Articles

THE HAPPILY MARRIED CITIES

German immigrants carved out a stable way of life in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. And when war came, they obligingly stopped calling their home town Berlin

EDNA STAEBLER October 1 1952
Articles

THE HAPPILY MARRIED CITIES

German immigrants carved out a stable way of life in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. And when war came, they obligingly stopped calling their home town Berlin

EDNA STAEBLER October 1 1952

THE HAPPILY MARRIED CITIES

EDNA STAEBLER

KITCHENER AND WATERLOO, in the fertile heart of western Ontario, consider themselves the finest pair of cities ever raised on sauerkraut and enterprise. Kitchener the most highly industrialized community in Canada and Waterloo, the head offices of six insurance companies, handles more money than any city its size. They are friendly and lively and soLid, cautious and dar:rtg: proud of their tidy streets and well-kept houses. mrreir music. beer and many ct~r~hes. tce plump and placid women in sombre srtacis and bonnets tvho s*:ertrt~s~r and shoo-dy pie at their Saturday morning markers.

Situated thev claim "in North .America’s belt of maximum energy.” they have a healthful, high, drv climate and artesian wells of the purest water. If visitors, overwhelmed bv K-W hospitality, dare complain that there’s no view, and no place to swim, thev are quickly shown the vivid blue of Kitchener’s municipal pool and how Waterloo has dammed up Laurel CreekFor scenery thev can see the rolling hills and teeming farmlands of Waterloo County and a lake that has been dug in Victoria Park where there are picnics, band concerts and canoeing—if the lake hasn’t been drained to have its bottom cleaned.

Both cities have a passion for cleanliness and order. Upkeep is a duty sacred to all. Anvone driving around on a long summer evening will see people painting their houses and tidving their green velvet lawns: on Brubacher Street the family of Fritz Herchenbaum. rubber worker, will be decorating a porch, on fashionable Rusholme Road it will be G. Murray Bray, QC. and retired colonel of the Scots Fusiliers: on John Boulevard in Waterloo young Tom Seagram, whose grandfather distilled V.O.. will be busily clipping the grass.

They boast that Kitchener is the Birthplace of Hydro and Mackenzie King. It is also the home of Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor. Louis Breithaupt, whose grandfather started a tannery with only ninety dollars. Waterloo has the greatest annual band festival in America and its housewives make Hasenpfeffer that is unexcelled in the British Empire.

Thev have a dialect of their own that is humorous and infectious: children of totally English parentage are likely to come home with a Dutchv accent and expressions like "Come here once.” 'T got to comb my hairs already yet,” and "The butter iss all” There is no more butter .

Modest fortunes are made in Kitchener and Waterloo because in the 1800s freedom-loving Germans came with little but a carpetbag of tools, a pair of skilful hands and the determination to build a stable way of life in which to raise a family. Many of the factories begun in those early days have grown with the families, and the tradition of a man with a trade starting a business by himself has continued in the community to the present day. As a result Kitchener and Waterloo have no vast industries but instead a diversity of manufactures that makes them as solid as a successful department store. A failing off of sales in a furniture factory has little effect on plants that make buttons, tires or sausages. Hamilton or Windsor might be crippled bv a strike in a single industry: it takes a general depression to affect the Twin Cities.

German immigrants carved out a stable way of life in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. And when war came, they obligingly stopped calling their home town Berlin

K-W savings run high, people are thrifty and above all things love their homes. More than eighty-seven percent own the houses they live in. There are few places to rent and no slums for city bylaws prohibit frame construction. There are no great mansions—Twin City millionaires are too modest, or too philanthropic, to be ostentatious— but there are many large new houses that look like magazine ads and the homes of factory workers are as neat and square and solid as those of factory owners.

Though called Twin Cities they are more like a happily married couple: Kitchener with a population of almost fifty thousand is the energetic organizing male: Waterloo, with twelve thousand, is the quiet homemaker who. refusing amalgamation, coyly cherishes her independence and shares her partner’s institutions. Waterloo’s babies are bom in Kitchener and her dead are buried there: her cemeteries and hospitals are in Kitchener: so are her collegiate and railway station. People from both cities support the same federated charities, belong to the same clubs, play together in the K-W Symphony Orchestra, K-W Little Theatre and Chamber Music Society. They combine their statistics—but not their brass bands or their sports. Each band gives its own weekly concert; Waterloo has her own hockey arena and so has Kitchener; both have their own floodlit baseball fields—there’s often a fight when K-W teams compete but they root for one another when an outside team plays either one.

When citizens speak of their home town they mean both Kitchener and Waterloo: they seldom know when they’ve gone from one city into the other. The K-W border crosses streets in the middle of blocks, bisects the head office of the Mutual Life Assurance Company claimed by Waterloo and divides people's lawns and houses. A family on one side of a table might be eating panhase in Kitchener while those on the other side are enjoying it in Waterloo.

King Street runs through both cities like a spinal column. It was once a swampy old Indian trail that the Mennonite pioneers followed through the forest when they came from Pennsylvania in their covered Conestoga wagons a hundred and fifty years ago.

The Mennonites wanted land under British rule that would give them security for their homes and the religion t hat made t hem plain and independent people. In their ox-drawn wagons it took them months to come four hundred and thirty miles to the wolf-howling wilderness thev had bought in Waterloo County.

In 1806 Benjamin Eby. Abraham W"el>er and Joseph Schneider came to the Sand Hills and Abraham Erb settled in a cedar s\\ amp t wo miles fart her non h. Other Mennonite settlers followed, and Germans from Pennsylvania. There were land-clearing l>ees and building bees: Alie Erb put up a grist mill and Ben Ebv built a meeting house. The Sand Hills grew into Ebytown with a blacksmith shop and a tavern.

John Hoffman and Sam Bowman walked up from Pennsylvania: they were seventeen years old, had fiftv cenis between them and wanted to start a furniture factory. Ben Ebv said,

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The Happily Married Cities

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“All right, boys, go ahead, I’ll give you all the land you need,” and Kitchener’s industrial career was begun.

Soon people from Germany came to the Mennonite hamlet and Ben Eby called it Berlin to make them feel at home. Dr. John Scott and some Methodists moved in and were looked to for leadership because they knew the laws and the language of the country. By 1852 Berlin had several factories and seven hundred and fifty people.

Waterloo hadn't done quite as well. Abe Erb wanted to keep his land for his children. But he sold his grist mill to Jacob Snider. When another miller made fun of him Jake Snider was roused to install a steam pump. To use up the surplus energy he introduced a still which greatly increased his revenue and gave Waterloo an industry.

In 1854 the enterprising John Hoffman and Isaac Weber persuaded the Mennonite farmer to sell his precious land It was survey’ed and staked off into building lots. The new owners didn’t wait for tardy settlers to come and buy: they’ advertised a picnic. A large wagon drawn byan ox team was loaded with refreshments, both liquid and solid, an auctioneer took his stand in the middle and was moved from lot to lot while a crowd of people followed, eating, drinking and bidding till all the drinks were gone and all the land was sold. Waterloo was then incorporated as a village

Meanwhile Berlin was busy. The Grand Trunk Railway came through and brought with it some Irish laborers. Factories sprang up like weeds Wilhelm Kaiser opened a hotel with a grove at the rear where citizens enjoyed their beer on summer evenings and listened to the playing of Berlin’s first German Band.

Louis Breithaupt came to Berlin to buy hides: he married and founded » tanneryin 1S57. His wife kept the family by boarding the tannery workmen so all the profits could be turned back into the business. It paid: they built c large brick house, drove in a carriage and were highly n spec ted Their sons and their grandsons always held public office: three Louis Breithaupts have been mayors, two have been members of parliament. Fred Breithaupt is now a Kitchener aiderman. When the third Louis, the present president of the tannery, was appointed Ontario's Lieutenant-Governor, one local woman expressed the opinion of many. “I’m glad they put Louis in.” she said, "he’s not stuck up. he’s not a boozer, and he sure is nice-looking.”

In 1S59 John Motz and John Rittinger established the Berliner Journal, a German newspaper which was splendidly Canadian: the present John Motz publishes the Kitchener - Waterloo Record whose broad tolerance does

much to mold the imperturbable character of the Twin Cities.

J. M. Schneider lived on a farm near Berlin and worked in a button factory for a dollar a day; to make more money be made sausages which he peddled from door to door in a basket. Now Schneider's products are shipped all over the world, their roasted pigs' tails, spareribs and sour-cream potato salad are served at every local stag party and organizational picnic: Schneider's Orpheus Male Choir is internationally famous. -I. M.’s son. Norman, is North Waterloo’s member of parliament.

Joseph Seagram came to Waterloo in 1867 and bought a grist mill whose side line was Alte Kornschnapps (Old Rye Whisky).

The first of Waterloo's insurance companies, the Waterloo Mutual Fire and the Mutual Life, were begun in the 1860s by solid local citizens who went to other solid local citizens and said. ‘‘If you got a little money you'd like to put in we think we could start i company; we don't promise big returns but if we get into this tiling together we might make ourselves a little bit.” The North Waterloo Farmer's Mutual Fire, the Economical Mutual Fire of Kitchener and the Dominion Life were begun soon after and in the same way, then the Equitable Life and recently the Canada Health and Accident. The combined companies now engage over i thousand local employees, have three thousand agents all over Canada and assets that affect the economy of the nation. They are still managed by solid local citizens.

In the 1870s Berlin was a town with fourteen churches; blocks of stores | were solid on King Street: St. Jerome’s College had been founded; Mayor John Hoffman started the Saturday morning market. John King. QC, married the daughter of William Lyon Mackenzie. They called their first child Billy.

Waterloo had thirteen taverns, an Orpheus and Harmony Hall where every other night the members would gather to sing and draw beer from a barrel. But they went home early to mamma and got up to work at live Every Sunday after church they took their round-cheeked families and picnicbaskets filled with brnunschweiiter. pretzels and Pilsener to the park or a grove on Buck's Hill where the singing masters led them in a joyful sacnpcrci

The two towns grew closer together: the board walk that joined them was a favorite promenade; a horsecar ran back and forth: jointly they built a grammar school: they attended each other's balls and joined one another s societies. Cedar arches decorated the streets, bands and choirs came from far-away cities and thousands of peoplein costume paraded to the concert hall and picnic grounds in the park where they steeped themselves in Beethoven and Strauss, frankfurters and lager

In time cows were no longer allowed to roam the streets of Berlin. Pioneers died and Canadian-born sons carried on. More little one-man shops grew into factories. Mennonites from the country came to work in thetowns, more Germans and British moved in McMahons. Evans and Jacksons married Schnitzlers. Lingelbachs and Eins: Englishmen ate sauerkraut and Germans learned to play bagpipes; in Berlin's park they erected a statue of Queen Victoria and a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm.

The newcomer who wanted to belong couldn't run up a grocery hill or live in a rented house Hard-headed citizens applauded the man who built himselt a cellar and lived in it until he had saved enough money to add a main floor: that was the kind of stability they believed in They didn't care much for higher education. 1 heir boys and girl>

stopped school early, worked in a factory or clerked in a store and gave their earnings to mamma till they married and built their own home.

At a board of trade banquet in 1902 E. W. B. Snider, MPP for North Waterloo, suggested that Berlin.Waterloo and other nearby towns might unite in getting electric power from Niagara Falls. Dan B. Detwiler. of Berlin, was so excited by the idea that he was appointed a committee of one to implement the proposal. On his bicycle and at his own expense he rode from town to town to induce officials and manufacturers to attend a conference in Berlin. As a result, deputation of fifteen hundred went to Toronto to petition the government to act and the Hon. Adam Beck introduced a bill in the legislature which resulted in the formation of the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission.

On Oct. 11. 1910. Berlin was the first distant municipality to be flooded with light from Niagara. The town celebrated for three days.

Berlin then aspired to triple its population in five years. It went after outside industries, offering to pay their moving expenses, give them free factory sites and the most skilful, conscientious workmen in the country'In a year eight new firms started, fourteen existing ones built large additions, and the Dominion Rubber Companycontracted to erect a tire factory' that would employ two thousand people.

As the twelfth stroke of Berlin's post-office clock died away at midnight on June 10. 1912, Mayor Schmaltz stepped out on the platform of the town hall, twisted his waxed mustaches and proclaimed that Busy Berlin was a City. Six thousand people in the square cheered themselves hoarse: the band played, church bells rang, giant firecrackers exploded, rejoicing citizens and bands marched up and down King Street until cockcrow.

The new city prospered: it was called the Furniture Capital of the Nation: MADE IN BERLIN labels went all over Canada on a hundred different products: a city planning committee started preparing for a population of a hundred thousand people.

Then came war with Germany.

Dear old Professor Weigand who wore a little shoulder cape lost his job leaching German in the public schools: children paraded with flags and sold tags for the Red Cross: young men enlisted in the 118th Battalion and

were billeted on straw ticks in Rumpel’s felt factory; parents went to the churches and prayed that the war would be over before anyone was hurt.

But manufacturers got letters from customers all over the country saying they' couldn't sell goods with Made in Berlin labels and their accounts would be withdrawn if the city didn’t get rid of the name of the enemy’s capital, the Kaiser’s evil nest. Canadian newspapers called Berlin pro-German.

The accusation stung. Citizens of pioneer blood were hurt and bewildered: the_v had been bom in Canada, some were of the fourth generation, all their dreaming and their striving were for Busy Berlin and Canada, first, last and always.

Many agreed that Berlin’s name would have to be changed if its manufacturers were to stay in business. Others loved the name and stubbornly determined to keep it. They formed a Citizens' League and started a vigorous campaign.

The name-changers formed the British League to oppose them. The two daily newspapers took sides. Mass meetings were held. Friends and neighbors quarreled. Families were divided. Arguments fanned into fracas: the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm was tom from its pedestal and dumped in the lake at the park. Leading citizens were given a cold and undignified dunking. One newspaper office was smashed — but on the same day' the enterprising publisher was able to bring out an extra telling all about it.

A plebiscite was drawn up to find out the will of the people: 1.569 voted in favor of changing the name. 1.-188 opposed it and as many others stayed home and didn’t vote at all.

The new name was selected from among thousands submitted in a contest sponsored by the city. Kitchener was chosen because it was currently in the news, the Irish war lord having recently gone to his death.

On Sept. 1. 1916, Berlin. Ont., Canada, no longer existed.

Kitchener was a different city: no German was preached in its churches: all its people spoke English. “Look once the window out,’" they'd cry, “the street comes marching down with soldiers.” A thousand K-W boys (half of them with German names' crossed the sea to fight against Germany.

When peace was restored Kitchener and Waterloo thought again of expansion. An energetic chamber of

commerce enticed American industries | to locate in the Twin Cities. B. F. Goodrich joined Kaufman, Dominion and Merchants’ rubber companies to make Kitchener the greatest rubber manufacturer in the Empire. Immigrants from all over Europe gave the community a cosmopolitan air. More Canadians moved in.

Mabel Dunham wrote The Trail of the Conestoga, the story of the Mennonite pioneers that filled all their descendants with pride. Mackenzie King was Canada’s premier. Isaiah Bowman, of Waterloo Mennonite stock was president of Johns Hopkins University, Orie Walper invented plaster lath, K-W schools were educating Walter Zinn, now one of America's top five atomic scientists, and Kenneth and Margaret Sturm Millar, who write crime novels.

World War II found the Twin Cities eager to beat the Nazis. When Canada was about to disband her only tank regiment they organized a “buy a tank” drive which was waged with such vigor that within a week they raised twice their objective and presented the Canadian government with enough money to convince it that 1 Canada must have an armored corps.

After the war forty-five hundred K-W men and women came home. They were followed by thousands of immigrants -mostly from Germany — and bv other Canadians who wanted a good place to live. On Jan. 1. 19 IS, Waterloo was proclaimed i city.

Today the Twin Cities are busy and bustling. Europeans are being taught to speak English. Canadian newcomers are learning how to make schnitz pie and sour-cream salads. There are picnics, band concerts and centennial celebrations in the parks. Every night there are bingo games and sports, choir and orchestra practice, concerts and amateur plays. There are so many clubs and organizations that almost every citizen is president or treasurer of something. The K-W YMCA has the largest membership in Canada. Fiftv-six churches serving twentyseven denominations, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans leading, make it as hard to find a car-parking space on a Sunday as it is on a weekday.

Nothing but the best is good enough ! for the Twin Cities. The K-W Hospital ! with its new nine-story, three-milliondollar building, is so far ahead of the times that Gordon Freisen, its planner, has been invited by Washington. D.C., to build ten hospitals like it for the U. S. A.

Kitchener this year doubled its area by annexing three thousand surrounding acres. The joint population of the Twin Cities has risen from forty-six thousand in ’45 to sixty thousand in 'Ö2. The planning commission is preparing for another hundred thousand people.

But hard-headed K-W citizens still work in their shirt sleeves and applaud employees who buy a home and sa\e their money. Their wives still fanatically clean their houses, crochet lace doilies and prefer a cooking school to a fashion show. And every Saturday morning and on Wednesday in summer they all crowd into the old red market building behind the City Hall where | farm women wearing the bonnets and i plain clothes of tHe various Mennonite sects, and the bearded Amish, who have hooks and eves on their coats I instead of buttons, come - as they have done for eighty years to sell tiny cobs of pickled corn, apple butter, goose wings that are “extra °o«^ for cleaning out the corners.” schuadamorça sausage, and black velvet c ushion tops with doves and “love” and “Grandmother” worked on them in tufted colored wool. ★