Kemptville in 1951: 70 years of change

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Things have changed a lot in North Grenville over the past few decades, and it’s fascinating to take a close look at some of those changes in detail. Back in 1951, the Eastern Ontario Development Association published a brochure on communities in the region of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Their statistics on the Village of Kemptville as it was then make interesting reading.

“Population: 1,555. 1951 census data: Males, 46.2%; Females, 53.8%; Roman Catholic, 10.7%; Protestant 84.7%. Total families, 397. Average persons per family, 3.1. Families with children, 215 (54.2%). Total households 481. Families maintaining own households, 367 (76.3%).” By 1965, the population had grown to 2,088.

The housing situation also compares with today’s situation: “Construction presently meets demand. Sites are available with sewer and water. There are sufficient rental units. There is a town plan in effect… Zoning by-laws are awaiting approval”. In 1965, it was reported that: “New areas are being opened up, houses erected, with modern conveniences and roads are laid as quickly as possible….back of the Anglican Church area, new roads are being completed, and cosy homes built.”

The working population made up just 29.4% of the residents, of which 74.8% were male. The wages paid may seem a little low, to put it mildly, compared to current minimum wages. “Median wage, $1,650 with 21.7% between $1,500 and $1,999 and 43.2% under $1,500. Median family head wage, $1,980 with 39.1% between $1,000 and $1,999 and 51.4% under $2,000. Good available labour supply.” However, costs were far lower then than they are today.

Industrial development sites were available, with sewer and water services, from $1.00 to $2.00 per acre. The main employers in the Village were The Borden Co., producing milk, with 40 employees, and Moore Business Forms, employing 25 people. (The Manager of Kemptville Creameries, Ltd., Lorne Reddick, later complained that his company, which employed 15 people, had not been included in the brochure.) There were 35 stores in Kemptville, and just one bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia.

The general description of the Village gives a social and cultural context to the report: “On Rideau River close to Rideau Lakes resort area. Good fishing and hunting. Lawn and indoor bowling, hockey, skating, golf course, tennis, movie house. Schools: Public 1, High, 1. Kemptville Agricultural School and diploma courses in Agriculture and Home Economics. Nearest hospital, Winchester 15 miles.”

It points out that the nearest crossing point to the United States was a ferry operating out of Prescott, 29 miles away. Transportation infrastructure included the C.P.R. railway line between Prescott and Ottawa, and Highway 16, linking the same two destinations.

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