Memories of the Beach


Advance praise for Memories of the Beach:

"Lorraine O’Donnell Williams has given us a charming and evocative memoir of the Beach district six or seven decades ago, when it was a separate world in the southeast corner of Toronto. Everyone who knew the Beach that was, and everyone who knows the Beach of today, will enjoy her account of growing up in that special place." – Robert Fulford, author of Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto

"In this richly rendered memoir of a Catholic girl growing up in Toronto’s Beach community in the 1930s and 1940s, Lorraine Williams not only vividly captures the feeling of a more innocent age, but at the same time touches on a universal truth – that the place in which we are nurtured forms an integral part of the person we become. Simply wonderful." – Michael Bedard, author of the Governor General Award-winning Redwork

In this rare combination of history and memoir, Lorraine O’Donnell Williams details life within Toronto’s Beach community in the 1930s and ’40s from the vantage point of her front verandah, which abutted the boardwalk. Her extensive research has uncovered numerous hidden facets of the heritage of this exceptional neighbourhood, including the stories of what was in its time one of North America’s most remarkable amusement parks, the popular dance hall, and how the area was transformed from cottage to urban living.


Memories of the Beach...provides a glimpse at life in one of Torontos more unique neighborhoods as Williams unearths nuggets of history while retelling tales of her Depression-era childhood.

While she may not have been on la rive gauche in Paris, but only on the boardwalk on the north shore of Lake Ontario, Williams does seem to have confirmed [Marshall] McLuhans opinion that, indeed, she can write, by vividly recreating the world of her childhood.

Memories of the Beach makes an excellent summer read, one that may leave you thinking about your own childhood and the places and times that formed the person you are today.

Waterloo Record

Regular Irish American Post contributor, Lorraine O'Donnell Williams grew up in the storied Beach district of Toronto, with its amusement park, racetrack and other entertainments. Her fun glimpses into 1930s and 1940s Toronto and its residents leave a delightful impression of one of Canada's major cities. Her family, with all its lovable quirks, brings the tale to life through its familiar-to-all cycle of daily life at school, dance classes, parties, weddings and advice from the elders.

Irish American Post

Readers will enjoy the old landmarks that are mentioned, as well as the many photographs that support her narrative. Lorraine is an erudite writer with a charming style....[Memories of the Beach] was a fascinating read and I have no hesitation in recommending it to all, young and old, who knew, or who would like to know more of, the old Toronto.

Arts in Motion (Markham Arts Council Newsletter) (August, 2011)

A very engaging memoir.

Catholic Register magazine

About the Author

Lorraine O’Donnell Williams

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014

Lorraine O’Donnell Williams

Lorraine O'Donnell Williams was born and raised in The Beach district of Toronto. Her career has included senior positions in the correctional, forensic psychiatry, and psychiatric fields of social work. Recently retired from private practice to write full time, she is the author of books, short stories, reviews, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. The mother of five adult children, passed away July 4, 2014.