Shades of the Past

They were born in Victorian times. They were young over a century ago. They passed away in the 1960s. Nobody under the age of 60 is likely to remember them at all.

They don’t appear to have family descendants who are researching their memory. There’s plenty of info on the Internet about them but I may be the only person who cares enough to look for it. I have no connection to them other than I knew and liked them when I was a boy, and they knew and liked me. So here’s a post about them. They deserve that much.

Dr. Robert V. Hall D.D.S.

Dr. Hall was a gentle and kindly man who scared the hell out of me when I was about 11. He was an old school dentist with old school (slow, grinding, hot) cavity drilling equipment and no use of dental anesthetic. Getting a tooth filled was pure Purgatory back then.

I knew Dr, Hall was an older guy but I didn’t realize that he was still a practicing professional well into his 70s. I guess nobody retired in those days – and heaven knows we still needed his services in our little 1950s town. Anyway here’s his life story, courtesy of Ancestry and FamilySearch.

Robert Vernoy Hall was born in Toronto in July 1882. He grew up in the town of Hawkesbury where his father was a merchant. Later on he moved with the family to Hamilton. He was apparently a late bloomer as a student, graduating at the age of 30 with the 1912 dentistry class at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Hall married Nora May Tallman in 1920 but the marriage wasn’t a happy one. By 1930 Nora Hall was on her way to the USA  to live with an uncle in Tennessee.

Dr. Hall then practiced in Frankford Ontario for a long while and came to my town of Deseronto in the 1950s. He was still working there when he passed away in August 1961. Dr. Hall’s passing at the age of 79 left my family without dental care and it was quite a struggle for us to find a new dentist. It isn’t that way today, fortunately. Dr. Robert V. Hall practiced his profession for 49 years. Quite a guy.

Miss Myrtle Helena Johnston

She was in her 80s when I first got to know her, as she often came into my father’s grocery shop to buy fruit and vegetables. You called her “Miss Johnston,” thank you very much. Nothing else would have been appropriate.

Myrtle Helena Johnston was born in Prince Edward County south of Trenton in 1878. She moved with her family to Deseronto around the turn of the 20th century. She was trained professionally as a nurse – probably in Toronto as she was working there in the 1920s. She kept that aura of hard nosed professionalism well into her retirement years – God help any doctor who would have crossed her in her salad days.

One of the things I most admired about Miss Johnston was how she spent every winter in Jamaica. You have to imagine how she did it – a train ride to Miami, a ship’s voyage to Kingston every year. I think she must have worked down there as a volunteer nurse when she initially retired. There are immigration records showing that she did this trip during World War II, so it was more than a beach holiday for her. There was no SunWing Airlines Champagne Service in 1955.

Miss Johnston passed away in 1968 at the age of 90 – of course she never married. She’s buried with her parents in the old Ameliasburg cemetery near where she was born. Quite a lady.

Shades of the past. Gone – but at least in the case of a small boy’s memory – not forgotten.


Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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