NANCY THOMPSON | Special to MuskokaTODAY.com
Bracebridge Horticultural Society was founded in May, 1932, with 90 members and Mrs. McGibbon as president.
Bracebridge was well into the Depression. Money and make-work projects helped build the new arena where people flocked to see “Ace” Bailey, star of the Toronto Maple Leafs the year they won the Stanley Cup.
There was a new 22-bed addition to the Red Cross Hospital, which boasted four nurses, two orderlies, a cook and a maid.
The Bracebridge Citizens’ Band opened the box lacrosse meeting, which formed a Tri-County League.
Despite the brave front, signs of difficult economic times were everywhere. Town staff and teachers received a 10 per cent pay cut; Ward 4 school was closed to shave 1 mill off the tax rate. The library received donated books and the Reading Room was wonderfully patronized.
Eggs were 15 cents per dozen.
The Bird Woollen Mill went back to taking local farmers’ wool (15 cents per pound) to make yarn, cloth and blankets.
It was too wet to harvest grain and root crops.
The Fall Fair had 500 more entries than previous years — many hoping to get cash prize money.
In 1933 the Depression deepened. Some Townships could no longer supply relief assistance; many homes were burgled- mainly for food.
Municipalities and the horticultural society supplied seeds and encouraged people to plant vegetable gardens and arranged to judge home veggie gardens.
In the mid 1930s seeds and rootstocks were sent to thousands of families in the prairies after their dreadful drought and dust storms. Relief gardens were organized for the needy with free seeds and lectures on how to grow vegetables. This program continued for more than a decade.
In 1936 Bracebridge Horticultural Society supported the Ontario Horticultural Association in establishing the Trillium as Ontario’s floral emblem.
As early as 1949 BHS held an essay contest: “Save the Wildflowers.”
We were ahead of our time.
Over the years the horticultural society has had many floats in many parades; encouraged gardens with front yard garden contests: planted 3,560 tulips on Wharf Hill; helped plan and put in a section of the Rotary’s Centennial Gardens (2005); purchased books for the library; helped get the Seed Library started.
We also planted the Community Herb Garden; maintained gardens at Band Shell, Boer War Fountain, James D Lang Park, Library, Senior’s Centre and part of Rotary Gardens for years.
In 2000 we established our Millennium Garden (off Ecclestone Drive) and doubled its size in 2001. We also purchased gardening books for the library.
All of which brings us to 2022, Canada’s Year of the Garden and the Bracebridge Hort Society’s 90th Anniversary.
We are still encouraging people to garden; still encouraging schools with an annual grant; still encouraging further education in hort related fields (annual bursary).
And still serving Bracebridge with gardens and information support.
Nancy Thompson is president of the Bracebridge Horticultural Society