We Remember North York

North York celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and two week ago John put out a call to newsletter readers and website visitors, to send along reminiscences of their lives and times in the Township, Borough and City of North York.


Here are three stories that came to us since then.


Barbara McNutt

My family moved to Yonge Boulevard area one block north of City Limits in 1950. I’m pretty sure three-bedroom, center-hall house cost less than $20,000. I bought a bungalow on Willowdale Ave. in 1958 for $18,600. This morning in the Globe I note a house sold on Kingsdale for $2, 618,000. The $18,000 is hardly noticeable there.


I am attaching a “snapshot” of North York Public Health remembered from a survey and report I did during Christmas holidays 1951. The report itself is not accessible but good friend Bob McQuillan remembers it from when I shared it with him years ago. Bob worked in that department from his graduation as an engineer in 1950 to retirement. I sent him the attached story and he thinks it possible he drove me to see the new incinerator in 1951. I began my long friendship with the McQuillans in 1962.


My first thought about where I live is still North York Township.


Below, is Barbara's "snapshot" of North York Public Health:

In late 1951 I was taking a course in Public Health which required interviews with officials and visits to facilities in my home town.


North York Township was the fastest-growing municipality in Canada; population had just grown from 30,000 to 90,000 in three years. My family had recently moved to North York one block north of Toronto, so knew nothing of its history much less the public utilities. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Carl Hill told me about some of the challenges of servicing rows of new housing in rural surroundings. Garbage collection was one of them. Someone took me to an unfamiliar area some distance down Keele Street to see a huge new incinerator of which they were very proud. Someone else met me at Leslie and Sheppard to unlock the door of a small brick building and explain centrifugal sprays of water being aerated before filtering through several feet of sand.


A major problem was sewage. Miles and miles of sewer pipes were needed and existing Toronto treatment plants were stressed. North York was providing builders with specifications and detailed plans for a septic tank for each new home, and inspecting construction carefully. Dr. Hill gave me one of the precious kits: demand was exceeding supply. (Three years later I was working for the engineer who was designing the Humber Valley Sewage Treatment Plant.)


Dr. Hill sent me to Public Health Nurse Miss D’Arcy Berry to find out about personal services such as well-baby clinics and health checks of school children. A community hall with a one-room library had just been built in central Willowdale. Schools were crowded as soon as they could be built. Streetcars on Yonge Street terminated at the City Limits and a radial car on the west side of Yonge continued on through Hoggs Hollow and beyond. Homeowners’ constant need to fix things made Dempsey’s Store at Sheppard and Yonge the center of their universe.


-Barbara A. McNutt, May 3, 2022.



Ruth Boothby


In July 1960, my husband John and I travelled from Kitchener as a newly married couple, to begin our life at 22 Harnish Crescent, North York. The house was one of only a few left for purchase. The area was known as Newtonbrook East in WIllowdale.. I still use Willowdale as my mailing address when Canada Post allows.

62 years later, I believe that I am the only resident (from the original owners), still enjoying the crescent/drive. Mr. Goodhead who was the Reeve of the Township of North York, lived with his family on Revcoe Dr. I remember paying taxes etc. in the Township Office on the west side of Yonge, just north of Sheppard.


Over the years my husband and I volunteered for a number of political candidates, (including John Filion), to help them get elected/re-elected to city council, Legislature and Parliament of Canada. We raised 2 children and were happily married for 50 years. The Silverview Homeowners Assn. was an active organization responding to the needs of neighbourhood and contributing in various ways, to the life of the residents. Especially active were the parents of children attending Silverview Public School. Much of the neighbourhood activity centered around “Fun Fares” supported by the Home and School Assn. Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Girl Guides gave our young people a chance to learn about being a good citizen. Local churches provided space for community activity.


In 2021 when the property at 175 Cummer Ave. was proposed for modular units, many interested people reacted with pros and cons. When I brought up the fact that on that city property, had been a bus loop for the TTC Willowdale/Senlac bus, no one believed me. The loop was in use for a short time until the homeowners north of Cummer were requesting the extension of that route, up to Steeles. Cummer Lodge now sits on that piece of city property and Willowdale Manor at the corner.


Having lived here since 1960, it is a testimony to how good life has been. Our dedicated councillors, mayors, educators and community organizations have helped develop/maintain the standards which people living in Willowdale, appreciate, treasure and enjoy today. To achieve the superior quality of life, takes understanding, commitment, compassion and co-operation among the residents and those we elect and support. John Filion has been the greatest supporter and contributor of our democracy and I want to thank him immensely for his insight and understanding and tenacity for so many years.


Here’s to 100 years Willowdale, North York; the best place in the world!


Andrea


I moved to North York in 1987 after a divorce took me from my downtown life. I was already working at Paramount Holidays (closed many years ago) on Willowdale so Yonge/Sheppard was an obvious choice. As with most divorces, once the decision is made you want to move quickly. I took an apartment at the Sheppard Centre sight unseen. In those days, aptartments were so hard to come by that was necessary for someone in my position who needed an apt quickly. It was just under $700 for a large one bedroom. With very little money, movers were out of the question. Fortunately, I had cousins in the city who helped me move including take some of the smaller pieces of furniture on the subway! (wish I had a picture of that). As John Filion said the subway was much less crowded in those days!


I lucked out! I loved both my apartment and the Sheppard Centre that was very well maintained, and went on to live there for 23 years! I also lucked out in that I met my best friend there which made getting together very convenient and "meet you in the lobby" became a regular phrase.


There were many places in the area to walk or cycle and having direct access to the subway was great for a girl who grew up in the Bahamas and hated the winters. I could get to and from work - BCE Place,( now called Brookfield) without going outdoors at all. But come the weekend, I did need fresh air so would bundle up and venture outside for a walk. In those days when Mel Lastman was the mayor of North York all sidewalks in the area were cleared quickly as we had our own budget rather than being part of the GTA.


10 years ago I bought a condo nearby. It took me 23 years to move across the street but no way was I leaving the Yonge/Sheppard area which I continue to love. More and more condos have been built in the area and more restaurants and stores have opened (and closed). Metro, then called Dominion was in an open plaza on the southest corner of Yonge/Sheppard along with a video store (another thing of the past). Movie Theatres moved from the Madison Centre to the Sheppard Centre to Empress Walk. The Keg was just outside the Sheppard Centre mall with a fairly large pub as well as the usual restaurant.


The area is a great deal more crowded than it used to be but I continue to love living in North York.

By Markus O'Brien Fehr Chief of Staff A reader recently responded to John's newsletter with an excellent question: "What's going on with the reconstruction of Yonge Street?" It's true that there hasn'