Under Chief Smith's watch, peace and tranquility was the way everyone liked it, and he kept it that way.

Who Knew 100x100 2015By Mark Gillies

January 22, 2015


Part 3 of a 4 part feature

Burlington in transition
Under Chief Smith’s watch, Burlington continued to grow rapidly, as it continued to transition itself from an agricultural community to a suburban bedroom town. From around 1916 to 1941, the little town grew to almost 4,000 inhabitants. One man that was instrumental in feeding construction materials to the exploding housing market was Jacob Cooke. Jake manufactured concrete blocks starting in 1935.

Pic 11 Jake Cooke House

Jake Cooke started his concrete block business in 1935 at his residence in his garage. The house was originally numbered as 3 New Street, and was at the corner of Martha Street. This Burlington manufacturer grew to be one of the largest of its kind in North America.

The one man factory was located in Jake’s garage beside his house on New Street, at the corner of Martha Street.  The demand was so high for Jake to supply the house builders with concrete blocks, that as a one man operation, Jake was churning these blocks out almost nonstop around the clock, 7 days a week. As with most factories, big or small the noise was unbearable, and Jake’s neighbours on New Street and surrounding streets were complaining. Chief Smith was at Jake’s home continually handing out warnings and fines. Jake consistently apologized, yet persevered, paying out the money for the fines. Today, it’s widely accepted that a great many houses in Burlington with concrete blocks in their basement walls were manufactured by Jake Cooke’s second plant located in Aldershot. One day Jake Cooke’s house on New Street was also demolished, an all too familiar practice in Burlington.

Pic 11A Home Guard

The men of Burlington gather as the Home Guard under Chief Smith’s guidance and get ready for a drill in 1940 to prepare for any disaster that might happen during World War 2.

The Chief defends Burlington with the Home Guard
In 1940, as the war began, it was decided that Burlington needed to be prepared locally for anything destructive that might happen, perhaps sabotage, or something worse.  The Burlington Home Guard was created. Chief Lee Smith was one of the founding organizers, and all Burlington men of legal age, were to register on a voluntary basis. A counting of all local firearms was to recorded. The Chief was ready for anything. “O Canada, We stand on guard for thee”.

Pic 12 Police Cruiser

Ken Scott is behind the wheel of the new 1947 Ford Coupe Police Cruiser, the first one for the department. The photo was taken on Lakeshore Road at the corner of Maple Avenue, by the railway tracks. If you look behind the rear of the trunk you can see part of the word “Burlington” in a floral garden on a slight hill, planted there by Spencer Smith and the Burlington Horticultural Society, as part of their beautification of Burlington mandate.

Burlington’s first Police cruiser
Chief Smith continued to work hard and grow his department. It took a while, but the Town Council under the leadership of Mayor Edwin Leather, took the Chief’s request seriously. The Police Department should now have their own cruiser. Officers would no longer be required to use their own vehicles to drive to accidents, perform high speed chases, apprehend criminals, or transport vomiting and urine soaked drunks off to jail. In late 1946 or early 1947 Chief Smith and his department proudly took possession of their first police cruiser.   The boys down at the station were pretty excited and happy about this new arrival. The vehicle was a brand new 1947 black 2 door Ford coupe and it actually had a working siren on the roof. Children in the neighbourhood loved to hear the siren’s sound, and the boys on the force loved to turn it on for the kids’ amusement. Chief Smith, on the other hand, was not amused. Still, life was pretty good at the Burlington Police Department in 1947.

Burlington’s finest from 1953 remembered.
By 1953, Chief Smith’s Police department had grown, now there were 8 men, as the town continued to expand. The town had also taken another dramatic jump in population. Now, Burlington had over 6,000 living within its boundaries. Chief Smith had excellent instincts about people, and always personally selected each new officer. All new officers were to possess outstanding leadership characteristics and stellar people skills. Any of his men should possess the abilities to one day be a future Police Chief or a community leader.

Pic 13 Chief Smith & his officers in 1953

These 8 police officers in 1953 were Burlington’s finest. Standing: L-R, Sam Peer, Tom Smith, Art Turcotte, Charlie Parsons & Tom Oliver. Seated: L-R, Lisle Crawford, Chief Lee Smith & Ken Scott.

The Police Chief believed in his men, and they believed in him. The bond between them was very tight. The “Magnificant 7” never let their Chief down. The department under Chief Smith’s command consisted of Sam Peer, Tom Smith, Art Turcotte, Charlie Parsons, Tom Oliver, Lisle Crawford, and Ken Scott.   Some of these officers went on to have long rewarding careers with Halton Regional Police Services. Lisle Crawford in 1953 was Chief Smith’s sergeant, and when Lee retired in 1956, at the age of 71, Deputy Chief Crawford became Burlington’s next Chief of Police.

Pic 14 Sam Peer & Lisle Crawford

Sam Peer is on the left, and Lisle Crawford is in uniform. Lisle was promoted to became Burlington’s Police Chief following Chief Smith’s retirement in 1956.

Pic 14A Sam Peer

Sam Peer was active in the community, also serving as a volunteer fireman, in addition to his duties as a Burlington Police Officer.

Sam Peer, proud to be known as an “old school” officer passed away in 1987. Sam was an outstanding Officer, and even his son James was so inspired by his father, that he too, followed in his father’s footsteps and became an OPP Officer. Sam was so community minded, he even served as a volunteer fireman.  Charlie Parsons after returning from the war, initially found work as a bus driver, then joined the police department in 1948.

Pic 14B Charlie Parsons

A former Citizen of the Year, Charlie Parsons served his community well, as a Police Officer, a volunteer fireman, and 30 years with the Burlington Teen Tour Band.

Many in Burlington will remember Charlie as a fixture for 30 years with Burlington’s Teen Tour Band, devoting countless hours with them, as an Equipment Manager and driver for the band’s truck, Charlie travelled everywhere with the band. The kids in the band affectionately called him “Uncle Charlie”. Always willing to help, Charlie served as a volunteer fireman too. Gary Parsons, Charlie’s son was so proud of his father, he too, felt the call to become a Halton Regional Police Officer. In 1957 Charlie was awarded Burlington’s Citizen of the Year. The City was saddened when Charlie at the age of 60 passed away in 1983, the same year he retired. Fortunately, for Charlie, he did get to attend his huge retirement party held at King’s Court on King Road. The place was packed. It seemed like everyone was there. Charlie will never be forgotten.

Lisle Crawford was Police Chief in 1959, when a bank robbery at the corner of Brant and Caroline Streets resulted in a gun fight between the robbers and the police. An unbelievable 45 shots were fired before the 2 men were apprehended. Lisle retired as Chief in 1968, and sadly Chief Crawford passed away in 1983.

Pic 15 Ken Scott

Ken Scott was promoted to Deputy Chief after Chief Smith’s retirement, and after amalgamation Ken became an Inspector with the newly amalgamated police department.

Ken Scott was promoted to Deputy Chief, and in 1958 when Burlington, Aldershot, and Nelson Township amalgamated, Ken became an Inspector for the newly integrated department. It was actually Ken Scott who became the first officer to get behind the wheel of the department’s new 1947 Ford.   Ken recalled when he retired around 1968 or 1969,that back in the early days when he joined the department full time in 1943, all 4 officers were working 6 days a week doing 12 hour shifts, even doubling as dog catchers, and licence fee collectors. Ken fondly recalled, they were rough days, but good days. Ken Scott passed away in 1986.

Pic 16 Tom & Dorothy Oliver

Constable Tom Oliver marries the love of his life, the lovely Dorothy Daniels. Tom, a Staff Sergeant retired from the Halton Regional Police Services around 1991.

One of the men who the Chief hired as a new police officer in 1946, following the war, was 23 year old Fred Oliver, ex-soldier and ex- military police officer who was the older brother of fellow Officer Tom Oliver.  Tom had a full rewarding career in policing and would later retire as a Staff Sergeant with Halton Regional Police. Tom passed away in 2006.

Pic 17 Fred Oliver

Fred Oliver was the older brother to Tom Oliver. Fred eventually became Oakville’s Chief of Police and Deputy Chief with the Halton Regional Police Services, and after retirement, Fred had a second career as a politician serving on Oakville and Halton Regional Council.

Fred stayed for one year in Burlington, and moved on to head up the Trafalgar Township Police and become its Chief at 25 years of age, making him the youngest Chief in Ontario.   Fred was involved at this same time in the famous bank robbery shootout on Brant Street, firing 2 shots at one of the robbers. With amalgamation in 1962, Fred was promoted to Chief of Police in Oakville, and in 1974 he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Halton Regional Police Services, retiring in 1980. A new career in politics led Fred into the Oakville and Regional Council political circle for many more years. Chief Oliver passed away in 2011.

The Chief’s priority was to keep Burlington’s youth out of trouble
The Chief was becoming more alarmed by the number of young people in the recently suburbanized Burlington, who were now beginning to get themselves into lots of trouble. They were good kids, just bored. During the 1950s, the town went from a population somewhere around 6,000 in 1950, and in the same decade, Burlington’s population would top up at around 47,000 by 1960. Burlington was experiencing a huge population explosion. During the Chief’s time in office, the population came very close to being a staggering 25 times greater than when he first began his career in Burlington. In this bigger town, there wasn’t too much for these teenagers to do in those days.

The kids were starting to hang around the new plazas that had just been built, or they were wandering up and down Brant Street in large numbers, yelling, swearing, fighting and just making a complete nuisance of themselves, all to the annoyance of those around. Teenage drinking, noisy cars and motorcycles, and lots more mischief from these kids was taxing the Chief’s patience.

The Chief instructed his officers to pay particular importance to these kinds of events, and to put a stop to their antics as quickly as possible, without bringing strong armed enforcement into it. The officers carried out the Chief’s orders efficiently and without any major incident, and as a result, once the young troublemakers were made aware that the Chief and his men meant business, and would not tolerate any misbehaviour, everything soon settled down to relative calmness, just the way the Chief liked it. Under the Chief’s watch, peace and tranquility was the way everyone liked it, and he kept it that way.

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2 comments to Under Chief Smith’s watch, peace and tranquility was the way everyone liked it, and he kept it that way.

  • Mark Gillies

    If you are referring to the event that happened in Oakville on February 28, 1930; it was reported in the media as follows:

    The chief of police, having been located and summoned, arrived in time to observe the throng of men gathered on Johnson’s lawn. To what I’m sure was Johnson’s great consternation, the chief, recognizing the men as members of high standing from the nearby city of Hamilton, declared that no crime had been committed, and that everyone was free to leave. The newspapers, reporting on this late-night accosting, remarked on the Klan’s orderly conduct, and opined that while their tactics may have been a bit dramatic, their intention to dissuade miscegeny was surely laudable and appropriate. Indeed, this line from the Globe on March 3rd, was particularly telling about the prevailing attitudes of white Canadians:

    According to the report by the Oakville Police Chief, the men he recognized “of high standing” were from Hamilton and not Burlington.

  • James Smith

    Interesting collection.
    I’ve often wondered if any members of the Hamilton KKK that caused the notorious Fiery Cross Burning and related events in Oakville were actually from Burlington.