May 18th, 2022
The Rebirth of River City

The Beaches in 1914

A Place for All Seasons

Mary Denoon, born in 1908, fondly reminisced about her childhood in a February 1984 Discovery magazine article. She believed she grew up in a “golden age” for Toronto. Denoon, who grew up at Inglenook Cottage on Waverley Road and died in 2001, recalled children in the area loved spending days lazing in Kew Gardens or on the immaculate sand by the lake

Thre was usually weekend military music from the bandstand in the Gardens. Thre was also the Civic Holiday picnic and races in summer. Th pond at the Glen Stewart Park was a popular place for families with children while the Alfresco Lawn Bowling Club was popular particularly with the men. Th Peter Pan Thatre (c. 1911) hosted a children’s matinee some Saturday evenings

Denoon remembers that in winter parents would take their children to the lakefront to see the icebergs. Kew Gardens was a place for all seasons. It had a toboggan slide and skating rinks. Guy Fawkes Day and Halloween were special days in fall. Fishing was popular in spring and of course swimming was popular in summer. Th library was a popular place year-round after it opened in 1914. From 1913 to 1914, more than 50 theatres opened across Toronto, including the popular Prince Edward Thatre at Queen and Beech (now the Fox Thatre). Th theatre was a popular place for entertainment.

Sunday was a day of church and rest. Sunday evenings were sometimes less strict as the locals dressed up to see live concerts at Scarboro Beach. Couples would listen to the big bands from canoes on the lake. Jane Fairburn in her book Along the Shore writes: “Much anticipated was the nine o’clock swell, when the Cayuga and Chippewa steamers entered the Eastern Gap from Niagara, their wakes creating waves that rocked the boats while the band played on.”

1914 – Changing Landscape of Toronto Industry

Th community that resided on the orginal Ashbridges properties in 1914 were enlivened by patriotic fervor and support for the war effrt. Th area had a large iron and steel industry in 1913. Th expansion of railways meant that there was a huge demand for those products. Ths working class community was formed with the help of a real estate boom that began in 1900 and ended with the recession of 1913

Th iron and steel factories suffred in the face of reduced demand. When the war began, the factories along Lake Ontario, Carlaw Avenue and on Eastern Avenue instead produced munitions for the war effrt.

Residents of this area were overwhelmingly of British or Irish origin. Almost all students in the local schools were of English, Scottish or Irish backgrounds. The dominant religion was Protestantism. Many of the streets in the area had diffrent names or did not yet exist. For example, Woodfild Road was Morley Avenue and Dundas Street East did not yet exist. Th male population of the area initially rushed to enlist in the armed forces.

1914 – Changing Landscape of Men and Women

While 70,000 Toronto men – the most from any Canadian city – were in Europe serving the war, thousands of Toronto women were involved as nurses, factory workers or fundraisers.About 41% of Canada’s military-aged men were in the armed forces. 5% of those men were killed, 17% were wounded.

Women occupied jobs usually taken by men at their absence.Thusands also worked in the civil service, in banks, on farms,and for the Royal Air Force (as mechanics, ambulance drivers,etc.) during the war. Considering Canadian-born female citizens aged 21 and older were only granted the right to vote in May 1914, women began to take an increasingly important role in society

Women were not allowed to be soldiers so they found numerous other ways to help the war effrt. By the end of 1916, 2,500 of Canada's 4,000 female munitions workers were working in Toronto. Thre was a munitions factory on Coxwell Avenue where Monarch Park Collegiate exists today. Most women walked or took the streetcar to their workplace.

It was illegal for much of the war for men to enlist without the written permission of their wives. As the number of volunteer enlistments declined, the community pressured any ablebodied men to enlist. Conscription became law for overseas service in August 1917. Neighbourhood boards decided if there were to be exceptions for individual cases. One such board met in a building on the west side of Greenwood Avenue.

Wartime Education

Schools would organize fundraising events and celebrate teachers and former students who had gone to fiht in the war. In 1914, over 80% of Canadian fie to 14-year-olds were attending public schools. Thy were taught the importance of patriotism, loyalty and obedience. War-related teaching material was implemented into lesson plans and the curriculum became partly militarized. For example, in mathematics class, students may have been asked to calculate the interest rates of Victory Bonds or in English or History class they may have written on Canada’s role in the war.

European geography and military technology was also taught.Students would follow the movements of Canadian forces on maps. Thy would also regularly see soldiers in uniform. Thy sometimes acted in plays with wartime themes or sang military songs. Some students would have also participated in marching and cadet training. By 1914, there were three times as many cadets as Boy Scouts in Canada

Many of the local schools were renovated and expanded during the war. Plains Road Public School was enlarged to eight rooms with two portables in 1917. In 1891, the school had only consisted of four rooms. Its enrolment swelled to 500 students. Roden Public School went from a school with four rooms in 1908 to a school with 27 classrooms by the 1920s. Pape Avenue Public School had four classrooms in 1899 but was an 18-room school in 1914.

The Restrictions

Thre were restrictions on the sale of alcohol in Toronto from 1916. Many Canadians believed the banning of alcohol would result in a more healthy community for the soldiers to return to. Grain stocks also needed to be preserved. Prohibition became part of the War Measures Act of 1918

Towards the end of the war, there were food shortages, fuel shortages and a Spanish fl pandemic in Toronto. Th Beaches was a signifiant market garden area and fruit and vegetables were grown in home and community gardens. Most residents in the area considered having a chicken to eat a rare treat during the war years.

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