THE YEAR IS 1953 and the construction of Kingsview Village Junior School (big yellow circle) is underway. It is the first school I would later attend.
Across Dixon Road from Kingsview Village Junior School on the adjacent hill, on the other side of Dixon Road is Briarcrest.
Less than 2000 feet away from KV, it is a luxurious English-style tudor mansion (small yellow circle).
It also belongs to the internationally famous Avro Aircraft of Canada Limited.
In those days Avro Aircraft is headlining the Toronto papers, just about everyday.
They employed over 14,000 people and support an additional 11,000 sub-contracters in related work. In the Toronto/GTA they are by far the biggest employer. And most famous.
Avro Canada was the first North American company to prototype a jet-engined powered airliner, the Avro C-102 Jetliner, almost a decade before the Boeing 707 first took to the skies.
This, was much to the amazement of the American press who mobbed airports when the Canadian Jetliner landed, on its publicity tour south of the 49. How could a country as small as Canada produce such an advanced aircraft when America didn’t even have one on the drawing boards, the press marvelled? Avro Canada had also designed and produced almost 700 CF-100 Canuck fighter/interceptors for the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Belgian Air Force. At the height of the Cold War, the Canuck, for a year and a half, was the only NATO fighter that could fly in all weather conditions! The British and American jet interceptor/fighters were fair-weather only.
In 1953, Avro Aircraft of Canada Limited and the RCAF, in fact, had just settled on the long-range, high altitude CF-105 Arrow interceptor, one of many designs put forward by Avro, to the air force, for Canada’s next generation defender of the vast Canadian north.
Curtis-Wright was soon to place an order for 12,000 Orenda (sub-division of Avro Canada) PS-13 Iroquois engines, and Orenda’s testing wasn’t even done yet! Such was the reputation of Avro Canada at the time!
And very close to the day when this 1953 aerial Toronto photograph was taken, it was leaked to the press that Avro had a NEW top-secret project underway there at the busy Derry Road and Airport Road aircraft plant in Malton.
Can you even guess?
Field Marshall Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery, who lead the British Army to victory over the Axis forces in the deserts of Africa, in WW II, had just inspected Avro’s Malton plant and gave it a thumbs up.
At the time, it was disclosed, and later confirmed a few days after, by the Toronto Daily Star (April 21, 1953) that Avro Canada was making a super-sonic, flyable, FLYING SAUCER!
A flying saucer like those seen in those horrible 50s era space-invasion movies.
“If that doesn’t take the cake” … as my Gram used to say whenever new-fangled technology was presented, and explained, to those ancient eyes.
The future possibilities for Canada’s most famous company were wide open in 1953.
Whatever it takes … to keep Canada free!
The Soviet nuclear threat was a real concern for Canadians, as school kids practiced bomb drills in school. Yes, even in Kingsview Village!
The KOREAN WAR was in its third year, and Canada had troops on the ground fighting the Communists. Over five hundred Canadians had died in the war, so far.
The world had, become again, a very serious, and dangerous place, so soon after World War II.
After the previously mentioned inspection, the BIG 4, Crawford Gordon (President and General Manager of A. V. Roe Canada), Field Marshall Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery (WWII British Army), Air Marshall Wilf Curtis (RCAF) and Sir Roy Dobson (Managing Director of A. V. Roe and Company (pictured) were whisked off … to be entertained at Avro’s luxurious Briarcrest mansion at Dixon Road and Islington Avenue.
The stately, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, after attending the private unveiling of the Orenda Iroquois engine (July 22, 1957) and the following wine-and-dine event at Derry and Airport Roads, retired back to Briarcrest where he spent a night or two.
Such were the folk, or dignitaries that found their way to BRIARCREST.
In the middle of all this hullabaloo … Kingsview Village Junior School was finally opened December 16, 1956.
The school on the crest of a hill.
Now, it’s 1956.
One could easily see kids playing in the schoolyard, up on that Kingsview Village hill. From where? Those passing by on Dixon Road and especially from the Dixon entrance to the Avro mansion. No apartments or trees blocked your view in the 50s.
Yes, Canadian kids were playing, openly, in the Kingsview Village schoolyard, while the brightest minds and the most serious people in Canada were meeting secretly, at Briarcrest, only yards away and no one had any idea.
What a juxtaposition. Somehow.
Many Kingsview Village parents shopped at the Loblaws store on the corner of Dixon Road and Islington Avenue, and I’m sure lined up with, bumped into, chatted briefly with Avro’s creme-de la-creme back in the 50s.
And had no idea.
To put THINGS into perspective, so you’ll never forget … when Avro Canada “crashed and burned” in 1959, these former men of Avro were called upon to take it to another level … and put America in space.
AND later on the moon!
And when AMERICA was having trouble doing that on their own, where did they turn to?
When you were watching TV, and the NASA’s Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) landed on the surface of the moon July 16, 1969, and then you saw American astronaut, Neil A. Armstrong, come out, descend the LM ladder and then walk on the surface of the moon, know this, dozens of former Avro Canada engineers were project leaders on various aspects of that moon walk.
Those guys made that moment possible.
James (Jim) A. Chamberlin, born in BC, and the chief designer of the Avro Arrow, helped solve the dozens of problems NASA faced when America committed to landing on the moon. Space historian, David Baker described Jim as “probably one of the most brilliant men ever to work for NASA.”
And your KV mom or dad might have rubbed elbows with him, or the numerous other "men of Avro" who made the trip to Briarcrest and upon leaving (they were dads like everyone else) needed to grab a jug of milk, or a dozen eggs.
Do you really think these guys would AVOID a large, brand new Loblaws … at the end of their Briarcrest driveway, on Islington!
There was A LOT happening in the Kingsview Village neighbourhood.
It wasn’t just boys playing ball, or street hockey or girls playing dolls or Easy-Bake® ovens!
Avro Canada’s spacious English-style tudor home with the four wooden heads above its entrance, would, however, soon play a bigger part in the company’s secret affairs management, especially surrounding everything to do with the illustrious and unforgetable Avro Arrow.
By 1956, Avro executive at the plant were growing increasingly alarmed. The RCAF and government officials connected with the Arrow and Iroquois projects seem to know, beforehand, what the Avro executive wanted to discuss.
And the Amazing Kreskin was no where around.
A chilling conclusion was arrived at.
The Avro and Orenda plants were bugged!
There was no real privacy at either plant.
It should be said that Avro Canada at this point WAS ALSO building an industrial empire and had become the 3rd largest company in Canada at this time. Profits acquired from government contracts helped fund Avro company takeovers so that Avro Aircraft of Canada Limited could become VERTICALLY INTEGRATED.
V.I. is a manufacturing/industrial arrangement whereby the company owns its’ supply chain. Each company member of the supply chain produces a different product. Parts for the whole.
Avro produced aircraft, Orenda produced its engines, CSL produced the needed titanium.
Have a problem with striking fabric manufacturers? Buy the fabric manufacturer and run it through the parent company’s management … to bring those guys back in line.
Vertical integration was a disciplined business model where problems were quickly solved, and output delays could be more directly dealt with.
But, there were some in the CANADIAN GOVERNMENT who felt this was not what Avro should be doing! Because they would know, right?
So, I guess the Avro and Orenda plants got bugged. This way the Canadian government could keep tabs on its’ “enfant terrible” that was only a little over a decade old.
Really, what shocking thing would this corporate youngster do next?!
Well, these were some of the FINEST ENGINEERING MINDS in the world running this new empire.
Avro execs didn’t like this intrusion into their business affairs.
So what did these geniuses do?
They found an easy and low-cost solution.
Avro Canada execs moved their highest level meetings to the Briarcrest mansion … at Dixon and Islington, right in the Kingsview Village neighbourhood!
Here, the most secret, or dire events, could be openly discussed, amongst the engineers in surroundings far more elegant AND, more importantly, “bug” free.
Avro could still play the host there.
There were some big company parties there at Briarcrest, back in the day.
I have been in the Briarcrest basement, and there wooden totem poles and large floor to roof carvings of bears THAT appear to hold up the main floor! Apparently a visual hit, back when.
North Etobicoke had many wide-open spaces in those years, even in 57 and 58.
On clear days, when the weather was nice and the windows were pushed up at Briarcrest, I bet those Avro engineers heard the Kingsview Village "9 am bell" or the recess bells off in the distance, triggering a personal memory or two. Maybe even a chuckle as they considered our plight, still being slaves to a school bell!
And most people in the Kingsview Village neighbourhood probably wondered, from time to time, does anything ever happen around KV?
I mean besides kid’s movies on Saturdays, at Kingsview Village Junior School auditorium?!
And only a dozen stone throws away, Canadian history was being made as the problems with the Arrow’s development mechanically, logistically, or even financially were discussed and solved.
If only the surrounding community knew.
Finally, and on a somber note, it was, at Briarcrest, where Crawford Gordon crafted the infamous Avro Canada lay-off notice that would put 14,000 people out of work on Black Friday, February 20, 1959.
I wonder as Crawford Gordon was driven down the hillside lane from Briarcrest, and his car was turned to travel west on Dixon Road toward the Avro plant, did Crawford see kids from Kingsview Village playing on recess, or maybe walking home, at noon, for lunch, like I did a million times, more than 10 years later?
And if Gordon did, I bet on that day, Black Friday, he envied those carefree kids, playing, and just being kids, far from adult level problems.
‘nuff, said ~
Thanks to Peter Zuuring, author of the “Arrow Scrapbook” where I “borrowed” his cutout photo of the “four greats”, and the Avro Arrow pic. I highly recommend his book. Thanks to the City of Toronto for the 1953 aerial photo of Briarcrest and Kingsview Village Junior School which I cropped and colourized.
Yes, Malcolm Cullen, I compiled this one.
I DEDICATE THIS POST to T.D. (DWIGHT) THROOP, Kingsview Village Junior School’s most famous, likely longest, and most gentlemanly principal who passed away April 12, 2016 after a long battle with cancer.
Dwight, cheerfully attended our Kingsview Village anniversary get-togethers that former students and teachers attended, but some, shunned. He drove me home once after I knocked out a baby tooth on the melting ice slides just beyond the paved play area under the large chestnut tree. This was well after school was closed. He was genuinely concerned with what happened to me, and produced a handkerchief to sop up the blood now gushing from my mouth.
Mr. Throop never strapped me, but he showed me the rolled up belt in his upper drawer one or two times — I got the message.
If ever Marvel produces a school principal superhero, its gotta’ be MR THROOP. They have to pattern the hero after him.
Those were the days.
FYI — THIS POST and my others are SUBJECT TO REVISION when I find errors, impingement, etc.
Tagged: , Kingsview Village Junior School , 1953 , T.D. Dwight Throop , Avro Arrow , BRIARCREST , Loblaws , aerial photograph , Etobicoke , Toronto , Crawford Gordon , Orenda PS-13 Iroquois Jet Engine