It was at a recent get-together with friends at The Brogue Irish Pub that I saw an old licence plate on display on a post with what appeared to be some really bad math. On this licence plate is engraved “26+6=1”. I could have put some effort, at the time, into figuring out what that meant but since I was at The Brogue for some “craic”, I quickly put an end to any furthering thinking, and got back to my Guinness. (When I got home that evening, my calculator assured me that the correct answer is 32; not 1.)
History as a Guessing Game: How Port Credit’s Streets were Named . . . I Think
In my last two blog entries on Port Credit’s street names, I talked about how some of the village’s streets got their familiar name. This article is more of a challenge. I’m going to speculate on Port Credit street names whose origins are unrecorded.
Even today, the Region of Peel (which approves street names in new developments) does not require an explanation from developers as to how or why they came up with the names they chose. Most of the street names in Port Credit, if they can be figured out at all, are logically inferred, such as Bay Street or Lake Street (both near the lake, in the Port Credit Heritage Conservation District) or Lakeshore Road. Even Lakeshore Road wasn’t originally called Lakeshore Road. When the road was surveyed in 1837, the surveyor Robert Lynn marked it on his map as Toronto Street, probably in reference to the township’s name, and not the nearby city. (Mississauga was named “Toronto Township” in 1805, back when Toronto was still called York.)
In the west end of the village, the one street whose name origin we can be sure of is Godfrey Lane – or Godfrey’s Lane (with an apostrophe), depending on which of the two street signs you’re looking at. This road was cleared by senator John Milton Godfrey to get to his summer cottage overlooking the lake, next to Rhododendron Gardens.
Next door to Godfrey’s Lane is Ben Machree Drive. I can’t be certain, but I think I may have broken the case on this one. “Machree” is a Irish Gaelic greeting meaning “my friend”, but the “Ben” in Ben Machree made no sense until I found a passage by Irish novelist, James Joyce. “Ben machree, said Mr Dedalus, clapping Ben’s fat back shoulderblade”, the author wrote of Dedalus greeting his friend, Ben Dollard. This line is from Joyce’s poetic epic, Ulysses. The man who owned the Ben Machree property – Andrew Matthew Hobberlin – was a men’s clothier in Toronto who summered in Port Credit and apparently spent his leisure time at his Ben Machree estate reading Joyce.
The first home built on Wesley Avenue, in 1913 is the Methodist minister’s manse (still standing at the west end of Park Street. Wesley Avenue is likely named in honour of the founding brothers of Methodism; John and Charles Wesley.
At the west end of the downtown centre is Brooke Street. I haven’t yet figured out how Brooke Street got its name but it doesn’t matter since no one calls it Brooke Street anymore. Brooke Street ran along the east side of the Credit River. Wood from trunks and branches being cleared away at new farms upstream was sent down the river and sold to barrel makers in the village. Before the barrels could be made, the wood from this farm refuse had to be air-dried for weeks before it could be shaped to fit the barrel’s bulging contours. These barrel “staves” were “banked” along the side of the river to cure in the summer sun. As a result Brooke Street took on the more familiar name, Stavebank Road.
New streets have been added to the map in recent years. One of these, St. Lawrence Avenue, is named after the starchworks that employed hundreds in Port Credit from 1889 to 1990.
More new streets are coming, and this time I plan to get ahead of history to record the names of Port Credit’s new streets as they open. In 2000, when the Brightwater development was still the vacant scrub of the former Texaco property, members of the Mississauga South Historical Society put together a list of possible names for the inevitable streets on the refinery lands. Acknowledging Port Credit’s long marine history, many of MSHS’s proposed names are derived from ships that harboured in this village. Of course there are plenty of stonehooking vessels to chose from. How about “Ariadne Avenue”, “Lithophone Lane”, or “Newsboy Boulevard”? These names, respectively, honour the Blower, Joyce, and Dorland families who made a living in Port Credit from the bounty at the bottom of the lake.
Or maybe a marine name from the refinery site itself. Lloyd’s, which operated the first gasoline refinery on the Brightwater site had a fleet of ships, including tugboats Ajax and Muscallonge.
There’s no rule that says that new streets must have old names. A memorable name is just as important as a memorial name. I’d be interested to hear your ideas for names for future streets in Port Credit. Maybe we could start a community contest to come up with suitable names for the new streets in Port Credit.
Written by Richard Collins, Historian
Image: St Lawrence Starch Company, Port Credit, 1952, Heritage Mississauga
Joyce May Firman was the first female letter carrier in Ontario and Canada’s first female long-term letter carrier who carved a path for women letter carriers in Canada. Back in 1967, the all-male carriers estimated she wouldn't last two weeks and they were going to the Letter Carriers' Union of Canada to do something about this woman in their midst.
In the last article I talked about some of the street names in Port Credit, and what we can learn about the village’s history from those names. This time, let’s move out from the village centre to discover what the street signs in east-end Port Credit tell us about the past.