All posts filed under: General History

ON A WHEEL: A Trip for Cyclists in Eastern Suburbs, 1894

ON A WHEEL. A Trip for Cyclists in Eastern Suburbs. DOWN THE KINGSTON ROAD. Beauties of Nature Which Many Miss. SIGHTS ALONG THE WAYSIDE. A Run From Little York to Wexford. The Agricultural Wealth of York County viewed From the Saddle of the Bicycle. It is questionable if one out of every ten of those in this city who possess bicycles really appreciates a quarter of the opportunities for enjoyment which it places within his reach, and it is certain if he does that he makes little attempt to improve them. With the average rider the question of largest moment seems to be that of covering the greatest amount of space in the least possible time, and in the runs into the country which he takes once or twice a week the terminal point of his trip, and the desire to reach it as soon as possible, usually possesses his mind to the exclusion almost of everything else. He is carelessly conscious, perhaps, of a pretty country through which he may be passing, but he …

Smith’s Grounds: A Lost Riverside Athletic Field

Smith’s Grounds: A Lost Riverside Athletic Field As I was preparing for a talk on the lost sports fields in the East End, I had a weak spot – I knew little about Sunlight Park, Toronto’s first professional baseball stadium just south of Queen and west of Broadview, built in 1886. I, as usual, began at the beginning before the start of settler history and long before baseball, but not lacrosse. The Anishinaabe families and Kichigo who were here when Simcoe arrived with William Smith, a master carpenter, in his retinue. Sometimes history can seem by and about people who are almost-automatons, people doing things but without souls. But some writers have the gift for prose that captures so much. One such writer was John Ross Robertson, editor of The Toronto Telegram. To animate this story of the John Smith’s lost athletic grounds I include a quote from John Ross Robertson’s Landmarks, apparently drawing on interviews with the Smiths, as well as depictions of some of the Smith family and their home. Their farm would become the Toronto …

Street Scenes Summer: From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Final chapter

Spring and Fall seemed to merge quietly in and out of Summer, so that the change was not as sharp as for the winter season. Ploughing and planting the market gardens was the first consideration in many places. The deep ruts in the road filled in, and gradually the mud roads were again ready for summer driving. Store windows took on a fresh look–painting and cleaning up was general. Street vendors and peddlers again resumed their selling from wagons and curb. The fruit peddlers shouting, “Strawberry ripe, Strawberry ripe” and selling at bargain prices Then “Fly Paper John” resumed his calling selling fly paper which he made himself. His cheery chant of “Fly paper all, Fly paper all, catch all your black beetles as well as your flys all” as he walked slowly along; the street, selling from a small wicker basket, was a sure sign of summer. The Woodbine races started, and on the 24th of May, we always watched the buggies, surreys, cabs and the final thrill when the coach and four would …

STREET SCENES From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks, Part 15

Long, flat·sleighs, drawn by a team of horses, hauling blocks of ice from the Bay to the icehouses. Farmer’s sleighs with fresh killed pigs, five or six to a load, all cleaned, stiff and stark, also turkey, chickens and geese, plucked and ready for cooking. The farmer’s wife or son bundled in furs and buffalo robes, and perhaps hot bricks wrapped in bags to keep the feet warm. Sleigh bells. Chimes of bells on a strap around the horse. Larger bells attached to the top harness of the horse. Bells fastened on the shafts of the sleigh. High cutters, drawn by fast stepping horses, (single) with fancy silver-plated bells attached to the harness. Jingle Bells” really had some meaning, and when a number of sleighs were on the street, it was music that is entirely unknown today. Horse-drawn streetcars with pea straw on the floor, to keep the feet warm. The driver on an outside platform exposed to all weathers. A whip in one hand and the reins of the horse in the other. It …

Summer Holidays from Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks, Part 14

Summer Holidays By Samuel Herbert (1876-1966) To the small boy the summer holidays were the paradise of the year. Shoes and stockings could be discarded. The old swimming hole in the Bay was again patronized. Flat bottom scow boats were used for fishing over at the deep hole, and in going back and forth to the Island, or as it was called “the sandbar.” The lake was often too cold for swimming. There were always a hundred things to be done in the long summer days.   The street noises–peddlers shouting their wares, selling fish, fruit or vegetables. The knife sharpener, with his stone wheel and bell, walking slowly along the street.   The ice cream man, selling a dip of ice cream for a cent, and then the ice man with his canvas-covered wagon, drawn by one or perhaps two horses delivering blocks of ice to the stores for refrigeration, and sometimes a good-sized chunk of ice would drop off the wagon. It was very soon picked up.   If you had a copper …

Illegal Shooting From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 13

    Illegal Hunting From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 13 by Samuel Herbert (1876-1966) When I was about fourteen years of age, I bought a “Flobert” single shot .22 rifle and was very proud of it. I kept it for eight or nine years and as I had plenty of practice in the fields and Ashbridges Bay, I developed into a pretty good shot. On one occasion I was coming home across the fields from the direction of Logan Avenue, — not having fired a shot, although there was a shell in the breech. A member of the police force [Detective Stuart Burrows], who kept a good trotting horse and also a flock of game birds lived up the street quite a little distance from our place. I rested the rifle on the fence, and allowing for wind and distance, took careful aim and fired, never thinking I would really hit the target. However, the rooster rolled down the pile and lay still. I got panicky, and though of jail, police court, fines and …

Wood’s Hotel From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 12

From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 12 By Samuel Herbert (1876-1966) WOOD’S HOTEL Where Carlaw Avenue now cuts through north of Queen Street there was situated on the north side of the Kingston Road a hotel called “Woods Hotel.” A row of tall poplar trees shaded the front. In the yard behind the hotel, was a small zoo. Peacocks, guinea hens, a couple of monkeys and a number of dogs of different nationalities.  An old darkey, who, gossip said, was an ex-slave was the custodian of the animals, and he was also the porter of the hotel. The hotel people cut down six of the tall trees which were at the front and shaped the stumps in the form of chairs, and they were really easy and nice to sit in. There was also a large wooden watering trough for horses. I remember watching a fight in front of the hotel and one of the men knocked the other into the watering trough and held him there until he was thoroughly soaked. It seemed …

Lumber Yards from Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 13

Just east of Pape, on the north side of the Kingston Road was situated Martin McKee’s residence, lumber yard and planing mill. He had one of the first telephones in the district. He employed quite a number of men, and was well known and highly respected. It is said, that sometimes small incidents will be remembered long after those of more importance are forgotten. As an example, on dozens of occasions I have stood in the boiler room of the planing mill, just a short distance from the large flat driving belt, and held out my hand just a few inches from it, watching the sparks of electricity jumping from my finger tips to the belt.  Don’t ask me what caused it, I do not know. A mile stone was just outside the lumber yard on the Kingston Road, stating “two miles to Petley and Petley at the Market.” There were two frame cottages just east of the lumber yard on the Kingston Road, and I heard that Alexander Muir lived for some time in …

BLACKSMITH SHOPS from Mud Roads & Plank Sidewalks Part 12

From Mud Roads and Plank Sidewalks Part 10 By Samuel Herbert (1876-1866) Now we will go from Grocery stores to Blacksmith shops and Saw Mills. Blacksmith shops were still one of the industries in every community.     “Billy” Mason, an uncle of mine, had a well-established business just east of Logan Avenue on the north side of the Kingston Road. It was up-to-date in every particular. I used to visit it quite often, and can still recall the odour of a burning horse’s hoof as an almost red-hot shoe was fitted, then a little more hammering on the anvil, and then the shoe plunged in a half barrel of water to cool, and it was ready. A large bellows worked by hand kept the fire at any temperature required. To see blacksmiths at work go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYezhKql_AI Morrison and Bolton had a blacksmith shop further east on the same side of the Kingston Road, just about where Boston Avenue is now. Mr. Morrison was a specialist on the very fine light shoes worn by racehorses …