The backyard was a child’s wonderland of open space for Harry Waterfall and his brothers. Their father built the family’s modest home on Meadowvale Rd. in 1939.

By Amy Stephenson

While life in Centennial looks different now than it did a year ago, this community is no stranger to change. Just ask Harry Waterfall, who has seen more than one shakeup in his eight decades of living in this community.

If you take a stroll south on Meadowvale Rd. from Highway 2, you will see a mix of houses – new, old, big, small and some original cottages. Picture this same street with about 11 houses on the east side and only three houses between the fields to the edge of the Highland Creek on the west side. That is how things looked in 1939 when Harry’s father built the family’s modest one-bathroom home for his wife, Harry and his three brothers, and their grandmother. 

Later came a home for Harry’s aunt and an income property on the two-acre lot. While there may have been a lineup for the bathroom, there was no shortage of outdoor space. The backyard was a child’s wonderland. There were sports fields for baseball, golf and soccer. In the winter, Harry’s brothers would ride snow machines while other kids dammed up the creek to make a hockey pond.

The family also used the land to grow about  20 different fruit trees, including apples, plums, pears and cherries. Not to mention the raspberry canes, strawberry bushes and generous garden that his grandmother tended. The family at one point had 200 chickens that produced eggs for them and many in the community. Harry’s father even sold mink pelts for a time before the decline of the industry.

As the community developed, farming animals was no longer permitted but the family still  provided for themselves by pickling and preserving much of the food they grew. The homesteading approach was helpful and necessary in tough times. For things they couldn’t grow, Harry’s mother would call up the general store at Kingston and Meadowvale and have everything delivered on Friday nights.

The abundance of open space to explore provided the local kids with an abundance of entertainment. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Harry proudly attended Centennial Road Public School in 1947 just a year after it opened. This spacious new school meant every class had its own room except for Grades 7 and 8, and each grade had its own teacher! Having two grades in one class might sound like a lot of students grouped together, but this new school replaced the one-room schoolhouse at Port Union and the 401.

As Harry grew, so did the community. West Hill Collegiate opened just in time for Harry to attend, even though it wasn’t completely finished. For the first month, there were one or two  classes held outside while they completed the construction. Just a thought for anyone who has ever complained about a portable.

When Harry’s father sold a portion of the family’s land in the later ’70s, it opened the community up to new development. Dividing the land was no easy process as there was a  minimum lot requirement of 50 feet. 

As wonderful as it was to grow up in this amazing community, opportunities drew Harry’s brothers away and they are now scattered across the province. But Harry has stayed in Centennial and prior to the lockdown was still playing hockey three times a week.

Not everything has changed. Harry still sees the community as a great place for families. With parks galore and hiking trails at our fingertips, there are a lot of options for getting out and staying active. Some of Harry’s favourites are hockey, baseball, golf or just a walk along the lake.