2002 a year of anniversaries

In 2002 the Gardener’s Cottage, built by Kew Williams as a honeymoon gift for his wife, turned 100. Along with a plaque unveiling at the Lee Avenue site, festivities included a tour of the cottage, which for many years was the home of the head gardener in charge of Kew Gardens. One of the party guests was Joyce Williams, Kew’s last surviving daughter, who was presented with a citation by MP Maria Minna for her family’s contribution to Beach history. The building, nowadays often called Kew Cottage, has been refurbished and is available for community events.

The East City Y at 907 Kingston Rd. celebrated its 50th anniversary with a barbecue and bake sale. The Y was built in the era after the Second World War, when the YMCA decided that small centres were the way of the future. In communities across Canada there were fundraising campaigns. Charlie Daffern of Bingham Avenue recalled canvassing the Beach and collected $500, quite a sum back then. The building opened in May 1952. Although it lacked a pool and track, the centre thrived in the 1950s and 1960s as it was one of the few recreational spots in the area, apart from the Balmy Beach Club and activities in church basements. By the start of the 1970s, the building was closed, and a couple of local women, Betty Stephen and Lenore Diaz, opened it as a drop-in centre for youth and women’s programs. During their tenure several local groups that would affect life in the East End met there.  These included ForWard 9, which helped to defeat the proposed Scarborough Expressway; the Woodbine Community Association, which fought to convert the old police station at 97 Main Street into Community Centre 55; Daycare Connections; and Friends of the Leslie Street Spit.  Beach Metro News, Senior Link and the Beaches Alternative School spent their early years in rooms at the East City Y.  (Following a fire in the 1990s, the building was refurbished and now has a daycare centre and a variety of popular activities. Call 416-694-1168 for details.)

The Beach section of Queen Street was voted the best main street in Ontario in a TV0 contest.  Judges reviewed 50 submissions from around the province.  “The Beach is an all-round winner…A fantastic inner-city neighbourhood with a great retail market, a great place to visit…feels like a small town. Accessibility and walkability, the diversity of business, the architecture and the beauty of the boardwalk and the successful summer festivals…”

On Oct. 27 the doors of Maple Cottage at 62 Laing St. in Leslieville were thrown open to the public. The building, rescued from neglect by the Friends of Maple Cottage and the city, is now a community resource available for public and private events.  Over 400 people came to witness the planting of a tree grown from seed taken from the tree in the cottage garden, reputed to be the tree that inspired the song The Maple Leaf Forever.

A retired 80-year-old streetcar, Peter Witt #2766, spent a year being restored by the TTC. In 2002 it was dedicated to a local man, Ray Corley, in recognition of his contribution to the continued operation of streetcars in Toronto. Corley, a former superintendent, spent his career designing and developing much of the TTC’s rail fleet, and was one of Canada’s foremost experts on rail transportation. On Sept. 19, the Corley Car rumbled out of the Harvey shop with Ray Corley at the controls. The car is now used for VIP tours and events including the Easter Parade.

Beach Metro held a contest to find the Perfect Valentine. Winners were Nelina Aarguelie, Linda Hazaard and Terri Needler, with runners-up Joan Boxill, Carleigh Beverly, Brian Ward and Velvet Goodwin. Their stories were published, giving hope to the rest of us.

Construction of houses in  the ‘East of Main’ development, Upper Beach Estates, began on land that was once the Grand Trunk marshalling yards.  Concessions from the developer, the Conservancy Group, hammered out after several public meetings with the city and residents, included a $750,000 payment to the Toronto District School Board to renovate and expand Kimberley School, expanded playing fields to accommodate a full size soccer pitch at Ted Reeve Arena, and $105,000 towards the renovation of its Earl Robinson Meeting Room.

The Toronto Parking Authority purchased 75 Lee Ave. to add seven more parking spots to its site at Lee and Queen.  After hearing objections from neighbours, it decided not to expand its lot and to sell 75 Lee Ave.

Fans of Hazel held a surprise party for their favorite waitress at the GOOF, who had been serving Chinese-Canada food for 50 years, since the restaurant opened in 1952.

As part of celebrations for the Queen’s 50-year reign, ceremonies were held in federal ridings across Canada to recognize those “who had made a significant contribution to the well being of their fellow citizens.”  An English garden party was held at Kew Cottage where MP Maria Minna presented the Queen’s Jubilee Medal to David Breech, Bruce Barbeau, Yung-I  Chen, Glenn Cochrane,  Noordin Dhanji, Chuck Do, Gene Domagala, Ann Hamilton, Baklwant Jajj, G. Wayne Johnston,  Russel Mayne, Edward Mulroney, Bob Murdoch, Cynthia Nobel, Michael Prately, George Shields, Molinder Singh, Gsanesan Sugumar, Thomas Wardle Sr., Ada Wynston, Carole Stimmell and Sheila Blinoff.

On April 2 Michael Oesch started walking along Hwy. 2 on the first leg of a 6,800 KM, seven-month journey to the East Coast and back.  On the way he stopped at public libraries to update his online diary, played guitar at concerts, saved a hawk, cared for a dying cormorant, found a home for an abandoned kitten, and almost stepped on a moose. “Every area has a different idea of what being a Canadian is,” said Oesch on his return. “I could never have learned what I know sitting in my apartment in the Beach.”

A couple who saw plenty of dirty laundry in their day retired after 35 years. Tom and Mary Mark ran Mark 1 Cleaners on Queen Street at Spruce Hill Road, as well as a branch on Kingston Road for about ten years.

Among those who passed on in 2002 were Bill Sewell QC, who led the Calvary Baptist Men’s Club for 60 years;  social activist and former MPP for Beaches-Woodbine Ken Bryden;  Gord  Sharland, who worked at the Bell central office in the Beach for 38 years and whose second home was the Kew Beach Tennis Courts:  newspaper and renaissance man Peter (Sandy) Drake; the owner of Dominion Typewriters, Doug Sanderson;  gardener, gourmet cook and devoted friend to many artists, Edith Nellis; a familiar greeter on Queen Street, Tom Ellwood; pharmacist Mary Perry; potter Billie Fulton, who was involved in Balmy Beach Community Centre for over 25 years; Beach Metro and Habitat for Humanity volunteer George Lewis; and  the co-founder of the Main Attraction Theatre Group and the world’s greatest Jane Austen fan, Betty McGuire.

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Hello, Betty McGuire: This is a voice from your fairly distant past. I’d love to catch up on the status of all the old crowd from St. Aidan’s . . . Kate, Cathy & Catherine, Gerry, Marion etall . . .

Please get in touch by e.mail . . . best . . . Val.

The Main Attraction Theatre Company no longer operates theatre productions in the Beach. We do have a Facebook page however.. to reminisce the past!

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