“Home is where one starts from,” wrote T.S. Eliot. While the phrase was part of his epic poem Four Quartets grappling with themes like the rise and fall of empires, it seems fitting to tell the tale of Tim Rance and a humble home on Sutherland Drive.
Tim was just a toddler when his parents bought the house for the princely sum of $12,500 in 1952. Three siblings were born during their years on Sutherland, and the only reason they sold in 1963 was that baby number five was on the way. Tim’s dad, Charles, was a paediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children, and his mom, Barbara Jean, a nurse before she got married.
Leaside appealed to them since it was family-friendly and not too far from the hospital in downtown Toronto. Tim explains that his dad was in medical school at the U of T when World War II broke out so subsequently was fast-tracked in order to serve. He was a medical officer with an infantry regiment and worked in field hospitals as Canadian soldiers liberated Holland and pushed into Germany. Since he spoke German fluently (he did an exchange as a teen to Germany in 1936) he was invaluable when dealing with captured German soldiers. In fact, at war’s end when he was longing to return home, he was told his services were needed for a full year after the end of hostilities because of his linguistic and medical skills. Life in Leaside must have been an antidote to the frenetic forties.
Life in the ’50s
The ’50s were an idyllic decade for Tim. He recalls that since he lived across the street from Rolph Road Public School he and his siblings were never late. “We could watch Captain Kangaroo (a popular children’s TV show) and still make it to class before the bell at 9,” he quips. And groceries came to the door six days a week. He remembers the milkman taking away empties and leaving full bottles early every day but Sunday (the milk box is still in situ), and a grocer who sold eggs, cheese and vegetables once a week. As well, mail was delivered twice a day Monday to Friday and once on Saturday. The cinema on Bayview (Shoppers Drug Mart today) was popular with kids since for 10 cents they could see the Saturday matinee. The bus ran up the street and into the newly built St. Clair station on the Yonge subway line, getting passengers downtown in under 30 minutes. Mahovlich, Armstrong and Kelly – Stanley Cup winning Leafs – all lived within 300 metres of his front door.
The family moved to Lytton Park in 1963, but Tim has never forgotten his family home on Sutherland where he spent his formative years.
Why my interest in this particular former Leasider? For the past 25 years I have raised my family in the same home, one built by prolific builder John Bellomo (see “The Italians who Built Leaside,” December 2023 Leaside Life). It was luck and fate that led me to Tim. In November I was able to host him at “our” place. It felt magical walking through the house with him as his memories flooded back. The first stop he asked to see was the little room under the basement stairs where he and his brother Don made a play fort. He was overjoyed to see it was pretty much as it was all those years ago.
People like to talk about a house having “good bones,” but the old house on Sutherland has more than that – a good soul.
This article was guest contributed by Mitch Bubulj.