What sweet irony this moment is for me... I am wrapping up this Canada Day post to dash off for a glimpse of the 11th annual National Congress of Chinese Canadians Parade and Toronto Pride Parade... Meanwhile, my adoring husband is steam ironing his own shirts! I would stop my writing, and step in every so often to help out...
There's something about the hot steam spewing out of the new iron that transports me right back to Elizabeth Street circa 1930s when over 300 Chinese hand laundries existed in the vicinity... and I'm talking about the stretch from behind the New City Hall up to Dundas Street W... this little unassuming and quiet side street is one of my favourite nook and crannies along my Lost First Chinatown Foodies Walk (formerly known as Toronto' First and Second Chinatowns Walk)... out spills the Chinese hand laundry stories I usually share with guests, be they long time Toronto residents, new comers or visitors. This Foodies Walk traces where the seeds of Toronto's first Chinatown were planted back in 1878, uprooted and transplanted north and west to the present-day and thriving Chinatown. This current site in the Spadina/Dundas axis is more of a reality for most folks, meanwhile the old Chinatown quarters of the very first Chinatown is fast slipping away with new shops moving in, and office tower and condominiums going up.
What's hard to grasp - all of the folks who resided and worked in hand laundries were men from the Canton province, a lush agricultural southern region of China. Any who survived working on the hazardous Rockies segment of Canadian Pacific National Railway. Yes, our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald's National Dream of uniting all the provinces from coast to coast brought many of those men to Canada, and the rest as they say is history! These brave men made their ways to Toronto to join a family member who started up one of those labour intensive businesses. It's hard to believe that the hushed street of present day was bustling as the customers drop off or pick-up starched laundries: the judges, lawyers, nurses and housewives!
Thank you! Do-jeh! Thank you! Merci!
Happy Canada Day from a technically fourth generation Canadian-Chinese!