Karen Lawrence

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Kent and Karen Lawrence came to Toronto from New England. Kent had been drafted into the US Army but deserted soon afterward. He spent time in a military prison before going underground and escaping to Canada. After he immigrated he found a job driving a truck for a surplus dealer on Spadina Avenue. After a few months, he and Karen opened a store selling government surplus on Avenue Road. They moved to store to Baldwin Street before July 1972. Jimmy and Patty Wilson offered him the storefront at 25 Baldwin Street and moved the Yellow Ford Truck to 39 Baldwin Street.

Karen and Kent appeared in a 1970 video that explained “dumpster diving”. They showed how to find and utilize food that is routinely thrown away by large food stores. The video was shown on Toronto television. Since they were in the surplus business, the couple dressed in Army fatigues in the video and for years afterward.

Karen and Kent lived with the Whole Earth commune at Kennedy and Steeles Avenue after they opened the surplus store. Kent and Karen split up in the middle 1970s and Kent took advantage of President Ford’s amnesty program to return to the US. Karen enlisted Helen and David Zimmerman to help in the store which then specialized in antique clothing. Helen’s daughter, Jessica, and Karen’s daughter, Shantih, were both born in January 1971 and the two women were involved in Snowflake Parent-Child Center along with Patty Wilson of the Yellow Ford Truck and Laura Jones of the Baldwin Street Gallery of Photography. The July 1975 publication “Survive” listed Cosmic Egg surplus at 27 Baldwin Street but the store closed soon afterward.

Karen became a woodworker and she and her daughter continue to live in downtown Toronto. In September 2004 Karen signed on to teach at an English-language school in Yantai in the Province of Shandong on the northeast coast of China. Her contract was for one year and she returned to Toronto where she works as a teacher.

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