Rankin's interior 1948, 81 Ontario St.    Stratford-Perth Archives

Rankin chocolates  Brian Wendy Reis

I'll meet you at Rankin's

Rankin Street was named for the Rankin family which lived in the large red-brick house at 66 Britannia St. It was built in 1890 by Stratford’s leading baker and confectioner, Joseph Rankin. Surrounded by open fields, the Rankin house dominated the land that later became the Avalon subdivision.

Rankin Street runs north from Britannia Street for one block and ends at Normandy Drive. It was part of the original Avalon subdivision laid out in 1913 and was intended to run through Princess Street. But the subdivision really didn't develop till after the Second World War, by which time a revised plan shortened Rankin. Source: Streets of Stratford 2004. 

For about 90 years, the Rank1n name was well known in Stratford in the baking, confectionery, candy, ice cream, and restaurant business. The names Rankin's candy, Rankin's hand-rolled chocolates, Rankin's own ice cream, sodas, sundaes and milkshakes are still able to make Stratford mouths water.

Joseph Rankin (1849-1905) and Katherine Morrison (1850-1914) Rankin opened their first Stratford store in 1874, after they had purchased the handsome Mowat bank building at the corner of Downie and Wellington streets (a building demolished in 1979 by the Toronto-Dominion Bank). For Joe Rankin, it was a bake shop and candy store, formerly owned by John Pratt, and the business thrived. The Rankin advertisement in the Beacon proclaimed "Special attention will be given to catering to private parties and school entertainments."

The Rankins also advertised toys, mutton and mince pies, oysters, lobsters, buns and cakes. In those days it was considered fashionable to have the bride's cake "Made at Rankin's." In about 1890, the Rankins moved to larger premises, at 32 Ontario St. (later the Alex Beattie grocery store), before their final location at 81 Ontario St. In 1905, Joe Rankin died and the business was operated by the oldest of his eight sons, Charles R. Rankin (1875-1907), who said this about his establishment: "The interior fittings and cases are in mahogany finish, and with the numerous mirrors and adornments, present an appearance that cannot be excelled west of Toronto."  

The Rankins' confectionery was manufactured in their bake shop on the corner of Brunswick and Downie streets, where they had two Dempster ovens. Even in 1905, Rankin's was described as this old established house. After Gharles Rankin died tragically at the age of 31 in a train derailment in 1907 near Guelph, the business was then taken over by another of the Rankin boys, Gordon Harry Rankin (1883-1966), usually known as Dick.

Barbara Collier, renowned international singer who grew up in Stratford, (see Murray Hill Road), remembers Mr. Rankin from her childhood with affection as a character from the works of Charles Dickens. "I remember Mr. Rankin - I believe they called him Dickie. He resembled Mr. Pickwick, about as round as he was tall. He was ever so sweet and was always on hand to welcome his customers. "

Barbara has a further memory of how important Rankin's was as a meeting place for families. "Rankins was the go-to place when my Mum had something important to tell me, good or not so good. To this day I remember her taking me to lunch one day in late summer when I was 7. After I had had my standard fare of a grilled peanut sandwich and a Tin Roof Sundae, she told me we were going to meet a Miss Hyde, who would teach me piano.


"My day was ruined and she practically had to drag me over to Cambria Street. Meanwhile, I was envisioning an old witchlike woman with a crooked nose and a big mole on her face.  When the door opened, there stood a lovely, young woman with a big smile on her face. My Mother introduced us, then said she would leave us alone to get acquainted. I took lessons from Hazel until after my Grade VIII and Grades I and II theory, at which point poor Cora Ahrens took over. (see Hibernia Street). Hazel and I became lifelong friends."

To a child, that magnificent Rankin soda fountain, all glistening marble and gleaming nickel-plate, seemed a mile long. It was Joe Rankin's pride and joy and, when he held court, all his friends were reflected in the sparkling mirrors. Mrs. A. C. Jones became famous for the delightful concoctions she whipped up at that magic fountain, with its fancy fizzing soda taps and deep cold wells of frosty homemade Rankin's ice cream.

Remember her Gold Dust Twins and  Tin Roof? Her favorite was the David Harum. A  Banana Split cost 20 cents.

Across the way, the McCallum sisters presided over their special domain of Rankin's hand-rolled chocolates and candy. Then there was the dark, polished mahogany paneling of the booths at the rear of  the restaurant. Generations of Stratford families and friends ate their toasted salmon sandwiches and drank their sodas and teas while oscillating fans created soft breezes overhead. All was reflected in the Palladian segmented mirrors over each table, with funny Art Deco frosted glass lights.


When Harry Rankin closed the business in 1960, it ended a 90-year tradition. He had married Maud Lenore (Boles) of Stratford, and they built a fine Tudor Revival house at 170 Douglas St. (corner of John Street).

It became a long standing tradition to say, "I’ll meet you at Rankin's.Today, Rankin's is still a happy memory for many residents, and the name lives on with Rankin Street.   Sources:  Original research and story  Stanford Dingman. Added information from Dean Robinson's book,  Not the last Waltz and other Stratford stories. 

Tin Roof

170 Douglas St.

 The Rankin house

In 1924, the owner of Rankin's Ice Cream Parlour, Harry Rankin, commissioned an architect from Toronto, stonemasons from Scotland and limestone from Indiana for his Tudor Revival house at 170 Douglas St. 

It is a rare example of the Jacobean Style in Stratford, with its steeply pitched roof and small-paned windows. The symmetrical double gables also are distinctive. We especially love the beautiful patina of the copper awnings and the stonework detail around the entry door.  Source: Catherine Cassidy Designer

Frank Rankin, hockey star

The Rankin boys were so keen on hockey they formed their own team and set a Canadian record for one family. One on them, Frank Rankin, was a hockey star and later was enshrined in the NHL Hall of Fame. 

In the early days of hockey the small Ontario town of Stratford was known as a hotbed for the winter pastime. The name Rankin was synonymous with early Stratford hockey as a number of stars went by that name, notably Charlie, Gordon, Ramsay, Reg and Frank. 

From this family, none went on to more success than Frank who played rover in the era of seven-man hockey. As a junior, he was on the Stratford Ontario Hockey League champions in three successive seasons from 1906-07 to 1908-09. In 1910, he moved to Toronto to join the Eaton Athletic Association that had been formed that year by John C. Eaton, president of the eponymous department store. Membership was limited to amateurs, of which were imported to Toronto to play for the team. Rankin was one of those imports and was named team captain upon his arrival.

The Eaton Athletic Association won the Ontario Hockey League senior title in 1910-11 and repeated the following year, before losing the Allan Cup final to the Winnipeg Victorias. Rankin led the senior league in goals during the 1910-11 season, scoring 15 times in just four games. His performance earned him a First Team All-Star selection for the second consecutive year.

In 1912-13, Rankin moved uptown to Toronto St. Michael's, a team that lost the OHA final to the Toronto R. and A. A. both that season and the one following. He was chosen as a First Team All-Star for the third time in 1912-13 based on his league-leading 20 goals in five games. Rankin earned a berth on the Second Team All-Star squads in the 1911-12, 1913-14, and 1914-15 seasons before joining the Canadian Armed Forces during World War 1.

In 1924, Rankin was the coach of the Toronto Granites when they represented Canada at the Olympics and won a gold medal. He had also coached the Granites of the O.H.A. Senior League during the previous season.

Frank Rankin was inducted into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. Source: Hockey Hall of Fame    For his stats see Wikipedia.

For reasons good and bad, all of them related to hockey, 1907 was a memorable year for Stratford, and for the family of Joseph and Katherine (Morrison) Rankin. In that year, Stratford hockey teams won the Ontario Hockey Association's junior and senior championships. The double win was a first (and still the only) for Stratford and the OHA. Among the 16 players comprising those two teams were three Rankin brothers: Frank, Ramsey and Reg. In those days, train travel was common among playoff teams needing to travel any distance. The same trains were just as convenient for fans wanting to follow their teams in those playoffs. So it was, in the last week of February in 1907, about 125 Stratford fans, were in Toronto to watch their senior Indians play a series-deciding game against the St. George's Saints. Those fans included Charlie Rankin, who wanted to see the game, but may also have wanted to conduct some business in Toronto. The next morning, the Indians and their fans returned to Stratford, but not all of them chose the same train. For various reasons, some, Charlie Rankin among them, spent the morning in Toronto and opted for an early afternoon departure for Stratford. It was that No. 5 train that derailed just east of Guelph. Three passengers died in the crash: Charlie Rankin and John O'Donoghue of Stratford, and an 18-month-old girl from Peterborough. O'Donoghue had been Stratford's mayor in 1897 and 1898.

A full account of that record-setting hockey season, and the train-wreck tragedy that was part of it, is a 20-page story in Dean Robinson's book, Not the last waltz and other Stratford stories, published in 2019.

Private George Leslie Rankin. Photo: Operation:PictureMe

George Leslie Rankin, Army, WW1.

Private George Leslie Rankin (1893-1916) died in battle during WW1 in Belgium in 1916 at the age of 23.  He was the youngest of eight sons of Joseph and Katherine Rankin. Unlike his brothers, he was not involved in sports. 

The Toronto Star reported, according to a wire from Ottawa, that Rankin was killed in action on April 7, 1916 during the battle of St. Eloi.  Though he was born and grew up on Stratford, he enlisted from Fort William and went overseas in May 1915 as part of the second contingent. He went into the trenches in September 1915 and until his death he had been on the firing line.

Private Rankin had worked at Stratford City Hall for some months before going to Fort William where he was employed in the office of the Lake Clearance Shipping Association. Source: The Toronto Star April 20, 1916.  

Private Rankin was part of the 28 Battalion, Canadian Infantry, Saskatchewan Regiment of the Canadian Army. 

Addendum: Not only is his death mentioned on the family gravestone, Private Rankin has a memorial in the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ypres (Ieper), Belgium. Source:  PVT George Leslie Rankin (1893-1916) - Find a Grave Memorial;  George Leslie Rankin - The Canadian Virtual War Memorial - Veterans Affairs Canada;  RANKIN, G L - Private (canadianfallen.ca) 

Handley Page bomber

Roy Douglas Ford, RCAF 

Roy Douglas Ford (1920-1944) lived at 46 Rankin St. His British-born parents were  William Ernest, 1890-1972; and Mabel Annie (Reyss) Ford, 1890-1985. William was a finisher in the Stratford Chair Co. in the 1930s. 

Flying officer Roy Ford was a bombardier in a Halifax BIII LV831 bomber. He was killed in action on May 28, 1944, at age 23. #427 Lion Squadron (Ferte Manus Certas).

His plane took off at 23:31 hours for a bombing operation against the military camp at Leopoldsburg in Limburg. The aircraft was hit at night by German fighter pilot Feldwebel Hans-Eugen von Gienanth (credited with 10 victories) of the 11./NJG 1, night fighter squadron  who was flying a Bf 110 G-4  War Thinder from St. Trond  airfield.

When Ford's plane plunged and collided in air with Halifax MZ295 of 429 Squadron. All 14 crew members died. The men from both crews are buried in the Baisy-Thy Communal Cemetery and the Heverlee War Cemetery at Leuven, Belgium. 

427 Lion Squadron 

Formed at Croft, Yorkshire, England on Nov. 7, 1942, as the RCAF’s 25th (eighth bomber) squadron formed overseas. The unit flew Wellington, Halifax and Lancaster aircraft on strategic and tactical bombing operations. After hostilities in Europe, it remained in England as part of Bomber Command’s strike force, under which it airlifted Allied prisoners of war, and British troops from Italy, back to England. The squadron was disbanded at Leeming, Yorkshire, on June 1, 1946. Source: Fallen Aviators

This plaque pays respect to the seven crew members of Halifax LV831, piloted by Frank Devereaux, RCAF; and seven crew members Halifax MZ295. piloted by Carmen Ross, RCAF. Location.  Baisy-Thy, Belgium

Both aircraft, Halifax III LV831 and Halifax III MZ295, had the same mission, namely an attack on a German military base in Leopoldsburg, Belgium. Following a mid-air collision the two Halifax bombers, crashed in the Baisy-Thy area of Belgium. All crew members (seven in each aircraft) died at 0230 hours (2:30 am) on May 28, May 1944, and were buried in Baisy-Thy Communal Cemetery. See list of names Crews