Author Archives: James Hillis

The Hespeler Communication Network

From Cooper Street Relic

One of the things about growing up in a small town like Hespeler during the 60′s and 70′s was the communication network that existed in the town. A lot of it was good, as a small town we had a volunteer fire department and since my dad was a volunteer the only way to get the information about a fire was for each member to have an assigned person to call. So when the fire was phoned in the system would start. The first fireman would call the next on the list and so on and so on, until everyone was notified, and no matter what time of the day, this would occur. It was never a surprise to hear the phone ring at 2:30 in the morning. If someone was sick or got hurt everyone would find out quick enough, and really anything that happened went through the communication network. Even things that would get you in trouble, trust me I know.
In the day’s before Ernie’s the building was known as the Queens Hotel and was a regular spot for many of the locals, including my Dad and his cronies and since it sat at the main intersection in town they could sit and watch the town(and the Characters} go by. And that is how they got me. One warm summers evening i pulled up to the lights in my Dodge Coronet, the 8 track spitting out some raucous Zeppelin tunes, and as I was prone to do, I revved the engine a few times and when the lights turned green I spun out, squealing the tires and headed up Queen Street and headed home. Now this was no more than a two-minute drive to my place and as I pulled into the driveway I saw my dad standing there with his arms folded and glaring at me like I had let in a game winning goal or something. Upon parking the Dodge and slipping out the door my Dad made it clear in no uncertain terms…don’t ever squeal your tires in this town, go to Preston or Galt or even better, Kitchener, but do not ever, ever do it in HIS town, and while I am at it turn the music down as nobody else downtown wants to hear that metal crap and wear a seatbelt goddamn it. I stood there stunned! How in the hell did he find out in 2 minutes what I had done? There was no such thing as cell phones in those days, he didn’t have ESP, so how? As he explained it later, one of his chums was sitting at the bar and saw me there revving my engine and was on the phone to the old man when I peeled away from the corner, so by the time I got home the whole story was known. And you know what was worst? Later that day I went over to a friend’s house and his dad laughed at me for getting in trouble doing what I did. That Damn Hespeler Communication network had nailed me and their was nothing i could do about it.


The Day The Bucket Came Down

Remember this day? The day that a Hespeler Icon came down? The KFC Bucket ended it’s run on December 24th 2008 at around 11 pm, when high winds knocked it down.  Not everything lasts forever I guess.

Hespeler Shamrocks..The First Year

Private Harold Lumb

Born on 7 January 1899 in Lancashire, England – foster son of Mrs. Matilda Lumb, Hespeler, Ontario – nephew of Henry Lumb, Hespeler, Ontario – at the time of his enlistment in 1916: present address in Hespeler, Ontario; trade as farm labourer; single; no current or previous military service; Salvation Army; height of 5 feet 2 inches; chest of 36 inches fully expanded; light complexion; grey eyes; light brown hair.

Joined the 111th Battalion, CEF, in Hespeler, Ontario, on 8 February 1916 (number 730507) – taken on the strength of the 38th Battalion, CEF, on 11 or 12 July 1917 – killed in action on 17 October 1917 – buried in Dochy Farm New British Cemetery (grave IV.B.28), Belgium.

(sources: Library and Archives Canada (, online attestation papers; Canadian War Museum, 19740281-001, Manu 58F 2 3, 207th Canadian Infantry Battalion and 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Nominal Roll; The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Regimental Museum, A400-0007, Master Personnel List for the 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force; Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “Debt of Honour” register,

Believe it or not!

Hespeler Herald

Through Baulk Publishers Ltd., newspaper publishing in Preston was closely related to that in Hespeler. In 1946 Walter Baulk purchased the Hespeler Herald as an important link in the newly formed chain. With Mr. Baulk’s death in 1955, management of the Herald passed on to Richard Duff. Upon Mr. Duff’s death in 1965 much of the work of producing the Herald was transferred to Preston.

The Hespeler Herald however did not begin with Walter Baulk. The paper was established in 1897 under the direction of Oscar Eby. Like the Preston paper, the Herald was a weekly that offered a review of local happenings.

Like many businessmen of his day, Eby was a staunch Tory. However, he was first a businessman, and he did not let politics become involved in the operation of the newspaper. Eby recognized that to survive, a small weekly in a small town required the financial backing of both sides of the political fence and so he was careful to take no political stands that would antagonize either side.

In 1918, Eby sold the Herald to George Hudson, an ex-teacher and then publisher and editor of a weekly paper in Beamsville. Upon Hudson’s death, his son Edgar (Ted) Hudson took over the paper, which he operated until he was called up to military service during the Second World War.

In 1946 the Herald was purchased by Walter Baulk to become one of his chain of weeklies. The Herald continued as a separate publication until April 29, 1970 after which it merged with one of Mr. Baulk’s other weeklies to form the Preston-Times-Herald. This paper became the Cambridge Times in January 1973.

— Courtesy Jim Quantrell, City of Cambridge Archives

The Chase

One thing about my family is that you come to expect the unexpected. And when you throw a Nun,my Dad, a couple of shots of brandy and the Jehovah Witness,you wind up with an interesting afternoon. Such an occurrence happened and thank the lord i was there to witness it.
The year is hazy but i was still in high school so i guess it would have been around 1972 or 1973. My mother’s sister was in fact a sister. Aunt Grace to us but Sister Francis Regis to the rest of the world. She always loved to come home to Cooper Street and sit out on the back patio talking to my mom and dad and enjoying the family life. This day she and my dad had opened the brandy and had a couple of shots when the doorbell rang and my Dad got up to answer it, when he came back he told Aunt grace that there were two Jehovah Witness’s at the door and he had told them that there was someone who wanted to talk to them and they waiting patiently at the front door for her. Now in those day’s the Nun’s still wore all the habits and as luck would have it my Aunt’s was on the chair beside her and she gladly threw them on and went to the door. but what happened after that is why this story sticks in my mind. Walking briskly up cooper Street were 2 Jehovah Witness’s being pursued by a Catholic Nun in all her glory yelling “come back, we have a lot to talk about”, never had I been more amused at something my family had pulled off and i swear my Dad almost split a gut laughing so hard heck even my Aunt and my mom could hardly stop laughing. Ah Summer, memory’s are made of this. Aunt Grace is no longer with us but every time I think of her I have to smile. I mean how could a little woman like this scare two grown men, really?

HMCS Hespeler

Pennant: K 489
Built by: Henry Robb Ltd. (Leith, U.K.)
Laid down: 25 May, 1943
Launched: 13 Nov, 1943
Never commissioned into the Royal Navy and sent to the Royal Canadian Navy as HMCS Hespeler.
Commissioned: 28 Feb, 1944
End service: 15 Nov, 1945
Sold into mercantile service in 1947 and renamed Chilcotin.

Aerial View of Hespeler 1940’s

Letter From the War

I never met my Uncle Bruce. My Mothers older brother was killed in action in the summer of 1944 but his name and memory still live on in our family and like many of this city’s veterans a street here in Hespeler carries the family name.
And like many of the boy’s that were serving over seas, letters were a very important part of their lives. The following is the contents of a letter that my Mother received from her brother on August 20th 1944 and had been mailed on August 9th 1944. what made this letter poignant was the fact that on August 14th 1944 Uncle Bruce was killed in action, This was the last communication that the family ever received from him. This letter is word for word what was written by him, spelling mistakes and all.

Dear Mary.
Hya squirt,how are yuh? I don’t know why i’m writing, i can’t think of anything to write about but mush. Say hello anyhoo, so here i am sitting nice and comfortable like, in my slit trench, swatting mosquito’s killin ants and things and writing all at the same time, cripes a guy needs about four hands for this job. It’s not a bad sort of a day though-at least it ain’t raining. An enormous big bee just flew in, stopped in mid air like a helicopter somewhere in the vicinity of my schnozzle and stared at me in the face like as if he was trying to make up his mind. However, he apparently didn’t like the looks of my ugly pan so he spread out his four or five inches of wings and flew away. I am still cross eyed from looking down my nose at the brute.
How are all the boy friends, or have you found one steady one? Cripes i haven’t even been out with a gal since about March, Gee soon i’ll be losing my Hespeler technique, what little there is left. Are you still at the same job and still doing the same thing sitting at a desk, writing letters to your boy friends? That must be a pretty fair job. You even use the company paper i notice, you crook. Well yesterday i received letters from Grace,Mother, Alec,George Oliver and a girl and her Mother and Sister in England, and a parcel from Grace as well. So i did okay for one day, didn’t i?All i gotta do now is answer them and boy, thats a job. Well Mim ole dear, must scram for now, so bye for this time, hope to see you soon, but hear from you sooner.
Your Big Brudder Brucie.

B85416 Gnr Bruce McLaughlin
12th Cdn fld regiment
Canadian Army Overseas


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