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Fourth generation resident recalls early days of King in new book

December 2, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Julia Galt

With King Township’s population growing at an unprecedented rate, it can be difficult for many long-term residents to recall the quiet, wholly rural King of yesteryears.
King City’s Carol Field remembers. She remembers the days when classes were taught from one-room schoolhouses, when Keele Street was a dusty dirt road, and when houses were first hooked up to hydro. To share these precious memories with the community, Field has self-published Memories of King, an autobiographical look at the area in the 1940s, ‘50s, and beyond.
Field’s roots in King go deeper than many. Her great-grandparents, Peter and Margaret Gellatly, first settled in King in 1857 and quickly cleared 100 acres of woodland to establish the family farmstead. Surviving brief periods of vacancy throughout the years, the farm passed from generation to generation, eventually passing into the ownership of fourth-generation Gellatly, Field.
Today, Field lives with her family on the same Keele Street farm, and in the same 1800s farmhouse as her ancestors before her. It was here, within these familiar walls, that she began to embark on what would become Memories of King’s eight-month-long writing process.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” said Field. “I had more time than I usually do, due to the pandemic, so I decided this was as good a chance as any for me.”
Born in Toronto the early 1940s, Field and her family moved back to the then-vacant Gellatly farm when she was six months old. Memories of King recounts stories from Field’s formative years, a time when her house had “no hydro, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, or central heating” and the family “went to bed early and got up early with the sun.”
Stories from Field’s childhood, like her performance in Snowball Public School’s 1952 Christmas Concert and a close call with the bank-robbing Boyd Gang, recall a far simpler time. She ruminates upon early agriculture in King, from the jobs each family member was responsible for to “barn-raising” days when farmers, carpenters, and tradesmen across town would come together to help a neighbour.
“I really wanted to tell people what it was like living in King during those years. I had heard all these wonderful stories from my aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, neighbours,” said Field. “I really wanted to illustrate how wise my ancestors were and how hard life was for them.”
As a member of one of the dozen or so early farming families still in King, Field has seen vast changes throughout the years. Memories of King recounts the widening and paving of roads to act as thoroughfares to Highway 400 in the 1970s, the removal of the old-growth trees that once lined King and Keele Street, and the introduction, in the 2000s, of the “big pipe.”
“King was a place where people met each other at the post office, at the bank, at the food store. I think it was a very special time, when I was growing up,” said Field. “Today, it’s so different. But you need to go along with progress.”
Also featured in Memories of King is an appendix by Field’s mother Edna Gellatly, written in 1990. The document traces all four generations of Gellatly farm ownership, verifying its Century Farm status- a farm owned by the same family for over 100 years.
Betty Cowan, a local artist, provides illustrations to go along with each story.
“I’ve just been delighted, because everyone really loves the book! Everyone has a favourite story,” said Field, who has already given copies to local seniors’ clubs and the King Township Historical Society. “They say they’ve really learned a lot about King Township and how kind and helpful and neighbourly it was. It gives me great joy.”
Memories of King is available for purchase at the King City Guardian Pharmacy and through Field (email fieldcarol@aol.com) for $5 a copy.



         

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