REMEMBER THIS: 1978 prompts Newmarket to seek city status

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In this week’s column, History Hound Richard MacLeod continues his highlights of Newmarket’s history in 1978

We continue our review of Newmarket’s historical timeline with the year 1978. At the beginning of the year we still had the same officials on council, but in December 1978 we would have an acting mayor, Robert Scott, as Robert Forhan would decide to resign. his position as mayor to assume the position of regional president on December 14, 1978.

Our population had increased again, now standing at 25,133 people. It seems our growing population has prompted calls for Newmarket to be granted city status before our 100th anniversary as a city in 1981. This was not the first time someone called for us to become a city and it is not wouldn’t be the last.

A water main burst at the historic former Alexander Muir School in January, but it was decided not to fix it until the future of the school was determined.

Newmarket went ahead with what they called a tough taxi rule to locally avoid the problems encountered in Toronto on January 16. licenses. Licenses would cost $150 in the first year and $100 in subsequent years and would be non-transferable. Fines were set at $1,000 for violations and taxi fares were clearly defined.

The Newmarket Ministerial Association pushed ahead with a plan for a non-denominational chapel at York County Hospital in January.

On January 30, proposals were received by the council for the construction of an arts centre. Hope was still alive that maybe the old Alexander Muir school would do.

We had a merger of two taxi services in February when Reliable Taxi, which has been in business for 19 years, decided to sell to A&B Taxi. The resulting taxi company would have 18 taxis in total and a courier vehicle. Reliable Taxi’s Len O’Neill was retiring and Marg Bray had accepted a position with the new company.

Charles E. Boyd and Sharon Nash received civic awards on February 3. Honorable mention scrolls were awarded to Jack Groves of Santa Claus Parade fame and Verna Smythe for her years of charity work.

A new plaza/mall was proposed on March 20, 1978 for the east side of Yonge, just north of Slessor Motors. The plaza was to cover 191,000 square feet and before it was even started, complications regarding traffic congestion and access were raised.

On March 17, the final mass took place at the old St. John’s Church on Ontario Street, with a good dose of nostalgia in the air. The new 900-seat St. John’s Chrysostom Roman Catholic Church was due to officially open March 19 and be concelebrated by Archbishop Pocock.

Although not a local event, April 12, 1978 marked the end of an era, 64 years to be exact, as the Burkholder General Store on Leslie Street in Queensville was about to close.

In February, Newmarket experienced a winter carnival in the town center as nearly 8,000 people thronged the site. Huron Heights would become the overall sports champion and win the Challenge Cup. The Kinsmen Club sponsored the event, and it is said that 2,000 hot dogs, 3,000 cups of coffee and 4,000 servings of beans were served.

Plans for the addition of the new library were finally unveiled on April 17 with a total cost of $475,000, part of which is being paid for by the province.

The cost of using the bus or taxi rose in April, with the bus costing another penny each way and taxi fares increased by 50%. The cost of renting municipal facilities increased in April.

A new estate agent appeared on April 3 when Royal Trust opened a branch in Newmarket Plaza. They were to have 10 agents and three secretaries on site with Ron Ploder the new manager.

The Legal Aid office moved from Old City Hall to 406 Botsford St. on May 15.

In August, it was announced that a new skateboard park would open downtown. The $270,000 project, according to owner Art Beamish, would take over the former Underwood Broadloom Mills building on Main Street. The facility would be 5,500 square feet and the cost of entry was set at $1.50, while a board rental would cost between 50 cents and $1.

Dr. Tom Dales, a local veterinarian, has been recognized as one of the top breeders of golden retrievers in Canada. Dales came from a prominent local family; his grandfather John Wesley was one of our first doctors and his father Lowell Dales established the area’s first hospital on Main Street.

The historic Alexander Muir School was put up for public auction in August by the school board with a reserve bid of $100,000. If you’re wondering why the city failed to save him, the city’s offer was only $5,000 at the time.

This news caught my attention. In August, the city purchased a new computer for payroll and other municipal administration at a cost of $26,000 per year for five years. I had forgotten how expensive those early computers were at the time.

The city decided to take over the management of Fairy Lake, including the park, from the conservation authority in order to make better use of the park.

A competition was launched to solicit ideas from the public on how the city should proceed with the redevelopment of Main from Millard Avenue to Water Street. The prize money was set at $500, $300 and $200. Definitely had to give the city credit for being persistent over the years, don’t you think?

The Ghost Channel was back in the news in August when a new book by David Ross shed light on the project’s nationwide history. East Gwillimbury has also decided to designate Holland Land Lock as historic. Not such a move from Newmarket, though.

Radio station CKAN debuted on August 2, 1978, under the direction of a group assembled by Brad Walker, a Davis Drive car dealer. The 10,000 watt station would be restricted to broadcasting only to Richmond Hill in the south, Bradford and East Gwillimbury in the north. Ray Twinney was part of the ownership group.

Air conditioning came to Old City Hall in August because the province had decided to use the courts there until 1980, when the $12 million courthouse would open on Eagle and Yonge streets.

In September, our Newmarket Rays fastpitch team was one game away from winning the Canadian Senior Men’s Softball Championship, a step in their quest to qualify for the World Championship.

On September 16, the Lions Club stocked the Upper Canada Mall lagoon with 205 rainbow trout for the fourth annual fishing tournament and 18 were caught. Carmen Jenkins won the biggest fish contest, weighing in at 13.5 inches. A total of 375 anglers registered to compete.

Plans for the new $1 million Bell Building on Mulock Drive were unveiled in October with a completion date of June 1979. Specifications for the new building called for a 20,000 square foot unit to house installation crews, repair, engineering and construction.

The Happy Hoppers, a modern western square dance group, began public lessons in October under the direction of Mac Marcellus at various locations around the city. I remember several dance enthusiasts I knew who took advantage of the opportunity.

Plans were submitted by Sterling Trust in October for a three-storey, 5,000 square foot professional office building in Davis and Bolton. Sterling Trust would occupy the first floor of the unit, with construction to begin that fall and be completed in early summer 1979.

The November 1978 election brought only one new face to the board, Frank Patterson replacing Tom Taylor. The top voter was Bob Scott. Craig Cribar won a seat as a councilor on the York Region School Board. It was reported that 45 per cent of eligible Newmarket voters took part and advance voting was extended to two days.

The North Main Protestant Cemetery announced it was running out of space for the burial grounds and the new 37-acre location in Bogarttown was estimated to be five to seven years away from being developed. You will recall that quite recently the future home of Bogarttown Cemetery was sold to a housing developer.

In December, a new proposal for a multi-level parking garage on the west side of Main between Botsford Street and Park Avenue was proposed. The city owned the land and although they liked the idea, they deferred it for future consideration.

Garfield Wright resigned as chair of the Regional Municipality of York on December 7 and Bob Forhan, our mayor, won the job. Because this move was unexpected, Bob Scott was pressed for acting mayor until an election for a new mayor could be held in early 1979.

To end this review of the year 1978, I thought we would look at some of the social items of note for the year. Elman Campbell was elected president of the Newmarket Historical Society for 1978. Ronald David Pelrine was the first baby in 1978, born in York County at 2:12 a.m. on January 1. Auctioneer and character Fred Smith has been the subject of worldwide news as he is the longest serving auctioneer in Canada.

A great story surrounded Maureen McCaffrey, 16, who won the award named after her sister, Michelle McCaffrey, 15, two years earlier. The award was given to the student who made the honor roll in their third, fourth or fifth year of study and on October 27 Maureen was one of 37 students who won the honor roll Michelle McCaffrey. That night, 201 students received diplomas and awards, the valedictorian was Jennifer Smart and two other students, David Brown and Douglas Kukurudza, were honored for their academic achievements.

This concludes our look at the year 1978.

Sources: The Newmarket Era and The Newmarket Courier press clippings; The Memorable Merchants and Trades of Eugene McCaffrey and George Luesby; The Newmarket Story by Ethel Trewhella; Newmarket Stories

Richard MacLeod, a Newmarket resident, the History Hound, has been a local historian for over 40 years. He writes a weekly feature on our town’s history in partnership with Newmarket Today, hosts heritage talks and local interest walking tours, and conducts local oral history interviews.

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