Hespeler’s Last Mayor

by Dec 8, 2022Turner Tales0 comments

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by Lary Turner

An important anniversary will occur in approximately three weeks!

January 1, 2023 will mark fifty years since the Town of Hespeler ceased to exist and our community was amalgamated into the new City of Cambridge. I felt this would be a great time to look back at Hespeler’s last Mayor.

George Edward “Ted” Wake was born in Toronto on September 11, 1910, the second son of George Edward and Mary Wake.  After his father died when he was twelve, Mr. Wake worked as a delivery boy at a drug store and was later apprenticed to the printing trade at the Grimsby Independent, a weekly newspaper.  For four years he worked at a variety of weekly newspapers learning the work of a pressman, compositor, writer and linotype operator.  

In 1928, he took a job as a spare linotype operator with the Toronto Star.  Uncertain of his prospects at the “Star” and disenchanted with big city life, he answered an advertisement for help at Progress Printing in Preston and moved there in November 1928.  

Ted WakeHe remained in Preston until 1940 when he enlisted with the Canadian Army Engineers.  After serving in Europe for the duration of the war, he returned to Canada and with his wife the former Dorothy Hogg (married 1940), settled in Hespeler where he worked for a while at the Hespeler Herald.  Together with Hespeler Herald editor Treve James, Mr. Wake formed a partnership and started T and T Press in 1946.  When Mr. James entered the Anglican ministry a short time later, Mr. Wake took full control of the company. Mr. Wake moved the business twice before settling at 412 Queen Street West.

Hespeler Population Sign
Hespeler Town Hall

Hespeler Town CouncilTed Wake entered politics in 1950 and won a seat on the Waterloo Township School Board.  He was returned by acclamation in the following election and was chosen Chairman of the School Board.  He also served as a member of the Hespeler Hydro Electric Commission and while serving as Chairman of the Commission in 1965, a group of citizens approached him with the proposal to run for mayor.  He announced his candidacy on November 17, 1965 and when no other came forward to challenge him, Mr. Wake became Hespeler mayor unopposed. Following his initial victory, he was acclaimed to the mayor’s office on a further three occasions thus becoming the last Mayor of Hespeler before our town became a part of Cambridge in 1973. 

Mr. Wake was credited with spearheading an economic resurgence of the community, transforming Hespeler from what had been described as a lethargic community to a “thriving, prosperous, industrial and commercial municipality of distinction”.  He has been described as “a man totally dedicated to his job and fiercely loyal to the Town of Hespeler” who “directed a course of events that made abrupt and sweeping changes in Hespeler”. 

By the mid 1960’s, it was impossible to even consider growth without an expansion of Hespeler’s sewage treatment facilities.  One of Mayor Wake’s first acts upon taking office in January 1966 was to petition provincial authorities to install a new sewage disposal plant.  An agreement wasn’t inked until 1970, but the plant provided the basis for new development.

One of the largest issues to face Mayor Wake and his council was the implementation of Regional Government.  He realized that changes were required in the old “county system” and that restructuring in some form was essential.  He objected strongly to the form that restructuring took, particularly the amalgamation of Hespeler with Galt and Preston. The reason was Hespeler’s sound financial footing.  Five years of “pay-as-you-go” planning had provided Hespeler with a reasonable tax rate and only a minor debt load which was the result, in most cases, of paying cash for work done rather than issuing debentures.  Mayor Wake was convinced that amalgamation would only add to the debt load of Hespeler’s taxpayers.  When it became evident that the amalgamation of Galt, Preston and Hespeler was inevitable, he bowed gracefully and urged his supporters to “throw away the crying towels and let’s get behind the new community”.  When Hespeler became part of Cambridge in January 1973, Mr. Wake left politics to return to private life. 

Ted Wake died in his 78th year on January 31, 1988 and is buried in New Hope Cemetery.


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