County of Brant Public Library Digital Collections
Interview with Mr. & Mrs. James Thomson
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Two interviews conducted by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Mr. & Mrs. James Thomson about gowing up and living in Paris as well as the Penmans Company. The date of the first interview is uncertain but likely occurred sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s while the second interview occurred in June 1979. Both interviews were contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.
Contributed by Paris Museum and Historical Society. This article originally appeared on the County of Brant wiki at It has been included in this collection for ease of research.
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.2 Longitude: -80.38333
Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society
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Paris Museum and Historical Society

51 William Street, Paris, ON

N3L 1N4

(519) 442-9295

Full Text

First Interview: James Thomson alone

Interviewer: Thomson, can you tell me a little bit about your family and yourself?

Mr. Thomson: Yes, I came from a family of eight. My father's name was David Thomson. I had four brothers and two sisters. The names of my brothers were Gordon Thomson, myself - James Thomson, Kester Thomson, Ernie Thomson and my sisters names are Jean and Isobel Thomson.

Interviewer: Were your parents from Paris?

Mr. Thomson: Yes. Well my grandparents came over from Scotland, but my dad, he was born in Jordan, that's down around St. Caterines way. He moved from there up to Paris and he was a long-life resident of Paris. My mother came from Elora and her name was Brown, Maudie Brown, her maiden name" My dad put fifty years of service in with the Penmans Company. I was born in Paris and so were all my brothers and sisters and we more or less all lived on West River Street except for about two months when we lived in the Upper Town while the other house was being vacated. We went back to West River and we've always lived there. Most of us were born on West River Street.

Interviewer: Then you went to Paris schools?

Mr. Thomson: Yes, I went to public school here, and during the first year I passed my entrance and then I went to work with the Penmans Company. There was ah opening there and I searched my mind to know if I would go into work and the work force or back to school. I wasn't too much of a student, I could get by. But there was an opening there and instead of_ going into high school I went to Penmans. I put forty-eight years in with the Penmans Company all more or less in the one department. I started as a yarn boy, filling up the bins withe yarn for the different types of machines and different lines required different yarns. In those days, we used to call it art silk, it was just like wire. There was a lot of cotton in those days and wool yarn. This machine I'm referring to was the Bursen Machine. It was a lady's full-fashioned hose, you could practically wear it as it cane off the machine. It was all complete except hemming the top and if the seam up the back was required, it was there. It was all there, the toe was hooked in. I've seen a lot of different styles, what I mean by that is patterns.

Interviewer: Would you be working at Penmans when the big strike occurred? If so, will you tell me a bit about that?

Mr. Thomson: Right, I was there. It was an awful thing to my idea. I wasn't involved with the striking and on the street. I went in and a great number of people you used to work with was out on the street calling you everything. All the people who were on strike in those days were more or less up at the north end of the building. That's where all the action was, the machinery and everything else. Down at the south end, there was the box factory, so we went up there to the back of the box factory and they opened up the door for us and anybody who wanted to go in went through there. But then the strikers got wind of this and they came down there and wouldn't let us in.

Interviewer: In other words, you had to sneak in to get to work?

Mr. Thomson: Right, we had to sneak in to work and we had to go through all the departments over the cat walk and into our own department way up at the north end where all the hosiery machinery was and the sock machinery was.

Interviewer: How did that all start? I understand it wasn't the employees idea.

Mr. Thomson: Well, an organizer came in and tried to form this union and they went through the departments and the company didn't have anything to do with it. The company was against it. People felt that Penmans wasn't paying their top wage or anything in those days. They felt that the union, if it got in, could do them better so the union came out with all these meetings and they held them down at the Capitol Theatre in those days and any place that had a big area -chat could hold a lot of people. Before that union got through, another union tried to get in and there was a conflict between the two. But the one union won out and got in there and a lot of these people didn't go back to work again. I don't know if their consciences bothered them or what. Those that got back in there, they just couldn't look at you. The machines ran all the time and if anybody wanted in there they busted through regardless if they got injured or not. I was one of them who went in there and worked.

Interviewer: it must have been a frightening experience just going to work and not knowing what was going to happen on the way to work.

Mr. Thomson: Yes, it bothered you going down the street, wondering what you were going to run into up at the other end of the town.

Interviewer: I understand a lot of people were hurt by angry strikers and that there was much physical pain inflicted.

Mr. Thomson: Yes, and then when they got home they found windows broken in their own residences over this and cars and property damaged.

Interviewer: Is that the only strike Penmans has had?

Mr. Thomson: Well, then after a few years another union tried to get in, which is over there now, I think. I can't remember the name of it.

Interviewer: What about social life in Paris? Have events differed or is there a difference in what the young people do now as compared to what you did in your youth?

Mr. Thomson: Oh yes. In my younger days we had to make our own amusements. When I first started working I was getting $18.00 a pay and I paid my board and put the rest in the bank. My dad, in those days, used to walk along the railroad tracks with a burlap bag picking up coal that used to fall off the steam engine tenders. So we didn't have very much money. I wore a lot of hand-me-downs from ray brothers right all the way down.

Interviewer: What did you do to make your own fun?

Mr. Thomson: Well, we used to go up to the mill where a lot of cardboard boxes were brought in and wooden boxes which were stored and more or less were just rotting away there and we used to go up there and they would give us the boxes. We used to take them down and put them in our yard and we used to have a lot of fun in those. For amusement, we used to have an. awful lot of yard space with no grass in it and we used to play train. We'd get a stick of wood and tie a piece of string on the end of that and we used to mark in the ground with a stick just like tracks with "branches off and all this stuff. On the end of this string, we used to tie another piece of wood and then string and another piece of wood. We used to make our amusement that way.

Interviewer: So you were making your own toys along with your amusements.

Mr. Thomson: Right. Then, if anybody used to throw away baby buggy wheels or anything we used to watch for the garbage man and we used to get these wheels and we used to make these little sulky things. One guy got in between the shafts and another guy sat on in between the wheels, on the little seat. We used to have competitions in racing and we'd go up and down the street. Then we used to have these pogo sticks - I was one of the first ones around to have a pogo stick. They are designed a little bit different now than they were in those days. I could leap I imagine five to six feet in one jump. They had a great big coil spring up the centre of them, a huge thing, and the arms out for your feet and you'd grab the top which came to a point. Now they have a handle on them, I think. At our place on West River Street there used to be about twenty or twenty-five steps from West River up to the entrance going in to the house. I used to go up and down those things, on that pogo stick. Well, that was one of the amusements we used to have and then we used to get all the lumber after a flood, we used to go along the river and a lot of boards and that used to get caught along the shrubbery along the shore. We used to go along there and get the old wood and make scows. One of them was called the Anderson, but don't ask me why that name. We used to go out on that. Many a whaling I got about that. My mother used to say, "Now keep away from that river".

Interviewer: Now these would be things you did when you were younger. When you were a teenager or in your early twenties, what did you do then? Did you go to dances and events like that?

Mr. Thomson: Well, I was never inclined for that sort of thing - dancing and all that. I used to do an awful lot of ice skating and we us :d to have it above the old Penman clam, on West River Street. That used to be a great place because the dam held the water back and you could skate all the way around the river, way out to the water works, way out to the south end of town if you follow the river all the way around. We used to skate way out to Devil's _..s have been taken out now. The dams held the water back and there was good skating all along there. Then we used to have a little art club, of course I was always interested in art, and we used to have a little art club with Mrs. Buchannan who used to live right up next to the Manor there, the Broadway Manor. She used to live right on top of Stoney Hill, we used to call it and she was always interested in art and she thought that if we could get a few people together and set something up and sketch it and criticize one another. So I did that for awhile. I was always interested in art.

Interviewer: Did you ever have any formal training in art?

Mr. Thomson: Well, I went to a commercial course down at the Pauline Johnson School and they had the commercial course down there for those who attended just for two hours twice a week. I didn't learn too much in the course for the two hours because I already knew it. It was just something I picked up, I've always been interested, even in school. The teacher used to say, "Where did you trace that from?". They didn't realize that I had actually sketched the thing. All the kids around used to say, "Do one for me!".

Interviewer: There are a lot of places in Paris that must be intersting to sketch.

Mr. Thomson: Yes, I've sketched a few places around and I intend to do some more if I ever get around to it. Gosh, since I've been retired it seems that everybody wants something done.

Interviewer: Can you tell me any changes you remember in the downtown area as far as businesses

Mr. Thomson: Well, yes, there has been a number of changes to my idea. The old flour mill we used to have downtown, which was an old landmark, has disappeared now. The Wincey Mill which used to make a lot of fabrics is gone now and the races and the bridge. that crossed the race is gone now. The old dams and the old farm that used to be over by the Lions Park swimming pool is gone now. The CNR Station that used to be up here is gone now end I wanted to do a sketch of that but I never got around to it. I think that if they removed the stores downtown that it would ruin the town. It's Paris and it's always been that way for as long as I can remember. Even after the Great Fire the stores didn't change location, they have always been on that river.

Interviewer: Well Mr. Thomson you have answered all my questions. Can you think of anything else you would like to tell me?

Mr. Thomson: Well, I was the first one in Paris that had a movie camera. In those days, that's really going back, film was really cheap, you couldn't get colour, everything was in black and white, and anything that was going on I was out with the movie camera. Of course I've got thousands and thousands of feet of film and I was the official movie photographer for the reserve army, I was in the reserve army. In 1960, I was conducted as an elder in the Paris Presbyterian Church and I have a Cub Group in Paris, I've been at it for over twelve years now. I was married on June 14th, 1947. I remember way back in the horse and buggy days and Bobby West. He used to go up and down West River Street but he was quite bent over in those days. He was quite a guy. Many a time I had one of his boats out along the Nith River there. When Penmans used to have their summer picnic for the factory they used to have a swinging bridge across from their property over to the west side of the Nith on the bend of the river going around. Penmans used to have their picnics in there. At one time that used to be a golf course and the club house that they took out when they disbanded was moved over and Bobby West used it, right across the river. They put in on the bank of the Nith River and he lived in that old house. I don't think that I would ever move from Paris. You now it used to be that you knew everybody in Paris and you would walk downtown and wave morning or something to everybody and now you go downtown and you hardly know anybody. There are not many of the old-timers left anymore.

Interviewer: Could you tell me about your hobbies? Are these hobbies from childhood?

Mr. Thomson: Well, more or less, especially the art. I always liked drawing so I've always stayed with that. Then when you go to these different shows and see other people's works you'd like to try it, so you come home and see what you can do with it. I have in my hand here some wire sculpturing and I've got a number all on sports and it's all done with wire, bending the wire into shape. They are all more or less the human element in the sports field. What I did was get some old wire and take the covering off until you get it down to the bare wire then you get a lengthy piece and you try and get as much out of it before you break it and solder it. There is not too many pieces in each one, and not too much soldering in each one. Then up at the church they were going to have a western night. They wanted decorations with the western theme so being a little artistic I said I would dream up something for the tables. These, that I have in my hand are over twenty-five years old. It's just paper, thumb tacks, rope, glue, bits of wood and pipe cleaners and this leatherette. Then you find a piece of wood that would go along with the subject. Then you end up with a decoration like this cowboy with his rifle. I've also got a bunch of tools out in the workshop and I like messing around with wood and I make my own picture frames for my pictures I do in art. Many a time people have gotten old furniture on sale and they didn't have any door pulls so many a time people brought one around and -'anted to know if I could make it on the lathe, so I've made a number of those things.

Interviewer: Can you remember much about your public school life and the school in Paris?

Mr. Thomson: I went to the public school that would be Central and of course the classes are listed different now. There used to be the Primer and the first book and the second book and junior fourth and senior fourth and all that. Some of the teachers you learned from them but other ones you didn't, in other words. We used to have our little [??blems] and recess and on the way out you used to pass ink wells and somebody would put some of this stinky acid in the ink wells and when we came back in the room was filled up with this smell. .'Jo one would admit that they did it so we all suffered because of this and we'd all have to get lined up and he went down the line with this black strap and w^'d hold out our hands. I can remember days when we used to have Christmas parties and recitals. I remember the first time that 1 wore a white collar with a black bow tie and I thought that all the guys were going to call me sissy and all that. I remember part of the piece that I had to say. It was "When pixies are naughty, naughty, they must have a heart."

Second interview: James Thomson and wife

A: I'm James William Thomson. I was born in 1911, October 9 and there was a family of four brothers and two sisters.

Q. Where were you born?

A: I was born in Paris, Ontario and I went to school here.

Q. In which school?

A: The old Central School. I got a pen and ink sketch of it before they tore it down. Then I went into work in Penmans when I was young. Then I put forty-eight years in with the company in the hosiery department.

Q. Do you remember John Penman at all?

A: No, I don't remember him. I put forty-eight years in the hosiery department and I ended up being the head fixer on the machines.

Q. What were the wages like when you started for Penmans?

A: Well, $18.00 for two weeks and then when you got on piece work, you got a little bit more if you really went at it. The more you produced, the more you got. It wasn't a high paying job but it was steady, even during the Depression. They kept the knitters - they'd maybe go in for three days - run a few machines just to get a dollar out of it to buy a loaf of bread or something. Then you wouldn't go back in again for maybe three weeks to let the other knitters have their turns. It was really rough. We used to go along the railroad tracks with a potato bag, picking up coal to make a go of it.

Q. Did you have a garden of your own that you could raise your own vegetables?

A: We did when I was at home. We had a small patch. It took an awful lot to feed the gang but we went through it.

Q. When did you meet your wife?

A: Well there was a little art class going aroung Paris here. Mrs.Buchanan and a few of them around Paris here formed a little art club and we met in the Y.W.C.A. - that's where the Broadway Manor is now. Way in the back they had a little room back there for us and the wife, she was in the upper rooms up there and she'd sneak down every once in awhile because she was working at the Walker Press. She was interested in art so she'd sneak down into there. So, she brought some pictures down because she wanted some frames made. She was crafty.

Q. She had her heart set for you right from the beginning then?

A: This went on for a bit and then I invited her up to see my etchings. That's how that got hooked up there.

Q. When were you married?

A: Thirty-three years ago. The old town has really changed since those days. Some of the older buildings have been revamped with this aluminum siding. They were really getting shabby-looking.

Q. What were the names of some of the stores?

A: McCausland's used to be where the Stedmans is now. That used to be a grocery store there. The old Post Office -that's been taken down. That's in where the bank is now. And then there used to be an undertaker's parlour before they had homes. You know they used to put them right in the store. Oh, I've got movies of. The store was out in front - Cummings Funeral Parlour. Woods and Ticknell - they used to be a grocery store. That's up where Sibbick's store is now. Woods and Tincknell - that used to be our old grocery store. And they used to come around to the houses with a little pad and write down what you needed. They'd go around to all the different customers that dealt with them - he'd write everything down - then he'd go down there, fill up the orders and deliver it to your home. Then, if you paid your bill on time you got maybe a little chocolate bar thrown in. I looked forward to that. Then, when pay day came along my dad used to, if there were any bills to be paid up at the coal place, that's Taylor's Lumber and Groceries. That's up where the warehouse is now - up in the warehouse where Foulds is now - in between the tracks - that's where Taylors used to be in there. That's where you bought all your coal. There used to be other dealers in town but that's where the majority of people dealt. He was kind of crafty, you know, he didn't mark it off. You'd go and pay the bill but they didn't mark it off in their ledger. Next thing you know after awhile you'd get this bill through the mail, saying this bill hadn't been paid. Dad, he always kept everything, even gum wrappers. He never through anything away. Gosh, it's a good job he didn't because he maybe would have had to pay extra.

Q. What was his occupation?

A: He was on the hosiery. He spent over fifty years in the hosiery. He was my foreman. He brought me along on the machines and he knew his machines. You couldn't fool him on them. He learned the hard way -he learned it himself.

Q. He would be born and raised in Paris as well?

A: They sent him over to the States to learn the machine - that's where the machine was built - over in the Brockford, Illinois. The Burson Hosiery Machine - that's what it was named. All they did was knit ladies' hose on. My dad come up with the idea that a sock could be made on those machines - a man's sock. He got me down - he had cross-section paper and he drew every movement out on that machine, everything had to work right - the switches on the bars and everything - and I made a model of the machine and it's all working. I think it's half the scale of the big one. I don't have it. I don't know what happened to it but I spent years on that thing, everything was working all right and they knitted little socks. It had a little P put in it that would print right into the thing. I forget how I did it. I couldn't do it now. But, my dad and I, we figured the thing out and we knitted some socks on the thing and why it didn't go over I don't know. But, the company didn't go for it. He invented different accessories on the machine, You know, take-ups and a lot of different things and he never got any credit for that. He just put it on the machine and let it go at that. He often said that the knitters were taking home more than he was and he was supposed to be the foreman and he knew the machine. Then they got rid of the No. 1 up here and sent everything over to the flats and they did away with all their spinning, carding, and all that type of machinery over here. They quit making their own yarns. So, they moved all that over there and they spent thousands of dollars trying to put new floors in over there and everything else. It only went on for about a year and a half or two years. Then they came along to the East Department and said it was phasing out. All of the hosiery - men's and ladies' hosiery. Some of them faded right then. So they gave you four months or something like that. So, anybody that was in knitting or anything like that - in the machinery end of it - they tried to put them in on some of the other machinery. Some of them they sent down to Brantford to Swat son's on the sewing machines down there. They had people come in to buy these machines - well look them over first - and if they wanted to buy them, they could buy them. We had people come in there and ask questions about them - this and that. I thought to myself that if any of these guys get these machines, they are going to be lost to run these things if they don't know anything about them. Some of the people over there wanted go to the States or wherever the machines that were bought were going. Then after that they put me in on the double-knit - you know the great big double-knit fabric. I'd never seen the machines in my life before and it scared the life out of me. There was about 1800 needles in one machine - if you made one mistake you'd rip all of them out and the machine is down until you take all those needles out. There were three or four different types of needles that goes into each little section to make the pattern. It wasn't too bad in the hosiery because I'd put in all those years. Many a time I felt like throwing in the towel but you stuck it out. They would come around and say that that's the job or else.. So, I went in there and I wasn't happy about it from that time on until I got out of there.

Q. When did you leave?

A: Well, the wife got sick - cancer tumor - so when she was in the hospital, going to Hamilton for treatments and back. They said she couldn't come home unless somebody was here to look after her. That's the time I got out of there and I never went back since. That was before I was 65. I'll be 68 in October. So she came along - she's out there now. That's over five years ago. That was a long struggle that one.

Q. When were you first involved in painting and sketching?

A: Well, I always liked messing around with a pencil or something. Even when I was in first book or second book at school - I think it's grade now. Everybody around sat in rows of desks in those days "Do one for me!" We had art class every Friday afternoon. You could do whatever you wanted. Sometimes we had a certain subject - repeat pattern or something like that. Then sometimes you's do anything at all so I drew a picture of a shoe. Now, I don't know if you know anything about teachers in those days or not. Jenny Bursena.., Jr. Maus - I've had some dillies. Before I wore glasses - that was in first book - I didn't have glasses and I kept asking the teacher what was the such and such and she moved me from my seat up to the front and still I couldn't see. She grabbed ahold of the back of my neck and put me right up front and crammed my face right into the blackboard. "Now do you see it?" she says. Oh gosh, I started bawling. So I went and got my eyes tested and sure enough I needed glasses. In those days they didn't have a nurse saying you needed glasses. So I got glasses. Playing ball out in the park over here - they had ball diamonds there and a bandstand in those days - right in the middle. The band used to go out there and play and we used to park along there. We used to go from the school over there and play. I was the pitcher so I whipped one up there and the batter got it and hit me right in the eye, broke one glass. I took the day off and went to the doc and he went me down to the eye guy. My eye was all swollen up and cut a bit but I didn't get anything in it. Bent the frame and I was grounded from then on.

Q. So you never had any lessons in art? You just started on your own?

A: I had books I picked up and read on it. I went one year and got a diploma for commercial art. I took a commercial art course - it wasn't the government one - it was just one night a week for two or three hours. To me, I didn't get too much out of it. It seems everything I brought up I knew something about it but the government art class -they spent eight hours a day at the thing. There was alot of stuff in there that I would like to have taken.

Q. "This is to certify that James Thomson has complied with the attendance requirements and has obtained a Grade A standing In commercial art during the session 1962-1963 held at the Pauline Johnson Collegiate Vocation School, Brantford, Ontario."

A: I've always liked art. As you try different mediums out it got a little more interesting and you expand a little bit. I like pen and ink. I like old buildings or trees that are deformed. Something that s not slick - something with a little character to it. When I was at home, I always had an easel up in my bedroom. Between that and model airplanes - they used to make a lot of fine model airplanes and kites. We used to make some big ones and one got away on time. You know those apartments where the bell is now - the kite landed in the back there. There was string all over town - over the barracks, the Salvation Army. We used to camp out where the swimming pool is now - right up the back there and there's a big bank up there. That's where I used to fly my model airplanes - they'd go way down to the river. We used to camp up there on the side of the hill. During a heavy rain storm one night, we had a little gramophone up there, and the water ran down the hill into the tents, and everything went out the other end. We used to know the farmer, Bill Madden, and he used to have a long rope. He drove stakes in all along there and he had a cow bell up at the top there. He'd ring that thing. One heavy thunderstorm came up one night and we got washed out so down to the barn we went and we slept in the barn under the hay. Around these barns there were always alot of cats. I think we got into their home. We kicked them out and then we went up in the morning after it was over to see what damage was done and here were all these records with mud on them and everything else. Then, we used to go up to the old Penman Dam and we used to do some swimming above it, along with the turtles and it used to be sulphur water along there. We used to have crocks in there. Bill Madden used to have this cider press. We used to go all along the river getting rotten apples, wormy ones, and squeeze them all up and get the juice out, put them in these crocks and lower it down into the sulphur water to keep it cool. We used to make rafts and go up and down the river. After a flood we used to go on the river and get all the old bits of wood and logs, and we used to make rafts. There used to be a Wincey Mill Dam but that was taken out and the Penman's Dam has been taken out since. There used to be water in between there and it used to freeze over and we'd go skating above the dam and below and all along there. In those days, you could get up above the dam at Penmans and skate all the way over to the Water Works. If you go up the Woodstock hill there - of course the road has changed now, they've cut it off instead of winding around. Anyway, you go down into that area, down over the bank, that's where they used to pump the water for Paris. Well, you could skate all the way around to there. I've always been doing things with my hands - making things, doing things.

Q. Are there any buildings or anything around here that you've painted?

A: Well, I got a sketch of the Patterson place - Hamilton Place. Then I got one of the school, Penmarvian, the Arlington.

Q. Do you remember that when it was the "fancy" Arlington?

A: Oh yes, there's a change there.

Q. What is the building that's in the painting that is in the library now? That tall, wooden structure?

A: Oh that's in Blair. I did a pen and ink sketch of that and I sold that. But before I sold it, I did a rough sketch of it and did a bigger one in water colour.

Q. Are you doing alot of water colour now?

A: It seems I never have much time. I thought I'd have alot of time after I retired - it doesn't work out that way. I got a bunch of daisies - I start with a little sketch in pencil and get some kind of a layout. I did alot of different mediums like pastels and oils. I like pen and ink.

Q. Where was your father's family from?

A: All of the kids were more or less born in Paris.

Q. Was your father born in Paris.

A: No, in Hamilton and my mother come from Elora.

Q. What was her name before she was married?

A: Maude Brown. My grandmother came from Scotland.

Q. On your mother's side?

A: Mo, on my father's side. We tried to compile a family tree. My uncle up in Elora, before he passed on, he started to get alot of information together, but I don't know where that's all gone. I've got an aunt in Hamilton, she's 91, on my dad's side, she's the only one now. Of course my mother and dad have passed on, years past now. She's the only one left on the Thomson side down there.

Q. What was you father's name?

A: David Thomson.

Q. Is the house that you lived in as a child still standing?

A: Yes, it's on West River Street. We lived all our lives on West River Street except for about six months up in the Upper Town across from the Chicken Place up there. Before you make the turn to go up to Woodstock, there's several buildings all in one up there on the left hand side. They've got window sills 18" or more deep inside. We were in one of those apartments for about six months, then we moved back to West River again into a different house and we lived in that other house for over twenty-two years. That's where I left to come over here.

Q. Did you build this house?

A: No, it was an old barn at one time that belonged to that red house over here. Telfers. There was rough-cast plaster on the outside when we came. There's quite a little difference in what it looks like now and what I did in those days. So, I don't want to leave the old place because I spent quite a bit of money in this place and so I don't want to leave it over night. I put the garage up, I put my work shop up, I put that room on the back there myself.

Q. Is that pine wood?

A: That's real pine wood and they had a petition here when we came and by the time you do something in the rooms you couldn't move around. Right under that sofa there was a fireplace with a gas heater in the thing with no vent on it and when you light that now you can smell it. There was heavy stone in this massive thing and it was all out of proportion. So I took it right out and dragged it in in the winter time on sleighs down to the dike and through it on the dike. The people I got this house from - it was up for tender, it was the highest bidder. I put my bid on and several months went past and the phone rang and I was asked if I still wanted the house at that price. That's when I got it and then we got married. I wasn't going to live with the in-laws. Then the guy that put that up there heard I had taken it out. He came down, tears in his eyes and said "What did you do with the stones?" I said "It's down on the dike." "Oh no!" he says. He thought it was the thing so I said, "No, I didn't want it." So, he took quite a bit of the stone to wherever he was living. Right on top of the hardwood floor it was sitting.

Q. This floor, then, is this original floor?

A: Yes. Of course we went over it with a commercial sander and took all the dust off it and put some of this clear varathane finish on it.

Q. Do you have any children?

A: Yes, I have one boy. He's living up at Baden. He was in Elmira -moved from Elmira to Baden and he works in Kitchener at Ekitbowl Insurance. He has about twenty-five women under him.

Q. How old is he?

A: He's about twenty-nine. He'll be thirty this year.

Q. Mrs. Thomson, what was your maiden name?

A: Taylor

Q. Was your family from Paris?

A: No, from Brantford.

Q. What did your dad do?

A: He was an architect to start with and then he took over Shultz Construction Company. It was Shultz Brothers and he took it over when the old Company fell.

Q. Did you work for a time in Paris?

A: Yes, I orked for about six years at Walker Press and then after we were married I worked at the house here. That's when Jim built that back room on. I worked quite a few years - eight or nine - before I q lit just free lancing. They brought the work to me and I didn't have to go out and leave the house. I could have made more in other places but it was Thompson Printing that I worked for here. Then at the Kwick Mark that Mel Sharpe had. It was different in those days. The methods have changed now. It was fun and a break from housework.

Q. What kind of things did you have to do?

A: I did quite a bit of lettering and quick marks which were all little tiny lettering for the old fashioned hose. It had trade marks and information in little decorative things but it was all so tiny. I could do the work small where the men couldn't. It was too tiny for them to like so I got that and when I worked for Thompson Printing, it was always changing - never repeating. I wasn't much good with figures and so I was always trying to dodge them. Some things were from Penmans and sometimes they wanted illustrations and writers. You'd get some little designs you knew and then submit them to Penmans through the printer and them they'd have to start all over and get the gears rolling again and then they'd want some kind of colour combinations along with this thing.

Q. Your wife was saying, Mr. Thomson, that you have a film of the Arlington. Is that when it was originally the Arlington?

A: No, I don't think so. It's just a little piece - it's not the whole building, just a part of the building where it's changed from where it is now. You see some of those pillars that used to be over the balcony, they're all gone. They used to have a delivery place where you could rent horses out - where that clinic is over there. It was a service station where that clinic was out in. You could go over and get a nag, a horse and buggy, for the weekend.

Q. How much would it cost to rent a buggy and a horse?

A: Oh, I forget now. Just a few bags of oats along to feed the nag and that's all you'd need. The old bridge that was here was taken down. I've seen two bridges put pu there in my time.

Q. That old iron walk bridge that was over by Arnold Street - was that always a walk bridge? Was is something else at one time.

A: Well, there's no center to it - no traffic, only pedestrians. That thing - it must have been put in there so good, it's still standing today and that big structure above it has had som nany problems with it.

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Interview with Mr. & Mrs. James Thomson

Two interviews conducted by a volunteer from the Paris Public Library with Mr. & Mrs. James Thomson about gowing up and living in Paris as well as the Penmans Company. The date of the first interview is uncertain but likely occurred sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s while the second interview occurred in June 1979. Both interviews were contributed by the Paris Museum and Historical Society. Scroll down to the Full Text section below to read the interview.