Perhaps the inspiration to blog more again is emerging from having enough memories to share about the changes I have witnessed in Aurora from the year I actually started to live in Aurora, 2008. I moved to Aurora in 1997 but I must admit that back then I spent very little time here in town. Back in the year 2012 I published one of my first amateur historical blog posts. In the post I referenced Elizabeth Hern Milner’s book “Aurora 1945-1965 An Ontario Town at a Time of Great Change, Milner” and showcased photos of Aurora in 2012. Today I took that published blog post from April 18, 2012 and compared it to the present day. Almost six years elapsed since then and I am amazed to look back at what we have lost and what we have gained in our town since then.
April 18, 2012: “… search for more information about the town led me to Elizabeth Milner’s book, Aurora 1945-1965 An Ontario Town at a Time of Great Change. Being on a photo journey through the town in the past couple of years, the book is a jewel in my pocket. So what, that you were not born between those years. How can you relate? Of course you can relate. Milner’s detailed assembly of 20 years of town records will lead you to years before 1945 and beyond 1965. Her compelling book is actually very relative to the past and the future of Aurora. In the end it is a book about the people of Aurora who made a difference.“
Today: My photo journey continues and since then my collection of books about Aurora and referencing Aurora has grown to almost 20 books.
Petch Log House
April 18, 2012: “Last year about this time a difference was made, Katherine Belrose came forward and Petch log house was saved, probably restored by now, yet future location unknown.“
Today: Later I learned that it was a collective effort by many people in Aurora to save the Petch Log house. The Petch Log house is restored now but not sure if all the components of the house were included in the restoration. The wooden floors are missing, perhaps the restoration budget ran out. The house is located in the Aurora Community Arboretum beside the Aurora Seniors Centre on John West Way. The logs are only visible from the inside so for those interested, look for special Town events that have the Petch Log house open to the public.
Nokiidaa Trail Link, St. John’s sideroad, Aurora
Elizabeth Hern Milner: “The Anglican Sisters of St. John gave St. John’s Sideroad its name when their convent was built in 1931. In 1940s and early 1950s, the Convent was a busy place. The Sisters cared for girls with special needs such as: Downs Syndrome, autism and other problems.” 1958, page 94.
April 18, 2012: “Nokiidaa Trail link boardwalk off St. John’s sideroad is now established and a well visited trail.“
Today: The Nokiidaa Trail was renamed after former Mayor of Aurora, Tim Jones Trail which starts at the Newmarket border to the north and continues all the way to Sheppard’s Bush, south of Wellington. The boardwalk is part of this trail. Just wanted to add that it is unfortunate that the majority of bikers still bike on the boardwalk despite all the signs telling visitors to walk their bike.
Wells Street Public School Sold
April 18, 2012: “Wells Street Public School got sold last year. Must mention that Elizabeth Milner was a grade nine student at this school for one year from September 1951 to April 1952.“
Today: Wells Street Schoolhouse Lofts, former Wells Street Public School, is now a fully occupied residential building. The building is also a property of cultural heritage value. The inside layout changed to accommodate loft units and an additional level was also added on the top of the school. The Wells Street Schoolhouse Lofts is first loft style condominium introduced to Aurora.
Yonge Street, What Changed Here?
April 18, 2012: “Next time you pass by Yonge Street and Tyler Street intersection you will notice a change, a new commercial and residential complex. On the other hand one might say – the downtown traffic increased.“
Today: Some businesses from 2012 once operating at this commercial/residential complex no longer exist. The Aurora United Church no longer exists on the corner of Yonge Street and Tyler Street due to an accidental fire. Fire damage was so severe that the rest of the structure eventually had to be demolished. The church is going to be rebuilt with the addition of a retirement residence.
The Auroran, Sold
Elizabeth Hern Milner: “James Murray cut a ribbon at the old Post Office on Yonge Street in September of 1960 to mark the beginning of door-to-door mail delivery in Aurora.” 1960, Milner, page 167.
April 18, 2012: “The old Post Office on Yonge Street is also home of our local newspaper The Auroran that was started by Ron Wallace and was recently sold.“
Today: The Auroran continues to be the most valuable source of local news in Aurora and it is now owned by Simcoe-York Group of Newspapers. The clock tower has a new roof. If you didn’t notice I am sure local pigeons did.
Once IGA Store, Now Nothing Yet
Elizabeth Hern Milner: “In 1961, the town’s IGA offered steak at seventy-nine cents a pound and prime rib roasts at sixty-five cents a pound. Oranges were fifty-nine cents a dozen and a cauliflower sold for twenty-nine cents. Usually cakes were made from scratch, but if the housewife wanted to cheat with a newfangled cake mix, they were selling at two for thirty-three cents. That’s how it was in 1961 at the IGA Foodliner.” 1961, Milner, page 175.
April 18, 2012: “Recent closing of the Foodland grocery store was a total surprise and shock to the seniors living close by. It is very much unknown who will move in, but last week I read the Banner and it was noted that the building was being considered for a Youth centre. It may not happen, there were other competing locations.“
Today: Centra Food Market, a multi-ethnic grocery store at St. Andrew’s Plaza opened in 2014. The grocery store features quality produce and goods from around the world with national brands from Europe, Asia, Indonesia, South America and the West Indies. Unfortunately, neither this store nor other stores in Aurora offer steak at seventy-nine cents a pound and prime rib roasts at sixty-five cents a pound.
George T. Browning House, Demolished
April 18, 2012: “The proposed conversion of the Browning [George T. Browning] house to Montessori school didn’t go too well and it was decided to demolish the house. The Browning house was demolished a couple of days before Easter.“
Today: The George T. Browning house was eventually demolished and the property has been empty since then.
Tree Trimming, Yonge Street from the Aurora Public Library
Elizabeth Hern Milner: “In the December third Banner, letters to the editor showed that Aurora people were upset about changes in Aurora. One citizen complained about the trees coming down and the land being stripped down to bare clay near one of the best streams in town.” 1959, Milner, page 152.
April 18, 2012: “We continue to cut the trees. Some need to be cut or trimmed, but some were not given any mercy.“
Today: The property hasn’t changed much since then. Tree cutting is still an issue in our Town, you just have to come and listen to Council’s ‘very long’ deliberations every time tree removal is discussed.
Isaac Petch Farm House, Wellington Street, To Be Demolished
Elizabeth Hern Milner: “Highway 404, the Don Mills Parkway extension, was proceeding north and would pass three miles east of Aurora. John B. Wilkes, an engineer from the Department of Highways, spoke to the Board of Trade and assured them that Highway 404 would reduce traffic through the town by one third to one half. The first section of Highway 404 opened early in July.” 1961, Milner, page 170.
April 18, 2012: “Highway 404 most likely will not change, but there is no future for the old and lonely Isaac Petch Farm house on Wellington Street – it will be demolished.“
Today: The yellow brick house was eventually demolished. The bricks were salvaged and left on the property for about a year. The property is still empty.
Aurora 1945-1965 An Ontario Town at a Time of Great Change, Milner
Elizabeth Hern Milner in the book’s Afterward wrote: “I did not want to write a book about a “wonderful Aurora” of the past. This is often the kind of local history that results from reminiscences. The town was a good place to grow up. The people were good people. They helped one another, supported churches and social institutions as well as the needy in other provinces and countries; but everything was not perfect. Disputes about having a liquor store in town, the use of open land, the building of a shopping centre, Town Council decisions and other incidences might seem trivial to the reader, but they were heated issues at the time.“
April 18, 2012: “Perhaps some things just don’t change in our town – we continue with heated issues to make a difference.“
Today: Changes continue whether we like them or not.
Anna Lozyk Romeo