Former students share reflections about a “vanished” school, Grand Avenue School in Humber Bay, Etobicoke

I have a subscription for email updates from For King and Country, an ongoing project of the Geneological Society, Toronto Branch; some previous posts about the project include:

For King and Country is an ongoing project of the Geneological Society, Toronto Branch

Toronto Family History: For King and Country online link (with thanks to Ward 3, TDSB Trustee Pamela Gough)

The text of the most recent email update reads:

A “Vanished” School Reappears

Some time back, we wrote about three “vanished” schools and invited contributions of photos or reminiscences. Thanks to two blog readers, we add a few details to the story of Grand Avenue School, in Humber Bay, Etobicoke.

Kjell Nordenson

Kjell Nordenson, shown here with his father and sister, enjoyed Grand Avenue School days.

Kjell Nordenson, shown here with his father and sister, enjoyed Grand Avenue School days.

Kjell Nordenson attended Grand Avenue School in the 1960s. He didn’t have a photo of the building, but sent a description.

“The building was probably the standard three-storey school building construction of that time – probably about half the size of the General Mercer PS shown on your link. The students’ entrance was through the smaller side door to the south. Parents and visitors would come through the north doors. Believe there were at least four classrooms on each floor.

“On the main floor, this would also have included the ‘office’ and the principal’s office plus sub-divided areas such as the nurse’s room. There were stairs on each end of the building and a full basement where kindergarten, washrooms, and the janitor rooms were located. An auditorium was added on the west side in the early 60s.

“Directly west of the school was York Litho Ltd. where I worked for a number of years. In winter, there was a skating rink.”

Photo of the school: with thanks to Krystyna Lagowski

Grand Avenue Public School. Source: Krystyna Lagowski (please see comments at the end of this post), who forwarded a scan of this photo on Nov. 26, 2021.

Wendy Gamble

Wendy Gamble lives on Seventh Street, New Toronto, in the house her maternal grandparents moved into in 1917. She has sent us additional information about Grand Avenue School, Humber Bay, New Toronto, and family connections to both World Wars. In 2014, the Etobicoke Historical Society gave Wendy the Jean Hibbert Memorial Award for her long commitment to local history.

Ross Gamble of the Royal Canadian Navy ready for WWII.

Ross Gamble of the Royal Canadian Navy ready for WWII.

As a young couple, Jack and Etta (Kelusky) Wylie welcomed Etta's brother for one last visit.

As a young couple, Jack and Etta (Kelusky) Wylie welcomed Etta’s brother for one last visit.

“My dad and two uncles were in the navy in World War II. My dad, John Ross Gamble, was born in 1917. He lived at 9 Afton Avenue, Humber Bay until he was nine years old, so he went to Grand Avenue School for a few years. His house was on what became the lawn of Christie’s Bakery (Park Lawn and Lakeshore). He was named after a next-door neighbour, John Ross Pollard, a Great War motorcycle driver who died at Vimy.

“I have a story about my grandmother’s brother coming to visit during WWI. My grandfather, Jack Wylie, whose eyesight kept him from serving, met his brother-in-law, John Kelusky, at the train station. Heading home, they got as far as Sunnyside, where the rail car service stopped for the night. My grandfather and my great uncle walked from Sunnyside all the way to New Toronto along the old Lakeshore road. The road was not lighted, so they struck matches along the way to get their bearings.

John Kelusky walked by match light five miles or more to see family before going off to the Great War.

John Kelusky walked by match light five miles or more to see family before going off to the Great War.

“That great uncle, John Kelusky, and his brother William, were both in the army. They looked after ambulance horses. John was gassed, and although he made it back to Canada, died of lung disease (caused by the gas) in 1918. He is buried in Maynooth, Hastings County, near the family farm, and is named on the war memorial in Bancroft.”

[End of text of the most recent email update from For King and Country]

9 replies
  1. Joyce Beaton
    Joyce Beaton says:

    The first school I attended was at Grand Avenue Public School. I had to walk across what was to become the Queen Elizabeth Highway from my home on Manitoba St. Etobicoke to get to the school. The QE was only finished up to the two big lions at Sunnyside in preparation for the King and Queen who were to open the highway in 1939. I am now 87, so that would have been 81 years ago. Joyce Dadson Beaton

  2. Marten Siddall
    Marten Siddall says:

    I also lived on Manitoba st (113) and attended Grand Ave for 6 years as did my older brothers. Last principal at the school was Mr Phalan, wow he was a hard man. My teacher was Mr. Proctor who by contrast was excellent. At one point we had a fill in teacher who I believe was the sister of our next door neighbor the Tamaki’s. I can’t remember what I did but she arranged for me to get the Great many memories of the area and school.

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Many memories, for sure, Marten. I’m really pleased that the school, as is the case with many schools and buildings now gone, lives on so vividly in people’s memories and that the sharing of the memories continues, as the years come and go.

    • Emily
      Emily says:

      Hello! I currently live on Manitoba, and i wonder why you didn’t go to George r Gauld school.? I love the idea of the history and families of my neighbourhood. 😁

  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Krystyna Lagowski has forwarded to me a scan of Grand Avenue Public School in Etobicoke, which she noticed I refer to as a “lost” school.

    She writes: “I attended Grand Ave from Kindergarten to grade 6 in the 1960s. Completely lost touch with everyone, as the school closed in 1969 and many moved away (like me!). Can you send me an email address?”

    I’ve let Krystyna know my email address and she has sent the scan to me; it’s great to see the photo of the school.

    I was pleased, as well, to have the opportunity to visit Krystyna’s website:

    Krystyna Lagowski

    It’s also great to visit Krystyna’s blog:

    Krystyna Lagowski – Blog

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I’ve mentioned to Krystyna that I would be very interested she would write a brief overview of her memories of Grand Avenue Public School. All such stories are of tremendous value. She has written such an overview and I will post it.

    A number of people have shared such memories – for example, about a school I attended in Montreal in the 1950s:

    Similarly, we’ve had many stories about the Long Branch Army Camp

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Krystyna Lagowski writes:

    Hi Jaan,
    Here’s a scan of Grand Avenue Public School, which I attended from kindergarten through to Grade Six in the 1960s. It was closed to the public in 1968. I learned to read and write there, and can remember teachers like Mrs. Riding, Miss Tamaki, Mrs. Hansen, Mr. Proctor. Also remember the principal, Mr. Fife, who strode into our class when Winston Churchill passed away, and explained who Churchill was. I don’t remember many classmates, but I do remember Malle Hansen, Ann Vilimek, Lisa Dushenko. I ran into Malle later on at U of T. It was a wonderfully diverse mix of students and teachers. My mother was in the Home and School Association, and would play the piano at meetings. There was an enormous schoolyard and green space, and I learned to ride a bicycle there. We would ride our bicycles to school, and there was never a need to lock them up. I walked to school every day – there was a coffin factory (!) on Dalesford, and the workers were awfully friendly to us. I remember driving past on the QEW and saw that it was torn down, and had a sinking feeling. Now there’s a subdivision where this lovely school once stood.

  6. Emily
    Emily says:

    I live at grand and Manitoba now. Where was the school located? Anyone have any photo s of this neighbourhood before it existed? So interesting to me!


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