“Jus’ thinkin'” post from Graeme Decarie, who taught at Malcolm Campbell High School in the early 1960s

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I am pleased to share with you the following post from Graeme Decarie:

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Jus’ thinkin’

My thoughts went back to the days when we and the world were young. I just caught a glimpse of that ancient world and you, foolishly born just a little too late probably missed it.

Jarry St. was then was short street, with just a fifteen minute walk from the city dump where I spent many happy hours in play to Blvd. St. Laurent.

From that corner, the north end of Jarry Park, the world was pure wilderness to the west and the north.

My parents, with no money to go anywhere, usually spent the evenings in long, long walks. Up to age four, they would leave me with a baby sitter, Cynthia Malcolm (whose younger brother and sister you might remember as students at MCHS.)

But it cost money for a baby sitter – a dime a night. So starting about age 5, I had to join the long, long walks – along Jarry, then plunging along a St. Laurent that ran through field and forest.

Along the way there was a tiny, Jewish cemetery with a wire fence. (I think it has long since vanished.) Then there was a railway bridge, presumably of the same line that ran by MCHS. We sometimes turned onto a bush road that ran under the tracks. This was summer cottage country where my grandparents had a tiny place.

For one week each summer, my parents saved their money to rent a cottage so far away, we had to take a train which would take us ever so far to a train stop called St. Rose. The station stood in the midst of a vast swamp. and we trudged by that frightening wilderness and down a heavily forested street to reach the cottage – which had no water or sewage. But just a short walk from there took you to a big depanneur on St. Rose’s main street with its sandy beach where I swam, and with its huge, wooden dancehall on the beach.

It all looked nicer then than it does now.

graeme

[End of text from Graeme Decarie]

Comment from Jaan Pill:

As always, Graeme, your words give rise to beautiful, evocative visual imagery, in one’s mind, of days gone by. You write so well. Compared to your skills, I’m just plodding along.

When you speak of cottages, I think of the two-stage Cottage Country Paradise that existed in the past in the community where I live.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve developed a longread History of Long Branch (Toronto) – Draft 4 article that highlights some things I’ve learned about the local history of the community in Toronto where I have lived with my family for the past twenty years.

Durance family at summer cottage around the 1940s near the mouth of Etobicoke Creek at the Lake Ontario shoreline in Long Branch (Toronto) close to the Mississauga-Toronto border. The Durance family be;longed to a cottage community that can be described as Cottage Country Paradise 2.0. Cottage Country Paradise 1.0 was located to the east of the creek, starting in the late 1880s. Photo credit: Durance family Photo © Durance family and Robert C. Lansdale. The photo, from around the 1940s, is included in the History of Long Branch (Toronto) – Draft 4 that is discussed at the page you are now reading. Click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

The overview talks of the days when outhouses were the standard equipment associated with cottage life away from the big cities. The first cottage community in the area, where I now live, began in the late-1800s to serve the needs of busy, stressed-out city people from Toronto, seeking to escape in the summertime by taking a boat along Lake Ontario to the wilderness areas further to the west. The first Cottage Country Paradise along the shoreline in Long Branch was a gated community, with a high fence all around it to keep unwelcome guests at bay. Things began to change by the early 1900s once a streetcar line was extended to the area.

The story of Long Branch is not unlike the story of Saraguay. A future project involves the transcribing and reporting of a great interview that I had with Bob Carswell some months ago at the Birds and Beans Café in Mimico, in which he drew a map and described the history of each house, family, and roadway that he remembers from Saraguay going back to the 1950s.

MCHS 2015 Reunion

By way of also keeping myself occupied, I’ve been slowly make my way back to a pile of work associated with post-reunion reports associated with some kind of high school reunion that I vaguely remember from November 2015 – held in Toronto, of all places.

In the meantime, I’ve been working with some great people to plan a Saturday, May 28, 2016 (starts at 1:00 pm) Jane’s Walk that will take place still further west from where I live, at the Small Arms Building in Mississauga:

Small Arms Building – Then and Now

MCHS grads from Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere most welcome to join us for May 28, 2016 Jane’s Walk starting 1:00 pm at foot of Dixie Road at Lakeshore Road East in Mississauga

I’ve spent the past five years organizing Jane’s Walks with my friend Mike James.

It’s my hope that, by starting to publicize the May 28, 2016 Jane’s Walk in Mississauga now, it may come to pass that one or two MCHS graduates will make their way to the Small Arms Building, to join us for this great walk.

As the information at the Jane’s walk website notes, this event is a Friendly Walk – as in Family and Dogs Friendly; Wheelchair & Stroller Friendly – and (and this is noteworthy) also Senior Friendly.

You’ll have no problem recognizing me at the event, as I’ll be the young guy (okay, a bit of hyperbole here) running around with a portable amplifier, in my quest for ensuring that those of us who are hard of hearing, and ever so slightly stooped in our posture, and standing at the back of the crowd, hear every word clearly.

Update

An Aug. 4, 2015 mesquartiers.wordpress.com article is entitled: “TOP 15 DES PLUS BEAUX PARCS RIVERAINS À MONTRÉAL!”

 

3 replies
  1. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Jaan,
    You invited me to the Jane’s Walk but I have to decline as my situation is not improving and I think the effort will be too demanding. Thanks for the suggestion though.
    Bob

    Reply
  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob,

    I can well understand that the effort would be too demanding in the circumstances.

    When we meet for coffee at some point after the May 28, 2016 Small Arms Jane’s Walk, I can share with you some details from the walk.

    Some basic facts of interest:

    The Small Arms Building is among the few structures, along with a water tower and the remnants of some rifle ranges, that remain from the military history of Lakeview, in Mississauga, located just to the west of Long Branch, in southern Etobicoke, where I live.

    As I understand (I will need to do some more reading, of authoritative sources, before I have these details correct), during the Second World War, the Small Arms Building served as a small arms inspection facility related to the testing of firearms produced at the Small Arms Ltd. munitions plant located to the east of the Small Arms Building. A majority of the munitions workers were young women who arrived in Lakeview from across Canada, as I understand; some of them are still alive, having settled in Mississauga and Toronto after the Second World War.

    There was another munitions plant in Toronto, in a neighbourhood that is now called Liberty Village. The Bren machine guns were produced at the latter plant. At one stage, the Bren machine gun was so accurate, according to one source I have read – that is, it was so good at hitting a bullseye at a firing range, that its level of accuracy detracted from its effectiveness under battle conditions in the Second World War. A soldier would fire the weapon at a group of advancing Axis soldiers, and the person targeted would get killed but the soldiers on either side would remain standing.

    Allied gunners came to prefer Bren guns that had been used for some time, as after incessant usage involving the firing of many rounds, the barrel would not be able to turn out such a concentrated and focused volley of shots. Instead, the shots would get spread out, which was the best option under battlefield conditions. In time, the Bren gun was redesigned, so that the ‘spread’ of fire was less concentrated. End of digression.

    The rifle ranges in Lakeview that were located to the south of the Small Arms Building were used for the primary means of testing of the small arms that were manufactured at the munitions plant. The rifle ranges date back to the late 1800s. Before that, rifle ranges had been in operation in Toronto, but people in Toronto had said (and I paraphrase), “Get those rifle ranges out of here.”

    Lakeview, which was in those days known as Toronto Township, and which is now a neighbourhood that is part of the City of Mississauga, was deemed to be sufficiently out in the country, far enough from civilization, so to speak, for a new set of rifle ranges to be set up. That meant the rifle ranges in Toronto could be closed.

    There are wooden baffles that remain, from days of the rifle ranges. The wooden baffles (again, as I understand; I will need to read some authoritative sources to confirm this) are built around 1910.

    Eventually, the rifle ranges were closed and were moved to a still more “rural” location.

    This brief overview scratches the surface of the historical information that is available with regard to the Small Arms Building and the Arsenal Lands, where the May 28, 2016 Jane’s Walk, entitled Small Arms Building – Than and Now, will be held.

    I will close with a couple of comments. First, the Small Arms Building was saved from demolition when the local community ensured that steps were taken to designated the building under the Ontario Heritage Act. It was designated in 2009. The community group that saved the building also originated the community-drivern project that points toward the future of the Lakeview Area, as manifested by or demonstrated by (I’m trying to figure out which words will work the best) Inspiration Lakeview and the Lakeview Waterfront Connection Project, which will be the focus of the last leg of the May 28th Jane’s Walk.

    The second comment concerns the distinction between authoritative and (by implication) not quite so accurate sources of information related to local history, as it pertains in this case to Long Branch (Toronto) and Lakeview (Mississauga). Some of the published (print publications and online resources) related to local history in these areas are backed up by primary historical and archival resources. Some are not. It takes a bit of work, and some familiarity with the available resources, for a person to be able to distinguish between the two.

    As well, even some of the archival resources, such as captions related to photographs dating from the 1950s by way of example, sometimes include errors that can easily lead a person astray, when they are seeking to share information about the past. As a corollary, I would add that some of the misinformation ends up on Wikipedia.

    Jaan

    Reply

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