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Barrie's first mayor shares legacy with family

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

The life and times of Barrie's first mayor have been put to video, a visual and narrative documentary Willard Kinzie intends to share with his family and its future generations.

Originally the mayor of the Town of Barrie in 1957, Kinzie was also the municipality's first mayor when it was incorporated as a city in Jan. 1, 1959.

'The Milk Man' is the working title of the approximately hour-long video created by Debbie Marks, of Marks in Time, which specializes in capturing and preserving life stories.

She says Willard chose to record his stories so future generations will know the stuff they’re made of, where they came from and how to navigate the challenges ahead.

Kinzie and Marks spent many hours in conversation about his family, business activities and political life as well as going through 250 photos to create the video, which came about when his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were visiting him at his Florida condo earlier this year. The 94-year-old Kinzie would be in the Sunshine State now except for the fact that he's still taking part in one of his favourite past times: curling.

"We discussed wills, money matters and we had fun," he says, sitting in an office in the Shanty Bay Road home he's lived in for more than 50 years.

"In this, many stories came out. They wanted much more, a history of the Kinzie family. They begged me to do it," he says, of the video. "Going through photos and reflecting on your life shows you how good your life was. It certainly brought back things that had slipped from my mind."

Marks says 'The Milk Man' portrays the values Kinzie lives his life by and his hopes for his family in the future. The title refers to his time as owner of the Lakeview Dairy on Dunlop Street East until 1971 (he continued to run the business until 1975) as well as when he was owner of a small, one-route dairy in the Guelph area that he bought in 1945.

"I went door-to-door with the milk and my wife Ruth washed the bottles. At night I'd pasturize the milk for the next day's deliveries," he said. "Within a year-and-a-half we grew to three routes, I guess through aggressive advertising, and had three employees."

When he bought the Lakeview Dairy — the site of which is now a gaping hole in the ground between Dunlop Street and Kempenfelt Bay — in 1947 he had 20 employees.

His father, Isaiah Kinzie, and his uncles Ephraim and Harry Kinzie, were also purveyors of milk back in the day of horse-drawn milk carts.

Kinzie's contributions to the city are many.

Prior to becoming mayor, Kinzie was an alderman (now referred to as a councillor) and two of the visions he had for Barrie remain to this day.

He suggested developing the waterfront from swampland to an attraction for residents and visitors by infilling parts of the shoreline, which resulted in the creation of an area later known as Centennial Beach.

"We were told Barrie would never see another duck at the waterfront," he laughs.

But his suggestion for the the intersection known as Five Points while he was on council's traffic committee before becoming mayor was radical for its time.

Before Highway 400 was created, the downtown was traffic gridlock, especially during the summertime. It was Kinzie's idea to change the lights at the Five Points to an 'all walk'.

"It was the first intersection in Canada to have red lights at the same time. The headline in the Barrie Examiner was, ‘Kinzie Scheme: Run Don’t Walk!’ But eventually everyone got used to it. There’s no better way," he chuckles.

In the video, he also reminisces about the love of his life and Barrie’s 'First Lady', Ruth, who passed away in January 2011.

As the unofficial First Lady, Ruth would often fill in for her husband-mayor if he was unable to attend a function.

"There hadn't been a First Lady before and not after," he says. "If you couldn't go to an event, you'd normally ask one of the councillors, or alderman as they were known. But if I couldn't go, Ruth would go," he says. "And she had a sense of humour. She told me she used to put my letters to her under the pillow and one time she found she'd slept on the hydro bill."

One of the legacies he wants to impart to his descendants through the video is the importance of family, something he thinks is lacking in these modern times.

"I remember the first radio. At that time, people had more family dinners and family reunions and those kinds of things when you got acquainted with aunts, uncles and cousins," he says. "That's disappeared. Knowing your own family is getting somewhat remote."

He's has kept many of his parent's views close to his heart.

"Some of their beliefs are honesty, paying your debts, enjoying life and having fun and doing your part for your community. If you live in a community and enjoy that community, it's important to do your part."

To see a clip of The Milk Man, visit


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