Town Crier: Daddy Hall kept early Owen Sound informed and became a legend in the social history of the community not only in the role of dispenser of news, but also as one of the first African-Canadian citizens in the town.
Today the various means of communicating messages are taken for granted. In a matter of a few seconds we can send letters to friends and businesses over the Internet. Organizations advertise coming events in the pages of the Sun Times. Commercial interests advertise their businesses and sales in the newspaper and on the radio. Television shows are available for our entertainment because of the commercials, which seem to run forever, pay for the broadcast. But in early days of this area advertising was carried out in a more unique way.
Despite the fact that Owen Sound had as many as three newspapers to carry the news and advertisements of the day, many companies employed the use of a Town Crier or Town Bell Ringer to announce their sales or other events. One of more popular Town Criers to work the streets of Owen Sound was John 'Daddy*' Hall.
"Daddy” Hall arrived in Owen Sound in the 1850s, and he is considered by some local historians to be one of the first African American citizens of this community. He lived on the north end of Victoria Park which was then known as the Pleasure Grounds.
Each day, at about 10:00 in the morning, "Daddy" Hall would arrive at the corner of 10th Street and 3rd Ave. East and commence to announce the "news" of the day. He would ring his bell and announce his message. An example of the type of message that Hall would deliver was carried in an early edition of the Sun Times:
"To whom it may concern: Be it known unto you and to all to whom you may deliver this message, that there will be sold on the market square in the Town of Owen Sound, by George James Gale, licensed auctioneer for the County of Grey, in the Province of Upper Canada, under and by virtue of power of sale, contained in a certain chattel mortgage which will be produced at the time of sale; namely six sheep and four lambs, two cows and one yoke of oxen. Terms Cash. Remember the hour this afternoon at half - past two o'clock, on the Market Square. God Save the Queen."
After delivering his message, Hall would proceed to the corner of 10th Street and 2nd Ave. East. While he walked, he would swing his bell over his shoulder and around in a circle. After making his announcement, Hall would then proceed in a similar fashion along 2nd Ave. East, stopping at the corner of 9th Street and then halfway between 8th and 9th Streets, to once again call out his message. "Daddy?' Hall would complete his route with a ringing message at the Market Square.
At 2:00 pm Hall would repeat this process, perhaps with the same message or a new one. The one constant in each of Hall's pronouncements was that he ended every message with “God Save the Queen".
This work must have agreed with Hall. He was a popular figure around town and was well liked by everyone. Working out of doors in all types of climate did not seem to impact on his health as he lived to be more than 100 years old.
Newer and more efficient means of advertising eventually led to the end of the role of Town Crier.
The information used in this article came from many different editions of Owen Sound newspapers.
A version of "Town Crier: Daddy Hall Kept Early Owen Sound Informed," originally appeared in my Local History column in the Friday, September 1, 2000 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.