by Joan Latimer

Ward 9 Community News, June 17, 1975, pages 4 and 5

This article is republished here with the kind permission of Beach Metro Community News

The year was 1912 when young Earl Price drove his father’s Russell automobile up the sandy ruts of Lee Ave., turned onto the gravel surface of Kingston Rd. and headed for Ontario Ladies’ College at Whitby. He was off to see his sister, who introduced him to her school friend, Hazel, a minister’s daughter born in Mount Albert, Ont.*

Photo of Price family in a 1911 Russell Motor Car
Earl at the wheel of his father’s 1911 Russell automobile with Hazel beside him and his parents and brother in back (photo taken about 1915)

Three years later Earl and Hazel were married.

That was 60 years ago last month. The Prices had planned to let their wedding anniversary day pass quietly … but the family felt the occasion should be celebrated. Friends and relations came to 12 Hammersmith Ave. … so did telegrams, long-distance calls, flowers and a framed commemorative plaque from William Davis, Premier of Ontario. “We didn’t know a 60th anniversary was so noteworthy,” said Hazel.

Six decades ago, when the Prices moved into their first house on Lee Ave., the district was new to Hazel. But Earl knew the Beach like the back of his hand. He had moved to a house just down the street from his new one with his family in 1902.

He went to Kew Beach School when it was just a four-room structure. He did all the things kids did for fun at the Beach around the turn of the century … such as going to Toronto’s first Tamblyn drugstore on the southeast corner of Queen and Lee for a soda (10 cents) or a small ice cream cone (2 or 3 cents). Perhaps he shopped for his mother at Mrs. Smith’s grocery store, located where the IGA is now … or stood on the sawdust covered floor of Clayton’s Butcher shop on Queen at Wheeler waiting to buy meat for the family supper.

“We used to play ball, skate, swim – we made our own fun,” said Mr. Price, who maintains there was and is no better place than the Beaches in which to grow up. On his way to the lakefront for a swim young Earl would pass farmland and many summer cottages. “There were bushes at the lake and we’d change in them,” he remembered, adding that the target date for the first swim of the year in Lake Ontario was the 24th of May … “but we didn’t always make it that early.”

There was no running water in the area when Earl was a lad so his dad, Joseph, decided to provide that service. He built his own mini-water system and both cottagers and permanent residents were able to use his service for a fee. Earl had to make the rounds collecting rental money, “a job I didn’t like very much.”

Then Joseph decided it would be nice to have a telephone. The telephone company informed him he’d have to find 11 other residents who felt the same way. Joseph got a dozen interested people and the wooden phones went in. Folks could place calls to their heart’s content … they just had to pick up the black receiver, twirl a handle and tell the operator the name of the person they were calling. Joseph Price ran his own advertising agency which he established in 1881, but on the side he liked to construct houses and buildings.**

He put up the Melba, a movie house on Queen St. Near Rhodes Ave. (“he loved pictures like the Perils of Pauline,” Earl recalls). He built five stores on the south side of Queen between Lee and Leuty. The Price name can still be seen engraved in stone over the shops. “Every summer he’d build a house or two at the Beach.”

The urge to build was inherited by Earl and his brother, Leslie. When the Toronto Street Railway sold Scarborough Beach Amusement Park and subdivided the land, the brothers bought every lot they could. Together they constructed almost 100 dwelling units in the form of duplexes. Oldtimers at the Beach still refer to these places as “Price’s duplexes”. Nowadays, these duplexes are not all in the Price family. Just after they were put up the Depression hit and the brothers had to sell some of the units. “We still have some,” said Hazel, who recalled that originally rents for the duplexes were $25 monthly.

The Price duplex Hazel and Earl live in now is at the foot of Hammersmith and its sunporch affords an unobstructed view of the lake. Hazel says that sometimes she has thought about moving, but dismissed the idea almost as soon as it came to mind. Like most Beachers she and Earl feel they couldn’t be happy if Lake Ontario were not nearby. “We’ve got so used to it … we’d really miss it. “

Hazel and Earl in later life
Hazel and Earl (photo courtesy of grandson, Augustine Dickinson)

* The sister Earl was going to see was Helen Fredrica Price, my grandmother, who was fourteen. Earl’s future bride, Hazel MacFadyen, was eighteen. The article says that the two were school friends. With Helen four years younger than Hazel, a huge difference at that age, I wonder how close the friendship really was.

** Actually, historical evidence shows that Joe Price started his advertising business in 1891, not 1881. Joe was only twenty-one years old in 1881 and earning his living as a painter and sign painter.