“You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy!”

Since I moved from the city (Ottawa) to the country (Almonte) in June of 1976 and set up my solo law practice at 74 Mill Street in the former office of R. A. Jamieson QC I have never looked back. Not for a moment. Mine was the reverse of the country boy adage in that I had been raised in metropolises such as London, Washington DC, Toronto, Paris and Stockholm.  Yet I couldn’t wait to extricate myself from the urban scene. I instantly took to the buoyancy and bravado of country living. I was enraptured by its professional associations with doctors, lawyers and judges; the humour and flavour of the trades and local waitresses; the uniformity of social congregation; the excellence of local retailers and artists; the private pleasures of the golf club, curling club, tennis courts, concert and theatrical performances in the Old Town Hall and the bucolic country road cycles and meanders.

Supporting me in this endeavour from the start were my time-hallowed friends Patti Flesher and Suzie Campeau from the Village of Dunrobin along the nearby Ottawa River. This alliance extended over the years to include other colourful figures such as Susie Baker, Horace Cohen, Donald and Alana Abraham and the late Moishe Smith. To say their clientele was generous would constitute an egregious miscalculation. They were charitable to a fault!

My approbation of their support was always highlighted by the knowledge that they could have and normally would have dealt with a city lawyer instead.  But in spite of my protestations to the contrary, they willingly and gratefully continued to deal with me from time to time.

To give an idea what we are trafficking here I will relate an mirthful tale. One day after Suzie Campeau and I had completed our business, and she was preparing to depart my new office at 77 Little Bridge Street in Almonte, she withdrew from her purse what I recognized was the latest automobile key fob with which one could remotely stop and start one’s vehicle. Thinking that Suzie had just purchased a new Oldsmobile or similar model as I had lately done, I asked her, “Where did you buy your new car!” To which she replied, “Montreal”. Stunned by this estranged intelligence, I muttered, “Why?”  “Because”, she said, “it’s the only Rolls-Royce dealer nearby!”

It was unspoken privilege such as this which predominated my acquaintance with Patti, Suzie et al. I recall advising Suzie that she could have any lawyer in Ottawa she wanted but she always sustained here rural routes from the Village of Dunrobin.  So fast-bound was my relationship with the Suzie and Jacques Campeau that they entrusted to me the ownership of their first residential property on the much vaunted Barlow Crescent along the Ottawa River.  This seemingly peculiar transaction was primarily to insulate my clients from the possible greediness of the realtors when settling the purchase price of the highly desirable property. Instead of dealing with the Campeau family the realtors were instead dealing with a young unknown lawyer from a tiny village inland along the Mississippi River. It was close to a year or more before I transferred tittle of the new mansion back to the family.

I had a similar commercial experience with Patti, Horace, Donnie and Moishe whose interests straddled the affluent real estate of the Village of Rockcliffe Park and Rideau Street the main business thoroughfare of Ottawa.

This brings me back to Susie Baker. Susie is the daughter of the late Charlie Baker, former Mayor of the Corporation of the Town of Almonte in the County of Lanark. When I came to Almonte in 1976 Charlie Baker had already retired from office.  His reputation did however survive through such up and coming municipal functionaries as Desmond Houston and Robert J. France both of whom had been Clerk/Treasurers of the Town.  Baker would as well have dealt with my predecessor Jamieson who, when I took over his office in 1976, was 82 years of age and had practiced law in the Town of Almonte for 54 years. Only recently the large property known locally as “Baker’s Quarry” was approved by Council for subdivision. The property is located adjacent Carss Street (named after R. A. Jamieson’s mother).

  • Recommended Motion:

    THAT Committee of the Whole recommend to Council to accept the Draft Conditions for the Baker’s Quarry Subdivision and recommend that Staff submit the draft conditions to the County of Lanark.

So! There’s an introduction to my relationship with Almonte and the friendships and acquaintances which arose therefrom. That was 45 years ago. What follows is a chronicle of events preceding that! This unanticipated history arose from recent casual correspondence between me and Susie. I was thrilled to receive it; and, to add it to my cherished record of events.

February 10th, 2023
Ottawa, Ontario

Hi Billy!

Greetings from the frozen north!

I’m so happy that you and Denis are enjoying your winter in the Florida Keys.  You have worked hard, helped numerous people and truly deserve this idyllic retirement lifestyle.

Thank you so much for sending me this wonderful article on Aitkenhead’s Bakery.

I remember it well.  As a child I went to G. L. Comba School on Martin Street right across from the high school. This school only went up to grade 6 at the time. I had to go to the former Church St. School for grade 7. During that time Comba school was enlarged to admit grade 7’s and 8’s. The following year I was back at Comba for grade 8.

It was a decent walk or bicycle ride from my home at 249 Mitcheson Street to Church St.

Each day my mother would send me off to school with a hug, a kiss and a nickel.

Aitkenhead’s Bakery was about the halfway point. I would stop and purchase the  most amazing cherry tart which they would carefully wrap for me. I enjoyed this treat with my lunch every day.  The smell of the freshly baked bread was intoxicating.

Those were such wonderful times, Billy.

“Newt” Newton delivered bread to our home daily in his truck, Mr. Young delivered milk in glass bottles with his horse and wagon, Ernie Bandy collected our garbage with an old trailer pulled by 2 horses and Howard Sadler dutifully delivered fresh vegetables every summer.  And OMG!  Lottie Barr’s chip wagon!

The world was a much safer and kinder place.

Be safe, be well…

Kindest Regards,