Thursday Doors: Past And Present Collide

Several months ago I found a list on Wikipedia of heritage buildings in the Toronto area. The oldest building on the list goes back to 1794 and the most recent dated at 1916.

I downloaded the list with the expectation of using it to plan some of my outings around the city, but I found it rather cumbersome to use.

Once an analyst, always an analyst … I’ve spent a considerable amount of time re-organizing the data so I can count the buildings in the list, tag which ones I’ve visited, and sort the buildings based on location.

I’m about half way through cleaning up the list and have already counted over 400 buildings.  However, out of this exercise, I identified a heritage site only a few kilometers from my home.

It’s the modestly named SS #3 School built in 1872.

I wondered how I could have missed this little one-room schoolhouse on a road I’ve traveled so many times.

Scarb Heritage School3

Yes, the building is level, the street is not.

SS #3 School has had an interesting history.  It actually operated as a school until the mid-1970s.

Canadians of a certain age will undoubtedly remember the TV show Mr Dressup – English Canada’s longest running children’s program.  It had been on the air from 1967 to 1996 when Ernie Coombs retired.


Mr Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan (from

In the old former schoolhouse known as SS #3, Ernie Coomb’s wife, Marlene, developed a daycare centre called Butternut Square … the name of the predecessor TV show to Mr Dressup, and the program that introduced Ernie to Canadian children.

“Mrs Dressup” had purchased SS #3 School and completed extensive renovations to the building, including an addition on the back that respected the original look of the schoolhouse.

SS #3 School

The addition, on the left, added to the original schoolhouse

When Marlene Coombs was killed in a car-pedestrian accident in 1992, the little schoolhouse was purchased by its neighbour, Whitefield Christian Schools, and is now a school for children from kindergarten to Grade 5.

I was graciously offered a tour of the inside by an administrator onsite preparing for the new school year about the start in September.  I quickly accepted.

Scarb Heritage School

This window is above the front door of the schoolhouse.

Unfortunately she was unable to tell me what the SS stood for in its rather stark name, but she was very knowledgeable about the building and its history.

The original high-ceiling room was divided during the renovation stage and a second floor was created.  This effectively divided the windows of the building between the two floors providing a rather unusual perspective from the top floor.  The walls and ceiling are still covered in the original stamped tin.

This second floor now functions as a kindergarten, while the main floor is a small auditorium.  For a 5 years old, I would imagine those windows are just about perfect.

In the bell tower, the original school bell still hangs … although from the broken and frayed rope, I’m guessing it hasn’t been rung in a very long time.

SS #3 School2

Now, you’re probably wondering ‘what about the door?’ … after all, this is Thursday Doors.

The plain, no-nonsense front door has had its knobs removed – entry to the building from the front is no longer possible.  The entrance is at the back of the building from the addition that was built, through typical safety glass school doors,  locked with card access only.

The tiny plaque to the left of the door, indicates this building as a Scarborough Historic Site.

Scarb Heritage School2

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm 2.0.

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Changing Seasons: August Summer Glory

No story this time … just photos from this month.  My summer hasn’t been an entire pity party – there’s been a lot of beauty experienced.  Click on any photo in each section to enlarge and scroll through.

From the plants growing wild in my backyard …

To the splendor of Northern Ontario in my home town of Cochrane …

To a hot and sunny day in the heart of Toronto …

This has been my August.  I hope your’s has been full of beauty too.

Changing Seasons is a monthly photo feature hosted by Cardinal Guzman.

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A Bone Of Contention

Earlier this summer I wrote a post about my cycling accident and the broken collarbone that caused all my summer plans to come crashing down.

I held out hope for 8 long weeks that by mid August I would have my summer back. Although publicly I was stating that my dream of cycling Thailand had died the day I crashed, there was a tiny spark of optimism … the final payment on our bike tour from Bangkok to Phuket wouldn’t be due until the end of August.

I TRULY BELIEVED that I could be healed and back in cycling form – albeit, marginal – in time for our October trip.

Those dreams however started to get wobblier with each passing week whenever I tried to spin indoors on my bike. Even a short ride of 30 or 40 minutes resulted in ugly feedback from my shoulder.

But I still continued to cling to a slim hope. It was going to be virtually impossible for me to complete all 1000 kilometers of the tour, but I thought I could likely complete *most* of it.

The weekend before my followup appointment with the Fracture Clinic, I bought a new helmet to replace the one damaged in the crash.  I planned to be ready to ride again because  I expected the followup x-ray to show a beautifully knitted bone – perfectly healed.

That’s how badly I wanted to go to Thailand … so I was emotionally unprepared for reality.

BEFORE – June 22,  the day of the crash ….

xray - June 22


AFTER – August 10th – 7 weeks after the crash ….

xray - aug 15

I was absolutely devastated when I saw the new x-ray.

The problem with a collarbone is that it can’t really be *set* without surgery and a plate to secure the bone.  Apparently there isn’t a good way to immobilize a collarbone.  If there is, I didn’t have it, and unfortunately my version of ‘taking it easy’ was still too much for my injured shoulder.  Significant displacement (in my opinion) of the fracture had now occurred.

I was assured by my doctor in the Fracture Clinic that the almost-full mobility in my arm was good news and testament to the healing that was well in progress.

But there is still a long way to go – I was given a new 5 week window … not to mention the bump on my shoulder that would always. be. there.

A good friend managed to make me laugh out loud – in spite of my despondent mood –  when she called me Mo-Jo … a short form for Quasimodo Joanne.


Image from

So now my Thailand dream trip is truly dead.  Notification has been sent to the tour company and been acknowledged by them.  My travelling friends have been advised, their condolences have been received, and I’m trying to maintain a brave face.

But I know that on October 4th when our flight leaves Toronto without me …  I will be having a very unhappy day.

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A Rose By Any Other Name …

I just returned from a road trip back to my home town for a class reunion.  This year we are all 60 years old and this reunion was a big birthday party to celebrate our survival this long.

However this post is not about that reunion … it’s about a side trip I took while on my road trip.

Several months ago I ran across an article about towns with unusual names.  I shouldn’t have been surprised to see the name of this tiny community about 140 km south of my home town – but I was.

You see, I had never given this town much thought before – Teenage Me had shown little interest in the neighbouring communities, but in my defense, this town was located off the main highway and I never had any reason to travel there.

Current Me however, now knew I just HAD to visit this little community with the quirky name.


The first thing that comes to mind – at least to my mind – is, how on earth did this town survive World War II without a name change?  Although the swastika is an ancient symbol for good fortune, it is now unfortunately forever linked to the Nazi political party responsible for WW II.  It is a word that conjures up an ugly history.

But the town name survived.


Swastika train and bus terminal in the background

Coincidentally, the same day I took my side tour, I discovered that the father of one of my former classmates had been born and raised in Swastika. I learned there had been considerable pressure by the provincial government to replace the offending name in the 1940s – but the community refused to do so.

Their rationale was that the town of Swastika had been around a lot longer than Hitler’s Nazis and they were not going to relinquish this piece of their history. They rejected the government plan to change their name to Winston … a patriotic name intended to honour Winston Churchill.


What I thought was a pretty little church, I decided on closer inspection was now likely someone’s home.  Oops – so sorry for trespassing.

In spite of the resistance, the Ontario government used the passive-aggressive approach of simply replacing all the road signs with the new name, but residents promptly took all the signs down and restored them with the original name.

Eventually the Ontario government conceded.


Fireman’s Park

What I found while on my detour was a pretty, blink-or-you’ll-miss-it town on the edge of the larger community of Kirkland Lake to which it has now been amalgamated.

Swastika’s origins go back to 1908 when it was a railway siding, and the growing town was named after the new Swastika Gold Mine.  However, unlike the gold mines in nearby Kirkland Lake, Swastika Gold did not flourish and ultimately closed.




Former railway and bus terminal.

To add further insult, passenger train service in Northern Ontario was discontinued in 2012 and trains no longer stop here, but there is still a sign for bus service even though the building looked deserted and derelict.


Is there a town with an unusual name or history in your corner of the world?  I’d love to hear about it.


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The Ball Is Rolling

Have you ever experienced a sequence of events that have snowballed unexpectedly from one thing to another?

Mine had to do with a slice of time in the mid-1800 and the ball started back in June while playing tourist at Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Black Creek is an open-air heritage museum – made up of structures from the mid-1800s that have been preserved and relocated from around the Toronto area.

Black Creek

I found the visit quite fascinating and the snowball started rolling when one of the workers doing demonstrations on a spinning wheel, mentioned a book written by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood.

I’m actually a Margaret Atwood fan (people seem to either love her work or hate it), but I had never heard of this particular book called Alias Grace – based on the true story of Grace Marks convicted of murder in 1843.

The book is full of details on day-to-day life during this time period and since I love this kind of stuff, I got the book.

Black Creek2

In reading this story, I discovered several references to the Rebellion of 1837.


I don’t remember learning about any Rebellion.  In fact I’ve had a tendency to sneer at Canadian history – no revolutions, no grand uprisings, nothing dramatic, only bland and boring. The only constant in Canadian history seems to have been the unending bickering between the French and English.

Of course the hint of a Rebellion led me to do some quick research.  As soon as I read “Family Compact”, a dim light bulb came on.

Ah yes – the rich and powerful dominating all affairs in the colony – blah, blah, blah – excessive patronage – blah, blah, blah – discontent stirred up by American rabble rousers {insert smile}.

The Rebellion was poorly organized and quickly squelched, but – blah, blah, blah – a pivotal point in the creation of Canada as a nation – blah, blah, blah.

Oh yes – not exactly riveting stuff when you’re in primary school.

But the snowball was rolling and now gaining momentum.

On my recent visit to the Necropolis I found the grave of William Lyon MacKenzie – you guessed it, the leader of the Rebellion.  He  also happened to be the first mayor of Toronto, but I digress.

With the spectacular failure of the Rebellion, MacKenzie fled to the US where he lived for many years, later to return to Toronto when a general pardon was granted.


Not so lucky were two of his supporters who were caught and subsequently hanged for treason.  They, too, are buried at the Necropolis.


Fifty-five years after their death, a monument was erected at their grave by “their friends and sympathizers”.


Incredibly, another 100 years later, a plaque was then erected by “family and friends”.


These poor guys became the scapegoats in this sad affair. They were the only rebels executed for their efforts – all the others either escaped to the US or were exiled to Australia, and eventually all those who survived made their way back to Canada.

Ever wonder why there is a suburb in Sydney, Australia called Canada Bay?  You guessed it … because of the Canadian rebels exiled following the Rebellion of 1837.

And the snowball keeps rolling ….



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Thursday Doors: The AfterLife

This is the second post related to my recent visit to the Necropolis in downtown Toronto.

The first thing that caught my attention about this cemetery was its name *Necropolis* which means “City Of The Dead”.   It was founded in 1850 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city … tucked away in a discreet corner close to downtown, virtually hidden from view.

Until a few months ago, I didn’t even know it existed.

Necropolis - door5

The entrance to the cemetery is through a white gated archway connecting a stone Gothic Revival chapel to the cemetery office.

Necropolis - door7

The decorative pattern in the roof tiles is such an interesting detail.


Doesn’t it feel like you’re about to enter wonderland?

Necropolis - door

Peering inside the front door of the tiny chapel

It seems that one’s final resting place isn’t always *final* when a developer decides that the location is prime real estate.  That’s what happened in the mid-1800s to over 6,600 people interred at the city’s first non-denominational cemetery known as Potter’s Field.

Also known as The Strangers’ Burying Place, Potter’s Field was located in what is now the prestigious Yorkville area of downtown Toronto.  Over a 30 year period starting in 1851, all the graves were relocated to either the Necropolis or Mount Pleasant Cemetery to facilitate development of the growing city.


The back of the Chapel

Necropolis - door2

A beautiful stained glass window on the inside, hidden by all the ivy on the outside.

Unlike Mount Pleasant Cemetery with its elaborate family mausoleums, the Necropolis is a more modest place.  It has all the quiet dignity suitable for a cemetery but without the overt ostentatiousness.

So we were rather surprised when we encountered a monument that didn’t seem to fit into this humble neighbourhood.

Necropolis - door3

A search down a steep hill and around the back uncovered the entrance to a crypt.

Necropolis - door4

I haven’t been able to find out who H.A. Knowles was, but this crypt has left me very curious.  Hidden in a shady, back corner of the cemetery, perched on the edge of a steep hill with an entrance that is both difficult to reach and uninviting when found … this was someone who clearly wanted privacy.

I almost felt like I should apologize for trespassing.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm 2.0.

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Having The Last Word

Cemeteries are peaceful and calm oases chock full of local history and stories of people long gone.

One can also find a smile.




Found today at the Necropolis – one of the oldest cemeteries in Toronto.


Posted in Around Toronto, Attitude, Memories, photography, Things I Like | Tagged , , , , , , | 66 Comments

Cherished Blogfest: This Body Beautiful

I have made several attempts to write this post for the Cherished Blogfest.  No matter where I started from, my thoughts always seemed to end up in the same place … I’m so grateful for this amazing piece of biological machinery I was gifted at birth.


Irrelevant photo #1 – Quebec City

I guess this preoccupation with my body is the result of the injury I incurred in June which has forced me into slow-mo.  I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in taking inventory – of memories both good and bad, the wouldofs-couldofs-shouldofs, and of course the things still left undone.

But an undeniable truth has emerged from all this navel-gazing.  This package of skin, bones, organs, and “other stuff”,  is truly remarkable in the magic of its function as we blithely go about our lives without giving it any thought – at least until something goes wrong.

… and then it tries to repair itself.  Pure Magic.

I have dragged this body of mine through 60 years of often careless living.  For all the good things I’ve done for my body, I’ve also exposed it to an equal amount of really bad things.


Irrelevant photo #2 – Frogner Park, Oslo

As a result, this body bears a road-map of scars, bruises, bumps, wrinkles, fat cells, and other imperfections that marks its journey through each of my sometimes misadventures, repairing itself as needed, getting stronger to meet the endless demands I’ve requested of it.

So although this current recovery stage has forced me into Spectator Mode on the proverbial sidelines of life, I’ve realized that this pervasive tired and achy feeling is just my body telling me it’s still healing.  This is only temporary.


Irrelevant photo #3 – Frogner Park, Oslo

I cherish this body of mine.  It is the most precious thing I have.  It is beautiful in its function and absolutely priceless.


This is the 2nd Annual Cherished Blogfest co-hosted by Dan AntionDamyanti BiswasPeter NenaCheryl PenningtonKate Powell, and Mary J Melange.

This year it is being held the weekend of July 29-30-31 and everyone is encouraged to participate by sharing something they cherish in whatever medium(s) they choose – with writing or poetry (limited to 500 words), photography, art medium, etc.

For additional Cherished Blogfest posts, click HERE.


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When In Doubt, Wear Red

When In Doubt, Wear Red – Bill Blass

The colour red evokes many feelings – danger and anger on one side, with passion and energy on the other.  Either way, red is an emotionally intense colour and a shameless attention grabber.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that red was chosen as the colour for the ribbon campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness.

Dress Red

The Toronto to Montreal Bike Rally is in its 18th year to raise awareness and support for the work of the People With AIDS Foundation.  Day 3 of this journey is designated as Dress In Red Day which is embraced as a fun day to grab maximum attention as the crimson riders form a ‘long red ribbon’ cycling through the Southern Ontario countryside.

Dress Red6

I had so much fun last year on Red Dress/Dress Red Day that I didn’t want to miss it this year.  I was on the road with my friend Helen at 7 am this morning for the 230 km (143 miles) trip to meet the riders at their first break.

Dress Red7

Bike Rally is a significant fund raiser for the PWA Foundation – the largest direct support agency of its kind in Canada.  Over a million dollars in donations will be raised by the end of the week when the riders and crew finally reach Montreal.

Dress Red4

From the PWA website:

The challenges facing people living with HIV are numerous and complex: episodes of illness, numerous life transitions, discrimination, financial difficulties, social isolation, side effects from medications and long term effects from the virus – to name but a few. PWA provides a safe place to express those concerns and a place where practical information and support services are available.

What’s the next best thing to being on Bike Rally?  Being a supporter!





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Changing Seasons: The Lost Month Of July

This year continues to fly by and we are already at the end of July.  I had such big plans and high expectations for this month but none of it was to be.  I’m still somewhat entrenched in my pity party, feeling unmotivated and uninspired since my cycling accident in June.

However, as I was reviewing my photo library for the month trying to scratch up some inspiration for the Changing Seasons post, I was surprised by how many pictures I had actually taken. Perhaps the month wasn’t a complete bust after all.

These are the images from my “lost” month of July.

  1. The chaos of a family gathering early in the month.  Since this had been early days in my recovery and I had very limited use of my left arm, the guys took over on my behalf.  What they lacked in organization, they made up for in laughs and we had a great time together.  In other words, it was perfect.


2. Summer means Race Season for this family.  With one son into obstacle racing and the other son into triathlon, we were busy spectators this month.


Son #2 in foreground heading to the start line of a Spartan race … an obstacle to overcome before an obstacle race


The *showers* post-race.  I loved the clouds in this perfect summer sky.


Early morning skyline on race morning of the Toronto Triathlon Festival


Son #1 and his dad getting ready to race


The swim portion of Swim, Bike, Run at Ontario Place for the Toronto Triathlon Festival.  I was told the water was very cold.

3. Walking in lieu of cycling.  Hiking along the Rouge River near home.  July has been hot, humid, and very dry. The grass actually crunched underneath our feet.

Hiking - Rouge-2

Hiking - Rouge-4

Photos taken with my Android phone

4. And July of course means the 6-day Friends For Live Bike Rally from Toronto to Montreal.

I was very sad to wave good-bye to the riders and crew as they headed off on this year’s ride.  I was supposed to be going with them.  Instead I am restricted to following their progress through social media.

Bike Rally

Bike Rally 2

Riders and crew gather under cloudy skies at Allan Gardens prior to departure

I’m looking forward to more summer ahead, hoping I’ll be fully healed soon, and that August doesn’t fly by quite so quickly!

Changing Seasons is a monthly photo challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman.

Posted in Around Toronto, Family, Nature, Photo Challenges, Random Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 66 Comments