Category Archives: Toronto
A few weeks ago my friend Carol and I were driving home from an event near Toronto’s waterfront. We drove onto Queen’s Quay coming from the west. The view in front of us showed opposites. On our right was Harbourfront Centre, which although touristy, has some calming natural areas, such as the garden and walking along the boardwalk by Lake Ontario and the boats.
The other side consisted of big high-rise condos. In front of us, more tall buildings. The road sloped down and the view came across to both of us as something from the future, something from a science fiction movie.
Is this what my city, my Toronto has come to? The downtown core, once filled with historic buildings (some still standing, but hard to find), is now overloaded with high futuristic buildings. Not pretty. Not aesthetically pleasing. No wonder I don’t go downtown much anymore, but just as far as mid-town, unless over by my son’s area where there are still old beautiful houses. And yes the main street near there looks a little shabby in places. But it is a damn sight better than futuristic downtown.
Where did the developers and city councillors, mayors, etc. go wrong? We have leaned too much towards progress instead of combining it gracefully with history. Sadly, this seems to be the way globally.
There is an old axiom about learning from history. Well, when I look at the futuristic high-rises in downtown Toronto, the only history lesson here is to forget any history and build build build. People want to live downtown; houses are too expensive; condos not as expensive, so build up and up and up.
Beyond the aesthetic aspect, what about the utilities? Many of the utility infrastructures are old and wearing out and if not now, but soon, at this rate of growth, will not have the capacity to take all the overbuild. What happens then? A few instances are already happening. Floods from heavy rains. One high-rise condo had re-occurring power outages in under two weeks. Broken watermains.
If that weren’t enough, some of the glass panels (and I don’t mean the windows, but the walls) of some of these condos have fallen off, shattering when they hit the street. It is a miracle that (so far) no one has been injured.
Take a look at the photos above and below. And check out these links. This one shows a tight cluster of condo locations in downtown Toronto. This one a photo of one part of downtown Toronto. One historic building The Ironworks manages to rise out among the big buildings.
No wonder I tend to gravitate towards Toronto areas that are still pleasing. Not just where I live and where my son and his girlfriend live, but other older areas. Just to clarify – there are still a few colourful areas who have managed to retain their history while being vibrant and interesting, such as Kensington Market and China Town, which (no surprise here) are next to each other. And another clarification – some older areas of Toronto are not aesthetically pleasing in any way. They are boring and just there. But they still have one thing going for them – they don’t look like something out of science fiction.
Do you think historical buildings and common sense progress are being sacrificed for big modern progress only? Not just in Toronto, but where you live?
Only Child Writes
Growing up – back in the grey ages of course, I spent some time with my dad doing simple things. He seemed to take on the role of teacher as well as parent. Family members used to say he was proud of his little princess. Yes, that was me. Hard to believe it now as I’ve turned into a motor-mouth opinionated person. There is a back story there but that’s not for today’s post. Today, I want to honour my late father – Albert Louis Joseph Eugene Langevin – because the anniversary of his birthday is this Saturday, June 4.
Dad was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1899. The Langevin family moved to Toronto when Dad was five – or so I’ve been told. Doing research in the Toronto City Might Directories for the early 1900s doesn’t show the Langevin family living anywhere in Toronto until a few years later. And believe me I have looked in all the earlier directories – bending on my knees and moving four heavy directories at a time to a table on the second floor at the Toronto Reference Library. But some of the family history I didn’t know comes out in these short, simple directory listings. For example, I knew Dad didn’t serve in either World War – too young for the first war and too old for the second. But one of his brothers, Uncle Paul, did serve in the First World War. Considering Paul’s age at the time it wouldn’t surprise me if be lied about his age to get in. That was done back then. From 1918 Dad worked for the Grand Trunk Railway and then the Canadian National Railway when the latter swallowed up the former. Dad worked in the main Toronto office, then on Front Street and connected to the big Union Station on Toronto’s Front Street. Most of his work life there was as a time-keeper. That might explain his penchant for insisting everyone and everything always be on time – no excuses. But his job gave Mom and I free train rides and that’s how we travelled for our summer holidays – to my Mom’s family farms near Lucknow and Mildmay, Ontario and longer trips to Detroit (more of Mom’s relatives there), Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Quebec province.
Dad married my Mom, Julia, when he was 40 in November 1939 and by the time I came along he was 49. He was often mistaken for my grandfather with his then grey, and later white hair. Yes, he spoke French in his earlier years, but lost that ability over the years living in Toronto. It was actually embarrassing when he, Mom and I went for a holiday in Quebec province when I was 14. We got away with English only in Montreal but not in Quebec City. Dad had to find a bilingual cab driver who helped us find a bed and breakfast to stay.
Mom was the gardener in the family – with me learning the green thumb tricks from her. But Dad had a few up his sleeve. When he mowed the lawn – with a push mower – he also showed me how to do it and let me do a bit. Same for watering the lawn. But when it came to the trees and shrubs in the front and back yard, he could be a bear.
You see, my friends and I used to set up our dolls and their “houses” (turned over doll or small people suitcases) for rooms. We would have kid-sized dishes and then we would go get “food” for our dolls. “Food” wasn’t berries from the garden, but we would pick and pull leaves from the big and small shrubs. Dad caught us at it once and came charging out into the backyard and gave us you know what for doing damage to trees.
Dad also taught me to ride a bicycle – but not until I was almost 10. I would sit on this 28 inch wheel bike with my short legs and feel barely reaching the peddles and feel terrified that I would fall off. But Dad held onto the front handle with one hand and the back of the seat with the other and steered me along the street. That got me some teasing plus from my friend the Bully. But I did learn to ride the bike on my own, albeit just on the immediate neighbourhood streets which had little traffic. My favourite place to ride a bike was on country roads by my cousins near Lucknow, Ontario. I would ride one of the boy’s bikes or one of the girl’s bikes – depends on whom I was riding with. The terrain might have been tough (gravel roads, not paved) but the only traffic – if any – was the odd car and tractor.
Dad also was very protective, perhaps over-protective as shown by his teaching methods. But I still loved him.
But, when he got cancer in his brain when I was 12, things changed so much. I found myself distancing myself from him. In hindsight I think it was a protective measure for when he was gone. Mom and I knew that the cancer would eventually kill him and it did when I was 16. He was 66 when he died.
I still miss you Dad.
Only Child Writes
When I was a child my late mother and I used to travel on Toronto’s public transit (TTC). We t00k buses, streetcars and the subway. It was like an adventure with Mom leading the way. I always felt when travelling with her we were good, and any problems that arose, she could fix them.
I wish Mom had been with me last Thursday when I ventured onto the TTC to an area I’ve only been to a couple of times before. These previous two times I returned home a different way from going there because I had errands to do. This time I wanted to come right home.
In preparation I did a trip planner on the TTC website. I might as well have mapped out a trip to Mars – the angry red planet – for all the good my planning did. And Mars would have been appropriate for some of what I felt when I finally returned home. The problems were caused by stupid bus drivers and even stupider bus schedules on the Woodbine C and D bus lines.
When I boarded the bus near my place I tried to verify with the driver that this Woodbine bus at some point goes all over Hell’s Half Acre in residential land instead of straight up to Lawrence Avenue. Bus driver verified that and told me to get off at Underhill. When I mentioned the trip planner online suggested another street beginning with “C” he had no clue. When the bus was arriving at Cardiff (voice and digital stop announcements are done electronically on Toronto buses), I rushed up to the front and told the driver “that’s the street.” His reply was how complicated it was to get to the stop going west on Lawrence as where I actually saw the bus stopped on Lawrence was going east (it appeared to be going west).
So, I stayed on to Underhill and got off. When I asked about getting on around here to return home he said I could get on at Underhill but it was better to stay on to Victoria Park and transfer there from the Lawrence bus. That was going out of my way and made no sense because it’s the Victoria Park bus line there and why would I want another bus change (and another transfer from the Victoria Park bus) to get home when the Woodbine bus was supposed to take me right home?
I noted tha on the south side of Lawrence the street was called Railside, and boarded the Lawrence East bus to my destination – the Toronto Botanical Gardens library to do some research for a personal essay. After that I walked back to Don Mills Road to the public library to pitch my writing workshops and crime writing talks to the librarian.
Then I walked to the nearest bus stop on the south side of Lawrence just east of Railside. Common sense told me that the Woodbine bus that turned up Underhill when I was going west, would come back that way and turn east on Lawrence. What goes up must come down.
Not exactly. I waited for almost half an hour. I talked to another woman waiting around and she said she thought the Woodbine bus came back down Underhill and turned left onto Lawrence.
Imagine my surprise and horror when I saw a Woodbine bus (C or D – couldn’t make that out on the front from the side) come barrelling down Underhill right across Lawrence and down Railside. It stopped at the stop just below Lawrence. I ran there – but I had to cover part of a block on both streets and missed.
There was a map of sorts on the post at this Railside stop. Very confusing as it didn’t show where the Woodbine C and a B came back from Underhill and York Mills. A D bus route was drawn in using broken lines – but only for the Railside portion. Times given for its arrival at “my” stop were only for rush hour and didn’t coincide with when the bus I missed had arrived.
I felt scared and alone. How was I to get home? I couldn’t afford a cab – even if one came by. None did. But several Woodbine C buses came by along Lawrence going west and turning north on Underhill. None of them came back.
The Woodbine D finally did (and not at the scheduled time) and I got on. I asked the driver where does the C bus gets back to Lawrence.
He said “Cardiff.” The same bloody intersection where the C bus driver when I was going to the TGB library told me not to get off at. If I had, this would not have happened.
This D bus driver wasn’t all that knowledgeable either because when I asked him how often the D bus ran he said “I don’t know.”
And this D bus did get me home but not before going over to Victoria Park Ave. – which is not on the route going the other way. So I panicked and charged up to the front of the bus to make sure the bus was going to my stop. Now it was clear what the bus driver going had meant by taking the Lawrence bus back to Victoria Park. I have also noticed on previous Woodbine bus rides from the south end to my place that sometimes the bus drivers take 20 minute breaks at the south end. From what I can figure out, it’s not all their fault. It’s the wonky schedule.
Of course I put in an online complaint to the TTC, including the Woodbine bus schedules need overhauling so that routes going and coming travel the same way (well in reverse order to each other of course) to avoid confusion. Only exception would be extra rush-hour service (like the Railside diversion). And I suggested they fix the bus time schedules and the map signs at the stops.
Now if my mother had been there….
I’ll write in a future post about my experience at the Toronto Botanical Gardens library. Only good thing happening last Thursday.
Only Child Writes
Back in the gray ages, each September was different when I returned to school. I felt different, depending on the circumstances. Looking back, the excitement and more positive outlook was definitely before I turned teen. I remember the excitement of buying new pencils and exercise books (I did say “gray ages” so before computers) and anticipated learning new things. The smell of the pencils and paper, new books, reading, even Math, and especially playing baseball with the other girls – my age and older, made me feel good.
Of course, it wasn’t all good. I was bullied in school – first by my so-called best friend and also a nun in grade 2 and grade 8.
When I started high school, the first day of school and the “anticipation” hit high on the dread and scary scale.
High school grade 9 actually started a few weeks before as Mom and I visited the school (a Catholic one in Toronto) to buy my uniform. This outfit was enough to send you screaming in the street with its dark blue pleated tunic, long-sleeved white blouses, black oxford shoes and (wait for it) a choice of seemed nylon stockings or black leotards – old lady shoes and stockings we called them. However, I didn’t run screaming anywhere because I was just getting over a summer of being sick with the croup.
Great way to start high school? The next high school years’ start weren’t much better. On the first day of any high school year at the Catholic School we were herded into the auditorium to find out our home room and our schedules. For grade 10, some of us found out we couldn’t take the typing class we signed up for but had to take another year of sewing and cooking – both of which I could learn from my mom, thank you very much. It didn’t help that the new school addition wasn’t finished and I got stuck in a portable for the first time. In winter the ink froze in the ink wells (gray ages, remember?) and we had to put our boots, hats, coats back on and trail back to the main school and patrol through the halls looking for an empty classroom – usually the cafeteria for religion class. Was there some connection between food and religion?
As kids and teens traipse back to school today, many are filled with anxiety. Life is more complex now with all the technology, cyber bullying and the peer and other pressure to grow up way too fast – just to list a few things. But the interesting thing that psychologists haves found is that some people long out of school still experience the first day anxiety as adults and some don’t even know this is it. Psychologists equate it with the end of the summer holidays and coming back from vacation and getting back to school or work. The days are getting shorter and the weather cooler with winter now closer and that can affect some too, like a prelude to the winter’s seasonal affective disorder (SAD.)
I get the weather one. Near the end of August and particularly Labour Day, I am saddened that there isn’t much more of summer left. Sure, we still get warm days in September (heat wave right now in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and officially by the calendar summer doesn’t end until Sept. 21. And I do like the early part of fall. But once the cold arrives – once November arrives and we go back to standard time – it is all downhill from there until sometime in April. I hate winter with a passion – especially after the horrid last two winters – in particular the ice storm and the resulting power outage in December 2013 right before Christmas.
When September rolls around I keep wishing we could go back to July 1 and the Canada Day celebrations. So much summer promise of fun, hot weather, gardening, beaches, holidays, and somewhat taking it easy. So, I hang onto what is left and garden as long as I can, bringing potted plants inside. Of course they won’t last all winter because the sun doesn’t appear that often or that long in winter.
Read the story “No more pencils, no more books? Fall blahs still hit adults” athttp://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20150906/281505044989606/TextView
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes
Lake, beach, music and gardens – all created some peace for me, if only for a few hours. On Sunday I went to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Outside the two-year construction clutter is gone and the remake shows. Walk, bike, streetcars and cars all have their separate place to move along Queen’s Quay. And walking on the beach – sand or boardwalk (cement or boards) is lively, yet peaceful. About the only so-called drawback is the juggler who attracts crowds that block the access along the boardwalk.
I sat on a bench facing the boardwalk and ate my packed lunch while watching the boats sail around in Lake Ontario and people-watched. People of all sizes, ages and in quite a variety of clothes. But all enjoying themselves. And not crowded but not just a few people either. Perfect.
After lunch, I strolled along the boardwalk over to the grassy area (note: it is fake turf but if you had experienced the lumpy clumps of grass a few years ago, you would not complain about the turf). I checked out the craft booths for the perfect turquoise pendant. A few came close but not just it. I am trying to replace the pendant that got broken when I fell thanks to some careless you-know-what leaving a paper wire out on the street.
From there I headed for a brisk walk west to the Music Garden. This is a unique combination of wildflowers and other perennials, trees, pathways and a grassy area with layered wide steps to sit on while absorbing one of the summer classical music concerts. Sunday it was Italian baroque played by four musicians from Montreal. C0mpletely captured all my senses for an hour and soothed my tattered soul and body.
After the concert (free, by the way), I took some photos of the garden and of the ships sitting in the harbour, including one of the tall ships which you can board to take a tour around Toronto Harbour. Because of time, I left this one for another visit.
Then, after a quick look at some of the displays along the way, I went inside one of the buildings. I knew what I would find – all one area has closed and boarded up shops. It looks desolate and out of the atmosphere of Harbourfront. It seems like it was forgotten in the remodelling of Harbourfront area. And you know what I miss most – Tilly’s – you know of the Tilly hats? I can’t afford Tilly’s prices but I loved wandering in the store and looking at and feeling the clothing. The cafe is also gone as well as other shops. Not good.
So I went outside and boarded one of the new LRT streetcars which are slowing replacing the old clunkers. I still like the old clunkers but the new ones ride smoothly and you don’t have to show your ticket or pass unless asked. This short run took me underground and into Union Station where I (finally after a long wait) boarded the subway – another LRT types car – which I like. And I returned home.
A good day. With my health issues I don’t have too many of those.
So, it is carpe diem – for all of us.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes
I am trying to piece together my late father’s history – his ancestors and his life in Toronto before I came along. Not too easy when Dad was born in Montreal and the family moved to Toronto when he was a child.
A year ago I began this quest – one of my cousins had started a trace on the Langevin (and Verey – the latter her direct family connection, not mine) ancestry on www.ancestry.ca. I’m not on there yet but one of my friends is and she offered to do some checking there. She found my cousin’s partial family history and also an anomaly – further digging by my friend found another last name (maiden one) for my paternal grandmother. Which is the correct one?
I am not close to my Dad’s side of the family and it has been over five years since I talked to some of my cousins. But I emailed the family genealogist using an old email address. You guessed it – the email bounced back as no one at that address.
However, life jumped in, including dealing with the horrible boarder living here last year, house and house-related problems, plus one pleasant thing – finishing rewriting my first mystery novel Beyond Blood (published fall 2014 – Warning: plug coming. See my publisher’s website www.bluedenimpress.com for more info and my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com).
As 2014 drew to a close and 2015 rushed in, I feel much urgency to continue on this quest for Dad’s history. I have been spending some Saturday afternoons at the Toronto Reference Library looking in old City Might Directories to find where Dad lived and to try to nail down when the Langevin family did move to Toronto. (I had some idea what street so that was a start.)
And found myself on a very enjoyable but puzzling journey.
Picture me sitting at a table on the library’s second floor with Might Directories piled up in front of me. The shelves where they are stored are behind me, but I can only carry four books at a time. It is difficult with my health issues to get down to the floor to pick out the directories on the bottom shelf but I am compelled to do so.
You are not allowed to photocopy the contents – not a copyright issue but the delicate nature of the pages. These are old directories, circa early 1900s (Dad was old enough to be my grandfather) and the pages are amazing. Almost like parchment with back to back pages which appear glued together. Back then, the “technology” did not allow for any other way to do this. The print is around the same size as print telephone directories, perhaps a smidgeon larger. With my bad eyes and old glasses I have to use a small magnifying glass to read the type.
It is worth it – this going back and forth from the street listings to the name listing and I finally find my late grandfather. Thanks to my cousin’s information on ancestry.ca I now know his first name. But another Langevin surfaces in the Might Directories – a Charles Langevin and I have no idea where he fits in, except my grandfather and grandmother and their offspring lived with him for a few years. My grandfather (Eugene Langevin) shows up in the street address listing at some point and then in a later year, Charles has disappeared. Then my aunts and uncles and my dad show up living at the same addresses, including my cousin’s great grandfather (she is a cousin once removed to me). And it lists where they worked and the position they held. The listing criteria seems to be it didn’t matter if you were male or female as long as you held a job.
I find my father not only worked as a clerk at Canadian National Railways but that previouslyhe worked with the Grand Trunk Railway before CNR gobbled it up. I finally find where his office was located – as I suspected right in Union Station in Toronto. One of his brothers, Uncle Paul also fought in World War 1, which I never knew. The directory has him still at the address but they classify him as “away on service.” And yes, he came back from the war. I also discover the Langevin family moved to Markham St. (where my cousins, their parents and my late maternal grandmother lived when I was a child) many years earlier than I suspected.
Then I get carried away and start to trace my mom’s time from when she moved to Toronto from the family farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Not sure which year so I’m working back from 1938 the year before she and Dad married. The address she lived at then (renting in a house) is in the area of Toronto where she and Dad lived when they were first married. Next investigation is to find out if the addresses are the same. An old photograph I have might give me the answer.
I can see my memoir will need some changes.
And I finally realized why I am compelled to do this family history investigation now. 2015 (November) is the 50th anniversary of Dad’s death.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes