Bishop John Strachan Stratford-Perth Archives

Lawyer partner

Strachan Street appeared on the 1879 map of Stratford as part of a survey laid out by Daniel Home Lizars, the third judge of the County of Perth, from 1864 until his retirement in 1886. Strachan Street runs south from West Gore and ends at Whitelock Street in the south end of the city. 

Daniel Lizars first practised law in Goderich, where he chose as his partner the son of one of the most powerful men in Upper Canada. Bishop John Strachan ruled the Family Compact with an iron hand.  John Strachan Jr. practised law with Daniel Lizars in Goderich and then in Stratford. Lizars named this Stratford street for his Goderich lawyer partner, who died in Goderich in 1857 at age 41. By Stanford Dingman

A note: The Lizars family in Scotland had known John Galt, founder of the Canada Company, and were attracted to Upper Canada by the prospect of a fine estate on the shores of lake Huron. 

The Lizars and their many trunks of belongings arrived at Goderich by ship. Actually, they shipwrecked just outside Goderich harbour and had to be brought ashore in small boats.  Source: Streets of Stratford 2004. 

Gordon Jocelyn, man of many talents

Gordon Jocelyn played many roles in life: musician, teacher, traveller, arts promoter, CBC host, and actor. He grew up at 80 Strachan St.

He took piano lessons from Cora B. Ahrens (see Hibernia Street), and then he and  Audrey (Whiteside) Conroy (see Water Street), four years his senior, formed a duet and gave concerts throughout southern Ontario.

Gordon’s older sister, Irene (Jocelyn) Bird, also was talented and deeply involved with music through Miss Ahrens with a Youth Mission Band (see Hibernia Street). She later conducted the Orpheus Women’s Chorus of Stratford (1936-1946) and did accompanist work at music festivals. 

Gordon Jocelyn

In 1953, the first year of the Stratford Festival, Gordon Jocelyn was the dresser for Alec Guinness (see Mornington Street) as Richard III. In the photo below, Guinness is fitted with his coronation gown of red velvet trimmed with white ermine. 

He was coordinator of the Jazz Music Festival for three summers (1956-1958) in the early days of the Festival. The building where the concerts were held was known as The Casino (see Water Street), a facility used in the winter months by the Stratford Badminton Club. The Festival Concert Hall, as it was renamed for the summer, held 900, but the jazz was so popular citizens who couldn’t get tickets sat on the Water Street hillside at the rear of building with blankets, and on occasion kids, such as Gord Conroy, who listened for free to the likes of Oscar Peterson, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. During the rest of the year, Gordon Jocelyn taught at an alternate school in Toronto, SEED. After he retired from teaching, he turned to acting and hosting on CBC. He was a character actor and was often cast as the innocent, parson type. He was best known for The Dead Zone (1983), Taking Care (1987) and Act of Vengeance (1986). He died in 2016 at 96.  Source: Gord Conroy

* To catch the flavour of this remarkable man go to Star Obituary, written by his children.

Audrey Whiteside and Gordon Jocelyn, 1935. Family photo

Gordon Jocelyn as dresser for Alec Guinness, Richard III, in 1953.  CBC Archives

Students of Shakespeare school tend their victory garden on vacant properties at the end of Strachan and Homes street, during the First World War.  

Victory gardens

During the First World War (1914 to 1918), Canadians' loyalty and patriotism ran high. Everyone on the home front, no matter age or gender, wanted to contribute to the war effort.

Our government asked people to help in many ways and one that was quickly adopted was known as the "victory garden." Private properties and empty lots were put under cultivation for the growth of vegetables and fruits of all kinds.

In Stratford Dr. Edward Henry Eidt (see Downie Street) donated a trophy to the school that presented the best garden. The rivalries between schools to win was competitive, and at the end of the first season Hamlet school was presented with the coveted trophy. Source: Vince Gratton . . . FB

Reynolds' Fish and Chips outlet at 8 Strachan St. Loretta Reynolds, grandmother of Jeff Liedtke, is with her son Jack on the front porch. Photo: Jeff Liedtke. If you grew up in Stratford . . . FB 

Fish and chips, gambling and murder: a house with a story

Reynolds Fish and Chips was a family business from the Reynolds’ house at 8 Strachan St. in the 1940s. 

The house was beside Shakespeare school, to the left of the house in the photo. Reynolds' was a favourite stopover spot with kids who turned to the right just inside the front door for penny candy, while adults veered left for delicious, homemade fish and chips.  

The Reynolds’ neighborhood restaurant and candy store was one of many home businesses in Stratford at the time, and is fondly remembered. It also has a story to tell which is both unexpected and tragic.

And yes, there was that wonderful sign you see in the photo. Wouldn’t people love to have that today. Kist was the popular soft drink in town with a bottling facility on Cobourg Street just above the bandshell. (see Cobourg Street). Harrison Showalter, who had a doctorate in chemistry, headed the Kist operation. He also was the first president of the Stratford Festival in 1953, and a key figure in helping Tom Patterson make his dream a reality (see Queen Street).

But there are other memories of this address, beyond candy and fish and chips.

A number of people lived in the house at 8 Strachan St. in the early 1900s. The house was probably built in 1903 in that it is not listed in Vernon's City of Stratford Directory, 1900-1902. William McLennan was there by 1904,  Frank Taylor by 1909-1910, and Fred Seltzer from 1921 to 1926. Until then it was a residence only.

By 1928, William Hyde, a barber, lived and operated his business there through 1937. By 1939, John F. Mackinson and his wife Mary were running a small restaurant at 8 Strachan, and in the following year, J. Edgar Reynolds and his wife Loretta had taken over

Jeff Liedtke picks up the story of his grandmother, Loretta Reynolds, on the Facebook site If You Grew up in Stratford . . . “I believe Grandma had the fish and chip store shortly after Grandpa Reynolds passed away, around 1941, when Dad was about 10.”

Loretta was listed as a widow in the Vernon directory for 1942, and ran the restaurant herself after her husband died, until at least 1948. By 1950, Elizabeth Keehn is running a confectionary store at 8 Strachan, which she did for at least three years. The Ney family was living there by 1955. 

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Linda Whittington, who was Linda Mansfield at the time and who lived at 45 Strachan St., remembers other chapters in the saga of the house. She recalls Loretta Reynolds rented the house and what happened after the house was sold.

The woman  who bought the house was Elizabeth Keehn, and she was loved by the kids at Shakespeare school. Hers was a kind of tuck shop for the kids. 

But Mrs. Keehn's story does not have a happy ending. As Kellie Taylor put it, "It was owned by the 'Poker Mama' of Stratford. She used to run illegal card games and rented out rooms. Tragically, she was shot in the living room by one of her former tenants, who later killed himself with poison. Some have said she still occasionally can be seen from time to time.”

A final few details. The Neys, Ronald and Muriel, bought the house in 1954. Ronald Ney worked for Bell Telephone as a splicer. Their daughter Barb, now Barb Fooks, says the Kist sign was long gone by 1954.  

Barb grew up in the house until 1968, and has many happy memories. “When my parents purchased it in 1954, the small porch had been replaced with a full front veranda, the way it is now. Must have been added in Mrs. Keehn's time. The girl's ball field at Shakespeare school was right next to our driveway. Somebody hit a fly right over the fence during gym class or recess. It went through my bedroom window. Shakespeare school, of course, paid for it, and made the fences higher!”

Years later, someone else from the neighbourhood visited the house, which had become a bed and breakfast destination. The owners, according to the story, “were disappointed as they hadn't seen any ghosts.”

The last word belongs to Barb Fooks. “Never knew the whole story! The back door used to creak open by itself, and mother always said it was Mrs. Keehn, but we never had any actual sightings.” Sources: Vernon City of Stratford directories; If you grew up in Stratford, you will remember when

8 Strachan St.

Shakespeare Public School, circa 1912  Stratford-Perth Archives