From the Regal Heights Review Fall 2019, Vol I
By John Keating
They say you can’t go home again, but don’t try telling that to Marie Goldthorpe.
For almost 30 years now, Marie has been in the same Springmount Avenue house where she previously lived as a teenager. And on the cusp of her 80th birthday, she has no plans to go anywhere else.
When you count the years that she lived in the same house in her youth, Marie may well be the longest-term resident of Regal Heights. She moved into the neighbourhood with her family 68 years ago. But settling here might never have happened, except for the fact that her father was never comfortable with the idea of getting a loan from the bank.
Marie Goldthorpe was born in 1939 as Marie Collins. Her family rented the large three-story house on Albany Avenue in the Annex, across the road from St. Alban’s Church and the parkland that ran beside it. “I sat on the porch and watched the lawn bowling across the street,” she remembers.
One day, the owner of the house made an offer. He would sell Marie’s parents the house for $4,200. But he wanted cash, not a mortgage.
“It would have meant going to the bank for the money and Dad didn’t like that idea,” Marie says. So they started house hunting and soon found a two-storey semi on Springmount Avenue. It was half the size of the place on Albany avenue, but the owner was willing to hold a mortgage.
The family moved in 1951 when Marie was 12 years old. It was like going to an unknown frontier. “Nobody in those days wanted to live above Eglinton,” she says. “That was the end of the line.”
Garrison Creek had long been filled in to create Springmount Avenue,
but the waterway was not yet in a sewer. As a result, the soil was always on the move, creating sinkholes along the way. “It had water squirting out all over the place,” she says.
Marie went to the Loretto College School, which was then still in its original location on Brunswick Avenue. She soon became close friends with another teen who was destined to be a world-famous athlete – Marilyn Bell, who in 1954 became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. Marilyn lived just down the street and they usually walked to school together. When it came time for high school, though, Marie switched to Oakwood Collegiate (“I decided to go where the boys were”) but the two have kept in touch ever since.
When she finished high school in the late ‘50s, Marie saw an ad in the paper looking for a stenographer to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the brand new medium of television. She stayed with the CBC for 10 years, most of it in the casting department.
In the 1960s, Marie got married and moved to North York where she gave birth to three daughters. But the marriage ran into trouble and by the time her father died in 1992, she was again living in the old family home on Springmount Avenue. “I left the husband behind, packed up some clothes and moved.”
There’s one surprising advantage of keeping the house in the family for all these decades. Marie is one of the few people left in Toronto who still has a party line. Although almost unheard of today, party lines were common in the 1950s and early ’60s. Two or more households shared a single phone line and each had a distinctive ring. It always seemed like every time you wanted to use the phone, someone else was on the line. Eavesdropping was as easy as quietly picking up the receiver.
But it was cheap – and still is. Marie pays $12 a month. The other party, a neighbour, long ago switched to a private line, so Marie has it all to herself. She sees no need to change. “I don’t recall Bell saying you have to have a private line. And this works for me.”
Marie is happy with her decision to move back into Regal Heights and its strong sense of community. “Everybody looked after and took care of each other,” she says. “They would come to check on you if they hadn’t seen you in a while.” She says that has changed a little as new generations moved in. People don’t visit each other as readily and are more absorbed in their own lives, but the neighbourliness has never been lost.
“I’m glad we still have groups getting together for things like Pub Night and the Street Party,” she says. “It’s part of what makes this area so good to live in.”