Courtesy of Kawartha Lakes Public Library
Stuart Flavelle sits down with Doug Tangney to recount his family’s businesses in Lindsay, Ont. Flavelle recounts how the dry goods business got started in Lindsay with his father, William, and his uncle, J. D. Prompted by Tangney, Flavelle also discusses the cold storage, creamery, and mill business that the Flavelles and he himself helped run after coming back from WWI.
Copyright belongs to Kawartha Lakes Public Library.
English Transcription of Stuart Flavelle Audio Interview, 1977
Doug Tangney (DT): Today we are talking with Stuart Flavelle. Mr Flavelle, first of all, thank you very much for the time you’ve taken. Your family has an interesting history in Lindsay in the area. Maybe we could start off by talking about your…
Stuart Flavelle (SF): Well the family has been in Lindsay since about 1860. When my great uncle, J. R. Dundas, came up to Lindsay and opened the store here for a fellow named Cluxton in Peterborough. He had a store in Peterborough and eventually he took over or worked into a partnership and the result was that my family, my father, and my Uncle John both came up to Lindsay to work in the store or affiliated interests.
DT: That was in the dry goods?
SF: A general store, but mostly dry goods and the clothing, that type of thing, and furniture for the house, not furniture, but the curtains and material and all of that type of thing. That was general at the time. And eventually the store was taken over and it became known as Dundas and Flavelle brothers.
DT: Now this was located on Kent Street?
SF: On Kent Street.
DT: On Kent and York?. Am I getting ahead of myself now? Kent and York?
SF: Well eventually, eventually they had trouble with the fire in 1861 and had to move for they had been and eventually they acquired the store that Keenan built on Kent Street. He built all those stores on the north side of Kent Street from York, right down to Lindsay Street and they acquired from one on the corner of York, which was the headquarters of the Flavelle development. The store, dry goods store, and subsequently, the produce business. Uncle John, he got affiliated with the flour business and then Sadler, Dundas and Flavelle operated that and eventually Uncle Johnnie had took over; the Flavelle interest took it over and Uncle Johnnie operated it.
DT: That was a flour and a sawmill?
SF: Originally they had a sawmill in connection with the flour mill, but that was pulled out before the turn of the last century. Lumbering was getting a little difficult to get good timber to cut and they had expanded the flour mill operation and put in an oat mill where they rolled oats for porridge.
DT: All right, yeah, yeah yeah, it’s good to have, particularly in winter, I think I even had to eat it when I was going to school. So it’s been.
SF: At that time also sawmills had boats and one of the tugboats that they had in connection with the sawmill operation was the Alice-Ethel, named after Alice, one of the daughters of J. R. Dundas and Ethel Flavelle, one of the daughters of John. Eventually it was taken over by the Boyd interest in Bobcaygeon – The Trent Valley Navigation Company – and we named it the Ogemah and it ran on the waters for quite a few years.
DT: Yeah, I think yeah, the number of pictures of that at the library and you had here yourself, yeah?
DT: Quite a substantial boat.
SF: Well it didn’t have as much accommodation as some of those other boats that would be larger because it was used as a tugboat originally.
DT: I noticed the other day we were looking at a book when they were first in the dry goods, in the general store there was a kind of a conversion from pounds and pence over to and so you could buy your products and pay with either money or how would…
SF: Well in 1858, the currency in Canada was changed over from what it had been from the English pounds, shillings and pence and changed to the dollars and cents. And that change took some time to operate. And I have a book that was started in June 1860 in which the entries, many of the entries, are in pounds, shillings and pence. And also in dollars and cents. In fact, there are cases in this book where an item is quoted for so much a pound or a dozen in pounds, shillings and pence and extended into dollars. And also in the reverse situation.
DT: It was tough for bookkeeping at those times. They also were in that place they kept produce.
SF: And which?
DT: They kept produce at the store on Kent Street originally.
SF: Some, but I don’t know how much. In those days, the operation of a store on Kent Street, you took in butter and eggs from the farmer and gave him credit and he applied on his purchases at the store and usually it was that these were kept down in the cellar for coolness and eventually were sold to Toronto or some other place. Well, this grew considerably, and eventually it was felt that the facilities were quite inadequate, so they built what was always called the Egg House over in the East Ward on just King Street. Between King Street and the river.
SF: They originally had ice refrigeration, but later they put in mechanical refrigeration to take care of it and they had freezer space and also a place for storage of eggs. And the eggs were shipped over to England, but the original shipment of eggs was moved from this cold storage here to England, and in 1888 was the first export from Canada to Great Britain of eggs. And the reason that was done was that there were a number of larger stores in various communities, like Belleville, and other towns and cities and that they have an arrangement whereby one of the senior members of those groups, would go over to England and Scotland once a year and purchase goods for sale in the various stores usually, and they would be shipped out. My father did quite a little bit of that and he got the idea that perhaps you could do the same with the farmers – that is to ship eggs that will be sold over there. Or butter and the proceeds apply on the purchases of goods for the store. That’s how that worked and they got started.
DT: Yeah, yeah. Now there was a fire at that plant later on.
SF: In 1861, there was a bad fire that got a difficult situation in Lindsay.
DT: Did an awful lot of the town at that time.
SF: Yes, yes the whole centre area. That was in the detail that I gave you to read.
SF: And then eventually during the first war, the cold storage plant which had mechanical refrigeration installed, it caught fire and burned completely and the place was full of butter, eggs, and cheese. And the butter and cheese melted and ran down into the river and the [unintelligible] at the locks, if you look below, used for munition plants at that time.
DT: Oh yeah.
SF: There was considerable feeling that it had been sabotaged, but I don’t think it was ever established or that was really like.
DT: Never really verified.
SF: But that was the feeling at that time.
DT: Yeah, that was in the middle of The First World War – 1916.
SF: Yes, correct right, 1916, right in the middle of the war and some German sympathizers had done this because they were doing an act of business in sending supplies to England of butter, eggs and cheese.
DT: Did they leave those at that time?
SF: Yes, yes. Then it was rebuilt, you see. The operation was then rebuilt on Victoria Avenue and the Kent Street corner.
DT: Oh yes.
SF: A modern creamery and egg storage was put up and operated…
DT: Just have to say, that was a brick building I guess, wasn’t it?
SF: Oh yes, that was a good solid brick building.
DT: And eventually became Silverwood’s?
SF: Well you see, Silverwood started with the Flavelle organization and operated an office in London, Ontario for the Flavelles.