TRENTON – A centennial celebration is being planned for Steeltown that will have people dancing in the streets and reliving memories of days gone by.
The Town of Trenton will kick off celebrations for its 100th birthday on March 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. with an open house at Trenton Elementary School where old time photos and special guests will be on hand.
“Past mayors and councillors will be there so it’s a good opportunity to talk about time that has passed and what has changed over the years,” said Cindy MacKinnon, a member of the town’s centennial celebration committee.
First incorporated March 18, 1911, the Town of Trenton is known for its “ups and downs”, she said, adding years ago the Steeltown was home to five gas stations, a grocery store, theatre and a trolley car service.
Although the local steel plant has always been the focus of the town, she said, there are many other areas where Trenton has made its name. For example, Humphries Glass was a large employer for many years and the Trenton Airport which was the oldest airport owned by a municipality before it was sold to a private company a few years ago.
“There is a lot of pride in the town,” she said. “This is a chance for people to get out and reminisce about the days gone by and the bright future that is in store for the town with the Main Street redevelopment and the DSME Trenton taking over the plant.”
And the celebrations won’t end in March. Instead the committee has a long list of community events planned throughout the year which include a volunteer reception in April and another volunteer recognition dinner in May where the builders of the town and community will be recognized.
“So many people have brought Trenton to where it is over the 100 years,” said Susan Higdon, marketing. “People in Pictou County know who the builders of this town are and we want to hear from them.”
Higdon said submissions will be taken at the town office for consideration. The committee will be focusing on people who have made a real difference in the town whether it is through the local rink, ballfields, park, community groups or volunteering.
In July, the celebration will continue when the annual Trenton Funfest takes place with Homecoming as its theme. A street parade will be part of the lineup of activities this year that will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. Any entering a float in the parade is asked to keep the town’s centennial in mind, said Hidgon.
“We want a lot of people to participate in the parade,” she said. “We are also hoping to have a mass pipe band at the end of the parade and the route has been changed a little bit this year as well.”
The Mayor’s Golf Tournament, first hosted by former mayor, Shannon MacInnis, and carried on by current mayor, Glen MacKinnon, will continue this year, she said, adding there are only a few spots left so teams shouldn’t wait until the last minute to sign up.
In August, a portion of Main Street will be closed for a street dance with local bands and youth bands. Concessions will be sold and a beer garden will also be on-site.
The centennial celebrations will end with a festive Christmas event in December where local school and church choirs will perform as well as local entertainers and the town’s Christmas tree will be lit. All of these events will take place at the Steeltown Park.
MacKinnon said people will notice a real difference in the area over the next couple of months as phase one of the Main Street development project draws to a close and flags will be flying in celebration of the town’s 100th birthday.
She said this is a real opportunity for other community groups to plan their events around the celebrations. For example, she said Trenton Minor Ball will be hosting a reunion this summer and inviting former players, both adults and children, back for a game of fun.
In addition to the town events, the Trenton Fire Department will also be celebrating its 100th anniversary with some activities of its own planned.
“It’s a real opportunity to show your pride in this little town,” MacKinnon said.
Published on February 18, 2011
TRENTON – The combination of prosperity and hard times during the past 100 years in the Steeltown have made its residents resilient to change, says a former town politician.
“The influence of the plant and the whole steel industry is significant in the town,” said Fergie MacKay, a retired school teacher and municipal politician, and also a resident of the town, which is celebrating its centennial. “Everything seemed dependent on the plant and it was really boom or bust, but the people made it through.”
Ferguson said during the low times people would rely on small farms and gardens on their properties to get them through until the next order came in to the steel plant.
It was just one of the many businesses in the area that thrived back then, but would never be able to compete in today’s economy with big box stores that have a wide selection of everything available.
“People’s shopping habits have changed,” he said. “Smaller stores back then changed the neighbourhood but now people are expected to look for bargains and find items that are on sale.”
He said Trenton was also home to other large employers as well such as Humphries Glass Company which later became Tibbetts Paints. He said both offered unique services to its customers, but changes in the economy and people’s shopping weighed heavily on their businesses over the years.
“Tibbetts was a significant employers and they used to have a chemist on site that you could talk to if you were having a paint problem,” he said. “They used to make all the paint for the rail cars and highway paint as well.”
He said the status of the plant affected more than the people who worked there. His father ran a small grocery store on Duke Street in the 1940s called Mamies and its business depended on who was working at the time.
“A lot of the time people would come in and get their groceries and pay their bill when they got paid at the end of the week,” he said. “My father would always say, ‘I hope they get a good order at the plant.’ It was always good news when an order came in.”
He said the store was a real gathering place for people in the community who would purchase their groceries and sit by the wood stove discussing everything from fishing smelt to their day’s work.
MacKay, who has lived in the town for the past 40 years, jokes that he still considers himself an import to the Steeltown, compared to people like former Mayor Barry Trenholm who grew up in the town.
Trenholm said his memories do stretch back to his childhood and some include taking the bus or walking to St. John’s Academy for school or seeing some of the first pre-fabs come to town in the 1950s.
However, one of his fondest memories is hearing the axle hammer working away day and night at the steel plant.
“The axle hammer at the forge was the heartbeat of the town,” he said. “Some people would say that if they went away on vacation they couldn’t sleep because they couldn’t hear the bang, bang, bang of the hammer. It had timing and you could keep in step with it.”
He said it’s very fitting that the axle hammer is being returned to the Main Street of Trenton as part of the town’s development.
According to the Statistics Canada 2006 survey:
Total private dwellings: 1,171
Median age of the population: 41.7 years
Residents legally married: 1,110
Median income after tax for residents 15 years and older: $20,489