Forgotten Places: Laurel Park
Over the decades, many places become forgotten as people age, memories grow dim and times change. One such place that has completely disappeared was just three short blocks from the main intersection of Hespeler; Adam & Queen Streets.
One hundred years ago, the area fronting on the west side of Galt Street (Franklin Blvd. today) between Shamrock St. and Sunnyhill Dr. was little more than a frog pond and swamp hole, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, flies, gnats and other pests.
The property was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron F. Stager, who operated the Stager Funeral Home (now Lounsbury’s 1766 Franklin Blvd.) and the Stager Furniture Co. on Queen St. West.
Determined to improve the property at his own cost, Mr. Stager had many loads of dirt trucked in to fill the swamp. Together with a group of volunteers, he created walkways, beautiful flower beds, a community band stand and tennis courts, all for free use by the Citizens of Hespeler.
Upon completion, a dedication ceremony was held at the Band Stand. The Park (tentatively named Stager Park) was officially opened by Hespeler Mayor David N. Panabaker, chairman of the evening, before a huge crowd. Although acknowledging the park was not quite finished, it was recognized as being equal to any of the finest parks in Waterloo County, and to Mr. Stager practically all credit was due. Other speakers included Mr. C. T. Groh of Clearview, who supplied the cedar lumber for the Band Stand, Rev. Mr. Leigh and Rev. Father Meyer, who blessed the new park, Mr. J. D. Ramsay, principal of Hespeler Public School and others.
When Mr. Stager was called to the stand, he stated he was not going to make a speech, but instead just wanted to thank all the community volunteers that helped create the park; in particular, the volunteer fire company that kept the grass cut and watered and the Hespeler Women’s Institute that came to the rescue to finish the Band Stand. At the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Stager stated he did not want the new park to be called Stager Park and instead wanted it named Laurel Park, a fitting tribute to such a pretty place. Following that, Mrs. Stager was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and they left the Band Stand to a rousing rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” by the School Choir and the crowd. During the ensuing evening the Hespeler Musical Society Band and the Hespeler Public School Choir entertained the crowd followed by a lunch served by members of the Hespeler Women’s Institute.
Aaron F. Stager
Today, Laurel Park is now filled with homes and a memory for a few who still remember the tennis courts as the last vestige of the beautiful park created by Mr. & Mrs. Aaron F. Stager.