The three little girlfriends who grew up with Leaside

Joan Mills, Pat Cole & Arlene Acheson
THE THREE GIRLS, from left, Joan Mills, Pat Cole and Arlene Acheson, at 99 Rumsey Rd., where Pat Cole and her family have lived since the early 1930s.

They met playing in Trace Manes Park, three little girls from Leaside all born in the 1930s.

It was Trace Manes because that was a special meeting place in the 1940s.

A teacher from Bessborough was assigned to supervise kids there after school as well as organize activities like baseball and crafts.

Ever since then, through a lifetime of marriage, kids and careers, Arlene (Gracie) Acheson, Pat (Sayliss) Cole and Joan (Saul) Mills have kept in touch every week for almost 70 years.

And when they get together these days of the Leaside centenary the talk is often of the old days.

“We were very fortunate to grow up in this community and meet each other,” says Arlene.

Pat, whose parents came to the neighbourhood from Montreal and bought a home on Rumsey Rd., says, “There were families all over Leaside with children, all the same age. Because our houses were small, we were all sent outside to play all the time.

“And our mothers all sat on their front porches, smoking and keeping an eye on us!”

Even the local policemen felt responsible for the kids, especially the teenagers.

When she became one, says Pat, “He’d follow me if it got too late in the evening, and call out to me, ‘Hey Patsy, don’t you think it’s time for you to go home?’ “

“It was the kind of neighbourhood that kept us busy, without much television, and certainly no twitters,” says Arlene.

Arlene’s family lived at 222 Airdre, then 158 McRae, right across from the tennis courts, where she became an avid tennis player.

On Saturday nights in the 1950s the three teenage girls attended the Sateen Club (Saturday-teen) at the high school where the musical quartet, The Four Lads, often performed. Remembered for their chart topping hits like Standin’ on the Corner and Moments to Remember, all the “lads” were Toronto boys and members of St. Michael’s Choir school.

“Afterwards, we’d go to the popular Garden View Restaurant on Bayview for coffee,” says Joan, who remembers they wore poodle skirts and bobby socks. She even had a Bonnie Jacket.

Joan  worked part time at Freys Pharmacy where there was a soda fountain at the front of the store.

“My friends loved to come and visit. We made sundaes and sodas and ice cream cones. We did this until I think we ate most of the stuff, and they went out of business!” she jokes.

Other favourite Bayview Ave. spots included the bowling alley, hat shop, wool shop, and on Friday nights, the movie theatre.

Pat grew up in the Rumsey house with her two brothers, George and Bob, before marrying and moving to Parkhurst. She later returned to the house on Rumsey to care for her mother (now deceased). She still lives there.

Joan was born in the upstairs bedroom of the house she grew up in at 86 Hanna Rd.

“It was July 30, 1933, the hottest day of the year,” she says. “My brother always reminded me how he had to sit outside while mother gave birth!”

Joan’s roots in the community go back the furthest. Her grandmother married Walter Holmwood, who worked for Canada Wire and Cable, the first factory in the Leaside industrial area that became a munitions plant during World War I .

During the 1920s, says Joan, “Grandpa Holmwood was determined to find work. He showed up at the employment office, every day, and I mean every day, until they hired him. He was there until he retired.”

The Holmwoods, with five children, lived at 232 Airdrie Rd., one of the first 60 houses built by Canada Wire on Airdrie, Rumsey and Sutherland for its workers after the war.

Canada Wire also set up the first Leaside Public School in 1920, a one-room schoolhouse at the corner of McRae and Laird, used until Bessborough Public School was built in 1923.

“My mom went to a one-room schoolhouse,” says Joan, “I guess it must have been that school.”

Joan’s father worked at another original factory in Leaside, Durant Motors. He eventually opened Leaside Auto Body on Laird Dr.

Joan’s family  was once “the envy of the neighbourhood” when it became one of the first in Leaside to purchase a television.

“It was World Series Baseball time. We had most of my brothers’ friends and whoever could squeeze into our living room to watch the games.”

Over the years there’ve been changes in the women’s lives. In their 70s, all three were alone, two widowed and one divorced.

Pat is the only one who still lives in the neighbourhood but the three continue to get together to eat out, even travel together.

Pat loves to remind her friend that she’s the youngest (turning 79 this year, while the other two turn 80).

“We were always friends and still are today. We often remember the wonderful way we grew up, in this community,” she says. “I’m a Torontonian first, but I’ve always loved Leaside.”