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Urban Renewal - Saint John - A City Transformed by Brenda Peters McDermott

The flu season had hit and Mum had been lying on the kitchen couch for several days. She was very concerned that the household was running out of clean clothes and towels.

Since this Saturday morning was brisk and cold but the sun was shining, she asked Cliff and me if we thought we could handle doing the wash.

I put several pots of water on the stove to heat. Then busied myself gathering up the laundry. Cliff pulled the washer out from behind the door and carefully put the rollers in place and tightened the wringer down. Next he brought in the stand for the rinse tub along with a box of Oxydol.

We filled the washer with hot water from the pots and the tank on the wood stove, and put in the white articles of clothing. Mum was overseeing all of this from the couch. She was keeping a close eye on us not mixing colours. Next we pulled the lever and started the agitator. 

While the agitator sang a song of “Back and Forth”, we heated more water to fill the Beatty rinse tub.

Once we shut off the agitator, I put the load of clothes through the wringer, being very careful not to jam my fingers. Next we swished the clothes around the rinse tub with a wooden stick, turned the wringer 90 degrees and ran the clothes back through the wringer to fall into the wicker clothes hamper.

In the meantime Cliff was putting in the towels and the process was repeated. I think we did about five loads with the last one being mainly denim overalls and work socks.

By the time all the clothes were fastened to the three clotheslines, my hands felt like they were frozen.

About 4:30, I thought it time to bring the clothes off the line. But what a mess we found ourselves in. The clothes were not only frozen to the line but were as stiff as a board. It was necessary to carry most of them in one by one and put them on the rack that was made of broom handles that we had placed over the floor furnace.

The cover of  Brenda Peters McDermott’s book Urban Renewal - Saint John - A City Transformed shows, a block quilt, blankets, bed sheets, clothes, etc. blowing in the wind on four clothes lines at 142 St Patrick St. in what was referred to as the East End.

As you step back to the 1960s and the 1970s and view the pictures in Brenda’s 500 page book, you will see many a wash hanging on the clothes lines.

You will also see homes, stores, schools, restaurants, churches and other buildings that are gone and streets that are no more in the East End, North End, Saint John Throughway, and City Centre of Saint John.

Since a young boy, my husband has taken a great interest in automobiles, therefore he spent hours enjoying looking at each picture, identifying the year and model of almost every car.

Others have told me of their memories of the corner stores, where groceries lined the shelves and candy could be purchased for a penny.

As Urban renewal progressed and buildings were torn down, many families were moved into new homes in the Crescent Valley area,

It was thought that Urban Renewal was a necessity but leaving your home, a close-knit community and friends was very difficult.

The aerial maps with the names of streets are real eye openers of times past.

This book provides the family researchers with a picture of a house in which their ancestors may have lived and at times has provided the clue to the background for the researcher for a photo in a family album. If unsure of the ancestor’s street address, consult the old City Directories that can be found in several research institutions.

For many, memories come rushing back with a look at the Gladstone Tavern with a life size horse and carriage on the roof, or the beautiful mansard roof house at 290 Rockland Road or the turret house at 167 Paradise Row.

Someone may even remember who drove the 1960 Pontiac that is in front of 74 Simonds St., the 1958 Pontiac Station wagon sitting at the foot of the stairs at 55 - 57 Portland St., or the 1957 Chrysler by 51 Murray St.

The folk who lived in the North End were saddened when O’Keefe’s Food Market on Main St. had to close due to the acquiring of properties for the building of the Harbour Bridge. 

The Barrel House Grill on Haymarket Square was frequented by many a teenager.

My memories of teaching in Prince Charles School include the aroma of spices from Barbour`s and of the Hops from the Red Ball Brewery drifting into the classroom through the open window.

The publication of Urban Renewal - Saint John - A City Transformed by Brenda Peters McDermott has been a dream come true - not only for the people who remember the buildings and the streets but for all the family researchers seeking pictorial information on the areas of Saint John that have vanished.


Query 1852
Brooks - Westall: I am looking for information on Mary Ann Brooks who married William Westall (1821-1888) on 05 Dec 1843.

Query 1853
Shepherd - Longstaff: According to the July 31 1831 issue of the New Brunswick Courier, John Shepherd of Woodstock Parish, married Mary Longstaff, the youngest daughter of John Longstaff. John Henry Shepherd was born in Maine U.S.A. in 1838. There were possibly nine sons with Edmund and John Henry deaths being in British Columbia. I am seeking information on the family.
Contact Donna Sweet, BC by email

Query 1854
Washburn - Brown - Mercer: Who were the parents of James William Washburn (1819-1903) of St. Martins. What was his relationship to Abel Washburn. Was Lavina Brown the wife of  James William Washburn. I am also looking for information about Ebeneezer Washburn and his wife, Marie Mercer. According to family history Ebeneezer immigrated to the Canadian Maritimes about 1640, from Rhode Island. Ebeneezer and Marie are reported to be parents of Able Washburn, Sr.  Did Ebeneezer have other children?  Did he have siblings living in the Maritimes?
Contact Daniel Jones at


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