The Badenoch Days of the Hanning Family


Donald A. “Mick” Hanning




(This very fine work has been made available by Mr. Jeffrey Hanning.)










In discussions with my father before his death we went into the histories of the original settlers in Badenoch.  Unfortunately, we never talked about his generation and the one preceding it.  In view of this gap, the periods will have to be recorded from memories of myself and others, and also any available research.


          How the widow and child of Donald Hanning subsisted after his death from pneumonia in 1874 is not known, but, without today's widows and welfare payments, we can be sure that they scrimped along without luxuries.  Indeed, social benefits would quite likely have been declined in view of the pride of the Scottish people of that time. 


The year 1874 must have been a most distressing one for the lady, for her husband died on February 10th, 1874 at 30 years of age, their infant son, James died on March 9th, 1874 and Donald George was born on June 5th, 1874.  Her father, Robert Kennedy, owned the farm lot 35 rear concession 9 and there was an old frame house near the back.  In my day it was vacant with the windows missing and it was a terrifying place to me as tramps were known to have slept there from time to time.  It was torn down about 1920 by the Simpson family who owned that farm.  It is known that they were much closer to the Kennedys than the Hannings and it is quite possible that they lived in the extra house and had boarders from the grist and planning mills across the road.  Alternatively she could have helped her parents on the farm and they would have provided the necessities.






Regardless of these apparent difficulties, Donald George progressed and entered the local public school where he learned English, as Gaelic only was spoken in the home.  He stayed until he passed his High School Entrance exam and must have been a fair student as he was given 3rd prize in proficiency in the 4th or entrance class by the teacher, James E. McLean.  It was a condensation of Shakespeare's plays and is still in our possession. 


While there was no organized sport, he was able to swim breaststroke very well and mentioned games of football, (One old resident recently informed me that he was a good soccer player and was Captain of the Badenoch team.  In one game against the Second Line he was kicked in the jaw by an opposing player named Watson when he was attempting to nudge the ball with his head.  In spite of an even temper he went after the fellow and fisticuffs were averted when the referee and schoolteacher intervened.), tug-of-war, and foot racing.  Ploughing matches were held in every township and he competed but never brought home any trophies.







After completion of school he must have worked as a hired man for the farmers round about.  Farm machinery was primitive and some farmers still ploughed with oxen.  Weeds were taken out by hoe and sickle, grain was cut with a scythe and threshing was done on the barn floor with a flail.  This consisted of two sections of round wood about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, one section would be about 15 inches in length and the other about 2 feet, they were joined together by a strong leather lace or thong.  The shorter end was thumped into a pile of sheaves or ripe plants to beat the seeds from their hulls or pods.  When straw was forked away the grain was gathered up and placed in bins or bags.  Peas and beans must have been the staple crops in early days and I have seen some farmers flailing peas, as grain threshing by machine broke the kernels too much.  It would be a strenuous 10 or 12 hours to drive the flail into grain and the young men developed a good set of muscles.  Dad must have developed good skill with the scythe as he was in demand during the harvest.  He recalled that the hardest he ever worked was with the scythe for Andrew Scott but he did not complain as Scott worked with him all day, every day, while the reaping lasted and Dad was able to keep pace with him.  Some bosses would set a fast tempo and then disappear for long periods.







The first venture must have started around this time, when he and his first cousin, Bob Kennedy, bought a steam engine and grain separator and launched into the threshing business.  They went from farm to farm and threshed grain for a fee.  There were few machines for miles around so they were very busy from early August until snowfall.  The farmer collected wood for the engine and piled it close to the barn, while the grain was stored in mows in the barn or stacked up outside until the threshers could come.  On the appointed day, about a dozen neighbours would come to help, the farmer would later reciprocate by helping them when they threshed; some of these men would feed the sheaves of grain from mows or stack, others would bag or shovel back the grain, and one or two would take the dusty job of directing the straw blower and forking piles back in the mow or tramping it down if it was made into a stack in the barnyard.








This was not an easy day for the ladies either:  when the whistle on the engine blew at noon or at dark the men trooped from the barn to the house and washed off surface dust and dirt at the pump or a washtub full of water at the kitchen door.  The women of the house had prepared a very heavy meal usually consisting of an enormous roast of beef, lots of mashed potatoes, gravy, turnips and another vegetable.  There also must be plates of homemade bread, piled high and several kinds of pies.  They stayed for supper too and this was a repeat of the noonday meal except that the meat was cold.  The machine operators stayed overnight and required a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs and sometimes they would be offered and eat a piece of pie.  It took a couple of days to prepare so much food and it was a matter of pride and competition with the neighbourhood wives to have good meals.  It would never do to have a man go home hungry.







At that period the steam engines were not self-propelled so they had to be drawn by horses.  It was quite a sight when the caravan approached:  the team came first hauling the engine, a water tank and the separator.  The engine and tank were unhooked and the separator was drawn as close as possible to the barn door; then a rope was attached, threaded through the pulleys inside the barn and the horses, going away from the building, were hitched to the rope and hauled it the rest of the way.  When the engine was steamed up, leather belts were stretched from its flywheel to drive pulleys on the separator and the equipment was operative.










Details of financing are not known but it can be assumed that the machinery was not new.  Hanning did own a team of horses of which he was most proud.  They were Light Clydesdale mares with smooth legs, not the hairy type.  He called them Jess and Fly and they were dark dappled brown with narrow white strips down the noses.  They managed the heavy machinery without difficulty and farmers were often amazed when they could pull the heavy separator up steep ramps into the barn.  He told the story that a neighbour, we'll say it was Donald Simpson, but I really don't remember, got stuck with a wagon load of lumber in the middle of a muddy creek.  He was driving a heavy team of bay, white-faced Clydesdales.  In spite of much shouting, whipping and several tries they could not budge the load.  Dad was standing by with his horses and neighbours suggested that the teams should be hitched up in a tandem to do the job.  He asked if he could try his mares first and, while the onlookers were sure that they would fail, the team was substituted.  The story goes that the horses tightened the traces and when given the signal they stretched out until there bellies nearly touched the water then inched the load forward until it was freed from the mud, then rushed it to dry land.  He loved horses, as indeed all animals, kept them in good condition and could get the very most out of them when the occasion demanded a big effort.












While courtship and romance were never discussed the subject must be introduced at this stage.  From pictures still around, it seems that he was not unattractive.  Contrary to the usual Scotchman, he was fair-skinned with light blue eyes and light brown hair.  His height of six feet and 200 pounds weight made him an impressive figure.  In addition, he had a new buggy and a good bay driving horse and George Hanning was reputed to be very wealthy with Donald the only descendant bearing the family name (Personal note:  what good this did is problematical). 


About this time, the Kerr family moved south about 5 miles from Corwhin.  Their new home was "Bonnie Brae" just south of "Loch Buie".  One daughter, Lizzie, was in her early twenties and had an attractive appearance with black hair and snapping black eyes.  Her formal education was to the entrance at Corwhin Public School No. 10.  She was quite talented as a seamstress and commuted daily by train to Guelph where she worked at the leading store, Cole Bros. & Scott as a dressmaker.  It was during this period that she permitted herself the luxury of a fob watch, a gold-filled American Waltham (This was presented to me when I passed my Junior Matriculation in 1926).  She also learned to play the organ and was chosen as the first organist at Duff's Presbyterian Church when they acquired their first instrument about the turn of the century.  As evidence of her ability, it must be mentioned that she was requested to write papers for Church and community events and these requests continued all of her life.  How they met and arranged to get married was never discussed but be that as it may the big event took place on October 16th, 1901. 







In 1901, Donald George bought lot 34 rear concession 9 from Robert Clark for $4700.  Financing details are not available.  This farm consisted of 100 acres and the house and barn were on a hilltop about the middle of the property.  There was very little bush and no streams but there was a windmill at the barn to water livestock.  There were good fields but the ones on the hill were quite stony.  When crops were hauled to the barn it was hard work for the horses to haul loads up the hill to the barn.  The buildings were adequate but the stucco house was rather small.


This scarcity of space will be evident when the number of occupants is outlined.  At the beginning, there were only Grandma Hanning and the newlyweds but in August 1902 twin girls (Grace and Phyllis) arrived and the following August William James was born.  Two years later on their 4th wedding anniversary Robert Douglas made the scene.  When I (Donald Andrew) was born August 29, 1920, it was the straw that broke the camel's back, I guess, as they bought and moved to another farm with a bigger house.  In addition to the usual duties associated with raising a large family there were outbreaks of measles, chicken pox, mumps, etc., and when I was a baby they suffered through a diphtheria epidemic and I was the most badly affected of the group and almost died.









In addition to our own family, there was always a hired man on the farm.  One that has been mentioned is William Carson, a Scotchman who gave me the nickname Mick.  Uncle Jimmie Hanning stayed with us for at least part of the time.  He was a carpenter and owned a horse and buggy as well as a very interesting tool chest.  Bob was in constant trouble with him for removing hammers and things from the chest.  He is reputed to have had a liking for strong drink but, in retrospect, this might not have been as bad as advertised, as, among the ladies of the community, anyone who went into a hotel was headed for the hot place.  Andrew Kerr, my mother's brother, lived there for a few years too.  He had a farm at Ariss, above Guelph, with which, due to complete deafness, he was not successful.  He brought back some farm implements and a good team of Clydesdales, Duke and Dandy, which my father acquired.  Uncle Andrew was a very hard worker but was not systematic.  He lost his hearing completely as a youth when lightning struck a tree beneath which he was standing.  He read lips well but conversation with strangers was by handwritten notes.  An avid reader, he kept up to date on news and his letters were interesting and well written.  This confirms the opinion that public schools educated well in the early years.









On February 8, 1912, the Mill Farm was bought from John P. McPherson for $9300 and he took back a mortgage of $7500.  The two farms were worked until 1917 when the hill farm was sold to Alex Chisholm for $6600, an apparent profit of $1900 over the 16 years he owned this property.  The buildings at the new farm were much larger, but even then they were old.  The house was stucco with six bedrooms, a large parlour, dining room and kitchen.  There was also a summer kitchen and a woodshed.  There were 200 acres in this farm with about 140 acres cleared and the remainder bush. 


The creek meandered across the farm and this was a great asset in stock raising.  For the family, the creek was the focal point of our lives.  Most winters a wide spot in front of the house could be cleared of snow and made into a skating rink.  In the spring it flooded to great heights but only overflowed the banks in a few places.  We were always afraid that the animals would drown in it.  When levels dropped fish began to appear but we were not allowed to fish until the season opened on May 1st.  Some neighbour kids started early but Bill and Bob kept them away from the creek in our property.  On the authorized day we took our poles, hooks and worms to the three or four good fishing holes.  The most common fish was a red-bellied chub but once in a while one of us would catch a rainbow trout.  Usually the catch would provide a good meal for everyone and it was a treat after the monotonous diet over the winter months. 


On the 24th of May, Queen Victoria's birthday, we went swimming for the first time of the year, unless it was an unusually mild spring.  There was one good hole on the farm, the water was icy cold but no one complained.  None of the boys had bathing suits and the girls used a more shallow part on the other side of the island.  It was a big day when you could dog paddle the full 10 feet of the pool. 


During the low creek levels in summer many hours could be passed just watching the water ripple over stony beds or eddy through the ruins of the old mills.  Usually there was a wooden bridge over the creek with heavy beams and plank surface but high spring currents often washed this downstream and, until repaired, the horses drew implements through a shallow ford.  Pedestrians walked through the water barefoot or tiptoed over stones if shoes were worn.  The rocks were moss-covered and slippery so sometimes children fell into the water.











In the early days on this farm (Mill Farm) the principal animals were Durham cattle which were good beef animals and fair milkers.  The cream was taken from whole with assistance of a de Laval cream Separator.  This was hand operated and when the proper speed was reached the kids could turn the handle, but there was frequent supervision to make sure that a constant speed was maintained as the thickness of the cream depended upon how fast the handle was turned.  For heavy cream for home consumption you turned slowly but sped up when it was for the creamery.  The creamery truck came once or twice a week and took away cans of cream and left a few pounds of butter.  Once a month he brought a cheque for the difference.



At one time there was a flock of Oxford black-faced sheep.  The lambs came about February and in early spring the old sheep were clipped.  Some farms had hand-turned clippers but ours were shorn with hand-operated sheep shears.  Dad held the ewe or ram with his left elbow around its neck and cut off the wool with his right hand.  It must have been heavy work as they got restless or even rebellious but quite often he would cut off great folds of wool in a single piece.  Sheep farming was discontinued as they were always finding holes in fences and getting into the grain or corn fields and this was a great nuisance as well as damaging.  Then too there was a period when groups of dogs would worry the flock, killing some and injuring others.  The terrified animals would run into deep creek water to get away from the dogs, even though they were poor swimmers.  When dogs attacked the flocks it was a terrifying experience to the children as the remaining sheep were often covered with blood and were very, very nervous.  If it was proven that your dog was in the pack, he or she was destroyed at once.  Our two, Gyp and Yarrow, were closely examined for bloodstains or remnants of wool in teeth but, to my great relief, they always passed the tests.  The wool was disposed of by selling to co-operatives or to buyers who visited the farms at the shearing season.









The years of the First World War must have been very busy ones, as the two farms were being operated.  There were always one or two hired men around, Pete Simpson was with us until he enlisted in the Artillery at a very youthful age - he was a favourite of we children; George Scott was there from time to time, he had a good supply of off-colour jokes; Peter J. McLean was employed in the early years of the war. 


The twins, Bill and Bob, were also used in farm work, although they were still in public school.  Grace was a fast milker, by hand of course, and claimed she did most of the work.  Phyllis took her time and had fun, she would squirt milk at the cats and one time she did the same to a day labourer, Tom Heffernan.  He was subject to epileptic fits and, when surprised by milk in the face, he had an attack.  While the story created laughs every time it was told afterwards, it was not amusing at the time as his spells were not pleasant to watch.  Fortunately they never lasted more than a few minutes and didn't in this case. 


The hired help brought lots of laughs - we had a big Clydesdale horse that we called Dick, he was high, raw-boned, grey and somewhat fiery; George Scott thought it was foolish to walk away back to the field when he could ride.  Dick, in full harness, was drinking from the trough in the overshot (an indent under the barn at the stable door) and George got on his back.  Dick bolted into the yard, came to a sudden halt and George vaulted over his head to land in a very indignant pose in the manure pile. 


Another day-labourer who was with us frequently was Fred Allan.  He was a very short Englishman whose usefulness was limited to hoeing or light duties but he had a quick temper.  One bright September afternoon (September 23, 1916, to be exact) he and I went on a mysterious visit with driving horse and buggy up to our next door neighbours, the Simpsons.  The afternoon dragged and I could see little sense in the expedition.  After supper, we came home and Grandma Hanning informed us that I had a baby sister.  Fred wanted a boy and a brother would have suited me better too, so we were both in a snit all evening.  Before long, I got used to her, and she turned out quite well - admirably in fact.










In March 1917, the Hill farm was sold to Chisholms and the McPherson mortgage was discharged.  For the first time D. G. was free of mortgage debt.  During this period quite a lot of stock and machinery was purchased, the Bell Organ was turned in on a Mason & Risch piano and a Model T 1918 Ford was purchased.  Willie Simpson was the agent who sold both the piano and car.  He was our uncle as he married Janet Kerr.  My mother didn't like to see him come around as she thought Dad hadn't enough sales resistance where Willie was concerned. 


In 1920, our Uncle John Kerr sold his farm and at the auction sale Dad bought his fine team of bay Clydesdales, Minnie and Nettie and we children were pleased but Mother had doubts due to the expense.  One morning not too long afterwards Minnie was found dead in her stall, having choked herself by lurching back on the rope tying her to the manger.  The mare was reputed to have done the same thing (but not so disastrously) before bought by us.  It was my first encounter with death and I recall the animal's appearance in the stall, the digging of an enormous hole and dragging her into it, then covering her over.










Details of education of the family should probably be recorded here.  When I first went to S. S. No. 9, Puslinch in September 1915, it made five Hannings at school.  Grace, Phyllis and Bill were in the entrance class or 4th Book and Bob graduated a couple of years later.  The three older ones went to Guelph and stayed at Aunt Janet's.  The girls went to Guelph Business College on a short course and graduated.  Bill went to Collegiate but only remained for part of the year as he was very homesick.  He returned to the farm and never left.  Bob went to Continuation School at Morriston for a couple of years then took a short course at a barber college in Toronto.  I went two years to the Continuation School then went to Galt Collegiate by train every day.  The first year at the city school was a disaster as I missed algebra and British history.  The second year I became acclimatized and passed all my subjects as well as the carryovers, and graduated with a Junior Matriculation.  Soon afterwards, I entered the Bank of Toronto in Freelton.  Mary went through S. S. 9, Guelph Collegiate until Junior Matriculation, then took a musical education course and taught singing at a number of public schools in the nearby communities.











The years from 1918 were not good ones from a financial aspect.  In March 1919, a mortgage of $4000 was given to Guelph and Ontario Savings & Investment Society; in 1923 this was increased to $6000; in 1925 a collateral mortgage against the farm was registered by the Bank of Toronto and this was discharged in 1927.  (In the bank at this time, I recall that the funds came from a legacy to my mother from brothers of her father in Wigton, Cumberland, England.)  Reasons for these reversals were probably a pile-up of losing ventures.  The farm was heavily stocked for a time with beef cattle and cream was picked up weekly by Guelph Creamery.  Proceeds of cream sales would not likely be enough for groceries.  Eggs from a large flock of Plymouth Rocks and Leghorn hens were taken to the grocery stores to exchange for supplies.  At one period an attempt to upgrade the beef herd was undertaken and a number of Aberdeen Angus purebred black polled cattle were bought.  A bull was purchased from Lowe & Heibein, near Elora; this breeder exhibited at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto and produced good stock.  A good herd was developed but financial benefits were not apparent, due, no doubt, to general depression in the early 1920s.










A source of income was sale of cordwood to the village people in Morriston.  Dad and the older boys would cut medium-sized maple, beech and elm trees in the bush, and loads would be taken to buyers by horses and sleigh.  This good wood, with cords measuring 4'x4'x8', sold for $3.  About 1920, it was decided to cut off most of the mature trees in the 30 - 40 acre bushlot.  Seaman - Kent Lumber Co. in Toronto agreed to buy finished lumber and Jack Paddock who had a portable sawmill with steam engine and all necessary equipment was engaged to cut the logs.  During the winter the timber was cut into logs with hand-operated crosscut saws and axes by Dad and my older brothers and hauled to a small ridge near the creek and lime kiln.  In the spring the mill was set up and the logs were cut into lumber of various lengths and thicknesses.  It was an exciting time, with three or four mill hands living with us, the milling operation itself, and trips to the CPR Station at Puslinch with loads of lumber to load and ship to Toronto in boxcars.  For many reasons, this venture too was not profitable, the Toronto buyer was always giving low grades on the carloads, expenses of mill rental and living expenses of mill hands exceeded estimates and the quality of some of the lumber and the quality of the sawmilling was judged to be inferior.  Piles of sawdust, slabs and inferior lumber remained around the site for a year or two.









Around this period, the United Farmers of Ontario became active as a co-operative marketing and purchasing entity, destined to bring prosperity to all farmers.  Under Mitchell F. Hepburn, a political party was formed and was the party in power for at least one term.  Carloads of pigs and cattle were shipped to Toronto Stock Yards for sale by UFO reps and some grain was also sold and shipped through the co-op.  In the buying sphere, local groups were formed and when there were enough orders for a carload the relative animal feed product was ordered from HQ and dropped at Puslinch Station for pick-up.  Dad was appointed local treasurer and, as such, had the responsibility of distributing the product at the railhead and collecting cash to pay the Co-op.  It seems that there were always shortages or overages of product, buyers changed their minds about the stuff, or accounts could not be collected when remittances were due.  It cannot definitely be stated that there were losses but quite often he would take the balance of a feed home whether we used it or not.  One quantity of oil cake, a cattle feed additive, was around the barn for a long time.







In 1922, school fairs were in vogue and public school students were urged to produce grain, flowers, vegetables, etc. or to raise some farm animal.  All labour was to be supplied by the child.  In the fall, the produce and prize stock were exhibited at the Fair Grounds.  My vegetable plot was a failure, due no doubt to inadequate hoeing or watering, but Dad let me have a coal black Aberdeen Angus heifer calf which we named Dinah.  She was a fine looking calf and I spent some time feeding her milk, also brushing and combing her.  Part of the required exercise was to train your animal to lead by a halter and a general obedience routine.  Some of the family made a rope halter for me and I started to teach her.  Dinah did not take kindly to the training and on one occasion took off and dragged me behind her over a manure pile.  Needless to say I was in a rage and this wasn't helped by the laughter of parents and other members of the family.  On the day of the fair she came second to a bigger shorthorn calf and later in proceedings came the obedience test.  The spectators formed a circle and the students led their calves into the centre.  We walked around leading them by rope and then the judge tied a string to the halter to see how well trained they were.  I expected Dinah to bolt and break the cord but when I spoke to her and we started around the circle she followed like a puppy.  I was the proud prizewinner and ate up the applause.  It was a sad day when she was taken to market.







By 1923, the girls were married and away from home and the older boys were anxious for some wages which couldn't be given them from farm earnings.  In addition, Mother wasn't well enough to handle the heavy workload of milking and the household duties, so they decided to have an auction sale to dispose of the stock and implements.  The Aberdeen Angus cattle, the white team, of Dick and Watt, and Prince, the rangy bay buggy horse who took me to Morriston Continuation School by saddle, and mostly everything, went.  A share-cropping arrangement with Bob McEdward was started and we moved to the house at the corner.  Several carloads of Western Canadian beef cattle were bought and pastured around the farm, for sale when they fattened up by the end of the summer.  Due to bad markets or inferior stock this venture also failed to produce desired results.  Bill and Bob worked for neighbourhood farmers, and Dad went to Western Canada on a Homesteader's Excursion.  None of the three was happy with these pursuits and it was decided to return to the farm and make a fresh start.









Details of acquisition of stock and implements are not definite as I was off at school and in the Bank.  The first purchase was a dapple-grey light utility horse we called Tony.  Everyone was very happy when he made his appearance.  Later another horse of similar appearance, Flora, was bought and this team did yeoman service for several years.  The next and last horses before the tractor era were a black team, Amos and Andy, which were kept around for years even though they seldom were harnessed to do any work in their later years. 


After several years of hard work and meagre returns, a dairy quota to ship whole milk to Toronto was approved.  Financed by an increased mortgage from Uncle George Hanning, a herd of Holsteins was started and this was progressively improved until eventually a fully registered herd developed.  While there now was a regular inflow of cash, it was mostly ploughed back into purchase of more stock and implements and it was still far from luxurious living.  George Hanning died in 1929, and from a legacy the mortgage was substantially reduced and refinanced through G. & O.


          In 1947, the parents retired to the corner house, but to the displeasure of the sons, D. G. retained control of finances.  Bill had married and occupied part of the house since 1929.  Bob died in 1955 and when D. G. passed away in 1958, William J. inherited the home farm, stock and implements.  The Campbell farm was bequeathed to the three daughters and son, Donald A.; this property was bought by William’s son, Ivan, and the two properties have since been operated as a joint venture.











While the tone of these remarks would give the impression that every effort was directed towards conquer of the land and the business of farming, this attitude was not of importance to the family.  All members possessed a good sense of humour so quiet times together during meals and evenings were fun times.  Everyone had an acute interest in what the others and the neighbours were doing.  Apart from general farming concerns such as weather, crops, animals and markets, which remained in a background position, discussions usually were about school, church, sport, relatives and friends.


Any cultural interests and accomplishments were fostered from Mother’s side of the family.  Although her formal education ended with “passing the entrance”, which is the equivalent of our present Grade 8, her writing, grammar, composition, and general accumulation of knowledge speak very favourably of the schoolmasters or the family influence.  In the latter connection, it might be mentioned that the Kerrs came from Dumfriesshire, Scotland.  This is Robbie Burns country, and in a biography of this poet, it is stressed that he owed his love of language to his father.  William Burns was a struggling tenant farmer but in the limited time stolen from drudgery of the farm labours he did a lot of reading, principally the Bible, and was regarded as well educated around his home territories by his neighbours and certainly by his family.  Education must have been a prized attainment in that country, and it is quite possible that an intense love of knowledge was brought over here by William Kerr.


We were encouraged in our schoolwork and each of us was able to go as far as we wished in the educational stream.  Our attainments received quiet praise from both parents and we were given help whenever it was needed.  Mother listened to French and Latin vocabularies night after night even though everyone got a big laugh out of her pronunciations.  Our own were far from perfect.  Mother played the piano and, in her youth, had been organist at the church, so we were all given music lessons.  None of us went very far but Mary and Bob were fair singers and joined the choir at Duff's Church.  Mary took a special course and conducted singing classes at a number of Puslinch public schools.








Baseball was the main sport, both for boys and girls, and every one of us was on some local team.  In his later years, Bob took a group of Badenoch boys and coached them to a degree of proficiency where they eventually won Ontario Rural Softball championships.  I played ball in the towns where I worked in the Bank and was on a Copper Cliff team which won the Ontario Senior Championship.


Skating and hockey were not popular as there wasn't any ice in the area and the cost of skates and equipment was also a deterrent factor.  A few times each winter fields would flood or snow would melt in early spring.  If frost came before more rain or snow there would be huge fields of ice to skate or slide on.  We had two pairs of skates, Bob had a pair and they were too big for anyone except himself.  Bill used a pair with Boker steel blades, these were borrowed from Pete Simpson and when I got big enough I learned to skate (very poorly) even though the boots were 3 or 4 sizes too big for me.  Once in a while there was decent ice on the creek and the older boys would shovel off snow to make a small rink.







The fine white stone school with a one-room classroom, basement with natural rock floor, anterooms and a library had a relatively large enrolment when I started.  Average family size was 6 to 10 and the prominent names were:  McDonald, Buchanan, Peter J. McLeans, Sandy McLeans, Bruces, Organs, 5 Hannings, Beatons, Martins, Elliots, Scotts (8 boys), Donnie McLeans, Duncan McLean and Bob Clark (10 girls). 


In view of this there was a large enrolment in 1915 but this depleted steadily until there were only 9 students in (say) 1919.  All grades, then called by the names of the reading textbooks from Primer to Senior Fourth, were in one room.  Classes were taught in rotation and the Junior pupils had time to spare in which they listened to the lessons of the senior classes thereby getting a working knowledge of those grades before reaching them.  Sometimes this was accomplished at expense of the studies of their own grade.


Morning and afternoon recesses (15 minutes) and noon hours (one hour) were great fun, usually there were organized ball games and at other times we played on the ladders in the sheds.  These were open structures in which horses were tied when there were meetings, concerts or other community events in the school.


  On Sunday afternoons there were religious Sunday school lessons at the school, practically every family was Presbyterian and any other denominations did not attend.  Heads of families, including my parents from time to time, acted as superintendent, teachers and pianist.  You were ready for graduation when you could give correct responses to the questions in the Shorter Catechism book.







Church services were held at Duff's Presbyterian Church on the Brock Road, north of Morriston.  This was a distance of four miles from our farm and we either went with a single horse and buggy or with a team and a democrat with two seats and lots of room for seven or eight people.  When the Model T Ford was acquired we travelled in it and the older boys washed the car in the creek on Saturday afternoons, as it would never do to attend church in a dirty car.  Before her marriage, Mother was organist at the church, and Dad was elder for many years, as was my Uncle John Kerr.  The church and Sunday school were all absorbing interests to him.  After his death, his family donated carillons in his memory.  The stone building dates from the 1890’s and previously the congregation met in various homes and church buildings from 1833.  With its tower, stained glass windows, and solid oak pews, it was and probably still is the finest architecture in the township.






Three special days remain in memory, the Anniversary service in October, the fowl supper the following night and the Sunday School Picnic.  At the service, a previous minister or a native son from another church would preach the sermon and a soloist would be imported to assist the choir.  Every pew was packed at both morning and evening services, chairs were placed in the aisles and children were seated on the floor in front of the pulpit.  The supper was a real banquet with enormous crowds to enjoy the roast geese, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pies prepared by the ladies of the congregation.  After dinner there would be a concert with local musical talent and imported singers from Guelph or Hamilton.


   The Sunday School Picnic took place in the lull between seeding and haying and was usually held at Puslinch Lake but for several years it went to Wobasso Park in Aldershot (between Hamilton and Burlington).  Here there was an amusement section with merry-go-round, ferris wheel, roller coaster, as well as live ponies.  In addition to the usual foot races for all ages, there were novelty races and jumping.  For those with bathing suits there were swimming events but, apart from Dad, none of us possessed costumes.  The long ride home after the excitement seemed to take hours and I was always frightened that the Ford would not be able to climb the mountain to Clappison's Corner even in low gear.







Most of the communities held an annual Garden Party but resemblance to those at Buckingham Palace or the various consulates is non-existent and the reason for the title has been lost.  The Badenoch one was a big event as there were things to do morning, afternoon and evening. 


Usually Dad was on a committee and had to appear in the morning to help to build the refreshment booth or to help erect the platform for the evening concert.  The latter one was interesting, one section of the horse sheds was used as a stage and a plank floor was nailed onto a few logs or sleepers underneath.  If one of the acts was dancing there was a great clatter from the loose planks.  At that time there was no hydro so lighting was from several Coleman lamps or lanterns.  During the evening large bugs frequently flew into the blazing mantles and not only lost their lives but put out the spot light as well.  Another section of the sheds was used as a dressing room for the performers.  This was surrounded by blankets pinned onto wires all around the enclosure and more blankets divided the ladies' and men's change rooms. 


In the afternoon there would be a couple of ball games, usually the local team playing a team from a neighbouring village and the visitors would be given free admission as well as a free box lunch supper.  There usually was a ladies’ softball game too, as the Badenoch girls were one of the best teams around.  All my sisters played from time to time and my brothers often played in the men’s game. 


The concert featured a Scottish comedian (both singer, emcee and joke teller); a Jimmie Fax, from Toronto, was the most popular one.  There would also be an imported soprano and tenor supplemented by local instrumentalists and vocalists.  From year to year, the format didn't change very much.  It was an honour to work in the refreshment booth as well as a greater chance that you would get an extra ice cream cone or glass of orangeade.  When I was about 10, I was flattered to be made chief cashier and to hand out change to the waitresses or clerks.  Perhaps this sowed the seeds of the banking career which opened up for me a few years later.






The foregoing notations were not put on paper to praise the Hanning clan but to give future generations some idea about living conditions during a century or more from the time the first Badenoch settlers arrived from Scotland.  If opportunity arises and health permits, it would be very interesting to travel to Scotland to learn about birthplaces and to converse with present day residents near those locations.  A very particular desire is to travel the road north from Dunkeld through the Pass of Drumochter.  At the northern mouth of this pass the view of Badenoch including the valley, the river Spey, and the bordering mountains in the distant background has been described as breathtaking.  To one with some McPherson and a Badenoch background, the appeal will or would be more absorbing and electrically charged.


Written in Mississauga, ON in 1980.







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