Once Upon A Time: Bruce County Memories
Submitted by Bob Johnston
Anne Konrad’s original article was abridged for the 1991 Bruce County Historical Society Yearbook and adapted by Bob Johnston.
It is interesting to remember a long-ago era when social distancing was not a concern. In 1991, Anne Konrad interviewed several old timers from Purple Valley and compiled their stories into an article for Albemarle: A History of the Township. (ed.) Dorothy Crocker, 1991.
House dances were always popular in Purple Valley. Sometimes, unsuspecting ”hosts” would be roused from their beds by sleigh loads of neighbours. A lamp would be lit and soon everyone was dancing to a fiddler or pump organ. Sometimes there were youthful pranks played. Evelyn Gardiner tells of one weekend house dance in the 1930s where no one wanted the party to end. Everyone knew the McElrea sisters had to leave at 10:30 because their father was strict. Nobody wanted them to go. So, quietly, different people kept winding the clock back a half hour and the dancing continued. Finally, at 4:00 am, the poor McElreas finally figured out what happened.
Not all social gatherings were dances. Before World War Two, churches had an active “Young Peoples.” This was a Sunday night get-together at the United Church with plays or concerts. Often the tireless youth who had danced Friday night away, gone downtowning on Saturday and attended afternoon or evening church on Sunday would gather in Mrs. Charlie Gilbert’s General Store after Young Peoples, where they would lean on the counters and socialize a bit longer. Long before the fabulous Lodge Hall dances, the box social had been another form of party. In the 1930s these were still going strong and one of the most-sought after boxes was the lovely Ethel McClean’s delicious lunch.
With all the parties, however, none was bigger in Purple Valley than the July 12th celebration. To commemorate the Battle of the Boyne, families prepared lunches the night before, got up at 4:00 am, to walk or drive to Purple Valley. They then continued on to whatever town their Orange Lodge parade was going to be held. After watching the parade, listening to the speeches, eating their picnic lunches, they would visit and gossip before heading home.
Over the years many changes took place in our local social life, but there are still parties — Oh, there are parties.