Phyllis Relents

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In 1961, when Phyllis said “no” to the property developer, the university principal stepped in. He negotiated the deal himself. He invited Phyllis for tea, and they discussed the matter quietly. Faced with the inevitable, Phyllis relented. Her home would be torn down.

Jean and Phyllis moved to a smaller house just two blocks away, at 140 Stuart Street. As in the old house, each had her own apartment, where they lived quite happily for fifteen more years.

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Phyllis’s House

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The house was two-and-a-half storeys tall, made of brick with wood floors, big closets, a dining room with a built-in china cabinet, and a fireplace. It was from this house that Phyllis’s siblings started their marriages and careers, and moved away. This was also the house where her niece (Muriel’s daughter) came in 1903 as a toddler, grew up and married, and emigrated to England. And it was in this house that both of Phyllis’s parents had grown old and died in 1935 and 1936.

Phyllis continued to live in the house for many years afterward, making her living as a music teacher, giving lessons and even holding recitals in the living room. To boost her income, she converted the second floor into apartments, and rented one of these to the famous university registrar, Jean Isobel Royce. The two women became fast friends.

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Phyllis’s Fight

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A controversy erupted at Queen’s University in 1961, twenty-six years after the death of Archibald Patterson Knight.

As a scientist, Professor Emeritus, and former member of the university’s Board of Trustees, AP might have been in favour of the plan for a new physics building on the Queen’s University campus. But the Board had chosen a site that would destroy the last large green space on campus. Students and faculty protested, demonstrations were held, and the Board was forced to change its decision.

An alternative site was chosen on Queen’s Crescent, where most of the property owners had agreed to sell. Just one person held out. It was Archie and Cordelia’s daughter, Phyllis Knight, who had lived at 52 Queen’s Crescent for nearly 70 years.

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Corrie’s Children

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Corrie’s eldest son, Freddie, had some sort of intellectual or developmental disability. We don’t know the specifics, since the records aren’t yet open to the public, but when he was about 23 years old, his parents admitted him to the Orillia Asylum, and he spent the rest of his life there. Upcoming Storydello entries will tell more of Freddie’s story.

Meanwhile, Corrie’s other children were growing up and making their way in the world. Then, suddenly–in 1902, when the nest was almost empty–Corrie found herself with a new toddler to raise.

Phyllis Spencer was Corrie and Archie’s first grandchild. While the baby’s flamboyant mother was travelling the world and marrying one rich husband after another, little Phyllis grew up quietly in the house on Queen’s Crescent, much-loved by her grandparents and unmarried aunt.

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AP Knight: Alice Street

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Archie and Cordelia had five children: Freddie (14), Muriel (13), Cyril (11), Mona (8) and Phyllis (2), and before long, Cordelia’s mother would also be living with them.

That was too many people for the little house on William Street, so in 1891 the family moved to a larger one. It was beautifully located between the university and the lakeshore on a curving road (Alice Street) that would later be called Queen’s Crescent.

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