Home History Building the Midland Arena Gardens during the Great Depression
Building the Midland Arena Gardens during the Great Depression

Building the Midland Arena Gardens during the Great Depression

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Instead of receiving pogey during the 1930’s Great Depression, men in Midland built the Midland Arena Gardens.

‘Pogey’ is slang for Employment Insurance or Welfare. It derived from the Scottish word “pogie” which meant workhouse, or a place in the 1500’s where beggars, children and others unable to support themselves were sent to work and in turn received food and shelter.

From Mary Haskill’s book, ‘Nosing into the Past’, she writes “ During this time, the town (Midland) went from a high standard of living, with jobs for everyone, to hard, hard times…This was a mean-spirited time in Canadian history. There was money in the coffers, but the public money was doled out by self-righteous bureaucrats shaking in their boots for fear somebody got a nickel more than they were entitled to…”

Since Midland did not have a skating rink at this time, the plan was to ask for public money to build a new one. The local MPP, Bill Finlayson, was approached but his answer was “ You can’t buy a building with welfare money but, maybe, you can get some money for park improvements.” After proposed their park improvements and receiving the necessary money, they started planning for the new Midland Arena Gardens. “Local architect, Wilfred Smith (who had designed the original high school) drew up the plans. Cement and building materials were purchased as ‘park repairs’. Single men worked at night and married men worked during the day.”

“Labour was paid using money that would ordinarily be used for welfare. A voucher system was worked out so a man could work a full week, with one day’s pay put against his taxes…He was then paid half his wages and the other half was held in reserve against the day when there was no work.”

For the full story, please read ‘Nosing into the Past’. by Mary Haskill

Photo: Courtesy of the Midland Sports Hall of Fame

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Building the Midland Arena Gardens during the Great Depression

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