New Toronto Streets and the history
behind their names
The following articles are posted with permission from Theresa McCuaig, Editor of “Voices”
Kelly/Cari-Can Co-Operative Homes newsletter
Garnet Janes Road
Etta Wylie Road
Robert Cooke Co-op
The Jack Lerette Building
William Punnett Co-op
More to follow (under development)
Road was named in 1993 in recognition of a local
philanthropist renown for his generosity and interest in the down-and-out.
“Garnie” Janes ‘walked the walk’ as few welfare officers can.
Garnet Janes was born July 16,
1902, in Toronto
to George Edward Janes, the Mimico CNR yardmaster, and Maybelle Northcote
Janes. (For a more detailed genealogy, see the Garnet Janes
link on our Genealogy page). Although he came from a political family –
his father served as Mayor, Reeve, and Council member – Garnet was not
politically inclined, himself. Nor was
“Garnie”, as he preferred to be called, religious, but he showed uncommon
devotion to helping the poor on a one-to-one basis as the New Toronto Welfare
Officer during the Great Depression.
Garnet Janes attended Fifth Street
School, now the Lakeshore
Area Multiservice Project (LAMP). His
classmate, Avis Fisher, later became a teacher at Seventh Street
School and taught all
nine of “Garnie’s” children.
A lifelong resident of New
Toronto, Garnet Janes lived at 61
Sixth Street, which is still standing. See current pictures below of his house in
2007. Photo courtesy of Dean Stewart, present owner (www.deanstewart.com).
Garnet was first employed as
Clerk-Treasurer at the Brown's Building on the south-west corner of Eighth Street and
then at the school-turned-Town-Hall, now LAMP.
It also housed the jail, where “Garnie” would take his curious children
on tour. Garnet Janes married Arlene
Heath and together they produced nine children: Ken, Lloyd, Clifford, Betty,
Bernice, Merrible, Carole, Glenn, and Diane.
Mr. Janes supplemented his job at the Town Hall by moonlighting
part-time on the railroad as a brakeman to support his large family. Despite
his own modest circumstances, “Garnie” could be counted on to give coal out of
his own cellar to help neighbours in winter.
While Mr. Janes did not perform military service, he was exceedingly
proud that three of his sons fought in WWII.
Carole Cochran, his daughter, described her father’s personality as
“fun-loving and jovial, and he loved leading sing-songs”. As was typical of his time, Mr. Janes was “a
fairly strict disciplinarian”, but Mrs. Cochran recalled fondly, “We didn’t
have much, but he had a knack for making each of his nine children feel
special. He was a real family man who spoiled his kids by buying them candy at
Ritchie’s candy store at Seventh
Street. I met him after work for fish and chips
every Friday.” Mr. Janes developed his
hobbies into another means to feed his family.
He hunted rabbits, deer, moose, and bear. He fished. Mr. Janes was an avid gardener during WWII at
the local Victory Gardens, which stretched from Second
to Birmingham Avenue,
Soup now stands. The plot he rented grew
the family’s winter vegetables.
Mr. Janes succumbed on January
8, 1977 to a stroke suffered initially on November 1, after he fell from a
truck while hunting. His wife died the
year before. They are interred at Glendale
Carole says the City of Toronto
promised to fix the misspelled street sign bearing her father’s name within the
next 18 months. (Garnet has one ‘t’, not two.)
The official City map also contains the same error, which occurred when
white Etobicoke street
signs were changed to blue Toronto
signs after amalgamation.
If you would like to encourage the City to correct the
signage in memory of this unparalleled New Torontonian more quickly, call Brian
Hall at 416-338-5034 or write to:
W. Kowalenko, City Surveyor
Works and Emergency Services
Technical Services, Survey and Mapping
18 Dyas Road, 4th Floor
Toronto, ON M3B 1V5
© Theresa Rose McCuaig
Pioneer – Etta Wylie
Next time you
walk to the mailbox on the corner of Etta Wylie and Garnet Janes Roads, you
will be treading the same path of hope traveled by hobos during The Great
Depression. Homeless men riding the
Anaconda rails passed the word: You can count on a free meal at Etta Wylie’s
farmhouse verandah. Etta’s generosity
was a local legend, and led to an Etobicoke road being named in her honour in
Gamble, President of the New Toronto Historical Society and
granddaughter of Etta Wylie, offered reporter Theresa
McCuaig some insights into the life and times of this New
Elizabeth Kelusky was born on August 6, 1888 to a family
of German Poles originally named Klaustovich, who settled near Bancroft
after the Napoleonic wars. Their surname was changed courtesy of the local
Irish, who could not pronounce ‘Klaustovich’ easily.
Etta moved north to
the New Liskeard area in order to learn dressmaking. There she met Jack Wylie,
a carpenter from a Timmins
mine. She married him and in 1910 moved to South Porcupine. Their home was
leveled by the great fire of July 11, 1911 in which 85 people died. Etta and
her two babies narrowly escaped the flames by fleeing through the woods behind
their house, where her husband was waiting for them with a boat by the river.
The only possession Jack was able to
save was Etta’s sewing machine. Destitute,
the Wylies went to live with Etta’s
By 1917, Etta had three children. After recovering from a
serious bout of pneumonia, Etta
developed life-long asthma. Etta
decided she wanted her children educated in Toronto. Husband Jack
got a job building the Anaconda American Brass Limited and Goodyear
factories, which were located near the site now occupied by five housing
co-operatives. The site, once a brownfield contaminated by chlorinated
chemicals, has been rehabilitated for housing as part of the City of Toronto’s
"smart growth" policy to combat urban sprawl by diverting new GTA
residents into the central city.
In 1920 the
Wylies rented John McCullam’s farm north of “the Highway” (Lake Shore Boulevard West), where cattle
and wheat were raised.
Canadian women over the age of 21 gained the right to vote federally on May 24,
1919, it was not until October 18, 1929 that women were declared persons under
the law, and so were eligible to sit in the Senate. Suffragette Etta proudly
supported Emily Murphy’s ‘Persons Case’. For the rest of her life, Etta was an
ardent voter, insisting on voting by proxy, even when she was gravely ill in
her later years.A voracious reader, Etta was a supporter of the New Toronto
Library. She appreciated Michener’s historical fiction, but also the
bestsellers of her day. She has been described as “one of the boys, who enjoyed
brandy and milk and rolled her own cigarettes on the sly” – audacious pastimes
for a woman of her era. She was also an expert baker, a skill valued by her six
successful children: Lloyd, Elfreda, Cecil Walter, Lucille, and twins Glenn and
Gwen. At the end of her life, Etta was a supporter of the United Century
Church, but she joined
several other congregations in New Toronto before settling on this choice.
In the 1920’s,
Etta’s three sisters came to live with her to find husbands, and two were
successful. The third emigrated to Seattle
to join an American branch of the Kelusky family. A two-month, cross-Canada
journey to visit these American cousins in 1949 became the highlight of Etta’s
life. She kept a detailed diary of the trip, and benchmarked all happenings as
before or after that visit.
Etta Wylie died on July 5, 1976 at the age of
88 of bladder cancer. Whether she was hosting all of her out-of-town relatives
annually during the Canadian National Exhibition, or feeding homeless men who
stumbled to her farmhouse, Etta
Wylie always demonstrated
outstanding generosity. This local pioneer woman helped shape New Toronto as it
was transformed from furrow to borough.
© Theresa Rose McCuaig 2005
Robert Cooke Co-operative is situated at 10 Garnet Janes
Road, on the corner of Etta Wylie
Road. It is
the safe haven for 21 developmentally disabled adults, whose supportive housing
needs have been successfully integrated into a regular co-op population since
it was opened by then Housing Minister Ruth Greer
Robert Cooke was born developmentally handicapped in Newfoundland in 1940, the
son of a retired army captain, Ernest Cooke, and his wife, Gladys. Ruth Larking,
President of Alternatives for Community Living in Etobicoke (A.C.L.E.), said, “Robert probably had Fragile X Syndrome. There was no
Southern Blot testing available for it in those days, but he fit the profile. Robert looked normal, but he was very naïve, and
talked to everyone. He was outgoing,
happy, had a good sense of humour, and enjoyed bowling in leagues organized by
Hana Sroka, a Genetic Counsellor at Mount Sinai Hospital
described Fragile X Syndrome as “the most common genetically inherited mental
impairment, predominately affecting males. Classical behaviours of Fragile X
boys include poor eye contact, hand flapping or biting, speech difficulties,
tremors, balance and touch problems, and autistic withdrawals -- whereas girls
tend to be just slightly learning disabled. Boys tend to be ‘double jointed’,
have a long face, and large ears. One in every 3,600 males is affected, as
opposed to one in 4,000 to 6,000 females. Fragile X syndrome appears in
children of all ethnic, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Although it is
carried on the X chromosome of the mother, it often ‘skips a generation’ to the
grandchildren through the grandfather. 1 in 250 females and 1 in 700 males are
carriers of the permutation.”
determined to work and live on his own.
It did not discourage him that he was not gainfully employed as a Montreal factory worker
until after his thirtieth birthday. Ruth Larking
said, “Robert was very
fastidious. He would take his overalls
off for breaks and lunch, and put his suit back on. His employers thought he was taking too long
to change, so he was dismissed.”
Undeterred, Robert moved to Toronto to work on
construction sites, where his father said he became “a reliable and willing
worker and earned the respect of his employer and co-workers”.
When Robert was 35, he achieved his lifelong dream of
living independently. Ernest Cooke
described him as “never happier than when he finally had a meaningful job and a
home of his own in the community” near Bloor and Fieldgate Plaza
in Mississauga. Sadly, his achievement lasted only about two
years. Two teenaged boys from
backgrounds of family violence decided to target this brave and resolute
disabled man, whom they dubbed “Bozo”. In 1979, the youths harassed Robert while he was shopping at the plaza, to the
point that he died of a heart attack.
The youths could not be named in the press under the Young Offenders
Act, and were released.
Ruth Larking said, “Robert’s funeral was packed. It’s important for us to remember that 10% of
the population of Etobicoke is disabled, and that’s why 15 units were set aside
for them at Robert Cooke Co-op – to reflect that 10 %. Also, 25% of the units were set aside for the
growing number of seniors in Etobicoke.”
in concert with Christian Horizons to provide supportive housing for the
developmentally disabled. Both have offices on the ground floor of the
Lakeshore Artists’ Co-op at 50
Etta Wylie Road. If you know a developmentally
disabled person who requires help to live independently, call Locksley
Robertson at 416-255-7756.
Jack Lerette Building
train pulled into the station and stopped with a jerk. The jerk got off -- and here I am." Jack Lerette used that self-deprecating
opener to disarm his audiences before every one of the many speeches he made.
Two major buildings in our area are named after dedicated
seniors' activist Jack Lerette:
- Lerette Manor at 250
Twelfth Street, a seniors' residence operated by
the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
- The Jack
at 3033 Lakeshore Boulevard West
and Tenth Street is the headquarters for the United Senior Citizens of Ontario
Jack entered the world in Maine
on December 6, 1892 as John Lucas Lerette. He emigrated to New Toronto to live
at 127 Sixth Street. Jack worked for 27 years at the Goodyear
Rubber and Tire Company factory that stood on the BKCC site. Since Jack was fluently bilingual in English
and French, the United Rubber Workers union then made him their international
Field Representative, and later their Canadian Director of Research and
In 1962, Jack was elected 2nd Vice-President of USCO. He rose to President in 1963, and led the
USCO until 1976. The Toronto Star called
USCO "a minor revolution, not of hot-blooded youth, but of 60, 70, and
80-year-olds". Jack helped improve
the quality of life for retired people by promoting better transportation,
housing, health, safety, recreation, increased pensions, and lower taxes. A lifelong learner, Jack took a printing
course at the age of 71. This course
enabled him to produce The Voice, the USCO newsletter, mostly from his Sixth Street
home. The Voice became a major source of
information about government programs and 'hot button' issues for seniors. USCO's lobbyists were crucial in founding
Meals on Wheels, OHIP, the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan, property tax grants, the
Bill of Rights for Nursing Homes, seniors' car insurance rate reductions, and
the Advocacy Act.
When Jack became President of USCO in 1963, there were 105
member clubs. When he retired 13 years
later, there were 900 member clubs. Jack
helped to design the USCO's signature blue, white, and gold lapel pin. In addition, Jack was president of the
National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation from 1975 to 1989. He served briefly as the Vice-President of
the International Senior Citizens Association.
Jack became known as "Mr. Senior Citizen", and his USCO
obituary tells us that, "His ability to get along with people and to
inspire them to become involved was one of his greatest assets." In 1976, Jack received a plaque from the
Ontario Government to commemorate his great contribution and leadership.
Although Jack suffered from arthritis, he lived to the
remarkable old age of 105. He outlived
his wife, Rose May, and two of their children -- John and Irene. Jack was survived by his children Dorothy,
Yvonne, Teresa, Joan, Dolores, Bernard, Lawrence, and June. The Lerettes had 31 grandchildren and
great-grandchildren. They were
supporters of St. Teresa's Roman Catholic Church. Jack died peacefully on May 5, 1997 at St. Joseph's Health
Centre. He was interred at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery.
If you are interested in following in Jack Lerette's footsteps
by joining the United Senior Citizens of Ontario, call 416-252-2021 or e-mail [email protected].
Their annual membership fee is $20 per person, or $25 per couple, and includes
a subscription to The Voice newsletter.
© Theresa Rose McCuaig 2004
DECENT PLACE TO LIVE
“Bill” Punnett was born February 3, 1919 in Brantford, Ontario
to English immigrants. His father, Thomas William Punnett, was a
fisherman and sailor who came from Rye
in 1912. His mother, Sarah, came from Leeds
in 1913. Bill’s parents met in Port Dover and were married in 1918.
Bill grew up in Erieau with sisters Audrey, Lucille, and Sybil. Bill
learned compassion through his mother’s example: When Bill’s maternal
aunt died in childbirth, Sarah adopted her nephew, Edward, and raised him
alongside her own children, despite their straitened circumstances.
Bill learned to root for the underdog by listening to his father’s tales of his
Dickensian youth in England.
Thomas Punnett was illiterate as a result of being taken out of church school
at the age of six by his mother. Thomas and his classmates had locked
their abusive teacher out of the classroom while he was drinking at a
pub. It took the enraged teacher an hour to regain entry. The
drunken schoolmaster seized the first student he could lay hands on – the hapless
Thomas. When Thomas’ feisty grandmother found out that her little
grandson had received a severe beating, she thrashed his teacher in his
By the tender age of 11, Thomas’ widowed mother found it necessary to sign him
up as a cabin boy on a schooner. Thomas and a friend jumped ship in Australia,
rather than endure the appalling conditions aboard the vessel. The boys
survived by working as woodcutters in the bush, but left because of their fear
of snakes. Thomas worked his passage back to England as a fisherman.
Thomas instilled in his son his belief that Canada was a haven for the hard
Bill’s first witnessed unfair labour law in action on New Year’s Day, 1926.
Thomas Punnett’s fishing was seasonal work. He had to accept any work he could
find in the off-season in the small town of Erieau. Thomas was working as an oiler on a
coal hoist for the Lake Erie Navigation Company. The bridge was covered
in ice. A machine operator inadvertently started the hoist. When
Thomas’ foot slipped onto the icy track, a trolley amputated the heel of his
foot. Thomas found he could cope well with his injury, but could not
return to work. However, the Workmen’s Compensation Board (WCB) decided
his injury was too slight to warrant a pension. Thomas was compelled to
have surgery to remove his leg to below his knee in order to meet the WCB
requirements for genuine disability. He complied with the surgery, under
duress, out of a sense of loyalty to support his young family. Thomas was
fitted with a wooden leg, but the wound never completely healed. Thomas
received the paltry sum of $35 per month from the WCB until he died in 1962, at
the age of 97.
In 1929, the local school board acknowledged the crushing poverty of the
Punnetts by offering nine-year-old Bill a job for $10 per month as a
cleaner. As the oldest sibling, Bill was expected to help support his
family as The Great Depression loomed. The Punnetts suffered all the
hardships inherent in keeping seven people on $45 per month. Eventually,
injured Thomas adapted to his wooden leg sufficiently for him to take over son
Bill’s sweeping, and was paid a man’s wage of $15 per month. Thomas never
made more than $35 per month at his sweeping. His father’s forced
amputation and unfair compensation was Bill’s prime motivator as a labour
Thomas Punnett’s case was not unusual for its time. Bill recalled,
“Another worker fell from a 30-foot boom into a coal chute, and died. He
left a wife and six kids behind, and they also had to fight for compensation.
They were worse off than us.”
Bill’s second brush with unfair labour practices was in 1932, when he had to
take time off school to earn 20 cents an hour as an ice cutter to supplement
the family income. Bill’s employer exploited desperate hobos by paying
them much less for the same work -- only $1 per day. Bill vowed he would
fight back against draconian employers when he started his career, which came
sooner than expected. He could not afford the train fare to school
several miles away in Blenheim. “It was either work or school,” so Bill
became a full-time worker after only two years of study at a Continuation School.
In 1935, Bill began work on a coal freighter, and also became a union
organizer. His first victory came in 1938, when the Seamen’s Union was introduced by majority vote.
Bill married his wife, Emma, in 1939, and they moved to Toronto. He worked at Cridaland’s Meat,
where he attempted unsuccessfully to start a union. Bill moved on to work at
Brown’s Bread and Wonder Bakery, and again was disappointed in his attempt to
unionize the workforce. He said of his co-workers’ lack of support, “They
left me holding the bag.”
In 1944, Bill became a skilled machinist at John Inglis Co. Limited on Strachan Avenue.
He joined more than 17,800 people employed making Browning machine guns and
bazookas. Bill said, “I worked my way up to be General Foreman. I
didn’t organize a union because mine was the only shift that didn’t sign on –
they were the only shift which came to work. The atmosphere was different
during the War. It was considered unpatriotic during World War II in Canada
to be a labour activist. Until D-Day. Then on August 5, the war
equipment department was closed and all of the workers were laid off.”
Inglis began manufacturing appliances to feed consumer demand in the post-war
1945 found Bill in New Toronto at Goodyear’s Lakeshore machine shop. He
became Chief Steward and Treasurer of Local 232 of the Rubber, Cork,
Linoleum & Plastic Workers Union, a group famous for inventing the first
“sit-down” strike in Akron,
Ohio, in 1934, and for showing
solidarity with the Mining Workers on pickets.
In 1952, Bill was appointed field man for the United Rubber Workers (URW), and
began traveling throughout Ontario and Quebec as a plant
organizer and contract negotiator. He soon abandoned his attempts at
bilingualism, after finding out the Quebecois quietly parodied Anglophones
speaking French at union meetings. Bill found that he could negotiate
quite well in 1950’s Quebec
by speaking only English.
When asked about his fair and forthright negotiating style, Bill replied, “My
attitude was that as long as Goodyear’s management played ball with me, I did
the same with them. They knew we in the union lived up to what we said,
and it saved a lot of problems and strikes here in Canada. It was the U.S.
head office that was responsible for a lot of the conflict and the strikes in
the 1970’s. We fought for cost of living increases. Akron made the
Bill related how he had to overcome his limited formal education in order to
survive as a union negotiator, when a Goodyear official came from Akron, where the work
atmosphere was more contentious, to contract bargain in New Toronto. Overworked
Bill overlooked the specific wording of a medical clause. The official
surreptitiously inserted the word “or” into the contract, thereby disallowing
insurance coverage for URW members’ common ailments. Bill said, “I never
made that mistake of misreading a contract again. I always went through
them with a fine tooth comb after that lawyer took advantage.” Through
his diligence, Bill rose to become Assistant Director of District 6 of the URW
in 1968, and Canadian Director in 1971. He retired in May 1983.
The 20-acre Goodyear Lakeshore plant, which employed 1,350 people, closed in
1987. There are still 27 residual workers remaining at 450 Kipling Avenue, organized under the
United Steelworkers of America Local 13571. They continue to face the
problem of Goodyear contracting out work, and last struck in November 2003.
Bill Punnett was Vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour when the
deal to build co-operative housing bearing his name began. Many of the
co-op members were also members of Bill’s former URW Local 232. The
Toronto District Labour Council and Toronto Lakeshore Labour Council were
pivotal partners in the construction, performed by union members with
Government of Ontario and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
funding. Bill said, “My philosophy is that people should get a square
deal. I supported co-ops because of the unfair housing practices of
landlords. A lot of union members needed a place to live. They were in
deprived conditions. I wanted to see people have good homes, a decent
place to live, as they do now. The co-op members are still mainly
unionists. I give credit to Ron Lawrence, the former President of Local
232, which is now closed. T.J. Murphy was Treasurer. They were
instrumental in the co-op’s start-up.”
Bill Punnett lives with his wife in the same house they built at 41 Struthers Street
in July, 1942. It is a sunny and eminently decent house, where they
raised their son and two daughters, and where they continue to garden and enjoy
several grandchildren. True to form, the Punnett household is an oasis
bordered by industrial giants Campbell’s Soup and Lantic Sugar, and -- perhaps
more tellingly – the Daily Bread Food Bank. The Punnetts take well-earned
breaks in Big Pine Key, Florida.
Punnett is convalescing after arterial surgery at time of writing. His
grateful neighbours to the south wish this accomplished social advocate a
speedy recovery, and would like to thank him for his unflagging work in
developing safe and fair working conditions and homes for them in
To find out more about living at William Punnett Housing Co-op, contact
Co-ordinator Nancy Newbold at 416-252-4643 or [email protected].
© Theresa McCuaig 2005