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Leaside’s proud history

Leaside, by Jane PitfieldAs we approach the 150th birthday of Canada, I am reminded of the significant contribution the Town of Leaside has made to Canada especially since incorporation in 1913.

The Town of Leaside existed for 54 years until amalgamation with East York in 1967. It was again amalgamated in 1998 when East York became part of the current megacity.

At the heart of the history of Leaside is the Lea family. In no other part of the Toronto area has a family been more closely associated with the development of a community than the Leas were in Leaside.

John Lea arrived from Lancashire, England to in 1820 and chose a 200-acre parcel of land to farm that was inexpensive and well drained as it was 150 feet above Lake Ontario. He farmed Northern Spy apples. The farm extended from where the hydro station is to Thorncliffe Park. [click to continue…]


Three Grade 10 LHS students captured five medals in track at OFSAA, the provincial high school championships, on June 3 and 4 in Belleville: Remy Cattell, bronze in junior girls 800m and silver in junior girls 1500m, Kate Denomme, bronze in junior girls 400m, and Liam Rivard, bronze in junior boys 400m and gold in junior boys 800m.

From Leaside’s deep roots spring new shoots

St. Cuthberts' great oak - then and now. Courtesy of St. Cuthbert's Church.

St. Cuthberts’ great oak – then and now. Courtesy of St. Cuthbert’s Church.

On a cold, drizzly, late-March day, I came face to face with Leaside’s deep roots – literally. Let me explain.

It was Earth Day and St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church on Bayview had organized a day of speakers and events. I was there to help officially recognize the church’s majestic white oak as the first of 150 Ontario Heritage Trees to be named in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial. (An Ontario Heritage Tree is a tree that’s linked to significant figures or historical events.)

So there I was, bundled up in front of St. Cuthbert’s with local leaders and a great turnout from our community, thinking about just how much this towering, 200-year-old tree has seen as it has put its roots deeper and reached ever skyward. And not for the first time, it struck me what a special community Leaside is and has always been. [click to continue…]

Bits and bites about our Leaside schools

  • Principals Mike Kennedy at Rolph PS and David Ehrlich at Northlea EMS are moving to new schools in the TDSB. Thank you Mike and David for your contributions to our schools. I would like to introduce the new principals: Sandra LaRosa at Rolph and Barbara Sandler at Northlea. Both are outstanding educators who will continue the reputation of these great schools.
  • The Student Engagement Com-mittee at Bessborough EMS is composed of Grade 6 to 8 students who want to make a difference. The committee focuses on three main areas: Advocacy: linking to the greater community; Legacy: spreading “positivity” throughout the school, and Fundraising: helping with specific school campaigns. The students are making a difference and learning real leadership.
  • The TD Bank honours exceptional high school students with a scholarship for community leadership. Only 20 students across Canada are selected. This year THREE Leaside HS students were the recipients of these scholarships! This is the first time in the scholarship’s history that three of the recipients attend the same school. (See page 20).

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Lorna Krawchuk remembers…

My earliest memories of July 1 may not even be for that specific day. Since I grew up in a company gold-mining town in northern Ontario, with a population of 2,167, a highlight of the beginning of summer was the mine picnic – which I think was held on what was then called Dominion Day. And the highlight for me as a young kid was the sandbox, liberally “salted” with pennies for those below a certain age.

But my best memories of Canada Day have to be from the 1990s, when I was a member of council for the Borough of East York. Early in the morning, we would head over to the East York Civic Centre to be special guests at a citizenship ceremony organized especially for Canada Day – with all the pomp of a citizenship judge, an RCMP officer with the red tunic and the Sam Browne hat, and the excited individuals and families who were about to become Canadians on that special day. [click to continue…]

Alan with the Honourable Barbara McDougall at Rolph Road School’s 75th anniversary in 2014. Photo By Kurt Grantham.

Alan with the Honourable Barbara McDougall at Rolph Road School’s 75th anniversary in 2014. Photo By Kurt Grantham.

Does the name Barbara Leaman ring a bell? What about the name Barbara McDougall? In fact, they are one and the same person. You may remember Barbara from school or from the Leaside neighbourhood or as Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs (now called the Minister of Global Affairs).

Barbara Leaman grew up in Leaside at the corner of Bessborough Dr. and Rolland Rd. across the street from where I grew up myself. She attended Rolph Road School from Kindergarten to Grade 8, but I believe Barbara skipped one of those grades. She certainly didn’t skip Grade 2, however, because at the 75th anniversary celebration of Rolph Road School Barbara reminded the audience that her Grade 2 teacher, Miss Turnbull, used to put kids over her knee and spank them if they misbehaved. I don’t remember that, but I was a couple of years ahead of her at Rolph and I never skipped a grade. [click to continue…]

Meet DAVID BRYANT, Leaside’s master of flash

David Bryant, Ashley and Hailey. Photo by Susan Scandiffio.

David Bryant, Ashley and Hailey. Photo by Susan Scandiffio.

Leasiders have had wonderful local opportunities to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in the first six months of 2017. With the beautiful red and white tulips outside the Leaside Library, commemorative programming inside the library, special events at the curling club, school art displays and carnivals, to name but a few, the neighbourhood has being showing its national pride in a myriad of meaningful ways.

But the most dazzling and brilliant celebration is just around the corner. On July 3rd, Leaside will positively sparkle with the sensational lights and sounds of our very own Canada 150 fireworks display.

Leaside is fortunate to boast a number of enthusiastic volunteers who generously donate their energies to many neighbourhood causes. The same holds true for the coordinator of fireworks displays. [click to continue…]

150 years of noise in South Leaside

Drawing by Aino Anto

Drawing by Aino Anto

Leaside, like much of 19th century York, began as rich farmland. But what had once been the Lea family’s quiet oasis within a growing and teeming metropolis quickly became the centre of industrial activity. Some 150 years ago, Leaside was making its name as a hub of railway and other industrial activity.

Now, a century and a half later, different types of noise permeate Leaside. Many nights I experience “sleepless in South Leaside” thanks to the cacophony of neighbourhood sounds created by machines, man and our furry friends. These noise disturbances are definitely not conducive to a good night’s rest for a light sleeper like me, and a lack of sleep has been known to make me a very grumpy morning girl.

This is how I spend much of my “sleepy time”. [click to continue…]

Hockey blood runs deep in Leaside

Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. This grand milestone leads Canada’s millions of citizens to sit back and proudly reflect on the country’s accomplishments, triumphs, and favourite pastimes. It also allows for us to look to the future – to anticipate what this vast and dynamic country may hold for us in the years to come.

As a new member of the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens board, I have recently found myself walking through the arena’s doors, only to be bombarded by a flood of memories from my childhood that epitomize what it means to grow up Canadian, specifically in Leaside. I recall watching my brothers’ games well past my bedtime, and early morning practices of my own. I remember Friday night free skates, skating from boys who showed their affections by plowing a pound of snow at you with a skilled stop. I reminisced on burning my tongue on way-too-hot hot chocolates, and convincing my mom to give me a quarter for the candy machines. I’m reminded of friendships that were made on and off the ice, that remain strong to this day. [click to continue…]

Leaside Life contributors Lorna Krawchuk, Geoff Kettel and Carol Burtin Fripp are among 20 constituents from Don Valley West to be honoured on July 1st, 2017 by MP Rob Oliphant. The Canada 150 Award for Citizenship has been inaugurated to both celebrate the historic 150 milestone and honour people who have built our country through their contributions in leadership, community service, sports and countless other ways. Award recipients will receive a special limited edition Anniversary pin, that actually contains a special piece of Canadiana, as it has been fashioned from copper that was recently removed from the roofs of Canada’s Parliament during a renovation.

MP Oliphant will be hosting his annual Canada Day celebration on July 1, 2017, 11:30 am-2:30 pm at the Toronto Botanical Garden & Edwards Gardens, 777 Lawrence Ave. East (at Leslie). The community is invited to join in: there will be free food, an information booth, live entertainment and lots of fun for children and people of all ages.

Lawn bowling in action at the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club open house.

Lawn bowling in action at the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club open house. Photo By Karli Vezina.

My latest escapade had me “summoned” to the Leaside Lawn Bowling Club at Hanna Rd. and Parklea Dr. I was invited to the open house so off I went to bowl – outside! When I arrived I saw lovely greens and people everywhere – but no bowling pins. How does one bowl without pins? This would be my journey for the next couple of hours.

Fun fact #1: Lawn bowling is very similar to curling, minus the ice and the falling. After a few rounds with publicity liaison and patient teacher Gloria Paisley, I was feeling this game and liking what I saw. [click to continue…]

Streaking? It seemed like a good idea at the time!

Celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday has naturally prompted me to look back at some of the high points in the life of our country and community. While engaged in this honourable and reflective pursuit, I also came across one of the low points, and my own modest (or rather immodest) complicity.

Yes, I know I’m dating myself when I raise the long and thankfully forgotten topic of “streaking.” It was a phenomenon that swept the world for a mercifully brief time back in the early ’70s. It was a vibrant but short-lived cultural aberration that even reached Leaside’s sheltered precincts. If only for academic edification, I think streaking deserves to be exposed, laid bare, and stripped of its pretension as a bona fide trend in that strange decade all those years ago. [click to continue…]

The Norway maples were specifically chosen by our street planners because of their ability to thrive. These trees could take compacted soil, pollution, and produce a quick canopy for our streets.

That must have seemed like a great idea at the time.

Some 80 years later, the Norway maples have taken over 60 per cent of our native sugar maples. Some put the number as high as 90 per cent in the forest surrounding the Evergreen Brickworks.

This is what invasive plants are capable of.

As we celebrate Canada’s 150 years, it seems like an opportune time to look back at some other botanical introductions. [click to continue…]

Canadian 150th 10 Dollar Bill

A woman other than Queen Elizabeth is now gracing the new Canada 150 commemorative $10 bank note.

Leaside’s own Agnes Macphail is sharing space on the latest paper note. Macphail represented the riding of Grey Southeast as the first female MP from 1921 (the first year in which women could vote) until 1940. Then, in 1943, she was elected as one of the first two female MPPs for the riding of York East, which included Leaside, and served until 1945, and again from 1948 until 1951. [click to continue…]

Leaside High’s graduating superstars

This is a banner year for exciting news about university acceptances and scholarships at Leaside High.

Three students – Sahar Abdalla, Cindy Chen and William Chinnery – won the prestigious TD Canada Trust Scholarship for Community Leadership, granted to only 20 students across Canada. Denise Wilson, curriculum leader for guidance, says it is the first time there have been three recipients from one school, testament to these students’ outstanding qualifications. The scholarship, valued at $70,000, includes paid summer employment, mentorship and networking opportunities. [click to continue…]

Rick Hutchings, the Community Planting and Junior Gardening Director of the Leaside Gardening Society, co-ordinates the planting of the flower beds by elementary school students with City of Toronto workers Gary Cardoso, Rick Revoredo and Ginaya Smith. The workers will maintain the gardens for the rest of the season.

Photo By Janis Fertuck.

Rick Hutchings, the Community Planting and Junior Gardening Director of the Leaside Gardening Society, co-ordinates the planting of the flower beds by elementary school students with City of Toronto workers Gary Cardoso, Rick Revoredo and Ginaya Smith. The workers will maintain the gardens for the rest of the season.

[click to continue…]

Happy 100th, Leaside Aerodrome

In the middle of the First World War, the British Royal Flying Corps was in need of additional pilots, mechanics, and maintenance crews so Canada stepped up. Construction of several training stations, including ones in Armour Heights, Long Branch, and here, in Leaside, were approved. Canadian Wire and Cable, the neighbourhood’s first industry, provided 220 acres of land, and plans for the building of the Leaside Aerodrome began.

A paved street named Government Road, now known as Merton (in Davisville Village) and McRae (in Leaside), was built as a supply route from Yonge St. Construction began on May 21, 1917. [click to continue…]

LHS 5T7 60th Anniversary Reunion. Front Row: Anne High (Shields), Sally Hergert (White), Greg Kasparian (School Captain), Jackie Hough(Williams) and Ron Williams. Back Row: John Cowan, Gary Hodgins, Stan Litch, Marie Allen (Plummer), Stewart Halliday, Peter White, Al Pounsett, Betty Pounsett, Nancy Doige (Wahlroth), Don McCrossan, Joy Bingley(Upland), David Martindale, Marie Ellis(McCready), Liz Brown (Fletcher),Doug Linton, Barb Ferguson (Bassett) and Ellen Phin (Thompson).

LHS 5T7 60th Anniversary Reunion. Front Row: Anne High (Shields), Sally Hergert (White), Greg Kasparian (School Captain), Jackie Hough(Williams) and Ron Williams. Back Row: John Cowan, Gary Hodgins, Stan Litch, Marie Allen (Plummer), Stewart Halliday, Peter White, Al Pounsett, Betty Pounsett, Nancy Doige (Wahlroth), Don McCrossan, Joy Bingley(Upland), David Martindale, Marie Ellis(McCready), Liz Brown (Fletcher),Doug Linton, Barb Ferguson (Bassett) and Ellen Phin (Thompson). Photo By Peter White.

How many people can say they attended their 60th high school reunion? According to Peter White, one of the principal organizers of Leaside High’s 60th, 20 members of the class of 1957 can make that boast after attending a luncheon at Fantasy Farm in June.

Sandwiches and cake were just a small part of the affair. The main items on the menu were memories and laughter. [click to continue…]

Sandy Bruce Park today.

Sandy Bruce Park today. Photo By Robin Dickie.

When Sandy Bruce was hired for the Leaside police force in 1929, his main job was traffic control: the town’s population was only 605, but there were 15 industries and thousands of workers arriving by car, bus, and train.

When he left the Leaside police department 17 years later, the job was different and he was the chief… so they named a park after him. Makes sense.

“Seventeen years later the population had grown to 11,000 with hundreds of commercial and industrial buildings and increasing crime. In 1946, it was time for the town to say goodbye to Sandy,” he added. [click to continue…]

Paul Robert: The accidental Leasider

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Unlike some of our neighbours who choose Leaside to make their home, Paul Robert falls more into the accidental category of Leasider.

He and his wife, Sally Spofforth, were shopping at the Bayview & Moore Loblaws when they were renting in Deer Park. They drove around the block after they left, and noticed a house for sale on Mallory Crescent, which had been sub-divided into two apartments. Interest rates were high in 1982, and house prices seemed high too, but they decided they could swing it. They raised their family here, and they’ve never left.

Paul comes from a long-lived family in Canada. We describe this country as a land of immigrants, some of whom arrived earlier than others. On Paul’s father’s side, an ancestor arrived in Lower Canada in 1665 as a member of a regiment sent by Louis XIV of France. Moving from Trois Rivières to Chambly, by the time of his grandfather, the family lived in Pain Court, a French community near Chatham, Ont. Paul’s grandfather studied medicine and was one of the doctors involved in the foundation of St. Michael’s Hospital as it transitioned from being an infirmary. [click to continue…]

Letters – July 2017


I was pleased to see the article that Leaside Life reran last month to recognize the passing of Michael Bliss.

For me, the loss of Michael Bliss is personal.

Professor Bliss entered my life as one half of a two-man act in the UofT history department that included James Careless. They introduced themselves to the first year class with the news that, despite the promising title “Careless/Bliss” in the syllabus, the course was not likely to dwell excessively on the history of loose sex in Canada.

My (eventual) wife was not deterred by this obvious disappointment. She did well in Professor Bliss’s classes. Having a bent for creative writing, she leavened one of her essays with poetry and song lyrics representative (or at least purportedly symbolic) of the events under consideration. Professor Bliss, instead of deducting marks for the irrelevancies, gave her an elevated mark for the initiative. His comments at the bottom of her paper included a note to thank her for keeping him awake amidst the tedium of countless papers utterly devoid of similarly entertaining literary embellishment. [click to continue…]

Working together to find solutions to traffic woes in Leaside

This being Leaside Life’s Canada 150 edition, I thought I’d contribute a bit of history to this month’s column.

Once upon a time, there was no through traffic along Southvale Drive.

In fact, there was no Southvale Drive.

You may have noticed that, unlike most other east/west streets in the city, house numbers on Southvale run backwards, with 135 at the western end where Southvale (now) converges with Moore Avenue, and number 5 at the eastern end. When these houses were being built back in the early 1940s, the street we now call Southvale was named Laird Drive. Laird was a north-south street, as it is now, but instead of ending at Millwood Road it hooked westward, extending to where Astor Avenue/Southvale intersect.

And located there was a dump, blocking any further east/west traffic. Some years later the dump was removed, opening up the connection between Moore and Laird. Subsequently the name of the street was changed at that corner to Southvale Drive. But the original house numbers remained. [click to continue…]

Bayview’s got a new creative muse

La muse storefront. Photo By Robin Dickie.

Photo By Robin Dickie.

A funny thing happened on the way to this month’s column.

My editor Jane Auster knew I wanted to write an entire article tearing a strip off Bayview shop owners for having terribly inconsistent hours of operation. Although she was prepared to let me do so, Jane suggested that before I get in front of the computer, I visit Sarah Barr, a new shop owner at 1592 Bayview Ave., who’s opened La Muse, a very attractive women’s clothing store.

When it comes to Bayview, I’m from Missouri, the show-me state. I recently met Sarah over coffee at her store one morning before it opened doubtful it would be worth my time. [click to continue…]

Laird in Focus hits its stride

Laird and leaside mapBy now you have heard about Laird in Focus, City Planning’s omnibus study and plan for: the Laird Focus Area – the large block of former industrial lands from Laird east to Aerodrome (east of Brentcliffe) and south to Vanderhoof; the west side of Laird down to Millwood; and a transportation planning study of the Leaside Business Park.

As mentioned in Leaside Life (January 2017), at the launch on November 30 there was a fair amount of skepticism about the value of the study. Comments were heard about the study area (actually three different study areas not making sense; with all the planning applications already submitted or approved in the study area, isn’t it a case of “too little, too late”?). [click to continue…]