St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

The War effort

The impact of World War II was clearly reflected in the activities of St. Christopher House in the early 1940s. Many of the homes in the neighbourhood had husbands and sons fighting overseas, and new displaced families from war-torn Europe were beginning to arrive in the neighbourhood. The adult clubs of the House concentrated on the war effort by organizing fundraising events and sending money and cigarettes to their members overseas, while the older youth sponsored dances for servicemen. The war affected the children as well. As more women were finding employment in the war industries, the number of households with both parents out of the house for most of the day increased significantly. From 1944-46, the Board of Education provided hot lunches at St. Christopher House for the children of these working mothers. Staff were also concerned with the rise in juvenile delinquency, estimated to have increased by 90% between 1941 and 1942.

Children and youth activities

The House was full with children’s activities during the 1940s. There were many clubs, with names like The Jive Bombers, The Bing Fans, Club Moonglow and Junior Jamboree. Children came after school and on weekends to participate in various activities, including sports, arts and crafts, woodworking, games, drama and dancing, as well as to use the Library, where they were “overjoyed [to] find a book about their own [country]” (Annual Report, 1940). The pre-school Nursery School survived financial difficulties in the early part of the decade by special fundraising efforts and appeals to the Women’s Auxiliary and the Federation for Community Service. At the end of 1941 there were fifty children in the Nursery School and many more on a waiting list. A toy library, a photography group, and ballet classes were added to the children’s program in 1946, and an afternoon Junior kindergarten in 1947.

Displaced Japanese-Canadians

Following their forced displacement from British Columbia by the Canadian government during the war, many Japanese-Canadians relocated to downtown Toronto, some of whom would join St. Christopher House. As per the Annual Report of 1945, these Japanese-Canadian refugees, "Consious of prejudices outside the district, they aren't anxious to mix with other people, yeat at the House they are proud of co-operating in all activities." That year, St. Chris started a club for Japanese-Canadian boys, which formed a basketball team, the Mustang Nisei, that competed in the the Toronto-Japanese league. In 1950, the team won the title in the Japanese International Basket Tournament held in Montreal, and in 1956 they won a tournament of Nisei teams from Hamilton, Chicago and Cleveland, which was held at St. Christopher House.                                   

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