Beach was once home of the ‘great egg’

Now that we are in the Easter season, so to speak – or in my case, to write – let’s get into the Easter spirit.

We have some unique happenings here in the Beach. One of them is our Easter parade. The parade has grown from a small celebration on Canada’s 100th birthday to possibly the largest Easter parade in the country.

In a former age, there was a great Easter parade in the West End in Sunnyside, on the boardwalk. People would come out in their best suits and dresses, and parade up and down the boardwalk, giving each other a glancing look – my outfit is better than yours.

As with all good things, this came to an end, and everything eventually shifted to the Beach and Queen Street East. There have been all types of bands, bunny costumes and Easter eggs.

Speaking of eggs, here is the tale of the ‘great egg.’ This happened in the Beach, and involves Mr. W. Raine, a member of one of the pioneer Beach families.

The Raines were well known in the area, and Raine’s Pond can be found on old maps of the area. The pond was south of Queen, between Kippendavie and Kenilworth, an area where children skated in winter, and “muddled in the puddle” in spring and summer.

The Raine family lived on several streets in the Beach, including Waverley Road, and some of their descendants are alive and well.

W. Raine was a collector. There are many types of collectibles. Some people collect stamps or coins, others silverware, paintings, fine china, vases or all other manner of artifacts. W. Raine, however, became interested in eggs at a young age and started a collection.

His collection of eggs caused him to be known far and wide, across the city and the province – he was ‘the egg man.’ His collection was said to number close to or more than 50,000 eggs of all different species of birds and animals: everything that is – or was – alive.

W. Raine’s collection was written about by newspapers and naturalists. He held an exhibit nearly 100 years ago at the Canadian National Exhibition, featuring eggs from around the world – the Caspian tern in the Gulf of Persia; Iceland’s whistling swan; the short tailed albatross from the Sea of Japan; the wandering albatross from the South Georgia Islands; the Australian emu; the South African ostrich; the anhinga snake-bird from Florida; the guillemot, found in the sea cliffs at Yorkshire, England; the flamingo from the West Indies; the blue heron from New Jersey; the alligator from Florida; the hammerhead shark from the Gulf of Mexico; the snapping turtle from exotic Barrie, Ontario. His collection also included shells and nests.

As you can see, dear readers, W. Raine had a hard-boiled personality.

But the most valuable egg of them all was not the Easter egg – sorry to disappoint any young readers – nor was it from a chicken coop or from any normal fowl.

This great egg was the product of the great auk, which is now extinct. The great auk was formerly found in Labrador, Newfoundland and Greenland, as well as northern coastal Europe.

The egg is about the size of a swan’s egg, mottled in various shades of black and blue, and was a sight to behold. At the time, the egg was valued at around $1,500 – more than $30,000 in today’s currency. There are around 75 known specimens of great auk eggs in existence today.

We will return to the story of the ‘great egg,’ to find out whether this story is all it’s cracked up to be.

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