Do you have a photo of Robin’s Nest, built by Alfred Bray who moved to Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) in 1910?

Sandy Bray has a question that you may be able to answer

“I’ve been enjoying your site very much,” Sandy Bray writes, “and have been thinking alot of memories and questions, etc. etc.”

Villa Road in Long Branch, 1955. Sandy Bray, age 2. Jim Bray, age 22. © Sandy Bray and Jim Bray

Sandy has recently sent a question to her dad, Jim Bray, asking if he remembered the address of the house called “Robins Nest” that his grandfather Alfred Bray built on Chapel Rd in Long Branch, or the location of any others that he built in the area.

Jim has replied: “It was called Church Road until amalgamation. I know the location of the houses he built but not the street numbers on Church Rd along Branch Ave. and 35th Street.”

Sandy adds that Jim’s grandfather, Alfred Bray “brought his new wife Francis and infant son Jack to Long Branch in 1910. Alfred built a few houses. Some had names then, and one was called Robin’s Nest. I wonder if anyone has a photo of the house – ‘Robin’s Nest’.

Please contact me if you have a photo of Robin’s Nest in Long Branch

“I’ll be gathering photos for you,” Sandy Bray adds. “I even have a post card that Alfred’s wife Fancis sent from Long Branch to her relative in Fergus Ontario in 1910 or so where she tells of how things had quieted down in Long Branch after the ‘summer people’ left.”

Comment from Jaan Pill

Along with recent information from other long-time Long Branch residents – past and present – including Jim Gill, Henn Kurvits, Doreen Durance, Bob Lansdale, Robert Lansdale, Bill Rawson, Ellen Olvet, Orma Stevenson, Cathy Richardson, Colleen O’Marra, Bernice Law, and many, many others, I’m thoroughly delighted that so many memories about Long Branch are available, and are being shared through this website and through ongoing conversations.

I’ve gathered a lot of multimedia interviews in recent years with Long Branch residents and I’m so much looking forward to starting to share them online. This is very exciting. I would never have imagined that so much could be done through just networking and sharing information about the place that my family has called home for the past eighteen or so years. We are newcomers, and like many newcomers to Long Branch, we’re keen to learn about the history. There’s so much to learn and so much pleasure in the learning of it. The most recent arrivals, of whom I’m met quite a few, are also often keen to learn about the history of Long Branch and to contribute to the next great stage of its growth.

The memories and reflections that people share, about a place where they’ve been living for many years, have such tremendous value and meaning.

Further comment from Sandy Bray

  • Yes Jaan, go ahead and post the comments regarding ‘Robin’s Nest’.

Bernice Law explains what used to be in place in the 1930s in the area of Exmoor Drive and the Long Branch TTC loop, Oct. 18, 2013. Jaan Pill photo

  • I really was thrilled to read the very personal account from Bernice Law of her young days picking apples at the Eastwood Farm and especially of the help she had from the lady of the house. Since the first 10 yrs of my life were spent just a few houses away on Villa Rd, that old farm yard was my play yard. I’ve been examining the photo and trying to figure which is the barn where I lost my umbrella. My recollection is that it was behind where the house was. Of course the house was down then since I was born in 1953.
  • Right at the end of Villa Rd. was the Cuddy family. My Dad played hockey with one of the children, Brian Cuddy till just a few yrs ago (in fact Dad was just inducted into the Lakeshore arena Wall of Fame last spring). Brian is a few yrs older than me and may have some memories. So Dad can contact Brian still.
  • sometime around 1957-58
  • A Carnival used to set up in the Spring or Fall exactly where the Parkview school eventually got built. My brothers and I and a few neighbourhood kids would go over in the morning and run our hands in the round water tank where they ran the miniature boats until one of the Carnies would yell at us Kids to get lost. After my Mom put us to bed at night, I could see the Carnival from my bedroom window at the front of the house. I was a young girl … say 4 maybe 5 yrs old – the ferris wheel going around and all the music playing. My sweet young Mother 24 yrs old, Betty, had us 3 kids all tucked nicely in bed, while she ironed all our clothes (and I mean all) in the living room while she watched TV. Dad was probably out working. The living room door to the hallway would be closed of course.
  • One evening I took the opportunity to do the natural thing, and very quietly put my little wool coat and bonnet on to walk over to the Carnival. I let myself out the back door and up the driveway to the sidewalk and along to the field. Unfortunately our ‘up the street’ neighbour, Mr. Sewell was just coming home (probably from the TTC loop) and spotted me just at the entry to the field and asked what I was doing. “Just going to the Carnival ” I answered. He offered to take me home but I assured him I was fine and “just going to listen to the music”. I can stilll remember that awful feeling as he lifted me up in his arms to carry me home. DARN! He carried me the 3 houses back, knocked on the door and presented me to my Mother. You can imagine the look on her face. Hmm.
  • That’s all for now.

[End of text from Sandy Bray]

Additional comment

I’ve interviewed Mrs. Sewell in recent years, and have interviewed Mr. Sewell, her late husband, many years ago. One of the delightful things that Mrs. Sewell told me was that Mr. Sewell played a small role in the building of the house where the Bray family lived from 1955 to 1963.

The house was built in 1945. Mr. Sewell was working at a nearby factory or plant. He was off work for a week or so, following some hijinks that had occurred at work. During that time, Mr. Sewell helped out with the building of the house, located on the south side of Villa Road.

Orma Stevenson has remarked, as well, in a recent interview regarding Villa Road, that before Constable Smythe became Police Chief Smythe, he lived in a house on the north side of Villa Road not far from Fortieth Street. When he was promoted, he moved to Thirty Sixth Street.

I look forward to transcribing many interviews that touch on the history of Villa Road and the wider community.


I’m also reminded, when I look at Sandy Bray’s 1955 photo, that a resident of Villa Road remarked to me years ago that you could see great sunsets from the end of the street in the days before new buildings went up on the Col. Samuel Smith homestead site.

I’m reminded, as well, with regard to the story that Sandy Bray has shared above, that 1957 was the year that Elvis Presley visited Toronto, as an archival CBC radio clip reports.

The text highlighting the clip notes: “Elvismania is at its peak in 1957 when Presley comes to Canada for his only performances outside the United States. CBC Radio reporter Bill Beatty is all shook up by what he witnesses in Toronto: wild-eyed teenaged girls ‘screaming, sighing and pounding their feet.’ Unfazed, ‘Elvis The Pelvis’ gyrates in Ottawa the next night.”

Below is a 1956 photo of Elvis Presley from Elvis Australia with an illustration of some of the cars popular in the 1950s. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Elvis in the front yard of his home at 1034 Audubon Drive {in Memphis, Tennessee} in May 1956. When this photo was taken, Elvis had just returned from touring; the band’s instruments were still packed on the roof of his car. His famous pink Cadillac can be seen over his right shoulder. Caption and photo are from: Elvis Australia:

Sandy Bray and her family lived on Villa Road from 1955 to 1963. As the CBC Archives website notes the next year, 1964, was the year that “the Beatles conquered North America.” A CBC archival video of the latter event can be accessed here.

Film and television history

The 1950s were also a key period in film and television history as David Parkinson notes (p. 21) in 100 Ideas that Changed Film (2012):

  • In the early 1950s, directors struggled to accommodate close-ups in widescreen compositions and often used scenery and shadows to occupy unwanted space. However, close-ups suited the smaller television screen and TV directors graduating into features made extensive use of them.

[End of excerpt]

With the advent years later of high definition digital video, the importance of the close-up in cinematic storytelling may remain, or it may decrease. It’s a question for which, as I understand, a definitive answer remains to be determined. By way of an update, the topic is addressed in an online discussion related to close-ups using high definition video cameras.

Also with regard to film history, another study by David Parkinson, Film History, Second Edition (1995, 2012) is a valuable resource.


4 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Colleen O’Marra writes:

    May I recommend a valuable local resource for all those wonderful
    questions about old Long Branch days ? The Long Branch library has an
    entire room dedicated to the village. A large, lonely cabinet (not a
    computer) sits full of history on the village and its people. There’s
    even a file of all the owners of old Lake Prom properties from the
    19th Century on. I’m sure Robin’s Nest (home on Chapel Road) may be
    among the great stories collected and stored. I wouldn’t count on the
    websites for information. The printed word is still the best bet. ( C.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Thank you Colleen O’Marra for that reminder. I will go and have a look – I’ve heard about the collection at the Long Branch Library but have never gone there for an extended study of the contents.

    I encourage others with an interest in Long Branch to check out that collection as well.

  3. Wayne Parker
    Wayne Parker says:

    The only house left on Chapel now is the Winch’s. It is on the north side and is a very small lot and is close to Long Branch Avenue. It has a small turret on the roof and looks pretty much the same in the last 50 odd years. The only thing different is that it now has a basement. I hope this helps you.


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