Cornwall’s rigid industrial foundation suffered a menacing crack when its once-largest employer, Canadian Cottons, announced on Dec. 10, 1959, that it was closing its remaining Cornwall mills.
In its heyday, the mills operated in the city by Canadian Cottons, employed 2,000 people.
The company blamed foreign competition and lack of productivity at the Cornwall mills mostly caused by an endless series of legal and wildcat strikes.
One company official said that it seemed that every day somebody at head office asked, “Which Cornwall mill is on strike today?”
In post-war Cornwall, Canadian Cottons was part of the “Big Three” – along with Howard Smith Paper Mills and Courtaulds – that had a combined payroll of 5,000, and created hundreds of spin-off jobs. They were the economic backbone of the city and provided Cornwall with incomes higher than any other Eastern Ontario community.
December became the dreaded bad-news month on the industrial front.
Ten years later Courtaulds announced on Dec. 3. 1969 that it was shutting down its rayon operation and terminating the last of 650 employees.
In December 2004, Domtar dropped a bombshell: Its Cornwall mill, in operation since 1883 and once boasted of having Canada’s largest fine grade paper machine (No. 6), was closing. At its peak, the mill employed 1,700.
The United Counties Health Unit was celebrating its 25th anniversary in December 1959.
The first health unit in the district was launched in 1934 by the province as a five-year pilot project with a $32,000 grant from U.S.-based Rockefeller Foundation. The unit had an administrator and five nurses.
Based in Alexandria, it was Ontario’s first rural health unit.
In 1939 the health unit became a permanent fixture and moved its offices to Cornwall in the United Counties Building. It employed a medical officer of health (MOH), eight nurses and three sanitary inspectors.
After carrying out a study, the federal public works department in December 1959 said Cornwall did not qualify for a deep water port to handle Seaway shipping. It said Prescott was better suited for a port.
However, the feds did not rule out the possibility of Cornwall receiving funding for a harbour. Three years later funding was provided for a Cornwall harbour.
ALSO IN 1959 – Even with 50.2% of voters saying yes to the sale of alcohol, Roxborough Township was staying “dry”. A 60% approval was needed for alcohol to be served in beverage and dining rooms. … Courtaulds (Canada) Ltd. launched production of a new product at its sprawling Cornwall plant. Under the name Courtaulds Plastics Canada, the new facility was producing a light-weight insulation called Styrolite. As with several other attempts at spin-off operations at the plant, it had a short life. … Local talent performing at the annual Children’s Christmas Fund Concert at CCVS auditorium included Michael and Walter Nowicky, Donna Hawkshaw, Nancy Ruffo and the Ferguson family, Marilyn, George, Allen and Carol. … The two-level Walker Store, a Pitt Street fixture for 30 years, was closing in the new year. … Saturday night television viewing (seven channels available to Cornwall residents) included Father Knows Best, Perry Mason, the Pat Boone Show, the Lawrence Welk Show, Bonanza and NHL games. The games were aired after the first period. … The Starlights were playing at the White House Hotel in St. Zotique, Que.
SPORTS STUFF CIRCA 1959 – New York Rangers star Andy Bathgate created an uproar when in a magazine article he called out his list of “dirty” National Hockey League players. He put superstar Gordie Howe at the top of the list followed by Ted Lindsay, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson and Lou Fontinato. Of Howe, he said the Detroit forward “used all the (dirty) tricks (in the book).” He called Harvey and his team-mate Johnson “spearing specialists.” He said Lindsay never dropped his stick in a fight. … Ray Tessier, Paul Gaudet and Bob Steer, all of Cornwall, were playing with St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. … Bob Bingley and Daryl MacMillan of Cornwall were with Washington Presidents of the Eastern Hockey League. … St. Francis Xavier University quarterback Ray Sommerville, a St. Lawrence High School graduate, had completed his second undefeated season. He was ranked as one of the best quarterbacks in Canadian university football.
HERE AND THERE – The Upper Canada District School Board still searching for a site for the new “super” high school to replace historic Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School and St. Lawrence High School. Sites said to be under consideration are northwest corner of Brookdale and Tollgate, the former CIL property and the former Domtar site. Two issues once a site has been selected will be, 1) What to name the new school, which should be an interesting exercise? and 2) What happens to the $1 million bursary left to the collegiate? There could be a legal debate on this one. … If Republicans turn their backs on 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump, the easiest way for a vengeful Trump to destroy the party would be to run as a third-party candidate. That would almost guarantee a Democrat returning to the White House. … Does anybody really believe that Joe Biden will run in 2024?
TRIVIA ANSWER On Jan. 1, 1920 Howard Smith Paper Mills purchased the Toronto Paper Co. Plant in Cornwall for $490,245. A year later the owner’s son, E. Howard Smith was appointed plant manager. The mill went into production in 1883 with one paper machine and 100 employees. In 1920 it had five paper machines and 450 employees.
TRIVIA The former Aardvark night club on First Street started life as: 1) The Lafayette Hotel, 2) The New Windsor Hotel, 3) The Carleton Hotel, 4) The Empire Hotel, 5) Hart’s Rooming House.
QUOTED “The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religion reasons. They couldn’t find three Wise Men and a virgin.” – Jay Leno