Times past: A Stratford stroll in 1907  by Lorne Brothers

Sourced by Betty Jo Belton Stratford-Perth Archives

Theatre Albert...now the Avon Theatre

Loretto Acadeny

Romeo School

Duggans Store

Queens Hotel

St. Joseph Church

Stratford Collegiate

Kalbfleisch Brothers

I wasn’t around in 1867, but perhaps you’d like to follow me on an imaginary stroll in Stratford on a Saturday morning in July of 1907. Things and people seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy.

With my family, I had very recently moved to 51 Shrewsbury St. (see Shrewsbury Street) and as arranged I am meeting a chum in front of Heinbuch’s at 112 Downie St. We tarry a few minutes chatting and something draws our attention to Franky Rosse’s fruit store on the other side of Downie St. I remember that not long before Franky had a night time fire in his stable in behind our former home at 134 Downie St. That was an exciting experience for a boy like me but not much fun for Franky or his unfortunate horses.

Strolling southward, we pass…McCauley’s butcher shop and the Empire Hotel. Crossing St. Patrick St., we see the rather new Y.M.C.A. building on the corner. Immediately we hear various sounds coming from the Grand Trunk Shops. Somebody told me that awful row is riveting in the boiler shop. Gazing westward we see where Nelson St. is being closed and notice the addition to the shops which is under construction.

We pass the shops’ office, then cross to the east side of Downie St. In a couple of minutes, we are at the frame G.T. Depot, [Grand Trunk Depot], very close to Downie. Several horse-drawn cabs are waiting for the ten o’clock Toronto train to come in. Sure enough, there is Tommy Johns, on the job as usual. There’s the train, a bit late. Walter Davis says that type of engine is called a 6 – 12. Every steam engine has a tender, of course…Why there’s Albert Brandenberger, who owns the Theatre Albert!

So, we resume our walk and now turn north on Downie St. There is the Traders’ Bank on the right and the large building is the Mooney Biscuit and Candy Co.

At Douro St., we walk a very short distance to the right, then left onto Waterloo St. passing St. Paul’s Church, a couple of houses and there stands Trinity Methodist Church. We cross Grange St. and see Loretto Academy. That used to be somebody’s home… We cross Rebecca St. and Romeo Creek, into which certain boys like to push others. To the right is Romeo School. And there are the little culverts or bridges which serve the various households. 

We turn left onto George St. and there is the Theatre Albert a short block away. “Kitty corner” across Downie St is the T.T. Simpson Livery. That building belongs to my Dad. Next door is Heinbuch’s Machine Shop. I like the two Heinbuch boys. Werner and Walter…Walking north in front of the Theatre we notice that the Marks’ Bros. Stock Company … are booked for September. 

There is Campbell’s Sparta Restaurant…Passing 81 Downie St. we notice a new sign “Theatorium.” There’s a tongue-twister! I think they are showing moving pictures, but not every night…The Commercial Hotel is on the corner.

Now, on the left we see Market Square and the City Hall. There are many farmers in this morning and Market Square is a busy place.

We cross Brunswick St. and pass in front of J. A. Duggan’s Dry Good Store, which Mother loves, then J. D. McCrimmon’s Shoe Store. On the next corner is C. E. Nasmyth’s Drug Store. 

We cross Albert St., pass Stratford Building and Savings Association, Oman and Mallion’s Grocery, the British Mortgage, Fletcher Johnson’s Shoe Store and Norval Babb’s Jewelry Store. 

Across the street now are Duncan Ferguson’s Dry Goods, also a favourite of Mother’s and W.J. Ferguson’s. The block we just passed was called Market St. [later Downie Street] until very recently. 

As we are turning right onto Ontario St., we glance across at the stately Post Office and we also notice Walsh’s Grocery and Bradshaw’s China Hall. 

We now walk east on Ontario St., past Bob Easson’s Drug Store and Rankin’s Confectionery. Gee, their candy is good! There is P. J. Kelly’s Clothing Store and the Senate Poolroom, run by the Patrick Brothers. A little farther along at 113 is Bob Pearen’s Barber Shop and next to this the Albion Hotel. The laundry is on the corner and across Waterloo St. we see the Queen’s Hotel… On the opposite corner is the Perth Mutual Fire Insurance Building.

We turn left now and cross Ontario St., walking north alongside Knox Church with its steeple. We pass two houses, then Cobourg St., two more houses, then before we cross the bridge {the Waterloo Street Bridge, now the William Hutt Bridge] we gaze affectionately at the old Rink, quite close to Waterloo St. 

Naturally, we are reminded of last year’s exciting hockey games, especially those with Berlin [later Kitchener: post WW1]. Sometimes you get awfully cold in that rink, unless you’re skating…Just imagine, last season Stratford won both the Senior and Junior O.H.A. Championships. [See below in a photograph from Stratford-Perth Archives.]

We pause on the bridge and look first in one direction and then the other... We continue our stroll, turning left on William St., and as we pass Hamilton St., take a moment to glance at St. James’ Church …The red brick building on the left on William is occupied by the Stratford Clothing Co. I understand they sometimes employ fifty men…Before we turn left at Mornington St. we notice St. Joseph’s Church to the west.

We cross the Huron St. bridge and pause by James Lloyd’s Grocery on the corner of Ontario. Those Lloyd girls are mighty pretty. I think they live out Hibernia St…

It is beginning to look like rain…

Glancing across Huron we see first the Court House and as we cross the corner we can also see the County Jail on the right and the Collegiate Institute buildings at the end of the street. Looking across St. Andrew St., we see St. Andrew’s Church and the Public Library, with its entrance on St. Andrew. And there on the corner is old Central School, where I went for one year.

I say good-bye to my friend, who has to pick up parcels for his mother at both J. H. Kenner’s and H. M. Patterson’s bookstores…I start for home just as the 12 o’clock whistle blows at the Shops… 

I scurry down Church St., then east again on St. Patrick. It’s fun to go home by Erie St. Sometimes, as I pass Kalbfleisch’s Machine Shop I think: “They must be pretty smart in there. I understand they can even fix autos.” 

There is Tom Marks on the corner talking to someone…

It starts to rain and I hurry now, running up the hill alongside the Lutheran Church on St. David. Soon I am home at 51 Shrewsbury and a little out of breath. Just now I saw Jim Preston entering the Preston home across the street. He’s a swell hockey player! He plays cover-point for the Stratford Juniors.

I didn’t see one auto on this walk although there are several in town now. I did see lots of horse-drawn rigs of various kinds…

We needed this rain because all the streets were pretty dusty except Downie and Ontario where they are paved. But I hope it stops soon – there was to be a ball game today at the flats and probably Percy Patrick would be pitching.

That was a catchy tune my chum was whistling this morning. His dad bought the sheet music in Toronto this week. It’s a new song called “School Days”. I’ll bet they’ll be playing it at the rink next winter on band nights.

Mother says dinner is ready.