198 Church Street, common ground

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I emailed a woman about her advertisement for free copy editing in the London Writers’ Society newsletter.  She turned out to have a good eye for missed words, inaccurate spelling, and phrasing that could be better.  Sue had a background in speech pathology, she told me over our first cup of tea.  She was from Stratford, at least that’s where her parents had lived the longest, where she graduated from high school.  I was from Stratford too, I told her, but we were a number of years apart in age, and didn’t have any real connection that way.

186 Church Street, Stratford, Ontario

198 Church Street, Stratford, Ontario

Then we discovered we had lived in the same house.  Her family had come from a small town and her father was to become a high school principal.  My family came from Toronto and my father would become the VP Finance for a furniture manufacturer.   Our families’ first homes in Stratford were the same place, on the second floor at 198 Church Street.

Sue remembers her mom getting groceries delivered from the corner store and her grandfather having a room in the attic.  I was only four, but I remember the bats descending from the attic into the living room, and the sturdy crab apple tree where my brother got caught in the branches with his winter coat and swung from it, as though he was in a cartoon.

Neither family stayed long.  We moved kitty-corner through the block to rent a whole house on the corner of Birmingham and St. David streets until our new house in the suburbs was built.  Sue’s family moved to Mornington Avenue across the street from St. James Church.

Apparently there was a pattern for professionals with families immigrating to Stratford.  Perhaps first, they had to pass through 198 Church, second floor.


13 thoughts on “198 Church Street, common ground

  1. Sue Brown says:

    Hi Laura,

    Nice to see this. Note the heading needs to say “198 Church Street…”. Another tiny thing, it’s Mornington Street in Stratford, not Avenue. London has the Avenue.

    I like the posting; such a cool coincidence, us both living there.


  2. Charlotte says:

    How interesting the threads of our seemingly distinct histories are when they connect. Is this 198 Church Street one and the same as 186? Interesting that if you rotate the ’98’ counterclockwise 180o you get 186…thanks for sharing this Laura.

  3. Thanks for the sharp eyes on this one!! Still working on the number dyslexia …

  4. Sue Brown says:

    When I was in Stratford last week with friend Mary, I had a chance to chat with her father Don McCaul who is 98 years old. I mentioned to him about you and I living at the house on Church St. Of course he remembers when my family lived there.

    He told me that he knew the grandson of a Stratford physician, Dr. James P. Rankin, and Dr. Rankin also lived at 198 Church Street, in the 1920s or so. It may have been a single family home then. Dr. Rankin was a political figure including being a member of the House of Commons and later the Senate in Ottawa.

    See the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Palmer_Rankin .

    Nice to know eh?

    • Laura says:

      That’s so interesting Sue! Thanks for sharing. Next time I’m Stratford it might be worthwhile to check with the city archives to learn about the history of the house. It is a beauty.

  5. Bruce Hislop says:

    So interesting to find your article on 198 Church St. My parents bought this home in 1960 and my father passed on in April this year. My sisters and I now have the home for sale. My wife would have loved to move here, but we have our own homes. I have many memories of living there.
    What years did you and also Sue live in the house?

    • Aw, sorry to hear your dad passed away. Did you live there?
      Sue and I lived there in the early 60″s and Sue may have been a first tenant. From what we can figure, my family moved in right after hers left. I remember my brother attending kindergarten from this house, in 1962? We were only there for a short time, and moved kittie corner through the block to Birmingham and St David Streets, another great red brick house with character.

      • Bruce Hislop says:

        Laura, My Parents bought the home in 1960, but we did not move in until 1962. We lived upstairs for about a year and a “Mrs Sinclair” lived downstairs. When Mrs Sinclair moved out, a family names the Ross’s looked at the downstairs apartment but wanted more room. So we moved downstairs and they moved in upstairs. I was only 4 in 1962 so I vaguely remember this and from what I heard later. My siblings and I grew-up there till we left on our own lives in the late 70’s and early 80’s. My dad lived there (55 years) till he had to be admitted to the Hospital at the end of March with pneumonia.

        I’m not sure where you and Sue fit in that timeline. My sisters and I remember riding the sofa cushions down the curved stairway during the move downstairs.

        Did you sign your name to the bottom of one of the built-in drawers on the top floor?

        Sadly we have the house up for sale now to settle the estate.


        Bruce Hislop Perth Communications http://www.perthcomm.com Please note our Office local phone number has changed to 519-273-3307 800-565-9983 & FAX 519-273-4111 remain the same.

      • We lived there just for the one year between you and Sue. I don’t remember the drawers, as I only four years-old there. It was a lovely area to live in after coming from one of the new (at the time) highrise apartments along the Don Valley in Toronto. It was close for my mom to walk to the hospital, as she didn’t drive.
        Hope you get lots of photos as you let this house go.

  6. Sue Brown says:

    Hi Bruce and Laura,
    My family moved to 198 Church St. in the summer of 1959 when I was eight, attending Hamlet School on Church Street (now a nursing home) and we moved into 71 Mornington St. in the summer of 1961, where my mom still lived until about 2005. My dad was Ken Thrasher, principal of Stratford Collegiate Institute, now Central, and then the first principal of Northwestern. One of my brothers moved back to Stratford about 15 years ago.

    I have happy memories of the house. We were in the upstairs apt. and my room was the small one at the front. My 2 brothers had the front room in the attic, and my Norwegian grandfather was in the back attic room. I remember a little space at the back behind the kitchen, where there was a staircase down the back. There was a little variety store named Kraft’s nearby, across Cambria Street. Mom would sometimes call to order a few items, and Mr. Kraft would bring them up the back stairs in a box, and put things in the frig or freezer if nobody was home. I guess we didn’t lock doors back then. I still remember our 4-digit telephone number, 1833!

    Very interesting to hear from you, Bruce, and your connection to 198 Church St.

    My condolences on the loss of your dad.


    • Thanks for including your story Sue. Bruce might also have had your father, as a principal or teacher at Central after he retired.
      I still didn’t the header to read 198, oh how did Bruce even find this?!

      • Bruce Hislop says:

        Yes it’s 198 Church st. Thanks for you input as well Sue. I was trying to determine when the house was converted to a duplex. Bruce

      • The library should have a city directory that can tell you. It’s how I researched my great-grandparents’ house here in London. And I think there’s a historical office with archives across from the library still. An interesting house for sure!
        Thanks for writing and introducing yourself 🙂

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