SOME HISTORY OF 31 DIVISION
31 Division, Crang Plaza update.
Our member Karl Braeker served in the Crang Plaza Police station which was then No.: 19 Division. The following has been provided by Karl and although much of what Karl provided to us contained many personal recollections of events and personnel, for the most part we have edited the content to reflect the historical facts of the time.
The area now policed as 31 Division had its initial roots firmly planted at the corner of Jane & Wilson in the shopping plaza named then as the Crang Plaza. Some recollections of No. 19 Division commence in November 1957, when a young Karl Braeker, PC 1196, who had initially joined the newly amalgamated police force The Metropolitan Toronto Police Force, was transferred to what had been a police station with the North York Police Force, whose members preferred to be known as Riseborough Rangers so named after the old Chief of the North York Police.
19 Division was located in The Crang Plaza which was a strip mall. The station occupied one whole storefront on the west side of the plaza alongside the Park Seafood which sold the old style fish & chips wrapped in newspaper. A meal of fish & chips sold for 65 cents. Next to it was the Arlington Pet Shop and the big grocery store of the day facing Wilson Avenue was Grand Union which later became Steinbergs. Opposite the police station was the Crang Auditorium with the Crang Plaza Bowl downstairs.
In 1957, this neighbourhood had a strong influx of people from the Maritimes, young men who worked hard and played harder. The Saturday night dances at the Auditorium where the lads stored their mickeys of rye or rum cooling in the toilet reservoir tank four feet above the toilet bowl were the prelude to the excitement that was to follow.
As the evening progressed, fights would break out with such veracity that many furnishings were reduced to kindling and had to be replaced almost every week. The Inspector at 19 Division at the time was Inspector David Dinan who upon receiving several complaints from the Auditorium Management had to come up with a solution.
Now what followed is not documented anywhere, but Maritimers to this day tell tales of what happened on that infamous Saturday night which for the most part, saw the end to the regular weekend free-for-all’s at the Crang Auditorium.
They say that when the fights broke that Saturday night, a fleet of paddy wagons along with extra police from 17 Division had all been in hiding, waiting. When the fights broke out, the wagons backed up to the overhead shipping doors of the Auditorium, a slew of coppers poured into the Auditorium and all those caught scrapping were tossed into the wagons. It is said they were driven 15 kms north into the barren lands of what is now Vaughan Township where they were let out to walk back in the pouring rain. No reports, no names taken, no court, no more fights, no more problems.
Inspector David Dinan lived in an apartment on the south side of Wilson Avenue near Jane Street, well within walking distance from his new station. He had no set working hours. He would show up at the station unannounced at any time of the day or night.
Inspector David Dinan had the nickname Dancing Dave from back in the day when he was a Sergeant. When a Division was getting a little unruly they would transfer in Dancing Dave who would whip the place back into order. By the time that was accomplished, it was time for him to move on and clean up another Division.
One morning Inspector Dinan came on parade and addressed the men. While waving a sheet of white paper and his face glowing red he announced: "I have here a complaint from a citizen about you guys harassing him when he returns home from work in the Vaughan rail yards in the early mornings. This man says he cannot move without being stopped and having his car searched." The Inspector pounded his fist on the top of the teletype machine and yelled, “I want more of these letters!”
Some of the men who worked in 19 Division were not all strangers to us, and came later to 1900 Sheppard Avenue West. Check out these names.
Tom Marett, Ben Pitchforth, George Montpool, George Fenwick, Roy Smith, Roy Sykes, Eddy Prain, Tony Sanderson # 278, Remi van Kiekebelt, Bob Sutton, Joseph Travis # 845, Al Day, Carl Cull, Harland Wittick, George Young, Tom Ball, John (Jack) Hay, Jim McNair and many others whose surnames only can be recalled, Sanders #228, Milligan #339, Payne #500, Crowe # 1351, C.H. Adams # 1350, Howe #296 and Cambell # 894.
The Patrol areas were 310, 311, 320, 321 and 326. There were two foot patrol beats; Crang Plaza and Downsview Plaza both were rarely used.
In 1957 the police cars were all unmarked, not even a STOP POLICE light to wave around. There was one 1956 Chev, two 1957 Chev’s all 6 cyl and one 1955 Ford 8cyl - all standard shift. Cars were washed at the station on Saturdays by the day shift and gas was purchased at the gas station that used to be on the south east corner of Jane & Wilson.
Jane Street, north of Trethewey Drive was two lanes with ditches on either side. North of Wilson Avenue was all farmland. Steeles Avenue was just a mud road and after a rainfall was impossible to use. Highway 400 had access from Wilson Avenue and there were crossings at Sheppard, Finch and Steeles.
Thank you, Karl.
Shortly after amalgamation, the Crang Plaza location was done away with and a new area police station emerged at 1900 Sheppard Avenue, West. This became the first location of 31 Division. With the increase of the local population, along with the demands and additional services being provided by police, the building at 1900 Sheppard Avenue, West, even with a second floor added, began bursting at its seams.
In around 1986 a new 31 Division was constructed at 40 Norfinch Drive and the old 1900 Sheppard Avenue West building was demolished. It is rumoured that when the wrecker’s ball swung into the second floor of the old station, much glass could be heard smashing.
In the early 1970’s, a strong camaraderie silently formed amongst an influx of new officers at the Division. Recruitment was at an all-time high with the employment office even travelling to the U.K. to recruit, all to fill the void in the policing of a rapidly expanding Metropolis, Toronto.
This new breed of police officers, both male and female, displayed a strong desire to excel in a very competitive arena where there were only so many spots to fill both in what was known as “The Old Clothes Squad” later the Major Crime Unit (MCU), and a few placements in the “D” office.
In the new trend of policing we saw the formation of “The Foot Patrol” which took us back to the day of the copper on the beat. However, the foot patrols of 31 Division were not for the faint of heart.
Thanks to much ill thinking on the part of some politicians of the day, the general area of Jane & Finch became a pilot project for mass subsidized housing which ultimately led to a New York style ghetto-type culture of troubled youths, the offshoot of which led to challenges and incidents which touched police officers of every rank within the Division.
The after work meetings when on the 4-12 shift were made ever popular by the Management of some favoured establishments that existed in their day, The Rivalda and The Oakdale, to name just two. Then there was the daily breakfast routine by the “D” Office crew at the Corned Beef Connection (nicknamed the CBC) on the north side of Sheppard Avenue just east of the entrance of “The Base”, second only to the New Venus Restaurant operated by Bill and his wife on Weston Road perched between the Funeral Home and the Beer Store, opposite the Weston Post Office.
As the guys who joined the job in the 1950’s and 1960’s began to retire, we saw retirement dinners the likes of such are not seen today. A turn-out of 150 plus people was not unusual to send off one member, for which there would be a string of speakers whose stories, jokes and comments would rival the Dean Martin Roast TV shows of past.
A new trend came in around 1980 which saw a 47 passenger bus with a driver being hired which transported the members off to Niagara Falls, New York on a Friday evening in November whereby once across the border the first stop would be a plaza on Military Road where a tobacconist would make three month’s worth of sales in one evening, especially with the sale of his prize cigars to one particular stogy-loving member whose cigars later had the habit of exploding unexpectedly. The nearby (now long-gone) Hills Department store and other nearby electronics stores in the Summit Park Mall also saw peak sales that evening.
The next stop would be a friendly ABC liquor store where a telephone call made ahead of the busses arrival would give the owner all the time he needed to bring in extra staff to serve the 47 members quickly in the little, but well-stocked store. It was not unusual to see hockey bags being hauled onto the bus filled to capacity with Christmas cheer.
The evening would then be spent at a licensed establishment by the name of” Yesterday’s”, located on Niagara Falls Boulevard at Williams Road (also long gone) which was owned and operated by a mother and daughter who were from Bramalea and had been neighbours to one of our members. A very authentic blue and white street sign stood in one corner of the bar, JANE & FINCH.
The evening was "all the wings you could eat" and "all the suds you could drink." These events became so popular that the trips were extended to two per year and on occasion two busses were needed to meet the demand. Despite their suspicions, the Canada Border Service Agency was very kind to us on every trip 31 Division ever made.
Toward the end of the 1980’s, the terms Old Guard and New Centurions would be frequently heard in boisterous guardroom and “D Office” banter where a friendly rivalry saw the more seasoned members slowly being outnumbered by the next generation of young, smart coppers.
Into the 1990’s members were seen to be retiring much earlier than those who came before them. There was a time when a member, because of the pension situations of the day, stayed with the job until reaching the age of 65 years or who would leave at close to that age due to ill health. Pension conditions were upgraded which saw members with 25 years of service moving away from the shift work and the endless days in court to other employment in the private sector where their investigative qualities were highly sought after.
The 31 Division social gatherings continued but the word didn’t reach those no longer at 31 Division unless the function was published in the News and Views/Tour of Duty monthly magazine or learned about through a serving member in the Division. There needed to be another way to reach former 31 Division members who had been transferred, to retired members and to others more quickly. It was at a gathering of some members following the funeral of the wife of highly regarded member which brought about the idea of forming a 31 Division Alumni.
The growing popularity of E-Mail provided an ideal means of contact. We started soliciting e-mail addresses from those who were interested and the trend grew to a point where we now publish periodic news and comments and are now publishing notices of upcoming events such as golf tournaments, last day on the job meetings, retirement dinners, regional meetings and other functions, provided they are not for commercial purposes.
With the 31 Division Alumni membership now standing well over 200 it was felt that we should advance to our own web site where we can place newsworthy items and memorabilia which can be accessed at will by those who wish, whenever they wish.
THE 31 DIVISION ALUMNI WAS OFFICIALLY ESTABLISHED ON MARCH 8, 2005