Friday, 6 June 2014

the fellows

My dad moved to Bloor and Dovercourt in 1945 and attended Bloor Collegiate from then until 1950.

Carl Mollins on the BCI Student Council
There were two gangs my dad had to contend with.

The Beanery Boys hung out at Dovercourt and College near the West End YMCA. My dad and his friends had to run fast to avoid the Beanery Boys when they went to the Y.

The other gang was the Junction Boys.

When my dad met my friend who has lived in the Junction for about 25 years, he told her about his encounters with the Junction Boys - about how his high school shop teacher carried a sawed off baseball bat up his sleeve at school dances so he could chase away the trouble-makers. He also told us of the time his younger brother came running into a local coffee shop to tell my dad and his friends that the Junction Boys had ventured down to Dufferin and Bloor and were ready to rumble. My dad and his pals were happy to respond to the challenge.

My friend and I often think about the Junction Boys as we genteely sip a hot or cold beverage in one of the neighbourhood joints.

Just after I joined my friend as a Junction resident, I was looking through my dad's old photo album and found an article from the February 5, 1949 edition of the Toronto Star about my dad and his friends and it mentions both gangs!

A gang of more than 75 'teen-aged boys, wearing a variety of outfits, stormed into Parkdale United Church last night. No one was hurt. There were no zoot-suiters. No rowdyism anywhere. It wasn't that kind of an attack.It was a conference of boys from 15 to 21, belonging to different religious organizations [my grandfather moved to Toronto to become the minister of College Street Baptist Church], and sponsored by the Toronto members of the 28th Ontario Older Boys' parliament. The sessions continue today and Sunday.
The boys came to church, they said, "because it gives me a good feeling to be with good guys." Coming in sweaters sporting school crests, slacks and suits, the boys were members of Scout groups, Trail Rangers, Boys' Brigade, and Community "Y" groups. Some belonged to no groups at all.

John Chapple, leader of the boys, set forth the position of his group in relation to gangs. "This organization started before the gangs. While it helps keep fellows out of gangs, it seldom attracts gang members."

No "smart aleck" members of the Beanery or Junction gangs were in the group. "They probably think we're sissy or white collar boys. Anyway, we have a good time and they are welcome to come," said Chapple. His boys played football and hockey and were primarily interested in the church "or they wouldn't be here at all," said Chapple.

Rev. Neil Crawford of Hillcrest United church gave a sermon warning the youths on the dangers of communism, "Christianity is no less radical than communism," he said. "Christianity intends to redeem human souls while communism has a narrower range and only intends to remodel society."

The 28th Ontario Older Boys' parliament has three objectives: "To stimulate interest in their churches, to exchange ideas and fellowship, and to apply Christianity to their daily living."

Here's a photo of some of the fellows. My dad is second from the left. Carl Mollins, George Leek, Harold Chapman and George Shaw are still friends and have the occasional rendezvous.

I am not sure if my dad attended the sermon but if he did, it didn't seem to have the intended effect; while probably not a communist, he has been a resolute social democrat ever since I can remember.

The Gangs of Toronto, 1949
My grandfather, Harry W. Mollins, was the minister at College Street Baptist church.
(the blue squares are places I have lived my gang-free life).
More on Junction life in the 1940s and 50s: George Chuvalo reminisces about growing up on Hook Avenue.

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