I consider myself one of a rare breed. I am one of only a few people who can say they live in the same Toronto neighbourhood they were born. With a population where more than half its residents are immigrants, Toronto is a rich and vibrant city that is a mosaic of many different cultures. In a year that Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, Toronto celebrates its 183rd.
As a birthday gift to this fine city in which I have #LivedAndLovedAllMyLife, I want to tell my urban story and describe what this privilege means to me.
I grew up in the 60s. My first home was this ranch style bungalow my parents bought in Victoria Park Village in 1956.
They were the first owners. They had been living on a street named Presley in Clairlea of Scarborough. Victoria Village as it’s more commonly known was a new neighbourhood north of Eglinton Ave and west of Victoria Park. It is in the south-eastern most quadrant of North York bordering with Scarborough and East York.
For many years, our house was the last on the street. Sloane Avenue ended at Wigmore Drive and behind our house were farmers’ fields that spanned all the way to Lawrence Avenue until newer homes were built. At the time, the neighbourhood was touted as the new Leaside, or at least that’s what my father told me.
My father was a first generation Canadian. He was born in 1922 to Irish parents. They had immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland in 1919 and eventually settled in the community of Riverdale whose development began to accelerate in 1918 after the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor Street Viaduct) was built to provide access from the main city to the other side of the Don River.
Construction of the Prince Edward Viaduct 1916:
My father would cross that bridge every day as a boy to attend one of Canada’s oldest high schools, Jarvis Collegiate, which was built in 1807. The house on Hogarth where my father grew up was eventually sold to developers in the 1970s for the construction of some new apartment buildings.
Like me, my dad was someone who was born and bred in Toronto. He died at the hospital where my three sisters were born and where my mother trained to be a nurse – Toronto East General. I was born at Scarborough General and my brother was born at Toronto Western.
Together my parents raised their five children in the bungalow on Wigmore Drive. My siblings all moved away from the neighbourhood, and so did I for a brief time.
When we were newly married, my husband and I lived in a small town house up near Fairview Mall. It was supposed to be a three-year home but we ended up living there for nearly 10 years. When our first daughter was born in 1992 we started looking in earnest for a larger home. We considered moving out to Ajax where my brother lived or into one of the new housing developments that were growing north of Steeles. But our roots were further south.
While I had grown up in Victoria Village, my husband had grown up in Parkwoods just north of Lawrence Avenue East. We had met in high school back in the 70s and eventually married in the late 80s. We both had worked downtown and knew we wanted to be closer to the city centre.
We set new boundaries for our home search. We wanted to live east of Yonge and south of the 401. And because I consider myself a North Yorker, we had to be west of Victoria Park. Eventually we found the house we’ve called home for the last 22 years. It’s just around the corner from where I grew up and is the place our own girls grew up.
Victoria Village is an established community and in 2017 is part of Urban Toronto’s Growth to Watch For Series 2017.
There’s something special about living in the same neighbourhood all your life. You’re familiar with all the parks and amenities, you recognize people you knew growing up and you’re familiar with the stories of days gone by.
Many of the original owners of these homes are still here or the house has passed down through the generations. My children played with children of friends I went to school with.
Across the street from where we live now is a family where the three daughters I knew as a kid come to visit their father every week and bring their own children. On the cul de sac behind my house live the parents of one of my best friends from elementary school. I sometimes see her when she comes to visit. I often run into classmates from school who have also returned to the ‘hood to live.
It’s often been said that Toronto is a city of many smaller communities. For me, I feel like a small-town girl who just happened to grow up in a big city. I think nothing of a jaunt to the beach or a trip across town. These are just extensions of my neighbourhood.
To mark Canada’s sesqui-centennial, Toronto is hosting a participatory public art project called My City My Six (#mycitymysix) where Torontonians are asked to tell their Toronto story in just six words.
For me, it’s #LivedAndLovedAllMyLife or #BornAndBredInVictoriaVillage. What are your six?
Happy Birthday Toronto! #TOturns183.