On January 1, 1998, the cities and boroughs that formed Metropolitan Toronto amalgamated to form what was commonly referred to as a “megacity.” As controversial as this was for many politicians and citizens, Toronto’s history is filled with growth through the amalgamation of small villages, many neighbourhoods to this day being referenced to by the original village name. Such was the case for the area that Alexander Shand Hadden moved his family to in the 1920’s. The Hadden’s moved into 96 Lawlor Avenue in 1929 and a year later settled into 109A Pickering Street ( pictured as it is today). Pickering Street, originally called Catharine Avenue until the ‘village’ of East Toronto was amalgamated into the city of Toronto around 1908, was filled with the small, brick detached and semi-detached homes commonly built in the first decades of twentieth century Toronto.
Down the street, south towards Kingston Road lived Clarence Foley at number 17. Clarence’s sister, Gertrude had also lived on the street with her husband Graham O’Neill until an opportunity for work in the advent of the Great Depression took them to Detroit, Michigan. North from the Haddens, lived Mrs. Margaret (nee Graham) O’Neill, Graham’s mother, at number 189. The economic times made things hard but Alexander found work as a watchman first at McFarlane Manufacturing and later at Gendron Manufacturing. His sons, Alexander and John finding employment as salesmen for Brown’s Bread (a third son, Andrew, had remained in Saskatchewan to homestead).
The convergence of events over the next quarter century connected to this neighbourhood resulted in, well, me! For as the 1920’s were drawing to a close, Alexander’s son, John met and married a young woman named Agnes Little in 1929. Agnes had left her family and Greenock, Scotland home with $10 in search of a new life in Toronto, Canada. Not only was she barely out of her teens and without much money but she bravely sailed to her new home aboard a ship operated by the White Star Line, owner of the infamous ‘Titanic.’ The year after their marriage, Agnes gave birth at 109A Pickering Street to a son, Lewis – my father. Meanwhile, later that same year, a couple of hundred miles away in Detroit, Graham and Gertrude O’Neill welcomed a daughter into the family and named her Anne Margaret – my mother.
Early in 1937, Mrs. O’Neill at 189 Pickering Street died in her house. Her oldest child and only son, Graham, returned to Toronto from Detroit with his wife and children to finalize his mother’s worldly affairs. They settled into the family home at 189 Pickering Street. A few years later, after the end of World War 2, as teenagers, Lewis and Anne would start dating. The dating lead to marriage in 1953 and a couple of years later the birth of their first child, all through the convergence of families and events focused on one small east end Toronto neighbourhood.