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Dr. Rhona Stein Singer, Educator, Painter, Career Counsellor, Author
Creativity College of Toronto, Centre for Skill Development
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Eighteen years ago, Dr. Rhona Stein Singer was very excited about finally opening her own school either in ESL-English as a Second Language or a school of the arts, a dream she had nurtured from the age of nineteen. Thirty years later, she was ready, highly qualified as a teacher in both areas, armed with two business plans, blackboards and chalk!

After a couple of years she thought she finally found a building her engineer husband Norman Singer approved. Located beside the subway at Bloor and Spadina streets in the heart of the Annex, in downtown Toronto, around the corner from the University of Toronto, it was over a century old, a narrow Victorian semi-detached building, which for thirty years had been a Tourist home run by Olga Karabanow. Her nephew was selling the building a year after she died. Norman is a stickler for quality building. He wanted solid structure - good roof, wiring, plumbing. Rhona wanted charm. This building had both.

They meandered single file down the halls-the realtor, followed by Norman, hands behind his back, followed by Rhona who was eagerly hoping this was the one after dragging him through more than two dozen properties, then Alex. During the tour, Norman examined the ceilings, checked the switches and plumbing. Then, on the third floor, as they again marched single file down the hall, he turned around, looked at Rhona and gave a nod, while pursing his lips in approval. Rhona then turned around and made an offer to purchase to the owner who said he thought they had a deal. Rhona felt that in the heavens, three people were smiling: her father, Milton Stein, a businessman who enjoyed dabbling in real estate, Morris Singer, Norman’s father, a skilled handyman and house painter and Olga Karabanow, an astute inn keeper who wore interesting hats.

When the transaction was completed, in September, 1995, Rhona and Norman returned from the lawyers with the key to the front door and a master key for the office and rooms. They had their coats on and had just opened the front door. As they opened the office door and turned on the lights, the doorbell rang. A lady asked if she could rent a room. Rhona replied, “We’re sorry but it’s not a guest house anymore, it’s going to be a school.” The lady said that she was taking her nursing exams at the University the next day, was exhausted and nervous and would be grateful for a room. Rhona replied that she had planned to give the beds and linens to the Salvation Army, and had no idea where the individual room keys were and didn’t even know if there were blankets. “Oh,” replied the lady, “I’ve stayed here many times and if the keys are in the same place I know where they are.” And sure enough, there they were, in a plastic box with little drawers labeled with the room numbers. The lady repeated that she was tired and really needed a room. Rhona looked at Norman. Norman looked at Rhona. The rest is history. They became innkeepers and have not had an empty house since that day! Rhona’s paintings are all over, decorating the halls and the rooms.

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