While some sadly contemplate the continuation of an era of haplessness – the Toronto Maple Leafs seem highly unlikely to have playoff success this season, the 47th such season in a row – I want to celebrate the end of a very successful local run.
Seena McLaren’s passing Sunday marked the last stage of a staggeringly successful endeavour – the creation of Mickey Mouse subdivision – an inclusive corporate project designed to ensure workers were adequately sheltered and able to raise families in a way that allowed parents and children to thrive.
That project gave my and hundreds of other families a leg up on prosperity – while allowing CM&S/Cominco/Teck to become a major industrial success story because it could keep its industrious and committed workforce over the many decades.
Seena was the last Mickey Mouse Mom, member of a cadre of mostly stay-at-home homemakers who knew every child in the community by first, last – and scariest if you were misbehaving or contemplating same – middle name.
She was the last of the hundreds of originals that made what was essentially an affordable housing complex (CM&S underwrote most of the mortgages) into a stellar, inclusive community, which provided all the support family members within it – a platform, if you will – needed to rise and develop towards success in life.
The original inhabitants included no doctors, lawyers, engineers and such, but their children have gone on to become all of those things, as well as teachers/professors, authors, composers, journalists and almost anything else, including successful pro athletes, you can imagine.
In the absence of much in the way of formal political structure, (and what there was of that served the wider community, including the better-established Beaver Bend and Annable neighbourhoods), the Mickey Mouse community, aptly, centered its activities around the Co-Op, which organized not just worker transit and coal deliveries but winter and summer carnivals making use of what facilities could be had.
The, “facilities,” were essentially the Cinder Rink – which served as a sand lot ball field and a track and field venue when lacking ice – which sat under the high voltage power lines that ran through the development.
Volunteerism was the community ethos. Although there were many residents (almost all were immigrants) without a lot of formal education, everybody had skills which could benefit their neighbours and the community at large. Many of those basic homesteads sprouted garages and sidewalks and patios and trellises and gardens and such that were the product of the neighbourhood’s collective skill bank.
Many, too, got first aid treatment, the nails in their shoes flattened and their plumbing, electricity and automobile and other mechanical problems fixed through knowledge from within that same bank.
The ice rink, large enough to be the envy of other portions of Greater Trail, was created and well-maintained by workers extending their eight-hour shifts to accommodate shovelling and flooding at that venue as it was needed (anyone who remembers the winters that used to be knows that required daily efforts).
Adults, as adults do – and not always to the detriment of enjoyment by youthful participants, no matter what many modern social commentators would have us believe – organized and supervised much of the activity and provided a small shack with a potbelly stove for creature comforts in the winter.
The rink also had lights, by the way. I don’t know their provenance, but it is likely the CM&S power company provided both them and the electricity.
Webster School exists because Mickey Mouse was created, and the community and Fire Halls, built mostly by those same volunteers, are located where they are because the community finally extended that far.
Seena was there at the beginning of all that, and for 75 more years of community growth.
When I first heard Bill Withers’, “Lean on Me,” I thought it should be adopted by Warfield, especially that upper part which allowed me and my friends to become whatever we are, as a theme song.
It’s message is one of the value of co-operation and human involvement, and that was the message we children of Mickey Mouse carried forward in our lives.
Seena was one of those many upon whom we leaned, and who leaned on others, for the support we all require to prosper.
At the end, I suppose, she became iconic. What she always was, however was a good person, strong and witty and smart, and a good neighbour – one of many in that neighbourhood – and she will be remembered by most who knew her as just that.