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  • Writer's pictureBrother Jeremy

Got a Time Machine? Ah, OK. Come to Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Toronto is relatively new on the scene, even when considering the period when the city was called York. I am not saying that there were no people here, quite the contrary in fact. Since time immemorial the Native Canadian tribes have used the areas as a meeting place, exchanging goods and services between themselves and ethnic outsiders.

Toronto is new as a Metropolis, having climbed the dominance hierarchy in the years after World War 2. Once considered a “sleepy town”, Toronto was catapulted to the global state by an influx of immigrants from around the world. Each adding their unique flair, the city filled in and developed. While it is easy to look to the skyline and think of the future, Toronto offers a variety of historical attractions, each adding a different element to the story.

History is important, giving us direction and an appreciation for the giants of whose shoulders we stand on. While covered in the school curriculum, the textbooks cannot compare to the insight developed by a first-hand visit. Toronto is an interesting city, littered with historical artifacts among the Contemporary architecture. Sometimes the marker is hidden, sometimes integrated in newer structures. Let your children know why you are taking them here, and why learning about the past is important.

Parents are teachers regardless of whether they acknowledge it.

Parents constitute the foundation for learning, a stable bedrock of security and assurance.

Let’s get started.

You might have driven past it, just west on Steeles pass Keele. The park recreates pre-Confederation (1860s) Canada, employing a variety of character actors and historic interpreters. Chances are that your kid will ask them if they are really from the past, kind of in the same vein as trying to make a British Guard move. I noticed this trend during my last visit, giving credit to the skilled actors (and actresses) who reflected all of the questions with ease. Even after they tried their foolishness, many wanted to stay and listen. If your children want to learn, encourage them, even if it is inconvenient. Your investment will pay off, seeing them gain access to the highest echelons of society. As we all know, we are judged by the way we speak, affording few opportunities to make a second impression. History gives people the capacity for understanding context, placing events into a timeline. By engaging the past you become able to accept the future.

The park is located beside the York University campus, in the North York borough of Toronto. Tucked away from the traffic, the entrance is nestled amongst a series of trees and greenery. You first must enter through a wooden-type building, hosting the ticket kiosk and gift shop. Please arrange for your tickets beforehand, especially if there is a Covid-related limit on admission numbers. After proceeding through the building you will exit into a wide open space, populated with a series of antique structures and artifacts. Each building is attended by an actor, providing some enrichment and context. Their job is to bring the story to life, adding a voice to a person who is long gone. While they might not be here in the literal sense, their legacy lives on here. Their story is marked by hardships, tragedy, and a little good luck.

As you walk straight ahead you will see a setup similar to Main Street USA at Disney World. In total you will see 40 heritage buildings, some built on the original property and some taken apart and reassembled here in the 1960’s. Consider the Apple Storage Cellar, originally located in Edgeley Ontario. Built from “discovered” material, it was built using only manpower and primitive technologies. Even considering this, the architects designed a ventilation system, allowing for climate control. That way the workers could counteract the external temperature, the biggest threat at the time. This was before running water, air conditioning, and heating. With such dangers lurking, no wonder the pioneers valued their apple products so much!

As you continue you will see Dickson’s Hill School, one of the prime locations to get married in Toronto. True to its form, the backdrop is amazing for wedding pictures, connecting the past to the future. Not quite sure the connection between schools and weddings but there seems to be a trend, at least here in southern Ontario.

The school has two entrances, one for boys and one for girls. I wasn’t sure whether this was still in effect, seeing the marriage officiant scurrying in and out of the female corridor. Maybe he wanted to be the Rosa Parks of historical attractions, or maybe I am just reading too far into this. Carry on.

Like all of the buildings, all are deficient of internal facilities, forcing guests to return to the gift shop when nature calls. This is not a big deal, especially considering the gift shop in the foyer. Full of chachkas and other collectibles, it is a great place to find things to put in your house. This will connect your child to both Canadian history and the memory of the family outing to the Village.

On a last note, be sure to check out the church cemetery. Rest assured that you do not need to walk on the premises to see the monuments. Many of the homesteaders are buried here, many perishing at a young age. Their story is the pioneer story, people leaving the security of their homes for life in the wilderness. While they faced many hardships, their luck eventually manifested and they went on to establish respectable communities. Tell your children why this is important, why people came to Canada for a better life.

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