Interview with Miss Marcula Morris conducted on 11 June 1978.
Miss Morris now lives at the John Noble Home in Brantford. Her extensive teaching experience in St. George and area is especially notable, along with her longtime involvement in the Methodist church.
Interviewer: When did you come to St. George?
Miss Morris: I was about eight years old, and we came in the spring from Woodstock. My father had ween an ad in the paper for a miller, he had been a miller in England and this ad was Tor someone to run the shopping mill. It wasn’t the big mill the chopping mill was a little farther down the road, towards the train station. They had this little chopper where they used to do the grinding with mill stones — the stones ground the grain. My father had been accustomed to that in the old country and he said, “Why, they're advertising for a miller in a place called St. George. I used to do that years ago, and I think I’d like to go there”. My mother said, “Well, there is no reason why we can’t go there”. He had been working at an organ factory in Woodstock. Anyway, we packed up and down we came. I guess it was about 1900.
Interviewer: Where was the first house you lived in when you came?
Miss Morris: That was the one on the corner of Lorrimer Street. The white one, where Mrs. Harry Richards used to live. Mr. Will Howell lives in it now. That was our first home. We were only in that about a year. Mrs. Dr. Addison, who lived next door in the big red brick, wanted it for her mother and two aunts, so we had to move. Then we went up to a house across from where Dr. Gordon used to live (corner of Queen and Beverly on the east side, second house to the south, now owned by the Gaukels). It was a nice, white clapboard house. The lady who owned it was going to Toronto to live so she wanted to sell it. Then we came back to another house on Lorrimer Street, farther down. The Lees used to live there. It was the red brick, on the right hand side as you go down the street. Gordon Howell lived there for a long time. We stayed there two years until the owner Mr. Newton wanted to sell it. Father thought he’d like to keep a cow, but there was no barn on the place. So, we decided that we didn’t want to buy it. Well, there wasn’t another house in town except a red brick on Main St., across from the site of the old Methodist church (now the St. George Legion). The owners, an elderly couple, didn’t want to rent it, it had to be sold. So, we either had to buy it or leave town. New, my father was worried, but my mother said, “Now Richard”, that was his name, “if we're not supposed to stay in St. George, we’ll leave, it won’t matter, we’ll have to go some place else, that’s all there is to it”. But father liked the town, and his job too much, and we bought the house and stayed. Besides, it has a barn and father could keep his cows.
Interviewer: What was the name of the mill he worked for?
Miss Morris: I think a Brantford man, W. B. Wood owned the mill and I think he owned the chopper too. He was in politics for a time. Well, then there was another mill, nearer to the St. George Station than that. Now I don't know if he owned that one too or not. I think a man by the name of Metcalfe ran it But it was on the other side of the street.
Interviewer: What do you remember about the Main Street of St. George? What was it like when you came?
Miss Morris: When we came, the corner of Main and Beverly, where the cenetaph is now, was all built up. J.P. Lawrason had a bank there. I think the bake shop must have been in that block too. Later they moved over on to Beverly Street. There was some kind of show repairing in that area too. A man named Haas used to repair shoes there. On the other side of that corner, the south side, it was all burned down. There had been a fire before we got there. While we were there, they had started up a band, my brother was the band master, but they had no place to play, so, they built a band stand on the area where the bank is now and they used to have quite a few concerts.
The thing I remember most was when they were talking about putting in the streetlights. I remember one of the oldest, and most prominent residents was against them. He said, “Well, I’ve always carried my lantern, and I don’t see why the others can’t do the same!” But anyway, they put them in. These streetlights were put all through the village. Then the gas lights came. They were lovely too. We thought we’d really gone to heaven when we saw those. The gas light was so bright. It was just like daylight. I can remember it quite well. And we had it in the home too you know. Other than that we used lamps. Then the hydro came in.
There was a library too that Mr. Green had. It was upstairs, over the meat shop, Ron Moore’s. I think it was up that stairway. Mr. Green was librarian there for quite a while. He had such a lot of old, authentic books. It was a pretty big library. When they wanted to move they just turned out the books and told us to help ourselves. So I did!
There was another thing too. Did I ever tell you about the toboggan rides down the front street? That hill used to be quite high, its been cut down quite a bit. Well, they used to start at the top of that hill, and they’d come down all the way, almost as far as the St. George station, and at such a rate you know, never tried it but my sister did. But she happened to be off the day they had an accident — she’d been called into the house to work. Two of the girls had been badly hurt. They didn’t recover from their troubles for quite a long while. One other day, Hunter Wilson came down the side street by the mill on his little sled and he collided. I don't think he got hurt, but he got right under the horse's feet.
Interviewer: What happened to the buildings, on the north side of the street?
Miss Morris: Well, sometime after we arrived, there was a fire which burned that whole area down. I remember it because I remember watching the men trying to put it out. I don’t think there was a fire hall at this time, and no equipment. The men were running back and forth with their pails. Well, they couldn’t put it out. You know, the whole corner went, both on Beverly Street and Main Street north.
Interviewer: Where did you go to school in St. George?
Miss Morris: I went to the big red brick on the Main St., right in front of where they put the new one. They use it now for crafts and things. Miss Warminton was my first teacher.
Interviewer: Do you remember anything about the previous schools in St. George?
Miss Morris: There was another school down on the street where the bowling green is now. (West Street) I think Ed Lawrason went to it.
Interviewer: You taught in St. George for quite some time. When did you start to teach?
Miss Morris: In 1910. I was about 18 years old when I started. I had taught my first year at the old German School. It was a one room school and I taught all of the grades together but I don't think there were more than about 20 children. The inspector, Mr. Standing, said that the primary room at St. George was available. This was in the old St. George school, the same one I went to school in. I left German School and went to the village. I taught in that school for 39 years.
Interviewer: What was the school set up like when you started to teach?
Miss Morris: I had grade one and two and sometimes part of three in the primary room. We had three teachers and it depended on how many students were in the school. Nellie Taylor was the teacher in what we called the middle room. That was part of three, four, five and part of grade six. My sister Lillian taught in the third room upstairs. That would be part of six, grade seven and eight.
Interviewer: Where did the children go from there?
Miss Morris: From there, the children went to the Continuation School, up at the other end of the grounds. They did high school work there, but it was called the Continuation school, I don’t know why. Mr. A. E. Green was teaching there when I started to teach. He was the principal. The continuation school took over the forth room in the upstairs of the lower school.
Interviewer: What kind of things did you teach?
Miss Morris: Well, I had to teach them everything — reading, writing, and arithmetic. When I first started school we had to read off of what they called tablets. They were oblong pieces of cardboard, and there was “Cat, rat, hat” and they were our first lessons on reading. We used slates too, there were no notebooks.
Interviewer: What about discipline?
Miss Morris: Well, I had a strap, the first year I taught at German school. But, it disappeared one day and I couldn’t find it. But I didn’t use it very often anyway. My sister, Lillian taught in the upper room at St. George. And I would go up sometimes and there would be somebody out in the hall, and she’d just let them stand out there, recess and all.
Interviewer: What about the Methodist church? You used to live right across from it and you were also a secretary there weren’t you?
Miss Morris: Yes, I was secretary for the financial part and I was also secretary for the whole church. I was still secretary when union came in 1925. Believe me it was quite a puzzle. We had to be so particular you see, because there was liable to be trouble if there was anything missing. I used to feel that I had to be very particular — who moved things and seconded them and all about it for fear there would be some law affair over it. We had quite a bit or eruption one way and another.
Interviewer: What kind of organizations did you belong to?
Miss Morris: When we first went to St. George there had been a Women’s Missionary Society. But, it had a squabble of some kind, disbanded and then came to my mother to see if she would be president, so she took on the presidency when they reorganized. That was the W.M.S. and it looked after sending aid to foreign countries. What they called the Ladies Aid took care of the local affairs, Mrs. A.E. Green was quite influential in that. Mrs. J.W. Wait was also a prominent member.
Interviewer: What about the choir?
Miss Morris: Well, I went in the choir when I was about twelve years old, and Mr. Green was the choir leader. I had a strong voice I won’t say it was sweet. Mother thought I was too young, but my father let me join.
Interviewer: You had to move from the Methodist church at the time of union (1925) didn't you?
Miss Morris: Yes, the Methodist held more than the one we finally went to — the Presbyterian church. It was a newer church, though quite a bit smaller. But, we stayed in the old Methodist for about five years after union and then we had to decide whether we were going to stay in that church or whether we were going to go to the former Presbyterian church on Beverly.
Interviewer: How did you decide what church you were going to use?
Miss Morris: That brought up quite a decision. It was some job. The Presbyterians naturally favoured going over to their own church. There were a few Presbyterians who wouldn’t join the union. In the Methodist church, the church had to go into the union, we didn't have any local say about it. We had to go into union and the whole church went. But in the Presbyterian church, it was left to each individual church, whether they joined or whether they didn’t. That's why there are still Presbyterian churches around. Naturally, there were a lot of Presbyterians in St. George who wanted to stay in the Presbyterian church, so they were called the “Continuing Presbyterians”. Then, we decided that we wanted to go to their church on Beverly Street and leave our church because ours was the oldest, and it needed some repair. But anyway, we had a vote and I can remember the assembly for that vote. You may be sure that the Presbyterians were out strongly. I was sick and couldn’t go over, I felt very badly that I wasn’t going to have a vote on it. My mother said that as soon as they went in the door of the church basement they could tell pretty well what way the vote was going. The Presbyterians turned out quite strongly you see. So, they outvoted us and we moved over to the Presbyterian church.
Interviewer: Did things settle down after the union or were there a lot of hard feelings between the Presbyterians and the Methodists?
Miss Morris: I don’t suppose the “Continuing Presbyterians” ever felt very happy. They had to take over our old Methodist church and use it if they wanted a church. I don’t think they used it very much though. As near as I can remember they started worshipping in the homes. There weren’t very many of them. I don’t know if there would be any more than 20 or so. Mrs. Dr. Kitchen and Mrs. Dr. Addison and most of the leaders in the Presbyterian Church voted for union.
Interviewer: What happened to the Methodist church after Union?
Miss Morris: A sewing firm moved in there first. Then they had sparts and set up a sort of gymnasium in the building. I think Taylors then took over a milk factory business in there. There, for a while, they had a lot of lockers there for storing things. The legion took it over after that. Then, that old Methodist church burned down. We lived right across the road and we sat in the door and watched it go down. It was some sight because it was so tall.
Interviewer: Can you describe the inside of the church?
Miss Morris: There had been a gallery in the church, but it had been taken down before I arrived. The outside was all white brick. As you walked in the door there was a stairway to the right, and a stairway to the left, and stairs leading down to the basement. It was more like a city church — very big and tall. There was a beautiful organ in the church. It got moved over to the Presbyterian church after union. It was pumped by a “pumper”. He used to stand behind it and pump. He was a very faithful “pumper”, always there, quite a chore you know. It was an old style organ with long pedals that extended back. It wasn’t an easy thing to play. There were beautiful pews, cherry wood. It wasn’t carpeted though.
Interviewer: Who were the ministers at the church while you attended?
Miss Morris: The first one I can remember was a Mr. Coolley, and he had been there five years. Then Mr. Bennett followed him. Well, we had several.