Reader recalls Almonte of eight decades ago

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Remembrances of “Days Gone By” by Murray Stewart Guthrie, born July 1, 1923

Murray on Mill Street in 1935.

As I recall, during Prohibition, the only non-alcoholic drink that was available was called “4.4”. It was sold at the old Belmonte Hotel which was run by a man named Kelly. The hotel was situated on High Street, just behind what used to be the Almonte Hotel. If you wanted an alcoholic drink you could go to your doctor to get a line (prescription) at a cost of $2.00.

As I recall, 87 to 90 years ago, Almonte had two Chinese businesses. One was a restaurant run by a man named Chick Soo who served all types of food. He was across from the Anchor Knitting Mill which was located across from the present Post Office.

The other was a Chinese laundry run by a chap everyone called Charlie. The reason I recall Charlie is because he had an extra finger on the right hand.

Charlie’s laundry was on Little Bridge Street next to the home and office of Dr. John K. Kelly. To make a living he would pick up clothing from prominent business people, put them in a bag, take them back to his place and hand launder them. He would return them the following week.

This reminds me of a story handed down to me from my father, James Guthrie, who along with a few other men would congregate on the steps of McCabe’s Meat Market daily after work at the mill. It was just across from the War Memorial.

On this occasion the men observed Charlie with a bag on his back coming across the railway bridge, probably from J.B. Wylie, owner of the Almonte Flour Mill, who lived in the home later owned by the late Rubin Pierce.

To get back to my story, the men saw Charlie crossing the railway bridge. When he was about halfway across, a train was in sight. Charlie began to run but in vain, the train was getting closer upon him. Realizing he was losing he battle he jumped off the tracks into the Thorburn Mill flume. On seeing this, the men at McCabe’s ran over thinking Charlie had got killed by the train. When they got over to where they saw the last of Charlie, they found him climbing out of the water up the embankment to where the observers were waiting. Gordy Ritchie asked, “Are you alright, Charlie?”

And Charlie replied, “All right, but damn wet!”