Wednesday, 04 June 2008 10:51
The personal recollections and images on this page have been provided by David A. Jefferies. If you'd like to contact him (to say thanks, perhaps?), click here.
The TCRA area has had several active ratepayer groups. Before TCRA, in the 1960's there was the Southeast Oakville Property Owner's Association and, in the 1970's, the Trafalgar Reynolds Ratepayer Association.
One person who was a leading activist during this time and involved in both was John Caulfield Smith.
John Caulfield Smith graduated in architecture from the University of Toronto. As a young graduate he got a job as the Home Planning Editor for Chatelaine Magazine, and in the Fall of 1947 wrote a 4 part series entitled The Smith's Build A House.
At the end of WWII, there were severe shortages of materials and strong demand for housing and commercial construction, resulting in inflated housing prices, especially in urban areas. In this environment, there was great debate about whether it was wise to buy a house or wait until house prices came down. (As we now know prices never did come down.)
Recently discharged from the military, John C. Smith described his decision to select a site in a suburban community out from Toronto and to build a modest home for himself, his wife Jean and their children. He went into considerable detail on how to achieve a very efficient layout and the benefits of learning from the techniques used in colonial homes to achieve spatial efficiencies. He bought the vacant lot at the southwest corner of Lawson and Reynolds for $1000 in 1945 and built a house for around $10,000. The house that he designed and completed in 1947 still stands almost unchanged (on the exterior) from the original construction.
John Caulfield Smith became an municipal urban planner in Metropolitan Toronto and in Oakville was a strong advocate of resident participation in the planning process. In a town of only 5,000 people, he was one of the founders of the Southeast Oakville Ratepayers Association which would be a forerunner to the numerous community ratepayer advocacy groups (such as the Trafalgar-Chartwell Residents' Association) which form a fundamental part of the community life in Oakville today. Of the many issues facing the community at that time was the proposed redevelopment of the elegant Finch Noyes Property where the Allan Street Apartments are today. This was the last undeveloped portion of land of the original Brantwood Survey by W.S. Davis.
In the 1950's, when major highway development and high-rise apartments symbolized what was commonly called 'modern progress', Smith was a strong advocate of preserving Oakville's character.
One of his major proposals covered in the local newspaper was the "Confederation Mall" along Church Street that would culminate at a "Trafalgar Monument" where the center apartment is today on Allan Street. It would celebrate the founding of Trafalgar Township in 1805 and was similar to the Nelson Monument at Trafalgar Square in London which commemorated the death of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in that year. It was for this battle that Trafalgar and Nelson Townships in Halton County were named.
Also proposed by Smith for the Finch Noyes Property was a recreation centre with swimming pool. This would eventually be built in 1967 at the other end of Church Street at the Centennial Pool.
John Caulfield Smith died at a young age - in his fifties - and was missed by many in Oakville, including my parents who were close friends of the Smiths.
My father, Bill Jefferies taught history (one of his students being John and Jean's son Donald Smith) across the street from the Smith home at the old Oakville Trafalgar High School. My father and Jean Smith had been childhood friends in Toronto and at the end of each school year, Jean would invite him over for an afternoon of cocktails, dinner, and to talk over the old days. These afternoons were known by the Smith and Jefferies families as "Bill Days".
So it was that University of Calgary professor Donald B. Smith was raised in the Reynolds Street house at the corner of Lawson. He's the author of many Canadian history books including: Sacred Feathers - the history of the life of Peter Jones and the history of the Mississauga Indians. There are many interesting items about the history of the Oakville and Burlington areas in this publication. He is also author of From the Land of Shadows - the life of Grey Owl; Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance; and Calgary's Grand Story - a history of Calgary told from the vantage point of two of that city's most important heritage landmarks - the Lougheed Building and the Grand Theatre.
Ian Caulfield Smith, the youngest son of John and Jean, lives with his wife Melanie and their two children on Palmer Avenue between Allan and Reynolds. The family connection continues, as Melanie and Ian are close friends of my wife Gail and myself.
David A. Jeffries
Dear Reader: Perhaps you also have memories of "the way it was back then" in the TCRA area of Oakville. Won't you share them with us?