Deck the halls

 In Letters, Opinion


I could feel the floor shaking when I read Helen Blackburn’s account of Leonard Hall in the March 3 edition of The Creemore Echo. Maybe Gerry Blackburn was shaking so hard before and during his recitation that I picked up the floor vibration, but my memory was unclear. I was inside my mother then; she was only three months pregnant. My brother Bob was there. I can read about the event now as it was reported in The Creemore Star on Dec. 28, 1933: “Public school children presented the Christmas concert at Leonard Hall. It was said that Dr. Graham ‘made a very acceptable Chairman.’”

The concern about the overloading of Leonard Hall’s floor in Helen Blackburn’s charming story had reached a peak just six weeks before and was reported in The Creemore Star on Nov. 16, 1933: “The Creemore Continuation School commencement held in Leonard Hall last Friday was a brilliant success. An estimated 500 people attended. People had to be turned away. The chair was occupied by Dr. J.R.H. Graham as he presented the medals for the past field day championships and, in his remarks, referred to the advancements that had taken place in sports within the school.”

The Masonic Lodge used Leonard Hall on occasion. A report in The Creemore Star on June 23, 1932, sounded ceremonial and fun: “On Monday, a hundred people sat down to a Gala Banquet at Leonard Hall held by the Masonic Lodge, honoured by a visit from Rt. Worshipful Bro. J.J. McKnight of Tottenham, District Deputy Grand Master. Dr. Graham, assisted by Wor. Bro. A. May and Wor. Bro. A. Sparling entertained with some magic and humorous skits.”

The community also used the Orange Hall in earlier days, and as I was growing up, I knew there was a history, but it remained unknown to me. Baseball was essential to Creemore 100 years ago. One of the most significant events was an annual Orange Young Britons Tournament in Creemore, held on June 3.

However, an event at Orange Hall two years after my parents arrived in Creemore surprised me. On March 22, 1928, The Creemore Star stated, “The Creemore Library sent special thanks to Mrs. Graham after the ‘Library Concert Surpasses Previous Efforts.’”

“So many people attended the Orange Hall on Friday, March 16 that some were unable to get seats and so the performance was repeated Monday, March 19, 1928. Mrs. B.T. Ferguson and Mrs. Graham trained and directed the several young ladies who were so heartily applauded. Mrs. Graham was greatly appreciated in her solo dances, being repeatedly encored. Dr. Graham read “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” with his clever dramatization.”

Orange Hall was the setting for the 1932 Creemore School Commencement. “Meanwhile, Dr. Graham leads the School Board through the academic year, recruitment of new teachers, and the Annual Athletic event at the school grounds.”

The Masonic Lodge used the Orange Hall, and The Creemore Star reported on May 17, 1934: “Dr. Graham as Junior Warden hosted a special mock initiation at the Masonic Lodge, opening with a banquet at St. Andrew’s Hall. Fifty ladies were initiated into the Mystic Order of the Golden Silence and each presented with a rose, the emblem of the degree. Dancing followed at the Orange Hall. The event was arranged and managed by Dr. Graham and many kudos for his efforts.”

Special thanks are due to the current ownership and staff of The Creemore Echo, who follow a heritage provided by C.B. (Bert) Smith and Lorne Raymer of the forerunner, The Creemore Star. All the quotes above are the text of Bert Smith. I would not be looking into the past and writing about family and community life without the sustained interest of Helen Blackburn, friends from the past like Gerald Blackburn, schoolmates like John Montgomery, and in memory of Eldon Barber, the father of another historian, Colleen Stamp.

The past is a present force for all of us, reflected in daily life when we remain attentive and serve others.

John R. Graham,

Los Angeles

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