We’re pleased to share with you these 1920s to 1940s ‘cottage country’ images from Etobicoke Creek

This blog post is devoted to photos shared with us by the Durance family, including Robert Lansdale.

Please note (1) : Robert Lansdale has shared with us the following message. If you can help with contact information, please let us know:

“If you ever hear of anyone having lived on old Lake Promenade, on the spit, then I would be interested as I need some more perspective on that area. Most of those people, however, are in their 80’s or 90’s by now, such as my father

It’s most interesting to stand on the shoreline of Lake Ontario in what is now Marie Curtis Park, and to picture the community that lived here in the past.

As Robert Lansdale, who has shared many great photos with us, has remarked:

“It’s a stark change in perception when one stands on top of the same spots shown in my maps + images. It’s like walking on the moon in terms of the major land changes made since 1954.”

(1) I’ve learned from inquiries to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) that the border between Mississauga and Toronto, south of Lakeshore Roade East (in Mississauga) and south of Lake Shore Blvd. West (in Etobicoke), is at Applewood Creek, which you can see in the first photo in this blog post.

The border goes up through Marie Curtis Park and continues north along Etobicoke Creek.

Applewood Creek at Mississauga-Toronto border at shoreline of Lake Ontario. The border is located to the west of Applewood Creek, according to an online GoSur.com Map of Ontario.

(2) The second photo on this page depicts a smaller creek, located between Applewood Creek and Etobicoke Creek. [To my knowledge, based on subsequent information that I’ve come across, that is Serson Creek. I will check to ensure this is the correct name.]

Small creek between Applewood Creek and Etobicoke Creek

(3) The third image on this page shows Etobicoke Creek as it existed during the time when the eastern branch of the stream was being channelized. If you click on the image, you can enlarge it. Click again, and the image will be further enlarged. Use your browser’s ‘Back’ button to return to the page you are now reading.

As you will note from this aerial image, Lake Promenade — at the bottom of the photo — did not end at Forty Second Street as it does now. Instead, it extended a significant distance to the west.

In the photo you can also see Forty Third Street running from Lake Shore Blvd. West to Lake Promenade. The street was located just east of where Etobicoke Creek, in its channelized version, is now located. Now a walkway exists roughly in the area where this street used to be.

Etobicoke Creek during the channelizing process

Etobicoke Creek during the channelizing process

(4) The fourth photo features the Durance family. We have yet to determine where near the mouth of Etobicoke Creek the photo was taken.

(5) The final photo is an aerial view of the spit of land near where the western extension of Lake Promenade was located. The arrows point to buildings of significance for the Durance family. Again, you can enlarge the photo by clicking on it.

Please note (2): A question that interests me is: What is a good length for a blog post? It will be helpful to get feedback regarding this question from site visitors. Have you had to do a lot of scrolling to read this post? Or is the length of the post fine as it is? Your comments, as a site visitor, will be much appreciated.

I’m aware that, as a rule, a brief communication tends to be more effective than a longer one.

Durance family by Etobicoke Creek. Photo credit: Durance family © Durance family and Robert Lansdale

What is now Marie Curtis Park, as it appeared in 1947 (detail). Photo credit: Durance family © Durance family and Robert Lansdale

21 replies
  1. Ron Beveridge
    Ron Beveridge says:

    July 3, 2012
    What a pleasant surprise it was to find your website about Long Branch – quite by accident.

    In 1951, our family moved from Toronto to our new – and very tiny – home located on Lake Promenade, a few houses east of Etobicoke Creek. For young boys (my brother and I), the area, including Etobicoke Creek, was an absolute paradise, although I am sure our parents felt otherwise.

    We had endless adventures by the pier and on the Creek. We made a raft which carried 4 or 5 of us down the lazy river toward Lake Ontario. The was a shallow area up the creek that was shaded by a huge willow tree. We threw a rope over a large branch and then made sure the rope tied securely. Then, walking backward with the other end, we’d suddenly rush forward and leap into the air…right into the deep part of the creek. What fun! and sheer joy it was!

    There are far too many stories to relate here. But I will mention the severe storms that lashed the shore on a few occasions. Most homes on the other side of the Creek were destroyed by heavy waves one night – as we saw for our selves the next day. Some homes were lifted up and pulled out into the lake. People heard the screams of those who sadly died in the storms, storms that preceded Hurricane Hazel (October 15, 1954).

    We lived in Long Branch for two years. We then moved back to Toronto to a brand new house. But those years in Long Branch (now Marie Curtis Park) are indelibly etched in our memories as probably the happiest time of our lives. In late June this year, my brother made a trip from his home in Vancouver, to visit my wife and me. What wonderful memories we shared. As it happened, two of our cousins were also at the reunion. They had been our childhood playmates in Long Branch. Needless to say, the stories and laughter went on and on and on…

    I would love to hear from others who lived in the area in the early 1950’s. Please write to me with your stories or memories.

    Congratulations on this website.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I so very much appreciate your comments.

    Thank you for your kind comments about the website. I wouldn’t have gotten around to launching it about a year ago were it not for a chance conversation with Mary Bella, of Maestra Web Design http://maestrawebdesign.com/

    She helped me to get up to speed on learning to work with WordPress and has been helping with maintenance of the site ever since. Prior to that I had spent a few years getting the overall design in place thanks to great work by Walden Design http://www.waldendesign.com/index.html

    When I posted your message to a mailing list, that I use to inform people who are interested about news related to Long Branch and nearby communities, I received this comment from Tim Dobson of Long Branch:

    “And send my thanks to the persons that wrote to you. A stranger such as myself enjoyed seeing their comments.”

    My wife also enjoyed your message. I thought the description of diving into the water is so evocative. I can just see those kids rushing forward and leaping into the air! It was wonderful to hear as well as the great stories that emerged when your brother came to visit you from Vancouver, and when two cousins joined in the reunion. I find it so enjoyable to know of people sharing great stories.

    Some stories related to the lake are indeed sad ones — loss of life from storms, both at the waterfront, and also when young people have been out sailing.

    I’m looking forward to posting brief videos at this website over the coming year or so, based on interviews I’ve been doing with long-time Long Branch residents in recent years. As Tim Dobson has noted, such a website has the potential to become a great place for the collecting and sharing of memories of residents.

    Your comments have prompted me to work hard to post more material about life in Long Branch. Some stories, I like to say, deserved to be preserved.

    I look forward to hearing more stories from you, Ron. I’ll write at greater length by email.

    Best,

    Jaan

    Reply
  3. Doug Beveridge
    Doug Beveridge says:

    I am the brother Ron Beveridge referred to in his comments, above, and I live in Vancouver. Yes, our two years on Lake Promenade from 1951-53 have been a source of many rich memories. We were only 20 or 30 metres from the shoreline, and there was, therefore, always a significant risk from rising water and wave action in storms. We were the third house east of Etobicoke creek. We had a number of large logs piled up between our house and the shoreline, as protection, and Babe and Ernie (don’t know their last name)an older couple, lived 3 or 4 houses east of us. They had large oil barrels filled with cement and lined up behind their house as their protection. None of these precautions worked. The 1952(?) storm tossed it all around like matchsticks. We survived and moved the next year. I knew a Beth Durance when I was in grade 3 (1951). I wonder if this is the same Durance family as mentioned on your blog??. My brother and I could go on forever with stories from that time. Nice to see the site. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
      • Jaan Pill
        Jaan Pill says:

        I have a good memory of going for a walk with Beth Durance and Doris Durance, prior to a Jane’s Walk that I was involved in organizing in Long Branch a few years ago. By that stage in her life, Doris didn’t have the stamina to join us for a long Jane’s Walk, but she was able to join us for a short walk in the area of Marie Curtis Park, between the current, channelized version of Etobicoke Creek and Applewood Creek along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

        The information that Doris and Beth shared with me, at that time, I was able to share with other people when we had the Jane’s Walk, a day or two later. I much enjoyed the fact that Doris was able to share with me all kinds of information about the cottage community that existed near the mouth of Etobicoke Creek from the 1920s into the 1950s.

        What she shared is part of our local history, and we owe thanks to her for speaking with us on many occasions, and bringing to life her memories of days gone by. She was a remarkable woman. I am very pleased, indeed, that I had the opportunity to get to know her. I first got to know Doris whens he was around her early nineties.

        [I’m looking forward to revising the above-noted text, as David Durance has noted that there are some details that need to be corrected for accuracy. I look forward to speaking with David in the next while. I like to do what I can to ensure that my recollections of things are as accurate as possible. Talking with David will help me to fulfill this important objective.]

        Reply
  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    It’s wonderful to read your message, Doug. What you describe about the rising water and wave action is information that is highly valuable, by way of providing a sense of the dangers houses faced at that location. I would imagine that Beth Durance would have been part of the Durance family mentiond in the blog. Doreen Durance has been a tremendous source of information, in oral history interviews that I hope to edit and post over the coming year. The Durance family has shared many first-rate photos with me from the 1950s and earlier.

    You may have seen this one from the mid-1920s, from the Preserved Stories website:

    https://preservedstories.com/2012/03/01/barn-visible-in-long-branch-photo-from-about-1925-appears-to-be-located-at-the-colonel-samuel-smith-homestead/

    Eileen Tyrrell, who also lived in that area for some years, has shown me a photo of the waves during a storm. It’s a remarkable photo.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement regarding the site. I much appreciate your comments. I’m looking forward to developing the site further.

    Reply
  5. Robert Lansdale
    Robert Lansdale says:

    “We survived and moved the next year. I knew a Beth Durance when I was in grade 3 (1951). I wonder if this is the same Durance family as mentioned on your blog?”

    Yes, she’s the daughter of the same Doreen Durance mentioned in the 2013 Jane’s Walk blog entries. A relative of mine. I did the family tree for the Durance family going back to 1698.

    Reply
  6. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    It’s wonderful to be following these messages. I’ve learned so much from talking with Doreen Durance in recent years, most recently in preparation for the May 2013 Jane’s Walk in Long Branch. As well, Robert Lansdale’s work in keeping history alive – and using an evidence-based approach to the study of local history – is a source of tremendous inspiration for me.

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth Watkins
    Elizabeth Watkins says:

    Thank you so much Robert Lansdale for taking the time to post these precious photos of the past on the Did You Live In Mimico / New Toronto / Long Branch group. I am the co-administrator of the group and Sharon Stewart Kettlewell is the creator of the group.

    Any info or old photo’s of the past certainly are welcome!

    One of the ladies from the Durance family passed away in August of 2013 and I can’t remember her first name now to tell you who it was maybe you heard about her death.

    Regards
    Elizabeth Watkins

    Reply
    • tudi nuttley
      tudi nuttley says:

      Doreen Durance’s daughter, Barbara, passed away August 6th, 2013. Doreen passed away April 9, 2016 at 95 years young!

      Reply
  8. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I was saddened to learn of Barbara Durance passed away on Aug. 6, 2013 at St. Joseph’s Hospital at the age of 64. My own contact with her has been through the fact that Barbara has in years past been tremendously helpful in ensuring that the Durance family photographs have been shared widely among local history enthusiasts. Barbara will be missed by many people.

    Reply
  9. Rex Bradley
    Rex Bradley says:

    My father came back from the war and bought a lot at 22- 38th St. Since money was tight we even scrounged nails from the burned out Murphy Paints. As kids we played at the lake all the time. Down at the flats the sewer plant would stink and often overflowed.
    The stories I can tell you from 49 to 56 are many.
    Good luck with your site, I really enjoy it.

    Reply
  10. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    It’s truly a delight to read your comments, Rex. The word picture that you create – kids playing at the lake, the sewer plant on the flats – is vivid and compelling. I will contact you by email, in the event you may have time to share some of your stories with me, so that I can record and transcribe them. As well, I would be interested to know if you or your family have written down some of your stories.

    Comments such as yours mean a tremendous amount to me. I’m very pleased to know that people like to visit my site from time to time, and that they enjoy the content. It’s a wonderful thing when we have the opportunity to know of each other’s stories – including the stories that relate to Long Branch and adjacent communities over the years.

    Reply
  11. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I was saddened to hear from Orma Stevenson that Doreen Durance had passed away. I was not aware of the date; I much appreciate having that information. I remember the last time I spoke with Doreen. She was outside of her house, doing some yard work. She was still going strong, at that time. She was always a delight to speak with.

    I feel very fortunate that, over the years, I was able to record many conversations with Doreen by way of one-to-one interviews, and with Doreen in conversation with several of her friends and/or relatives of the same generation. I look forward to transcribing and posting these conversations online in the future.

    Among the things that I remember is a time some years ago when, prior to a Jane’s Walk that I had organized with my friend Mike James, Doreen and one of her younger relatives took my on a tour of the area west of Etobicoke Creek where the cottage community had existed in the 1920s to the mid-1950s. Doreen pointed out areas north of the current Waterfront Trail, along a creek that runs north to south in the area (east of Applewood Creek) where some of the cottages had been located.

    As we walked in the area, and as Doreen pointed out spots where cottages had been located, it took minimum effort, on my part, to picture where the cottages had been, and to think of the wonderful summer days that people had experienced there for many years.

    Doreen also pointed out trees that had been mature trees in the Cottage Country era, and that had served as landmarks for the people in the area during that era. She noted that the trees were still there, and that they still served as landmarks.

    Another story, that I aim to be transcribing in future, concerns a close friend of Doreen’s who loved to go sailing on Lake Ontario in a small sailboat. Sailing was such a source of enjoyment, for her friend. Doreen’s friend and her friend’s boyfriend (or maybe it was her husband, but I think she was still quite young and not yet married) were caught in a storm on the lake and both perished.

    As I recall from Doreen’s description of the event, her friend’s body was never found. Doreen shared the story with me on several occasions when we were recording her recollections of events of many years ago. Clearly, the loss of her friend and of her friend’s boyfriend affected Doreen profoundly.

    Another story that Doreen shared with me concerns times that she would go to see the movies, at a Long Branch theatre, when she was in her teens. She noted that her father made a point of getting some friend of his to keep and eye on Doreen, while she was at the movies. Doreen found such surveillance annoying.

    As well, if I recall correctly, in one of our recorded interviews, she spoke about how, around the age of 18, her father abruptly informed her that her days of schooling were over, and that she was now going to go to work.

    Another story that comes to mind concerns the early years of her marriage, when she and her husband moved to some area west of Long Branch, in what is now Mississauga. In those days, there was no indoor plumbing, in Long Branch or in Mississauga. Instead, people used outhouses.

    As it happened, the area where she and her husband moved to, in Mississauga, was characterized by geographical features that caused the smell of human sewage to permeate the entire neighbourhood. It may have been a low-lying area; I will know when I listen to the recording. Doreen had said, in so many words, “I can’t live here,” and she and her husband consequently moved back (or moved to, for the first time: I will know these details after I have transcribed the interview) to Long Branch.

    I am very pleased that I got to know Doreen, and that she lent me many photographs from years ago that I was able to scan and turn into jpeg files. I am saddened at her loss. My memory of Doreen will remain with me and with many, many other people who had the good fortune to know her.

    Reply
    • David Durance
      David Durance says:

      Thank you for the kind words you spoke about Mom. Mom was very proud to live in long branch there are a few things that need to be correct in what you wrote if you should like to talk I am available

      Reply
      • Jaan Pill
        Jaan Pill says:

        I look forward to speaking with you, David. I will contact you by email. I always like to do all that I can, to ensure that what I share is based on the best possible information. You den help me, for sure, to ensure that the stories that I share about your Mom are based on the best possible information.

        Reply
  12. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A Toronto Star obituary notice for Doreen Durance reads:

    DURANCE, Doreen —

    Peacefully passed away at Dorothy Ley Hospice on Saturday, April 9, 2016 having achieved her 95th birthday. Predeceased by her husband Cyril (1985) and her daughter Barbara (2013). Survived by her son David (Sheila) and daughter Beth (Robert) and their families. She will be remembered and missed by her extended family. The family would like to express their appreciation for the care from the staff at Dorothy Ley Hospice. Friends will be received at the Ridley Funeral Home, 3080 Lake Shore Blvd. W. (at 14th St., between Islington and Kipling Aves., 416-259-3705) on Wednesday from 12 noon until time of service in the chapel at 1 p.m. Interment to follow at Glendale Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of your choice. Messages of Condolence may be placed at RidleyFuneralHome.com.

    Reply
  13. John Collins
    John Collins says:

    Hi Jaan I am trying to locate directories for 1930~1950 Long Branch business and resident information with no luck. Directories for New Toronto, Humber Bay, Lambton Mills, Mimico and some Alderwood info is available online through Toronto libraries, but Long Branch and west through Toronto Township including Port Credit and Cooksville are scarce. Any suggestions to help locate ancestry information for these locals? Also interested in aerial photos of west Toronto, Etobicoke in this era also. Regards in advance much great history and photos posted John Collins

    Reply
  14. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Hi John

    By way of an update here’s what I’ve learned as of June 24, 2018:

    Message No. 1

    Jaan – there are individual directories for Toronto Suburbs in the Might’s city directories. Many of the early ones are available on archive.org to review or even download. And also available via the City of Toronto Public Library website:

    https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/history-genealogy/lh-digital-city-directories.jsp

    Not sure about those in Peel County. I would suggest they contact Mississauga Public Library local history department.

    With regard to aerial photos there are a number available through the City of Toronto Archives website:

    https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/access-city-information-or-records/city-of-toronto-archives/whats-online/maps/aerial-photographs/

    There is also a digital collection at the University of Toronto:

    https://mdl.library.utoronto.ca/collections/air-photos

    If they are looking at individual collections there are two collections at the Ontario Archives. One is from 1918/1919/1920 and McCarthy Aero Services (they bought surplus WWI planes to do their work)

    http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/144/PROV/PROV/REFD+C+285?SESSIONSEARCH

    And the Northway Gestalt Collection which starts in the late 1940s.

    https://www.archeion.ca/northway-gestalt-corporation-fonds

    They can call the archives to discuss.

    Hope this helps.

    Message No. 2

    Jaan – all of the illustrated atlases have been scanned and are available from McGill University:

    https://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/

    Reply
  15. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Jaan,
    Thanks for copying me in on these information sources for Toronto. They might prove useful as things to look at in the future but not really relevant to the research I tend to do as none of my family’s history covers much of Toronto. However, I do want to determine if my grandfather ever lived in Toronto for an extended period as he became a certified Ontario Chartered Accountant at one point in time. Now, you may have heard me talk about coincidences. The obituary on this page reminded me of one and your offer of the above addresses reminded me of another. They both relate to my grandparents from Montreal. One would think they would be buried together but such was not the case. I will begin with my grandmother Edna Mary Carswell (nee McKinley) of Ottawa. You may have heard me say of my family that it will be a genealogical nightmare for future researchers. That is because, my grandfather and I were born in England and came to Canada but my father and son, were born in Canada and went to England. Well, the same applies to my Montreal-Ottawa connections. My earliest-known Scottish ancestors arrived in Montreal in 1822. Over the course of a number of generations, they moved back and forth between Montreal and Ottawa and right up to my nephew’s generation, at least one member of the family either lived there, ended up there in WWII in the military, spent a summer working in Ottawa, or went to university there. Today, I still have a number of second cousins who still live in the city. My extended family reaches Thompson Manitoba, Calgary Alberta, Vancouver B.C, and Victoria B.C. with stops along the way in Winnipeg, Kingston, London, Ontario, Charlottetown and other points in the Maritimes. Only one family member remains in Quebec living in retirement at Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec.

    My grandmother died of an atrophied kidney and uremic poisoning, the same thing that is slowly killing me now that my remaining kidney is only operating at 20% and dropping. At least today, there is the possibility of dialysis to avoid the slow agonizing death pangs, not available in the 1940s but I would not be considered until I am under a 10% function. My grandfather died of cancer probably from chain-smoking outside of work, something he was known to do. Such was the culture back in the 1920s, 50s and 40s when people did not know better about the effects of cigarettes. After 50 years of smoking, I am forced to use an inhaler once per day to keep my lung system working, also damaged by scar tissue from a lung collapse when I was 16 after 2500 cc of liquid was removed, a complication of my kidney operation. So far though, no signs of cancer…maybe I will win one finally! My father who was legally blind at my age now also ultimately died of brain cancer but by the age of 88 something is sure to eventually get you. Mum lived to be 85 controlling her diabetes with diet and late in life, she had had her eyes operated on which eliminated her need for the thick-lens glasses she had worn for decades. When she died she went on September 11th, 2005, (a date we won’t soon forget because of the 9/11 reference), I found a gas receipt dated two days earlier when she filled up the car with gas in the local village of Seeley’s Bay, Ontario and then, two days later, she was gone. Death can be swift. She was sitting at her favourite spot in the hall in front of the cabinet of keepsakes she liked to display, reading her favourite fashion magazines sitting on a bench at their retirement home on the end of Dog Lake off Burnt Hills Road, RR3, Seeley’s Bay, Ontario. It was as if she had just nodded off in her sleep when Dad found her in the middle of the early morning after he woke up and noticed she was not in bed. She had worn a nitroglycerin patch for a number of years and was certainly slowing down. I am sure she was ready to go. Her father, a member of the London Stock Exchange in the UK had died from a second stroke in 1949, having just recovered from one a year earlier, a year after his only visit to Canada. Her first cousin in England has also been invalided by one. I suspect she saw the writing on the wall at some point and knew it would be her heart that would give her the final call if not a stroke. Odd as it may seem, her Swedish-Finnish grandfather lived to be 91 while his English wife, younger by a year only lived to be 71 having given birth to a total of nine surviving children in her lifetime.

    My grandmother lived to be 54 years old and had spent the most of WWII bedridden with private nurses attending to her needs around the clock because of it. My father returned to Canada before the end of the war on compassionate leave to visit her as she was not expected to last out the war. He had been overseas for 4-1/2 years and she wanted to see all her three sons home safely from the war before she died. Fortunately, she lasted until 1946 and did so.

    Having said all this I will tell you about the first coincidence. When I came up with the idea of a 40th Anniversary Malcolm Campbell High School reunion, it was to solve a problem a former student living in Montreal was having trying to get his graduation class back together for a reunion. My idea was to start the ball rolling about a gigantic high school reunion in 1995 for the Year 2000 which happened to coincide with 1960, the year Malcolm Campbell opened in St. Laurent, Quebec. My logic was simple, tell everyone you know and they will tell everyone they know from their own school days. It would take five years but it would happen. Little did I know, while trying to recover from Benadryl which was paralyzing me at the time, that the event five years later would attract a total of 1,200 people and a number of former teachers. Not a bad idea from a kid that kept failing school due to undetected learning disabilities who ran the dishwasher in the cafeteria at lunchtime just to get out of classes ten minutes early each day. I was 51 when I came up with that idea. Well, that was all the help I could give as I was sure my body was falling apart and I did not expect to make it to the next year, never mind five years. I watched the Montreal website for MCHS over the years and knew my idea was working but someone else was doing all the planning. My sister flew in from the Netherlands where she has lived since the 70s and my younger brother arrived from Vancouver. My sister and I went to a bar/restaurant on Mountain Street, below St. Catherine St. as that was the chosen spot to register. After a meal and registration, everyone headed off to the disco a few doors up the street. My body was starting to give me problems so dancing was really out of the question. We stood at the top of the dance area and looked over the dancing crowds. I turned to my sister and said, “Imagine if someone came in here, realized that this was a former mortuary where their grandmother had been processed after her death. I wonder how they would react?” My sister nodded and we went on listening to the music. Little did I know then that I was actually talking about myself, a coincidence that would later prove itself when I looked up the address of the Joseph Wray funeral home on Mountain Street in Montreal and found it was one and the same place where my grandmother ended up according to her death certificate which I had at home. I talked earlier about the Montreal-Ottawa connections. Well, when she died and was cremated in Montreal, her ashes were returned to Ottawa and buried in the McKinley plot there a few feet from the 1883 gravestone for Mary Lewis, my great-great-grandmother who buried both her first (1854) and second (1864) husbands, best friends in life, at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal before moving to Ottawa with her family to be closer to a younger brother named Andrew Kerr who was doing well in that city, having become the engineer on the first House of Commons in 1867 which was lost in a major fire in 1916 and later rebuilt. Unfortunately, he died as a result of an accident of the job in 1773 due to faulty scaffolding when he cut his head open and septicemia set in killing him at age 41. It was a hard way to go. Initially buried in one cemetery in 1773, he was then reinterred as the first body in the new Kerr plot when his brother Andrew Kerr and lifelong friend and partner, William Blyth bought adjoining plots so that they would be buried alongside each other just as they had worked alongside each other throughout their lives. The grave at Beechwood is now full of something like fifteen Kerr descendants all related down the line from the original John Kerr and Catherine Ferguson from Lilliesleaf, Roxboroughshire, Scotland who were buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal. It is a real confusing history unless you know all the family stories. After 45 years of research, I still have questions.

    The second and third coincidences are even more unique and relate to my involvement with the Kinsmen Club of Markham, back in the 1970s. I was very involved in Kin back in those days. In fact, I was largely responsible for taking the small club and building it up to a club with some 40 members at its peak. Well, back in Grade 3 at Cartierville School I had my first experience in meeting someone I would never see again, or so I thought. That memory and realization stick with me to this day and I can even see her sitting in class. Her family was moving to Ottawa from Montreal and I would never see her again, or so I thought. I was either 7 or 8 at the time and the thought was devastating. Nevertheless, she was never forgotten. Years later, probably in the mid to late 1970s, I met a fellow who I spoke to about joining the club. He invited me over to the house and for some reason, his wife knew my surname. The Carswells from Saraguay had been remembered by her family because of my mother’s involvement in the Home and School Association. Thirty or more years later, I had found that lost soul and finally I could scratch that itch from my youth for the very last time. Another member who joined that club was the new manager of the Markham operation of the Amalgamated Electric Company. He had moved to the new job from the Scarborough operation and bought a house in the village, joined the club and become a friend. I played hockey with him both in the Kinsmen League and in the MMRHL or Markham Men’s Recreational Hockey League where I also played with several former NHL players. I later found out that I had been added to the MMRHL’s Hall of Fame….hope it wasn’t for my bad hockey playing. Well this other fellow who played goalie and who had separated his should at least 22 times because of it, was at the operation to eventually close it down. When the final days came, his staff celebrated and as a going away present gave him a book of old single shares signed by the original Secretary-Treasurer when the company was formed back in 1923. It had been found when they moved an old filing cabinet and was of no value to anyone. He accepted it with thanks and eventually showed it to me because the fellow who had signed it had the same last name. I immediately recognized my grandfather’s signature and then understood that Amalgamated Electric was a subsidiary of the great Northern Electric conglomerate of which my grandfather would end up as Vice President of Accounts and Finance before his retirement and early death at age 65 in 1949. Eventually, he gave me the entire book of shares as he really had no use for them after the operation closed down and it would have more meaning in my family than his. Unfortunately, I heard he had died at quite a young age some thirty years ago. There are no promises in life.

    So there you have it, three coincidences in my life among many I can recall which I will allow you to reprint However keep in mind that they are out of a book I have started to write titled “Coincidences.” Consider this material copyrighted but use it with my permission.

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