Sunderland Stories: Merry Mischief

‘You do this one.’ ‘I did the last one, you’re chicken anyway.’ ‘No I’m not!’ ‘Go on then.’ ‘One’s coming!’ The three boys peered on tiptoe out from their hiding place in the dark, cavernous sitting room, through the net curtains. The street outside was chilly and damp. Fresh raindrops glinted on the bodies of the cars that lined the road, yellow-gold in the deceptively warm glow from the street lamps. The headlights of the car approached. Bumping into things in the close, shielding darkness, the lads rushed to the front door. The house was on the end of a terrace, and the heavy door opened feet from the end of the alley that met the main road. ‘Let me through!’ hissed one as the three jostled for a good view of their mischief. ‘Now!’ called the one who’d run back to the sitting room to serve as lookout and target spotter. A well-weighted underarm lob sent the orange off towards its target.


All stealth forgotten in the thrill of perfect success, the front door was slammed shut hard. ‘Did you see that!’ ‘Right on the headlight! All over the bonnet and windscreen!’ Still in the cover of darkness (although for no real reason as this part of the house couldn’t be seen from the street) the boys raced up the stairs to the loft, pushing and taking swipes at each other’s feet as they ran. ‘Move! I wanna see.’ ‘They’ve gone, probably didn’t even notice.’ ‘I doubt that!’ ‘Next one’s your turn.’ ‘I’ll throw it from here.’ ‘Chicken!’ ‘Go on then!’ Back downstairs. A key turns in the lock and the big front door swings open. ‘Why are all the lights off?’ comes the shout from below. ‘We were just playing hide and seek.’ Fun’s over. For now.

A few hours later. ‘Are they asleep?’ ‘Think so. Me mam will kill us if she catches us.’ ‘Shhh! She won’t.’ They creep, ever so slowly, down the stairs, wincing with each creak of the floorboards. On towards the artillery locker, also known as the fridge. More projectiles to fly into the night.

Back up the stairs. Ever so slowly. Back to the loft to spot targets from high ground. ‘Look at him! Can’t remember what a straight line looks like!’ Carefully, silently, the window lifts. ‘Go on,’ in whispered tones. An orange is loosed into the cool, dark night, whose air carries the faint smell of the sea. The orange sails in an almost lazy arc to land and explode beside the drunk’s legs with a slapping pop. Poor bloke nearly jumps out of his skin. He wheels clumsily around.

By the time he’d be in any position to catch a glimpse of his stealthy attackers the window has been pulled down and closed.

The boys are laughing their heads off, as silently as possible, of course. The man angrily throws up an arm, as if to curse his tormentors, before turning to continue the journey home. ‘Here, give him an egg.’ Up goes the window again, and out flies an egg into the night. This missile falls well short of its target, but still creates great comedy for the boys to watch as the reveller casts drunkenly about, shouting bloody murder with the clear intention of killing whoever is responsible for harrassing him. Of course, this danger makes the mischief all the more fun.

Sunderland Stories: Merry Mischief

Mississauga: Vibrant, Diverse and Dynamic Cultures

With a population of 713,443 as of the 2011 census, a great deal of cultural diversity exists under the banner of the City of Mississauga. From its early days as Toronto Township, with a community of Native peoples and Loyalist settlers fleeing the American Revolution, Mississauga has bloomed into a truly multicultural city with representatives from every corner of the globe.

Immigrants have played a major role in the building of Mississauga since its founding. Mississauga’s first settlers (apart, of course, from the Native peoples who already called the area home) were American-born Loyalists and British immigrants. The 1840s and 1850s saw a large wave of Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine arrive in Canada, and locally in Mississauga. At roughly the same time, freed or escaped slaves were entering Canada to start a new life for themselves and their families. They were drawn to historic Mississauga by its close proximity to the American border, and the ever-growing economy which would provide a means to set up a new life in their new home. During the mid to late 1800s, Mississauga’s economy began the first stages of moving away from farming and towards industry. The Cooksville Brick & Tile Company employed a large Italian immigrant workforce after its founding in 1912. The end of World War Two saw new immigrants entering Canada from the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), Poland, Asia, and the Caribbean, some of whom settled in Mississauga. Harkening back to Mississauga’s agricultural past, the Lever Mushroom Company employed a largely Portuguese immigrant workforce during the early 1950s. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, people of Dutch, German, Greek, and Italian heritage made the journey to Canada, as well as refugees fleeing events such as the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring of 1968, and the Ugandan conflict in 1972. Mississauga provided these refugees a safe place to live, and they in turn helped to build a productive community here.

The Canadian Government’s reform of its immigration policy in 1976 made Canada, for the most part, more open to immigrants, and people from Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia, India, and Pakistan came to Mississauga to start their new lives. The most recent wave of immigration came in the 1980s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and brought people from numerous Slavic countries to Canada and Mississauga.

The diverse immigrant communities within the city have brought with them a vibrant array of cultural markers from their respective motherlands. Dotted all over Mississauga, these include styles of building, types of cuisine, artistic work, and other tangible aspects of culture which serve to provide charming reminders of the various ancestral cultures of modern-day Mississaugans.

Today, more than forty different languages are spoken as mother tongue by Mississaugans, proving that original cultures remain in bloom within the garden of the City of Mississauga.

By James Walker

Published under ‘Cultural Diversity’ at with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Mississauga: Vibrant, Diverse and Dynamic Cultures

From Servitude to Self-Determination: Croatian Women in Mississauga

The earliest Croatian immigrants came to Canada in the 1920’s, in search of a better life than those provided by their home villages. At first, Croatian immigrants were mostly male, and took jobs at the brickyard in Port Credit, but women began to immigrate to join their husbands in the later 20’s and throughout the 30’s. Many of these wives had never been more than fifteen kilometres outside of their home village when it came time for them to join their husbands in Canada, and were justifiably nervous.  Sometimes alone, and often scared, they would travel by road to the Croatian capital, Zagreb, before taking a train to the French coastal port of Cherbourg, where they would depart by ship for Canada. These women only had the letters of their husbands to rely on for information about their new home, and were very unsure of what lay ahead of them.

While every Croatian came to Canada with a willingness to work extremely hard, women faced more barriers than did men. There was a perception that a woman leaving the home to work would shame her husband, as it would look like he could not provide for his family. Women did not, at first, get further from the home than harvesting cherries on the farms around the brickyard that their husbands worked at. Some women kept boort (running a boarding house in the family home). While these boarding houses were technically a joint venture between husband and wife, it was the wife who did all the work. One interviewee remembered it as “hell work,” and said that she wouldn’t wish it upon an enemy. The unceasing physical labour began with making breakfast for 5-7 men and packing them lunches for the work day. While the men were at work, the boort keeper would be occupied with cleaning, cooking, baking, washing, and ironing. Keeping boort also put strain on family relationships because they were on show for all to see.

While work took up the majority of Croatian immigrants’ time, there were still a few rare occasions for sociable gathering, such as picnics, weddings, and fundraising events. For the former, Croatians would ride in trucks from Hamilton and Toronto to spend time with their countrymen and women, while immigrants who were keen to embrace a valued role in Canadian society would organize the latter. Gender constraints still applied at these events, with women doing most of the food preparation and serving, but men also helped to cook lambs and pigs on spits.

Attention was lavished on the children, and it was clear that parents and their offspring were in an intensive lifelong relationship which would continue after the children moved out into their own houses.

During the 1930s, Croatian immigrants began to move out of the brickyard’s village and into the surrounding farmland, where they often set up grape farms on land that was similar to their native terrain. World War Two saw Croatian women move into semi-skilled labour positions in munitions and aircraft factories, and despite losing their jobs once the men returned from war, a precedent had been set. Croatian husbands may not have liked the idea of their wives working in a factory, but it had become far more socially acceptable than it once was, and women gained independence. A page had turned in the history of Croatian women in Canada: they were no longer only wives and domestic workers.

By James Walker

Published under ‘Cultural Diversity’ at with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation

From Servitude to Self-Determination: Croatian Women in Mississauga

Portuguese Settlement in Mississauga

The first immigrants of Portuguese birth came to Mississauga in May of 1954, coming predominantly from the islands of Azores and Madeira, which lie off the western coast of Portugal in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Lever Mushroom farm in Lakeview (SE Mississauga) was the first stepping stone for Portuguese immigrants to Mississauga. It provided them with steady income, and more importantly, room and board.

Over time, the mushroom farm became a small Portuguese village where people from the same island or village lived with people who spoke their native language. The owner of the farm would write a letter detailing the amount of workers that the farm needed, and the Portuguese foreman would send this back to his contacts in Portugal. The farm village was mostly inhabited by men, who would move out of the boarding houses and into surrounding Lakeview once joined by their wives and children. The arrival of new workers was always an occasion for gathering and celebration, as they came bearing news of home and genuine Portuguese products.

Working on the farm and saving most of their wages provided the newly arrived immigrants a measure of financial security, and allowed them to transition from boarding to home ownership. Once this had been achieved, rooms were rented in the family home to people from the native area at a discounted rate. It is because of this type of community support that the immigrants’ choice of city, neighborhood, and even street were based on their predecessors.

By 1966, around 150 Portuguese families were living in Lakeview and Streetsville. Lakeview was an especially popular area as it was close to the mushroom farm, had housing at reasonable prices, and was located close to public transport which allowed travel to Toronto for sociocultural events as well as shopping at Portuguese import stores and visiting relatives.

As Mississauga’s Portuguese community continued to grow, Portuguese cultural institutions sprang up around the city. In March of 1971, the Portuguese-Canadian Integration Movement was founded in Streetsville. Its main goals were the preservation of Portuguese culture, and helping Portuguese people to integrate into Canadian society. The Portuguese Club of Mississauga, now known as the Portuguese Cultural Centre of Mississauga, was founded in 1974 to serve a similar purpose.

By the 1970s, the classic method of Portuguese immigration to Canada, which saw immigrants in Toronto cluster together into “ethnic neighborhoods”, was petering out. The ’80s saw Portuguese influx to Mississauga spread out over a greater area than the one covered by the new Portuguese residents of the ’60s and ’70s, but the original nuclei of Portuguese culture in Mississauga continued to attract new residents.

By James Walker

Published under ‘Cultural Diversity’ at with support from the Ontario Trilluim Foundation

Portuguese Settlement in Mississauga