Local historians preserve Etobicoke's past for future generations

Community Oct 05, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

When it comes to the important business of preserving Etobicoke’s history, one of the biggest challenges faced by the subject’s most prolific local chroniclers is, ironically enough, time.

Be it the questions that flood her inbox following the bi-weekly publication of her History Corner column here in the Etobicoke Guardian, or the request-for-information calls she fields as heritage officer for the Etobicoke Historical Society, Denise Harris’ research often elicits more enthusiastic feedback than she has hours in the day to respond to.

“I get a lot of calls and emails from people asking everything under the sun – from my help finding out about long lost relatives, to questions about the name of a hotel they vaguely remember on such-and-such street,” the life-long Etobian laughed.

“It’s great fun. The research is what really appeals to me, and most of the time I can dig up something for them. Other times, people just call me up to talk about their memories of the places I’ve written about.”

Recording such oral histories down in Long Branch is a project recently taken on by Harris’ fellow amateur historian, Jaan Pill.

“These are the kinds of stories which are ephemeral – they simply come and go. Often in families, there are all kinds of memories there, but unless they’re recorded and preserved, they disappear,” said Pill, who runs the website PreservedStories.com

“In recent years, I’ve made a point of speaking to people in their 80s and 90s in Long Branch and elsewhere and recording them, with the intention of one day putting together a book.”

A retired school teacher, Pill’s interest in local history was first piqued back in 2011, when he got involved in a successful letter-writing campaign protesting the potential sale to a developer of the former Parkview Public School – located on the site of the archeological remains of Col. Samuel Smith’s homestead on Forty First Street.

While Pill is a relatively new Etobicoke history enthusiast, for third-generation New Torontonian Wendy Gamble, it’s been a life-long passion.

“My grandparents lived in New Toronto, my parents grew up here and I grew up here. And I just want people to know that New Toronto has a history we can be proud of,” said Gamble, the founding president of the New Toronto Historical Society (NTHS). “Our mission, as a society, is to preserve and publicize the town, because it’s a wonderful place.”

To those ends, the 25-member NTHS just recently published the third printing of its self-directed – and highly popular – walking tour of New Toronto.

But for Gamble, Pill and Harris, bringing stories about Etobicoke’s past back into the day-to-day lives of local residents is about more than a walk down memory lane.

The history of Etobicoke, Harris said, reveals as much about its present as it does its past.

“When you really start learning about what it was like back then and how far we’ve come, it helps to place where we are today,” she said.

“It also makes you think about what our legacy is going to be, and what people in the next 50 years are going to think looking back at what we’re doing now. It’s fascinating.”

Local historians preserve Etobicoke's past for future generations

Community Oct 05, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

When it comes to the important business of preserving Etobicoke’s history, one of the biggest challenges faced by the subject’s most prolific local chroniclers is, ironically enough, time.

Be it the questions that flood her inbox following the bi-weekly publication of her History Corner column here in the Etobicoke Guardian, or the request-for-information calls she fields as heritage officer for the Etobicoke Historical Society, Denise Harris’ research often elicits more enthusiastic feedback than she has hours in the day to respond to.

“I get a lot of calls and emails from people asking everything under the sun – from my help finding out about long lost relatives, to questions about the name of a hotel they vaguely remember on such-and-such street,” the life-long Etobian laughed.

“It’s great fun. The research is what really appeals to me, and most of the time I can dig up something for them. Other times, people just call me up to talk about their memories of the places I’ve written about.”

Recording such oral histories down in Long Branch is a project recently taken on by Harris’ fellow amateur historian, Jaan Pill.

“These are the kinds of stories which are ephemeral – they simply come and go. Often in families, there are all kinds of memories there, but unless they’re recorded and preserved, they disappear,” said Pill, who runs the website PreservedStories.com

“In recent years, I’ve made a point of speaking to people in their 80s and 90s in Long Branch and elsewhere and recording them, with the intention of one day putting together a book.”

A retired school teacher, Pill’s interest in local history was first piqued back in 2011, when he got involved in a successful letter-writing campaign protesting the potential sale to a developer of the former Parkview Public School – located on the site of the archeological remains of Col. Samuel Smith’s homestead on Forty First Street.

While Pill is a relatively new Etobicoke history enthusiast, for third-generation New Torontonian Wendy Gamble, it’s been a life-long passion.

“My grandparents lived in New Toronto, my parents grew up here and I grew up here. And I just want people to know that New Toronto has a history we can be proud of,” said Gamble, the founding president of the New Toronto Historical Society (NTHS). “Our mission, as a society, is to preserve and publicize the town, because it’s a wonderful place.”

To those ends, the 25-member NTHS just recently published the third printing of its self-directed – and highly popular – walking tour of New Toronto.

But for Gamble, Pill and Harris, bringing stories about Etobicoke’s past back into the day-to-day lives of local residents is about more than a walk down memory lane.

The history of Etobicoke, Harris said, reveals as much about its present as it does its past.

“When you really start learning about what it was like back then and how far we’ve come, it helps to place where we are today,” she said.

“It also makes you think about what our legacy is going to be, and what people in the next 50 years are going to think looking back at what we’re doing now. It’s fascinating.”

Local historians preserve Etobicoke's past for future generations

Community Oct 05, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

When it comes to the important business of preserving Etobicoke’s history, one of the biggest challenges faced by the subject’s most prolific local chroniclers is, ironically enough, time.

Be it the questions that flood her inbox following the bi-weekly publication of her History Corner column here in the Etobicoke Guardian, or the request-for-information calls she fields as heritage officer for the Etobicoke Historical Society, Denise Harris’ research often elicits more enthusiastic feedback than she has hours in the day to respond to.

“I get a lot of calls and emails from people asking everything under the sun – from my help finding out about long lost relatives, to questions about the name of a hotel they vaguely remember on such-and-such street,” the life-long Etobian laughed.

“It’s great fun. The research is what really appeals to me, and most of the time I can dig up something for them. Other times, people just call me up to talk about their memories of the places I’ve written about.”

Recording such oral histories down in Long Branch is a project recently taken on by Harris’ fellow amateur historian, Jaan Pill.

“These are the kinds of stories which are ephemeral – they simply come and go. Often in families, there are all kinds of memories there, but unless they’re recorded and preserved, they disappear,” said Pill, who runs the website PreservedStories.com

“In recent years, I’ve made a point of speaking to people in their 80s and 90s in Long Branch and elsewhere and recording them, with the intention of one day putting together a book.”

A retired school teacher, Pill’s interest in local history was first piqued back in 2011, when he got involved in a successful letter-writing campaign protesting the potential sale to a developer of the former Parkview Public School – located on the site of the archeological remains of Col. Samuel Smith’s homestead on Forty First Street.

While Pill is a relatively new Etobicoke history enthusiast, for third-generation New Torontonian Wendy Gamble, it’s been a life-long passion.

“My grandparents lived in New Toronto, my parents grew up here and I grew up here. And I just want people to know that New Toronto has a history we can be proud of,” said Gamble, the founding president of the New Toronto Historical Society (NTHS). “Our mission, as a society, is to preserve and publicize the town, because it’s a wonderful place.”

To those ends, the 25-member NTHS just recently published the third printing of its self-directed – and highly popular – walking tour of New Toronto.

But for Gamble, Pill and Harris, bringing stories about Etobicoke’s past back into the day-to-day lives of local residents is about more than a walk down memory lane.

The history of Etobicoke, Harris said, reveals as much about its present as it does its past.

“When you really start learning about what it was like back then and how far we’ve come, it helps to place where we are today,” she said.

“It also makes you think about what our legacy is going to be, and what people in the next 50 years are going to think looking back at what we’re doing now. It’s fascinating.”