Mervin Coulson

Our Community Remembers Mervin Coulson 1909 to 1998

Mervin Edwin Coulson was born in Lowville, April 13, 1909, fourth child and third son of Edwin B. Coulson and Eleanor (Gunby) Coulson. Preceded by two older brothers and a sister, Mervyn next got another sister, Eleanor Beatrice, born September 30, 1912, and we were followed by two more brothers and another sister. So, there we were, smack dab in the middle of a family of eight children, close together by chance and close all our lives by choice.

In those days an older child watched over the younger one and Mervin became my faithful care-taker. As I tagged along beside him I learn how to milk cows, fork hay, handle sheaves, herd cattle and groom horses, lessons that once learned are not forgotten.

For practical farm work Father owned several fine Percheron horses and it soon became evident and Mervin had a special kind of caring as he worked with them. Soon he became the one who helped break-in colts, trained matched teams and brood mares for show purposes and always kept them well groomed. One year we were all proud when our pet mare, Jessie, won the Silver Medal for Best Brood Mare at the Oakville Fall Fair.

Father encouraged his sons to be enterprising and to save for a farm of their own. Mervyn raised ducks, rabbits and a fine flock of sheep and in his turn harvested a crop from a field that Father donated for a son’s use from time to time. One winter he drove a small second-hand coupe he had bought to Hamilton and took daily lessons until he had earned his legal barber’s license. He seemed to have a natural talent as he had been cutting hair in the family for quite a while. As it turned out, in addition to later working his own farm, he did barbering after supper to supplement a depression era income. He kept busy barbering for the village people, his relatives and friend. There were some who claimed years later that no one other than Mervin had ever cut their hair again. Sometimes the customers stayed and played cards and the social times were many.

Mother gave us all a chance to take music lessons. I remember at early age Mervyn was trying to get a humming rhythm from Father’s jewsharp, then he mastered the mouth-organ and finally chose violin lessons from Mr. Wheeler at Milton. While still in our teens Mervyn and I join the United Church Choir. His true tenor tone was quickly recognized, and he was given solo parts in anthems, and concerts, and in later years his voice blended perfectly with the contralto voice of his wife as they sang their renowned duets.

Around 1930 Reverend George Kelly helped a group form an orchestra: Mervyn, Vernon McArthur and Emory Tarzwell, violins; Mr. Kelly played the trumpet and acted as director, Maurice Powell kept us in beat with his drums and I was pianist. Mr. Kelly took us a long way into playing better music in the six years he was with us.

Mr. Kelly also organize the Lowville Male Quartet: Mervynn was first tenor, Mr. Kelly was second tenor, (after he left Lowville George Coulson took his place). Vernon McArthur and Maurice Readhead sang the bass parts and Maurice’s wife, Grace (Koella) was their accompanist. Their outstanding renditions were much in demand at our own services as well as at anniversaries and funeral services all around the county. In later years the quartet became a part of the famed Halton Male Choir.

Over the years Mervyn sang numerous memorable solos at family weddings. With an untrained voice except for diligent practice and persistent performance he mastered difficult classical pieces, many of the favourites being “The Holy City”, “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Holy Night”. He sang with much feeling.

When our older siblings were married and away and the younger ones still in public school, we shared winter noon hours on the farm with our parents. While Father snoozed on the sofa and with Mother at the piano, we entertained ourselves or practised for some event at the church, Mervyn played his mouth organ or violin, and I strummed my ukulele. We received old songs and learned new ones.

Before I was allowed to date, Mervyn and his girlfriend, Ora Koella, invited me along on their Sunday afternoon walks, escorted me to young people’s and choir picnics, taught me to swim, often took me to a movie – talkies were new, Tom Mix rode the range, and Al Jolson sang “Mammy”. Hikes to Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point were annual events and often up to a dozen other friends came with us. We explored areas of the Bruce Trail before it became known by that name. Sometimes our hikes took us over the western line fence of Father’s “back 50”, then along the Twelve Creek, now Bronte, and into the property that W.D. Flatt developed as Cedar Springs. What fun and knowledge I’d have missed if my big brother hadn’t let me tag along.

On March 31, 1934, Mervynn and Ora were married in Lowville United Church, attended by sister Eleanor and Vernon McArthur. They farmed on two different farms between Derry Road and Lowville, the latter being immediately north of Lowville Mill Dam where, when younger, we enjoyed swimming, morning, noon or night. When time came to retire and the farm was sold, Mervyn retained the ideal section of the field next to the road just above the dam to build a retirement home. It was just like a wildlife park. They could see the sun shining off the water, through the trees in the woods, birds were numerous and often a white-tailed deer forgot to be timid and could be seen on the lawn between the woods and the house. Mervyn and Ora were still inveterate hikers and there was ample space as the woods extended along the creek to the west were once again we now find a section of the Bruce Trail. In their leisure time they explored areas for new varieties of wildflowers and different species of birds and animals. The woods became the source of fuel for the fireplace and produce gallons of maple syrup, work that Mervyn enjoyed while he was able.

Sons, Paul, Bruce and Philip, all built their homes on lots on Mervyn’s farm while daughter Gail settled in Milton. Christmas time and anniversaries brought them all together for happy times and sing-songs. Extended fun came at cottages on Loon Lake, near Dorset, and on the water fishing, canoeing and water skiing which, in spite of his advanced age when he learned, Mervyn excelled at, keeping up with younger fellows. There was much more hiking and their never ending hospitality meant weekends and social holidays with many visitors. One Thanksgiving weekend the Coulters and Coulsons invited the Coulson brothers and sisters and their spouses to their side-by-side cottages on Loon Bay, Near Dorset. Time was spent cruising the lakes in ideal fall weather and viewing the spectacular colours in the surrounding hills. Nighttime was filled with music of sing-songs and the hilarity of card games. Everyone agreed it was a memorable occasion.

Mervyn’s and Ora’s influence on their family of three generations was reflected in a loving commemorative poem written by Daryl, their oldest grandson, for their 60th wedding anniversary celebration in 1994. It was read at Mervyn’s funeral on July 11, 1998 by sister-in-law, Irma Coulson, at the request of the family, as a fitting memorial.

It was necessary for Mervyn to have nursing care at the Heritage House, Guelph, for several months prior to his death. It is the practice there to honour residence, in turn, by inviting family to gather mementos of their lives to portray their many interests. On Father’s Day of 1998, an outstanding display appeared, gathered lovingly by Mervyn‘s family – shelves full of childhood keepsakes (antiques), family, choir and quartet photos, barbering tools, and horse brasses, prominent among them the prized Silver Medal for Best Brood Mare. Father had given it to the one whom he felt had earned it.

The display case had been entitled “Mervyn – Farmer by day, Barber by night, Singer by heart.”

Mervyn had earned many titles, steward of the land, responsible citizen, naturalist, faithful husband and father.

I’ll always remember him as beloved brother, kind protector, forever friend.

Contributing Author: Eleanor B Coulter

Source: Kilbride Chronicles, Issue 14, page 18
Transcribed by: Lyndsey Innes