By Wanda Wierzbicki
Happy New Year 2019! This year the Centennial Community and Recreation Association is celebrating its 70th anniversary. It’s wonderful to live in a part of the city with such a long history and a strong community organization. When the CCRA was formed by William Dempsey and a group of like-minded individuals in November 1949, the Second World War had ended only four years previously. People were looking to settle down and start their families in new communities. Much of the community we know today was still farmland.
Almost 20 years after the formation of the CCRA, Canada’s Centennial resulted in a whole neighbourhood with Confederation-related street and school names. The area between Centennial Road and Port Union Road was built around the year 1967. The streets in this area were named after people and events that were instrumental in the formation of Canada, such as Charlottetown and Conference, as well as names such as Samuel Leonard Tilley, Charles Tupper, Hector-Louis Langevin, Jonathan McCully, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Jean-Charles Chapais, James Cockburn, Thomas Heath Haviland and Sir Oliver Mowat.
Many longtime CCRA volunteers live in this area. One of these volunteers is retired CCRA Distribution Manager Ralph Jeffers. He did the job from 2008 to 2016. Ralph and his wife Anne have lived in the Centennial community for more than 50 years. They moved into their new home in August 1968 as the second family to move onto the street. Their two sons, Mark and Brian, grew up in the area, graduated from Mowat CI, and now have families of their own.
Ralph started volunteering with the CCRA in the 1970s. A lot has changed in the last 50 years in the neighbourhood. Ralph remembers when the plaza at Port Union and Lawrence consisted of a big old farm building that was used by one of the banks. Anne recalls that Centennial Public School was the farthest east in the school board. At that time, the Centennial community was part of the City of Scarborough and the border between Scarborough and Pickering was Port Union Road.
Ralph recalls hosting many CCRA executive planning meetings in his home’s unfinished basement because the Port Union Recreation Centre was still in the planning stages and there were no meeting rooms available anywhere. Bill Dempsey, Tony Lamanna and Gord Grievson would regularly meet to discuss various community issues, which often included negotiating with builders to ensure the municipal building standards of Scarborough, and later Toronto, were enforced and the community retained sufficient green spaces and trees.
Many important issues were discussed in Ralph and Anne’s basement. Most noteworthy was the fight to ensure asbestos-contaminated soil from the old Johns Manville plant on the south side of Lawrence Ave. was safely removed. Due to the diligent work of the dedicated volunteers from the CCRA, measures were put in place to allow for the creation of a great waterfront neighbourhood and a well-used soccer field.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Ralph for his many years of service to our community. I also want to thank the many other “retired” CCRA volunteers. If you are a “retired” CCRA volunteer and if you have not already done so, please send me an email at email@example.com so I can add your name to the list.