It all began at a Centennial Road Public School meeting on Tuesday, November 9. 1949. At the time, the small Centennial community was quiet and semi-rural. However, a new subdivision was in the planning stages and it was obvious that additional recreation activities and space would soon be needed.
Centennial Road School was the only public building in this area, so it seemed logical to expand the school to include a recreation centre. The Home and School Association hosted a meeting on the evening of November 8 asking: “Should the Centennial Road School site be developed as a recreation centre?” There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the crowded classroom and a resounding shout of “Yes!” to the chairman’s question.
Meetings to develop an organization quickly followed. Representatives of Council and the school board attended a public meeting on November 22 that year, at which time the name of the group became The Centennial Recreation Association.
On February 1, 1950, a committee of 13 members was elected with William Dempsey as the Founding President. Soon afterwards, a constitution was formulated and the association became known as the Centennial Community and Recreation Association. It was incorporated on June 22, 1950, and was Ontario’s first incorporated community association.
In the March 1990 CCRA News, Bill Dempsey recalled that first meeting: “Walking home that night, I knew that something magnificent had happened. It was greater than all the people who had participated in the meeting, but its greatness was because it had arisen spontaneously from people of conviction who wanted to build a beautiful, strong community where people would want to live. I also had a feeling of foreboding of the greatness of the task ahead – and that my own life would never be quite the same again.”
Local planning major issue for first female president
By Eva Nichols
My family and I moved to the Centennial community in June 1969, almost 50 years ago. We first became aware of the CCRA when we decided to make arrangements for having boulevard trees planted on Charlottetown Blvd., our street.
My husband Michael and I both became involved as members almost immediately after moving to the community and we were both members of the CCRA Executive starting in 1970/71.
I became vice-president to Peter Tilston, who was president, in 1972. I was elected president in 1973 and had the honour of being the first female president of the CCRA.
Local planning was the biggest challenge facing our community at that time. It seems, looking back, that we spent a lot of time making representation at the Ontario Municipal Board. In addition to members of the executive, community members often came to represent the community at the OMB and we were mostly successful at achieving our goals. We had several large public meetings where hundreds of people turned out to support the CCRA.
We were then and still are a community that stands up for what it believes in.
In 1974, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the CCRA. Some of the founding members still lived in the community and attended the celebrations, including Bill Dempsey and Ben Stanton. As part of that celebration, the CCRA executive sponsored a local artist, Nell LaMarsh, who lived on Colonel Danforth Trail, to paint the Annis House, which at that time was at the corner of Port Union Rd. and Lawrence Ave. and housed the Bank of Montreal. Nell painted three versions of the Annis House. The CCRA executive bought two of the paintings to celebrate the anniversary. One now hangs in the Port Union Public Library and the other is in Mowat Collegiate.
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of our community association, I want to acknowledge all those who founded this organization and who over its 70-year existence gave of their time and contributed their efforts to create and maintain this community that we live in. Thank you to all the volunteers who have contributed time, effort and resources. I feel honoured to have served as a president of this organization and appreciate the opportunity to share some of these memories with you all.
Celebrating milestones: a former CCRA president looks back
By Gay Cowbourne
I was the president of the CCRA for several years, including 1999, the year we celebrated 50 years of community activism, volunteerism and CCRA’s many remarkable achievements.
I fondly recall our very busy Golden Anniversary Celebration Day, which started with a morning Fun Run/Walk in Colonel Danforth Park, followed by an afternoon Teddy Bears Picnic for younger members of the community. In the evening we had a sold out semi-formal dinner dance, where I was delighted to welcome and recognize many former presidents and board members, including several who had been with the CCRA since its creation on November 22, 1949. Together they had given many years of dedicated service to the CCRA and guided us through significant changes as we grew from a small, semi-rural community to a much busier part of the City of Toronto. As president, I was also delighted to accept congratulatory remarks and certificates of achievement from all levels of government, including greetings from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
As we look around Centennial today, we see a very different place than we did in 1999. At that time, the beautiful waterfront trail, the Village Common and the Port Union tunnel access to the lakeshore didn’t exist. These projects are the result of highly contentious battles the CCRA was then waging with our three levels of government concerning the redevelopment of the former lakeshore industrial lands. We were very involved with the Ontario Municipal Board, the City, the provincial Ministries of the Environment and Labour, the developers and the engineers responsible for the remediation of the former Johns Manville asbestos-laden lands. It was an incredibly busy period for CCRA, which was involved every step of the way to ensure all work was conducted in accordance with provincial guidelines and in a way that was safe for the existing community and for our future neighbours.
None of this would have been possible without a truly dedicated team of volunteers who continue to this day to work hard to ensure that we “create something better, rather than accept something less worthy” as Bill Dempsey, our founding president, once wrote.
Many congratulations to the CCRA–a truly remarkable organization–and my personal thanks to all of those involved during the last 70 years. You have made this community a place I am proud to call home.