My penchant for finding my ancestors has become a bit of an obsession. Not sure why. And I don’t have to go all the way to Scotland to chase up some reminiscences.
Last weekend I was in Toronto and staying at a hotel near the Annex district. For some reason I remembered that my grandfather, Joseph Alison Vardon, his parents and his sisters, had lived somewhere in that area when he was younger.
I happened to have found a copy of my grandfather’s record of recruitment when he was drafted into the army just shortly after his 20th birthday, on October 16, 1917, exactly 100 years ago. From this document, I discovered that his address then was 188 Delaware Ave in Toronto, about a ten minute walk from where I was staying.
So, on Sunday morning, I wandered down to this neighbourhood, found the house (upgraded but still the original three story house) and stood outside it wondering if my grandfather’s bedroom was in the dormer on the top floor and how many times he might have walked down that street as a teenager. I went down to the corner of Bloor and Delaware and sat for half an hour on a cement bench by the street, conjuring up images of streetcars going by on Bloor, old model cars, people on bicycles.
I looked across the street at an old building that is now called the Black Horse Restaurant and Bar and knew that building (built in 1892) was there when my grandfather lived in the neighbourhood. The building has a horse’s head sculpture coming out of the second floor. It was originally built as a store. Did he ever go in there? How many times did he look at that horse’s head?
I thought about my grandfather signing up to go to war in Europe. A boy, heading off to battle. I wished that I had taken the time or the interest when I was younger to ask him about those experiences.
As I sat there, thinking about my grandfather, I wondered if my own grandchildren would, some day, 50 years from now, sit on a bench somewhere and remember me in a similarly curious and fond way. I hope so.