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Nostalgia Tripping: Long Branch Village

Posted by Agatha Barc / April 16, 2011

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsThe group of former Lakeshore municipalities that grew around Lakeshore Road (now Boulevard) are fascinating. Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch could be lost in the sea of neighbourhoods in Toronto, and yet they've managed to retain their individual identities in spite of the suburban onslaught that eventually engulfed Etobicoke in the 1950s. This is probably because they predate the suburban neighbourhoods in the north of the former borough by many years. Today, Long Branch is the western frontier of Toronto.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsAccording to Ron Brown's Toronto's Lost Villages, Long Branch began as a summer resort along the shores of Lake Ontario, west of Toronto. Until 1883, the area was rural, but James Eastwood understood the investment potential of converting the area into Toronto's local cottage country. At that time, the increasing pollution in the industrial city prompted its affluent citizens to look for a suitable summer resort beyond the city limits.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsWith this in mind, Thomas Wilkie purchased the land from Eastwood, soon subdividing it into a 219-lot cottage community that also included a ten-acre park along the lake, where the owners of the cottages were able to stroll. The new seasonal neighbourhood was called Sea Breeze Park, which included several streets south of Lakeshore Road. The main street of the community was named Sea Breeze Avenue.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsThe first cottage owners were Richard and Mary Ough, who completed their purchase in 1886. A year later, Hotel Long Branch was built near the shore. Its alluring exterior was characterized by Japanese balconies and pagoda tower. The establishment was also equipped with electricity, telephone connection to Toronto, and it even had "speaking tubes" that connected the rooms to each other. A pavilion and the Coney Island carousel stood on the lawn, closer to the lake. A weekly stay cost fifteen dollars.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsWhat contributed to the exclusivity of the area was its relative isolation not only from the city, but also from the nearby communities (in case of New Toronto, it was also social - the town was decidedly industrial working-class in character). To arrive at their resort, vacationers had to embark on a journey on the Grand Trunk Railway and get off at the Long Branch station. Another travel option was the steamers, such as Greyhound or the White Star, which boarded at the foot of Yonge Street, then sailed the passengers along the lake.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsThe arrival of streetcar transportation greatly transformed the community. By 1923, streetcar service was extended to Long Branch, while the Lakeshore carline and Long Branch loop were both opened on December 8, 1928. With the much improved access to the community, many of the summer cottages became permanent, year-round homes, while others were demolished to make way for better insulated structures and built of more sturdier brick.

Sea Breeze Avenue was renamed Long Branch Avenue, where a number of the original summer cottages still remain, at numbers 4 (constructed 1897) and 14 (1890). Another example includes the Ough cottage on Lake Promenade, although the original decorative porch has been removed. Hotel Long Branch burned in a fire in 1954 and an apartment building was erected on the former site.

Toronto, history, Long Branch, west end, Etobicoke, summer resort, cottage country, streetcarsPhotos from the Toronto Archives

Discussion

57 Comments

W. K. Lis / April 16, 2011 at 02:33 pm
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The open air streetcars are actually on the sandbar near Grenadier Pond, part of the old City of Toronto, in front of St. Joseph's Hospital (before 1921, it was Sacred Heart Orphanage).
Adam Sobolak / April 16, 2011 at 03:32 pm
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Though badly stuccoed, the Long Branch loop shelter still stands.
Bert Crandall replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / April 17, 2011 at 03:45 pm
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The Long Branch Hotel fire started on the night of February 18, 1958. It's noted in this blog that the fire occurred in the year 1954. There are references to the fire in the Toronto Star's issue dated Feb. 19th 1958, as well in the Village of Long Branch Minutes of committee meeting, No. 13, dated Feb. 19,1958. As well there's reference to the date of the fire in Liquor Licence Board of Ontario, June 27, 1956 - reports of the exact date of the fire, as Feb. 18, 1958,
Laurie / April 18, 2011 at 04:49 pm
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"As well there's reference to the date of the fire in Liquor Licence Board of Ontario, June 27, 1956 - reports of the exact date of the fire, as Feb. 18, 1958"

Reported two years before it happened? Careful research marred by a typo, I presume.
Bert Crandall replying to a comment from Bert Crandall / April 26, 2011 at 01:11 am
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The June 27,1956- date for Liquor Licence Board is correct. The date was open ended in the report I saw. It was written as 1956- . The references were to licences from different hotels in Ontario from the above date until whenever they decided to add a final date.The information is in the Ontario Archives. I will try to reconfirm the dates of the report; however the entry for the Long Branch Hotel indicated the date of the fire as Feb. 19, 1958.

So in fact what I was looking at was information in their reports date from, June 27, 1956 -

As far as the research being marred by a typo, I can't add an end date to a report if the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario's report hasn't done it.

But I took it as an open ended report, as government offices often did this. I've been a library cataloguer for years and have seen many government documents dated this way.
Bert Crandall replying to a comment from Bert Crandall / April 26, 2011 at 01:16 am
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Sorry typo error or fire date in last sentence of first paragraph should be Feb. 18, 1958.
Sean Ratcliffe / June 21, 2011 at 12:50 am
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As I understood it, The Long Branch Hotel burned down long before 1958 and what burnt down in 1958 is the second hotel on the site. The train that came from the city, use to stop just west of Thirtieth street, north of Lakeshore Blvd.. The first street cars that serviced the area were horse drawn. The boats that came from Toronto use to dock at the foot of Sea Breeze (Now Long Branch Avenue).
I have been told many times that there was a road that ran parallel to Lake Promenade and was just south of Lake Prom. There seems to be some north South streets run past Lake Prom and stop at either a park or the water. Where Lake Prom runs west towards Long Branch Avenue, it takes a sharp turn north and runs along Long Branch Avenue for a number of feet. I was told the old road disappeared during Hurricane Hazel, but I haven't been able to confirm that fact. Although I do recall seeing a lot of concrete and asphalt along the shorline when I was a child almost 50 years ago.
David Nicholson / August 21, 2011 at 04:38 pm
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No, none of Lake Promenade near Long Branch Avenue was lost during Hurricane Hazel - although some around the present Marie Curtis Park was, of course. We lived on Lake Prom & 39th at the time and my dad was town engineer.
Ben / August 23, 2011 at 02:11 am
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I would really like to see more pictures of Long Branch back in the day.. Also I hear colonol Sam smiths cabin was around in the area..
Wayne Parker replying to a comment from Ben / February 2, 2012 at 08:55 pm
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From what i understand is the Samuel Smith's cabin was located where the old Parkview Public school is presently located. Some picture do exists showing the old cabin and barn.
Rob / February 7, 2012 at 09:11 pm
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Can anyone offer me any information on the Long Branch Fire Department, such as when it was established, where it was located, who the fire chiefs were.
Bert Crandall / February 10, 2012 at 02:23 am
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Yes, I have information on the Long Branch Fire Department. But it's in an external hard drive and I have to get it up and running. One of these days you'll see all sorts of information from me on Long Branch, including the police department, the village council, the Long Branch resort, and some wonderful people who lived in Long Branch from the 1880's to the 1960's. Stay tuned.
Bert Crandall
Jim Bairstow replying to a comment from Rob / February 29, 2012 at 12:44 am
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The firehall was located on 31st st. behind Caulfields dairy and diagonally across from St. Pauls United Church.
One of the earlier chiefs was named Hall, but I can't remember his first name.
I grew up in Long Branch and now reside in Surrey, B.C.
Jaan Pill / March 26, 2012 at 03:46 pm
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As Bert Crandall has mentioned, the fire at the Long Branch Hotel was in 1958 not 1954.

For purposes of accuracy, it would be useful if the date in the article is corrected, rather than just being left as it is.

If we're going to remember what happened years ago, it's useful if what we remember bears a close relationship to what actually occurred.
Geoff Smith / May 2, 2012 at 02:00 pm
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The Fire chief was Harold Hall. He was a grocer on Lake Shore Blvd. I remember seeing Harold coming out of the store pulling his apron off as he hopped to the fire hall when the alarm went off. Police chief's name was Smyth. I also remember 2 bookmakers (names if you want).
Geoff Smith / May 2, 2012 at 02:02 pm
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More later
Bert Crandall / May 5, 2012 at 03:44 pm
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Albert E. Houston was Fire Chief for Long Branch from 1935-1966. He was Deputy Fire Chief , 1934-1935 and a Volunteer Fireman from 1931-1934.

Harold Hall was a Volunteer Fireman from 1940-1956, and a Regular Fireman from 1956-1962. From 1963-1965 he was the Fire Department Captain. In the information I saw he was also named Deputy Fire Chief, but no date was given. I might assume it may have been for year 1966.

Over the years there were other Volunteer and Regular Firemen. Their names are James Cormier, William C. Musgrove John Hickey, Harold G. Purdy, A. Roger Train, Brian Garell and Ronald Brown.
Bert Crandall / May 5, 2012 at 03:49 pm
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I liked Geoff Smith's remark about Harold Hall's day to day business of Grocer on Lake Shore Rd. Do you recall where his Grocery Store was located?

Bert Crandall

Geoff Smith / July 6, 2012 at 01:25 pm
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Bert, Harold Hall's store was on the south side, west of 27th St., next to Mel Ward's book store.
Bert Crandall / July 7, 2012 at 06:14 pm
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Geoff, thank you for your information. Much appreciated.
Alannah / August 18, 2012 at 08:55 pm
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Does anyone know where O'Connor Drive would have been in Long Branch in 1926?
Debi Harris / September 2, 2012 at 05:04 pm
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My maternal grandfather,Sam Wright, at one point owned the Long Branch Hotel and was a former reeve (and later an MPP)of Long Branch. I am collecting stories about him (both positive and negative!)and his time in Long Branch. I never met Sam and most everyone in my mother's family is gone, my mother included.If anyone has any or can share any information about him and his family, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Thanks!
ugg boots / October 19, 2012 at 02:07 pm
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Did you hear about the new project?I was late for work yesterday.We are all busy with work.The brothers differ from each other in their interests.Feel better? Wait a moment, I'll be with you in an instant.Wait a moment, I'll be with you in an instant.Oh£¬you are kidding me.I'll see to it.The price includes postage charges.
ugg boots
Steven Green / October 22, 2012 at 10:51 am
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Does anyone have any information or photos on the Long Branch Police Department?
Paul Chomik / November 1, 2012 at 01:20 am
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Hi Steve.

Came across some info on LB Police Dept. Probably will find more.
Steven Green / November 9, 2012 at 09:52 am
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Thanks Paul. Much appreciated.

On another note. I have a postcard from 1909 showing a streetcar. It is titled:
Humber, Lakeside Road, Toronto.
Can anyone tell me where Lakeside Road was??????
Thanks,
Steve

walkthebeat@sympatico.ca
Bert Crandall / November 9, 2012 at 02:17 pm
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I have the following info in my Bibliography on Long Branch; the following is from Toronto Archives.
Check with Toronto Archives re Lakeside Road. Lakeside Road show up In Fonds, Series 300; File 344. Larry Becker postcards. A file of 5 postcards, includes views of "Sunnyside, Parkdale," "Humber, Lakeside Road, Toronto, Canada," "Lake Shore Road and Long Branch Car, Toronto, Canada," "No.2 Lakeshore Highway - 3 miles East of Oakville - RR.#1 Clarkson, Ontario," "Royal Flying Corps, Long Branch, Ontario."
Toronto Archives have extensive files on TTC history, as well as lists of street names from the past along with the a street name changes over the years.
James Early / November 16, 2012 at 09:45 pm
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I love the fact that that there are people interested in the history of Long Branch and New Toronto. I have been lobbying Humber College to continue to spend some dollars to revitalize certain parts of the area (i.e. streetscaping) The former Almont Hotel at the corner of Kilping & Lakeshore is a great example of keeping the history of the area. Hopefully, Humber will continue to invest their money in this part of South Etobicoke.
Scott Reid / November 20, 2012 at 02:10 pm
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I came to Canada in Jan' 1969 and loved the Long Branch area as soon as I experienced it.
I sat for hours in Marie Curtis park and listened to the lake i If I'm driving on the Q.E.W between Niagara and Toronto? I always go for a sidetrip' buy a coffee an' "Remember When" Thank you for this wee Website, the photos above are brilliant!
Gordon S. Roy / January 24, 2013 at 08:29 am
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Grew up @274 lake prom, half block from the hotel. Saw it burn. Remember lots growing up here. Still on lake prom 164 .i am a life long resident, artist, sculptor, muralist and visual arts instructor. Great to see a Long Branch site!!!
Pat Thompson / April 13, 2013 at 08:42 pm
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Does anyone remember the name of the candy store, it was just east of James S. Bell school on the lakeshore Caulfields was on the corner, and I think there was a knitting store in that area as well
Would really appreciate if you can help
Tks
Pat
Bert Crandall / April 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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I don't know what commonly used spam word are. This is all new to me.

I've posted here before and never encountered this.

Thus I will no longer reply to people posting here, even though I have the information.

Regards, B. Crandall
Bob Richardson / June 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm
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Long Branch Hotel - yes 1958 is correct. However as an eyewitness with my buddy, Brian Baker, I was sure it was summer. We rode our bicycles from Alder Crescent to watch it burn to the ground and I remember it being warm however perhaps that was the heat from the fire. My most vivid recollection is the 100's of rats fleeing the inferno. Often wondered where they ended up!
Gail / July 16, 2013 at 07:37 pm
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Does anybody know what happened to the Long Branch Villa plans? I saw a photo of the plans, and it showed a group of lots with what looked like a parkette (perhaps?) in the middle of them. These obviously did not materialize, and several houses now have larger lots than initially planned for.

Also, what happened to the boat docks, the promenade?
Jean / July 28, 2013 at 08:25 pm
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I lived in Long Branch in the 40s & 50s and I remember the Long Branch Hotel well, my grandparents lived at 205 Lake Promenade and their backyard backed onto the hotel property. There was an outdoor dance pavilion to the east side of the hotel and a horse shoe pit just to the north of the dance hall. As kids we would swim out into the lake and search for the dock pilings ( all underwater) and if lucky enough to find would stop for breath. there was also a horse shoe pit and many an evening after dusk you could here the breaking of glass as the fellows after hoisting a few would bring beer bottles and place them over the stakes so as to know when someone got a ringer. The cliffs at the waters edge had great clay that we could scoop out and make things with. James S Bell had an back entrance off of 31st street and there was separate playgrounds for boys and girls, the junior classrooms were on the first floor and a balcony ran around the upper floor where the senior classrooms where All in all it was a wonderful place for a child to grow up

The candy store right to the east of James S Bell had the most wonderful Easter eggs but I don't remember the name of the store and there was a meat market to the west of the school that made the most delicious sausages rolls :)

Steven Green / September 13, 2013 at 05:41 pm
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Speaking of the Long Branch Hotel and the Long Branch Summer Resort....
My grandparents rented a cottage here in the summer. Unfortunately, they passed away when I was very young so I was not privy to all the stories.
I have attached a link of the original brochure for "The Resort" for everyones perusal.

If anyone has an original, I would love to borrow it!!!!!!!!

http://static.torontopubliclibrary.ca/da/images/LC/maps-r-148.jpg
Rob replying to a comment from Bert Crandall / November 2, 2013 at 02:08 pm
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Bert and Geoff, thank you so much for the information on the Long Branch Fire Department. I have been compiling it's evolution with your assistance and the help of others. I reading the comments about Harold Hall I gather he never became fire chief and I also figure at some point the department became what is know as composite, with full-time members and volunteers.

Does anyone have a picture of the old fire hall.

Bert, sorry to hear you are no longer posting, you appear to be an invaluable piece of the puzzle of the historical landscape of Long Branch. Please use my ffaomessennger@primus.ca to contact me direct if you see this message.
marybeth Mckenzie / November 17, 2013 at 09:08 am
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Hello
great site!
Wanted to add that in 1901, more than forty acres from the Richard Newborn farm were sold north of Lakeshore for development. Original 1849 stone farmhouse still lived in, on Daisy ave.

i
david webster replying to a comment from Steven Green / November 24, 2013 at 11:58 am
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I recall some detail about the Long Branch Police department. I
believe that in the late Forties this was a four man force. Chief Smythe, backed up by Sergeant Short, and I think two officers. I seem to recall an officer(s) on a bicycle, chief Smythe lived in a large two story brick house, NW. corner of 36th. ST. and Muskoka rd. As chief, he drove a black 1947 Dodge,
unmarked. Later a gray 1950 Dodge, again unmarked.I believe the cars came from Halnan Motors, N. side of Lake Shore between 28th.st. and 31st. st.

The police office occupied a part of a large two story home immediately west of the Catholic Church, entrance lower right hand side.I am not sure if the Police Station was manned during the night.

Chief Smythe was well known and, i recall, well liked. Very occasionally, if I was about to be late for afternoon classes at James S.Bell school and he was returning to work after lunch, he would offer me a ride in his Police car, a very big deal to a six year old.

Later a new officer, I think Nutley, or Nuttall joined in about 1955. He was a resident, living on 41st. ST.

A minor note, the Long Branch force missed the opportunity to be famous. On July 1st. weekend 1957, shortly amalganisation with the new Metropolitan Toronto Police Department,a family living on HILO road and 41st. St. was murdered early on a Sunday morning. I don't recall the family name but they were from England, had built their house and, that summer the parents of the wife came to visit.One Sunday morning, the husband arose and, taking a piece of pipe (i believe) murdered the wife, both in-laws and their two children in their beds.
Following this, he got into his dark blue 1949 Mercury sedan, drove to the QEW and the drove into the bridge abutment at Grand Avenue.When the new Metro police department went to the house to report the apparent accident, they discovered what had
occurred.
This would undoubtedly have been the biggest case in the history of the Long Branch Police Department.
Following this the house remained vacant for years before finally being sold and re-occupied.



















one
Lucy / January 5, 2014 at 03:10 pm
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I also agree that the Long Branch fire happened in 1958 since I was in grade 7 at the time at James S Bell. The class watched all the smoke from the fire billowing skyward above the trees on 33rd street. As soon as class was dismissed we all ran to the hotel to watch it burn. I remember it was a long time for the fire dept. to get it under control and the spectators were kept at a distance. Since I lived on Muskoka ave the park around the hotel was a favourite place to play. At one point there was a a baseball diamond there were we could play informal games. The area around the hotel was a great place for hide and seek as well.
Ken / January 8, 2014 at 07:29 pm
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For Pat, Was the Candy Store by James S Bell named Ritchie's ?
Bev Webster Hughes / January 23, 2014 at 09:04 am
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I think the candy store next to James S bell school was called 'Austin Richards'.
linda / January 27, 2014 at 09:53 am
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does anyone remember the chicken restaurant by the mimco roller skating rink and it was on a point
david webster / February 8, 2014 at 10:30 am
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re; Ken's comment,Ritchie's candies was located on the Lakeshore Road,south side,in New Toronto.I think between 5th. and 6th.street. Beverly's comment about the candy store being Austin Richard's Candies sounds familiar. Austin Richards is credited with owning and operating Ritchies candies in Bradenton Florida.
The people that opened the candy store in Long Branch owned an
Airstream, silver house trailer that was parked on a neighbours property while the store was being readied for opening (about1951-2). I have a vague recollection that the trailer came from the USA. My parents purchased candies from this store and I recall a white box with gold lettering. I used the empty box(s)to store pencils or crayons.

The Chicken Restaurant on the Lakeshore,east of Nanking Gardens
Chinese Restaurant was probably the "Picken-Chicken". The restaurant was on the point just west of the Humber River mouth.
John replying to a comment from Jean / February 8, 2014 at 05:36 pm
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Hi Jean,

I live on 31st st. The house belonged to the Ecclestone's
in the 1930's or 40's. I found an old wedding picture from around those decades in the attic. I'd like to pass it on to any relatives - would you happen to know any descendants of
the Ecclestone's? Thanks,

JOHN
Sam / February 11, 2014 at 05:37 am
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I lived in Long Branch,on Long Branch Ave from the late fifties to mid eighties,attended James S Bell.The candy store east of James S was called Mills Variety,an elderly lady who lived in the backran the store we called her Mrs Mills
Bonnie Harris replying to a comment from Rob / February 15, 2014 at 09:28 pm
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The Long Branch Fire Hall as I remember from the fifties was located on 31st Street, just north of where the new James S Bell school is located today. I believe that the only paid person was the fire chief. The rest were volunteers. I can remember my father-in-law who lived on 32nd street telling us that they had a bell in his kitchen and whenever there was a fire the bell would ring and they volunteers would head out and meet at the fire hall. My husband lived on 32nd street and he remembers that the bell went off the night the Seven Star Restaurant which was located at the corner of 30th and Lakeshore exploded and burned to the ground.
Bonnie Harris replying to a comment from Sam / February 15, 2014 at 09:32 pm
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The candy store next to Mrs Mills was called Ritchies and we used to go in at lunch or after school and we were able to buy single chocolates. They had the best Turkish Delight and Sponge Toffee coated with chocolate. Between the candy store and 31st street was Caulfields Dairy.
Bonnie Harris replying to a comment from Lucy / February 15, 2014 at 09:38 pm
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The Long Branch Hotel property, we used to go sledding on the hill that led down to the baseball field at the east end of the park. I also remember after the hotel burned down, they had a stage and they used to have wrestling matches there.
Bonnie Harris replying to a comment from david webster / February 15, 2014 at 09:41 pm
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I remember the murders on 41st street, the boy was in my class, the family name was Sinclair and the boy's name was Ian.
Jean Earl replying to a comment from Steven Green / February 28, 2014 at 02:43 am
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Thanks for the link, now I know why my grandfather always called 33rd St. Landsdowne :)
wayne parker replying to a comment from Alannah / May 20, 2014 at 11:37 pm
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O'Connor Drive is now Connervale Drive in Alderwood. My grandparent's house was # 5. The house is still standing and was part of the original O'Conner homestead.
wayne parker replying to a comment from Bonnie Harris / May 20, 2014 at 11:49 pm
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The old fire hall was located where James S Bell Public School is. Prior to that the volunteer fire department was located at the bottom of 41st. The building is still standing on the east side of 41st. It is a garage now and belongs to the triplex which is located on Lake Promenade.
Steve NIcholson / July 21, 2014 at 11:09 pm
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My dad was town engineer from 1948 to 1955, and often affectionately referred to Police Chief Smythe as "Chiefie". I agree, I think he was well liked.
Ken Maxwell replying to a comment from Ken / July 30, 2014 at 01:19 am
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I believe Richies Candy Store was in Mimico across from the Mimico Rex Show.
I remember the candy store in Long Branch on the south side about two or three stores west of Long Branch Ave.
I went to James S. Bell with their son back in the late 30's. Poor bugger, all the guys would gang up on him telling him to bring them candy.
Phil Sheehan replying to a comment from Pat Thompson / August 4, 2014 at 11:58 am
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I believe the candy store was Mills run by "old lady Mills". We bought our black cat gum, thrills gum and penny candy
keith comeau / August 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm
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i grew up in the james st apartments. met phil sheehan there (see above). today i live in oakville, and one day last summer i went for a bike ride and ended up crossing the new pedestrian bridge that crosses the etobicoke river into the east side of marie curtis park. on the other side of that bridge remains the "wading pool".... i remember that wading pool being built in late fifties or very early 60's and it is still the same and fully functional today. i had to call my brother and share that moment with him.

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