by Barbara Gwendolyn (Hyne) MaGee
The date of August 31st has just recently brought to mind one of my favourite love stories.
That day marked what would have been my folks 75th Wedding Anniversary - there was a total eclipse of the sun that day in 1932 and it was so hot that Mom had to get ready
in the basement of their High Park house. My folks were each from a small community - E Bruce Hyne, an only child, born in Port Hope, to John and Laura (Johns) Hyne, and
Marion A VanSickle, a twin to Mildred G, born to Joseph and Mary (Branch) VanSickle in Havelock, Ontario - a Port Hope Sanitary moulder, a seamstress, a trainman and a
teacher. Bruce and Marion grew into young adults and met at a Young Peoples' Convention in Smiths Falls. They kept in touch via letters and each moved to Toronto for
Dad finished at PHHS in the mid 20's and went to Ontario Pharmacy College. Mom and her twin went to Shaw's Business and Secretarial School.
Upon completion of Pharmacy, Dad had to serve an apprenticeship, which he did with Liggett's Pharmacy chain, and mother went to work for Sunoco Oil and then Mathers and
Haldenby, Architects - all the while, planning to set up a business in Port Hope as soon as money and timing worked out. It was about that time that my Grandpa Hyne died,
and that may have forced the decision to return to Port Hope. They bought the building at 68 Walton Street in Port Hope and began working to make it into 'Hyne's Pharmacy'
(now Watson's Drugs). During these early years they lived in the Sommerville House on Walton Street, just west of the Burnham House at Pine Street. By 1936, they had moved
to 'The Avenue', so called by all since it was the only one in town. Now you know it as Bloomsgrove Avenue, which doesn't have quite the same ring to it. They rented a house
from Margery and Brodie Thompson of Thompson's Shoes, a fellow merchant and a neighbour, just two doors away, on The Avenue.
The Pharmacy was doing as well as
could be expected in the 30's and I arrived in October of that year. I was so privileged to be raised with the kids on that street and several are still my best friends
today, even though I have been gone from Port Hope since 1955. Across from our house lived the Palmers, George and Vivien, long-time Port Hope residents, with their three
children, Betty, Patsy and Douglas. Palmer's Dry Goods was just down Walton from the Pharmacy, before you got to Thompson's Shoes. Next door to the Palmers were the Lents,
Abbott and Helen, transplanted from Belleville by a bank transfer. They had Owen and Elaine. On Palmer's other side lived Jim and Margery Moore, with John and June. Mr Moore
was in jewellery and she was a nurse. A few doors up resided the Trawin clan, Harriet, Norma and Bob, and across from them, the Welsh family with their cousin, Lynne. Past
the Lent house were George and May Knight with Irene (became a teacher at PHHS on Pine), brother Teddy came along later. And next to them, Fred and Emma O'Neill with the
twins, Betty and Peggy and brother Kenneth. Mr O'Neill was also in the banking business - maybe not so good in those years. Anyway, with about 16 kids of all ages in those
few houses, you know we had a good time. I was the baby and always had someone to play with or look after me. Now, remember, there was no TV, few radios, not so many cars
as to make the street too busy, and lots of imagination to go around. Of course we had the usual kids' illnesses; measles, mumps, chickenpox, which we shared, and the winters
of sleds and snowball fights across the street. We had trikes and bikes and skinned knees in the summer, and I was allowed to play on the veranda, and watch as the others
played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can during warm spring and summer evenings.
By the time I was three, my folks had collaborated in building the house of their
dreams on Ontario Street. They had purchased a lot some time earlier from Mrs Wragg, a widow who no longer needed the large garden she had, and was willing to have us as
neighbours. The house plans were mostly Mom's ideas (remember, she had worked for an architect) so the layout was her idea, but the use of the latest in materials (quite gutsy,
considering the times) was from Dad, with lots of advice and input from the chosen builder, Thomas Garnett and Sons, who did the construction. George and Flossie Garnett lived
a few doors north and on the opposite side of Ontario, where it met Ellen Street. George was the on-site construction man and oversaw all the details.
I found the
working plans for that house when clearing up Mom's home in Florida a few years back and still have a look at them once in a while. Consider how radical it was to have a
second washroom on the main floor and beside it, a 'cloak' room for coats and boots, umbrellas, etc. We had a breakfast nook with built-in benches and a made-to-order table.
There was a side entrance with a milkbox and an indoor place to hang your laundry and then push it outside to dry in cold weather. All the woodwork was gumwood, quite a beautiful
open-grained wood, which would never need varnish or any other finish. There was a cedar closet in one of the four bedrooms, to store winter woolen garments during the moth
season, a balcony across the back of the house, over a sunporch, and we had a built-in linen closet with drawers and shelves that was a marvel of storage, even by today's
standards. There was a ladder in another bedroom closet which one could climb to lift a part of the ceiling up and view the attic. No floor, but rafters with insulation and
pieces of plywood which allowed for storage of Christmas decorations, etc. Hours of thought and planning went into that house and there were no magazines or TV shows to give
constant advice. I marvel at the extras that were actually incorporated that long ago.
We moved in on November 30, 1939 and it was warm enough for the movers to
just be in shirtsleeves. It snowed the very next day and we had a wonderful white Christmas to look forward to in our new house at 104. My folks loved the house and so did I.
and we three shared it until 1942 when baby Virginia Ruth came along to join the family as my birthday present that October.
Thanks for the ramble through the past.
I feel as though I just walked in the front door and toured the house of my childhood.
Do you think my choice of Ryerson Furniture and Interior Design Class after
leaving PHHS might have been influenced by the memory for detail with which I have been blessed?
To be continued...