Convent Barn Burns
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The Sisters of St. Joseph

By Paula Shaw, July 2001
1965 Graduate of Fairmount Public School

Most interested in your website......certainly brought back a lot of memories.

Does anyone remember the home-economics teacher at H.A. Halbert, Mrs. McMullen? I was a student from Fairmount P.S. on Sloley Road and on Friday afternoons the girls would trudge off to see Mrs. McMullen and the boys would do "manual training". We learned to prepare such exciting dishes as half a grapefruit with a cherry in the centre. I can remember it took me the entire 8 months to make the pincushion assignment, yellow with a black sailboat. My biggest fear was learning to thread the bobbin on those grey sewing machines.

The original name of Fenwood Heights was, I believe, Southview Drive. I started a small business a few years ago and chose "Southview Arts" as my company name.

I remember, fondly, Linda McCowan. We all looked forward to her arrival each summer as a novelty. She visited her grandparents (Ashley and Flo McCowan) every summer granting us a new friend if only for a few months. She was a very pretty girl with two of the most sought after braids pulled to the front and displayed for us all to admire. My head was always shorn the 20th of June at the top of the street's only hair salon....the 4 Star. My unruly curls were tamed into a "Duck's Ass" at the nape of my neck. I think my Mother, Chris Shaw, even requested unabashedly for such a technique! It was quite common for both males and females.

Another local McCowan, Jewel, was responsible for Saturday night congregations in her basement, resulting in a junior spin-off from the Sweet Adeline singing group, known as "the Chippers". We later went on to perform in such elite spots as the "Canadiana Room" at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I can still remember our stage costume -- grey skirt,white blouse with a red vest over top.

I remember the night the Convent barn burned to the ground. My mother, sister and family friend were being entertained at the Tee-Pee Drive-in (probably a Gidget movie with star, Sandra Dee) when we all noticed a crimson glow in the sky. We had placed the fire's location right on our front doorstep so we quickly vacated the drive-in and sped home to rescue our Dashound, Dutch.

We were mildly relieved to find our home intact but the convent barn ablaze. My biggest concern, being an animal lover, was for the chickens in "The Chicken Coop". (A home on Cathedral Bluffs bore that very sign for many years.) The convent was an ominous place in the light of day but to see the barn's blackened shape silhouetted against an orange-red sky was terrifying. I really can't recall if human lives were lost that night but I think not.

The Nuns always scared me as well. On our way to Fairmount in the afternoon, crunching under the cinder path we would occasionally go by a pair of Sisters and I always held my breath until they passed. My dearest friend, Mona Doresa, owner at one time of No. 1 Fenwood Heights, dressed our family dashound, Dutchie, in doll's clothes and placed him gingerly in a pink metal baby pram. On the hottest day of the summer he obediently stayed put as we strolled along the cinder path. Two nuns came towards us and asked if they could see the baby. Mona and I were just frozen in fright at the thought of what religious rules we might have broken by putting a 9 year old dog in baby's clothes and then in a buggy! We were relieved to hear them chuckle (if Nuns could chuckle) at our "Baby".

I would love to share another story about the original "Tim Horton" hamburg takeout at the foot of Faircroft and Pineridge, on Kingston Road. The site now is a Shell station. Now I know I'm really old when I can recall that one could purchase that hamburger for a mere 15 cents. It was ready in about that many seconds, due to its dimensions, and if you looked really hard you could find it smothered in between a doughy white bun.

From The Scarboro Heights Record V9 #4