My Neighbourhood

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An article about my neighbourhood.

Submitted: July 19, 2009

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Submitted: July 19, 2009

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My Neighbourhood by Margaret Code
Evelyn listened to the writer read at Doors Open Toronto. She wondered if she could capture the feel of her own Toronto neighbourhood as well and decided to try.
A neighbourhood such as a valley or mountainside is delineated geographically. A neighbourhood can also be fixed by a certain type of housing stock, by landmarks such as an airport, court or legislative buildings, by ethnic enclave, by political boundaries which are always cartographic, by the inhabitants who may be long-established or newcomers, or by the original inhabitants such as Corktown, thought Evelyn. My neighbourhood is in transition: a mix of old-timers and newcomers from every land. The housing stock too is a wonderful, eclectic mixture of styles from 1900’s brick farmhouses to newly builtPortuguese, stone 3-stories with mid 19th century semi-detached and detached houses predominating. The boundaries aren’t geographic although the old Garrison Creek bed is featured prominently in brass letters set into the concrete on two street corners and theyembrace Hillcrest Village on a high bank of land from which Lake Ontario is visible. Davenport Road is said to run along the old shoreline of a prehistoric lake and to be an old Indian trail.
For me, my neighbourhood is chiefly defined by a psychological milieu expanded by ownership of a bicycle. Large, very old trees line most streets which are filled in good weather with steady pedestrian traffic, often with a bundle buggy and groceries in tow. The multicultural restaurants spanning 5 continents and shops offering anything from flowers, dry cleaning, dentistry, legal and real estate services, pharmaceuticals, used furniture and accessories, to Greek cheese and baklava, to dollar store items, to CD’s and photographs are all included. The block long school housing kindergarten, elementary and junior high classes is a landmark as are the high school, the Catholic schools, and the three large churches at the intersection of Wychwood and St. Clair W. A number of smaller churches dot the area. Three large grocery stores all within easy walking distance anchor this family-centered neighbourhood with lots of seniors and scads of kids. Koreatown on Bloor with its own large grocery store where a young man waits peering in for the lights to come on and the doors to open at 8:40 a.m. is included. So is Christie Pits where baseball and skating both flourish in their seasons and the rink does double duty as a waste depot during city worker strikes.
The friendly bicycle shop on Davenport draws clients from the neighbourhood and beyond. The beauty salon next door has a clientele of mainly seniors from the area. Alcoa, the large, well-stocked Portuguese bakery with its breaded fish fingers and popular, flakey custard tarts a few doors down the street reflects the significant Portuguese population that edged out the Italians who followed the English, Irish and Scottish in the neighbourhood. Nearby New Canadians Lumber at Shaw and Dupont, also Portuguese-owned, blossomed into a well-rounded hardware and construction supplies store that rivals its competitors a couple of neighbourhoods away: Home Depot, Rona, Canadian Tire and Lowe’s – all within easy traveling distance, even on a bicycle.
At the intersection of Winona and Davenport a lot carved into the hillside sits vacant surround by chain link fence, a gap tooth reminder of the fire that destroyed a flourishing auto repair business. Where Winona crosses St. Clair another bow to the automobile takes the form of a long established muffler shop with one vintage freestanding black and white sign going back to the fifties at least.
Corso d’Italia’s street festivals are readily enjoyed as are its ample supply of small Italian restaurants, high style clothing and shoe shops, expresso bars and gelato dispensaries. St Clair West offers a colourful Salsa Festival in the summer when the streets fill with people and salsa music in equal measures. Some of the local bars host musicians and poets of an evening so even live entertainment can be found in my neighbourhood. And it’s only a short distance to the Art Bar at Clinton and Bloor West, the premier weekly poetry event in the city. Phoenix, the oldest running poetry workshop in Toronto is also only walking distance away as are a number of literary and poetry groups and nights.
Dufferin Mall is close by and Yorkdale and downtown Toronto both are only short subway rides away. The streetcars and buses are always full as public transportation is the preferred mode of travel in this area, but Bloor and Yonge can be reached on foot in under an hour. Drivers find themselves due south of the bottom end of the Allen expressway and close to both the 401 and the Queensway in this central mid-town neighbourhood.
Even though we find million dollar homes in Wychwood Park, that gated nest of palatial homes built on private property, we seldom see designer prices even in the classier gift stores. You can still get an all-day breakfast for $3.99 and a good dinner under $10.00. With completion of the new streetcar line extending from Yonge to Keele and a high-end condominium building at Bathurst and St. Clair this could change. Real estate kept pace with overall Toronto prices in the boom of 2002 to 2006 and there has been gradual gentrification within the neighbourhood as prices climb.
One of the charming features is the many back laneways that house garages for the homes in front. Another benefit is the three libraries within walking distance of each other. The Hillcrest Village-Wychwood Park neighbourhood boasts a small hospital and housing for seniors. The jaunty march of the cheery mail woman with post bag slung over shoulder is a familiar sight. Tennis and soccer fans will not be disappointed and swimmers have an easy commute to the Pichinnini pool. Dog walkers love to socialize in the many parks.
The new Wychwood Barns bring an enclave of artists, cultural events and a farmer’s market to the area. Street sales lend fun and excitement in good weather and skating rinks when it’s cold. Casa Loma, the house built to resemble a castle, now a tourist destination, draws crowds in fine weather and foul. The replica Victorian garden in the adjacent restored manor house, also open to the public, is a memorable walk. Just down the road, an old tollkeeper’s cottage has been relocated and restored for public viewing. It houses many interesting artifacts from days long gone.
For variety in multiple forms and opportunity for engagement, it’s hard to match my neighbourhood. I’m still waiting for the axe to fall though, after 20 years, am almost convinced it won’t. When I first moved here, people would talk to me about what a people neighbourhood it is. It is. But one day someone threw cold water on this brightly painted picture. This person told me about neighbours who got into an altercation with another neighbour and came out one day to find their dog dead in their front yard. Foul play was evident. The same individual also mentioned that one man used to patrol the streets with a chain saw in his hands. Wouldn’t want to go to too many horror movies with these events in mind. A few years ago, a panhandler whose spot was just in front of the nearby liquor store where the ground is littered with crushed cigarette butts, was shot to death. Wouldn’t want to be totally oblivious of my surroundings, Evelyn mused, even though there’s reason to conclude this is a safe neighbourhood. I’ll mind my own business, and won’t cross the parks alone late at night.
Words 1261


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