The 1% Generation
(1930-1946) 16 years 76 -92.
I have been informed that being born between 1930 and 1942 is something special. Only one percent of the population living today, falls into this category and being born in 1936, I am a member in good standing. At 86 years old, and without many of my treasured physical abilities, I still have a good memory and recall for the years of my youth. A time quite different than the growing up lifestyle of our recent generations.
As with most born in this country during this time frame, we were white English or white of French origin. My family immigrated to Canada in the early 1900’s. All my grandparents were from England and only my mother’s father was not from London, he was from the rolling hills of the Cotswold’s. However, my grandmother’s maiden name was very French, Peppiett. Sprinkled in the Toronto scene at that time were some olive-skinned folks from the Mediterranean, some mostly from Italy and as was natural in all countries, a Chinese community. It is hard to imagine living in Toronto today, that brown and black people were not very often seen in the early days of the 20th century. Canada cannot be compared to the USA concerning the blacks, we just did not have the melting pot they had until just recently.
I have a dear friend also born in 1936 but returned to England and spent the war years in London. His upbringing was not at all the same as mine. We have both written a book on our lives growing up and while our lives were quite different, they also paralleled in many ways. We both have the memories of the war and for the most part our respect for hard work and the value of hard-earned money. We remember ration books for almost everything we consumed, gas, sugar, butter, shoes, appliances and more. We can remember all sorts of goods from bread and milk to Vegetables and meats, rags and bones man on our streets in horse drawn wagons and, in the winter, sleighs. No TV or cell phones or little league or city playgrounds. One telephone hung in the kitchen for all to use and often that phone line was shared by other neighbors. (Party lines). Newspapers and radio newscasts were all delivered in the evening. Sunday really was a day of rest; most every business and retail stores were closed on Sunday.
For me as a child from age 3-5 and again 7-10 my life was a bit hectic. My mother spent a good deal of time in a Sanitorium in Gravenhurst. She had TB, a killer disease that required fresh air and rest. Following her recovery, she married my father and had a miscarriage. She was 24 years old when I was born and she was devastated that I was not a girl. I have to assume that poor health caused her to farm me out with my grandparents when I was about three and as my grandpa was an independent soul with a big truck and a strong back, he and my grandmother went north to Orillia in the warmer weather where he could find work clearing waterfront land close to the summer cottage. I went with them and as they were too busy to babysit a three-year-old brat, I was left to fend for myself with a lovely dog called Teddy for my playmate and protector. My Grandmother was only 5ft. 8” but was a worker and carried the nickname of Bushwhacker Al. Teddy and I roamed the virgin forests and lakeshore of Lake Simcoe just as Indigenous natives do even to-day. At five years old that wonderful freedom had to cease as I was to start school in Leaside with a new brother and in a new home, back with my mom and dad full time. Unfortunately, our good times were short lived as Dad got a job in Montreal in his trade as a shoe designer and pattern maker. So off to a dingy- dirty dark basement apartment and I was entered into grade three in an English public school. Living in Montreal was a good experience for me as I was able to do things that were quite different than in the woods of Ontario. The big city was a different challenge. At age of 8-9 years old, I would take off on a Saturday morning from the corner of Sherbrook and Mayfair streets in Westmount on the streetcar to the Central YMCA in downtown Montreal. There I sat on the gym floor with about 20 other kids my age and ate lunch of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We watched Charley Chan and cowboy movies until it was time to walk the three or four blocks back to Sherbrook Street and catch the streetcar home before dark.
A couple of side stories about the streetcars and the two places I lived, Westmount and Leaside. Both these boroughs were developed and created by a man named Sir. Wm. Mackenzie. He owned the Montreal Street Railway and the TTC in Toronto and the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) that were developed (both communities) for his railway stations. The streetcars had wicker seats and rear and front doors and a coal burning Pot - Belly stove in the center of the car where the conductor sat. Little did I know then that fifty years later, I was to be the proud owner of the Sir. William Mackenzie estate and 40 room mansion in Kirkfield Ontario.
I am sure that in spite of my mother’s mental hang-ups and past, she loved me no more or less than the mothers in today’s society. However, we were not necessarily neglected but we were treated more like adults and given opportunities denied to western children of today. We had more independence that allowed us to make decisions that were self-learning.
When I was 9 years old still living in Montreal, for reasons never explained, I was sent back again to be in my grandma’s care in the west end of Toronto. Grandpa Franklin had passed away quite prematurely at the age of 63 from cirrhosis of the liver. He barely had an education beyond grade 5 but left my grandmother two houses in Toronto and a summer cottage in Orillia. I was a very lonely boy during that period of my life living with my grandmother and her cousin who was mentally disturbed and later committed suicide. I was re-united with my brother and my Mom and Dad in Brampton and very shortly after my brother Gordon was born. Brampton was my home until I married and left in 1958.
My life from 1936 – 1946 was not typical even in those times, but was quite different from the normal childhood of today. At 5 years old, I was able to wander the forests of the Don valley along the Don River in Toronto with only one demand, that being, to be home for supper. Even younger, I wandered with my dog through the lush forests surrounding the summer cottage, I travelled by streetcar in Toronto and Montreal at 8-9 years old. Something I would hesitate to do when I was much older.
I write these short stories for when our generation has passed into history, many of these tales will be lost. They are worth remembering.
Paul D. Scott July 12th 2022.