The life and times of Haliburton
Published Dec. 11, 2018
To the Editor,
This is the first in a two-part letter about Haliburton in the 1950s.
Our family, Hugh and Edna Burke, myself and my twin sisters, lived down an alley off Lake Avenue in a house two doors west of Lake overlooking Highway 21 and the rail track along the south end of Head Lake. Behind us, lived Bill Davis with his grandparents; we played together as tots. Beside us lived Mr. Joe and Mrs. Flo Roberts; Flo didn’t have to change her last name when they married – she was already a Roberts.
Apparently, Mr. Joe Roberts was a “real” earl from the “Old Country.” Flo Roberts is said to have been the first born among the pioneer settlements in Harburn; she came from the large family of Curly Bill Roberts. Her brother Norm owned the General Store at the present-day site of the Commerce Bank, across from the Molou. Across the street, the Hardware Store operated for many years, now the site of the present-day Home Hardware; Harold Black was proprietor.
On a given Saturday night, you could almost count on two things, Arnot Roberts with his pipe and Art Parish from his sawmill from on the Parish Line standing in front of Norm’s at the corner of Maple Avenue and Highland, chatting about just about anything. Crops were a hot topic, concern over a potato bug, or perhaps some far-fetched yarn. My dad, meanwhile, was proprietor of the Haliburton Restaurant, (now a pizza place across from the Kosy); he had to borrow $500 from Arnot to get his start in the business. Dad had hoped to raise his prices, but he couldn’t when wartime price controls came into effect.
Arnot Roberts, a font of wisdom and advice, was one of many patriarchs; it was he to whom one went to for information about such things as property lines and anything about farming, crops, horses, oxen, cows, chickens to how to discourage crows from destroying your vegetable garden or how to fix foxes and skunks so they won’t get your chickens. He had an excellent memory; sometimes when there was a real estate dispute, folks would tap into his memory to learn how things were agreed upon a long time ago in the time when contracts were concluded with nothing more than a handshake or property lines which were often neither surveyed nor registered. Often nothing was written down because so many people could neither read nor write. One young man traded his free (100-acre) land-grant with nothing more than a handshake, $50 and a horse.
Arnot’s two daughters (Leda and Marie) worked as waitresses at the Kosy for over 40 years. Staff often stayed on for a good number of years at both main restaurants in town.
In those days, virtually every Saturday, the menfolk brought their womenfolk and many of their offspring to town to buy sundry items such as mason jars, salt and sugar for preserving meat and fruits in a root cellar, and other necessaries and to chat, gossip and converse with any number of people to catch up on the latest. Most everyone had gardens and grew their own vegetables, so veggies weren’t often high on the list of items to buy. Folks would come from Maple Lake, West Guilford, Eagle Lake and far up the Parish Line, down Mountain Street, and those out toward Paradise Lake and down the Buckhorn or Dugans and others from farms along the route to Donald, Lochlin and Gelert. Many still rode horse and buggies and parked among the increasing number of cars on main street (angle parking then along both sides of the street).
Some of the horses were terrified of the noisy horseless carriages; it amused us younger kids to watch them carry on. All came to town to buy whatever supplies were needed for the coming week. A man’s word was his bond; a deal was sealed with a handshake, often nothing more. Those who lived up the Harburn were probably the first families to come live in town permanently, especially after the Depression and the subsequent depressed prices they were getting for farm produce – eggs, for instance, apparently dropped to two-cents a dozen.