Our family connection with Leaside goes back to Sir William Mackenzie and his partner Sir Donald Mann who commissioned the development of the Leaside community in 1913.
My uncle Norman Matthew was Sir William’s chauffeur when Leaside was in the first stages of development. He used to drive Sir William in his Rolls-Royce from his Toronto mansion, Benvenuto, on Avenue Rd., through the emerging streets of Leaside, to his summer estate on Balsam Lake in the Kawarthas.
During World War 1 Norman bought a cottage lot near the estate, and his brother bought one next door.
When my grandfather enlisted in Saskatoon he was ordered to Toronto and soon left from Summerhill Station for France. My grandmother came east with him and stayed with her relatives, the Matthews.
Soon introduced to the pleasures of Balsam Lake, she purchased the next lot.
She had already started building a modest real estate empire and was impressed by Sir William’s building ventures as reported by Norman.
After World War II, when her company won a subcontract to build Sunnybrook Hospital for war veterans, she moved to a newly built house at 694 Eglinton East, between Rumsey and Hanna.
That was 1947. Eglinton had enormous, stately elm trees, later cut down to widen the street.
The company, John Fraser Plumbing and Heating Ltd., now run by my grandfather and father, moved to 202 Laird. Later they built a bigger space on Wicksteed and rented out the Laird building.
One night in the early 1970s I received a call from my young sister asking if our father owned a building on Laird. I said yes and asked why she needed to know that at 11:30 p.m.
She said father had been watching the Toronto news when they went live to a building on Laird that had blown up and caught fire. He had jumped up and run out of the house.
I asked her to have him call me when he returned. He called around 1 a.m. and with no preamble said, “Well, I am getting a new roof.”
The explosion had also blown out the windows facing Parkhurst.
The tenant, who had promised not to store chemicals in the building, had not kept his word.
The family appreciates the irony that the building now features the word KABOOM written in a cartoon explosive style along its side wall and over the bricked in areas that were once windows. n
Karen Fraser is president of Women Like Me, which produces seminars called Today’s Success is Like a Quilt.