Jeff Green | Mar 04, 2015
Long before Mary Howes had established herself as a major force in local and regional organisations, she was a young girl from Tichborne who had been raised in a great aunt and uncle's house, near the rail station.
After high school she went to Toronto to work, living at another aunt's house, but she did not like it very much.
“I didn't like it because I was a country girl, not a city girl,” she recalls now, from the house in Parham that she has lived in since 1952.
She would take the train home every weekend from Toronto, but her days in Toronto ended when one evening at the Parham Fair, she met the man she would end up marrying. “I met Glen for the first time at the dance at the Parham Fair in 1950. We knew of each other of course, but that was our first meeting,” she said.
The dances at the fair were held in the Palace, where all the fair entries are set out during the day. She does not recall who the band was led by that night, although she remembers that the band that played at her wedding was led by Bill Hannah.
There was one problem in the romance between Glen Howes and Mary Sweetman, however. She was from Tichborne and he was from Parham. Tichborne and Parham were opponents in those days, both in hockey and in baseball, and there was always a question of where Mary's loyalties lay.
“Nobody in Parham wanted me to marry Glen; they were rival towns,” she said, although she did add that it was not that intense a rivalry, “Nothing like Romeo and Juliet, but it was something people talked about.”
Tichborne was founded in the late 1860s or early 1870s. The K&P rail line came in 1872. It is thought that the name Tichborne was brought by a Mr. Lunscombe, who was an engineer with Canadian Pacific.
Later there was a mine in the vicinity, the Eagle Lake Iron Mine, which at one time employed 100 people. The mine closed in 1902. (information courtesy of County of 1000 Lakes)
When Mary Howes was growing up in Tichborne in the 1930s, it was very much a railway town, as the K&P rail station, known as Parham Station at one time and later Tichborne Junction, was located there, as well as the “main line” station for the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Located on the same piece of land that the CPR still uses just east of Road 38, the CPR had a full station in Tichborne in the 1930s, which handled passenger and freight traffic.
Mary remembers that the CPR building was always very well maintained, and “there were flowers planted along the walkways where people came off the train.”
Mary was raised within metres of the train tracks, and her family ran the coal loading operation at Tichborne.
“The coal was being brought in on coal cars loading into the chutes near the station, and the coal would be dumped into the hoppers of the trains,” she said. As far as Mary knows, the Tichborne station was the only coal loading depot between Toronto and Montreal.
“The men would always come home covered in coal dust. It was quite a job for my great aunt to wash the clothes out each day,” she said.
Although she was very young, Mary remembers the people who rode the rails in the 1900s, trying to get to somewhere better than where they came from. “We didn't call them hobos or anything back then; they were just people who were looking for some help, and we always had enough to share with one or two."
In the '40s, she remembers handing out apples to the people who were on the trains that were headed towards Fort Henry, filled with immigrants who were being interred because they had the bad fortune to come from one of the countries that was on the other side of the conflict.
“We didn't know who they were or where they were going, but they asked for apples and we gave them apples,” she recalls.
When she was young, Tichborne boasted three stores, two hotels, a bank, as well as a school, and there were a number of cheese factories in the vicinity.
When Mary married Glen Howes in 1952 and moved to Parham, she was moving to a larger town, the agricultural hub of Hinchinbrooke Township.
“It had three garages, a blacksmith, hotels, stores, and was a very busy place,” she recalls.
Glen worked in one of the garages, Simonett's, which later moved to Sharbot Lake. He and Mary had five children, four boys and a girl, with the youngest two being twin boys. When the children were grown she worked in maintenance for the school board, first in Parham and later on at Sharbot Lake High School, where she worked for 20 years.
As well, she became very, very active as a volunteer, where she has made a mark. Not only was she the president of the Women's Institute on several occasions, but also of the United Church Women as well as being involved with the Parham Happy Travelers and the Parham Fair.
She is perhaps best known, however, for 20 years of work with the Cancer Society. “The cancer society was very good to me when my brother was dying and I knew I had to volunteer with them” she said.
Her first job was as a canvasser during the door-to-door campaign each April. That progressed to being a canvass organiser in the villages around her home.
“I used to run 100 canvassers in the region,” she said, “which kept me busy for three months, getting ready in February and March and canvassing month in April.”
The trick to keeping canvassers happy was to limit their responsibility to 10 houses or so. “People were happy to do their family and neighbours, I never had a lot of trouble finding canvassers.”
Eventually, Mary became involved with the executive of the Cancer Society Regional office based in Kingston, serving in a number of roles, including that of president. The region extends from Trenton to Prescott and includes the rural areas to the north of the 401 throughout that vast territory.
“I spent a lot of time on the road, to Kingston all the time and further yet quite often,” she said.
In recognition of her high standard of volunteer effort, she was one of the first recipients of the Central Frontenac Volunteer of the Year award for Hinchinbrooke District and she also received a Jubilee award a couple of years ago.
Although she says she has turned lazy in her old age, she has been actively involved in the push to turn the former Hinchinbrooke School into a community centre for Central Frontenac.
“We do need some place to gather in this part of the township, and the school is sitting there empty,” she said.
If she can help bring that about, maybe she will finally be accepted in Parham after living there for 63 years, even if she is a Tichborne girl.