Piecing It Together Piecing It Together for Franklin (Frank) Johnston

In our PIT stop feature, we assemble additional pieces of the puzzle. Readers are able to learn more about the mill, its employees and the Hespeler community at large.


This website’s existence can be credited largely to Frank Johnston. He is responsible for capturing almost all of the photography within. He was instrumental in capturing the stories of hundreds of Hespelerites over the years.

80 years after the first newsletter is published, this Throwback Website was created to honour his work and present it to a new generation. Thanks Frank, you did great work at preserving the stories of your generation in our community.

Background Information

Frank and his wife Aileen, will go on to have two children, Brian and Miles. They remain married until the very end. Frank passes away July 22, 2011.

“On the day he left Galt Collegiate, he put in an application at the ‘Big Mill’ and then walked to Guelph to apply for work at a company that was hiring. By the time he walked back home his mother said the “Big Mill” had called and he could start the following day. He worked full-time though the many different owners; DW&W, Silknit and then for Waterloo Textiles. He was known as one of the best ‘dyers’ in North America. Frank was still working at 80 yrs. of age, but then reduced his schedule to half-days, and continued until age (approx.) 85. A career of nearly 69 years at the same location.”

Quote from Lary Turner, January 2021

Frank Johnston in the Lab

Frank Johnston

28 year old Frank from still image captures in the 1945 Film “Know Your Suit”.

Frank Johnston in Lab - 1990s

Still in the lab after more than 60 years.

Frank Johnston

Working with one of his high-end cameras.

Frank Johnston

Frank on a photoshoot with Helen Meaney from Dominion Woollens. Showing her magazine photos of what he’s trying to recreate. Helen also makes an appearance in the film Know Your Suit in 1946.

Curiosity & Talent

He was able to accomplish many things in his lifetime.

Like many of his generation, Frank didn’t have extensive formal education, but he never let this get in the way of learning and living life.

He became proficient at his job in the lab. He was a master of the dying process of woollen materials. He tested materials for strength and durability and became an expert at identifying fibres qualities under the microscope.

He was an excellent painter and sketch artist. As can be seen here of a production of his wife Aileen.

Frank Johnston painting of Aileen

He experimented with sculpture and created two controversial statues on his Weaver street property.

This video below shows the statue in the front yard that cause such a stir in the community for depicting bare breast.


Below is the statue he created and placed in the back yard. It is believed to be modeled after his wife Aileen.

Aileen Johnston Statue



Learning to Fly

It appears that Frank masters the art of photography and decided to move on to other hobbies. In the 1950’s he learns to fly and becomes a ground instructor at the Breslau airport.

He combines his two skills and takes many great aerial photos of the company Mills and the Hespeler community.

Dominion Woollens Orillia

Hespeler Aerial


Aileen and Frank at Manuel Carreiro's home

Aileen and Frank at Manuel Carreiro’s home.

Leaving a legacy

There should be no doubt that Frank had a full and meaningful life. A husband, father, explorer, avid learner and someone we can thank for preserving so many stories.

He started working at the Mill with some of the original employees from the R. Forbes Company – from the 1880’s. He saw the company change hands several times and was a dedicated employee throughout all of them.

He ended his career at the Mill with Waterloo Textiles – where he remained, an invaluable technician in the lab.

Our hats off to you Frank Johnston!