Tag Archives: Denis Seguin

The history of Sinclair Supply Company

A story of the Siversky family’s success in Vankleek Hill

In 2001, Historical Society summer student Seema Maloni interviewed Sidney Siversky. Here is an excerpt focused on the Sinclair Supply business that his older brother Alex Siversky began in the 1940s, and which Sidney joined as a partner.
The interview covered various aspects of Sidney’s busy life: arrival of the Siversky Family in Canada; his business life; and his political life when he served as Mayor of Vankleek Hill.
As Sidney Siversky mentions here in 2001, his older brother and business partner Alex Siversky died in 1996. Sidney died in 2005, and their brother Frank Siversky passed away in 2020. Frank, together with his wife Frances Siversky, founded and managed the successful Siversky Hardware store on Main Street in Hawkesbury. The brothers were a powerhouse example of entrepreneurial spirit.
Here is the Sinclair Supply Company portion of the 2001 interview, in Sidney’s own words. Additional content is clearly indicated.

Sinclair Supply: the beginning

The company my brother Alex and his partners bought in Vankleek Hill was operated by John A. Sinclair. After we purchased the company, Mr. Sinclair used to come down and sit in the office and he did this for probably four or five years. He didn’t work or anything, but he was interested in the progress the company was making. We decided to continue operating the business under the name Sinclair. Because of the different ventures, we called it Sinclair Supply Company. He was well-known in the community, and, until the end of the business we used Mr. Sinclair’s name.
The company was originally purchased in 1947 by my brother Alex and his partners. And then the partners were eventually bought out. My brother Alex and I worked together for some 50 years. He is now deceased.
The year I came to Vankleek Hill, my brother Alex had come 2 or 3 years earlier, and bought a building that operated as a building supply company in those days.

Clipping from 1945 issue of the Glengarry News. These ads demonstrate the determination of Alex Siversky to connect with a wide community, and to develop a business response.

They sold coal, they sold lumber, they had a sawmill, they had a kiln to dry lumber, and a little sash and door plant. The sash and door plant was inside the former Agricultural Society building. It was a very interesting building in the design of it.

Historical Society Note: The first fairgrounds in town were at the corner of Mill and Boyd streets, today vacant land. The Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society purchased the land in 1872, and a segment of Mill Street became Agriculture Street. There was a $575 mortgage which was discharged in 1880. As the fair became more popular and expanded, the Fair Board sold the land for $805. In 1886, they purchased a larger lot on Main Street West for $1,625, where the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Fair is held today.

Vankleek Hill Insurance Map, 1912. Alex Siversky used this old map because the property he purchased at the corner of Mill and Boyd streets still contained the same buildings. He superimposed his Sinclair Supply Company needs over the old buildings he would re-use. The L-shaped building opposite the top of Jay Street (to the right) and circled in green is the Agricultural Society Hall constructed between 1874 and 1886. (Musée Vankleek Hill Collection, donor Ted & Marcia Liddycoat)

Sidney continues: When I first came to Vankleek Hill to join my brother, I drove a truck. We had an old Model T Ford truck. I did that, delivering merchandise.
In those days, we made some changes in the sash and door plant. We started building furniture, and we built end-tables and sold them to Eaton’s in Montreal. After a few years, we found out that this wasn’t a viable profit-type of operation, so we abandoned doing that.

Sinclair Supply Company Ltd., c. 1945. This building first served as the hall for the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society between 1872 and 1886, when the Society purchased the current location on Main Street West for the Fair. Alex Siversky re-purposed the building. (Photo Siversky Family Archives)

We continued making door frames and windows in the sash and door plant. We sawed the lumber and we had a lumber-drawing in the yard, and kept a big inventory. We had the kiln, and we had horses.

Expansion continues

As time went on, we decided to buy an oil truck. We could see that oil was the coming fuel, and we did an assessment of the area and we found that none of the trucks had meters on them, only gauges. It was a visible type of thing. So, we bought a new truck with a meter on it. We built-up quite an oil business.
We found that we had developed a lot of steady customers with our lumber supplies sales. When a large construction contract was awarded in the area, we’d complain that we were not able to sell these customers any materials. Our customers said, why don’t you get into construction and you can supply your own materials.
So, then we decided to get into construction.

Disaster strikes

And then we had a terrible fire.
We were pretty well wiped-out of the whole business of the sash and door plant. There was no town water system, so we just grabbed what water we could. That was the end of that operation.

In 1951, fire destroyed the offices and workrooms of Sinclair Supply. Decisions had to be made about whether or not to continue. (Photo James Oswald Family Archives)

After the fire my brother and I sat down and discussed, “What do we do?,” “Do we rebuild?” We had no insurance. We couldn’t afford insurance because there were no fire hydrants, no fire protection; insurance was too costly.
We did rebuild, and later we had some 200 employees. We had our own plumbers, our own electricians, our own carpenters, so it was a big responsibility.

Sinclair Supply Rebuilds Bigger

Sinclair Supply Company building, late 1950s, at corner of Mill & Boyd streets. The log home on opposite corner remains in place today, covered by siding. (Musee Vankleek Hill Museum. Photo by Archie Hardy)

We started doing repairs in the construction field. We did renovations. Somehow, we got into housing, and we did a considerable number of houses in the community. We started the first subdivision in Vankleek Hill just off Highway 34. (Hillview Subdivision)
And we built houses in the subdivision (Stevens subdivision – nicknamed the ‘new development.’). We built houses for CIP. Over a 15- to 20-year period, we built a house for every CIP President elected. We were fortunate to be awarded those houses.
During that period of time, we also worked at the Seigneury Club in Montebello. They built some huge houses.
But then because we lived in a small community, and our staff was getting larger, we felt that we had to expand.

Sinclair Supply Employees Remembered

We had several employees in those days, and a lot of them were related or inter-related. We had quite a few employees, and their names were Lapensée. We had four or five from the same family working for us. Then we had another family by the name of Cummings, and we had two of their family working for us. Then we had twins working for us, their name was Doth. They stayed with us for years and years. I’ve forgotten how many, 35 or 40 years.

Memory from J. Denis Seguin Architect of Vankleek Hill who worked summers as a student at Sinclair Supply, and credits many of the longtime employees for grounding him in construction methods.
Denis adds: When we remember the employees, it is equally important to recognize the Siversky Family as ‘donneur d’ouvrage’ – their business efforts kept countless families fed in this region.
There were in-store workers like Lionel Mercier, and Gerry Piché. Carpenters, such as René Ouimet – in my view, a man who could make anything with any material.
My stint with Sinclair began in the estimating office working under Leonce Delplancke. In 1976, I was a junior estimator at $5.00 /hr. This was summer employment while attending university.
Later that same summer I asked Mr. Siversky – Sydney – if I could join the construction/carpenters crew. He said, we need to know what you can do. He gave me the job of adding tin to the 2nd floor office rooftop. I was up for it, and jumped at it for a raise to $ 7.00/hr if I did well.
Télis Lapensée took me down to the third yard, known as the company scrapyard, and left me there to sort through secondhand tin. There was a lot of re-purposing back then. After I completed my selections, Télis returned with the big Hyster fork lift and got the sheets of tin. He raised it all to the roof and I unloaded it.
It took a few days for me to complete the roofing, and Sidney came to inspect. His response was, job well done. He brought me orange paint to make it all look good from afar.
I got my raise, and was sent out with the men to construction sites in Cornwall, Prescott, Hawkesbury and then across the river to Quebec projects. We left the shop at 7:00 or sometimes at 6:00 a.m., which made for 44-hour weeks with some O/T.
Sinclair was building homes all over the place. René Ouimet and I were on the finishing crew. We did all the touch-ups, special installs like fireplaces, poured walkways, installed floor finishes and carpet, hung doors etc.
Sinclair began doing social housing projects in Cornwall. René and I did final stairs, window caulking and deficiencies clean-up for final inspections.
Once Sinclair got the provincial contract to build and maintain OPP stations, I got to help. We also did work on their buildings in Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill.
In Vankleek Hill, in the ‘new development,’ I worked on the 28-day house at the corner of Home and Barton streets. It was built in 28 days.
Sinclair had me build decks and even window flowerboxes such as at the Orr’s house on Barton Street. They are still there, 40 + years later.
I worked for Sidney and Alex Siversky for four summers, and it strengthened my construction knowledge which led to my becoming a successful architect. To this day, I can walk through any construction site and say, “I did that kind of work.” Because of my experience with Sinclair Supply and the employees I worked with, I know what it takes and how to do it well.

Sidney continued: At that time, I was looking after construction, and doing the estimating and pretty much everything except doing the inspection of the construction. We thought that we would have to specialize, and go farther afield.
From there, we got involved with curling clubs; there was a need for curling clubs. So, we built the curling club in Vankleek Hill; we built the Hawkesbury Golf and Curling Club. Then we went to Baie d’Urfe and built a curling club. From there we went into different types of construction, we went into schools, and we did high schools too. Another year, it was church halls. Then the Ontario government decided to subsidize housing and build senior citizens’ homes. We set-up a department to look after that. We built them in most communities from here to beyond Cornwall, and up as far as Ottawa.  We stayed out of the big cities.

Housing & Industry Markets

We built hundreds and hundreds of either individual houses that were subsidized, or senior citizens’ homes that were probably 40 or 50 units at a time, in different towns like Finch, Avonmore, Lancaster, Hawkesbury.
Alex looked after the building supply company; he looked after the financing of both that and the construction because it grew so large that we pretty well had to divide it. We still operated under the same name, but I was responsible for construction and he was responsible for the financing. As the projects grew, the financing was considerable.
Then in 1970 or 1972, there was a movement from the province of Quebec for industry, and we got involved in what we call ‘design build.’ We hired our own designers and by that time we had three estimators in the office, and we started building plants.
In Hawkesbury alone, we built about 80% of all the new plants. We expanded and went into Cornwall to build some plants, and then up to Kingston, Brockville and Napanee. During those years we were specializing in industrial buildings.
At the same time, we sometimes got involved in what is called a turn-key building, that we owned and we would lease to the manufacturers. We built some of those, kept some of them for ourselves which we still own. There was another period where we got into building banks. We built numerous of those.
At the same time, we built-up quite a large land-bank in the Hawkesbury area. Between the two communities of Hawkesbury and Champlain Township, we had some 400 to 500 acres of industrial or commercial land, and we have been developing it.
Within the town of Hawkesbury, we also have commercial land which we have sold over the years. Where the new Zellers store is, that was developed on our land.

Note: The Zellers building is Walmart today. In 1999, Hawkesbury named the street access to Walmart, Alex Siversky Street.

In the late 80s, Sinclair Supply built a second outlet in Hawkesbury. It was a 10,000 square foot building on Spence Street which had a modern building supply store and it was operated for three or four years.
But it proved to be unnecessary as it was too close to the one in Vankleek Hill which maintained its popularity.

In 1967, Vankleek Hill Mayor Sydney Siversky promoted the publication of “An Invitation to Vankleek Hill.” It was published by the Industrial Committee and the contact for investors was Cecil E. Barton, Clerk of Vankleek Hill. This page is an excerpt from the booklet. (Musée Vankleek Hill Collection, donor Michelle Landriault)

The history of Vankleek Hill’s Mill St. Park 1950-1979

A Story of Kids Finding a Way To Play

Twice, Vankleek Hill has constructed an arena on a lot facing Mill Street and backed by Wall Street. How did the arena come to be in this location?
This is the location of a small body of water known as the “tarn”, a lingering glacial depression that collected water. In this case, an underground spring. The lane that sweeps behind the current baseball field is Loch Street, named after the original pond.
From an undated scrapbook comes this nostalgic 19thC memory of the pond and the big rock that sat within the water. It was written by W.D. McLaurin – William Drake McLaurin (1850-1938) – the son of Vankleek Hill merchant John McLaurin and Hannah Drake. In his 20s, William was a cooper and at the time of his death at age 88 in 1938, he was described as a street car conductor.
The reason for his death in October, 1938 speaks to his independence. William caught a chill at his Union Street home while chopping wood for the winter, and died of pneumonia in the Vankleek Hill Hospital on Bertha Street.
His brief memoir of adventures at the pond in his youth provides us with a precious view of how children made their own fun – all year long – before the existence of modern parks and recreation. Note that W.D. McLaurin refers to knowing Peter Vankleek – this would have been Peter Cass Vankleek, great-grandson of Simon Vankleek. The memories take place about 1860 when William Drake McLaurin was 10.
What prompted him to write? He tells us it was the deliberate blasting apart of the large rock that was, for the children, the central spotlight of the tarn. Based on his reference to friends long gone, I suggest that he wrote this in the 1930s.

The Stone in the Mill Pond by W.D. McLaurin

Yes, the stone, or rock I might call it, the one that stood in the centre of the pond, is there no more, destroyed last Fall, what about it? Only a stone, blown up to make room for something else, it may mean nothing to you, but it does to me, for I miss it every time I walk down Mill Street. It may mean the same to my schoolmates, but they are silent about it.
There are only a few of us left anyway. But I remember when the pond was to us boys a “Lake, ” yes, a lake, for I have seen it roll up to the road, beautiful waves on a windy day, the sparkle of the sun light playing upon it, made it appear as if the great stone were a Scotch pebble set in a brooch of diamonds and pearls. Then, our swimming place at the foot of the old lime kiln, where the water was clean for about one hundred feet, is now all covered with weed.
On the pond I had my raft, where I spent many happy hours. Peter VanKleek made a boat and gave me a ride in it, which I enjoyed very much. I never forgot Peter for his kindness to a boy. But the stone, what was there about it, that if I went near it, it filled me with awe. I kept away from it, somehow I felt as if it were very deep there, and if I fell in, they would never find me, and I did not want to die and go to Heaven, Vankleek Hill was heaven enough for me, but I did row up to it one day, and touched it.
A party of us made a raft of four logs, and when we got near the rock two of the logs broke away, and into the water went the boys, my brother Peter among them. Dexter Flynn lifted the boys back onto the two logs I was sitting on, then Dexter waded ashore. Peter and I went home, Peter to dry his clothes; for punishment we were sent to bed at four o’clock and us hearing the boys playing out on the street, however it did not prevent me from being on my beloved raft the next day.
Then when winter came, and the pond frozen over, what a gathering place the great stone made for the skaters to rest themselves upon. The girls in the afternoon, the boys in the evening, the delightful sociability of it all, that clusters about that stone.
By and by, like our grove which was our play ground and park, the pond also like the grove, only a memory, who cares, or do you care? Well, let me tell you about another stone, when you pass away, loving relatives will place a stone at the head of your grave, plant flowers and visits will be made every afternoon, by and by the flowers will wither and die, the stone will commence to lean over, a little more next year, a few years more, it lies flat on its face. What about it, nobody thinks enough of you to straighten it up. Who cares.
— W.D. McLaurin

Where did the children find logs for a raft? A variety of small sawmills were in operation scattered around Vankleek Hill, including Mill Street. In 1883, the tarn/pond attracted Albert Cheney and Robert Dunning who opened a large sawmill business, located where the arena stands. The company expanded in 1891 to become the Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company with general store owner Malcolm McCuaig as president, postmaster William McAdam was secretary-treasurer, and Albert Cheney remained as manager. The tarn or pond was used for floating the logs. There was a turning mill for sash and door making, as well as fancy work such as gingerbread scroll work.

Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company, Mill Street c.1910 (Vankleek Hill Museum postcard collection)

The business prospered as local farmers now had a place to bring all types of wood from their land clearing, while at the same time they could pick-up finished products for their new buildings, as reported in the Eastern Ontario Review on March 2, 1894.
Fire was a constant threat in sawmills where sparks would easily leap and quickly find combustible materials. In 1918, the VKH Manufacturing Company sawmill on Mill Street burned down to the ground.

Report on successful Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company activities. The Eastern Ontario Review, March 2, 1894.

Detail from the Vankleek Hill Insurance Map, 1912 showing the buildings of the Vankleek Hill Manufacturing Company on Mill Street.

In the 1920s, the property was advertised for sale for at least two years. A reduced business of milling finished-lumber continued until 1928. That year, lumberman John R. McLaurin bought the property to use for storage.

Short years later, in 1933, owner John R. McLaurin died, and the property passed into the hands of his widow Elizabeth “Bessie” A. McLaurin.
Even during those sawmill years, children still dared to have their fun at the pond. According to author Alan MacKinnon, his late father Clifford played “on the logs in the mill pond when the ice went out in the spring. The farmers would bring the logs in by bobsleigh in the winter time and leave them on top of the ice.

“The young boys would jump from log to log playing lumber jack to see who could last the longest. In the winter time they would slide down the large frozen sawdust pile (to the south-east of the sawmill building) on their feet.”
With the 1930s abandonment, town children returned to make their fun on the pond in the summer, and on the ice in the winter. Even the remaining smokestack became a target for bb guns and stones. The late Lionel Mercier, a Vankleek Hill councillor, enjoyed recounting the time as a child when he and a few friends removed – borrowed – the base of a new small coffin from the back of a furniture store on High Street to use as their boat on the shallow pond.
In 1950, widow Elizabeth “Bessie” McLaurin donated the sizeable property to the town for recreational use. Bessie was able to see the new arena completed before she died in 1955.

First Vankleek Hill Arena

Vankleek Hill Flyers posing for their photo in the 1950s arena. Photo James Oswald.

Once the property became municipal, final drainage of the pond took place and the work began to develop an indoor arena. The Vankleek Hill Chamber of Commerce and VKH town council supported the project, and money was raised in the community through auctions, raffles, benefit hockey games and entertainment.
Interviewed in 1989, retired VKH Postmaster & WWII veteran Jack Hurley recalled being on VKH council at the time. He said, “Everybody helped. There were no government grants then; it all had to be raised locally. Ninety percent of the labour was donated.”
Once built, Hurley recounted that in the early 1950s, crowds of up to 1,100 would pack the new Vankleek Hill arena to see the intermediate hockey team that he managed, made-up primarily of Hawkesbury players, defend the town’s honour in the Central Ottawa Valley Hockey League: “That was in the pre-TV years,” he said.
Hurley explained his belief in the importance of sports. “Sports are the greatest thing for a kid to get into.” He connected sports to the camaraderie he had experienced in the RCAF – the team spirit. “The same applies to sports,” he said.
The formation of the local Legion branch kickstarted sports for kids and for “old vets,” he added. Soon there was a ball club, and an outdoor rink at the current location of Country Depot on Home Avenue.
He added from his time coaching young male hockey players, “I’ve had the chance to meet so many nice people. There is a lot of comradeship. Sports can bring pride to a place. There is always a certain amount of pride, even if you lose. In the old days, our teams didn’t win a provincial or national championship, but we had a lot of fun trying. We may never have had too many big stars in town. But I’ve coached a lot of good players who grew up to become really fine fellows.”

Gregoire “Bulldog” Matte, 1953.

Jack Hurley laughed when he remembered the “good, friendly rivalry” between towns. Vankleek Hill kids taunted visiting hockey teams. With the advent of house leagues, said Hurley, that rivalry waned. And without the rivalry, the finances and team fan interest dwindled over the years.

Arena Demolition in 1971

In 1971, that first VKH 1950 arena building was condemned by provincial inspectors. The 1959 fatal roof collapse of the Listowel ON arena, that killed six young hockey players and their coach,brought changes to building codes following the inquiry. Professional building inspections were now required. Limited government grants, through the pooling of tax monies to meet various needs across the province, were available – if the VKH community raised its share of $465,000 for a new arena.

Former Champlain Township Mayor Gary Barton explains: “The first arena was closed after the province required the town to have an engineer inspect the building for safety purposes. An arena in Listowel ON had collapsed due to excessive snow on the roof.

“At that time, I was the Chair of the Vankleek Hill Recreation Committee and we were called to a meeting one Saturday morning in February, along with the members of the Town Council. Sidney Siversky was the Mayor. Gaetan Lascelles P. Eng.  from Hawkesbury presented his report, and informed us that the Arena had to be closed.

“I asked him, ‘when?’ and he replied, ‘Today!’ Obviously, shocking news to all of us. In any case, there are many other details related to the building that still stands there today.

“But most important, was the community support received in order to build the new arena that we know today. With limited government grants, the new arena was opened in 1979 and it was debt free.”

Once again, volunteers swung into action with the same 1950s list of small town fundraising activities. Building codes prevented volunteer labour from being a large part of this new 1970s equation; however, donations of second-hand equipment played an important role in the fundraising that went on for several years until the 1979 opening.

Boys of Summer Resurrect Ball Field

Denis Seguin Architect alongside Cooper Smith at the 2019 Historical Society Retro Fashion Gala. Cooper is modeling Denis’ Vankleek Hill Stones ball uniform. Photo Gabriel Landriault.

The 1971 demolition of the 1950s arena, plus the years needed to raise almost a half-million dollars, put a long pause on team sports played in town. Several Vankleek Hill hockey teams played in St. Isidore, or in L’Orignal, St. Anne de Prescott and Alfred.
The demolition made the ball field unusable as it became the debris field for the old arena trusses and other large wreckage. The ball diamond, already in poor condition, only got worse.
Over time, the old arena construction materials sank into the ground, and the grasses grew tall and wild.
On a spring day in 1971, a group of curious teenagers rode their bikes over to assess the ruins. These future ball players saw potential, and with their collective hat-in-hand, they went to VKH town council to plead their case to clean-up the demolition rubble to restore the ball field.
Council agreed to lend a hand in return for a promise from the boys to help clean-up the ball field. It was agreed, and the town removed the debris.
With step one accomplished, the ball players – Denis Seguin, brothers Michel and André Martel, and Frank Martel – persevered. Town employee Edward Seguin, Denis’ uncle, had a couple of scythes to loan them. They got to work cutting down the high grass on the field.
Then the foursome borrowed their family lawnmowers and gas, and off to the park they went to cut down the grass. Next, the white fence around the field (Loch and Wall streets) was in bad repair and they nailed it back together. Leftover white paint was used until it ran out.
Town residents noticed the efforts, and stopped to talk, and to encourage these Vankleek Hill boys of summer.
Denis Seguin recalls obtaining a roll of heavy wire from his Uncle Edward to sew together the chain link fence used as the back-stop, stitching through the holes in the wire.
He added, “The ball diamond was weeded and the whole thing raked. We started after breakfast everyday and went on into the evening. It was fun, and now and then we put on our ball caps, our ball mitts, and played a little ball.
“We got it as far as we could, and then came the time when we needed more help.”
They returned to address Council, and their work was acknowledged. “We pleaded for a load of dust stone for the diamond and I think we got two. We raked it and cherished the new look of it. We were in heaven,” said Seguin.
He added, “After that it had to be up to us.” Michel Martel was the acknowledged leader of the small band, and together with the Martel Family dedication to the Vankleek Hill community, the next phase put into motion what needed to be done to actually play ball.
“We needed to raise money, so off we went to see Mr. Levac, Furniture and Electrical Appliance, at the corner of Main and High streets,” said Seguin. The raffle was for a table-top b&w 12″ t.v. from Mr. Levac’s store.
The ticket sales had to first cover the cost of the prize. To this day, Michel Martel is amusingly uncertain whether they got a ‘real deal’ from Mr. Levac.
Michel and André’s mother, Andrea Martel, helped with the tickets. “We sat down and made them by hand, each with a number on them, in duplicate,” said Seguin.
Denis Seguin recalls standing in the middle of Main Street selling raffle tickets to people driving by. “They had to stop because I was just standing there. They would roll-down the window, probably to tell me to get out of the way, but it was business first. And I sold them tickets. I think it caused a bit of a line-up, but that was good for business back then,” he said with a laugh.
It took off from there. Within a couple of years, the boys were 16. “We played with the men who came out of their sports retirement to join us on the ball field, and guide us in many ways. The improved condition of the field returned softball and fastball to our community, and both men and women’s ball flourished for many years.”
The rehabilitation success and the learned life skills brought the Vankleek Hill Stones to the resurrected ball field. Four boys learned a lot about politics, work ethics, business, volunteering and camaraderie.

Second Vankleek Hill Arena Opens 1979

Fair secretary Jack Hurley on the phone in the 1960s at the VKH Fairgrounds. Jack served on VKH Town Council, raised funds for the first VKH Arena, coached hockey, promoted sports for youth.
Photo Jeannine Duval Seguin Archives.

The new arena officially opened in 1979, and was greeted with community fanfare. Fundraising never really stopped, and every year improvements were made to ensure success. This continues today.
In 1989, on the 10th anniversary, Jack Hurley’s efforts for the first arena were recognized and he became the first inductee into the Vankleek Hill & District Sports Hall of Fame. VKH Recreation Coordinator Janis Renwick said, “Volunteers have been the backbone of Vankleek Hill recreation …. We salute the many who have given of their time to give us all a rich sports history … minor hockey, senior hockey, broomball, softball tournaments, carnivals, dances – all in this location.”
Hurley was honoured by the VKH Recreation Board for his volunteer efforts as a coach, manager, organizer, promoter, and fundraiser. As well, he served as curling club president, flooded hockey rinks, negotiated deals with softball stars, recruited players and donations.

Doug Hall captured playing a country tune c.1970. Photo Debbie Hall.

At the 1989 event, Douglas Hall was honoured with a Certificate of Merit from the town for his volunteer work that included tending to the outdoor Legion rink, his involvement in local hockey, and his work as a Recreation Board member. Doug Hall represented the “countless citizens who have raised funds for a rink in Vankleek Hill over the years,” said Renwick.
Janis Renwick told a fundraising story about each arena. She gave a lesson – in how not everything goes according to plan.
“When the first arena was being built, Don Messer was booked as the crowning glory of the fundraising campaign. When the famous fiddler had performed his concert to a large crowd, organizers were left with a $1000 bill and a profit of 35 cents.”
“No one thought it could happen again.”
It did, when in 1978, a few weeks before the official inauguration of the second arena, another star attraction came to town. “Profits from the Family Brown concert were $36.22.”
Renwick laughed, and added, “We learn the hard way!”

Your Arena Story

Interior of Vankleek Hill Arena. Photo Champlain Township

There are many stories connected to the two Vankleek Hill arenas. Human stories, sports stories, event stories, fundraising stories. They go on and on, because for so many years this location has been at the heart of the community.
Please feel welcome to send us your story, so that we can continue to build the arena story for the future.

(With information from Le Moniteur & The Echo-Express, Feb. 25, 1989: “Replaying the glory days of Vankleek Hill sports;” “Arena builders saluted.” by Richard Mahoney.)

The history of Jeannine Duval Seguin

The Story Of Vankleek Hill’s Retired Country Music Singing, Hops-Picking Postmaster

Jeannine Duval Seguin at her home, after retirement from the Vankleek Hill Post Office. (Photo: Michelle Landriault)

A glimpse into the life of Jeannine Duval Seguin of Vankleek Hill takes us through the 1950s and 1960s, a time of change and modernization in rural Ontario. Her life touches on experiences all but forgotten in our local history – the small subsistence farms that supported large families; early education; local hop growing business; postal services; and even local country music.

Moise & Cecile Duval farm, Ridge Road

Jeannine Duval Seguin is the daughter of Moise Duval (1889-1961) and Cecile Baron (1892-1994). She is the youngest of seven children born and raised on the family farm on County Road 10, the Ridge, west of Vankleek Hill at the edge of the Caledonia Flats with the Alfred Bog in sight.
Farm chores included milking 25 cows, growing crops of oats, corn and buckwheat, raising chickens for eggs and meat, salting down the pork, making butter, working the garden for preserves, prepare root vegetables for storage, pick cranberries and blueberries in the Bog, constant laundry, baking and sewing.
Milk and cream that required refrigeration were placed into a bucket then lowered down the well to sit partially in the ice cold fresh water. In the winter, Moise suspended butchered beef from the rafters in the coldest section of the barn. Keep in mind that electricity only arrived in this rural area in the 1940s and 1950s. Regulations about refrigeration hampered the efforts of many small farmers to grow.
There were winter months when Moise left the farm to work in logging, as did so many other small family farmers, to supplement their earnings. During these times, Cecile and the children maintained the livestock.
There was also Moise’s private still, discreetly tucked out of sight. Jeannine smiles and remembers when she and her youngest brother Henri were allowed to sip the sharp homemade whiskey.

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