We had a mail box across the road with our name on – SCOTT – and I’d always check to see if the flag on the box was up or down. Up meant there was mail. Maybe from Granda Scott in Northern Ireland? Getting to the mailbox across the road was a bit of a walk though – the lane up to the house was very long and went all the way past the barns and cultivated fields before you’d reach Dufferin Street. In winter, the farmer who rented the land had to come in with his tractor and front end loader to clear the snow. No manual snow shoveling for that long driveway!
I was going through old photos that my brother Andrew had found and scanned/photographed and saw this great photo, above. I lived in that house for several years. When we first came to Canada, we lived for a short time in an apartment building on Laverock in Richmond Hill, and then to what is now a medical office – the second house on the east side of Keele Street, south of Major Mackenzie Drive (9983 Keele Street). Then we moved to “the farm.” It was an old farmhouse, and it and the land were owned by Alvin Baker. I have no clue what we paid in rent – it was likely pretty cheap. Alvin Baker had a small part of the house that he kept for himself to stay in when he was in the area, but that was not very often.
At that time, Dufferin Street was just a gravel road. Today, I probably wouldn’t recognize the place. I haven’t been in the area in probably about 30 years. Now, the area is all built up with new subdivisions that used to be farmland and maple tree “bush.”
Life On The Farm
I really enjoyed so many aspects of living on the farm. Although the land and barns were rented out to a local farmer, Ken Baker, I had free run of the entire place. No one worried much if I wandered off, and even as far as the very back border of the farm, and wandered through the “sugar bush.” Some may not really understand when I use the term “bush,” it was a term used for a small forest, and this case, mostly maple trees. Many of the trees were tapped in the spring by the neighbours who owned that part of the land, and made into maple syrup.
As a very young boy, of 5 years old, I had chores to do. We had a pony and quite a few chickens; it was my job to take the pony pails of water as well as feed the chickens every day, all year – summer, autumn, winter, and spring. We also had a goat – he helped keep the grass down but he couldn’t eat it all up so when my dad went out to mow, it took a long time. The property that we enjoyed in front of the house and behind that was not cultivated by the farmer was probably well over an acre.
Obviously, this goat was no use for milking – but it did have another use. Our part of the property that we maintained was pretty big, and my dad only had a push mower. So the goat would be moved to different areas – his teeth did a great job of keeping the grass “cut.”
The Reesors’ Horse
One of our neighbours who lived just north of us off Dufferin Street had a horse and I’d sometimes visit and feed it.
Although I haven’t found photos, the Reesors would also make maple syrup and it was great in the spring to walk over to their house and help them collect sap and pour it into the big cast iron cauldron that would hang over an open fire, as the sap boiled and became syrup. The Reesor house was quite big and they had built an apartment also for their widowed mother/grandmother. Old Mrs. Reesor would babysit us at times, and she loved Scrabble. She taught my sister and I how to play and many hours were spent playing.
Heating The House In Winter
Our house was heated with firewood. We needed a lot of firewood. While we had an electric range, there was also an old wood stove in the kitchen that could be used for both heating and was sometimes used for that purpose. In the autumn, splitting firewood and stocking up the wood pile was necessary but was a family affair, and sometimes friends and others would come by to help. Lunch would be served outside:
While it was hard work, it was a kind of work everyone seemed to enjoy:
Winter Fun On The Farm
Living in a rural area in the late 60’s could mean some days stuck with roads filled with snow – and cancelled school buses. Having said that, rural roads are often cleared of snow pretty quickly; dairy farmers depended on the milk truck being able to arrive to collect their milk. We didn’t live on a dairy farm though; the barn was used for pigs by Ken Baker. Our issue was the very long “lane” or driveway from the house to the road. We often depended on Ken Baker to clear it for us.
On the other hand, much tobogganing could be done.
Of course, coming back into the house after some hours outside in the snow meant having rosy cheeks:
My Dad’s Occupation
Once in awhile, my dad would be able to come home for lunch while working. Our house was in his patrol area.
And if you’re wondering what exactly the make and model of the Vaughan Township Police cruisers were:
It was a Plymouth Fury I – probably 1967 or 68 model year. This photo was likely taken on Dufferin Street, near our farmhouse, north of Langstaff Road, Concord, Ontario.
Seems An Idyllic Life?
As a kid, I really loved living on the farm. Although it could be really smelly when farmer Ken Baker cleaned out the pig area of the barn, life was full of freedom for me. I spent lots of time outside, wandering around at my pleasure. I could visit the Winger neighbours, walking across fields and then along a path through the woods, and hang out with their sons, and shoot air rifles together. We had a great dog named Sandy that would often accompany me. Sadly, Sandy did not do well when we moved to Richmond Hill – he really loved the freedom of roaming around as well.
Sometimes Sandy would bring us a dead groundhog or something he had hunted up – seemed his way to try to contribute. There’s probably a photo of that somewhere, but I don’t have it – but there’s this:
Our parents decided to move in June of 1971 to Richmond Hill for possibly a number of reasons, but the farmhouse being in a poor state of repair and with cold drafty windows in the winter was a big concern. They didn’t ever get fixed. There may have been other reasons, but that was the main one I’d overhear them talking about. We’d sometimes wake up with snow coming in under the window frames in our bedrooms.
But for me, I missed the farm when we moved. I was never bothered with feelings of isolation, or loneliness even though our neighbours were all a bit of a walk away. I loved walking through the wheat fields or exploring the woods way back behind the house.
There’s a lot more memories and even more photos, but I’d probably bore you all if I wrote them all out or posted all of the photos (some aren’t actually all that great with poor exposure).
The Area Today
I haven’t been through the area for probably 30 years, but I recall back in the 1980’s driving by the farm house, and by then it had been vacant for some years.
Today, most of the land includes new subdivisions, but I think they have kept some of the area undeveloped, and with parks and some of the buildings having the name “Baker” in memory of the original inhabitants of the area. One of our neighbours, a Mennonite named Issac Baker was well known across Canada and perhaps internationally for his quality leather saddlery.
Dufferin Street is no longer a gravel road, and I believe is a paved two lanes in each direction road that carries a lot of traffic. When we lived there, you could sit an hour by the road and see one or two vehicles go by.
Just north of the Reesors, there was a church my father would take us to once in a while – it was a church that had services only twice a year, and it was some Mennonite sect that was a bit different than other Mennonites in the area, I believe. Apparently, the church called The Cober Dunkard Church, still exists today.