When Things Were Simpler

by Apr 21, 2020Turner Tales2 comments

I am regularly amazed by the bureaucratic maze that must be negotiated to get a project underway and completed. We have made our lives so complicated, that sometimes it is easier to just walk away, than to try to see a project through to the end; particularly a project involving water. Consultants‘ studies, Regional and City Planning Department approvals, Federal approval regarding the Navigable Waters Act, Grand River Conservation Authority studies and approval, environmental impact studies, aboriginal consultations, etc., etc., etc.

This bewildering array of hoops that must be jumped through increases the overall cost and adds years before a project even breaks ground. The Grand River Bridge project to connect Fairway Road and Fountain Street is a perfect example. While l understand the necessity of some of this process, I long for the past when things were much simpler: I relay this story of how things got done in Hespeler many years ago.

Many newer residents are surprised to be told there is a creek flowing under Forbes Park. This can be clearly seen where it goes underground beside the Forbes Medical Centre on the south side of Forbes Street. Spring Creek, as it was and still is known to older residents, had a much greater flow when it drained all the land between the Speed River south to where Jamison Parkway is today. In fact, it had enough flow to power Lewis Kribs’ sawmill erected in 1860 in Forbes Park. Mr. Kribs dammed the creek creating a head pond, and sawed logs using Spring Creek water power for over 40 years.

There was also a tannery, erected by Robert Forbes, on the location of what is now known as the “Colonade”. This tannery drew water from Spring Creek for processing; hence the name Tannery Street. The building later was known as the site of the Brewster family’s Lightning Rod Factory and then the Hespeler Fuel & Building Supply Company; but I digress from my story!

One hot August day in 1945, Hespeler Mayor Jack Courtney and W.G. “Bill” Johnson (Parks Superintendent at the time) left the Hespeler Town Hall for a short stroll in Forbes Park.

The two gentlemen were amused and fascinated by the scores of children wading and playing in the creek, which at this time of year was very low. Both men agreed to see what could be done to improve the situation for the children. With labour being in short supply, and the Town’s budget severely strained due to the war effort, they agreed this was a time for all good citizens to pitch in and help.

A call was immediately placed to Gordon Klager at Dominion Woollens & Worsted, where a large power shovel was digging a drainage ditch behind the large mill. Gordon responded by bending some company rules and before the shovel left Town, it and two dump trucks were dispatched to Forbes Park and put to work. Another call went out to the Hespeler Kinsmen Club and the l.0.0.F. Lodge seeking volunteer workers. The two service clubs hurriedly set about contacting their members and work parties were quickly organized.

A prominent citizen, who wished to remain anonymous (perhaps Winfield Brewster owner of the Hespeler Fuel & Building Supply Co.) provided $25 worth of cement and $50 dollars’ worth of sand for the hasty community project. In hardly any time at all, and without any cost to the Town, the community effort was completed and a couple hundred happy Hespeler children were noisily getting wet, and cooling down in their own wading pool. Today such a community response would probably be met with a “Stop Work Order”!

Note: The original wading pool has been replaced by a splash pad.


  1. Daryl w Werstine

    Spent many hot summer afternoons in that wading pool with friends.

  2. Margaret Rainey Lindsay

    I have one school picture ….my grade 8 graduation picture…Im sure there are alot more and would love to see some….I was born in 1945 and went to Hespeler Public School…I live in Wallaceburg ontario and would love to see more school pictures…..THANK YOU so much for all the interesting heritage news….


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