I attended University of Toronto from ’39 to ’44. Because of the war, all the big football games between universities, McGill, Western, U. of T., were cancelled. Also, by 1942, students were required to participate in the war effort; I chose to do Nurses’ Aid. So many nurses had signed up with the WACS, hospitals were desperate. My assignment was the Princess Margaret Hospital in west Toronto. It took me an hour by streetcar from my university residence to reach it. I was instructed in how to make beds properly - to this day I mitre my corners. A head nurse had one practice on an orange with a hypodermic needle. And immediately I was giving injections to the patients!
My brother, four years my senior, had joined the RCAF and was stationed at Trenton. He was sent to Bournemouth, England, rose to Flight-Lieutenant and was the pilot of a Lancaster bomber. On Christmas Eve 1944, he was shot down over Bonn, Germany. He and the navigator perished with the plane, the rest of the crew had time to bail out.
Oakville was still a small town in those days, three to five thousand inhabitants. And when you walked down Main Street, you knew and greeted everyone.
After completing a year at O.C.E. and receiving my Bachelor of Education, I married Douglas Tough, a metallurgical engineer who also graduated in ’44. We came to live in Oakville.
A beautiful home stood at the top of the Red Hill on the west side of Trafalgar. The owner was Hughie Wilson who trained horses for the races at Woodbine. He owned all the property to the Lower Middle Rd. (now the Q.E.W.) and his horse stables were located where Oakville Place now stands. There was a little white stucco house near the stables where the groomsman lived.
My uncle John bought this property in the early 40’s: he found it too damp living on Lakeshore near Lake Ontario. There was a large maple woods north of the house where we all went in March for the sugaring off: the trees were tapped and the syrup was a treat. I believe that woods is now part of Sheridan College. As children we loved to toboggan down the Red Hill and he welcomed all the children.
When Doug and I came to Oakville to live we asked my uncle, J.M. Wallace if we might buy a piece of his property on which to build. Instead he suggested we rent the groomsman’s cottage. The Oakville Basket Co. had converted the horse stables into apartments, and I recall Vic Hadfield’s parents were one of our neighbours. I remember pushing the baby carriage with my first-born Jeanine down Trafalgar Rd. - then just two lanes - to Art Tuck’s General Store at Reynolds and Trafalgar. Soap and sugar were in short supply still (they’d been rationed during the war) and Mr. Tuck would slip me a little package of soap to launder my baby’s diapers.
A thriving industry in Oakville in the 1920’s and 30’s was Glassco’s Jam Factory. It was located on the west side of Trafalgar Rd. adjacent to the railway overpass; it processed the strawberries grown on the farms in east Oakville.
Mr. Glassco built a home just 5 minutes from his factory so he could go home for lunch: it was the first house to be built on Spruce St., a red brick dwelling built in 1922. My father purchased this house in 1940; it came with a play house in the back garden, built for Mr. Glassco’s daughter Eleanor. There was a laundry chute from the second floor to the first, and a milk cupboard with doors opening inside and out where the milkman left the milk. There were no supermarkets or malls in the 1940’s; my mother phoned in her grocery order each week to Mr. Harris’ store on Main St., and it was delivered that day. There was garbage collection. Mr. Duncan came once a week with his horse and wagon to collect the garbage.
In 1948 my parents decided to build a home on Trafalgar Rd. on the river bank and Doug and I purchased the Glassco home, 340 Spruce St. from them. We lived there 59 years and raised our three children there. They all attended Brantwood School, as I had, and then New Central before Oakville-Trafalgar High School. It saddens me to think that Brantwood School is to be closed in 2010. Four of my grandchildren were pupils there too, and they feel as I do.
The Lions and Rotary Clubs were very active in Oakville. My father was a Governor in the Rotary Club and latterly a Director of Rotary International. He travelled all over the world attending Rotary functions. Where the Oakville Curling Club now stands there was a skating rink and Victoria Hall. My husband supervised “Teen Town”, a meeting place for teenagers each Friday night in Victoria Hall. Hazel Caldwell, a local playwright, staged her plays at Victoria Hall.
With the coming of Ford in the early 1950’s, Oakville changed from a sleepy small town to a bustling community. New stores opened on the Main St.(Lakeshore Rd.). The Oakville Curling Club was built; this had been the brainchild of Ed Barringham, Ned Farkley and my father. They worked feverishly to raise funds for its construction.