You know those days that start off rushed, when you make a decision to do something and then things get in the way and you want to abandon your plans. That’s the type of day I was having today.
Still, although I had to rush, I decided to go through with the plans I had to take my dogs to Ward’s Island. Because dogs in my city are only allowed on public transportation between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm or after 7:30 pm on weekdays, I had to put my skates on if I wanted to have any time over on the island.
Although we had to transfer to several buses to make it to the ferry docks, we were lucky to arrive 10 minutes before the ferry was leaving. Enough time to catch my breath and start getting into ‘island time’. That is, relaxing and leaving the city behind, if only for a few hours.
My dogs have never been on a ferry and were quite taken aback by this big ferry and all the water. They managed to behave themselves though and the ride over was really pleasant. The weather was nice and there was a big of a chilly breeze, but it was quiet and still and nice to relax.
We stopped at Center Island for a few minutes to let passengers off and headed over to Ward’s. Ward’s Island is my choice when I decide to go to the ‘islands’ because i love to look at the houses and imagine living there. A lot of little cottagy type houses with lovely gardens and no cars. I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t want to invade the resident’s privacy, but here’s a photo from nordicshutter’s photostream on Flickr
When we got to Ward’s, I spent some time walking around, looking at the houses on the way to the beach. (Of course our final destination was the beach so the dogs could run and play fetch!). Walking past one of the houses, I noticed someone outside and thought to myself ‘that looks like Jill from the city’ – she lives just down the street from me. I continued walking until I came to an area of construction, so had to turn back past the house where I thought I saw Jill. This person was outside and upon further investigation, it was indeed Jill. She was on the island for the day working. We chatted for a bit and then I headed for the beach with the dogs.
We had a wonderful time! The dogs ran freely and played fetch, as I sat on the sand looking out onto the beautiful lake.
Then, just as quickly as we got there it was time to leave. We had to catch the next ferry in order to make it back to the city in time to meet the transit times for dogs to legally be on the streetcar.
Although it was disappointing to leave so soon, I was grateful for the time I had to relax.
At the ferry dock, awaiting the arrival of the ferry back to the city, I started speaking with a woman who also had a dog. Dogs are such great conversation starters!
She was taking her dog to the city for grooming. She was an island resident.
When the ferry arrived, we continued our conversation. We introduced ourselves, her name was June, she had just turned 80 in June, and her dog was named Poppy. June told me that she had lived on the island since 1941, when her parents and her sister moved to Ward’s Island from the city.
Our ferry ride was only 10 minutes, but she told me some wonderful stories. When she was 13, she worked at a restaurant on Centre Island. She told me that on some Sundays, there were upwards of 650,000 people on the ‘main drag’. There were 3 grocery stores on the island at that time. I think she said her dad had a brewery shop there too. She told me how as a young child, she would walk across the frozen bay in winter. Her and a group of people would walk single file on the 3 foot thick ice. There was always a person out in front with a stick, who would poke at the air pockets and make sure the ice was thick enough for them to continue walking. Occasionally they would hear loud sounds of the ice cracking and they would all stand still for a second, fearing the ice would split open and that they’d fall into the icy bay.
She also told me that when she was a mom, she would always make a snowman out of a Red Delicious apple for the Christmas table. Cloves for eyes and a marshmallow for the hat.
Then our ferry ride was over, we were back at the city. We said goodbye and parted ways.
I was waiting to get on the bus to head home. I was thinking to myself, wow, June looks really good for an 80 year old, very perky and lovely. It must be the fact that she lives on the island. No pollution from cars or stresses from the city. Just then, who came walking up to me but June, asking me if she could take my phone number. She had been diagnosed with cancer recently and although had not required chemotherapy, said she may be interested in talking to me about nutritional improvement. I was happy to give her my number and I took her’s too.
I really hope that we meet again.
I would love to hear more of her stories.
Do you have any stories of the islands? Maybe you grew up there too or have some wonderful childhood memories of going there with your family that you’d like to share.
Heres a bit of trivia about the islands from Friends of Toronto Island
The main island of the Toronto Islands was once attached to the mainland and formed a 9 km long peninsula or sand spit. A violent storm in 1858 blew a hole at the base of the spit (the Eastern Gap) thus separating the end of the spit and creating an island.
Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run, in 1914, at the Hanlan’s Point Stadium that was once located near the current Hanlan’s Point ferry dock. There is a monument there to commemorate the occasion. The stadium was the home of the old Toronto Maple Leafs minor league baseball team until 1926.
The islands comprise the largest urban car-free community in North America.
Local legend has it that the Gibraltar Point lighthouse is haunted. In 1815 the first keeper, J.P. Radan Muller was murdered. Some have reported that the sound of moaning can be heard on misty nights and others claim to have seen an apparition wandering the grounds that is believed to be Radan Muller’s ghost.
Hanlan’s Point Beach is one of the few public locations in Canada where full nudity is permitted. The beach has been officially recognized by the City of Toronto since 2002 as being clothing optional.