Q. You told us that when you first came to Paris you lived with Miss Gladys Steuart-Jones - Hiram Capron's granddaughter. Maybe you could tell us why you came to Paris, your family background, how you came to live with Miss Steuart-Jones and how your history in Paris came about.
A. We came to Paris in 1948, July 2, 1948. Frank started working at Adams, which was J.D. Adams - it isn't now. The middle of June, fifteenth of June, it was after the war, not very long after the war; things hadn't begun to be built and so there were very few places to live in - very few places to rent. There were no apartments, there were no houses. They were starting to build the wartime houses. Mr. Appleby, who was the only real estate agent, I think, in town at that stage of the game, talked Gladys Steuart-Jones into renting us her house - furnished - while she went on a trip to Nova Scotia for the summer. Prank met her but I had never laid eyes OK her before. When I arrived she had been away for maybe two or three weeks. When we moved in, our stuff hadn't arrived yet - our bedding and towels and all that sort of stuff - it had been shipped ahead but it hadn't arrived yet. We lived up in the Homestead and she had moved in, I don't know, oh probably three or four years before and it had been let go very badly.
Gladys worked during the war, she worked as a riveter or a welder or something in some factory. She certainly hadn't been raised to do any of this type of thing. She was a character. I got a big kick out of her. She had done a good deal of the renovating herself, in her own improvised way. She had no money, she couldn't afford to have anyone come in and do the work. So many of the things were kind of interesting the way they were done. She hadn't managed to clear down the back. She had the house in not bad shape when we moved in. She had been living in it then for four or five years -I don't really know just how long. But, she had lived at her aunt's up the street ( which is the house Dave Jack was living in) with the old aunt until she died. The aunt had been kind of a semi-invalid, I think, for quite a period of time and Gladys was supposed to be her nurse-maid. Anyway, the back yard was down about one level of terrace lawn and then the rest was all just scrub and so on. Anyway, she thought that we should do some of this clearing for her and there was a great big fence - it must have been more than six feet high -between the side of her place and Penmarvian, the garden for Penmarvian.
Anyway, about the first morning I woke up in that house I woke up to sirens and I thought it was the fire engine coming in the driveway. I'm sure I went ten feet out of the bed -and went charging to the door. There was no fire engine there and I couldn't figure out what it was. It was Penman's siren. I had never heard a factory whistle in my life. That was about six o'clock in the morning, I think, when that thing started. There used to be about half a dozen of them. I never did figure out what they were all for. Then there were bells that used to ring all the time and that was the gravel pit, I found out after a great long time that when the conveyor belt went up every so many feet, it clanged. You can hear it still but you have to listen for it now. But in those days, they went all night - twenty-four hours a day. Anyway, another little goodie that I saw out the window there one day: I phoned the fire department that there was a house on fire across the river. There were flames going up from the roof of this house and I said 'I don't know the names of any of the streets but it's right across the river.' And I told them where I was and they said it was O.K., they would look into it. I didn't see any fire trucks going down. There was a foundry over there. It was Turner's in those days and it's over where the red brick house is on the corner on the left hand side near where Jones' live. That was Turner's house and the foundry was in their back yard. When they stoked up or whatever they did, you'd really think half the town was on fire. They knew what I was talking about and didn't bat an eye, because they had quite a few phone calls regularly, I gathered. Cochrams was still over there and working. Cochrams was a machine shop. That's the lot that the town has for sale right now. It's over on the corner of Walnut and Brant Street, I guess. I don't know whether they've ripped it down yet. Originally, it had been Jack Bradley's father's and it was an iron works - a foundry that had something to do with iron works because Bradleys hare some of the stuff. I don't know whether it was the father or the grandfather. But, that was Cochrams and Cochrams house is the one up on the corner of Grand River and the Golf Club Road - the white plaster one that Abbotts lived in for quite awhile. That was Cochrams' house and their family crest is in the window - in the leaded windows at the front. At least it used to be, I don't know whether it still is or not.
We had the house until the end of August or the middle of September, whenever she got back, and if we hadn't found any place to live, we could move upstairs and share her kitchen and bathroom with her. So, we hadn't found any place else to live - they were few and far between. Our bedding and stuff arrived a few days after we did, but all our dishes and odds and ends of stuff we did own, came down and it was all in crates and barrels and stuff. It arrived very close to the middle of September and Red Cockburn, who was the express driver in those days - he was a town character also, great big redheaded fellow - he delivered all this stuff and he delivered alone. So, of course he couldn't carry all this stuff and so he put it all at the front door. There were four barrels and there was a great big wooden crate and there was a bunch of other stuff. But, this was all right across in front of the front door. You had to crawl around it to get in and out. It arrived one day in the morning and I was in the kitchen later that afternoon, and I didn't know anybody in town I might add, and the front opened and somebody came in. And I could hear them talking as they walked in and I was yelling 'Who is there?'. I don't know what I was doing but I couldn't leave whatever it was quickly. Finally these voices came out to the kitchen and these people I had never laid eyes on in my life before. 'Oh, are you the tenant?' and she started on and I thought who in the heck are you? This was Gladys Jones returning from her trip. She had to crawl in around all this junk to get in. She and her sister and a friend were all the 'Oh my dear' type. And Gladys wore a pince-nez. I didn't know what to do with her or about her or anything. Anyway, that was my introduction to Gladys.
Q. Now, how old would she be then?
A. I think she was of the ageless breed. I would guess: she'd be probably around sixty then.
Q. Did she go by Gladys Jones?
A. Gladys Steuart-Jones and you called her Miss Steuart-Jones, She smoked like a steam engine and she rolled her own cigarettes in one of these roller things that you cut into five. But, she didn't cut it into five, she cut it into two because it saved her alot of time. She would put one of these cigarettes in the corner of her mouth and it was two and a half cigarettes long and she never took it out to flick the ashes off or anything. This thing stayed there and she would talk and it would flicker up and down. I used to think this was just hilarious. She would have an ash longer than a cigarette hanging, just sort of dangling there. I never knew how it could stay there - it always fascinated me. And this blooming pince-nez and she would wear man's pants out in the garden. She liked gardening and mucking around in the yard. She would wear the worst looking mens' pants and this stupid pince-nez and this aristocratic look that she wore. It just didn't match. She always had an English accent when she was near others but when she was alone with me in the house she had some expressions like I do. And, she didn't have much of an English accent. I don't think she had ever even visited England so this English accent was strictly cultured. But, she was very British, very monarchy conscious.
There was one theatre in town, the Capitol, when we came here and that was the only entertainment in town. We went to the show one night and apparently she did too, but we didn't know she had gone. My mother was here at the time, and Frank and my mother and I were sitting in the show and at the end of it they played 'God Save the King'. Not very many people would stand up and if they did, they would be on their way out the door. Well, we stood up rather slowly, we were not the first on our feet waiting for it, like I guess she was. She apparently was right behind us and we didn't know this. We got up, putting our coats on, sort of standing around. Anyway, she yelled "These young people today that don't stand at attention for the King". You knew the voice the minute she started. I wouldn't dare turn around. I thought I was going to split and of course everybody else in the theatre all knew her voice and tee-heed. This just infuriated her. You could hear her for three blocks when she decided to do anything. We got out of the theatre somehow or another without her seeing us. She didn't realize it was us right in front of her, I guess. Then we got home and she came in later, she got going on these people, these disgusting people who didn't stand up and had no respect, etc. But, this was her. You should ask somebody that went to the Anglican Church what she did at church. She was an Anglican. She was of the high and mighty race. She had quite a crush, apparently, at one time on the minister they had there, who was a real British type. She used to sit in the chair beside him up at the front of the church. She didn't sit with the congregation, she sat up at the front, so I hear. I think his name was Seaton Adamson.
Q. She was Hiram Capron's grandaughter. Was she foward because of her name or was that her manner?
A. I think this was her claim to fame and she promoted everything. You see, that Homestead was on the edge of his farm. When we came to town, from where Pickells live now, that was the edge of the farm. That was all field when we moved here. Don Smith's house was where it is now and it was the only lot that was allowed to be severed at that time. Over on the corner where that house that Abbotts lived in- well, across the road where that red brick house is now, well that red brick house was moved to build that bridge. It wasn't moved very far, it was moved so many feet or something. Golf Links Road was the edge of the field. On the corner there, there was a little shack- like what we would see as a vegetable stand on the highway - where you rented horses. They had two or three horses and this is where the kids used to ride, out in that field. That was some of the Birleys, apparently, that rented those horses, and they lived down the Golf Links Road on the left hand side. That was all field and Miss Jones was trying to get that survey opened up and she had no money as I said. But, she wanted that developed.
Q. Did she own this land?
A. That was family land. She didn't own it personally. See she had brothers and sisters. She had Helen Vaisey, her one sister, who lived with her off and on. We had moved upstairs and there were two bedrooms up there - tiny little bedrooms - and the other room that is now a big room, well that was a storeroom. That had a big padlock on it. There were some beautiful things in there which you got into every now and then. But the night that they got home and we moved upstairs - now there was Gladys and Helen Vaisey, her sister, and there was this other English woman. They arrived at Gladys' house and their friends found out they arrived home and they descended upon them. There was Mrs. Cochram, who was a little woman and had a real Cockney accent, and Mrs. Davis - Margaret Davis - you will find her name as she used to act in plays and things they had in town here and she was another little English woman. And there was Hannah McCosh - Dr. McCosh was her father -and Hannah McCosh was the first woman elected in town to any office and she was on the school board in 1921, I think. She was a real character. I think she worked at Penmans in the office. There were those three that arrived and Mrs. Pemberton (Mrs. Howard Travers' mother) and she is an English person too. All the English people got together. And then this woman who's husband was the president- or so they liked to let on he was - of the C.P.R. or the C.N.R.
You wouldn't think butter would melt in Gladys1 mouth and she had a terrific sense of humour, once you got to know her. But she scared half the people in town to death, I think, just with this ferocous attitude she had.
Another evening that we were there, we were upstairs with the radio on, we were reading or something, and all of a sudden she started screaming and bellering and we didn't know what had happened. We went running downstairs thinking that something awful had happened, and the Conservatives had won a by-election in Nova Scotia. She'd just heard it on the radio. So we knew she was a Conservative. She was something else to live with but you couldn't help but admire her in alot of ways.
She tried to get the town to open up this survey because she had no money and the town wanted land to build houses because there was no other land. There were no sewers or anything and there wasn't any anywhere else in town either at that stage of the game. They kept giving her these survey plans like New York City would have - for every 100 acres of land, you provide for 10 acres of park land, and so many acres for public buildings, etc. I think that whole piece of land was less than 100 acres - I think it was something like 70 acres. Anyway, there was Arthur Steuart-Jones, her brother, and Helen Vaisey and I can't remember the other's names. Arthur lived at Cayuga or Dunville or Caledonia or down that way - Caledonia I geuss he lived at. There was one that lived up near Barrie some place - I can't remember their names now. Helen had one son and he (Stewart) had a daughter and it was his daughter that the house was left to. They had to wait until she was twenty-one before anything could be done. She was the only descendant of all of them because her father died - he was quite a tennis player. He was on the Canadian Tennis Team. Every now and then the gathering of the clans would come because they'd have to go through another little deal to finish out this survey.
The town finally opened that survey up and they graded a road from the corner of Homestead Road, in front of Smith's house down to where Moriarity's house was built. That was the only road - you could drive on it, but it would be better to drive a tractor. They opened that up and Roberton's were the first house there. They built right off the bat. Smith's, I guess, was the first house on that survey because it had been there for quite awhile then. Then Robertons built, well then they put our street in. Hiram Road went in first, I should have mentioned that. The lots behind the houses on Grand River Street, if the people on Grand River Street wanted the lot directly behind their house, they had first crack at it. Two or three bought them. Mr. Secord bought the lot behind his house (daughter's house - Isabel Harold). Mrs. Quinlan lived in that house where Birleys live now - that's beside Wheelers. Her husband owned what is Jack Bradley's store now - it had been Quinlan's Mens Wear. He'd been dead for quite awhile and she bought that lot and she married George Foulds after awhile and he was on the Town Council and P.U.C. and many other things. His first wife had died and they'd lived on Homestead Road where Edgar Harold is now, beside Pickells. Those people hung on to those lots, now Claude Secord built on it, the house that Cassidy's live in now That was Mr. Secord's house and he was quite involved in minor sports in town here - hockey and baseball - but mainly hockey, I think. He was a widower and had been for quite some time and Wheelers just sold the lot not too long ago and someone is building on it now. But then Arnolds built a house up there - they came to town a tear after us. Those houses were built on that side of the street, well then, Harvey Priest was a builder in town at that time. I think he is still alive. He lives up on the highway. He built several houses on speculation along there. One of them his son-in-law was building with him, Garner, George Garner- that's the house that Dorothy Fielding lives in now. But, he built three or four houses there that he just built and sold afterwards. That's how those houses got started and then the odd person would build a house for themselves. But when they put our street in, we were the first to build there. It was a mess - all the dirt to make the road had been bulldozed into a mound. You couldn't see from our house down to the corner. I think Foulds built their house a year before ours. But we used to have deer in the front yard and there were lots of pheasants around. Of course there's nothing there now because there are all houses there now. But, it's kind of interesting to see how the town has developed.
Q. When did you build your house?
A. It's twenty-three years this year. We moved from the Homestead into Miss Nichol's house on Banfield for 3 months. and then into an apartment downtown. We lived up over where the Linda Ann is now. That used to be the Expositor office and Simpson -Sears - it was just Simpsons catalogue place. And Cobbins lived in the back apartment and we lived in the front apartment. Then we got a house and it was up on Arnold Street. It was one of the old plaster houses and it was owned by Mrs. Louden. She lived next door to us, there was only half a dozen houses on that street. But that was the most interesting part of twon there was. There were lots of characters around. I don't think there are as many now or maybe they were more obvious then because people got out and around more on foot. But, there was Sam McFarland, who was on the river bank on Grand River South, an insul-brick house - the 2nd last one on the left hand side before you go under the high-level bridge. But, there used to be one more that I always swore fell into the river but they tell me it really did get torn down. There was a character that lived there and they all congreagated at Sam McFarland's. The boys - there was Johnny Blanney that lived closest to the bridge and he froze to death going home one night after a drunk they had. They found his body the following day. Somebody walking to work at Penmans across that foot bridge, found the body. Blaney Johnny Blanney - that was his name, his house was right at the approach to the foot bridge, so they had to pass there and somebody going to work came across him. But these guys, I don't know whether they just sat and drank or played cards or what they did but there was quite a group of them and they were all characters. You couldn't help but get a kick out of them -they were funny but they were their own worst enemies. Anyway, Cassey was married to this Sam and she used to babysit for various people in town. She was cute and she was little and she was Irish. She didn't mind taking a drink herself but she'd save up enough money and she'd leave him and go home back to Ireland. And then the next thing you'd know, she'd be back again. She went back and forth a few times.
The hydro was starting to put through 60 cycle power at that point, because this town was on 25 cycle. Your lights used to blink all the time. And, they had to put new telephone poles all along that street.
In the cobblestone house - the one that is in such terrible disrepair - that was owned by Wiley Guthrie and we rented the garage behind that house. We kept our car there. We rented it from him and we had to clean it out to get our car in. They'd been putting junk there for years and years and years. Dr. Eric Patterson - we found a bunch of his school books in there and a bunch of Dr. Knight's school books in there. That had been a Curtis house and they were related to the Pattersons. That house had been divided up into probably half a dozen different-it wasn't real apartments - but maybe somebody would have a couple of rooms and somebody else would have one and so on. There was a continuous change of people there. Next door to them, where Mrs. Gordon lives now, that was 0'Neils house when we first moved in, and they moved away and rented or sold it to Falls. The house at the V was owned by Donovans and there was a man and. his wife and they had two little tiny girls. And her brother lived there part time and he sang in the Anglican choir and he ended up marrying one of the Charlton girls.
Granny Taylor lived beside Almases and they had a brick back house and the kids couldn't knock it over on Hallowe'en, but, they always tried. On the other Conner, across where the high level bridge starts, where they've torn those houses down now, there were white plaster, three houses together. MacKenzies lived in one of them. There was some connection with Granny Taylor's family - I don't know if one of her daughters married one of these people living in these white houses. They were all from Nova Scotia, or had been, MacKenzies were one of the families. Atfields were related to them - Mrs. Orphie Atfield had been a Taylor. Rhodes was another family that lived in there. They were all sort of related in some way, but I really don't know how.
Q. Where did you come from to Paris?
A. I was born and raised in Fort William - it's now called Thunder Bay. My husband is from Pembroke Ont., up the Ottawa River.
Q. Who was Gladys Steuart-Jones mother? Which child of Hiram Capron's was she?
A. Gladys' father, I don't know whether he was a minister. He was just Jones and they were all christened Steuart as their middle name or their last name. So the name wasn't Steuart-Jones, it was just Jones. She never said very much about him. Her mother was the Capron. I'm not sure which one. There was Aunt Jane and Aunt Charlotte so it wasn't one of them. It might have been Helen because Helen Vaisey was the sister. Helen was Gladys' older sister.
Q. Would Gladys have known her grandfather?
A. Oh yes. He was just marvellous according to Gladys. There was nothing he ever did that was wrong. She couldn't stand John Penman because of what he did to her grandfather's house.
Q. Why didn't that house go on to the family? Did John Penman come in, buy it and change it into Penmarvian?
A. Apparently it had been rented for a few years before Penman bought it. Various people had rented it.
Q. The Homestead was passed down to the family?
A. Yes, but the Homestead was just left. They deserted it. When they moved into the big house, that had been their first house so it was just left. One thing she told us was that that had been the first general store and post office in town. People stayed over night there. If they came to town to visit Capron, they would keep them at the Homestead. Where they kept them. I don't know, because that house isn't very big. She told us lots of things about the town and I think this is where I got the interest in history. She had no use for Penman at all. She had worked in the mill.
Q. I got the impression that Capron was well-to-do, and yet you said she didn't have any money. Did the fortune just disappear?
A. It must have. They didn't have anything and they didn't have anything to start that survey with. This is why it wasn't started properly. You see, there are no sewers in there and by rights, in that day and age, they should have been serviced lots. There should have been sewers put in before opened. When we bought our lot - the town had worked through Jim Appleby to sell that land - I guess the town got something out of each piece of land to pay for the roads that were put through. But, we had to pay to put the water in.
Q. Would Miss Steuart-Jones have made money from the sale of the lots?
A. I think it just helped her make ends meet. They could hardly pay the taxes on the land. They didn't have any money at all.
Q. Perhaps the money had been so spread out with all the children it just got lost.
A. This Aunt Jane that she lived with on Grand River Street was sick or semi-invalid for a long time and I know they couldn't afford to have a nurse for her. That's why Gladys was sort of house and nurse maid. But, I don't know what happened to their money.
Q. Maybe that's why they lost the big home and Penman took it?
A. Penman didn't take it. That house was rented to different families for probably ten or fifteen years before Penman came. He bought it and started renovating before he moved in and I think it took something like four years before it was changed. He had ordered the stuff from all sorts of places - it was fabricated stuff - it wasn't made here type of a thing.
Q. Where did Penman get his money before he came here?
A. Well, his father had mills - Daniel Penman. He had knitting mills.
Q. Did Gladys Steuart-Jones live in the Homestead right up until the time she passed away?
A. Yes, then Hamilton-Wrights bought it.
Q. Is the house much different now, structurally, on the inside, since its been changed into an art gallery?
A. Yes, they changed it quite a lot. Because when you went in the front door when we lived there, there was a door on your left which went into a bedroom. The bedroom was quite a big size-it was bigger than the living room. The living room was square but the bedroom was long- it had a little niche in it. I don't know how they've got that divided up now, I know they've closed it off. The walls now have big cupboard things behind them. But, the furniture that was in there was all Capron stuff and it was certainly the cast-offs. None of it was really good furniture in there. There were two or three really good pieces. There were two extremely dainty chairs that big horses always wanted to sit on when we lived there and I always hid them if I saw anybody coming. I was afraid they'd just fall apart. But, she had the two pictures that are upstairs in the library now, that hung over the mantle when we lived there.
Q. Is any of the Capron furniture still around?
A. I think the Hamilton-Wrights bought the buffet in the dining room.
Q. Maybe some of it is in Penmarvian?
A. No, the stuff that was in Penmarvian wasn't from there. Penman brought all his own stuff in. There was no furniture in that house. I don't know what happened to it. I guess it was auctioned at various times because they sold Gladys Steuart-Jones' stuff. They auctioned that off.
Q. Do you have any of her personal possessions?
Q. Are there any descendants of the Caprons still around?
A. Well, this granddaughter is in England. There are also in Brantford- Bunnells - they are related. I think Cynthia Bunnell is Horace Capron's granddaughter or great granddaughter and she would like to see anything you've got on Capron. She might have something that you people would like to see. But, I'm positive she's from Horace's family.
Q. Horace was Hiram's brother.
A. When Gladys died, there was some lawyer in Brantford who was related, who was a pallbearer at her funeral. Not very long ago in that little Brant News, there was a write-up about the Bunnell family.
Q. Weren't some of the streets in Paris named after Capron's children?
A. In the north end of town, most of the streets are named after members of the Capron family, except for three of them which are crosses of the Union Jack. There are St. Andrew, St. George and St. Patrick. This goes back to the 'God Save The Queen' business and so on. She would stand at attention at night when the radio was going off and it would play 'God Save the Queen' or 'King' at that time. She was a very British type and she was a staunch supporter of the I.O.D.E. and she worked quite hard at that. The I.O.D.E. looked after the reception after the Homestead was declared a historic site. That was the height of her career.
Q. Was she in the Homestead then?
A. Oh yes, she was certainly there with bells on.
Q. You are involved with the Historical Society and the Library.
A. Well, that's how I got involved in the Library Board because I was interested in the background of the town and I had come down and helped Mrs. Muir catalogue stuff in the library- sort stuff out was mainly what it boiled down to.
Q. Are these historical items you are referring to?
A. Well, yes, all the pictures, papers,etc. that's in the filing cabinet. But, there used to be alot of things - people would bring things in, clippings or old papers and stuff. She saved all this stuff because it was of interest. If she hadn't saved it, we wouldn't have anything.
Q. When would this have been?
A. This would be ten or eleven years ago - I've been on the Library Board that long.
Q. How do you get on the Board? Are you elected?
A. You were appointed by the Town Council - that used to be the was. Now, they want them to write a letter of application.
Q. How many are on the Board?
A. Five - one representative of the Council, either the mayor or a representative of the mayor which is Anne Wilson; and then there's Mr.Bemrose who has been on for quite a number of years - he was chairman for quite a number of years - I am at the moment. Mr. Pickell is on now and Mr. Eby and me. Angela is the secretary of the Board.
Q. How did the Historical Society come to be?
A. Well, there was great talk in the territory of Regional Government being put in and we got a little upset because if they put Regional Government into the Library system - not the S.C.R.L.S. - if they put that in, they'd take all the stuff we had here and put it in a central spot, which wouldn't necessarily be in Paris. We didn't want them to take anything away -we wanted it kept here in town. So, we formed the Historical Society and signed everything over. It now belongs to the Paris Historical and Museum Society, rather than to the Paris Public Library, so if the Library was ever taken over by the Region, it would be held. Anything is available to the people but we don't have any money to work with to hire staff or anything. The members that were on the Library Board at that time are part of the thing and the mayor who was Mel Sharpe. Now we've got Jack Pickell and Muriel, his wife; and Jean and Fred Bemrose, I'm on it, Gord Boultbee is still on it because he was a member of the Board at that time, and Mr. Larlee was a Board member so 30 he's still on it. Mel Sharpe was the mayor -he's on it. Mr. and Mrs. Don Smith and I think that's it. Then people were wanting memberships, so we decided we'd let them buy memberships. Jack Pickell and I are trying to promote some interest in forming some kind of executive. We'd like to get together and get more things and information.