Fifty Years Since The Fire: Memories of The Tam

The Tam and its golf and country club was a beloved local Toronto landmark in Agincourt and Scarborough, which served not only as a hub of sporting activity for golf, hockey, skating, and curling, but also as a social gathering place.

October 3rd, 2021 marks 50 years since a fire that devastated the recreation centre of the Tam O’Shanter Golf, Curling, and Skating Club.

The historical events of the fire and preceded and proceeded it have been documented, but what stands out are the associated memories by its patrons. Here are some of them:

“The thing about the Tam that made it so beloved was that it was a public club that you could pay as you play. You could join a membership but you could also swim and picnic all day for 25 cents. Agincourt in those days was so rural but kids could roam safely all the over the farm lanes and village streets back in the day when you had to be in by dark. The golf course “Newton’s” as Johnny Evelyn the golf pro used to call them, were everywhere collecting golf balls, working in the pro shop, caddying and dreaming of being a golfer. So many were characters in their own right. Every Saturday there would be 3 or 4 weddings which my Dad [Alastair “Big Al”] oversaw ( in either his kilt or his dinner suit/ tux) in addition to all the other sports, banquets and bonspiels so it was always a mad house of get it ready, run it, tear it down set up for the next one. My Mum [Elizabeth “Libby”] did flowers, booked the waitresses and bartenders. In the early days she would sit at the door and take tickets. On New Years eve 1955 my Dad was in a pickle because my Mum was the event hostess and called him just before it was to start saying too bad I’m in labour… and the joke goes he asked her if she could just “hold it for a few hours”.”

“Another thought that will stir up memories is that the Tam had the best toboggan hill anywhere !!! Super steep and fast and the best part there was the creek at the bottom. At one time or another we all went for a dunk and had to walk home as total icicles when winter was real winter. No parents , we were all free range. Across the road was Patterson’s lane between old farmsteads and it was a short cut back to the post war subdivisions that had sprung up around the schools (Agincourt public and Collegiate/ North Agincourt PS. and others). My mum says you should ask for memories of people who were married at the Tam … lots of great tales I’m sure.”

“The golf ball was right at the corner of Kennedy Rd and Sheppard. My mum told me someone cut it down as a Halloween prank and it was never re-erected.”

– Kandie Learmonth

The following Tam promotional material are by the Peterborough Post Card Co. and Canadian Post Card Co, as provided by Kandie Learmonth.

The following photos are courtesy the Toronto Telegram, as provided by Kandie Learmonth.

Bill Sparkhall in front of aerial view of The Tam
Clan snackbar and dining room
Curling lounge, Mike Housey (2nd Left) and my dad Alastair (3rd Left)
The Golf ball with William Sparkhall and my dad Alaistair

“I grew up on Birchmount Road between Shephard and Finch in the late 50s to about mid 60s.  Attended L’Amoreaux Public School and later started high school at Sir John A MacDonald before having to move from Birchmount due to a subdivision being built in place of our nice open fields …..  One house down with a field in between was a tee-off for the Tam O’Shanter.  Many weekends (especially during the summer) were spent either being a caddy for the golfers up to the next hole, finding lost golf balls in the field (and at times pretending we didn’t see them and standing on them until golfer gave up looking), then taking those same balls and putting them into the ball washer and reselling them to the next set of golfers.  Remember specifically one weekend raising an extra $10 so my best friend and I could go to the CNE (when you could survive on $10/day and free food at the food building).  There was a little house that I believe was part of Tam O’Shanter at this Tee-off, and was rented out to various families over the years and an apple orchard right next to this.  We’d climb the trees, pick the apples (even if green, we’d take a salt shaker to eat them).   Not too far down from that was a creek that ran under Birchmount where I would take pickle jars and collect tadpoles and bring home and watch them develop.  Also after a rain I’d go out onto road and collect the tiny little toads that would come out.  Once at the creek I caught a snapping turtle, brought it home and kept in our sub-pump hole in basement until it bit me and I took it back.  Right down the back of my house was a small ‘forest’ which we used sometimes to go over to the Tam to go swimming, etc.   I took a pickle jar down to this ‘forest’ one day and caught a bat which was hanging upside down on a branch, and brought it home.  That was the first time I saw my mother’s hair stand straight up.  She made my brother return it.  I also picked my mother a bouquet of Trilliums and she nearly fainted.  She rushed me in the door to make sure no one saw me.  Apparently was not supposed to pick this type of flower.  LOL   At the Tam we would go swimming regularly, I joined a bowling group there one year.   I remember they had, I believe, two St. Bernard dogs (one being named Tammy) who regularly came over to our tee-off on Birchmount with the workers when they came to clean up.”

– Pat Woodcock (nee Everingham)

For more information and memories on the Tam O’Shanter, read here.

Do you have a memory to share? Leave a comment below or email bob@scenesto.com.

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