Long Branch was a great place to be an adolescent, Alistair Thomson reports

Alistair Thomson has posted some great comments regarding Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) at the following post:

A Long Branch resident passed along to Barry Kemp this photo of the Eastwood Park Hotel

To access his observations, go to the Comments at the end of the above-noted link.

In a subsequent email Alistair Thomson wrote:

I could write stories that would have you rolling in the aisles about growing up in Long Branch. My father had a Texaco Service Station on the corner of 26th St and Lakeshore Blvd. Long Branch was full of characters. The Rowan family lived on the corner of 35th and Chapel. Old Man Willis, as we kids called him, was a funny old codger who owned a pet cemetery. On his truck he had painted “Bury your best friend.”

He added:

When we first moved to Long Branch there was a bandstand between the hotel and the ball park. On Saturday night I would lie in bed and listen to the music from the bandstand. The moon reflecting on the lake was pink and no matter how hot the days it was always cool at night. Some nights I would sleep on the verandah which went about a third of the way around the house. The verandah is still on the house.

Long Branch was also a great place to be an adolescent. As soon as a lad was 16 he took his driver’s test. In those days you needed a photo for your application. We soon discovered that the way to pass the test was to buy a photo from the examiner who had an early version of a Polaroid and charged a dollar for the photo.

I remember the demolition of Colonel Smith’s home at the west end of Long Branch. It was so well built. The logs under the stucco were three feet in diameter. The demolition company brought in special heavy equipment to tear down the house. It was a crying shame that the house was torn down to make space for a parking lot.

Our school teachers deserve a special mention. During the late 1940’s and early 1950’s every nationality of Europe appeared in Long Branch. The elementary school teachers can only be described as heroic. They taught children who had been traumatized by war, by refugee camps, by having to run for their lives. They did the job of Canadianizing these children in a kindly and professional way. Three that come to mind are Rod Jack, Elmer
Yeandle and Miss Allport, although there were many more.

[End of text from Alistair Thomson]


Here’s a bit of background that I prepared some time back for an online video about the Colonel Samuel Smith homestead:

  • After military service with the Queen’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War, Colonel Samuel Smith was granted a large tract of land in 1793 in Etobicoke. Originally a log cabin to which extensions and siding were added, the colonel’s house was in continuous use on what are now the school grounds for about 152 years from 1797 until around 1949. When the house demolished in 1955, the original log cabin was discovered inside the building.

As well, as I’ve noted earlier, Henn Kurvits, whose family rented space at the Smith house in the late 1940s – after the family had escaped as refugees from Estonia in 1944 when the Soviets reoccupied the Baltic states – has mentioned that a  contractor working at the Smith homestead site, around the late 1940s, used to haul things around using a Bren Gun carrier.

Such carriers had been used during the Second World War to cart around Bren Guns manufactured at the John Inglis small arms plant in Toronto.

As well, although it’s sometimes asserted that the Smith house was torn down to make room for a parking lot, there is evidence – as Jim Bray for example notes – that it was torn down to create space for playground for Parkview School, which was constructed after the house was torn down in 1955.


6 replies
  1. david webster
    david webster says:

    Alistair Thompson has an excellent memory of growing up in Long Branch in the 1950’s. I did not know the name of the man who ran the Pet Cemetery, but “bury your best friend” was the slogan on the side of his blue 1947/48 Chevrolet Sedan Delivery. ( a plaster/china?) dog, a setter was on the roof over the windshield.

    I attended New Toronto Secondary School with Alastair, same class.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    This is great information! I’m wondering if anyone has information about Police Chief Smythe and the Long Branch police constables who worked with him. I would really enjoy getting details about their lives and personalities.

  3. david webster
    david webster says:

    Further to the last days of the Smith Homestead. The Dominion store, it’s parking lot and access from 41st. Street were all completed 2 to 3 years before the Homestead was demolished. Jim Bray is correct. I believe that the school opened in the fall of 1957. Mr. Jack, Principal. If this is correct, then the Homestead, torn down in 1955 may have been demolished to facilitate the construction of the apartments.

    On a minor note, the story of the Bren Carrier being used on the farm is essentially correct but, it was a Half Track, made by White Motors. When I last saw it, parked by the barn on James street, it had a drilling rig attached to the back of the body. Well drilling? Post Holes?

    I don’t know. It was painted yellow.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      These are valuable details to know about. It’s an interesting task to consider information from many sources as we seek to reconstruct details related to the Smith homestead in the 1950s.

  4. alistair Thomson
    alistair Thomson says:

    I remember one police off icer who worked under chief Smythe, his name was Don Nutley and he married a Long Branch girl, Diane Lonsdale. There was also a Sgt. Andrews but I think he arrived after the police station was moved to New Toronto.

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    It’s great to read the messages from David Webster and Alistair Thomson.

    It’s really valuable to learn such additional details about the police force that existed in the past in Long Branch.


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