Please note that subsequent posts include:
First comment from Garry Burke
At a post entitled Long Branch Rifle Range(s), Small Arms Building, and the Arsenal Lands, Garry Burke has added the following comments, which I read with much interest. Comments from site visitors are so interesting to read, and are of such tremendous value; I am pleased that this website can serve as a resource enabling us to share such great stories, that are truly worth preserving:
“Interesting. As a child, I spent 7 memorable years at the Army Camp and Staff House. The former were barracks used by troops during WW 2. The Staff House was a large wooden apartment complex housing the hundreds of young women who worked shifts at the Small Arms during the war. We lived at both sites. I probably romped over every square foot of those fields, and the rifle range to the west; great swimming spots in the summer down at the lake. There were even schools in both locations, since the ‘residents’ did not pay taxes to Peel County. They were, in reality, Toronto’s first venture into subsidized/emergency housing. Many of my friends eventually relocated to Regent Park. I could write a book about those times, and the many amazing folks who lived in those two locations. During the Korean War, my mother had a part-time job at the Small Arms. During the summers we got used to the sounds of Bren guns being test fired. I would love to hear from anyone who shared those experiences. There were hordes of kids who grew up in the AC/SH.”
Second comment from Garry Burke
At another post, entitled David Webster, who grew up in Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey), has a great recollection of local history dating back to the 1940s, Garry Burke writes:
“Fascinating comments. Wonderful to hear from Colleen O’Marra, who attended Christ the King School in Long Branch, a few years behind me, during the early ’50s. I spent seven unforgettable years in those crowded, post-war accommodations, the Army Camp and the Staff House, jammed with families from Toronto unable to find housing. Amazing, did I see a reference to ‘SHEP?’ We used that as our postal return when we lived at the Army Camp, 1948/49, and later at the Staff House, 1949 to 1955. Both sites had schools, since the ‘tenants’ did not pay taxes to Peel County, but I walked every day over the Etobicoke Creek, up the hill past the Long Branch Loop, to Christ the King School. My mother was a die-hard Catholic, and wanted her brood immersed in that faith. I really envied my pals in the Staff House who could sleep in until 8:30 or so, and just walk down the hallway in the building to get to class.
“My recollections of those years remain vivid. We romped over the fields just west of Small Arms, swam in the lake during the summer, and as young teens caddied at the Toronto Golf Club. That’s where I got to met Toronto’s so-called, business ‘elite,’ and they were one tight-fisted group; tipping was not permitted. We were dirt poor, but so many experiences were wonderful. I recall the flats, now Marie Curtis Park, flooded every spring when the Etobicoke surged, and finally leveled by Hurricane Hazel. I shake my head at the memory of that garbage dump. More stuff was lugged back by kids from the AC and SH than was buried. What we ‘salvaged’ was amazing. Can you imagine, today, a garbage dump on the shore of pristine Lake Ontario?
“I have so much to ramble on about. What still stings is the shame I felt when telling people in Long branch where I lived. Even a kid, I sensed the stigma of living in what now is called, ‘subsidized housing.’ Some of my chums, from both Camp and the Staff House, later relocated to Regent Park, hailed in the mid-’50s as the Taj Mahal of public housing.
“Thanks to all for the very interesting comments of a time long ago. There is so much I’d like to say, but my keyboarding speed is terribly slow.”
Comment from Cairine Johnson
As well, I read with much interest the following comment, from Cairine Johnson at a previous post entitled A History of Long Branch:
“I agree with Jean about the dance hall (we used to stand near the band (outside the fence) and they’d give us some money to buy the pop or smokes (keep the change ) probably a nickel or so , also the ball field down in the hollow, you could just sit on the hill and watch the games. We enjoyed the water, swimming from one pier to the other. Yes, good times, children could be children (go outside and play), no TV, computers etc. I went to the Long Branch Continuation school, I even remember some teachers names and how we got the rest of the day off when the war was over. Used to swim in the creek as well and catch the small crabs, memories. What a great read, I lived on 33rd st. in a house with lots of trees and a big veranda. Happy times, but short lived..”
[End of comments]
Comment from Jaan Pill
I am starting to work on an overview, at this website, of wartime and postwar housing at locations such as the Small Arms Ltd. munitions plant (at Lakeshore Road East and Dixie Road) in Mississauga and elsewhere in Canada.
If you have an information, regarding primary or secondary sources, and contact information for people who have memories of such housing, etc., can you please contact me through this website. For example, you can send me an email at email@example.com
I’ve learned of some good leads, for information, and will follow up on those leads.
I want to thank Douglas Hanlon for contacting me, to ask for my help in putting together some information regarding the history of such wartime and postwar housing in Canada.
In the course of Jane’s Walks that I’ve organized in recent years, and at Doors Open events at the Small Arms Building, where I’ve talked with a wide range of people, I’ve picked up bits and pieces about such wartime housing, but I look forward to learning much more. I’ve also come across information (some of it decidedly anecdotal and subjective) from time to time in my readings, and in reporting and interviews over the years.
Any help that you can provide, by way of sharing any leads or further, detailed information will be much appreciated.
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Why is Long Branch associated with the Long Branch Rifle Ranges, even though the rifle ranges were not in Long Branch?
The answer to this interesting question is available at a post entitled: