Posts Tagged ‘Memoirs’

Feb. 14, 2015: This quote is from today’s Globe and Mail:

“Toronto police are investigating the recent theft of three paintings from the University of Toronto, including one by the 18th-century Italian master Francesco Guardi, two of whose works have sold for tens of millions of dollars at auction in the last four years.
At this stage, police believe the thefts, done between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10, are likely the work of the same person, a spokesperson said Friday. The Guardi, a Venetian view painting titled Church of Santa Maria della Salute, was taken from Trinity College on a date a Trinity official declined to reveal Friday. The others – Morning at Peggy’s Cove by William E. deGarthe and Credit River by Yee Bon – were removed on, respectively, Feb. 3 and the Feb. 7-8 weekend from Victoria University, according to Gillian Pearson, curator of the collection. In each instance, the thief or thieves left the painting’s frame behind.”

I have a painting of Peggy’s Cove right inside my front door (in the so-called “foyer.”) My painting of Peggy’s Cove is by deGarthe.
The provenance of this painting is as follows.

Back in the old days (1962-3?) when the Thorncliffe Marketplace was young and new, and so was Thorncliffe Park itself, my cousin Libby (Elizabeth Smith, daughter of uncle Kenneth M. Smith) opened an art store in the Thorncliffe Marketplace (indoor shopping centre.) She sold art supplies, and original paintings. She had attended what is now OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) and was herself a very gifted artist. Someday I will post the pencil drawing she did of me before I was even a teenager. My best guess would be that this store adventure was when my daughter Anne was a new baby that I pushed to the mall in her carriage. But I digress.

Uncle Ken wanted to see his daughter succeed in her art store business, and so he somehow facilitated the visit of the artist Wm.deGarthe to Toronto to be (briefly) the ‘artist in residence’ while Libby was his agent in Toronto, displaying and selling his paintings from her store. DeGarthe painted a lot in Nova Scotia (I have never looked up his bio) which may have been why Uncle Ken was enamored of his work. (My Mother and all her siblings were born in Halifax.)

Being a new mom on a budget, and having retired (pregnant women teachers were required to quit their teaching jobs – I had lost my contract!) with no income of my own, I drooled over the paintings that I could not afford. One day Uncle Ken was in the store when I was there, looking around and (I must confess) fondling some of the paintings. I had been to Peggy’s Cove with my parents on our Nova Scotia trip, which I think was in 1950 (IIRC!) I’d fallen in love with Peggy’s Cove, and deGarthe’s paintings captured the seaside atmosphere perfectly. That day, Uncle Ken bought a deGarthe painting for me as a gift, and I have treasured it ever since (because of all the back-story which I have just related.)

So today I opened The Globe and Mail and found one of his paintings has been stolen, from Victoria College’s library! I don’t remember a deGarthe in the Vic Library when I was a Vic student, but the article this morning tells the reader that Vic received the painting as a bequest. I do know that this painting of mine has some value, but not much. DeGarthe was a second-rank Canadian painter in the larger scheme of things.That is, he was no Tom Thomson. But he WAS Canadian and that was enough for me. My painting (framed for me by cousin Libby) is 16 cm by 21 cm. Not worth a lot, but something. Maybe $500. Since I know what it cost Uncle Ken ($45), I would say the painting has appreciated quite nicely.

But most importantly, I enjoy my painting as much for the story of how it came to live with me as much as I appreciate having ‘Peggy’s Cove in the fog’ living in my home. I have been to Peggy’s Cove three times, and so I love my painting just for the memories of “Peggy’s” that it creates. My painting may have a title but I can’t see it. When Libby framed it for me, she covered the entire back of the painting with protective paper. So I just refer to it as ‘my Peggy’s Cove painting’ or as ‘my deGarthe.’ The painting is a little over 50 years old now. I have enjoyed it every day of that half-century. I hope that somewhere, deGarthe is glad that people still enjoy his work.

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Here’s our second home in Leaside. We had already moved in when my baby sister Margaret was born in the winter of 1953.

There was lots of space in this house! It faces north, and the garden at the rear faces south to the park at Bayview and Eglinton. This house also had the wonderful advantage of being one block from the high school. I could leave the front door at 8:50 a.m., walk to school, go to my locker, and be in class before the 9 a.m. bell rang. Also, our high school had long lunch hours, 1 hour and 40 minutes, so I could go home for lunch, and be back for choir practice, which was always held in the second half of the lunch hour. My brother Ken did the same, except he went back mid-lunch hour to take his German class. German was taught only in the lunch hour.

But back to the house: the big front window on the left was our dining room window, and the small window on the right is in the main floor den. As you can see, the house is a centre hall plan. The living room is across the hall from the dining room, but it faces south and has a walkout door to the back garden. Upstairs, the left window is in baby Margaret’s room, and the right window is in the parents’ room. Ken and I had our bedrooms on the south side, facing out over the Sunnybrook Shopping Centre, the first outdoor plaza in Toronto, and long-rumoured to be the first one in Canada. (How ironic is it that Ken would grow up to be a highly successful developer of shopping centres?)

In summer, the lights in the park to the south would be on late, to light the minor league baseball games held in the ball diamond there. Closer to the high school, there were two ice rinks in winter, one a hockey rink, the other a simple skating rink (with no music, as we had had in Millwood Park.)

19 Craig Crescent was a very comfortable family home. The main floor den and the guest lavatory next to it made all the difference in the world to our family. (Sure was helpful for a mother with a new baby in the house!) My piano (I was still taking lessons at this time) was located in the den, which also held a framed futon, which turned into a guest bed whenever we needed one.  This house was really big for its time and place. Just the fact that it had 4 bedrooms on the second floor made it bigger than the average Leaside house of the 50’s. The recreation room in the basement was actually quite large and had a vinyl tiled floor. We usually had our Christmas tree down there. Eventually my parents renovated the kitchen of 19 Craig Cres. I’d bet a bundle that it’s been renovated again, probably more than once.

It was from this house that I learned to drive. My dad was good enough to let me drive the car from here over to Station Toronto on Avenue Rd. north of Eglinton. I got lots of practice, because it became a pretty regular deal – every Wednesday night I could have the car. What a great dad, to let me do that!

My mother loved the garden at 19 Craig Cres. She had her family’s talent for gardening and enjoyed puttering around out the back, where she grew flowers, but not vegetables. One day when digging a new flower bed, she turned over some soil and turned up an ancient horseshoe. It seemed to prove that in earlier days the property had been part of a farm. Next door to us in a home on the west side (but not seen in my photo) lived my best friend, Helen. Her dad was a unique gentleman, an artist by trade, who took a serious dislike to my brother Ken, as he felt Ken had cropped some of his bushes when Ken was helping our dad by doing a little pruning. This man was the only person in my brother’s entire life who really, really did not like him. Ken steered clear of him and tried to be a gentleman if he encountered the neighbour.

I have many happy memories of this house, not the least of which are all the family dinners in our dining room. It was big enough to accommodate extended family. Mom and dad bought a dining suite at auction, big enough to hold our family of 5 plus guests, up to 8 seats around the table. That meant grandparents and aunt could all be at table with us, something that we could not have done back at 154 Hanna Rd.

I left 19 Craig Crescent on the day that I got married, and never slept another night in it afterwards. But as you can tell, I remember family life in this house very fondly and it is heartwarming to see the house still standing today.

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In the summer of 1952, I spent the month of July with relatives, away from my parents. It was my first extended separation from them. When I arrived back at our summer cottage at the end of July, my mother sat me down to tell me her news. She was pregnant! Yes, she was going to have a baby at the age of 42. There were a couple of unexpected (by me!) results of the pregnancy. First of all, this summer of ’52 turned out to be our last summer in the cottage. My mother and her sister had inherited the cottage on the death of my nana, Jean. The two sisters came to the conclusion that selling was what they needed to do. The other family (aunt, uncle, cousins) had moved from the city and were now living about a mile and a half from the cottage. My parents needed the money from the cottage sale because they were going to need a bigger house with the advent of their 3rd child. And so the cottage was sold. I miss it to this very day.

During the following winter, my parents purchased a larger house – from the parents of one of my classmates! So by mid-winter, we had moved out of the small house on Hanna Rd., and had taken up residence on Craig Cres., in a much larger house, which not had only four bedrooms, but also had a den and powder room on the main floor, and had a finished recreation room with a fireplace in the basement. The lot was large and offered lots of scope for gardening, something my mother loved to do. The garden overlooked the rooftops of Canada’s first outdoor shopping centre, and beyond that, I could see from my bedroom window the lights on the baseball field in the park across the street from the shopping centre.

My sister made her advent on a snowy night in February, 1953. I was still in thrall to my orthodontist at the time, and on that day I had to go downtown after school for a checkup with him. Usually my father picked me up at the corner of Boor and St George, but on that day, with the snow falling furiously outside, he phoned the orthodontist’s office to say that I had to make my way home on the public transit, because he was at the hospital with my mother. Just as in her first two pregnancies years before, my mother had unexpectedly gone into labour about 3 weeks before her due date. My sister was born at the height of the blizzard at 11 p.m. that night.

We had lived one long block south of the high school before this winter, and now we lived one short block to the north of the school. I could leave home at 8:55 am and still be in class on time! During my high school years I sang in the school choir, which always rehearsed at lunch hour. I could go home for lunch and be back for the rehearsal, which took up at least half of the 90-minute lunch hour. We were a winning choir, always taking the honours in our competitions at the Kiwanis Music Festival, and I was so happy to be able to stay in the choir. My brother went also home for lunch and he went back to school for German class, which was taught only in the lunch hour, as an extra option. One could do choir (not a credit class) or German (which WAS a credit class) but not both! He loved to irritate me by saying stuff (insults, mostly) in German which bore no relation to the French and Latin that we both studied.
Living on Craig Cres. was great because not only was it close to the school, it was close to the park that adjoined it. The local baseball league played in the park all summer, and in the winter, there was ice! Oh yes, there was a public (free) skating rink (with no music) and there was a standard hockey rink just for shinny. Real league games were held in the arena. Both my brother Ken and I loved to go skating on winter nights after we had done our homework. I’d head for the regular rink with my figure skates and he’d go for an hour of shooting pucks on the hockey rink. In the summer I would go sit on the bleachers by the baseball diamond and watch the local baseball players in action.
Our new home also offered lots of babysitting opportunities, as the adjacent streets had quite a few young families, all needing teenage sitters. My first obligation though, was to my mom, who needed me frequently to take care of the baby while she did some task around the house. I’d go home from school in the afternoon and then take the baby out in her carriage for some air, or down to the shopping centre below us to do some errands for mother. All my teachers knew that my mother had given birth, and as they left school and passed me with the baby in her carriage, they would honk a hello and wave to me. However, those who did not know me naturally assumed that I was the mother. Most especially did people think that I was the mom of the baby if my mother and I were out together with the baby. My mother had “gone grey” very early, and by her 40s had a full head of grey hair. I often was the one pushing the carriage, and was 17 years old, so seeing us together, people naturally assumed that I was the mother of the beautiful blonde baby girl in the carriage. But I was not, and my own classroom teachers knew that I was not.

(To be continued)

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Memoir writing

I have long wanted  to post some of the family memoirs that I have written up, and can share here with my family and cousins. It’s easier to post these memories than it is to get them printed!
I’ve scanned quite a few old family photos, which now reside in my iPhoto, and can use them to illustrate some of the stuff I’ve written. I’m thinking of posting memories of my immediate family, and definitely the Lake Simcoe memories.

When I and my cousins are gone, the next generations will not have any access to the memories we have of the mid-20th century. I’d like to get some of those memories out there for our offspring to read. Cousin Phil in Halifax has printed a lot of his memories, and thank goodness for that. He’s not computer literate (OK, he’s over 90; let’s give him a break!) so I have no problem with his books not being online. But most of us ARE computer literate, and can share this way. Cousins and others can chime in with their memories by commenting on the blog.

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