Lighting Up the Town
Before we head downtown tonight to see the “Festival of Northern Lights” get switched on, it is interesting to contemplate the history of the electrical illumination of Owen Sound. If you are checking out the “Festival of Northern lights”, or are visiting the Farmer’s Market building sometime, there is a display panel on the south side of the market building that mentions the contributions of S. J. Parker to the early electrical history of Owen Sound. We weren’t always so brightly-lit up…
Back in 1886, Stephen Johnson Parker, along with Messrs. Richard Notter, William Brown, Edward Todd, and J. W. Redfern, started the Owen Sound Electric Illuminating Company in town. Their enterprise initially had a four-mile circuit that powered thirty arc lamps (of 2000 candlepower each). Within that year, there were 80 lamps lit up eventually. Coal power was used in the early days of the illuminating company, and the town purchased the electric company in 1902. Wouldn’t the founders of that company be absolutely amazed if they could see how many lights Owen Sound has on public display nowadays?
It is also neat to see the reproduction Noma Lites main street decorations up again. Noma Lites produced a lot of Christmas décor and illuminated items in its day, and in 1957, Noma Lites provided decorative lights for the main street to honour the 100thanniversary of Owen Sound. Gazing up at them in the 1960s was amazing, and we hope that today’s kids really enjoy the lights on display tonight. Here at Grey Roots, we have a “Twinkle the Toyland Angel” electrical light-up Christmas decoration that Noma Lites manufactured in the 1950s. Does anyone else still have some original vintage Noma light-up items that have miraculously survived over the years? The Noma Lites company (Noma Electric Co. of Canada, based in Toronto) started making Christmas / decorative lighting products at their branch plant in Owen Sound in 1947. During its peak years, the company employed about 225 people, most of whom were young women. In 1963, the company decided to close the Owen Sound plant as there were cost savings in using their Japan plant instead. It would be nice to know more about the company’s product lines.
Main Photo - Noma Lites Canada Limited. Owen Sound, Ont. April, 1953. Grey Roots Archival Collection.