Even today, 25 years after graduating from Corpus Christi Catholic School, Joe O’Leary can’t quite do it.
When he says hi to Corinne Vince, she is still “Mrs. Vince,” not Corinne.
For her part, Corinne says after 35 years of teaching, she enjoys many surprise run-ins with former students.
But she admits the boys can be tricky to recognize when they run up to yell hello on the beach boardwalk, some 10 or 20 years since she last saw them.
“Okay you just gotta tell me who you are,” she told one excited fellow. “Because you’re bald now, and have a moustache and a beard!”
Three years after Joe O’Leary and other Corpus Christi alumni suggested the city name a new street in honour of Corinne Vince, city council has approved “Vince Avenue.”
When it is built, the street will serve the new townhomes that are being built on the same site where Corpus Christi stood from 1920 to 2011, at 42 Edgewood Avenue.
“Really, this was the idea that had the most support, and it has a great story to it,” said Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, noting that the street name request came with hundreds of signatures.
When Corrine Vince retired from Corpus Christi in 1992, she was not only the second-longest serving teacher in the Toronto Catholic school board. She was likely the only person in the city whose walk to work was the same one she had as a schoolgirl in the late 1940s.
Corinne was born on Orchard Park Boulevard, and when she and her sister bought their own houses, they were on Orchard Park, too, along with their parents.
“We all live in little Toronto,” she said.
For just a short while, during her teacher training, Corinne ventured to a faraway apartment on Kingston Road.
“It was still in Corpus Christi parish,” she says, laughing.
Corrine still remembers the day that led to the big move. It was 1954, the baby boom was in full swing, and she was a Grade 12 student at Notre Dame.
“The school inspector came in and said, ‘Ladies, we need teachers. But you have to get your parents’ permission,’” she said.
“You never saw my mom and dad sign something so fast.”
Corinne was just 17 years old when she was given her first class as a teacher-in-training. The class sizes in 1950s Toronto dwarfed today’s.
“You could have 45 or 50 kids in your classroom,” she said, adding that except in special behavior classes, there were no assistants.
“It was fine. You didn’t really think anything of it, because that’s the way it was.”
For two years, Corinne took summer teaching courses and taught as a temporary teacher at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary. By 1957, she was back at Corpus Christi.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “In all the years, I never felt like I was going to work. I was still going to school, and I loved it.”
Growing up, Corinne’s father coached hockey teams at Corpus Christi parish. He worked as a pickle salesman, and drove players to games in a pickle truck.
Following the lead, Corinne helped out with many sports teams at Corpus Christi, including a stint with the hockey team while Manny Legace played for the school. Legace went on to play in nets for the Detroit Red Wings and Canada’s silver-medal winning hockey team at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994.
But Corinne’s big claim to sports fame comes from her grandfather, George ‘Knotty’ Lee, whose baseball card she keeps in her wallet.
‘Knotty’ Lee, who got his nickname for his twisting spitball pitch, has his jersey hanging in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. From 1896 to 1907, he pitched in several US and Canadian semi-pro leagues, but is best remembered for founding Canada’s first pro baseball league, in 1911, before he scouted for the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Philadelphia A’s.
To Corpus Christi alumni, Corinne Vince’s own all-star moment came during one of their toughest – the demolishing of the school.
In 2011, they led a successful campaign to save a 500-pound concrete and limestone cross that stood above the school, which the developer of the new townhomes agreed to remove by crane.
It is still waiting to be repaired and installed outside nearby Corpus Christi Catholic Church, where it will have a permanent home.
“Her students were all up and down the street watching this thing,” O’Leary said, remembering what it was like to watch the crane at work.
“Everybody looked over at her as it was coming down, and she stood there like a rock,” he said.