse, who heard my vocal powers and came to see what was going on. This old man wore an overcoat with a red sash, a toque, and moccasins. He ran past me, talking to himself in French. I don’t know where the boys were at that moment, but when Narcisse got to the boys, he would talk to them by hand and foot. Those offenders were George Blank, Gill Scranton, Jim Snudden, (my brother,) and Jack Ruehle. These were the good ole days. – (Mrs. B.J. McKerchie, 302 Easterday Avenue)

The first ferry boat, we had in the Soo was the “Dime,” and she was properly named, as she wasn’t much larger than a dime. She was owned by Edward Paro and commanded by Capt. Sam Bernier. Later the “Antelope,” owned and operated by Capt. Norman Ripley came along. She was larger, about the size of a 50-cent piece. Later there was the International Bawating and now the Algoma. Previous to this, the ferrying was all done by the Mero and Byrons with sail and rowboats. They did a thriving business – both lived in the Canadian Soo. – (F.W. Roach, 232 Ferris)

A man named DeCota, whose first name I have forgotten, if ever I knew it, went around daily to trim the wicks and fill the tanks of the street lamps. He carted a wooden ladder about six feet long and a five-gallon can of kerosene. The lamps were on wooden posts seven or eight feet high – just high enough to be fairly safe from the small boys. They were on Water Street on Plank Alley, between the Peppard and McKinney Store and the Conway block, and along Portage Avenue from Bingham to Douglas. – (E.T. Crisp, 924 Johnson Street)

When I was piloting the schooner Burnette about 45 years ago, the freight on iron ore was $4 per ton from Marquette to Cleveland. One time I was loading the boat and slipped in 100 extra tons, knowing that the rate was good. When I got to the lock the draft was more than the water depth over the miter sill. I was ordered to lighten the boat, but before I did it was flooded out of the lock. I left an envelope containing $35 on Superintendent Spaulding’s desk, and to this day I don’t believe he ever knew where it came from. In those days, we used to pay a toll of $38 each time we went through the locks. – (Capt. S. M. Bill, Albany Island)

In 1874 Charles Eaton, father of “Non” Eaton and I, started a brickyard in the Soo, south of the present D.S.S. & A depot location. We had a one-horse power machine and hauled in 3,000 yards of clay from the coal pit. In the spring, we had an expert brickmaker come from New York state. We burned two kilns, which proved to be a failure. We had more clay than brick. The old home of Andrew Blank on West Portage Avenue was the first brick residence in the Soo built from our bricks. – (J. E. LaLonde, 1106 Division Street)

When I came to the Soo in the spring of 1884, I stopped at D. M. McKenzie’s on Water Street. I left a young man by the name of Carroll there to bring a team of horses and meet me on Johnstone Street while I went to the Johnson and Gross lumber yard. Young Carroll started out with the team. He started east on Water Street and ran against the big gate going into Fort Brady. He turned back to Plank Alley, then to River Street but could not see the way clear, so he went back and put the horses in the barn till morning. – (Thomas C. Langley, 929 Brown Street)

When I left Pickford in the spring of 1884, it was the morning after the first election held at Pickford. In making the trip to Hay Lake, I was forced back to Pickford because of the bad roads. Starting the second time, I discovered when I arrived at the Munuskong River, that the bridges were out. I was forced to cross in a rowboat. – (Thomas C. Langley, 929 Brown Street)

Winn Hand was pound master, and clubfoot Bill Scott was his chief assistant. One day they were doing big business. They had located fifteen stray cattle belonging to a woman, whose name I know not, and were driving them south on Pine street, heading for the pound at the foot of Ashmun Hill. The woman who owned the cows was following, remonstrating but to no avail. All went well with Winn and Bill until they reached Washington School. When the woman used a little strategy that would have done credit to a military genius. She enlisted all the schoolchildren on her side to help drive the cattle in the opposite direction from the pound. It was as if pandemonium had let loose. The kids, generaled by the woman, drove the cattle north while Winn and Bill, bravely did their utmost to drive the cattle south, with the tide of battle fast going against them. It looked like a sure victory for the woman when lo, the school bell rang, and the woman’s forces vanished, and the poor woman continued the unequal struggle single-handedly against Winn and Bill, but they finally landed every cow in the city pound and collected $1.00 per head before the cattle were released. – (John N. Adams, 114 Easterday Ave.)

I remember how all the people got their wood. There weren’t many horses, so they used to have “bees.” All the men would turn out and cut wood, while those who had a horse would draw the wood and fill the yards to last the winter. The evening after the “bee,” there would be a big supper and shoepack dance. Everyone would have a good time. And you would see some step dancing too. “Puss” Day called off for the dances, and Harry Thorn played. The hall we used then is in the building where Zeller’s Drug Store is now located – ( Mrs. Thomas Malloy, 513 Ninth Street)

I remember when the fish industry was controlled by Peter B. Barbeau, and William P. Spaulding, in the early fifties. The fish were so plentiful and cheap that it was impossible to find a ready market for them all, and they would spoil. In that case, the spoiled fish would be hauled to the Barbeau farm, known now as Chandler Heights, and used as fertilizer. I knew as many as 70 half-barrels were being hauled there in less than one week. I have known fish varying in weight from three to five pounds sold and delivered at the rate of a hundred for fifty cents. This may be a good fish story, but it’s nevertheless true. – (Captain Joseph Rouleau, 225 Magazine Street)

I landed in the Soo about November 7, 1862, coming from Owen Sound, Ont., on the steamer Campana. Donald McKenzie and Mr. McEvoy were prominent on Water Street at that time. The next day was election day, Frank Lassard and Mr. McKeone were run­ning for sheriff. Votes were selling from one to three dollars a head. The next day twenty-seven of us left on the little steamer Antelope for DeTour. We then transferred into Hugh McCart­ney’s sailboat for Drummond, to work in the woods. – (Humphry Jones, DeTour, Michigan)

Laurie Davis, Columnist
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