Bert Smith finds love at Feversham Fall Fair
Bert Smith, former publisher and owner of The Creemore Star starts off this month’s portion of his biography with the words, “This paragraph may make my Grandchildren smile” and it may make you smile, also. He goes on to say that he had reached 24 years of age and had never really had a girlfriend. He had had mild flirtations with two or three but it never became serious.
He continues, I was fond of dancing and attended these events at Duntroon, Singhampton, Stayner and Creemore. In those days dances were invitational affairs. I had sisters to take and at times went alone. At these dances it was the custom for the boys to dance with every girl they knew. We had good fun.
Then on Oct. 1, 1914, I accidentally found myself at Feversham Fair. I had gone within half a mile of that place with my team and wagon to deliver a big wood furnace to a family who had built a new home. A hardware man at Creemore had offered me five dollars to pick up the furnace at Glen Huron station and deliver it. I arrived at noon. The people gave me dinner and said, “Come to the fair.” I remember I was not particularly well dressed but anyway I went. I had less than a dollar in my pocket.
I was at the fair only half an hour when I met Alf Leach looking over the livestock. Alf said I was the fellow he needed to help him out because he had two girls. I pleaded that I wasn’t dressed up but Alf said, “You are fine.” I said, “But can you lend me two bucks?” which he did. We found the girls and I was paired off with May Ferguson. We seemed to find each other congenial. I took her to supper and afterwards the wind-up concert. Before we parted I had dated her for a trip the following Sunday. We were then going steady and then engaged.
Aunt Nell married Alex Weir in 1914 and dear old grandmother, around 75 years of age, was left alone with Reub. Then in 1915 Reub’s health cracked up. He was only 53 but had a bad case of pernicious anemia. It was in January 1916 that Grandmother and Reub sent for me. They had agreed the time had come for a big change, so they asked me if I was interested in buying them out. I was thrilled. Firstly because I was sentimental, I thought I would like no other farm as much as the original homestead.
The deal was made. Reub had a sale of chattels in March 1916. I was the Laird of the Manor and was in possession. Grandmother had a sale of effects in April and said good-bye to where she had lived for 49 years. I had first hoped to get married in June but after Grandmother moved out my mother came up with me on Sunday and we realized the house was in terrible condition. The wallpaper was old and dirty. A genuine face lifting was necessary. I worked in the fields all day and nights and Sundays found me taking off wallpaper. Some rooms had three layers of paper and what a job. My funds were quite low.
I bought a nice stove and a new bed and mattress, and also some of Grandmother’s tables and chairs at her sale. Realizing it was a cold house I ordered storm windows and then had old John Benelle hang paper and glaze the storm sash. As I had no bush I bought a ton of coal at $6.50. Unfortunately the entire 1916 crop was quite a failure. After buying a new suit and overcoat and some incidentals I was down to $100.
The wedding was delayed. For personal reasons May said she didn’t want to get married at Christmas. She decided on Jan. 10 and so it was. We were married on a very cold day at Duntroon. It was a quiet wedding on a Wednesday. There were no wedding guests and presents were very few. Also showers for brides had not been invented at that time. By today’s standards May had a very limited amount of the usual household gadgets.
For our wedding trip we went by CNR to Guelph and London but mostly to May’s cousin at St. Thomas. We returned to the old homestead and was the old house ever cold! The coal range heated the living room well but the bedroom above was cold. Uncle Reub who had started to live with his brother Bill called one day and when we told him our bedroom was cold he opened his heart and said, “Go down to my bush and find a dead tree and try burning wood.” I did this and the change was wonderful. I found there is little heat off stovepipes when one burns coal but lots of heat when one burns wood.
We had a fair crop in 1917 and right away I decided to do something to make the house warmer. Talk about starting up on a shoestring. Well, we did and survived. We both worked very hard and I must have got a great deal of help from my home folk. Our first baby was coming in the autumn and preparations had to be made.
Fortunately we had a big crop in 1918 and prices were good. We were well established and great were our expectations. Then the flu hit. (The worldwide Spanish flu pandemic). People were dying everywhere. Two doctors at Stayner got the bug and died. I was scared stiff. Good old Dr. Bradley of Creemore was our doctor and with a baby coming he told me to stay at home and avoid contacts. He called at home every week and figured out that our first-born would arrive about Oct. 13. He had suggested a nurse and one who had not been exposed to the flu bug.
The arrival of David Angus (pictured top left, brother Charles, bottom) on Oct. 27 appeared to his proud parents the most wonderful event that had ever happened. The new member of the Smith clan had the distinction of being the first of the clan of the 5th generation to live on the farm of the pioneer ancestors.