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Phyllis Ellis making facesPhyllis Ellis is a great believer in collaboration. She works now as a filmmaker, but in her past collaborated in a different way – as an athlete, playing field hockey at a level that propelled her to the 1984 Olympics. 

Those two worlds, sport and arts, have been a part of her life since growing up in Lorne Park, west of Toronto. At 6, she was the lead in her church school play, but when asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, her answer was: “be an Olympian.” She had no idea which sport, because she played tennis, baseball, volleyball and was a runner-sprinter. In the end “field hockey found me,” she says. 

Phyllis credits two teachers – Norma Walters from Hillcrest P.S. and Joanna Wilton from Lorne Park – with nurturing her early interest in sports as well as dramatic arts. 

When facing the choice of going to London, Ont. for a track championship or heading to Germany as a member of the field hockey team, not surprisingly, Germany won out, a trip which then led, via a Phys Ed degree from the University of Toronto, to her Olympic year in 1984. [click to continue…]

Simryn behind the counter at Avoca.

Simryn behind the counter at Avoca.

Avoca Chocolates

I love the anticipation of a new store opening in our community. When Today’s Menu vacated the corner shop at Millwood and Rumsey for the bigger space next door, it didn’t take long before the old space rented. 

News broke that Danforth Ave. chocolatier Avoca Chocolates was opening a second branch in Leaside in the corner shop across from the park at 850 Millwood Rd. That corner has seen a few incarnations since I moved to Leaside 14 years ago. For the longest time it was a corner store, then it morphed into a small boxing gym before Today’s Menu moved in.  [click to continue…]

Charleen Lippert BeardIf you’ve ever found yourself on Pape Ave. in front of Lippert Music Centre, you might not realize this venerable music emporium’s Leaside connection.

Charleen Lippert Beard, daughter of Lippert Music Centre founder Joseph Lippert Jr., and her family have lived on Parkhurst for the past 13 years. But her connections to Leaside go back to when she attended Leaside High School in the 1980s because of its excellent music program. In those days, the #56 bus to take her to school went right past her family’s music store on Pape Avenue and dropped her in front of LHS. 

Joseph Lippert Jr. started off as an accordion player and 60 years ago went from playing for weddings and in bands, and teaching in people’s homes, to teaching in a studio on Pape, where he expanded to piano, guitar, banjo, and bass as well.  [click to continue…]

Krawchuk Lane and laneway loving

Krawchuk Lane. Photo By Robin Dickie.

Photo By Robin Dickie.

Most streets in Toronto are named for people. Just ask Lorna Krawchuk. Meeting her recently I couldn’t help wondering. Was she proud of Krawchuk Lane? Did she feel responsible for its upkeep? Had she been there lately? Were the residents caring for it? Curious, I asked her if she would like to take a stroll with me to see how her namesake was faring. 

We met up at the Randolph entrance. The first thing I noticed was the crumbling and littered structure of Stanley Cleaners. Lorna explained that since the business had been sold to Creeds there was no longer dry cleaning on the premises – just a pick-up service – and the building and lot had fallen into disrepair. What an eyesore!  [click to continue…]

Astor Avenue The Streets of Leaside

John Jacob Astor of Titanic Fame.

John Jacob Astor of Titanic Fame.

Many of the streets in Leaside were named after the area’s early settlers, politicians or those involved in the development of the railway and industries. Astor Avenue, a short street in South Leaside, seems not to fall into the familiar pattern of other Leaside streets. It’s quite possible, though, that the street was named for John Jacob Astor of the famous fur trader family, who lost his life during the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.

The first John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) had emigrated from Germany when he was only 20 years old. He worked as a baker’s boy and pedlar, and in a music store in New York until 1787 when he realized he could make more money shipping furs to China and Europe, often on his own vessels. John Sr. lost one of his trading posts at Fort Mackinac to the British during the War of 1812. When he died in 1848, he was the richest man in North America, having invested heavily in real estate. [click to continue…]

The Curious Idler

Braking News – As some of you may have noticed, that speed limit on the Bayview Extension between River St. and Pottery Rd. has been reduced to 50 km/h. The speed limit for this open stretch of arterial road was 70 km/h when it opened in the late 1950s and then lowered in 2011 to 60 km/h, but it’s always been known as a bit of a speed trap. Lately, this writer has noticed that the folks from Toronto Police Services have been very busy as drivers adjust to the new lower speed limit. So why has the city decided to lower the speed limit on a route used primarily as an alternative to the Don Valley Parkway? Seems it’s part of the city’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and reduce injuries when accidents do occur. A full list of the changes can be found on the City of Toronto website www.toronto.ca

Luxury developer Shane Baghai recently launched a website (www.leasidemanors.ca) to promote the Leaside condominium under development at 3-5 Southvale Dr. The project includes 38 units starting in the low million dollar range. Looks like Leaside’s newest building will be called Leaside Manors. It will be interesting to see if the recent slowdown in the real estate market will have an effect or if all the units will be snapped up by hungry Leasiders looking to downsize. [click to continue…]

Mia shows off fruits of the roof garden.

Mia shows off fruits of the roof garden.

Of all the gardening I do, I think container gardening is my favourite. The fact that a plant can live in a container above ground means that life and beauty can be almost anywhere. They bring energy and fresh oxygen to sterile spaces and expand nature to where there was none. On a deck, a balcony, a rooftop, on walls and inside our homes…almost anywhere.

Container plants have been used since ancient times and are now proving to be a way to help us reduce the negative effects of pollution and climate change.

The most inspiring example of this is Stefano Boeri’s award-winning Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy. The Vertical Forest is a pair of condo towers with protruding balconies that contain 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 ground covers. [click to continue…]

The Lee family of Leaside

The Lee family of Leaside. Photo by Jane So.

The Lee family of Leaside. Photo by Jane So.

Most Leaside residents know that William Lea was the founder of Leaside, but how many know of the other Lees of Leaside? I’m talking about James and Katie Lee of North Leaside and their five children.

Although the Lees didn’t settle in Leaside in 1913 when it was officially incorporated, this year they are celebrating their 50th year in the community – impressive by any standard.  James’ father, Sam Lee, was one of the early Chinese immigrants to young Canada, paying the head tax in the early 1900s under the Chinese Immigrant Act before resettling back in China. [click to continue…]

The old peeled potato trick

Years before the Blue Jays played their first game at the old Exhibition Stadium back in 1977, the best baseball around could be found on the big diamond at Talbot Park, just down the street from our house. We spent many summer nights watching the big boys play under the lights. Because we lived so close and were there all the time, Howard Birnie and the other bigwigs in the Leaside Baseball Association often let us help out a bit during the games. We fetched the foul balls that occasionally landed behind the fence. Once in a while we’d help out in the snack bar, serving up hot dogs and the now nearly forgotten Lolas – massive and irregularly shaped chunks of fruit-flavoured ice that were inexplicably popular. Even more rarely, we were permitted to assist the announcer who sat up in the scoreboard where we switched on the lights for Balls, Strikes, and Outs.

But the most fun was serving as batboy for the senior Leaside teams playing the night games. We’d sit in the dugout with the players and fetch the bats from around home plate when a player made it on base on a hit or a walk. My chest would swell with pride as I hoisted the heavy bat onto my shoulder and trotted back to the dugout. But one night, my brother and I were complicit in a stunt that would shake the foundations of Leaside baseball for generations. Okay, that might a slight exaggeration, but it felt like a big deal at the time. [click to continue…]

Robyn Hochglaube, Creator and administrator of the Leaside Community Facebook site. Photo by Linda Carte.

Robyn Hochglaube, Creator and administrator of the Leaside Community Facebook site. Photo by Linda Carte.

It’s a beautiful day in July and I’m sitting with Robyn Hochglaube, the creator and administrator of the Leaside Community Facebook site. We’ve having coffee/tea at Avoca, the newest neighbourhood coffee/chocolates/ice cream shop at the corner of Rumsey and Millwood. Yes, I read good things about it on the Leaside Community Facebook site and was looking for a reason to try it out!

This is the fourth year Robyn and her family have lived in Leaside. When they first moved here she didn’t know anyone and was looking for a way to connect with her new community. The only Facebook site she could find was the Leaside Moms, but she was looking for something broader and more inclusive. Having created a Facebook site in her old neighbourhood, she thought it might work here too.  [click to continue…]

The Leaside Munitions Company, 1916-1918 Historic Leaside

Leaside Munitions in a drawing from 1918

Leaside Munitions in a drawing from 1918

Canada Wire and Cable Company was a major player in Leaside’s industrial history from the birth of the town in 1913 to the 1990s, employing as many as 2,700 people at the peak of its operations in the mid-1970s. But the company’s early years did not go entirely as planned.

From its original three-storey building on the southeast corner of Laird and Wicksteed, the company gradually expanded eastward and southward eventually covering, by 1965, the entire block to Brentcliffe to the east and Commercial Rd. to the south. Canada Wire’s Leaside operations were purchased in 1991 by Alcatel, which moved to Markham in 1996, and sold the property to Mitch Goldhar in 1997 to be redeveloped as box stores. [click to continue…]

Karli, instructor Cydney and operating owner, Doug.

Karli, instructor Cydney and operating owner, Doug. Photo by Karli Vezina.

CycleBar is an indoor cycling gym with over 100 locations across the U.S., but Leaside holds the first franchise outside America. Naturally, this new “bar” at 1866 Bayview had us all curious so off I went to investigate.

What makes CycleBar unique compared to other indoor cycling options (or “spinning,” as it’s often called) is the technology used in the studio. Every class is planned around the music, and the playlists are new every time. Riders have a console secured between the handlebars of their bike. This box allows you to track your time, speed, endurance, averages and how many RPM (revolutions per minute) you’re doing. There are monitors in the front of the room that show stats of your classmates and you, based on what your console reads. With such personalized technology, beginners and advanced students can cycle side by side and still enjoy the community environment while giving their personal best. [click to continue…]

Welcome to Leaside’s obstacle course

The intersection of Millwood, Krawchuk Lane, Leaside Memorial Gardens and the Baghai development.

The intersection of Millwood, Krawchuk Lane, Leaside Memorial Gardens and the Baghai development. Photo by Robin Dickie.

By the time you read this, the reconstruction of the Laird/Millwood intersection, described in my June column, should be well underway, with resultant diversions and lineups. Travelling from A to B has become a bit of an obstacle course, and is certainly a challenge. So I know that traffic issues will continue to be on your mind. 

But wait: there’s more to come. Soon there will be a redesign (aka construction) of the intersection just to the west of the current construction site: the Millwood/Southvale section by the Leaside Memorial Gardens driveway, including the portion of Southvale in front of the Shane Baghai condominium-to-be next door.  [click to continue…]

“Hazy-crazy but not lazy”

In 1963 Nat King Cole released his “Those lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer” album. A little over 50 years later, summer is still hazy and crazy, but not lazy, at least not for Leaside (and Bennington) residents trying to keep up with the increasing threats to our beloved neighbourhood’s streets and built-form character.   

Here’s a roll-call of planning-related hearings affecting Leaside in August. This is in addition to the usual bi-weekly stream of Committee of Adjustment hearings which continue unabated during the summer. [click to continue…]

The LPOA is receiving more complaints about short-term rentals.

The LPOA is receiving more complaints about short-term rentals.

“Our (new) neighbours have turned their home into an Airbnb party house. It is not their primary residence. Last Tuesday, it was transformed into a rave scene – hundreds of teenagers, bouncers at the door, noise, alcohol and drugs galore. We even had people hopping our fence, trespassing on our property, using my son’s trampoline. Kids were stumbling drunk and high on the street until 4 a.m.”   [click to continue…]

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).

[click to continue…]

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.