Jeff Green | Apr 30, 2015
Mel Good likes to say that he was born on Parham Fair Day, September 7, 1920, and “that was the only fair that I have missed
Mel ended up sitting on the fair board for 50 years and for many of those years he was the MC of the fair.
“I never told any off-colour jokes,” he said, “but I did tell some corny ones, you know, like 'after you sit on them planks for a couple
of years your pants get sore'; that sort of thing.”
He remembers a time when the fair was something that people spent the entire summer waiting for, and when there wasn't a lot of money around to spend at the fair.
“One of the most important things I ever did as a director of the fair was to talk the fair board into making the fair free for children
under 12,” he recalls.
He got the idea after noticing a young girl sitting on the fence at the edge of the fair one hot sunny fair day in the 1940s.
“She had come down all the way from Sharbot Lake. I don't know how she got there, but at the end of the day I realised that she didn't have a quarter to get in. She just sat swinging on the fence all day, listening to the music. I don't think she even had anything to eat...I pushed that motion on them and they fought it a bit, but finally they went for it. The next year attendance at the fair doubled, so people said it hadn't been that bad an idea
Before Mel's father bought a farm property near Parham in 1916 and began raising cattle and running a mixed farm, the Goods had been working as loggers, for some of the major lumber barons of the 19th century, such as HG Rathbun and John Booth.
But Mel was raised on the farm. He remembers blowing the whistle to call the men to lunch when he was five years old, and he kept a herd of Simmental cattle until about 15 years ago.
“I sold them for an average of a thousand bucks, which was pretty good because right after that the mad cow came in and they weren't worth half that. Still it was better than when I was a kid. We used to sell 10 to 12 a year for about $10 each, and those were 800 lb. animals."
One March day in 1930 when he was nine, he was gathering sap with his father when they heard a plane.
“It was a foggy day, desperately foggy, I remember. I was helping my dad make a sleigh that we used for gathering the sap. We heard a plane overhead and heard the motor shut off three times and then a big crash. We ran out there and saw the wreck. There was 22 inches of ice out on the lake and the
tail end of the plane was all you could see of the plane; it was standing straight up in the ice. I got a glimpse of the two men inside the plane but their bodies were badly mangled and they were clearly dead. Seeing that really made an impression on me, and it showed me that there are a lot of rough spots in this world. It was a sad day for sure.”
When Mel was 20 he started working in the shipyards in Kingston, and he remembers it was steady, hard work but the workers were considered crucial to the war effort.
“I went to see about enlisting, and they said I was qualified but that I should go back to the shipyard where I could do more good.”
In 1946, Mel returned to Parham to take care of his mother, keep up the family farm and to purchase the general store in Parham. With his wife Doris and her sister Jean he ran Good's store for 53 years until selling it to Hope Stinchcombe in 2009. Not only did they run the store, they also ran the post office and the train station for 25 years.
"We sold a lot of feed over the years, and a lot of everything that people needed. If there was something we didn't have, we could get it."
They also gave credit, as many stores did in those years.
“Most people were pretty good, but there were always some who took advantage,” he recalls. “One lady ran up $500 and then phoned over the next month looking to start another line of credit. But we kept good records.”
One thing that Mel remembers is the numbers and prices of products, what he sold things for and what they cost him, and most importantly, how much he made and how much work he had to do to make it. Over the years, that understanding of the value of things has stood him in good stead, and ensured his prosperity even as Parham became less and less of a center of commerce.
“When we had the train station and the truck traffic and all the farms were going strong, Parham was pretty busy, but the store kept us going all the way until the day we sold it, I can tell you that.”
He also understood the value of real estate. The farm, which is 500 acres and has a significant amount of frontage on Long Lake, is still entirely in the Good name.
“There were lots of people who sold waterfront lots for $200 in the 40s and 50s, which was a lot of money back then, but I told them they were selling off their most valuable thing for money that would be gone in a year. I still have all the value in the waterfront here.”
The other thing that he has always done, and continues to do now, is collect and preserve artifacts from the past. Whether it is the wing of that plane that went down on Long Lake in 1930, which Hope Stinchcombe found in the store three years ago when she was re-doing the floors, or a crosscut saw from the late 1890s, which he donated to Central Frontenac Township and now hangs in the township office, to records from the past and all kinds of tools from the 18th and early 19th centuries, he has collected it all.
He also has a story to tell about most of the items. He is pretty spry at 95 and is hoping to live longer than his mother did. She made it to 102.