AN AFTERNOON WITH ESTHER & HARRY LEWIS
Editor: Andrew Fuyarchuk | Photography: Kenny Wang
Esther Reesor (branch to Armstrong’s on grand-mother’s side) married to Harry Lewis. Reesor’s, Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites came to Markham in 1804.
Changes in Markham
Esther, “It has completely changed from all agriculture to mostly industrial to a new life, new people, everything has changed; selling land, building homes everywhere. Markham Fair was always on Hwy 48 and #7 when I grew up and now it’s over here (McCowanRd. and Elgin Mills) and now it’s almost ready to leave here I think.”
Esther, “I grew up on a farm so I helped out some and we all grew up together in the same public school and then that group went to the Markham High School. Our friends, when we grew up are still our friends today whereas now a lot of young people with so many changes they don’t have their high school friends.”
Esther, “We had a one-room school house” Harry Lewis, “It took us an hour to walk to school.It was located on Kennedy south of 19th. It’s still there, but it’s made into a house now. All the grades were there, eight grades and one teacher with thirty or forty kids as a rule.”
Esther, “And my school was Locust Hill which was up the 10th, which is now Reesor Road and it had eight grades. Our fathers drove us, or we walked or we rode our bicycle mostly.”
Harry, “And there was a little building at the corner of each school and that was your outhouse – there was no public washrooms, two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys.”
Esther, “Baseball is what I did mostly in the High school.”
Harry, “Yeah, Peach’s—the Church down here. It had a girl’s ball team and a boy’s ball team and a hockey team.”
Esther and Harry, “Each farm was 100 acres way back, 120 acres. We only worked 100 acres and not 1,000 acres like today. That was a big farm then. We raised chickens, produced milk, eggs and cheese, a little bit of everything back then.”Esther, “Our main production was dairy, and we grew all the food. And at that time everyone had gardens and when the vegetables came in we would freeze or can the corn.”
Esther, “Our farm came to us from our great grand-parents.
I grew up East of Markham, on Reesor Road and number 7 at my great-grandparents farm. It’s sold now. They (Harry and his brother Murray) moved here from up the road (after his older sister and brother Gord were born) in about 1929 and then the Depression came right after that.”
The Depression 1929-1939
Harry, “The Depression just about ruined everyone pretty well, but you were able to hang on a bit.” Esther, “And farmers had food and a lot of people from the city came out on weekends with the contacts they had for food. If you had relatives in the city, they would come out. My mother took in boarders. They were putting number 7 through at that time. And there was always somebody she was feeding in the dining room. Some stayed over-night and some just had the meals as they went. We usually had a hired man.”
Hurricane Hazel 1954
Esther, “It affected me! When the hurricane came through I was having my first highschool graduation dance.”
Harry, “The Hurricane didn’t affect us so much, but anybody that was on the crick over here, Hoover’s up there, they had a bunch of chickens and the hurricane took them all. The crick was ten feet high pretty near I guess. I didn’t see it but I could tell by the water marks.”
Esther, “Mississauga got wiped out. Different areas were hit in different ways. Everyone helped out with what they could do. If there was a barn fire, then you would have a barn raising and it wouldn’t be long before there would be a group together to help.
Harry, “They tore the barn down over here. And they put up a new one, and to raise it, I wasn’t home, but my dad and brother, it took 100 men to raise a barn, and no insurance, and nobody got paid or nothing. And the women would come and feed you noon and night. And 100 men, all volunteer and no insurance, no safety belts, just ride on the beams going up and it was a high barn too.”
“My grandfather went to the closest Church and that was Methodist at that time. So I didn’t grow up as a Mennonite but my interest is there. My grandfather helped build Locust Hill United Church. He was a carpenter. And that’s where your life centered. Your life centered at the Church because that’s where everybody else went, your friends were there, which is a big change now. Today, people aren’t as involved in certain areas of Church life now. More things going on I guess. I was at a meeting yesterday and they said, hockey and sports didn’t change things that much because you still have a choice. The choice is to play hockey Sunday morning. It’s just life. People know so much more worldly things.” Harry, “Well, years ago you didn’t go that far. I mean if you went five miles to Stouffville that was a big trip for the day. You maybe go once a week, but now they go all over the world and where we just think of going to Stouffville.”