Higgerty’s sell land to Jubilee area for…?

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      Charles and Minerva Higgerty sell land to Jubilee area neighbours… for how much?!

      Mary Margaret Hodgkin remembers. If you meet her once or twice, you’ll fondly refer to her simply as ‘Mar’. She’s the lovely, long-time local of our neighbourhood, who owns the only original dwelling still called a summer cottage. She enthusiastically and clearly recounts the life and times spending summers here as a youngin.

      In the 1940s, Mar’s grandparents, local cottage owners Charles and Minerva (Mina) Higgerty, sold the land at 34 Jubilee and 61 to 63 James (now Riverview) Streets… for $1. That generous gesture, the one dollar sale, prompted the birth of a memorable era and the creation of our association, JARA, an organization to manage the land, create community events, and of course, pay the bills.

      At that time, the Jubilee neighbourhood was mostly forest, grass or bushland, barely dotted with cottages few and far between, but it was full of vim and vigour, people and parties, joy and jubilance. The local cottage owners turned this newly acquired bushy lot into a veritable dynamic meeting place with the construction of two tennis courts and two croquet courts.

      Weekends were not quiet times in the country. Nope. The croquet and tennis courts, equipped with lights, a hut for storage and a bicycle rack, was bustling. Mar’s father painted croquet balls and made mallets which were sold to the cottagers. Some acted as groundskeepers, dragging and watering the clay surfaces, painting boundary lines and maintaining the premises. The children played croquet and tennis in the day and adults had their time in the evenings.

      The clay courts witnessed their share of fun and frolic, with Tea and Tennis tournaments, Bingos and bazaars. Cottagers donated the prizes. The grassy sidelines were full of spectators on lawn chairs. When Mar’s father emceed and announced the Bingo numbers or the tournament winners with his booming voice, participants were excited to receive their prizes, such as tennis balls. Mar recalls as a little girl, her parents would return back to the cottage from the evening tournaments late, well after midnight.

      As joyful as it was around Jubilee Street, the finances too had to be managed; taxes and other expenses had to be paid. So these events raised funds, as did membership fees. Some gave donations, others gave hand-knitted goods and the like to sell at their bazaars.

      JARA became official on April 5th, 1950. The Municipal Council of the Town of Aylmer signed and recognized our beloved recreational association under, appropriately, article 2 of the Amusement Clubs act. Thanks to Charles and Minerva Higgerty’s initial generosity, JARA is still going strong promoting and fostering the development of community spirit in the area, as stated in the JARA constitution.

      As the decades passed and the social gatherings waned, the tennis and croquet courts were used less frequently. The neighbourhood changed from cottage country to residential. Priorities shifted. Few used the tennis courts. The croquet courts were sold and houses built. In the 1970s, the tennis courts in Wychwood received funding from the city to install lighting and a cabana, and subsequently it became the hot-spot for local tennis players. Mostly just memories swirled the JARA neighbourhood for the cottagers who remained.

      In 1981, along came our well-respected and loved residents on Jubilee, George and Gisela Yelle, who moved into this neck of the woods. George persisted with the tennis courts, installing a new clay surface and a fence. He became the JARA president at that time. A few years into his tenure, he became concerned about the lack of interest in enjoying the courts, let alone their upkeep. He proposed selling the land. The first year, the JARA members refused. The second year, they accepted. This black cloud thankfully had its silver lining though. With that momentous sale in 1989, JARA gained a sum of $40,000 from which we can benefit from its fruits today. The joy and jubilation continues!

      JARA had lucked out. The new owners of 34 Jubilee turned out to be the vibrant and friendly Yvan and Françoise (now of 17 Oscar-Guertin), who raised their family for decades in their then-newly built home. It was only fitting that this glorious property where people delighted in bazaars, sports and parties, attracted new owners who eventually helped to launch the re-birth of JARA with a new, unique rendition of gatherings and gaiety. JARA, the next chapter, joyfully lives on in more stories worth sharing.

      As for Mar, she still proudly possesses at her cottage some of the croquet mallets her father made and many of the trophies from those bygone days. She is life-long friends with Helen Waissman, whom she met here in the neighbourhood at age 3. Helen’s parents, Sydney and Anne Dadson, owned a cottage at 49 Riverview Street. Her Dadson grandfather owned the still-existing home at 20 Jubilee Street.

      One can take a walk down memory lane and imagine life from back then while strolling on Allée Higgerty and Allée Dadson, both which run between Jubilee and Riverview Streets.

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