Old Newspaper StoriesWindsor

Oliver Mowat Perry

There are places all around our fair city, that bear the names of people who were once well known prominent citizens.

As the years pass, and memories fade, those names start to lose meaning, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who walks past a building or school and wonders who the building was named after.

Located on the corner of Wyandotte and Crawford, is one such building.

The Oliver M. Perry Substation. I’ve long wondered, exactly who was Oliver Perry?


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Unfortunately my photos above are a several years old, the overgrown bushes, as seen in the Google Streetview image have long since been removed. The building was designed by Windsor architect David J. Cameron in 1938, and it is the older brother of the Seminole Hydro Substation, built in 1941 (which is basically half of the Perry Substation) also by Cameron.

So a trip to the library led me to the October 25, 1941 issue of the Windsor Daily Star:

DEATH COMES SUDDENLY TO O.M. PERRY OF HYDRO

MANAGER OF HYDRO DIVISION OF THE WINDSOR UTILITIES MOURNED

The day Oliver Perry died, he did so, shortly after arriving at home from a district meeting of the Ontario Municipal Electric Association in St. Thomas. He had been at the meeting with J. Clark Keith, General Manager of Windsor Utilities, and Garnet A. Edwards, the Commissioner. According to the article they left St. Thomas in the late afternoon, stopping for dinner in Chatham, arriving back in Windsor at 8:15.

Perry drove everyone home, and he also dropped off an airman they had picked up who was hitchhiking at the Tunnel. The Airman was on leave and trying to Get home to Chicago. St. Thomas was an air training base for the British Commonwealth Air Training Program, during WWII. So this group of Hydro executives gave the pilot a lift to the border.

After dropping everyone off, Perry returned home to 1321 Victoria Avenue, (which is directly across the street from architect J.C. Pennington) parked his car in the garage. He went inside his house, took off his coat and shoes, put on some slippers, and claimed “he was slightly tired”. He laid down, and died of a massive heart attack.

Perry was born in Meyers Cave, Ontario in 1895. He went to school in Perth, and after his graduation spent a few years as a teacher. He then went to Queen’s University and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He went to work in Montreal for Canadian Pacific Railway before moving on to Toronto taking a job with the Electric Light Company.

In 1913, at age 28 he was sent to Windsor to help set up the local hydro company. He married Bessie Shepherd, the daughter of J.H. Shepherd, who was the hydro commissioner (and likely something to do with the naming of Shepherd Street in Windsor as well) in 1916.

He was a member of the YMCA, and an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was also past president of the Rotary Club and a former member of the board of management of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. He was also a member of Rose Lodge, A.F. & A.M. (I have no idea what those last few are…) and a member of Essex Golf & Country Club. He was part of a regular foursome that was made up of Rev. H.M. Paulin (of St. Andrew’s), Magistrate William A. Smith and architect David Cameron. In 1927, he scored a Hole in One at Essex.

Burial took place at Windsor Grove. Oliver Perry was 58 at the time of his passing. He left his widow and two daughters Shirley and Virginia.

Judging by his obituary, he was a well respected, community minded man. Today, his memory only remains visible on the flaking limestone facade of a west-side hydro substation.

I wonder if the family is still around the Windsor area?
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