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HISTORICAL SERIES: The 1930s – 'Summerside quite a town'

By Jean MacKay/MacNaught History Centre & Archives

Published on July 13, 2017

Cecelia (Lefurgey) Wyatt outside her home in the 1930s.

©MacNaught History Centre & Archives

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Editor’s Note: 2017 marks the 150-year existence of two architectural gems that grace Summerside’s streetscapes. The Lefurgey Cultural Centre and the Wyatt Historic House Museum, both owned by the City of Summerside, occupy a whole block between Granville and Spring Streets, with Prince Street to the south and Winter Street to the north.

Built in 1867, each building has an interesting history. In tribute to their milestone anniversaries, 15 weekly articles, focusing on decades, will highlight the changes that have taken place within their walls and in the community. This is the eighth in that series.

 

The 1930s are generally known as the years of the Great Depression. However, in Summerside there was little evidence of hard times.

The raising of foxes throughout the countryside was even more popular, with many farmers using pelts as a cash crop. Tourism was on the rise with encouragement from the provincial government and many businesses opened to provide accommodation to a growing number of visitors.

The Financial Post, in Toronto, published an interesting article in 1934 claiming Summerside to have “the lowest per capita tax arrears of any municipality in the Dominion.” The article went on to describe the town as a mecca for silver fox fanciers and as an important port for shipping P.E.I. potatoes.

It also mentioned the fine stores, the airport, curling and skating rinks, race track, modern hospital, radio station, four miles of paved streets, and 15 miles of paved sidewalks. It summed up the description by stating the town had a balanced budget and declared “Yes, Summerside is quite a town.”

The state of affairs for the families in the Wyatt and Lefurgey houses was for the most part on an even keel.

James Edward Dalton, as owner of the Lefurgey House, was moving on with his life after the death of his first wife in 1927, when he married for a second time in 1932. His new bride was Helen Holland, who had grown up in Tryon and was a registered nurse.

Before the decade was out the couple had six children, in addition to the five children from his first marriage.

Dalton’s pharmacy business, Gourlies Ltd., moved into a new building at the end of 1930, and he was active in the community, serving on the Summerside School Board, the Prince County Hospital Board, and as president of the P.E.I. Pharmaceutical Association.

While the Dalton family increased in size, the Wyatt family lost half its members.

J. Edward Wyatt died in 1932, after being in poor health for several years. He was 73 years old and had served his community well, not only through the legal practice, but as a politician and as Stipendiary Magistrate and Recorder for the town.

His widow, Cecelia, and daughters Dorothy and Wanda had to adapt to life without him, particularly Wanda who settled his estate and business affairs.

The three women spent two months touring and visiting friends in Ottawa in 1934 and three months in Montreal in 1935. The following year they left Halifax for the West Indies where they spent the winter months.

On the return trip to P.E.I. in May 1937, Mrs. Wyatt died suddenly in Boston. Her body was brought home for burial next to her husband.