More details have emerged (with thanks to site visitors) about a “vanished” school, Grand Avenue Public School in Humber Bay, Etobicoke

The current post serves to bring attention to some updates to a previous post.

I was interested to read a reference to the former Mr. Christie site, which I’ve also written about at previous posts.

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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 an email update (from some years ago) from For King and Country 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.”

We interrupt the update from For King and Country to insert the following recent message:

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.

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.

[Comment from Jaan: These are evocative reflections, Krystyna. I am prompted to think of schools that have come and gone – and ones that have been saved such as the former Parkview School in Long Branch.]

We now continue with an email update (0f some years ago) from For King and Country:

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.

“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.

Ross Gamble of the Royal Canadian Navy ready for WWII.

Ross Gamble of the Royal Canadian Navy ready for WWII.

“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.

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.


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 email update from For King and Country]

Comments at the original post

Joyce Beaton, September 24, 2019:

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.

Jaan Pill, December 2, 2021:

Wonderful to know of your connection to Grand Avenue Public School, Joyce!

Marten Siddall, February 19, 2021:

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 strap.lol. Great many memories of the area and school.

Jaan Pill, December 2, 2021:

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.

Jaan Pill, December 2, 2021:

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

A number of people have shared memories at this web site about schools of years ago – for example, about Cartierville School in Montreal.

Similarly, we’ve uploaded many posts in previous years about the Long Branch Army Camp including one entitled:

Life at the Long Branch Army Camp, long, long ago! – Garry Burke shares additional comments

5 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    When I think about local history (in this case, as it relates to school buildings in Toronto), I also think about the wider context inside of which local history is embedded. For example, from time to time I read about the origins of Canadian broadcasting and film in the context of world history. With regard to such topics there are many things of interest to think about and ponder including about the role that evidence and framing plays in our perception of everyday events.

    Among other things, I think back to oral interviews I recorded some years ago with residents of Long Branch who grew up in the 1920s and thereabouts. Among the things that I recall is people speaking of how information was shared on the street, by way of conversations, in the days before television viewing became a standard part of life in the 1950s. The arrival of television meant that what we can call ‘oral culture’ was diminished, a trend that occurred in many settings including in university life and across the cultural landscape in general.

    I wrote for Cinema Canada from time to time in the late 1970s, part of what turned out to my education as a writer and interviewer. What I wrote about and people I met in those years – critics, directors, producers, film enthusiasts of all kinds, advocates on behalf of a viable Canadian film industry, and others – now help me to position the history of Canada’s cultural landscape in my mind.

    The history in particular of radio broadcasting in Canada (including, say, in Alberta) going back to the 1930s is among the topics I’ve been reading about with much interest over the past decade.

    I’m pleased to know that Friends of Canadian Broadcasting continues to advocate on behalf of a distinctive Canadian media voice.

    Reading about the history of Canadian film and broadcasting prompts a person to reflect for a moment about the impact that media everywhere in all of its forms has had in the past and how it continues, to an extent, to direct what we concentrate on and where and how our attention is directed.

    Reply
  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Emily has commented (at the previous post mentioned above):

    December 4, 2021

    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. 😁

    As well, Emily writes:

    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!

    Reply
    • Krystyna Lagowski
      Krystyna Lagowski says:

      Hi Emily, I remember Grand and Manitoba! Probably had friends on that street. Grand Ave Public School was on Dalesford, just north of the QEW. The property stretched from the QEW on the south, to Grand Ave on the east, and to a commercial property (sorry, can’t remember the name or street address) on the west. The school building itself was across from Milton Street. There was so much green space! Trees lined the Grand Ave side. At the time, the Grand Ave bridge was pretty basic, just two lanes. I lived at 34 Morgan Ave, which was west and north of where you are. I walked or rode my bike along Dalesford to school every day. It was all residential. If I was riding my bike, I’d sometimes dip into Penhurst, which has that cool cul-de-sac. At Wilson, that’s where the coffin factory was (weird, right?). The guys there were so friendly and chatty. On the south side, Dalesford was pretty industrial from Wilson to the school, but all residential on the north side. Funny, once you got past Grand Ave, and above the creek, Dalesford got a little dodgy. There may have been some kind of wrecking yard or dump behind the houses. My parents didn’t like me hanging out there. Wish I could tell you more about Manitoba, as I definitely spent time there. If you were a kid on Manitoba, you went to Grand Ave Public School. Although there were many Italian and Portugese families, and those kids often went to St. Louis Catholic School on my street, Morgan Ave, or St. Leo, in Mimico. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    You can see the school on the aerial photos:

    https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/access-city-information-or-records/city-of-toronto-archives/whats-online/maps/aerial-photographs/

    I owe thanks to a local-history contact who has shared the above-noted link and has commented: “I used to play baseball in the school yard. I think at the time the school was closed though. I think it sat for a number of years empty. It was on just over the QEW if I remember correctly (ie on the north side). I think the school board finally sold it and houses were built there.”

    I do not have time to locate the school on an aerial map at this point as most of my available time is spent on book project related to the history of Alberta.

    If any site visitor can share details regarding where in the above-noted link an aerial photo of Grand Avenue Public School can be found, please contact me by using the Comment function at this page, or by sending me an email at jpill@preservedstories.com – or, alternatively, by using the Contact Us function at this website.

    Reply
  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    The reference to the QEW reminds me of a previous post about the Bailey Bridge that was built (as a result of efforts initiated by a local high school student, Mary Jane Miller, later a professor of dramatic literature at Brock University) across the QEW in Mississauga:

    Bailey Bridge extends across the Queen Elizabeth Way at Applewood Village Plaza in Mississauga

    The post also refers to the Middle Road Bridge in Mississauga; an excerpt reads:

    1909 Middle Road Bridge

    Dave Cook notes that the construction of the QEW started in 1931; the highway was opened in 1939.

    “According to the Ministry of Transportation Ontario, the need for the QEW [Queen Elizabeth Way] arose after the Toronto-Hamilton Highway (built in November 1917), and later known as Highway 2, became overloaded and a new route had to be considered. The Dundas (Hwy.5) was also at its capacity. As a result, planning began for the Middle Road, which became the Queen Elizabeth Highway.”

    Reply

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