It’s been said that the first decade or so after formal retirement is most people’s “still” time of life. Most of the questions oldsters are asked contain that loaded word: Are you still going into the office? Are you still working out? Still going up to the cottage? Still in your house in Leaside? Still able to touch your toes? And so on.
And you’re usually proud to say, “Yes, I’m still …..” Better to announce that we’re still doing things, for the alternative, not doing them, is usually loaded with dark connotations. At this age you want things pretty much to stay the same. Even as the body creaks and rebels, you’re still leaping out of bed in the morning to face the world.
As a community, Leaside is mimicking its seniors’ battles with stability and change. With most of its housing stock built in the late ’30s and early ’40s, Leaside is an aging place. Long gone are the freedom and independence of Leaside’s youth, for over the years it lost round after round of struggles with the megalopolis. It has no more self-government, no more board of education, no more political identity of any kind, and soon may not have a single spokesperson in municipal government. It has no postal designation, no name on most maps, and very few factories in its old industrial district.
Many of its old houses are being euthanized. They are razed rather than cremated; but the phoenixes rising on their sites are often utterly unLeaside-like, silly stone faux chateaux reflecting the architectural dementia that’s epidemic in Toronto.
More destruction will come, probably at an accelerating pace. We will have high-rise towers of condos and office buildings along Eglinton and Bayview, maybe Laird and Millwood. We’ll have more retail where the factories used to be, more and more and more car and bike traffic. As we’re told about post-Crosstown planning for our era, the Manhattanization of modern Toronto means one assault after another on fortress Leaside.
Sometimes it’s best not to be still wedded to the past. No, I don’t still work, I’m smelling the roses now. No, we sold that old dump and have a fantastic condo. No, I’m not still mourning my husband; my new partner and I are very happy together.
Similarly, perhaps Leaside didn’t still need all those old Depression-era bungalows. Even Geoff Kettel would admit that some of the new homes actually enhance the neighbourhood. And Lorna Krawchuk is telling us that breweries and barbecue joints in the old industrial area make Leaside “cool, hip and happening.” It’s certainly true that most of us would rather have commercial intercourse at Longo’s than at the old Canadian Wire and Cable.
And just as oldsters sometimes do amazing new things, how about the growth of Leaside Life in the past few years, the best paper Leaside has ever had, one of the very best in all of Toronto? Call me biased, but there’s more substance in one of our offerings than in two or three issues of the North Toronto Post. We’re better than that shill for the foodies, Toronto Life, and I can tell you that Liz and I get more feedback from these columns than from anything I write for The Globe and Mail.
So Leaside is still pretty vibrant, still renewing itself, but also still the old Leaside. In my view it will still be Leaside so long as kids play hockey at the Gardens, kids play baseball at Trace Manes and Talbot, the lawn bowlers still have their clubhouse by the high school, and you can still buy fresh fruit and vegetables at Badali’s on Bayview.