note: From response received from visitors to the Rawdon
Historical Society website, there seems to be a great interest
in Rawdon during the middle of the last century. In response
to this interest, I have dug out my collection of the Rawdon
News Bulletins and tried to portray Rawdon as it was at
that particular time. I admit to using this source extensively
for the following article, but I know that the editor and
his staff would give whole hearted approval, were they still
1952, Rawdon was known primarily as a tourist destination. The
above notice advertising the advantages of holidaying in Rawdon
appeared in the Rawdon News Bulletin of June 1952.
Rawdon was considered easily accessible using the old route
33 or 18. Being only about an hour’s drive from Montreal it
was very convenient to have a summer house here. For the same
reason, as well as being the closest community north of Montreal
where English was spoken, Rawdon also drew many American tourists,
particularly from the New England area.
For those without cars, public transport was available. Buses
left from Montreal
regularly as did the Canadian National Railway train with extra
departures on weekends. A one way ticket on the train
cost $1.80. Bus fare was even less.
township sector of Rawdon has always had several distinct areas
known by name. The summer areas were Lake
Brennan, Lac Claire, Gratten
Lake and Masonville. In the village
a few seasonal cottages could be found at the bottom of Albert,
Church and Queen Streets as well as in ‘The Pines’ on the main
level of town but most of the cottages for summer residents
in the village were clustered around the beach area, ‘the top
end of the village’ as locals termed it. A little farther north
of the beach area was the burgeoning Polish community. Over
in the Pine Lands area, several Hungarian families had built
all summer visitors owned or rented places in Rawdon.
Many preferred to ‘room’ or ‘board’ while here.
Several hotels offered rooms for about $42 a week, American
houses were scattered all over town and in the countryside.
They charged about $3 a day without meals. For an additional
cost meals would be provided. Often guests returned to
‘their’ boarding house year after year and became part
of the family. Some of the better known establishments
in town were Mrs. Burns and Mrs. Abby Blagrave on 4th
Ave, Mrs. Dick Blagrave, Mrs. St Louis and Fred
Christopher’s on Metcalfe, Barrie’s on 3rd
Avenue at the corner of the dam, Walkers on 10th
Avenue. ‘At the top end of the village’ a Russian boarding
house catered to their compatriots.
mentioned above, many people owned or rented what were
termed ‘summer cottages’. While some visitors were here
only a couple weeks or on weekends, many mothers with
their children moved up at the end of the school year
and spent the whole summer in Rawdon. These particularly,
became part of the community, joining year round residents
in their daily activities. Years later, many of the young
ones returned to live permanently, choosing to bring up
their own families in Rawdon and remembering the sense
of security and the community spirit they experienced
in their youth.
the summer of 1952 there seemed to be never a dull moment
in Rawdon. Most of the activities were annual events sponsored
by the various community groups and organizations. Every
weekend some kind of entertainment was offered.
for Cameron Service Garage
(Photo: Rawdon News Bulletin)
activities got off to a start with the Loisirs of Rawdon
holding a picnic and various races at Dorwin
Falls to celebrate St. Jean Baptiste
Day. Almost 200 children, some accompanied by parents, took
part in the festivities.
following week, July 1st, the Anglican Church held
its annual picnic and games at the ‘Falls’. This was a long
standing tradition that originated in 1897. More than 500 people
came for the lunch of ham, potato salad, baked beans, ice cold
lemonade, and home made pies for dessert. After lunch there
were races and competitions for young and old alike. In the
evening, a barn dance was held in the Anglican Hall, the day
ending with sandwiches, sweets and coffee served at 11:30 p.m.
There was an understanding that everything had to be finished
by midnight to avoid breaking the Sabbath. .
Tombola, sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 198,
included a parade along Queen
Street, led by Chief of Police Charles Demers seated on a jet-black
steed. The reigning Queen for 1952, Mrs. Eileen Rothdram, was
also in the parade. Later she presided over the activities held
in the Legion Hall (then on Church
Street), including the drawing of tickets for various prizes.
hall was transformed into a midway with booths of all sorts
to tempt young and old alike. I can still feel the sense of
excitement in the atmosphere when you entered the front door.
For a child it was a magical experience. There was a Panda Booth
with life size pandas, the Pony Game, Crown and Anchor, and
Bird Cage. Rogers Plastics (now Créalise) had a booth with prizes
of their own production. It was a colourful display. There was
a Jewelry Pitch, card games and more, all vying for the attention
and money of patrons. A very popular feature was a Fortune Teller,
ready to offer insight as to the future of those willing to
pay the price. Younger children flocked to the Fish Pond and
the Nickel and Penny Pitch. The Cowboy Booth was popular with
the young boys. Good sharp shooters took home Roy Rogers pistols,
chaps, hats, and holsters.
away in the back corner of the large hall, was a home baking
table where the ladies of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 198
offered mouth-watering pies and cakes for a price. After the
fun and games, the prizes were drawn. The first prize on the
raffle ticket was an electric washing machine, followed by an
electric kettle and a steam iron being as second and third prizes.
the end of August, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Trade
Exhibition in the Royal Canadian Legion Hall with businesses
from Rawdon and surrounding areas exhibiting their products
and services. Of great interest to all was a cement silo constructed
near the entrance of the hall by Rawdon Cement Works. This certainly
caught people’s attention! A silo in town! They were only two
places in Quebec offering
a silo made of cement blocks and Rawdon Cement was one.
July, a regatta, held on Rawdon
Lake, offered canoe and row boat racing
and a swimming competition. In the evening, the boats were decorated
with Chinese lanterns and rowed down the lake creating a mystical
aura of coloured lights seemingly floating on the water. This
parade was followed by the dancing on the beach to live music.
weekend, Frank Szuba (Rawdon Cement Works) organized a folklore
night with participants from several communities. Among the
presentations was George Walton, a well known and respected
tenor. Beverly Gilbert did a toe and a tap dance. Children from
a local Ukrainian summer camp showcased their traditional songs
and dances. Pierre Benoit sang parts from well known operas
and Janet Scott gave two performances of song. There was
what was then termed ‘barn dance’ music with a caller and four
couples demonstrating square dancing. Henri Pontbriand, who
also acted as M.C. gave a rare public performance, singing in
four different languages. Quite a varied concert!
Club Fire Truck.
(Photo: Rawdon News Bulletin)
youth in Rawdon were not forgotten by the various organizations.
While they were included in most regular activities, there
were also special activities to keep them amused during
the summer holidays and all year round. Police chief Charles
Demers had a Juvenile Police Club for the boys. It held
regular meetings all year with special events during summer
months. A Field Day at Dorwin falls June 25th
started the holidays off in good style. The presence of
the fire truck added to the excitement of the approximately
25 boys in attendance. Members
of the Royal Canadian Legion were also involved in activities
for the younger generation with their Youth Welfare program.
They put on their summer tombola particularly to raise
funds for this project. While day camp as known today
was unheard of in Rawdon, the Rawdon Summer School sponsored
by the Anglican Church was already in its 3rd
year with almost 100 children attending activities under
the supervision of Rev. S. Willis. Children from outlying
districts were bused in.Classes
were held in the Legion Hall (on Church
Street directly behind the Anglican Hall). Mornings were
given over to handicrafts, songs, stories and games. This
particular year the theme was Roman history. The younger
children made Roman armour and the older ones made a Roman
fortress complete with moat and drawbridge..
were spent at the Pine Lodge swimming pool with Don Bell giving
swimming classes. Some of the young girls helped out (volunteering,
of course). These included Eleanor Purcell, Wilma McBride, Heather
Bell, Verna Asbil, and Bernice Boyce.
the week there were other diversions. On Tuesday nights, there
was a card party at the Rawdon Inn and the Legion had social
dancing every Wednesday night. There was the 5th
Avenue Theatre which showed films every evening, including stock
cowboy features, light comedies, and tales of adventure. ‘Belles
on their Toes’, ‘San Francisco Story’, ‘Kangaroo’ and ‘Quo Vadis’
were among the features offered in English. The news reel that
started the show and the ever-popular Looney Toons were added
attractions. All this for the price of 25 cents admission.
The usual church teas, sales and card parties also offered diversion
during the summer. Pine Lodge held its annual Swim Meet at the
end of August. Young and old alike, trained all summer for this
very popular event. A twelve mile bicycle race offered a $25
prize to the winner! Who, among those who were teenagers at
the time, can forget Peter Mailhot’s chip stand near the beach?
Were there ever such good French Fries? This was the place for
both local youth and the ‘city kids’ as they were known, to
hang out. Down at the other end of town, on the corner of Queen
and 4th, the ‘Square Circle’ did likewise for the
young set. For many years it drew the young ones in particular
for fries and pop, an ice cream cone, or maybe a fudgesicle.
The main attraction, though, was a small seating area inside
with a juke box. The floor between the booths was well worn
by baby doll shoes stepping -- or was it stomping -- to the
latest rock and roll hits.
(Photo: Rawdon News Bulletin)
The Chamber of Commerce at this time was aggressively promoting
Rawdon not only as a tourist destination, but as a convenient
location for industrial or commercial ventures. The ad at right appeared
in the May issue of the Rawdon News Bulletin.
was also considerable political activity in Rawdon during the
summer months. There were municipal and school (Catholic) elections
for both the township and the village. In the township, James
Mason was mayor and Ernest Tinkler, Emerie Leblanc, Louis Rivest,
Malcom Kirkwood, Ernest Boyce and Léo
Lane were councillors. In the village, Philip Tinkler was mayor,
with Vital Perreault, Reginald Purcell, Hildaige Héroux, Clifford
George Parkinson, Dr. Lucien Godin and James Robertson as councillors.
These administrations were occupied with improving roads and
streets within their respective jurisdictions.
The village administration was busy paving Queen
Street between 4th and 13th
Avenue, and then 3rd
Avenue over the bridge as far as what is now Golf
Road. Sidewalks, posts, and rail guards were installed on the
bridge. Albert and Queen from 4th to 1st
Avenue, as well as the access to Dorwin
Falls (now 1st
Avenue) was given a new coat of gravel. The
beach was widened, the pier repaired, the chalet painted, unsightly
signs removed and an attractive fence put up. Rawdon
Lake was restocked with fingerlings.
was allotted $200 for clean-up and repairs.
now had a garbage service. It was provided by a private citizen
under the supervision of city hall. A weekly pick-up was available
for 35 cents per pick-up. The township was also investing in
their infrastructure with grants from the provincial government.
Various roads were repaired, including Lake Brennan and Lac
Claire roads, what is now Routes 341, 337, 125, as well as Lake
Morgan, Forest, and Laliberté Roads.
1952 Rawdon could hardly be considered an uneventful or unchanging