We Did Dust! Esther Anderson
Memories from the Late Sixties: Frank Maxwell and Daughter Heather
20th Anniversary, 1972
Esther Anderson: "Dixie - A Lovely Place to Live"|
The following memory of Lachine's Dixie area as "A Lovely Place to Live" by Esther Anderson of Summerlea United was published in the Montreal Gazette October 11, 2001.
After our marriage in 1936, my husband, William B. Anderson and I would make excursions by streetcar and on foot from our apartment in Notre Dame de Grâce to outlying areas on the island of Montreal. And so we discovered Dixie on Lake St. Louis.
Dixie was made up of five streets at the western end of Lachine, bounded on the west by Royal Montreal Golf Course, on the north by Meadowbrook Golf Course and on the east by a pasture that had been the remount for horses during World War I. At the south was the lake.
My husband, a golfer who had come from Aberdeen, Scotland, on the North Sea, was delighted with the expanse of the lake and the golf courses.
In 1942, with our little daughter Marilyn, we moved into our new house on 51st Avenue, just a few steps from the little wooden Summerlea Church.
Earlier, Dixie had been a vacation spot for Montrealers during the summer, and some of their old houses still remain. Canoeing over to Dixie Island was a favourite pastime. There were tennis courts and a clubhouse was not far from our house.
Back then, there were three modes of transportation: train, provincial bus and streetcar No. 91, which was sometimes augmented by the "Toonerville Trolley", No. 92, which at certain times met No. 91 at Stoney Point and shuttled to 56th Avenue. Commuters coming from the city could hurry home for their golf clubs and get in nine holes before sundown.
Mr. Ben Valois had a convenience store on Lakeshore Road and dispensed newspapers, foodstuffs and charcoal, which we needed to start our jacket heaters - for heating water - and coal-burning furnaces.
Mr. Hurst, a retired minister, preached at the church on Sundays. Ken Drysdale organized a Sunday School, which took up at 9:30 am every week. The unbolted pews were arranged into cubicles for the classes. At 10:30 am, Ken and Bobby Walker and the other big boys would re-arrange the pews, ready for church at 11 am. Our second daughter, Dayle, was baptized in the old church. But before long, the golf courses had become housing developments and a new Summerlea church was built in 1952. Rev. Duncan MacFarlane was the minister.
After a few years, the old church was torn down and a manse was built on the same spot (still the manse in 2002).
Some of us who have lived here for a long time still think of this as Dixie, and we still have Dixie Park. Meadowbrook School stands on the site of the old Meadowbrook golf course.
Dixie in the 1940's was a lovely place to live - and it still is today.
This summary was written by Dr. Tom Pavlasek, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at McGill University and a long-time member of Summerlea United Church.
In the first decade of the 1900's, a small group of residents of Summerlea and Dorval villages gathered to worship in a "little red one-room schoolhouse" on Lakeshore road. Eventually they organized Summerlea Presbyterian Church, with students of Presbyterian College providing supply ministers. They set up a Board of Management and moved to a small chapel built on the site of the present-day Manse. During Union in 1925 the church became Summerlea United Church (SUC) with Ministers provided by the Home Mission Board and retired ministers.
At the end of WW II, the SUC congregation was still small being based on the area then described as Dixie / Summerlea, located largely along the river, west of 32nd Avenue to Dorval and south of the then CNR tracks [now Victoria street]. There were only open fields north of those tracks. Many of the houses then were summer dwellings only. The remainder of the surrounding area [south of the CPR tracks and the main highway, now Rte 20], was still predominantly land under cultivation, or golf courses. The congregation still worshiped in the small chapel, located on 51st Avenue. The Minister was the Rev. Duncan H. MacFarlane.
A number of the original founders were still in the Congregation, or living in nearby communities. Among these were George MacMillan and his wife. She had been the first Sunday School teacher, with a group of six children.
From 1945 onward the area came under rapid housing development. Returning veterans migrated from central Montreal, Westmount, NDG etc. to the West Island region including the west end of Lachine [Dixie], so that the previous farm land was essentially fully transformed into a suburb of mainly single unit family dwellings, by 1960.
During this time, schools were built, [Summerlea Elementary, Meadowbrook Elementary, Lachine High School (having moved from what then became John Grant High School on 36th Ave ) and Bishop Whelan Elementary and High School].
Other churches were built or rebuilt, including St. Paul's Anglican, Church of the Resurrection, the Lutheran Church, St. Andrew's Presbyterian and the Church of Christ.
After 1946, under the guidance and leadership of Rev. MacFarlane and with the dynamic rapidly growing congregation of recently married people with young families, Summerlea U.C. was built, in two stages.
Initially, money was raised to build a Church Hall, but this was put in abeyance and a New Church committee established in 1948. A new site was secured, $ 43,000 was collected and further backing was obtained in the form of mortgages. The architect was Leslie Perry and a contract to build was signed in November 1951 with Jean Caron. The church (seating capacity 300) and adjacent Acadia Hall were completed and dedicated on October 23, 1952.
Subsequently, the old chapel on 51st Avenue was razed, a manse built in its place and the additional two storey halls, kitchen space and other facilities were built to accommodate the large Congregation and its activities. This included an upstairs room which is now Grace Chapel, the Nursery and the Choir / Ladies' Lounge.
The large Sunday School consisted of 450 children in 1952 and weekday activities such as Scouts and CGIT as well as church events and community activities made for a very busy establishment.
As indicated above, the Summerlea congregation was a large, young and dynamic one. Every Sunday, there were two morning services and there was an evening service as well. In the 1950's and 1960's there were also Assistant Ministers, who each stayed for a few years. One of the 'new' houses above Victoria, on 48th Avenue, was bought as a second manse.
The Congregation governance was bicameral, consisting of the Session (Elders} and the Stewards. (Until much later, these were all men !) There was a very active United Church Men's group (UCM), meeting approximately monthly for dinner catered by the United Church Women (UCW). The UCW was large and very active in Mission, Sunday School, Bazaar work, etc. There was a large and active choir - over twenty. The church sponsored the local Scout movement and there was the CGIT for girls. In the days when those under sixteen were forbidden from going to the movies in Quebec, Acadia Hall served as a social center for young people and for the Couples Club on Saturdays.
In 1968, after over twenty years of service, Reverend MacFarlane retired and was succeeeded by Reverend A. Thomas Miles, who also served twenty years until 1988. During this time, the surrounding community reached maturity, a gradual exodus, especially of younger people, began and the demographic distribution changed.
The Congregation and its activities also evolved along new lines. The Governance was changed in 1970 from a bicameral to a unicameral one, with a central Congregational Board and Executive , coordinating the activities of a range of Committees. However, the Elders were retained, with an emphasis on visiting members in their districts and assisting in pastoral care.
In 1971 Grace United Church in 'downtown' Lachine closed and the Summerlea and Grace congregations amalgamated, resulting in a stronger, revitalized Congregation. Grace United had been a Methodist Church prior to Union in 1935. It was an 'old' church, having been founded in the 1870's to serve the families of workmen who had settled in Lachine during the construction of the second 'Lachine Canal' and the establishment of the then new industrial area of eastern Lachine. Some of the Grace furnishings and stained glass windows are now installed in the upstairs room, which was named Grace Chapel.
The participation of women in the Church's operations grew, many became Elders, Chairs of Committees and of the Congregational Board. Considerable activity was directed to outreach in the local community. This included for example, the establishment of Meals on Wheels in October 1969 [the first on the West Island] and of the Wednesday morning Preschool Children and Parents group. These were and are interdenominational and bilingual. A highly successful and now a traditional Community wide event, the pre-Christmas Candle Light Service was started.
A program for raising funds in support of the inner city mission of St. Columba house was started and continues to-date. In the mid 1970's the Congregation sponsored, housed and maintained for two years a refugee "boat family" of a father, mother, infant and the father's teenage brother, from Laos. Similarly in the 1980's the Congregation looked after a refugee family of father, daughter and three sons from El Salvador.
The congregation paid up the mortgage on its buildings on the 25th Anniversary of the Church's construction. The mortgages were from the Montreal Presbytery and from the McGill University Investment Funds.
At that time substantial essential renovation was carried out: new roof on the sanctuary, a new and dual heating system and a new electronic organ were installed. The reduced population made Assistant Ministers unnecessary, but there was a succession of Student Ministers. The second manse was sold. The upstairs Youth Hall was rented as offices to the Montreal-Ottawa Conference in 1982.
In 1989, the Congregation embarked on a new form of ministry, with the arrival of the Reverend Doreen and Deane Moffat, who came as a ministry team at 3/4 time each. In the face of declining numbers, they established a robust ministry oriented in three directions:
b) a vigorous program of Congregational worship with direct Congregational involvement along with many weekday Congregational group activities; and
c) a pro-active outreach into the surrounding community, with emphasis on building up linkages with other churches and denominations in the area.
Given the shrinking and aging population and changing demographic structure of the community, the Ministry of the Moffats nevertheless leaves a committed and active Congregation, with a smaller but strong Sunday School with motivated leaders, a dedicated Choir and with the Church serving a wide range of Congregational and community activities. In mid 2001 the neighbouring St. Andrew's Presbyterian Congregation of Lachine moved from its own church buildings and is now domiciled on the premises of Summerlea.
In a material sense, in the past thirteen years, there have been continuing physical improvements and renovations, including new windows and entrance doors to the Halls, new floor in Acadia Hall, a refurbished kitchen with commercial grade equipment, an elevator to the Conference offices, re-decoration of the Sanctuary, etc. The office, administrative and communications facilities have been computerized, there is an excellent quarterly Newsletter and a weekly updated web-site, http://www.summerlea.ca and an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org .
In the spring of 2002, Reverend Dr. Deanne Moffat moved to serve a Congregation in Magog, Quebec. The Congregation, as it celebrates the 50th Anniversary of its Church building, continues to be a dynamic and vibrant one. While a Search Committee is working toward calling a new full-time Minister, the Congregation is benefiting from the part-time supply ministry of the Rev. George MacDonald.
TP October 2002
In 1952, when the new Summerlea church had been finished, and the congregation was eager to attend that first Sunday, it was found a few days before that the Sanctuary, while finished, was covered with dust on the pews, floor and window sills. What could be done.?
Leave it to the women. They came with their vacuums, their dust mops, and their dusters, and on that first Sunday all was spic and span.
In the old Summerlea Church on 51st Avenue, the Beginners' Department met in the church kitchen, presided over by Miss Jean Sparks. Even after the new church building was completed the community grew quickly, and so did the number of primary department children. Because all the halls had not yet been built, there was no room for all the children. So it was arranged that Jean Spark's beginners department could use Phyllis Gyton's kindergarten room in Summerlea School.
As the children arrived in their snowsuits and boots, it was necessary to remove the boots lest they mar the the nice floor of the big sunny kindergarten rooom. We used clothes pins to make sure the right boots would be identified for the children when we got them dressed to go home.
Eventually Acadia and Fellowship Halls were added to the church and the Beginners met there, still under the loving care of Jean Sparks. She would come from her apartment on Mayfair Avenue in NDG rain or shine every Sunday morning for the next few years. Others assisting her were Olive Rouleau, Ruby Bowden, Esther Anderson, Audrey Barrett and Gwen Finnemore.
Frank and Judy Maxwell and offspring Heather, David and Jim, lived in Lachine and attended Summerlea from 1965 to 1970 and again from 1975-1977. During their first stay, Frank was Sunday School Superintendant from 1968 to 1970. Frank offers some memories from his Wolfeville, NS retirement location, with help from Heather, who now lives in Vancouver.
My recollections of Summerlea's Sunday School are very few, which is surprising [at least...to me (o_o) ]. I'll try to re-activate some with a phone call to Heather this evening. Her memory of our times in Lachine is usually in diary-like detail, so I'm hopeful...
I can remember the Sunday morning assemblies in the large room with the stage (Acadia Hall). Eleanor [Warren] Fletcher was our pianist. Her father was Herb Warren, the former airline pilot, who still retained his bright "pilots' eyes". Her father-in-law was Pat Fletcher, the last Canadian professional golfer to win the Cdn. Open...sometime in the 1930's.
Obviously the S.S. pianist made a strong impression on me! However, I do I remember that Huntly Bourne was the superintendent of the Jr. Dept. [and hit a massive home run with one of my pitches in a softball game at a church picnic].
Cec King taught in the S.S., but I remember his being in the church choir when we returned to Summerlea in 1975-77.
I recall a debate that I "moderated" between two or three S.S. teachers and our youth group ? It had a huge turn-out, and was an absolute disaster - at least as far as the adult debaters were concerned. The representatives of the youth group really "beat up" on us! Ed Jamieson was one of the adult debaters, and went home "feeling as if someone had hit him over the head with a baseball bat ". Ed was someone whom I liked and respected a great deal: very distinguished looking, with classy half-glasses.
(Ed. Note: Ed Jamieson and Huntly Bourne also started the country store in the bazaar around that time.)
The youth group leader was Bob Bennett, the son of Dick, a really nice guy who died in the late 1970's. Dick taught in the S.S. as well. Bob was a super guy - very bright and personable, and I still picture them both with high regard.
I do recall the large mesh cross that Ester Anderson mentioned, with the children coming down the church's centre isle with their flowers for it. Could this have been part of our Easter services...?
(Ed. Note: Nancy and Huntly Bourne also recall a large mesh cross. There is some confusion as to whether it was used at Easter, Mother's Day or Flower Sunday.)
I had a great phone conversation with Tom Miles while we were visiting Heather in November. Tom is the interim minister at Duncan and they enjoy their grandparenting opportunities.
Memories from Heather Maxwell, via Frank
Bernice Gowdy [and one of her daughters, Meg]. (By the way, I (Frank) used to see Jim Gowdy in Toronto, where he was the corporate secretary for Sun Life.)
Muriel McWilliams [her son Foster is part of Heather's Vancouver network],
Dorothy Lowe, Hunt Bourne, Don Black [he also was a scout leader], and Lois Steckley.
Other family names from Summerlea:
Mary Moreland [remember her younger brother, Peter : the happy-go-lucky imp ?], bruce Chown, Ann Park, Ron MacKay and his son bruce, Karen Saliewitz, the Trites [Heather continues to stay in touch with Sue], the Kiersteads, and the Edwards.
Our favourite caretaker was Mr. Gillass, and we can remember how pleased he was with the S.S.'s Christmas gift one year. Judy and I once visited with him and his wife, at his home.
Heather also remembers helping me post the S.S. offering for each pupil, in my "big ledger", before turning the proceeds over to Ron MacKay.
At the head table were: ?, ?, Eileen MacFarlane & Rev Duncan MacFarlane, Audrey Miles, ?, Tom Miles, ? Mrs & Rev Harold Rivers, ?,?
It's not known how the third photo fits in.