Cowin, Maebelle: Jack Fisher Toms 1908-1984


by Maebelle Cowin

Jack Fisher Toms, was born at 395 Ball Street, Cobourg, on March 2nd, 1908 to Samuel John and Mabelle (Johns) Toms. Jack had two older sisters, Inez and Dorothy and a younger brother, Fred (Bing).

Jack attended George Street Public School in Cobourg. With his high school career ending within a couple of days, his parents thought he was still going to school, but he was working at a bakery. Later, as a young man, he worked for Pa Margles. Margles was in the business of buying and selling hides. A family member said Jack also worked at General Motors for a brief time.

Jack Fisher Toms

In 1930, Jack married Ellen (Nellie) Piper at St. Mark’s Church in her home town of Port Hope. They first lived in an apartment at King and George Streets in Cobourg. They then moved to John Street about 1931, before moving to their home on University Avenue West, where they raised a family of three children: Inez, Dorothy, and Jack. They rented that home for quite a while before finally buying it.

About 1928, Jack went to work for Sam Stover’s Restaurant, on King Street West, where he learned the trade of candy and ice cream-making. Stover’s were very famous for their homemade ice cream and their Easter Eggs. They had many molds of every shape and size, in the form of rabbits, eggs, and so on. Jack would make the eggs, then decorate them with handmade roses. It was fascinating to watch him decorate the eggs. Sam Stover’s brother had a restaurant in Orillia and Jack would deliver the homemade ice cream by truck, a long drive in the ‘30's and ‘40's. Besides delivering ice cream to Turk’s Restaurant in Port Hope, he cooked for Stover’s. Jack worked long hours, even Sundays for many years.

At the time that Jack worked for Sam Stover, Sam also operated the Dance Pavilion at the beach. Sam wanted to install a coloured crystal ball that would turn on many a romance on the dance floor. Sam’s right hand man, Jack Toms, constructed the round ball of plaster on a wire mesh. Gene Grieve another employee of Sam’s had the job of sticking the pieces of mirror onto the ball. The ball was motorized and coloured beams of light were played on it as it spun and of course the girls looked beautiful and love found a way.

Toms Snack Bar

In 1948 Jack bought out William’s Snack Bar on the south side of King Street , west of Third St. This was a bustling business on the main street with its snack bar serving the public from early morning until late evening. I believe they were open from 8 a.m. until midnight. They also sold daily papers, magazines, candy and tobacco products. During this period it remained a very thriving business.

With Jack it was a family run business, with his two daughters, his wife and also his Dad helping out. Jack and Nellie moved from their home on University Avenue to live in the apartment above the store. Again his life style didn’t change. He still worked long hours. He owned the Snack Bar for eight years, and retired in 1956 at age 48. Jack invested in several stores and apartments throughout the town. He sold the business to Henry Bivens. Later Jack’s son, Jack Jr., owned the store for a few years; then he sold out to the Baxters.

At this time Jack and Nellie purchased a home on Coronation Crescent, and also a cottage, his retreat, at Mazinaw Lake, on Highway 41. His years of retirement found him enjoying his cottage and exploring the lake with his boat. He also loved to drive through the countryside and shop. He was in the Masonic Order and the IOOF.

In 1980 Jack and Nellie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary surrounded by family and friends.

Jack was a well known man in town and always enjoyed a good chat with anyone. In 1984 his life was cut short with a illness that took him quickly and on December 14th, 1984, he passed away leaving behind a great legacy for our town.

Jack Toms c1980