Nostalgia On Rails, Published 4 February 1961
By Austin F. Cross Citizen Staff Writer
The present was blended with the past, when the treasures, of. the Canada Atlantic Old Boys Association were turned over to the Public Archives.
This historic donation took place in two parts first in the Union Station, and second at the Archives building, where Dominion Archivist Kaye Lamb accepted from J. H. P. (Peg) MacLeod, first chairman of the Canada Atlantic Old Boys Association, and permanent guardian angel to the C.A.R. Old Boys Association, two big bundles of railway lore.
Safe In Black Box
These precious and irreplaceable mementos had been resting in a black box and a , battered old suit case in the Union Station store room. Formal turn-over of the memorabilia took place first in the office of Station Master "Sam" Bertrand.
But final rites were observed in the Archives on the third floor, where guardian angel MacLeod, after having posed at D'Arcy McGee's desk, doffed his derby hat reverently at an oil painting of J. R. Booth, turned over his precious papers, and after a long, lingering look, left the Archives with C.A.R. Old Timer Val Sear, 44 Second Avenue.
It closed a historical chapter.
The old Canada Atlantic Railway was built by the late J. R. Booth. There are many who believe that J. R. Booth was the greatest man who ever lived in Ottawa. Steamship operator, grain elevator entrepreneur, lumberman and railroader, he ended his days in a magnificent home at the corner of Metcalfe and MacLaren Streets.
In order to get his vast supply of white pine from his Opeongo Limits (Booth's private C.A.R. car was named "Opeongo") he built a railway through the Opeongo, with a spur into Pembroke, while the main line crept west till it finally met Georgian Bay at Depot Harbor.
Meanwhile, eastwards his line ran to Coteau Junction, and down to. a Central Vermont Railway connection through New England to tide water at New London, Connecticut.
It is an ironic factor that J. R. Booth could before 1889, offer you a through sleeper ; from Ottawa to New York, a luxury you cannot enjoy some 70 years later.
Gobbled By Grand Trunk
This road in due course was gobbled up by the Grand Trunk Railway. Then it was re-digested again by the Canadian National.
It was not, however, till about 1935, or 30 years after the Canada Atlantic went out of business that the "boys" .and "girls" became so sentimental about the C.A.R. that they got together, more than 600 strong, at the Chateau Laurier in August 1935 to form an Old Boys organization.
At first indeed, there was some gestures toward transacting business. But by 1940, the old boys and girls fell into a never-varying routine. The high point of course was the pilgrimage to the graveside of their patron, J. R. Booth, at Beechwood Cemetery.
Equally important to some was the annual picnic at the Experimental Farm, under the convenership of Mrs. James Conley, and aided by Mrs. Tommy Ashe.
Equally unforgettable was the poignant and moving annual dinner. Melting moment .was when they joined hands and remembered the "departed."
The 24th annual dinner was the last one attended by C. Rowley Booth, who had succeeded his father C. Jackson Booth as honorary president.
But Rowley Booth was not at the silver anniversary; he had died some time before.
The 25th was more like a funeral rite as "Peg" MacLeod announced in his own sentimentally brusque way that he was "packing her up."
Few Wisecracks Left
No more talk from mothers who simultaneously filled the baby' bottles and packed her man's lunch in the long ago; you heard few cracks about that he-man joint at Depot Harbor which rejoiced in the name "The Red Onion."
Wisecracks got more scarce about a "corn field meet" on , the long-vanished . Rockland division. Boasts about beating the CPR with the high-wheeling C.A.R. 618 on the Montreal run, were all but stilled.
Now the last line of the last chapter has been written, down at the Archives where Archivist Lamb Is mortician and embalmer to great tradition, a great railway, a great body of Canadians.