Written by: Jack Jackowetz
The 1960s were a time of growth and optimism for Brantford and Canada. The post war boom that took hold in the 1950s exploded in the 1960s as the City expanded with new suburban subdivisions and the accompanying suburban amenities. Downtown, with its congestion and old deteriorating buildings, began to lose ground to new modern, spacious, bright, sprawling suburban stores and plazas that offered plenty of free parking.
Highways and Railways
Planning for the Brantford Expressway, later referred to as the Brantford Southern Access Road, began in 1958. To deal with increasing automobile traffic congestion in the City, a 1964 traffic study report recommended more one-way streets and restrictions on downtown on-street curb parking during rush hours in addition to the construction of the expressway. The idea of the Brantford Expressway was to build a limited-access expressway to connect Colborne Street West (at Oakhill Drive) in West Brant with Highway 403. The Brantford Expressway was approved by Council in November-1966 and was expected to be completed by 1995. The Ontario government had land banked property in the Shellard’s Lane area in West Brant and the Brantford Expressway was integral to moving residents to and from this area to Highway 403 and beyond to destinations west, north and east. On 21-February-1969, the City and provincial government signed an agreement to fund and build the Expressway. The first portion of the Expressway between Mount Pleasant Street and Ontario Street which included a new bridge over the Grand River opened in 1972. Construction of this section was approved by Council in 1966.
Tenders for the construction of the first portion of Highway 403 through Brantford were invited in May-1963. This portion ran from Paris Road in the west to what is now Garden Avenue in the east. A connector road was built between the terminus of the eastern portion of the highway with Highway 2 and 53 in Cainsville until Highway 403 was completed to Hamilton. This connector road is now Garden Avenue, County Road 18. What is notable about Highway 403 is that it was built through Brantford rather than around it. This portion of Highway 403 opened on 31-October-1966. My Dad and I traveled on the new highway the day it opened. The western portion of Highway 403 connecting with Highway 401 at Woodstock was completed in 1988. The eastern portion connecting Brantford with Ancaster opened in August-1997. A party was held on the highway on 15-August-1997 to celebrate the completion of Highway 403 between Woodstock and Hamilton, through Brantford.
Highway 24A that connected Galt with Paris was originally planned to be extended to Simcoe, along Rest Acres Road to Highway 53 and then along a brand new portion to Simcoe through Scotland. However the Department of Highways decided to number the new route between Highway 53 and Simcoe Highway 24 and abandoned the extension of Highway 24A south of Paris. On 18-August-1967 the newly aligned Highway 24 opened. The portion of the original Highway 24 that ran along Mount Pleasant Street through Mount Pleasant and Waterford to Simcoe was decommissioned and the new Highway 24 alignment followed Highway 53 through West Brant, past the airport. The new Highway 24 met with Rest Acres Road at Highway 53.
Passenger train service on Canadian National Railway’s Buffalo & Lake Huron Railway line between Fort Erie, through Brantford, to Stratford, was discontinued in 23-April-1960.
Electric operation on the Lake Erie & Northern Railway ended with a special excursion train on 30-September-1961. Diesel engines from the Canadian Pacific Railway replaced the electric cars after this. In 1962 freight service on the LE&N between Simcoe and Port Dover was discontinued. In 1965 LE&N trains began using the TH&B track between Brantford and Waterford and the LE&N tracks between Brantford and Waterford were abandoned.
The CNR subway on Clarence Street was widened to four lanes in 1963. Up until that time the subway was the same narrow subway still found on Murray and Rawdon Streets.
Street Name Changes
In 1962, a new laneway, east of Raleigh Street, St. Mary’s Lane opened. In 1965, Brewery Lane which ran south from Colborne Street West near Welsh Street was renamed St. Mary’s Lane. Brewery Lane marked the western edge of a brewery that operated at this site under various names; Spencer Brewing and Malting Company, West Brantford Brewery, Brantford Brewing and Malting Company, and finally Westbrook and Hacker Brewing Company; between 1845 until 1910 when the brewery was destroyed by fire.
Arts and Culture
Glenhyrst saw its fortunes reverse as the decade progressed. In 1960, it was deemed to be a unique asset in all of Canada, extremely busy, and paying its way. In 1969, when the gallery’s plan for expansion had stalled, the Art Gallery of Ontario stated that the gallery was too small and did not meet the AGOs security and environmental standards to mount exhibits of loaned AGO pieces.
In 1964, Brantford hosted what was planned to be an annual event, Maytime Brantford; the City’s equivalent of the Calgary Stampede. It was supposed to be Mardi Gras like, with a historical pageant, musical productions, parades, sports events, and a midway. It did feature a large art exhibit that displayed 260 paintings and sculptures; but mostly it was a midway and public support was poor. City Council withdrew their financial support for the 1965 festival and that was the end of Maytime Brantford.
In 1967, Arthur J Kelly of Burford mounted the largest centennial parade in Canada. The theme of the parade was local and national history. The parade included 105 floats and 5,000 marchers and lasted two and a half hours. It was watched by 50,000 people.
Sports and Recreation
The Kiwanis Club leased Mohawk Park from the City in 1960 in a bid to restore the park as a major summer attraction and a destination for family recreation. The Club wanted to offer boating, sailing, fishing, and a sandy beach. The club upgraded the sporting facilities and launched a pontoon boat, the Kiwanis Queen, to take people on pleasure rides on Mohawk Lake. The efforts of the Kiwanis Club did result in an increase in park campers. However in 1965 the Department of Lands and Forests deemed the lake dead; it was full of sludge and debris with oxygen levels too low to support game fish. This announcement hurt the reputation of the park and curtailed efforts to revive it.
In 1963, the first bantam-aged (age 15) baseball team from Brantford won the provincial championship. The team was assembled from the best players in the city to compete for the championship.
In 1968, it was again proposed to redevelop the Arrowdale Golf Course property for housing.
The Brantford Red Sox of the Intercounty Baseball League won five consecutive league championships between 1959 and 1963. They were the second IBL team to accomplish this feat; the Galt Terriers won five consecutive championships between 1927 and 1931. The Red Sox would win six championships in a row between 2008 and 2013 and seven championships in eight years between 2006 and 2013.
The Brantford Warriors won the Canadian Senior B lacrosse championships in 1963, 1967, and 1968.
Middleweight boxer Gary Summerhayes won the 1967 Canadian amateur middleweight boxing championship. Gary was 18. Gary was trained by boxing training legend Frank Bricker. In spite of his win Gary was not selected for the Canadian team for the 1968 Pan-American Games. He was not viewed as an Olympic style fighter.
Swimmer Sara Barber competed for Canada at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and the 1962 British Empire Games in Perth Australia. Sprinter Debbie Miller competed for Canada at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
In 1969 the CanAmer Games were launched pitting athletes from Brant County against athletes from Berrien County, Michigan. The games were designed to foster peace, harmony and an understanding of our countries by the young athletes. The games alternated each year between Brantford and Benton Harbor, Michigan. The first games were held in Brantford between 8-August and 10-August 1969. The athletes from Berrien County won the first annual competition.
In part 5 next month I outline the growth of suburban Brantford facilitated by the automobile.