In our eighth article in the series about neighbourhood heritage, Don Allen, Scarborough Historical Society and Archives, writes about Watson’s Orchard.
By Don Allen
Until recently, the property southwest of Centennial Road and Lawson Road was known as Watson’s Orchard. It was originally a 50-acre parcel of land bought by John Cecil Watson and his wife Beatrice Alberta Acheson in 1921 from The Stanley Piano Company. The Watsons called their property Cherrydale Farm. It was here that John Cameron Watson was born on November 24, 1922, and where he tended to his beloved orchard until his death in 2004.
Farming is always at the mercy of the elements and the Watsons certainly had their share of hard times. The severe winter of 1933 took a devastating toll on the farm’s apple trees. Since the orchards had to be replanted, the family needed to diversify their crops until the new trees could bear fruit. Root vegetables, such as cabbage, along with rhubarb, strawberries, currants and raspberries were cultivated as a quick crop.
During the late 1940s, a contract was obtained from Dominion Stores Ltd. for Watson to supply apples, which gave financial security for the orchard. Countless hundreds of local kids found their first employment with Mrs. Watson, known by all as Granny. Rumour has it that “Granny” would demand the berry boxes be filled to overflowing, then in the lower level of the barn take her knife and level the boxes off using the “extra” berries to fill more boxes. A reasonable thing, considering the millions of berries that never made it to the barn, but we assume the kids thought they were delicious.
The Watsons operated an apple stall at the St. Lawrence Market every Saturday, beginning in 1922, the same year Cameron was born. From the time he was an infant being carried in a wicker basket until his declining health forced him to retire in 1997, you could find him every Saturday in the north corner of the market.
Cameron had a full-time work-hand named Ross Regele, who was employed by the Watsons for more than 47 years. Some may remember Ross living in a tiny trailer on site even though he was offered accommodation in the Watson family home.
Cameron and Ross would arrive at the St. Lawrence Market at 3 a.m. to ready their display for the Saturday crowds that came to purchase produce and goods from the many vendors.
Cameron built a new house facing Acheson Blvd. for his mother and himself. She was to live on the main floor and Cameron in the lower level walkout. With the death of “Granny” Watson in 1970, the main floor of the house was never used. Cameron was forced to sell off a major part of the orchard to cover estate taxes. He kept four acres where his home and orchard buildings were located. This he continued to tend until 2004.
The property has since been sold to a developer and will soon have new houses to replace the orchard. Although many large trees had to be removed, there is a silver lining, as the tiny Centennial Creek that flows through the property will remain in its natural state and protected from further alterations.
The Watsons played an important role in the lives of so many people in the area. In their memory, Acheson Blvd. was named many years ago for Cameron’s mother and the newly created roadway through the old orchard grounds has been named Cameron Watson Crescent.