Patricia Crofts-LaGree

Part One: I guess I should clarify a few things. My family goes a way back to around 1914-1915 when my Grandfather & Grandmother Crofts lived at 17 Blevins Place, which was just south of Dundas Street and off Sumach Street, and then moved to Taylor Street, which was north of Dundas Street and off Sumach. It ran east from Sumach Street to River Street. They had eight children, a few born in England and the remainder here. The younger children went to Park School.

After being here for a while my Grandfather, at the age of 35, joined the forces to go back to England to fight in World War 1. Unfortunately, he came in contact with the mustard gas that they used then and it shortened his life. He died while my Grandmother was in her eighth pregnancy.

My father and mother were married in early 1927 and they lived on Taylor Street for a while near his parents home and then moved to the corner of Oak Street and River Street. I remember the house. It was a big place with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a kitchen, a dining area and livingroom downstairs. We didn't have much furniture. The kitchen had a table, chairs and a stove. The livingroom had no furniture at all, so we shut the door to it and never went in there. The dining area was very sparse, so we ate in the kitchen.

I remember the area being very quiet with lots of row houses and children to play with. There was a little girl that lived across the street from us and her name was Aida. My brother used to call her Aida, Potada, and she would laugh. There was a vacant lot next to our house and you could walk through to Taylor Street. Just up River Street was Riverdale Park with hills for tobogganing and sledding and an ice rink for skating.

Then we moved to 210 Sackville Street around 1935-36 and remained there until 1950. When I think back on the houses in Cabbagetown, there were some great old houses. Our house was in a row of 8 houses and had 3 bedrooms and a bathroom with a tank that was up above the toilet. Kitchen, diningroom, livingroom and a hallway from the front door to the kitchen with doors into the living and dining. We shared the house at first with my Aunt Glady & Uncle Art. They lived upstairs in a couple of the rooms and my parents slept downstairs in the livingroom and my crib was in there also. My two brothers had a room upstairs. My Aunt & Uncle didn't stay long, so then we all moved upstairs to sleep.

Across the street were 6 row houses, three stories. When I think how houses are now gutted and remodeled, the houses we lived in would have been great townhouses.

In the summer time, my sister and I would walk to the Don Valley near the Don River with some of our other friends, and sometimes we would take potatoes, build a fire and put a stick through the potatoes to roast them. They never cooked right through, but they sure tasted good. We were always hungry. One day we were down by the Don River and hunting around near the banks when we came upon a bunch of old coins that I gathered up and took home. I told my father about what I had found and he told my Uncle Joe. My uncle Joe went back down there thinking that there might be a lot more, but he didn't find any. I still have those coins, a 1890 20 Cent piece with Queen Victoria, a 1911 Large One Cent , with King George V, an 1886 Large Penny, with Queen Victoria, and others too numerous to mention.

Across the street from us on Sackville Street was a family named Graham and Mr. Graham would have an auction sale every Saturday. Mr. Graham couldn't read or write and when he took his truck to pick up old furniture to auction off, one of his daughters would print the name of the street on a piece of paper (he knew Toronto very well) and he would drive to that area and match the name on the piece of paper to the street name. When he brought the furniture home, he would refinish it and auction it off. Loads of people came to the auctions.

The Bluebell Theatre was our entertainment. We always felt safe walking home from the show. On the northeast corner of Parliament and Dundas was the #4 Police Station and next to that was the #7 Fire Station. On the southwest corner was the neighborhood's famous retail store called "Michaelson's" where we bought our lyle stockings before the war and other apparel. Next to that and south on Parliament, I think, was the Salvation Army. Next to the Bluebell on the southeast corner was a Service Station. Just next to the Bluebell going south on Pariliament was a Fish & Chip Store. We used to get 5 cents worth of Chips in a cone shaped cup with a wooden stick with lots of malt vinegar and salt. They were so good!

Playing Hooky: My girlfriend, Mary, and I knew the boys that took care of the theatre, Frank & John Locicero, (I'm not sure of the spelling but they lived in Cabbagetown) One day in Grade Seven at Park School (Mr. Collins) gave me the strap in front of the class. I can't remember what I did. I was really upset, so we decided to play hooky and we spent the afternoon at the Bluebell Theatre. There were a few other people there besides Frank & John. So, everyone had to get on the stage and do something. Frank sang and we all laughed and clapped, John told jokes and my friend Mary and I tried to sing a few songs. I must admit that we had a good time laughing, but the next day when we went to school, we were called down to the Principal's Office. He (Mr. McKay) ranted and raved about our playing hooky and asked what we did. We said we went to the show. Instead of getting the strap again, he put us both back a grade and left us there for a week. I was mortified because I didn't want my parents to know and was truly embarrassed sitting in Grade 6. I never played hooky again. My parents never did find out and it is still fresh in my memory.

Incidently, the strap was a long black, thick, leather strap, and you would get 4 or 5 hard slaps on the hands and your name put in the big black book that came with it. When he was going to punish you with the strap, you had to go down to the principal's office and get the book and strap yourself. I wonder if that book is in Park School Archives?

Part Two: Hello, my family lived in Cabbagetown from 1936-1950 at 210 Sackville Street. We all went to Park School from Grade 1 through Grade 8, myself Pat, my two brothers John & Ken and my younger sister Barbara. The last name was Crofts.

We were very poor because of the great depression, as was everyone else. It was difficult for my father to get work, but he finally did and worked at Schraders for years. He was a skilled machinist. He finally got a better job at Massey Harris and continued to work there until his death.

My sister and I have been e-mailing messages to each other about our life in "Cabbagetown". We remember pushing an old carriage down to the Coal house, along with my brother Ken, to get a bag of coal that came out of a shute and also to pick coal out of the ashes. We had an ice box and the ice man came often with a large pick and carried a block of ice right into our kitchen and put it in the top of our ice box. We also had coal delivery and my father would stand outside and count the coal bags to make sure we got the right amount that we ordered. The Shute was at the bottom front of the house and lead into the basement to a bin that the coal fell into. The coal man was always covered in black soot.

We also had bread deliver from Westons. The breadman came with a delivery wagon pulled by a horse and we would always ask for stale buns, but he never had any. When he left we would hitch a ride on the back of the wagon that had a step for the breadman to get up into the wagon. We always yelled "hooky on behind." If the horse left any droppings, someone on the street would throw it on their front lawn for fertilizer.

We also remember Regent Park which was right next to our house. There was a wadding pool and in the Summer the Park Attendant would fill it with water and the smaller children would swim around. It wasn't very deep. After a short while, he would empty it, because we all peed in it, and then fill it again. In the Winter there was the lighted ice rink and all of the kids would skate there. You knew everybody. We also went to Riverdale Park with out sleds and toboggans that we got for Christmas and have a great time sledding. There was a run called the Icies. They were ice covered chutes to toboggan down. They were really fast. There was a huge ice rink and it was always packed with people, so we had great fun in the Winter months.

Things were not so terrible then. Most of us were on the Pogey and at Christmas time we received a basketful of goodies with a Turkey and the trimmings for Christmas. We had a closer family tie then. Our Grandmother lived just a few blocks away on Taylor Street and our Aunts and Uncles used to come visit often.

We went to St. Bartholomews Anglican Church on Sunday mornings and also for Sunday School. Father Pashler was there at the time. I really liked him. Whenever he saw you he would say, "Bless you my child."

Went to the Bluebell Show quite often for matinees and evenings. You would see a lot of people that you knew there. It was the only theatre around, except the one on Parliament Street, but that was uptown then.

There was a Bath House down the street from us, on the corner of Sackville and St. David. There was an apartment on the top of the Bath House that the people who ran the Bath House lived in. I used to Babysit the two children that lived there, Beverly and Penny Boone. Also, we used to go there to have a good bath or shower for 5 cents. You would get a towel and a small bar of soap. My girlfriend and I would stay forever just using the bath and shower until the owner would tell us it was time to leave. We didn't have hot water at home, we had a hot water tank behind the coal stove in the kitchen which you had to light with a match and wait until it heated up. It was too hot in the Summer to light it, so we used the Bath House quite often.

Part Three: I am going to try and recall my first meeting with Baldy Chard and an event that followed:

Howard "Baldy" Chard Bare-knuckles boxer in Toronto, 50,60's Would have killed most boxers in a fight Dead now, but he also worked as a bouncer in Toronto. Alias Fred Chard Canadian Heavyweight Hometown - Toronto Career - 1946-1948 - W7 (4 KO's) L15 DO Total 22 1947-07-14 Chard was knocked down once in the 1st, 3rd and 3 times in the 7th round, which forced automatic stoppage.

I guess I was about 13, and I was down on Queen Street, and in those days, it was safe to be so far from home. I could walk up Sackville at night for about 3 blocks to my house with no problems. I can't remember why I was down there, but I do remember seeing Baldy Chard, I knew what he looked like. I remember teasing him about something, he started to do a little sparring with me, which was fun, and we were laughing. He was nice. I said goodbye and went home. The next time I learned about Baldy Chard, I was older, and it was a hot summer night. We lived near Regency Park, and could hear a lot of singing coming from the Park. It was late at night and most people were in bed asleep. I gather someone called the police to complain. In those days the police rode on bicycles (no cars). The police station wasn't very far from Regency Park, on the corner of Parliament and Dundas, which was about 5-10 minutes to the Park on bicycle. I am not too sure just what happened, but heard the next day that the policeman bad mouthed the group. Two of them took offense and chased the policeman through the park onto Sackville Street, and almost in front of our house, we heard a loud commotion, got out of bed to look out the windows, my mother, sister and myself. The two men caught up with the policeman and were beating him up. They hit him over the head with something and blood was pouring out of his head. They started running down Sackville Street and the policeman pulled out his gun and fired a few shots (I remember seeing the flash of the bullets). He apparently hit one of them in the leg, but they continued down to below Queen Street, and, I think ended up in a Catholic Church. They were apprehended the next day, and one of them was Baldy Chard. I remember feeling badly about Baldy Chard because he had been so nice to me that summer evening on Queen Street. I later learned he had a few run-ins with the police.

When reading this, if anyone remembers this event, I would like to know what happened to Baldy Chard, and what year it was. It might have been about 1946-47. To Contact Patricia Crofts-LaGree please email her at lagree4film@worldnet.att.net