New Toronto Streets and the history behind their names
The following articles are posted with permission from Theresa McCuaig, Editor of “Voices” the Barsa Kelly/Cari-Can Co-Operative Homes newsletter.
More to follow (under development)
Garnet Janes Road was named in 1993 in recognition of a local philanthropist renown for his generosity and interest in the down-and-out. “Garnie” Janes ‘walked the walk’ as few welfare officers can.
Garnet Janes was born July 16, 1902, in Toronto to George Edward Janes, the Mimico CNR yardmaster, and Maybelle Northcote Janes. (For a more detailed genealogy, see the Garnet Janes link on our Genealogy page). Although he came from a political family – his father served as Mayor, Reeve, and Council member – Garnet was not politically inclined, himself. Nor was “Garnie”, as he preferred to be called, religious, but he showed uncommon devotion to helping the poor on a one-to-one basis as the New Toronto Welfare Officer during the Great Depression.
Garnet Janes attended Fifth Street School, now the Lakeshore Area Multiservice Project (LAMP). His classmate, Avis Fisher, later became a teacher at Seventh Street School and taught all nine of “Garnie’s” children.
A lifelong resident of New Toronto, Garnet Janes lived at 61 Sixth Street, which is still standing. See current pictures below of his house in 2007. Photo courtesy of Dean Stewart, present owner (www.deanstewart.com).
Garnet was first employed as Clerk-Treasurer at the Brown’s Building on the south-west corner of Eighth Street and then at the school-turned-Town-Hall, now LAMP. It also housed the jail, where “Garnie” would take his curious children on tour. Garnet Janes married Arlene Heath and together they produced nine children: Ken, Lloyd, Clifford, Betty, Bernice, Merrible, Carole, Glenn, and Diane. Mr. Janes supplemented his job at the Town Hall by moonlighting part-time on the railroad as a brakeman to support his large family. Despite his own modest circumstances, “Garnie” could be counted on to give coal out of his own cellar to help neighbours in winter. While Mr. Janes did not perform military service, he was exceedingly proud that three of his sons fought in WWII. Carole Cochran, his daughter, described her father’s personality as “fun-loving and jovial, and he loved leading sing-songs”. As was typical of his time, Mr. Janes was “a fairly strict disciplinarian”, but Mrs. Cochran recalled fondly, “We didn’t have much, but he had a knack for making each of his nine children feel special. He was a real family man who spoiled his kids by buying them candy at Ritchie’s candy store at Seventh Street. I met him after work for fish and chips every Friday.” Mr. Janes developed his hobbies into another means to feed his family. He hunted rabbits, deer, moose, and bear. He fished. Mr. Janes was an avid gardener during WWII at the local Victory Gardens, which stretched from Second Street School to Birmingham Avenue, where Campbell’s Soup now stands. The plot he rented grew the family’s winter vegetables.
Mr. Janes succumbed on January 8, 1977 to a stroke suffered initially on November 1, after he fell from a truck while hunting. His wife died the year before. They are interred at Glendale Memorial Gardens in Rexdale.
Daughter Carole says the City of Toronto promised to fix the misspelled street sign bearing her father’s name within the next 18 months. (Garnet has one ‘t’, not two.) The official City map also contains the same error, which occurred when white Etobicoke street signs were changed to blue Toronto signs after amalgamation.
If you would like to encourage the City to correct the signage in memory of this unparalleled New Torontonian more quickly, call Brian Hall at 416-338-5034 or write to:
W. Kowalenko, City Surveyor
Works and Emergency Services
Technical Services, Survey and Mapping
18 Dyas Road, 4th Floor
Toronto, ON M3B 1V5
© Theresa Rose McCuaig 2005
Next time you walk to the mailbox on the corner of Etta Wylie and Garnet Janes Roads, you will be treading the same path of hope traveled by hobos during The Great Depression. Homeless men riding the Anaconda rails passed the word: You can count on a free meal at Etta Wylie’s farmhouse verandah. Etta’s generosity was a local legend, and led to an Etobicoke road being named in her honour in 1993.
Wendy Gamble, President of the New Toronto Historical Society and granddaughter of Etta Wylie, offered reporter Theresa McCuaig some insights into the life and times of this New Toronto pioneer.
Etta Sophia Elizabeth Kelusky was born on August 6, 1888 to a family of German Poles originally named Klaustovich, who settled near Bancroft after the Napoleonic wars. Their surname was changed courtesy of the local Irish, who could not pronounce ‘Klaustovich’ easily.
Etta moved north to the New Liskeard area in order to learn dressmaking. There she met Jack Wylie, a carpenter from a Timmins mine. She married him and in 1910 moved to South Porcupine. Their home was leveled by the great fire of July 11, 1911 in which 85 people died. Etta and her two babies narrowly escaped the flames by fleeing through the woods behind their house, where her husband was waiting for them with a boat by the river. The only possession Jack was able to save was Etta’s sewing machine. Destitute, the Wylies went to live with Etta’s mother.
By 1917, Etta had three children. After recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia, Etta developed life-long asthma. Etta decided she wanted her children educated in Toronto. Husband Jack got a job building the Anaconda American Brass Limited and Goodyear factories, which were located near the site now occupied by five housing co-operatives. The site, once a brownfield contaminated by chlorinated chemicals, has been rehabilitated for housing as part of the City of Toronto’s “smart growth” policy to combat urban sprawl by diverting new GTA residents into the central city.
In 1920 the Wylies rented John McCullam’s farm north of “the Highway” (Lake Shore Boulevard West), where cattle and wheat were raised.
Although Canadian women over the age of 21 gained the right to vote federally on May 24, 1919, it was not until October 18, 1929 that women were declared persons under the law, and so were eligible to sit in the Senate. Suffragette Etta proudly supported Emily Murphy’s ‘Persons Case’. For the rest of her life, Etta was an ardent voter, insisting on voting by proxy, even when she was gravely ill in her later years.A voracious reader, Etta was a supporter of the New Toronto Library. She appreciated Michener’s historical fiction, but also the bestsellers of her day. She has been described as “one of the boys, who enjoyed brandy and milk and rolled her own cigarettes on the sly” – audacious pastimes for a woman of her era. She was also an expert baker, a skill valued by her six successful children: Lloyd, Elfreda, Cecil Walter, Lucille, and twins Glenn and Gwen. At the end of her life, Etta was a supporter of the United Century Church, but she joined several other congregations in New Toronto before settling on this choice.
In the 1920’s, Etta’s three sisters came to live with her to find husbands, and two were successful. The third emigrated to Seattle to join an American branch of the Kelusky family. A two-month, cross-Canada journey to visit these American cousins in 1949 became the highlight of Etta’s life. She kept a detailed diary of the trip, and benchmarked all happenings as before or after that visit.
Etta Wylie died on July 5, 1976 at the age of 88 of bladder cancer. Whether she was hosting all of her out-of-town relatives annually during the Canadian National Exhibition, or feeding homeless men who stumbled to her farmhouse, Etta Wylie always demonstrated outstanding generosity. This local pioneer woman helped shape New Toronto as it was transformed from furrow to borough.
© Theresa Rose McCuaig 2005
Robert Cooke Co-operative is situated at 10 Garnet Janes Road, on the corner of Etta Wylie Road. It is the safe haven for 21 developmentally disabled adults, whose supportive housing needs have been successfully integrated into a regular co-op population since it was opened by then Housing Minister Ruth Greer in 1993.
Robert Cooke was born developmentally handicapped in Newfoundland in 1940, the son of a retired army captain, Ernest Cooke, and his wife, Gladys. Ruth Larking, President of Alternatives for Community Living in Etobicoke (A.C.L.E.), said, “Robert probably had Fragile X Syndrome. There was no Southern Blot testing available for it in those days, but he fit the profile. Robert looked normal, but he was very naïve, and talked to everyone. He was outgoing, happy, had a good sense of humour, and enjoyed bowling in leagues organized by his father.”
Hana Sroka, a Genetic Counsellor at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, described Fragile X Syndrome as “the most common genetically inherited mental impairment, predominately affecting males. Classical behaviours of Fragile X boys include poor eye contact, hand flapping or biting, speech difficulties, tremors, balance and touch problems, and autistic withdrawals — whereas girls tend to be just slightly learning disabled. Boys tend to be ‘double jointed’, have a long face, and large ears. One in every 3,600 males is affected, as opposed to one in 4,000 to 6,000 females. Fragile X syndrome appears in children of all ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Although it is carried on the X chromosome of the mother, it often ‘skips a generation’ to the grandchildren through the grandfather. 1 in 250 females and 1 in 700 males are carriers of the permutation.”
Robert was determined to work and live on his own. It did not discourage him that he was not gainfully employed as a Montreal factory worker until after his thirtieth birthday. Ruth Larking said, “Robert was very fastidious. He would take his overalls off for breaks and lunch, and put his suit back on. His employers thought he was taking too long to change, so he was dismissed.” Undeterred, Robert moved to Toronto to work on construction sites, where his father said he became “a reliable and willing worker and earned the respect of his employer and co-workers”.
When Robert was 35, he achieved his lifelong dream of living independently. Ernest Cooke described him as “never happier than when he finally had a meaningful job and a home of his own in the community” near Bloor and Fieldgate Plaza in Mississauga. Sadly, his achievement lasted only about two years. Two teenaged boys from backgrounds of family violence decided to target this brave and resolute disabled man, whom they dubbed “Bozo”. In 1979, the youths harassed Robert while he was shopping at the plaza, to the point that he died of a heart attack. The youths could not be named in the press under the Young Offenders Act, and were released.
Ruth Larking said, “Robert’s funeral was packed. It’s important for us to remember that 10% of the population of Etobicoke is disabled, and that’s why 15 units were set aside for them at Robert Cooke Co-op – to reflect that 10 %. Also, 25% of the units were set aside for the growing number of seniors in Etobicoke.”
A.C.L.E. works in concert with Christian Horizons to provide supportive housing for the developmentally disabled. Both have offices on the ground floor of the Lakeshore Artists’ Co-op at 50 Etta Wylie Road. If you know a developmentally disabled person who requires help to live independently, call Locksley Robertson at 416-255-7756.
©Theresa Rose McCuaig 2005
“The train pulled into the station and stopped with a jerk. The jerk got off — and here I am.” Jack Lerette used that self-deprecating opener to disarm his audiences before every one of the many speeches he made.
Two major buildings in our area are named after dedicated seniors’ activist Jack Lerette:
- Lerette Manor at 250 Twelfth Street, a seniors’ residence operated by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
- The Jack Lerette Building at 3033 Lakeshore Boulevard West and Tenth Street is the headquarters for the United Senior Citizens of Ontario (USCO).
Jack entered the world in Maine on December 6, 1892 as John Lucas Lerette. He emigrated to New Toronto to live at 127 Sixth Street. Jack worked for 27 years at the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Company factory that stood on the BKCC site. Since Jack was fluently bilingual in English and French, the United Rubber Workers union then made him their international Field Representative, and later their Canadian Director of Research and Education.
In 1962, Jack was elected 2nd Vice-President of USCO. He rose to President in 1963, and led the USCO until 1976. The Toronto Star called USCO “a minor revolution, not of hot-blooded youth, but of 60, 70, and 80-year-olds”. Jack helped improve the quality of life for retired people by promoting better transportation, housing, health, safety, recreation, increased pensions, and lower taxes. A lifelong learner, Jack took a printing course at the age of 71. This course enabled him to produce The Voice, the USCO newsletter, mostly from his Sixth Street home. The Voice became a major source of information about government programs and ‘hot button’ issues for seniors. USCO’s lobbyists were crucial in founding Meals on Wheels, OHIP, the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, property tax grants, the Bill of Rights for Nursing Homes, seniors’ car insurance rate reductions, and the Advocacy Act.
When Jack became President of USCO in 1963, there were 105 member clubs. When he retired 13 years later, there were 900 member clubs. Jack helped to design the USCO’s signature blue, white, and gold lapel pin. In addition, Jack was president of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation from 1975 to 1989. He served briefly as the Vice-President of the International Senior Citizens Association. Jack became known as “Mr. Senior Citizen”, and his USCO obituary tells us that, “His ability to get along with people and to inspire them to become involved was one of his greatest assets.” In 1976, Jack received a plaque from the Ontario Government to commemorate his great contribution and leadership.
Although Jack suffered from arthritis, he lived to the remarkable old age of 105. He outlived his wife, Rose May, and two of their children — John and Irene. Jack was survived by his children Dorothy, Yvonne, Teresa, Joan, Dolores, Bernard, Lawrence, and June. The Lerettes had 31 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They were supporters of St. Teresa’s Roman Catholic Church. Jack died peacefully on May 5, 1997 at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. He was interred at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.
If you are interested in following in Jack Lerette’s footsteps by joining the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, call 416-252-2021 or e-mail email@example.com. Their annual membership fee is $20 per person, or $25 per couple, and includes a subscription to The Voice newsletter.
© Theresa Rose McCuaig 2004
A DECENT PLACE TO LIVE
William “Bill” Punnett was born February 3, 1919 in Brantford, Ontario to English immigrants. His father, Thomas William Punnett, was a fisherman and sailor who came from Rye in 1912. His mother, Sarah, came from Leeds in 1913. Bill’s parents met in Port Dover and were married in 1918. Bill grew up in Erieau with sisters Audrey, Lucille, and Sybil. Bill learned compassion through his mother’s example: When Bill’s maternal aunt died in childbirth, Sarah adopted her nephew, Edward, and raised him alongside her own children, despite their straitened circumstances.
Bill learned to root for the underdog by listening to his father’s tales of his Dickensian youth in England. Thomas Punnett was illiterate as a result of being taken out of church school at the age of six by his mother. Thomas and his classmates had locked their abusive teacher out of the classroom while he was drinking at a pub. It took the enraged teacher an hour to regain entry. The drunken schoolmaster seized the first student he could lay hands on – the hapless Thomas. When Thomas’ feisty grandmother found out that her little grandson had received a severe beating, she thrashed his teacher in his turn.
By the tender age of 11, Thomas’ widowed mother found it necessary to sign him up as a cabin boy on a schooner. Thomas and a friend jumped ship in Australia, rather than endure the appalling conditions aboard the vessel. The boys survived by working as woodcutters in the bush, but left because of their fear of snakes. Thomas worked his passage back to England as a fisherman. Thomas instilled in his son his belief that Canada was a haven for the hard working poor.
Bill’s first witnessed unfair labour law in action on New Year’s Day, 1926. Thomas Punnett’s fishing was seasonal work. He had to accept any work he could find in the off-season in the small town of Erieau. Thomas was working as an oiler on a coal hoist for the Lake Erie Navigation Company. The bridge was covered in ice. A machine operator inadvertently started the hoist. When Thomas’ foot slipped onto the icy track, a trolley amputated the heel of his foot. Thomas found he could cope well with his injury, but could not return to work. However, the Workmen’s Compensation Board (WCB) decided his injury was too slight to warrant a pension. Thomas was compelled to have surgery to remove his leg to below his knee in order to meet the WCB requirements for genuine disability. He complied with the surgery, under duress, out of a sense of loyalty to support his young family. Thomas was fitted with a wooden leg, but the wound never completely healed. Thomas received the paltry sum of $35 per month from the WCB until he died in 1962, at the age of 97.
In 1929, the local school board acknowledged the crushing poverty of the Punnetts by offering nine-year-old Bill a job for $10 per month as a cleaner. As the oldest sibling, Bill was expected to help support his family as The Great Depression loomed. The Punnetts suffered all the hardships inherent in keeping seven people on $45 per month. Eventually, injured Thomas adapted to his wooden leg sufficiently for him to take over son Bill’s sweeping, and was paid a man’s wage of $15 per month. Thomas never made more than $35 per month at his sweeping. His father’s forced amputation and unfair compensation was Bill’s prime motivator as a labour activist.
Thomas Punnett’s case was not unusual for its time. Bill recalled, “Another worker fell from a 30-foot boom into a coal chute, and died. He left a wife and six kids behind, and they also had to fight for compensation. They were worse off than us.”
Bill’s second brush with unfair labour practices was in 1932, when he had to take time off school to earn 20 cents an hour as an ice cutter to supplement the family income. Bill’s employer exploited desperate hobos by paying them much less for the same work — only $1 per day. Bill vowed he would fight back against draconian employers when he started his career, which came sooner than expected. He could not afford the train fare to school several miles away in Blenheim. “It was either work or school,” so Bill became a full-time worker after only two years of study at a Continuation School.
In 1935, Bill began work on a coal freighter, and also became a union organizer. His first victory came in 1938, when the Seamen’s Union was introduced by majority vote.
Bill married his wife, Emma, in 1939, and they moved to Toronto. He worked at Cridaland’s Meat, where he attempted unsuccessfully to start a union. Bill moved on to work at Brown’s Bread and Wonder Bakery, and again was disappointed in his attempt to unionize the workforce. He said of his co-workers’ lack of support, “They left me holding the bag.”
In 1944, Bill became a skilled machinist at John Inglis Co. Limited on Strachan Avenue. He joined more than 17,800 people employed making Browning machine guns and bazookas. Bill said, “I worked my way up to be General Foreman. I didn’t organize a union because mine was the only shift that didn’t sign on – they were the only shift which came to work. The atmosphere was different during the War. It was considered unpatriotic during World War II in Canada to be a labour activist. Until D-Day. Then on August 5, the war equipment department was closed and all of the workers were laid off.” Inglis began manufacturing appliances to feed consumer demand in the post-war boom times.
1945 found Bill in New Toronto at Goodyear’s Lakeshore machine shop. He became Chief Steward and Treasurer of Local 232 of the Rubber, Cork, Linoleum & Plastic Workers Union, a group famous for inventing the first “sit-down” strike in Akron, Ohio, in 1934, and for showing solidarity with the Mining Workers on pickets.
In 1952, Bill was appointed field man for the United Rubber Workers (URW), and began traveling throughout Ontario and Quebec as a plant organizer and contract negotiator. He soon abandoned his attempts at bilingualism, after finding out the Quebecois quietly parodied Anglophones speaking French at union meetings. Bill found that he could negotiate quite well in 1950’s Quebec by speaking only English.
When asked about his fair and forthright negotiating style, Bill replied, “My attitude was that as long as Goodyear’s management played ball with me, I did the same with them. They knew we in the union lived up to what we said, and it saved a lot of problems and strikes here in Canada. It was the U.S. head office that was responsible for a lot of the conflict and the strikes in the 1970’s. We fought for cost of living increases. Akron made the decisions.”
Bill related how he had to overcome his limited formal education in order to survive as a union negotiator, when a Goodyear official came from Akron, where the work atmosphere was more contentious, to contract bargain in New Toronto. Overworked Bill overlooked the specific wording of a medical clause. The official surreptitiously inserted the word “or” into the contract, thereby disallowing insurance coverage for URW members’ common ailments. Bill said, “I never made that mistake of misreading a contract again. I always went through them with a fine tooth comb after that lawyer took advantage.” Through his diligence, Bill rose to become Assistant Director of District 6 of the URW in 1968, and Canadian Director in 1971. He retired in May 1983.
The 20-acre Goodyear Lakeshore plant, which employed 1,350 people, closed in 1987. There are still 27 residual workers remaining at 450 Kipling Avenue, organized under the United Steelworkers of America Local 13571. They continue to face the problem of Goodyear contracting out work, and last struck in November 2003.
Bill Punnett was Vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour when the deal to build co-operative housing bearing his name began. Many of the co-op members were also members of Bill’s former URW Local 232. The Toronto District Labour Council and Toronto Lakeshore Labour Council were pivotal partners in the construction, performed by union members with Government of Ontario and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation funding. Bill said, “My philosophy is that people should get a square deal. I supported co-ops because of the unfair housing practices of landlords. A lot of union members needed a place to live. They were in deprived conditions. I wanted to see people have good homes, a decent place to live, as they do now. The co-op members are still mainly unionists. I give credit to Ron Lawrence, the former President of Local 232, which is now closed. T.J. Murphy was Treasurer. They were instrumental in the co-op’s start-up.”
Bill Punnett lives with his wife in the same house they built at 41 Struthers Street in July, 1942. It is a sunny and eminently decent house, where they raised their son and two daughters, and where they continue to garden and enjoy several grandchildren. True to form, the Punnett household is an oasis bordered by industrial giants Campbell’s Soup and Lantic Sugar, and — perhaps more tellingly – the Daily Bread Food Bank. The Punnetts take well-earned breaks in Big Pine Key, Florida.
Bill Punnett is convalescing after arterial surgery at time of writing. His grateful neighbours to the south wish this accomplished social advocate a speedy recovery, and would like to thank him for his unflagging work in developing safe and fair working conditions and homes for them in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
To find out more about living at William Punnett Housing Co-op, contact Co-ordinator Nancy Newbold at 416-252-4643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Theresa McCuaig 2005