266 Rideau Street
Eva Solovan (b. 1910) was one of the youngest children in a large Ukrainian farming family in Saskatchewan when her father died in a farm accident, her mother remarried, and many more children ensued. Like many of her siblings, Eva was eager to leave both farm and stepfather. Mike Tureski (Sr., b. 1908) arrived in Saskatchewan from Ukraine after two of his brothers were taken away to Siberia; he worked in forestry, on the railroad, and as a tenant farmer, but it was the depression and Saskatchewan was not a promising place to settle. After Eva and Mike got married, one of Mike’s cousins told him there was work with the tannery in Kingston, so the couple came east in 1936.
Growing up, their eldest child Mike (Jr., b. 1935) remembers a mixed immigrant neighbourhood:
Along our street and up Charles Street, you had the Irish, the Ukrainian, you had the Canadians – boy they were rare – and French Canadians, and English, Czechoslovaks — Yankovic and Drinkas — and Yugoslavian… and so it was quite a mix. Everybody worked together. Dad worked at the tannery and most of the others in the area worked there for the big wage of 25 cents an hour. It was tough: serious chemicals. I’ll always remember the smell. The British English, Canadian, were usually the foremen, and all the heavy duty workers were East Europeans. Later on when Dad got laid off at the Tannery because work slowed down, he went to work at the Locomotive Works. His job… he’s never forgotten it… was a riveter’s helper. Inside of a boiler, a big tin can, he held on to the other end of a rivet, hammered through hot, glowing red, from the outside; he had to hold it on the inside. No hearing protection.
Mike recalls that during the war if not before, most women in the neighbourhood also worked outside the home. In addition to raising a family, Eva Tureski worked at the Cotton Mill, at Doreta Apparel doing alterations, and at the Nylon Plant.
All the non-Catholic kids in the neighbourhood went to Robert Meek School. For the boys, hockey was a big focus, played on the rink behind the school or at Kiwanis Park (now the parking lot of Rideaucrest Home). Fishing in the river was another common pastime, raw sewage notwithstanding, or shooting rats in the dumps along the shore. Kids would scamper into railcars outside National Grocers’ Building to find loose bananas to take home; they’d also take scrap paper or metal to Hyman Rosen in exchange for pennies or look for loose coal on the tracks in what is now Douglas Fluhrer Park. The popcorn wagon was a treat:
A Czechoslavian, Johnny Matzik, had a popcorn wagon, horse drawn. The horse would always be stopped in front of our house, and the anchor put down, a steel plate, about 10 pounds… and the horse never budged. The popcorn wagon was a roofed cabin, glassed in, and Johnny would be in there with his white apron, and you can imagine the smell permeating the area. It was 5 cents a bag.
For their part, the adults also had a rich community life. Mike remembers kitchen parties at his house where couples danced polkas to 78s, drinking beer and home brew. The Ukrainian Hall on James at Bagot showed newsreels during the war, bringing tears to peoples’ eyes as they saw the suffering on the Eastern front. On VE Day, Mr. Drinka converted his dump truck to a float so that Ukrainians in costume could dance their way down Princess Street. Eva made all those costumes. She also loved to garden, and she raised vegetables and enormous sunflowers in her yard at Charles and Rideau to the age of 101.
Warm thanks to Mike Tureski for photos and stories.