Zorra Now - Community Events & Services Magazine -Spring 2023

28 Zorra Now | Spring 2023 FEATURE ARTICLE Over the past year, a memorial to W. Harvey Beaty has been taking shape in the Thamesford Lions River Park – a labour of love, of sorts, for Thamesford resident Doris Weir. But the time spent on the memorial, being constructed in partnership with the Township of Zorra, pales in comparison to the many months spent by Weir compiling a recently-published book of memoirs about the remarkable Thamesford-based businessman. Weir worked more than 15 years at Cold Springs Farm, the company Beaty founded in 1949 – naming it after the springs that created a “village swimming hole” in the Thames River at the back of the 110-acre property that started it all – and oversaw until his death in 1994. She started there in 1987, so had seven years working in the office interacting almost daily with the boss before he passed away and Cold Springs Farm was split up and sold. Maple Leaf Foods eventually took over the poultry processing facility on the original farm site that had grown over the decades into Zorra Township’s largest employer. Maple Leaf closed the plant in 2018 and the property was sold the following year to the Township; it is currently being redeveloped for housing and municipal uses. Book and memorial honour Thamesford legacy ofW. Harvey Beaty By Stew Slater In April 2020, Weir approached the township about documenting the barns and processing plants before all the buildings were demolished, as a way of preserving a record of what had been essentially the lifeblood of Thamesford for decades. She was given access to the site, along with Beachville District Museum curator Stephanie Radu. Weir was able to take dozens of photos which are now available through a Flickr account. And Radu was able to acquire dozens of artifacts and documents. About 45 of the artifacts – including boxes that employees picked up their Christmas turkeys in, work permits, cones for poultry deboning, promotional DVDs, turkey shackles, years of service plaques, key rings and trophies from the employee association’s participation in hockey tournaments – are now in the possession of the Beachville District Museum. Other documents secured by Radu at the time were passed on to the Oxford County Archives. Not long after, Weir was surprised to be contacted by former Cold Springs Farm Turkey Division Vice President George Leroux. Having learned of her effort to preserve the site’s history, he informed her that he had in his possession other photos associated with the company. “So he gave me a bunch of negatives,” Weir explained in a recent interview. “But with the negatives came this memoirs book. I started looking through the book and immediately I thought, ‘oh my God, people have to know about this.” On two different occasions in 2020-21, she was laid off from her job due to COVID-19. She decided to use this time to “digitize” the memoirs by scanning pdfs of the pages and converting them to text, then going through that text word-by-word to ensure the writing translated correctly from the written to computerized word. Generally spending between 2-3 hours per day at it (“I can’t sit at a computer all day”), it took her approximately six months. The memoirs included notes written by Harvey Beaty himself about his early life, pre-Cold Springs employment and business ventures, successes and setbacks as