Historical Plaque Properties

 

Clarence B. Card - Conductor - CNR
281 Cambria Street
1931

The house was originally built as an income property by Joseph Haist, a retired farmer and carpenter, who lived next door at 283 Cambria Street.

 

The first occupant of 281 Cambria Street was a tenant, Clarence Blakeman Card and his family. He was born on October 23, 1891 in the Village of Doon, which is now part of modern day Kitchener. Clarence was the son of Nicholas Card and Annie Wilson.


Unlike his father and brother who were bricklayers, Clarence decided to take a different career path and joined the Grand Trunk Railway as a brakeman. The position of brakeman was one of the most dangerous jobs on the railway. The incumbent would have to climb to the top of the moving railcar and turn the brake wheel to either speed up or slow down the train based on signals sent by the engineer via the train’s whistle. This was done in all kinds of weather including snow and freezing rain and would often require the brakeman to jump from car to car while the moving train was going up or down a grade or around a bend. Needless to say there was a high casualty and mortality rate among brakeman. At the time, railway companies took the position that safety on the job was the employee’s responsibility and provided no compensation other than funeral costs. Should an employee be disabled or unable to work, no financial assistance was provided by the railway company.
It was at the time he was a brakeman that Clarence met and married Lexie Alice Kay in Harrisburg, Brant County on November 19, 1913. The wedding took place on the eve of Lexie’s twenty-second birthday. She was born about a month after Clarence, on November 20, 1891 in St. George, Ontario the daughter of John Kay, a machinist, and Cynthia McKay.


Clarence stayed with the railway and was transferred to the newly created Canadian National Railway which was created as a result of the federal government’s decision to nationalize the GTR in 1919. Some speculate that the GTR’s demise was a result of poor management caused by a vacuum created because of the untimely death of its dynamic president, Charles Melville Hays, who went down with the RMS Titanic in 1912.
Clarence followed what appears to be the normal career path with the railway and, like many other brakemen who survived, was promoted to conductor, a position he held when the family moved into 281 Cambria Street. They lived there for a shot time before moving to 117 Wellington Street.


Sadly, Lexie took ill and died suddenly on November 28, 1934. Her death certificate said she is buried at the cemetery in St. George where her parents are buried as are Clarence’s parents.
The death of his wife, who was only 43 years of age, affected Clarence deeply. It appears he left for the United States where he applied for a social insurance card in September 1937. Regrettably, this is the last record we were able to find in our research into Clarence Blakeman Card.