Interview with Marvin and Linda Brooks, March 2, 2011


Interview with Marvin and Linda Brooks, March 2, 2011


Oral history interview with Marvin and Linda Brooks, who lived in Deseronto until 1981.


March 2, 2011




59 minutes, 20 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbit/s


Amanda Hill


Marvin Brooks
Linda Brooks


Deseronto Public Library

Time Summary

0.00 Born in Deseronto. Left in 1967 for four years, came back in 1970 and then left again in 1981. Now live in Alberta. Have lived in the Yukon Territory and in Saskatchewan. Marvin's family were from Hay Bay and his great-great-grandfather was the first cobbler in Prince Edward County. Arrived at the same time as the UELs, as did the Sharpes (grandmother's family, who were originally in South Carolina). The Brooks came to Deseronto at the turn of the twentieth century. Marvin's grandfather, Percy Brooks, was a jack-knife carpenter, a peddler and ran the pump house in Deseronto when he was in his seventies and ran a wood yard for many years in Fourth Street, next to the United Church. Marvin remembers playing in the wood piles as a child.
2.55 Talked about his father being a carpenter and high-pressure welder, who worked at Strathcona and also at the Dravo yard in Deseronto, where he was involved with cutting up lake and river ships after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Dravo was situated where the marina is now. He then went to work at Canada Optical for many years.
4.25 Keith Brooks was born on Fourth Street and he bought the store that had been Gardner's 5 and 10c store in 1975 (next to the CIBC bank) – it was Brooks's Junior Department Store.
5.50 Linda's family came to Deseronto in the 1950s. Her stepfather, Blake Moore, was a commercial fisherman (one of four in Deseronto at the time). He saved a child who had fallen into a well. Was illiterate, tough and grumpy! Linda remembers repairing hoop nets for mudcats. She sold skinned and cleaned mudcats house-to-house for 15c a pound. There were six-foot long eels and turtles you could ride on.
9.23 Memories of the controversy in Deseronto about whether the high school children should be sent to Belleville or Napanee to school, when the school in Deseronto shut.
11.09 Memories of the public school – Linda ringing the bell, Marvin being allowed to flood the rink. Marvin discusses the way that teaching was changing in the 1960s.
13.34 Swimming at the pump house all summer long. Every empty lot had kids playing baseball: there was no soccer then. Once you were old enough, you were working on the farms picking berries and tomatoes. Once you were 15 and lied about your age you worked at Metcalfe's. Softball and bowling were big things. The boys often worked as pinboys at the bowling alley, being paid 5c a game for 5-pin and 10c a game for 10-pin. They made $3 or $4 a night.
15.00 Marvin spent his money on his bicycle. Linda worked at Naylor's Theatre on the candy counter and making popcorn. No-one watched the movies – they went there to neck with their girlfriends and boyfriends. Linda also worked at one of the restaurants.
16.50 Memories of music at the outdoor rink: Hank Snow. There was a carnival on the ice every year, where people dressed up, the rink was decorated. Linda's parents lived opposite the rink and kept an eye on Marvin to make sure that he wasn’t putting his arm around Linda.
18.30 Linda remembered making igloos in the snow around the rink. The Fire Department, Legion and Lions all had jamborees in the park in the summer. The road by the Post Office was blocked off sometimes for street dances. Church picnics, everyone went to church, whether they were religious or not. Everyone shared a common set of values and did the same things. Families now are much more geographically distributed.
22.07 Everyone worked and lived together as a community – there wasn't such a big distinction between the Mohawks and the non-Mohawks as there is now. Marvin described how the two communities' police officers would work together, sharing a car to patrol the area jointly.
25.35 Marvin wasn't allowed to work on building the Quinte Mohawk School, because he wasn't a Mohawk.
27.50 Marvin ran away from home at 15. He worked in Leamington on the gas line and then moved to Detroit, Michigan and worked at Autoglass with one of his uncles. He proposed to Linda at the age of 13 and they got engaged at 16 and married at 17 in Deseronto. Marvin worked at Ideal Vendors , then got his carpenter's licence and worked in construction in Kingston. Then he moved to Calgary in 1981 as a superintendent and then for the City as a building inspector. He had worked in Deseronto as a part-time building inspector and property standards officer. He administered the Ontario Home Renewal Program loans, getting new wiring, siding and plumbing for around 20 houses in town. Some of the loans were forgivable. Marvin was enforcing an unpopular property standards by-law, but was able to help people with the OHRP loans. He enlisted the help of the scouts to clear up neglected yards in the town. Marvin went on to become Director of Public Safety for the Yukon government, where he rewrote the Building Standards Act and zoning by-laws.
33.06 Marvin served two terms on the Town Council in Deseronto in the 1970s. Jim Sharpe was Mayor in the first year Marvin was on Council. George Lyons, Jim Sharpe and Fletcher Vick were all on the Council with him. His grandfather (Percy Brooks) was Deputy Reeve when Marvin was on the Council – and they often disagreed. George Lyons worked hard for the town and became Warden of the County of Hastings when he was Reeve of Deseronto. Jim Sharpe was the driving force behind getting the water and sewer service for the town. The senior citizens' apartments and the arena were built in those years (early 1970s).
35.00 Marvin and Jean Jackson ran three beer festivals in Centennial Park, with tents from the Canadian Forces Base at Trenton (obtained through a disc jockey friend). Percy and Clayton Brooks (Marvin's uncle) were influential in getting Centennial Park established. Clayton was chair of the police committee, as was Marvin when he was on Council. There were three police officers employed when Marvin started, going up to four at the end of his time.
37.20 Observations on being involved with local politics. Marvin had been aware of Council activities through his grandfather – when Alcan and Dupont had been wanting to come to Deseronto.
39.30 Marvin drove a dump truck when the water and sewer system went in. But he got fired when a water main got broken (the only job he ever got fired from).
41.22 Industries in town: Zyl (Canada Optical), Deseronto Electronics (later Ideal Vendors – where Marvin worked as a spray painter), Hawleys furniture, Metcalfe's. Main Street: Post Office, restaurant, hardware store, liquor store, pool room, apartment building and the Show (Naylor's). On the other side of the road: a restaurant, Don Dawson's car dealership, Ma Jackson's restaurant, Pitcher's grocery store (one of six in town), jewellery store, bowling alley, Laundromat, bank, Gardner's department store (later Brooks's Junior Department), Ernie Luck's plumbing shop, Burkitt's grocery (later George Lyons's), Dr McVicker's office (where the Legion is now), Malley's drugstore, Mary McDonald's grocery store, the Library, the barber's shop (Leo Palmer), Therrien's grocery (later Layfield's), Booty's clothing store (became Gordon's), Ed Roach's grocery store, Mason's clothing, Walker's grocery store, Hubble's dry cleaners and a gas station on the corner. Marvin delivered groceries for five stores when he was 16 – most people had their groceries delivered. A busy, thriving, downtown.
45.00 Discussion about the Clapperton glass factory and the location of the photograph. Marvin's Aunt Irene owned the site and sold it to Don Dawson, who built the marina there. Linda owns a vase that was made in Deseronto. Don Dawson had been intending to build the marina on Foresters' Island, but ran into environmental issues. There were hundreds of snakes on the island. Don Dawson turned two or three pigs loose on the island and they got rid of all the snakes.
51.20 The Bay was an important part of life – fishing, swimming, skating. There was a layer of scum on it and the water was dense green with algae. Metcalfe's claimed that it was nothing to do with the canning factory. But when the factory closed, the water cleared up.
53.00 Marvin's first car was a 1950 Plymouth, which he co-owned with his brother when he was 14, but his brother wouldn't allow him to ride in it. When he was 16 he owned a 1952 Chevrolet, which he took with him when he ran away from home. 1952/3 the family bought a Dumont television, when they first became available. There were dances at the Lyons Hall and Legion for teenagers.
56.09 Memories of George Lyons – who did not get on well with Percy Brooks. Observations on how to work with fellow councillors.