The Birthday Party

By Willa Wick in Community, People

It’s quite a recipe when you mix together friends, relatives, and a couple of historians. The pot thickens when you add two ol’ geezers, one elderly lady, and a couple of younger lasses. Menu at hand – the birthday party whipped up for two former Harristonians.
George & Mariann Stone of Windsor and Bert Thomas of Florida were blended together recently on a plan cooked up by Harriston Historical members Sharon (Darroch) Weber and Willa Wick. Wick and Thomas are friends, while the Stone’s and Darroch’s are related. But it’s a much more intertwined mixture than that, and completely relevant to Harriston. Bert is the son of the 1940s minister of the United Church Rev. G.H. Thomas, while George is the son of Leslie Stone who operated the local Shoe Store and Repair Shop back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Mariann is the daughter of Rev. Newnham who followed Rev. Thomas in the United Church.
Both boys were in the armed forces. Ironically enough both were in the Air Force, but in different squadrons and at different times. Thomas trained and spent most of his time in Quebec and then Trenton; Stone was in the Galt area.
At the end of the war the government offered free tuition to any young people who had not had the chance to complete their highschool prior to going into the services. These two young men returned to their hometown and prepared to enroll to complete their education. They had already been working away from home before the war so it was on the train from Harriston to Toronto that Bert and George first met.
They landed at Union Station with no idea where they would spend that first night but were fortunate enough to find a Salvation Army hostel.
From there they spent the next four or five years rooming together in boarding houses while they finished their education and then continued their working careers. At Ryerson College, which was then operated by the government, it was a three month crash course for returning war lads, and as Bert puts it, “at the end of three months you were out, and if you failed you were still out”. He failed Chemistry and had to take another one-month crash course at night school before he could get his certification.
Bert had been working for the Bell Telephone Company before the war and was able to return to his position. George had managed several occupations but was encouraged to join Bell along with his friend. Eventually Stone left the Bell Telephone Co. and trained to be a school teacher.
Both young men returned to their roots and married Harriston girls.
Thomas’s career took him around Ontario but on retirement he took up residence in Florida for the cooler months. He does however like to return to this area for the summers and has had living quarters in Listowel, Harriston and now Mount Forest.
Mariann Stone took teacher’s certification at Toronto Normal School. The Stone’s lived and worked in Toronto for several years before moving to Windsor. George attended University of Windsor and both taught at St. Clair Beach Public School until retirement. In the ‘60s they built a house, and have lived there, within sight of Lake St. Clair, ever since.
Although the three keep up correspondence by yearly Christmas letters they haven’t actually been in one another’s company for many, many years. That’s why, for a pleasant birthday party, Wick and Weber decided to put them together. They drove Bert to the Stone home in Windsor for lunch followed by a fun and amazing afternoon of
“remember when’s”.
Bert Thomas turned 90 in September, George Stone was 93 a few weeks later, and Mariann is somewhere in-between. All are pretty spry for their years and as sharp as tacks. George drove us around to see some of the houses (mansions) along the lake, and Bert has his big white van serviced and ready to head back to Florida at the end of the month.
Ooops, we can’t find enough candles for that birthday cake!

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Trio of elderly (left) Mariann Stone, Bert Thomas, George Stone (Sharon Weber photo)

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Remember when you…………! Bert Thomas (left) and George Stone (Sharon Weber photo)