Christina Myers, age 87, asks: Were the Wartime Housing residences in Ville St. Laurent (Quebec) ready to move in, in 1942?

We have in recent years had some great discussions (and photo-sharing) about emergency postwar housing in Canada at a number of posts, including at one entitled:

Ville St-Laurent, Quebec: Wartime housing and architectural change, 1942-92: Article by Annmarie Adams & Pieter Sijpkes (1994)

I am pleased to share with you the following message from Christina Myers, who has given me permission to post it here; she writes:

I am 87 years old I lived at 11509 Stanislas St. in the Wartime Housing we moved there in September 1942 my sister said 1943, my question is were the houses ready to move in in 1942?, we were one of the first families on our Street in fact my Father got a letter in the
60’s stating that a Street in Ville St. Laurent was named after our family “Ashby “ as being one of the early residents of Ville St. Laurent. Oh I have so many memories of “Mudville” the streets were all mud no pavement then.

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If you can help Christina Myers with an evidence-based answer to her question, please contact me at jpill@preservedstories.com or through this website. We much appreciate your help.

Graeme Decarie. Photo supplied by Graeme Decarie.

Graeme Decarie; photo supplied by Graeme Decarie.

Update (1): Message from Graeme Decarie

I am pleased to share the following message from Graeme Decarie (whom we look forward to meeting for lunch along with other Malcolm Campbell High School stalwarts, any time he is in Toronto) :

These were originally intended for war industry workers as they moved into the cities for jobs. But there were none in 1942.

The first ones were built in 1943 – in Toronto. To the best of my knowledge, none appeared in Montreal until 1944 – at the earliest. (I remember going with my parents to see such a development. My father was with us, so the war was over – and this must have been well in 1945. They cost at lot of money. $3,000 dollars.)

Here’s an NFB film about them….. https://www.nfb.ca/film/wartime_housing/

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Update (2): Message from Bob Carswell

Hi Jaan,

Bob Carswell at Birds & Beans Cafe in Mimico, close to Lake Ontario, where he met with Peter Mearns and Jaan pill in February 2015. In the photo, Bob is listening to the MCHS school song on Jaan's iPhone. Jaan Pill photo

Bob Carswell at Birds and Beans Cafe in Mimico in South Etobicoke close to Lake Ontario where he met with Peter Mearns and Jaan Pill in February 2015. Bob is listening to the MCHS school song on Jaan’s iPhone. Jaan Pill photo

The area of Mudville as it was known back in the 1940s got its name from the lack of paved roads which turned to mud in the rainy season and during the winter and spring when temperatures warmed up a bit. It consisted originally of 400 houses built with lumber for employee families but expected only to be temporary accommodations for Canadair families. Those houses are now 75+ years old and still going strong.

I cannot tell her when her family moved into Mudville. Only knowing when her father started working at Canadair building the Catalina flying boats might answer that. If they were one of the first families on their street as she says then September 1942 is most probably the date and she is correct but that also depends on when her street was built in the order of things. That we do not know.

All we do know is that construction was started in 1942 in that development and they likely built most houses over the summer rather than through winter so I would bet on 1942 rather than 1943 when the family moved in. Hope that helps.

Cheers

Bob

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1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Bob Carswell has added some comments (Oct. 13, 2018) at a post entitled:

    Ville St-Laurent, Quebec: Wartime housing and architectural change, 1942-92: Article by Annmarie Adams & Pieter Sijpkes (1994)

    To bring attention to them, I’ve posted the comments below as well:

    You have me thinking about my youth and wartime housing so here are a few comments about what I know about “Mudville” and other facilities around Canadair in the late 1940s, early 1950s and early 1960s when I went to MCHS. First let me talk about my earliest days after I learned to walk on my on. In the 1940s, probably 1949 when I was almost 5 years old that summer, my older brother who was age 6 at the time and I were basically given free rein to roam. Back in those days, you did not worry about kids being kidnapped or misled, you left your house and car unlocked and did not expect anyone to break in. Perhaps letting us roam was a bit naïve of my mother but she had just arrived from England in 1945 and a lot of things were strange to her. Nevertheless, we loved it. We would roam far and wide and get into all sorts of trouble my mother never heard about. We climbed the beams in barns, went for long walks that could have got us lost, set fire to a lumber yard by accident when we took matches away from the younger kids who were playing with them. We thought it would be best to light them all and then make sure they were out for good. Little did we know that doing it in the lumber yard behind our house was dangerous. After all, we could not do it at home.

    My mother had her hands full by the summer of 1949. We were four children under the age of five and the younger two needed more guidance than the older two so we got to spend the summer days on our own. Walter Jim and I were inseparable. While we went to the Anglican Church, Walter went to the Pentecostal church. My parents exposed us to a lot of things along the way, and going once to a Pentecostal meeting with Walter’s family, going to a Pentecostal summer camp on the west side of the Lake of Two Mountains where I was kicked by a pony, were all part of our youthful life experiences. At one point I also went to a Bar Mitzvah to experience that as well.

    Today there is a family on a Dairy Farm in Howick, Quebec who still remember the story about the kid who climbs the old barn in the late forties following his brother Jim and neighbours’ son, Walter McDevitt who our mother sort of looked after, after school until his parents got home from work. I was the kid that fell into the hay pile and disappeared.While the other two boys were out looking for help, I was pulling hay out of the walls of the well I seemed to be in because I was able to see the light at the top of the hole and I wanted to get there. I kept filling the space below me and stepping on the hay until I could lift my head over the top and see out, just as the farmer, who was way out in the back fields and French florists from the next door nursery arrived to help. (If you are interested in learning more about the Cartierville farm and the Tolhurst family, see http://www.tolhurstfarms.com/us for more details. There is also a photo of the grandfather at the Cartierville farm which had been there for a century before the family moved on. The building out back in that photograph is the old barn where I fell into the hay. It seemed a lot bigger when you were 4 years old. In their story page about the family they also make reference to their Cartierville roots even though they left the area as I did almost 70 years ago.)

    We moved to Saraguay around 1951 and I specifically remember my teenaged years at MCHS going to two restaurants quite regularly. The first was at the corner of Dudemaine and O’Brien on the NE corner which we would walk to sometimes at lunchtime to buy snacks. The second was just across the tracks south on O’Brien on the west side, literally right by the tracks. The students used to takeover the basement of the new building for dancing after school for about an hour waiting for the Roxboro train that came through about 4:15 p.m. It was not my train. Going home from there I often walked south to Bois Franc Road and then west over to Grenet Street where the No.17 streetcar line to Carterville ran. I did not know that the wartime housing on the south side that took up the entire block between O’Brien and Grenet St on the south side (which I never walked through) was called Mudville by the locals from its early days. I travelled a lot throughout Cartierville and St. Laurent with my brother from a very young age and as a teenager, especially when we were living just down the road from Val Royal train station in a 6-plex (3 & 3 side by side) near de Salaberry Boulevard. We often went up to climb over the old train engines stored just west of Val Royal until the railroad police once chased us away. Then we had to be content to watch the old square-boxed electric train engines that pulled the local commuter trains to Val Royal and Cartierville. The trains to Roxboro needed diesel engines. During that time the whole block called Mudville always eluded me.  

    There was a very old store/restaurant right there at the crossing on the NE corner of Grenet and Bois Franc Road which also catered to traffic from the Val Royal train station that departed on the South side of the  station. I am guessing it had been there doing that as long as the train ran through the tunnel and out to Lake of Two Mountains which I guess goes back to the 1800s. (It is sort of like the businesses that were on Ranger Street in Cartierville when we were kids and the restaurant/store that was the stop for the Laval bus system on Ranger Street in Cartierville when it met the No. 17 streetcar ever since the first line was put through to Cartierville probably back around the early 1900s. They all depended on the pedestrian traffic that the streetcars or later, the buses. brought there for them to stay in business. When I went to the evening high school, three of us became good friend, one a good looking Jewish girl that neither of us had a chance with, Dietmar Drieze who lived in Laval and was quite a skier, but who was involved with two car accidents in St. Sauveur and broke his jaw twice in successive winters. He had to have it wired shut for about two years while drinking liquid to get the food in. We took the streetcar home from SGWEHS and I waited with him until the Laval bus came before hitchhiking out to Saraguay. On the last night we were in classes, as we all graduated together, the girl suggested that we go across to a bar on Cote des Neiges downtown and catch a show. It turned out to be Stompin’ Tom Connors who provided the entertainment. That would be back in 1965. Since then Dietmar has gone from being a purchasing agent in the construction company in Montreal to become the President of the company and now lives in Hudson, last I heard. We lost touch decades ago. I am guessing he has retired by now.  

    If you look at google maps today you will see that that same corner has really changed now with tall 4 story apartment buildings on stilts so cars can park below and widened to go under the new rail bridge at Val Royal. When I travelled under the bridge to the other side, the apartment building we first moved into in Cartierville on Ranger Street where it meets Grenet had not changed. We lived moved in there when we first got married in 1970 and it is still the same. We were there for two years before moving to Toronto but everything south of there has really changed including Henri Bourassa Boulevard which now replaces the old two-lane Bois Franc Road. However if you go east on it from Grenet to the first street going south, you are right there in the old Mudtown, which has changed very little from when it was first built during WWII for families who worked at Canadair. On the old Laurentian Blvd where Canadair is situated, there were three white two story shed-type buildings with white front staircases to the second floor. These were initially designed to be bachelor accommodations for single people working at Canadair. They all had shared facilities and each front entrance on two levels ran all the way to the back of the buildings where the back stairs were located. I recall them being very long buildings probably able to accommodate 30 people per floor or more in a single room accommodations. I was given the opportunity to go inside them when my mother hired a cleaning woman named Mrs. Hanson. Her husband was in jail at the time and she was raising 3 kids on her own in a two roomed single’s pad. She may have had two rooms by then as they were no longer used for Canadair employees after the war. This would be in the early 1950s as her kids were all teens at that point. After Canadair no longer needed it for its people I suppose they rented the units out for the less fortunate for those who could not afford a better place to live. I always remember it being full of mothers and kids. In time, when things improved for the parents and the kids had grownup and gone on their own, the Hansons moved to Cartierville into a small new apartment building on Legault Street, the short side street at the top of Ranger Street which the old streetcar use to use to get back to the Grenet Street tracks after leaving the Cartierville terminal and going along Ranger Street. My mother would drive to Cartierville every two weeks for something like the next 25 years to pick up Mrs. Hansen to do housecleaning until she was too old to do it anymore. In many respects you could say she was an old English grandmother who came to visit us kids. Always a lovely person. We only knew our Gran Gran, my grandfather’s second wife who raised my mother as a teen after her own mother died when she was about five. Until then she had been with her grandmother and her large family. Her grandfather was the Finnish-Swede in our family who had left Finland at the age of eight, gone to sea for 20 years and got off the boats in London, England, at age 28, a qualified ship’s carpenter. I always said of him, “a Swede by race, a Finn by location, a Russian by occupation and a Brit by choice.” He lived in England for the next 60 years through two wars in London. Not the best place to be. If I live another 16 years I will be his age when he died.

    On a different topic, did you know that the Norgate Shopping Center was the very first strip mall built in Canada. I remember going through it each day when I attended the Northmount YMCA summer camp events at their facility just north of it, I reached it through the open covered walkway between the two buildings that make up the mall shops. It was built in 1949 so that makes it 69 years old and still going strong, owned by the original family who first financed it. My favourite place as a teenager was the donut shop that used to be across the street. An older neighbour of our was driving at 16 so we made regular Friday night trips to taste these new delicacies. What else do growing boys with a sweet tooth like me do at age 14?

    Reply

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