Heritage group hopes to help California Alzheimer’s patient remember time in Petrolia


EDITOR’S NOTE: This Letter was published in the July 30th edition of The Independent. We thought we’d share it here in the hopes of finding more information for Petrolia Heritage to pass along to Anne Engardio in California.


Petrolia Heritage members are helping Anne Engardio of California put together a memory book for her mother who has Alzheimer’s Disease. We are looking for photos and details of Petrolia’s East End specifically the First Ave/Fifth St. area in the late 1930’s early 1940’s. Her mother has fond memories of her time in Petrolia.

Anne writes “My mother — who is turning 90 in November — was Phyllis Lanigan. She spent many summers and one year in school in Petrolia living with her grandmother Mary Anne Kelly (nee Hartigan). My mom doesn’t remember what grade she was in when she attended school in Petrolia nor does she remember the name of the school. After talking with Jean Bradshaw, she said  she believes it was Central school. My mom talked about walking through town, passing the fire station, over a bridge to get to school, and cardboard piled up at the school that the students could use it to slide down the hill. 

My mother’s mother (born in 1898) was Kathleen Gertrude Kelly. She had a sister Phyllis (born in 1900 whom I’m told was named after the midwife in Petrolia as part of her fee), and two brothers William Leo (called Leo) and Patrick. I think Leo was a U.S. Customs officer. He was in World War I, injured and walked with a limp after his service. I think he moved into some boarding house in Petrolia but Mom is sketchy on that. My mother’s mother and her siblings were born in Petrolia but my mom wasn’t sure if her grandparents were born there or moved there. Her grandfather was William Kelly.

Mom often talked about Berdan’s Candy Store, she especially liked a candy bar called Bordeaux Joy. The actual name was the Bordeaux Flip. The candy store was across the street from her grandmother’s house on Fifth Street. Her grandmother had pear trees and apple trees. She also talked about Bishop’s grocery store where they had a phone and would let her grandmother use it is she needed to make a call. She said Cy Bishop and another Bishop ran it. Her grandmother would call Alex, the only taxi driver in town, to take her to church or into town if she couldn’t walk. The fare was 25 cents. She doesn’t know Alex’s last name. I saw on the website petroliaheritage.com that a Mrs. Alex Dalziel collected old clippings that were donated by her daughter. I was wondering if her husband was Alex the taxi driver in the 1930s or maybe 1940s, or perhaps her father-in-law.

Seemed to me my mom had an awful lot of memories for one year. My uncle thinks she lived there five years or more, plus the summers the whole family went up there. The entire family, except my grandfather lived with Grandma Kelly in 1938 and 39. He said he went to Jubilee School. Mom probably did too. She may have gone to two schools because she is six years older than him and lived there much longer.

Her grandmother, Mary Anne Kelly, was known as Minnie. Her husband, William, was a laborer and often was away. My uncle thinks he may have worked in the oil fields in Petrolia and elsewhere. He died in 1930. Minnie had many friends. My mom doesn’t remember the names and just says she had many friends. My uncle, who is six years younger than my mother, and was a young lad when he lived in Petrolia, also said his grandmother had many friends and he remembers two of them, one named Liz who always wore men’s clothes and boots. Another named Nell who always wore a long black dress, with long sleeves, even when it was 90 degrees outside.

Grandma’s house on Fifth Street was torn down in the summer of 2014. He went by to see it last year and he said the ground was really fresh and soft so he thought it had come down recently. With that information is there some way I can find out what the address was? Neither my mom nor my uncle remember an address. Do you know if they had house numbers in those days on the houses?

My grandmother, Kathleen Kelly was known as Kitty. She was born in 1898. She married Thomas Lanigan in Niagara Falls, where she had moved to work. Her sister Phyllis Kelly was born in 1900. They had brothers William Leo and Patrick. Leo was a custom’s officer in Sarnia and Patrick went to Port Huron and became an insurance agent.

Grandma Kelly left Petrolia in 1942 after having a stroke and came to Detroit to live with my grandma and her family. She died April 23, 1945.”

We are happy to scan any photos and return them promptly

Please contact Liz Welsh 519-882-0825 or [email protected]

Liz Welsh

For Petrolia Heritage


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