East End schools in a class of their own

Thinking about what my next historical article would be, I realized this is the month everyone goes back to school, so I should do an article on the schools, but a little differently.

One of the oldest school in the area, if not the oldest, is Norway Public School, near Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue. Norway was not always there – it started as an East Toronto Township school further east on Kingston Road in the 1840s.

The first Catholic school was St. Joseph’s, near Leslie Street. It started around 150 years ago, and it was an offshoot of St. Paul’s on Parliament Street. Later on, St. John’s Roman Catholic Church was established on Kingston Road near Malvern Avenue. Then, to make things confusing, there was St. John’s Roman Catholic Training School, located at Blantyre and Victoria Park Avenues in the 1890s. St. John’s became Neil McNeil high school in the 1950s.

There was a call for an all-girls school, to complement Neil McNeil’s boys school, and Notre Dame was established on Malvern Avenue. In the 1960s, St. Denis Roman Catholic School opened on Balsam north of Queen Street East.

Duke of Connaught Public School in 1918.
Duke of Connaught Public School in 1918.

On Woodfield Road, we have a school named after one of our Governor Generals – Duke of Connaught. Further north near Coxwell and Gerrard we have Roden Public School, named after a long serving member of the Toronto District School Board.

Did you know that we had two schools which were located in Toronto’s first golf course? They are Fairmount and Bowmore Road. The name of the course was the Toronto Golf Course.

Kew Beach Public School in the 1930s. PHOTO: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257 Series 1057
Kew Beach Public School in the 1930s.
PHOTO: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257 Series 1057

We had a school on Queen Street that was originally located in a volunteer fire station in Kew Gardens near Bellefair Avenue. Kew Beach Public School is one of the oldest schools in the area.

Another school was going to be named Pine Street school, to be located on Beech at Queen. That didn’t happen – instead, it was named Balmy Beach Community School, sited between Balsam and Beech, halfway between Queen and Kingston Road.

One of our schools is named after one of the fathers of hydroelectricity and a champion of publicly-owned power generation, Adam Beck. Another local school changed names from Chester Street School to Courcelette Public School.

Williamson Road school, which will be 100 years old next year, was not named after Kew Williams, but after a prominent builder and politician, Wm. Williamson. Glen Ames was named after a prominent land owner of the time.

Working up Main Street, we arrive at Kimberley, named for a famous battle during the Boer War. It was originally named Mary Street School after Mary Swanwick Morton. Did you know that Secord Public School was one of the first schools to have a swimming pool in the area?

Malvern Collegiate Institute in the 1930s
Malvern Collegiate Institute in the 1930s

Our great high school, Malvern Collegiate, was not always on Malvern Avenue, and it was not always named Malvern. It was originally called East Toronto High School, named after the former town of East Toronto.

At one time authorities wanted to amalgamate Danforth Tech and Eastern Commerce, then they didn’t want to build them at all. Finally they built three separate high schools: Monarch Park, Danforth Technical Institute and Eastern Commerce.

Now that you are all ‘dazed’, I wish you a happy school year. I appreciate your comments. Historically and educationally yours, Gene.

 Danforth Technical Institute before 1931

Danforth Technical Institute before 1931

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I spent ten years in Williamson Road School School. Don’t laugh! Our crest reads “WRS School.” It took me ten years because I couldn’t pass grade two, the first try. I was the last of four kids – and seem to have made sickness my hobby. “Slow” they called me. Also “DIFFERENT”, they said.” Double pneumonia for most of the winter 1937-38 without antibiotics lost me the second year. No problem – I qualified for, and joined MENSA, when I finally matured (sort of). Age now 89 and still trying to “grow up.”

Jack Brownscombe (formerly living at 16 Wineva) and I, presently, and pleasantly, communicate by e-mail – he in Peterborough (where I was born) and I in Beaconsfield, Quebec). Incidentally, our family rented the house at 14 Williamson Road from 1929 to 1937 (right next door to the MORGAN’s who had a car and their own gasoline tank/pump outside their garage – glass tank on the top, and all! Posh!

Sorry, I just read the note about guidelines. You may ignore my ramblings if you wish. My wife is right – I do go on.

My telephone # 514 630 1662, in case you want to TEL me off.

My Uncle went to Duck of Connaught Public School around 1933 for the Sight Seeing Class. and my brother, sister and I also went and grad. from there too. Robert grad from Duke in the old school it was grade 9 back then for a special courses then off to high school. Karen had the special time when they built the new school Woodfield Rd. Public School. Then myself back in 1965 to 1966 . Years later came my son Leonard 1978 to 1986. So you would say the Duke of Connaught was in the family.

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