Len' Mi Yuh Fount'n Town

by Orville Green
(Toronto, Canada)

Jones Town is an inner-city community in Kingston. It is situated to the south of Cross Roads and directly west of National Heroes Park (formerly Kingston Race Course or the Town Moor). On its northern boundary lies the old “Alms House” (former TB institution ungraciously called Black Fence) on Slipe Pen Road.

My paternal grandparents -- Charles and Frances Green -- and their four children were among the earliest residents of Jones Pen, the community’s name at the time, having moved from Ladd Lane in downtown Kingston sometime in the early 1900s to join the burgeoning middle-class community there.

The family home on Myers Street was the handiwork of my grandfather, a builder by trade, and remained the family seat until the death of my father’s last surviving sibling in 2010. All ten grandchildren were born while the family maintained a presence at 32 Myers Street.

There is a historical background that relates to the era when most of the Kingston communities named "Town" were originally named “Pen” -- they were in fact cattle pens that were on the fringes of the city before it expanded and incorporated them. Some of the pens were named after their owners, while other names were merely descriptive, or had other relevance to the owners.

The urbanization and gentrification of the 'outlying' areas of Downtown eventually brought into question the derogatory connotation of living in a "Pen.” So, Jones Pen, Admiral Pen, Vineyard Pen, Rollington Pen, Franklin Pen, Denham Pen, Trench Pen, Greenwich Pen, etc., were renamed Towns during the late ‘40s.

The welcome change was enshrined in one of the annual Christmas season pantomimes at the Ward Theatre, in an on-stage conversation between the famous comedians Ranny Williams and Lee Gordon. Ranny had just told Lee that all the ‘Pens’ had been changed recently to ‘Towns’ and, with concern for his own failing memory, Lee asked to borrow Ranny's fountain 'town' to make note of the information. That was cause for uproarious laughter and a topic of everyday conversation for some time.

Situated just across the street, almost opposite to our home, Christ Church Jones Town Baptist was the family’s spiritual home, except for my father and grandmother who maintained membership at All Saints Anglican Church, downtown. Thus, “Jones Town Baptist” remained central in my life during my entire childhood and into early adulthood.

As the years passed and upward-bound families moved out, Jones Town gradually suffered the typical decay that is a truism of urban living. By the turn of the century, due largely to political violence, the community had become virtually unrecognizable.

Jones Town is the centre stage on which my childhood was played out, and as I recall my experiences during the 1940s and '50s, I do so knowing well that memory is never 100 percent accurate, and shared memories vary to differing degrees.

The experiences I recount here are but a few that have been critical to the interesting boyhood I enjoyed and, naturally, to the formation of the man I have become.

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