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Parry Sound Memories

Cliff Beagan

After reading Bill Chester’s story about growing up in the small town of Lucknow, Ontario, a story interlaced with his memories of the CNR/CPR/ and the creamery cperations of Silverwood’s Dairy in that area, it surprised me to no end at how his memories followed a remarkable similarity to that of my own when I was growing up in Parry Sound, Ontario, with my almost identical memories of the CNR/CPR/and creamery operations in our town.

As it was with Bill, my main railroad experience as a youngster was basically all CNR related because their Main line, from South Parry to Capreol, ran right past my front door and I was really impressed with those monster 4-8-4 Northern type 6000 class steam engines with the barrel tenders when they first appeared in the 1940’s.

The CPR, which I later became employed with, in 1951 at Toronto, was of only minor importance to me as a boy even though my living room window was at precisely the same elevation as their high level bridge, which spans the mouth of the Seguin river, and which was located about 1000 meters to the south of our home.

The only early memories of the CPR I have was of my mother referring to the south bound local passenger train #26, as the 11-11, when it headed south across the bridge before lunch. It departed Parry Sound at 11 minutes after 11am at that time.
The other memory was of the D-10 yard engine #944. We used to see that engine on the CN/CP interchange track when heading to the Town Beach during the summer months.

I had two uncles who were Engineers on the CN, and one of them, Uncle Jim Stanzel, who worked out of Capreol, quite often dropped in to visit us during a lay-over at South Parry.

The CNR had a spur line connected to the Imperial Oil dock and tank farm on Georgian Bay which was a very busy spur line in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. There was always two switching crews daily, except for Sunday, and thousands of tank cars of gasoline, fuel oil, and other merchandise were moved in and out of that Spur line during WW2. Our Public school loaded several cars of scrap paper on that same spur line, for the War effort during the early 1940’s, and used the proceeds to buy sports equipment and motion picture camera’s for our school. The CNR main terminus in Parry Sound was originally a part of this Spur line beginning in the summer of 1908, but was later relocated two miles south of Parry Sound at South Parry during the 1920’s.

I knew most of the employees on the CNR, and even spent time playing in the ‘sand house’ at South Parry as a young boy. The father of my two friends looked after heating the engine sand at that time and allowed us to cavort in the very fine warm beach sand stored therein.

And we had a Creamery operation in Parry Sound too. It was not as large as the Silverwood operation in Lucknow, and I worked there in the summer of 1950 prior to my employment with CP in May of 1951. And yes I wrapped butter, and yes, I was a real whiz at it and could fill a 50 pound box real quick. We would make 500 pounds per day with Cream from the surrounding area. I was 18 years old at the time, and on one occasion, while the head butter maker was at the local hospital having all his infected teeth removed, I ran the whole show by myself including pasteurizing the sour cream, churning, loading the finished butter on a gurney and putting it in the freezer, pumping the buttermilk out, wrapping the previous days 500 pound production which had now been hardened in the freezer, and finally, the clean up with steam from a rubber hose. In order to wrap butter quickly, I had to first grab a large stack of parchment wrapping paper the previous day, turn up a small section of the corner of each sheet, and when finished, put the wrappers in a large ceramic urn full of water. When wrapping began, I would remove a fist full of these wet wrappers and put them on a special wrapping bench. We had a little rubber ‘thimble’ to put over the index finger, then place the pound of butter in the middle of the paper, grasp the turned up edge with the index finger and presto. The thumbs and all eight fingers were equally employed in this maneuver. It was amazing how quickly you could wrap 50 pounds of butter once you mastered the technique.

Twenty-two years later I moved back to Parry Sound and purchased that same creamery business which was now only a wholesale milk and ice cream distributor throughout Parry Sound area. The butter making operation was no more.

My sister and her husband (Jack Patterson, who had worked at Lambton Yard Office in the 1950’s), and myself, bought the Georgian Bay Creamery in 1969 (I was working for GM in Windsor at the time) and we ran it until about 1992 when we sold the wholesale dairy business to our competitor in Parry Sound. We then operated a Dairy Bar, Sub Post Office, and the Gray Coach Bus Terminal for several more years. But like the T. Eaton Company, the creamery name no longer exists in Parry Sound. The BIG guys like Neilson's now control the milk business.

We delivered wholesale milk and ice cream north as far as Lost Channel and as far south as Bala. A very busy operation during the summer months. We discontinued bottling of milk after we took over about 1970 and had it delivered by trailor from Borden's in Toronto thereafter. The local farmers then trucked their milk to Sundridge.
I counted the number of 2 1/2 gallon tubs of ice cream I ordered from Borden's one year and in total we purchased 6400 tubs. And would you believe that 1600, or 25%, were vanilla?

When I was a baggage man on the Sudbury locals in the 50’s, the ‘Williams’ dairy in Alliston was shipping about 20 x 8 gallon cans of milk in the baggage car (unrefrigerated) to the creamery in Parry Sound daily. It would be on the train for about 3 to 4 hours.

So there we have it. A different town, a different individual, but strikingly similar memoirs to that of Bill Chester of Lucknow.

Cliff Beagan of Parry Sound

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