1952 Summer in Rawdon

The Chamber of Commerce aggressively promoted Rawdon not only as a tourist destination, but as a convenient location for industrial or commercial ventures. This ad appeared in the May 1952 issue of the Rawdon News Bulletin promoting buying local.

In 1952, Rawdon was known primarily as a tourist destination famous for its falls, particularly Dorwin Falls. Hotels, room rentals, and boarding houses offered a variety of accommodations.

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.

The 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 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 summer cottages.

Not 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 plan.

Boarding 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, Barrie’s on 3rd Avenue at the corner of the dam, and later Fred Christopher’s on Metcalfe and Walker’s on 10th Avenue. ‘At the top end of the village’ a Russian boarding house established in the 30’s catered to their compatriots.

There were also accommodations in all ranges available. Heather Lodge was exclusive, by invitation only.

As 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.

During 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.

Summer 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.

The 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.

A 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.

The 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.

Tucked 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.

Towards 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.

In 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.

Another 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!

The 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. Afternoons 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.

During 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! Ross Goldie won the 12 mile bicycle race 49 minutes.

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 fudgicle. 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.

And if all this activity became too much, you could a take a short drive into the country and pick fresh strawberries from the field, or you might venture out to a farm to watch families working in the hay fields, or maybe even try fishing for trout.

Rawdon was well known for its number of ‘watering spots’

There 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. Dorwin Falls was allotted $200 for clean-up and repairs.

Rawdon Village 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.

In 1952 Rawdon could hardly be considered an uneventful or unchanging town.

Thank you Beverley Prud’homme for such a wonderful article on Rawdon way back in 1952!

Here I am living in Western Australia, enjoying your description of times and places in Rawdon back when my parents owned a cottage on 10th Ave across the street from the Walkers. I spent my childhood, teen years living the wonderful summers in Rawdon and right up until my husband and I left with our family in 1972 for Australia.
All our happy memories came flooding back with places and names in this fine article. You are a treasure!

Diane Roberts-Maggi