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[September 2000] Celebrations:

June 29, Councillor Mario Silva's annual Summerfest flea market and hot dog roast, which was cut short by rain but was fun while it lasted

August 28, Shirley's Fourth Annual Dog Owner's Picnic, which this year did not have rain and attracted a large number of dogs and their owners. The potluck was delicious as were Shirley' beans and rice and fried chicken. Shirley strongly believes in including everyone, and she was successful: all ages, all dog breeds, all sectors of the park, even some of the basketball youth with their pit bull puppies.

September 9, the annual Street/ Neighbourhood Fair, again organized by Liz Martin.

Besides these events the number of family picnics, reunions and birthday parties multiplied again this year, so that on weekends the trees fairly sprouted with balloons and pinatas, and three times there were groups of families who made use of our standing fire permit at the fire circle, to have a campfire. (For more information on how to have a campfire, call Lily at the rink house at 392-0913)

One reason for the increase in picnics was the kindness of the park staff in responding to requests to bring more tables and benches. The quickest way to kill family get-togethers in parks is by not having enough places to sit. Conversely, when the city provides ample benches and tables, there is an implied welcome for everyone who wants to get together in a green space with their friends and family.

[Oct.2000] Election visit:

Adam Giambrone, a candidate in the upcoming municipal election, visited the park several times in the past weeks to find out about issues here. He told us that he is an instructor in anthropology at the Royal Ontario Museum and has spent much time in the Middle East. He is fluent in Arabic because of his work, and he said he had been speaking to the Sudanese soccer players who have their games on the soccer field most Saturday and Sunday evenings in warm weather (sometimes in the rain!). Apparently there are also some Egyptians and Eritreans who play with that group. Adam said that the Sudanese have the reputation of being incredibly friendly. They certainly seem to love soccer, and their laughter and obvious enjoyment together are very obvious in the park.

Adam said that he has strong environmental interests (including garbage) as well as a desire to maintain parks and public space better. He was concerned about the weakness of police response to the vicious beating in the park on labour day weekend.

[November 2000]

The Hawthorne Hallowe'en Campfire Cookout: On the Friday night before Hallowe'en, children from the Hawthorne-on-Essex Daycare Centre, and their parents, came to the park all dressed up for a fundraiser (they raised about $380 for new toys for their daycare). They made a campfire in the fire circle, with sheet ghosts in the trees, and they played games and ate Haunted Hot Dogs and Terrible Treats (popcorn in gloves with jellybean fingernails) and drank Eerie Drinks (mulled cider). At the end of the evening a storyteller told scary stories around the fire. The organizers, Charlotte Elder, Alvina Drobot, Melinda Montgomery, and Brenda Evans, said the kids had such a wonderful time that everyone wants to make this event a yearly happening. Sounds Terrible and Scary.

The Backpackers' Hostel project: For some years Jutta Mason has wanted to try getting youthful backpacking travellers into the park in the summertime, so they could perhaps infect some of the narrower-focused youth in the park with the urge to see the world. This year Pat MacKay gave us a donation that allowed us to contract Jenny Elmslie to try out this idea. Jenny knows this park well because her sisters Laurie Malabar and Marnie Berube live on Rusholme, and Jennie also knows backpackers because she runs Free Spirit Tours, out of Collingwood, which brings travellers from Toronto backpackers' hostels up to the Blue Mountains to do rock climbing and cave hikes.

Some ideas are good and some aren't, and it turned out this one wasn't much good. Jenny tried her best to persuade backpackers staying at the hostels to come to this park to play some sports and make some bake-oven pizza, and sometimes she got a bunch, but it was a major effort every time. Many of the backpackers (mainly Australian, New Zealanders, Germans, Brits) are on bus tours and they're stopping in Toronto to see the CN Tower and the night life and to drink lots of beer with other travellers. Even those who came to the park only wanted to play soccer and talk to each other and go back downtown.

The best thing we got out of this experience was getting to know Jenny, who was always friendly and full of fun. If you want to call her about going rock-climbing in Collingwood, her number is 219-7562, and we bet you'll have a really good time. You can take the whole family if they want an adventure. Jenny provides a lunch, and if you want to stay the night she can get you a good room at the Blue Mountain Auberge.

Local basketball player becomes film-maker: One of the regular basketball players at Dufferin Grove Park, Nadeem Soumah, spent a Sunday in late summer with a sizable film crew and a truckload of equipment, shooting a scene on the basketball court, for his first feature film. (He has just completed four years of study in film-making.) We have invited Nadeem to screen his film in the rink house when a VCR copy is available, and we'll post the date of the screening (with pizza from the oven!) when it's settled.

Visitors to the park this month: On Oct.13, the Bronfman Foundation came through with representatives of five funded groups, to see what kinds of things we do at the park. One of those five was Bruce Gilbert, of the Newfoundland and Labrador Conservation Corps. He told us that back home in a working-class area of St.John's, the city condemned the area's only public pool and, over the protests of the neighbourhood, one night around midnight they came with heavy equipment and demolished the pool. That led to such an outcry that all sorts of interesting re-vitalizing is now happening in that part of the city. Gilbert and his group are talking about uncovering a waterfall that was encased in a huge cement tube, now crumbling and dangerous, within memory of the residents. He says people used to swim in the waterfall's pool, and they may do so again.

On Oct.25 Nick Saul, director of Stop 103 near Davenport and Lansdowne, came to make some pizza. Stop 103 used to be mainly a food bank but Nick says it's gradually developing into a "food centre." They have a pretty big community garden, quite beautiful, in Earslcourt Park behind the community centre. (Pictures of it are up on the bulletin board at our rink house.) Nick came to see our oven in operation because he thinks they should build one near their community garden.

Phil Myrick from the Urban Land Institute and Project for Public Spaces in Washington D.C. came to see the park on the day of the parade. He bonded with the idea of Dufferin Grove Park some years ago, over the phone, and he seemed glad to be here for a few moments, although he didn't have time to talk. He was brought up to Toronto by the Toronto Public Library to discuss diversifying the functions of a library.


[May 2001] Permits for park events:

The City of Toronto permit department uses one standard approach for all event permit applications, whether huge corporately sponsored events or a small neighbourhood nursery school annual cookie sale. They require all groups to have $1,000,000 of insurance. This normally costs between $300 to $500. Recently several small community groups canceled their Dufferin Park events when they found out the insurance cost. This is a shame, because small neighbourhood events are a gift to the park: they make it lively and fun.

If a small group wants to hold an event, their best route is to go directly through the Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. Contact them through the park staff at the park clubhouse: 416/392-0913. That way the park's existing volunteer insurance can cover the event (since most of such events are really like volunteer park programming for children and families), and small groups can afford to hold their events.


A thanks to the bank: The Friends of Dufferin Grove Park set up a bank account at the CIBC at Bloor and Dufferin in 1994. The manager at the time agreed to waive the monthly service fee, to show support for the neighbourhood. But in the past four months the service fee suddenly re-appeared, nibbling away at our very small bank balance every month. When we called the present manager, Terry Wyatt, she agreed right away to drop the service fee and even to credit our account with $25 to make up for the times we were charged. Thanks to Ms.Wyatt for being so helpful.

Sports in the Park: the huge Toronto Eagles soccer program has finished for the season, and neighbourhood soccer has begun to take its place. The Sri Lankan Volleyball players have played more often this year than last, beside the basketball court. They are hoping to meet with Councillor Mario Silva in October to discuss a long-standing request for lights so they can play in the evenings. The Dufferin Grove Basketball regulars took all the trophies at the Dufferin Mall Youth Services three-on-three tournament on August 30. There is talk of setting up an invitational match with a group from the Harbourfront basketball court, more suited to the considerable abilities of our local players.

A more unusual sport: Strollerfit, an exercise class that meets in the park on Tuesday mornings, for mothers with young babies. They do stretch and strength, muscle endurance, and low-impact aerobics, during a one-hour class, as they walk around the park with their strollers. Skylar Hill-Jackson (known to lots of people in this neighbourhood) leads the class, which will continue until October 9.

An award for the park: At the end of July, there was a four-day "Great Parks, Great Cities" conference in New York, and on the final day they gave out some awards. Mayor Daly of Chicago got one, Prospect Park of Brooklyn got one, the Philadelphia Greens Movement got one, and we got one too: Dufferin Grove Park was given the title of "great community place." The award came with two Paris-style park chairs, which were put out at the side of the wading pool during August (beside the coffee-maker). The chairs will be near the ovens in the fall, in the rink house during the winter.

Please take note: these are magic chairs. Whoever sits on one of them will immediately be able to think of how to open the rink longer, how to get Mimo a shower, what to bring to the Street Fair potluck, and so on…..

[October 2001]
This month, special thanks go to:

Hussain Ali: for giving us two truckloads of excellent firewood from his skid factory.

Mike Hindle and his parks maintenance crew: for picking up the firewood and delivering it to the rink house in a Parks truck.

Cameron Newitt, park staff: for spending two days cutting the firewood and wedging it into every possible space in the garage.

Tino DeCastro, recreation supervisor: for changing Cam's work assignment so he could come and cut the wood.

Ben Figueiredo: for helping Cam with the cutting, for fixing broken park tools, for stepping in often when somebody needs help (including helping Mimo).

Melanie Stephens: for weeding the rose garden this summer so Margie Rutledge's ornamental brick paths could be seen again; for donating bunches of sweetgrass from her garden, and planting them by the wildflower sign.

Winston Young: for noticing that there were nails all over the ground near the ovens (they get swept out with the ashes after we burn Hussain's skid wood) and coming back with a donated magnet so strong that it picks up big bunches of nails at once (anyone who wants to, can use it: it's fun).

Vivian Smetana: for saving a whole lot of cedar branches from her garden for the park fires. Some of the branches will be used at the Night of Dread bonfire, and the rest will make the wood stove in the rink house smell good all winter, beginning - we hope - at the end of November.

AND MOST OF ALL, A BIG THANKS TO: Joe Longo of Longo's Grocery Store. All summer long and into the fall, Joe delivered our food orders to the park: boxes of cheese, big bags of flour and sugar and oats (for cookies!), sacks of wheat and rye for grinding into bread flour, skids of box drinks, and cases of tomato sauce. He adds this task to his (and his family's) six-day twelve-hour a day work week at the store, not to mention the responsibility of listening to all the stories that get told at their store, since it's such a neighbourhood meeting place. Without Joe the pizza days wouldn't have come off at all. He's been a great friend of the park and the neighbourhood.

A new school year at St.Mary's:

Principal Tony DeSousa was in the park in the last week of September, checking for students skipping class. He was wearing a sports shirt and jeans instead of his usual suit. He said that about once a month St.Mary's has a day when casual clothes can be worn, at a cost: $2 per student ($3 for latecomers). The school supports two foster kids, and in September the money raised this way is allocated to them.

Tony said he received a petition from the neighbours to crack down on kids speeding with their cars in front of the school. He has been taking down licence plate numbers, and has asked the police to give special attention to the school at opening and closing times. The first month back after the summer is always the time when a handful of students seek to impress in this way. Tony says that if he catches students, or their friends, speeding in front of the school, he will have them charged and will follow up in court.

Nancy Drews' rainy birthday party (with a Hallowe'en theme)

Oct.16: Nancy, who is an artist, had made a lot of props and games to use at her son's birthday party. When it rained that Saturday she said, "it doesn't matter. We want the party to be in the park." They moved over to the alternative campfire site by the rain shelter, strung their pinata on the rafters of the shelter, set up all the scary props, built a big warm fire, and went ahead with the party. They were still there five hours later, despite lots of heavy rain. The many kids at the party looked wiped out in a totally satisfied way by the end. Somebody said: what's a bit of rain? I'm not made of sugar, I won't melt.

Traffic concerns:

Dangerous driving by high school students: Donna and Frank Bertucca, who live near St.Mary's (the Catholic high school across from the park), recently decided that something needed to be done about dangerous driving, loud car radios in parked cars, and garbage thrown on lawns by high school students. They spent part of a Saturday and Sunday evening going from house to house on Gladstone Ave. with a petition. In a short time they easily got over fifty signatures, since these concerns are shared by many in the neighbourhood. At the beginning of October, Councillor Mario Silva arranged a small meeting with Donna and Frank and others about this issue at the high school. The Toronto police school watch officer presented a "traffic violation form" that residents could fill out if they saw a dangerous driver. However it turned out that the form is not very helpful. It states that anyone making a report is checked out by police, warns that if you change your mind after filing a complaint, you're liable to be fined or imprisoned for backing out, and then tells you that if you're unable to positively identify the driver of the speeding car there will be no charge laid, even if you got the license number. The School watch officer said he would draw up a poster listing alternatives more effective than court, such as a report police can make to a young person's insurance company, rigorous ticketing for breaking even small traffic laws and parking rules, etc. This poster has not yet appeared but hopefully it will soon be done.

In the meantime, at St. Mary's High School the neighbourhood petition was read over the intercom, the principal (Tony DeSousa) has suspended several students and disciplined some others, and both the students and the caretakers have been picking up trash that's on the streets. The principal says he's trying. But he needs neighbours to know that he can't be outside getting people to turn down the car radios or removing non-students from across the street all the time, otherwise he won't have any time left to be principal.


[Jan.2002] Really bad turkeys

In the middle of December the rink staff got a call from Councillor Mario Silva's office, to let us know that they were giving away 1000 free turkeys in the west end, and they would be dropping off ten vouchers at the park. These vouchers were given to some park friends with low income. They were told to come to a neighbourhood festival at Margueretta Park, jointly sponsored by Councillor Silva, M.P.P. Tony Ruprecht, and the Business Improvement Association on December 15 and pick up their free turkey. Afterwards we got some very distressing reports. Apparently there was a huge crowd, with very little effort at crowd control. Some people had four vouchers and some people had none but were still lining up because they had been told they could get a free turkey anyway. The start of the give-away was delayed because the media were late in arriving, and then when the crowd finally began to move, the crush was so great and the mood so angry that some of our voucher-holders were afraid they, or the children with them, might be injured. In the midst of all the frustration and delays there were people who went straight to the front of the line saying that they had a special relationship with the politicians. In the end some of the people holding vouchers turned away without getting their turkey, rather than be involved in such a depressing spectacle. And the ones who stayed to the end have said they would never go again. They asked us to warn people in this newsletter.

[May 2002]

Heroes of trash: During the April heat wave, trash suddenly burst out in the park, especially around the basketball court and the playground. Carol Kidd said that in the mornings she spent many minutes picking up around the basketball court, so that her dog Oscar wouldn't choke on a chicken bone or get indigestion from eating dirty rice. Her friend Marisa Franco, walking her puppies Hippo and Chinook, often joined her in this trash-picking exercise.

In the spring, people get so excited about being outdoors that they often come to the park in great numbers. They may not want to leave when it's dinner time, so they go over to the mall and bring back some fast food and then, somehow, the Styrofoam containers and the bags and the napkins and the plastic forks end up on the ground, blowing around.

There are many park users who pick up other people's trash as a secret good deed. It's hard not to get mad about the litter, though, when the supply seems endless. Maybe it helps to think of it as another form of exercise - knee bends that accomplish something more than calorie-burning. Carol and Marisa suggested putting trash baskets so close to the popular "hanging-out" benches that the litter-throwers can do target-practice with their food containers. Brilliant.

Heroes of wood: We used the bake-oven so much in the winter that Hussain Alli's wood donations from his wooden-skids shop are almost used up. So we have a wood-supply problem, but it's not as bad as it was two weeks ago. Norman and Lyla, a couple from Scarborough, had read an article about our oven somewhere, and they went to some trouble to track down the park's phone number. Once they got hold of us, and found out the address, they drove in twice with their van to bring us the cut-up poplar wood they had in their back yard. They drove in late at night when there was no traffic, and stacked the wood against the garage door (a layer five feet high and 15 feel long!).

Norman says he wishes more people would find another use for unwanted wood, rather than putting it in the garbage to go into land-fill. He says, for example if you buy a new refrigerator, there will be four pieces of wood in the bottom of the box, that can find a use. He's right. If you have any scrap wood, let us turn it into bread or pizza. Drop it off at the rink house garage door any time, and we'll soon find it and stack it on our pile inside. We can't use plywood or any treated or painted wood. Also we don't have storage space for freshly cut branches that need to be dried for a year. But if you have a corner in your garden where you can store your tree trimmings until they're dry, we'd love to have them later. (And anyone who brings wood is entitled to some fresh bread in trade). More information: call the park at 416/392-0913.

How to run a block party:

We heard about a block party that happens on Delaware Avenue, started by Alison Bidwell, who also started the Morris Dancers holding their annual Ale at our park every Labour Day. Alison said that she decided a couple of years ago that people might like to meet their neighbours, and so she invited everyone on her block to come by her house for cocktails. She says, if you want to do a meet-your-neighbours event, don't think you have to close the street - it's a bureaucratic tangle, it costs money, and it's not worth the trouble. She and her neighbours had thought of a pot luck, but that seemed a bit too major, so they just printed up a flyer and put it in every mail box on the block: come to Alison's house on Sunday between 4 and 6, and bring the drinks for the people in your party (i.e. not only alcoholic drinks but also juice for kids). Alison prepared some snack food and put out a donation jar to cover the cost. When the neighbours arrived, they each got a name tag with their house number written on it. This year, the block party is being held by a new family that just moved onto the block. And the people who live around the corner are also being invited.

Alison says it's simple, it's easy, and it's fun going around delivering the invitations beforehand. We asked: do people leave at 6? She said - no. Last year it was so interesting for neighbours to meet, that the "cocktail party" didn't break up until 10p.m.

[August 2002] Garbage, Garbage

First dumpster day: The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 416, went out on strike on Wednesday June 25 at noon (that included the grass cutters and maintenance staff at the park, and most of the city's garbage collectors). On Saturday morning, June 28, Ted England rented a dumpster, which he located beside the northeast corner of the park. He had previously made sure the news of this was put out over our friends-of-the-park list serve. Lots of people drove up with their trash, but Ted didn't stop there. With his own van he drove to all the various trash-dumping spots in the park and hauled the garbage back to the dumpster. Michael Mitchell, who lives beside the park, helped. Then Judy Simutis borrowed the park wheelbarrow and she brought over some of the full garbage bags from within the park. Ted went across the street to Katharine Rankin's house, to borrow a hose so he could wash the maggots out of the empty garbage cans (it was, of course, very hot during most of the strike, nice weather for maggots). Then Katherine and Ted spent over an hour getting more and more garbage from other parts of the park. Afterwards our park was clean again.

Second dumpster day: The following week Katharine Rankin and Judy Simutis organized the dumpster day, for Friday July 5. That day required TWO dumpsters. They also dealt with the media inquiries (plenty). The story of our neighbourhood's garbage efforts were in all the Toronto newspapers. And on July 5 more people came out to help with the cleanup. Peter Thillaye on Rusholme borrowed a green truck from Tom Williams' boat works at 284 Brock Street, in return for taking the boat works garbage. Peter says, "my confederates in the clean-up were Joe Sherman and John Kramer, both from Havelock. There was a gang who picked up litter in the park which we then put in the dumpster. We started at 7.00am by 9.00 the park looked great. It was a nice functional ritual which I still miss."

The same afternoon Judy Simutis ordered a dumpster for the College/ Sheridan area. She says she hadn't intended to do that, but when she was out cutting her lawn, "a senior citizen walked over and handed me a $50.00 bill and said this is for the dumpster. Puzzled, I asked myself, what dumpster? As I went back into the house I pondered whether we might actually be able to get one for our neighbourhood on such short notice. It turned out that getting one in just under 3 hours was easier and faster than I first imagined. Anxiety struck: how shall I let the neighborhood know in such a short time? And so as a town crier I hurriedly walked around with my dog Elmo, crying out loud: A dumpster will be provided at Sheridan and College Streets. at 2:00 p.m. (with 2 fingers thrust above my head) TODAY, BRING YOUR GARBAGE AND MONEY -- it will cost me about $360.00, please tell your neighbours!

"As it was a hot day, many people were not outside. But a few front screen doors allowed me to see inside and so these were the ones I went and tapped on with the good news, come and get rid of your garbage today. And so the word spread."

Dumpster days everywhere: Two days later Ted England had to have emergency gall bladder surgery. He called Judy from the hospital asking her to coordinate other areas of the city that he was working with. Judy and Katharine Rankin gave advice to people in other neighbourhoods who wanted to clean up their areas. Ted thinks that between 30 and 40 cleanups elsewhere in the city were set off by our neighbourhood's example. When the contributions at one dumpster were not enough to cover the rental, money was redirected from other dumpster funds. Nobody lost.

Life after dumpsters: After the strikers were legislated back to work on July 11, the Toronto Star had an editorial particularly mentioning Havelock Street as a place where good citizens got busy. But that was unfair. People from LOTS of streets helped out with the garbage. And so much money had been donated for our dumpsters that there was still $699 left over. Judy Simutis brought it over to the park in a fat envelope of bills and coins. Some of it has already been converted into fresh paint for the giant checkerboards, wading pool toys, park chairs, community kitchen equipment, and newsletter printing.

[Fall 2002]

Fourteenth annual Neighbourhood Street Fair: Saturday September 14. Events: 10 a.m.: Lawn sale (along Havelock Street on the park grass, no charge). 12 noon: Hot dog lunch and release of two-year-anniversary park newsletter: 24th issue! Location: near lawn sale. 4 p.m.: Games (sack races etc.) in park. 6.30 p.m.: Neighbourhood potluck at park bake oven: also make-your-own-pizza (cost of materials covered by left-over strike dumpster money). 8 p.m.: square dancing on Havelock Street. (David Craig decided to get a street-closing permit and a square dance caller for his birthday, and he invites ANYONE AND EVERYONE who enjoys square dancing - bring your friends.)

This neighbourhood event is for everyone on all the surrounding streets, not only Havelock. Bring a delicious dish of food and meet your neighbours. There will be introducers for those who are new to the area, or who are a bit shy.

First annual Car-Free Day on Gladstone: Sunday September 22, 12 noon to 6 p.m. great bikes on display, trike parade, Song Cycles Choir, front yard and street sales, kids' games and crafts, chess tournament, park pizza and bread cart. ALL NEIGHBOURHOOD RESIDENTS WELCOME, not just those who live on Gladstone. Also 12-2: make-your-own-pizza at the park oven.

Art Exhibition: Lyla Rye, Sunday Sept.29. Local artist (and art teacher at our park) Lyla Rye had a video installation in Halifax this year, which included a scene of her playing a kissing game with her one-year-old baby. The vice squad of the Halifax police shut down the exhibit and seized the tapes as pornographic material, leading to country-wide publicity about the police and their powers. A documentary version of the exhibit will be on display at the park rink house. Also: make-your-own- pizza at the bake-oven, 12 noon to 2 p.m.

Printing costs for the newsletter: After the Parks Department stopped printing the newsletter last April, people have been very generous in helping with the newsletter printing costs. We got help from The G.H. Wood Foundation, Bill Wright, Mary Wigle, Allan Gasser, Councillor Mario Silva, the Echo Choir, and Ted England's dumpster fund. Even though we had to print larger numbers of the newsletter than we planned, we've managed fine so far. (On the other hand, there are many park friends who still believe that printing a neighbourhood newsletter is a valid use of taxpayers' money. The city has a print shop. How about it, Don Boyle?)

Wood donations: We've been lucky with the generosity of park friends this summer. Whenever the wood supply went down, more wood turned up. Brian Cranley deposited a skid and some carpentry left-overs by the rink house garage door, more than once. Kyla Dixon-Muir and George Moore came with George's van and brought barrels of scrap wood from The Wood Studio. A few weeks later, they hauled over almost a whole cord of wood donated by new residents Paul and Wayne on Havelock Street. Then Annie Hurwitz called to report a big house renovation on Rusholme St. with all kinds of excellent scrap wood going into the dumpster there. It turned out it was City Councillor Mario Silva's new house. We asked the Parks Department to help us transport the wood with their truck but that was not possible. So Annie's husband Ron Paley brought a van home from work and now the wood bin is full again. Keep it coming, park friends, and thank you!

S O S for Arie Kamp: This is a test. Our long-time flower gardener Arie has just heard he will lose his rented room at the end of October, because the house is being sold. So here is a very important notice:

Wanted: a furnished room in the neighbourhood of Dufferin Grove Park. No kitchen necessary. Non-smoking gardener who wishes to live in a quiet place close to the park so he can continue to spend many hours every day looking after the park gardens.

Anyone who knows of such a place PLEASE leave a message at the park at 416/392-0913. Arie says: this is a test. You people say you're very community-minded. Can you come up with an inexpensive room for me?


[Jan Feb 2003]
Park Staff:

In the years since the park friends became active, there have been so many different park staff, interesting people who contributed to our local-democracy experiment and then moved on to the next part of their life story. Sometimes these folks pass by and tell us their news. Lily Weston, for years the main park staff person, who set the standard for so much that works well at the park, came by on New Year's Day. She is now working with special-needs children at the Separate School Board, at St.Helen's School at College and Brock. Patti Kelly, who worked with some of the most troubled youth in the park during some of the most tricky times (including the scary years of the rink) came to skate in January. She told us that she is now a teacher, and that she still works with kids who are having a tough period in their lives. Margie Rutledge, who helped get the early gardens started and shaped the sand-pit playground, has just seen her second children's book published, called The Busybody Buddha. And Jacqueline Peeters, who pioneered pizza at the rink when she worked there right after the community oven was built, has finished law school now and started to practice. One of the first things Jacqueline did after she finished school was to answer John Dent and Ann Ruetz's ad on our list-serve, and buy their car.

The young people who are working as "casual staff" at the park now, mainly part-time, probably have more credentials between them, both in education and in interests, than we have ever had in the history of the park. They're working here despite wages considerably lower than the park litter-pick staff, because they are all interested in some aspect of public space. Jenny Cook's specialty is environmental: garbage, recycling, and growing food. Anna Beckerman and Dan DeMatteis have a focus on food. Anna also has union connections, and she is the staff scheduler - sort of like playing first violin in an orchestra. Lea Ambros, Kate Cayley and Alex Macdonald have a particular interest in outdoor theatre, storytelling, and children's imaginative play. Caitlin Shea supports the Park Friends in their web site renovations with her background as a web author, and is also a gardener. Anna Siddal, finishing Russian studies at the University of Toronto, only works one day a week, but she has a double connection to the park, since she was part of David Anderson's Clay and Paper theatre troupe last summer. York University student Luke Cayley also works only one day a week, but his academic interest in public policy may involve him in some park-related research soon.

All these young staff are using our park as a sort of internship in public space as it affects/ is affected by/ a neighbourhood. A staff group like this one is not common in rinks or playgrounds in the city. Certainly existing job descriptions don't really cover what gets done here - these staff clean toilets and pick up litter but they also shape new programs, help run the farmers' market and make up a bed in the rink house for a homeless person. The Parks department management - at first a bit wary - has shown a very heartening willingness to be open to the new possibilities from such an active staff.

Park Friends:

people do extra things for the park, quite often. Here is a partial list (of people whose names we know - there are others who help and are gone before we can ask their names): Kyla Dixon-Muir and her friend George Moore have brought firewood to the park in George's van three times and are now trying to connect us to a forester friend of theirs. Kyla also brought over the two little stools in the rink house, just the right height for parents to sit on when lacing their kids' skates. And she did another thing: wrote us a (true) winter solstice story for the neighbourhood list serve, a wonderful account of tracking the horses on Toronto Island, which are allowed to run free on the island during the winter. The story is posted on the park web site.

Peter Thillaye has been our other main firewood benefactor, tracking down skids in various locations and bringing them to the park. The staff are getting good at tearing skids apart, and these wood benefactors enable us to keep on baking. (We always love dry wood donations as long as there's no plywood, no paint, no stain, and no pressure-treated wood.)

Liz Martin, who lives near the park (and is the main organizer of the yearly neighbourhood street festival), brought over copies of The Women's Day Book from the press in which she is a partner, Sumach Press. These are being sold for $10 each, of which Liz is donating $4 per book to the park. According to some of the park staff, this is the best day book they've ever seen, and it's been easy to sell.

Jane LowBeer, the illustrator of the park newsletter, has drawn a new home page for the web site, due to be mounted in a week. Go and see - it's a little virtual park.

Larry Lewis arrives before dawn on Saturday mornings and lights the wood oven to bake his famous cinnamon buns, which are sold at the snack bar every weekend. After he covers his costs, Larry donates the rest of the bun money to the park.

Kazimir Krechowicz had concerns about police treatment of youth in the park last summer. So he joined the Community Police Liaison Committee to add his voice. He invites neighbourhood people with police-related concerns or questions to contact him at 416 995-0664. Kazimir has helped to organize the first-ever Fourteen Division Levee on Saturday January 25, from 2 - 5p.m. You can tour the police station (on Dovercourt St. just north of Dundas), including the jail cells, and visit information tables. Kazimir says there will be child care and free food.

Suchada Promchiri came over to the rink on Christmas Day with a container of tasty spiced peanuts that she had made for the rink staff. A couple of weeks later she came with a chair she had bought at the mall. She gave it to the rink because she had noticed that the chairs the kids use to learn to skate were getting in short supply.

Brian Cranley dropped off a giant bag of used pucks. We sell them for 50 cents. Brian has also been a great firewood donor from his carpentry work.

Patrick Stephenson, a talented young photographer from Ojai, California, visiting family here over Christmas, toured a number of outdoor rinks and took a lot of pictures with his digital camera. He sent us a CD with all the pictures, which we can now use in our restore-the-rink-season campaign.

Ana Bailao, Councillor Silva's very friendly assistant at City Hall, got fast results (within 4 - 24 hours) twice when we needed help from city's road crews to remove road obstructions (including huge snow piles on the dead-end road beside the rink house).

Carolyn Berardino and Bill Wright both helped with the printing costs of the first run of this double-issue newsletter.

Kristen Fahrig, the artist who got all those many kids and adults to paint pictures on the two park benches from last summer, was distressed when she saw that the concrete ends of one of the benches were crumbling (not from vandalism but from problems with the concrete castings). She approached Mary Thorne, Dufferin Mall marketing manager, for help over and above the mall's original bench contribution. Mary came through, and Kristen hired artist-carpenter Jim Kuellmer to build extraordinary curvy wooden ends for the crumbling bench. This bench now brightens the inside of the rink house ("dazzles" might be the better word).

Judy Simutis came by the rink every couple of days during the holidays with rice crispy treats in various wonderful shapes and seasonal colours. The kids at the rink loved them, and at 25 cents each they were affordable and still raised enough money to buy a couple of rink snow shovels.

Richard Sanger, the poet and playwright, who brings his two small sons to play shinny hockey at our rink with Tracy Heffernan's family shinny group, brought us one of his beautiful poems. It's about the joys of the neighbourhood rink for a young person growing up, and it's posted on the entryway bulletin board. The poem helps us not to be so cranky with the teenagers when they're horsing around, showing off to each other.

Ben Figueredo continues to be the park staff's crisis resource for tricky handy-man problems, weather forecasts, and tough-situations sympathy.

And then there was the support group for Arie Kamp, the park gardener who had to find a new place to live after his landlord sold the house. Robin Craig, Judy Simutis, Ted England, Vivienne Smetana, Andrew Munger, and Tom MacCauley all helped out. For those many people who are wondering what happened: Arie is now well settled - not just in a room, but in his own apartment.

The Big Hydro Blackout:

During the 41 hours in our area without hydro in the middle of August, people came to the park from nearby apartments to fill water containers at the rink house. 24 hours into the blackout we began to hear unsettling stories about the apartment building next to the rink house. It had no water, no elevator, and not even light in the stairwell.

We heard similar things about other high rises in the neighbourhoods with the longer power outages, and we tried to find out if there was a city crisis number to call for help with getting water to older people, or people with small children, or people who were ill. But during the blackout we found no one. Not in the city councillor's office, not at the ambulance headquarters, not at Access Toronto at City Hall. Not even the very nice-sounding dispatcher at 9-1-1 had an idea of who might be responsible for helping apartment dwellers. There was no central crisis number.

And in the week that followed the (initially slightly shaky) power restoration, the decision was made to close all community centres, all libraries, and shut down all evening sports lighting (youth basketball, park baseball tournaments, tennis, etc.). That meant that during that week it was possible to buy a drink at any bar or shop for a new outfit at any air-conditioned mall, but it was not possible to go to the library or play basketball in the cool evening of the park. The unfortunate effect was that if you could pay for your pleasures, you had access to everything, whereas if you wanted to use libraries or community centres for free, you were right out of luck. We think this unseemly haste to shut down public space - wanting to be seen to take any action (the shutting down of those public spaces produced negligible power savings during peak-load times) rather than picking sensible actions - shows a wrong-headed approach to civic resources especially in a crisis.

One of the disturbing elements of this blackout crisis was the invisibility of many of Toronto's elected representatives and their staff during the time the power was out. Our own councillor's phone message wasn't even changed from the standard "our regular office hours are…" and no help could be found there. We would be very interested in hearing from newsletter readers who live in a different ward: was your city councillor or her/his staff available/ helpful during the blackout? And did they work to persuade city staff to re-open public spaces right after? If yes, please give us details and we'll publish them. It would be good to highlight those few councillors who responded to the crisis while it was happening.

Annual Havelock-and-neighbourhood street festival:

once again, the tried-and-true formula: a great lawn sale along the Havelock Street park border (bring your stuff and sell it, so you can buy other people's stuff and take it home) at 10 a.m.; free hot dog lunch at the lawn sale at 12 noon; Clay and Paper Theatre mask-making sessions for next months Night of Dread parade by the field house 1 to 4 p.m., "Three funny Hats" story tent near the bake oven at 2 p.m., sack races and other childish games at 3 p.m.; a puppet play, East of the Sun, West of the Moon south of the field house at 5.30 p.m., neighbourhood potluck supper and make-your-own pizza at 6 p.m. at the park bake-oven, cake walk at 7 p.m.; square dancing on Havelock St. at 8 p.m. A fine way to meet your neighbours from all the surrounding streets. And a busy day!

Last year David Craig introduced the street square dance. There was a band set up on his porch across from the park on Havelock St., a square dance caller on his porch stairs, and there were about 300 people dancing on the street. It was so much fun that David has arranged it again for this year. The neighbourhood street festival is on Saturday Sept.6 from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Absolutely everyone from the surrounding neighbourhood (and friends) are welcome. The hat will be passed at the street dance to cover the cost of the band. And you don't need to know how to square dance: the caller tells you what to do.

In Memoriam: Ryva Novick.

Ryva Novick died in October. Ryva ran the drop-in Children's Storefront on Bathurst Street near Dupont, but her influence reached far beyond that. The Dufferin Grove Park sand playground would not be the same, the rink house would not be so family-friendly, the pizza oven, the gardens, the campfires, would not be so welcoming, if it had not been for the inspiration of Ryva's work at the place everyone calls just "the storefront."

One of the first things one noticed at the storefront was that there was no office, no client/professional divide. (Ryva, and the friends who worked with her to set up the storefront in 1973, turned away a very big wad of government money that would have buried them in assessments and reports and client-number massage.) The second thing was that the adults and the children who went there could gather around food (at the storefront kitchen table), and wherever there was food, talk would follow, between strangers; and friendship would often follow after that. (Sound familiar?) The third thing was that the storefront was not at all a grand structure, just a very ordinary building ingeniously (but not expensively) adapted to the hospitality that filled the place. (We did our rink house renovations inspired by that example: the simple changes cost so little time or money, and they helped a lot.)

Ryva demonstrated that if there were interesting things for kids to play with - simple things like paints, a climber, storybooks, good costumes from the Goodwill Store - then the kids would be busy with play and with each other. That meant the adults could take a break and look at a book (a luxury for a parent of very young children!) if they didn't want talk. But the conversation was often too interesting, the people one met too engaging, and so the book would be put down and the newspaper folded up. At the very same time that magazines were full of sympathetic articles about horribly depressed parents stuck at home with young children, the storefront drop-in was (and continues to be) like a wonderful local pub without the beer, but with the laughter and the continuous thread of stories that ties the most diverse people together, including people inclined to deep shyness. Ryva - and her colleagues Maryann and Karen - never social-worked people, they didn't "handle" them or recite "how can I help you." They just welcomed them, with true hospitality. In the world where even people using a park are called "customers," Ryva's approach had the genius of a quiet revolutionary. Thankfully, she left her mark on us.


On the day of the provincial election, in October, Jutta rode over to the John Innes Community Centre in Moss Park to meet with the supervisor there, and had her bike stolen - the second time in four weeks. Not only was the bike locked up with a very good lock, but the Centre was a polling station and it was the middle of the day.

Park friend Belinda Cole decided to set up a stolen-bike fund for Jutta, and a week later Jutta got a surprise gift of $190, including a cheque for $50 from the teachers at St.Mary's High School. (Thank you to the anonymous people who gave this money!) And then Pete Lilly, from Cyclepath on Bloor at Brock, gave Jutta a substantial discount on her replacement bike. All that kindness took the sting out of the loss - it's only stuff, not real heartache. But it certainly injected some paranoia about thieves.

Then a week later, during the farmers' market, a thief broke into the locked park office and emptied park staff Anna Bekerman's purse. By the time Anna realized the purse was gone, the thief had already run up over a thousand dollars on Anna's credit card, across at the Dufferin Mall. (Thankfully such credit card thefts don't have to be paid by the individual cardholder.)

On the Sunday following, two houses on Havelock Street were robbed in the middle of the day, during a short period when the residents were out. They realized the thief must have been watching, possibly from the park, to pick the right moment and break into a backyard basement window. So: watch out. Time to be nosy about who's grazing here.

Market posters:

During the last two months, we've been putting up a lot of posters about the market, all over the neighbourhood. This is in response to people who discovered the market by accident, and who complained: why didn't you let us know? A few weeks ago we had the first complaint about messing up the neighbourhood with posters on mailboxes and poles. No question, our posters are glued up all over the place. We have sought out the city's official poster removers and they gave us a lesson in poster removal. We're going to Home Depot to buy a special scraper and a spray bottle, and then we'll remove some of the mailbox posters, and ease up on putting new ones there. The poster campaign was amazingly successful: who knew that so many people read posters? But we'll try to be more sparing and less messy. Word-of-mouth is definitely cleaner.


[Jan.2004] Gifts to the park:

Firewood: an unknown park friend gave us a whole tree, cut up, for the indoor wood stove. And the Wood Studio continue to supply us with plenty of nice dry kindling.

Outdoor art: It turns out that the little Christmas tree carved at the top of the tall dead tree near the toboggan slide was made by a Willard Tree Service worker, not by the Parks Forestry crew as we had thought.

Rice Crispy Squares: these have been in almost limitless supply at the rink house, donated by the tireless Judy Simutis. For Christmas she made them in red and green - yum.

A donation out of the blue: A park friend who lives in Calgary, but whose family lives here and uses the park a lot, unexpectedly sent us a cheque for $10,000. A thank you card with hundreds of signatures is on its way to her. What a gift! All the more heartening as it arrived at the same time as our latest park crisis.

[ Feb.2004] A friend of the park is a friend indeed

This month's line-up of people who've done a good thing for the park:

Paul Safarin: who does our posters when there's an event. Paul works at Kwik Kopy on College and Shaw, and he's also a graphic artist. Almost any poster you see around was a gift to the park from Paul. The latest is the Zamboni Valentine poster.

Bill Wright: who has funded a number of newsletter printings. We made enough food money these past months that we didn't need his help to bankroll the last few, but when the inspectors came, Bill offered his help again. We keep his offers for rainy days - it's nice.

Liz Noble and Arthur Irwin: who came through when a park-lawyer friend from Ottawa needed a house to rent for the few months so she could work on our legal issues. Arthur is a real estate agent: a joyful matchmaker between families and houses in this neighbourhood and a park booster. The efforts he and Liz made for our lawyer included many extras.

Judy Simutis: who got really miffed when she heard that public health rules might prevent her from donating her rice-crispy happy faces to the rink snack bar. Judy keeps her eye on the main thing, and her "nobody can stop a happy face" attitude gave heart to the park staff when things looked dicey.

John Culbert: who was a friend to the park years ago, and then popped up again after the inspectors came. John lent us his high-quality digital camera, made the pictures into glossy prints for a city hall display, burned CD's, prepared pictures of the web site, and gave moral support when the rules seemed too daunting. In his other life John's a CFO with no illusions.

Peter Thillaye: who, for several years now, has been finding old skids and bringing them to the park for us to burn in the bake oven. Because of Peter there is bread. The three green sheds beside the rink fence are full of his bounty. And he just doesn't quit. Since the park staff have to pry all the skids apart with a crowbar, Peter has also contributed quite a bit to their muscle mass.

Jeremy Payne: who is the Weller Tree Service forester who carved the little Christmas tree at the top of the dead tree in the park. We finally found him. He was flabbergasted to hear that the carved tree had been pictured in the Globe in December. He said he sometimes carves such little trees before they have to take a tree down, because he feels that people are disheartened to see a tree go, and a carving might make them feel better.

Brian Cranley: who found the little carved top section on the ground after the park crew chopped it down, and brought it to the rink house for us to keep. A good rescue! Jeremy and his crew came there to have a look, and we gave them park cookies.

[March-April 2004]
Tooker Gomberg, in memoriam

Before Tooker Gomberg moved to Halifax (where he recently, tragically, took his own life by jumping off a bridge), he lived in this neighborhood, on Havelock Street. We first met him at a press conference he held in front of the bake-oven, as part of his gutsy campaign for mayor, against Mel Lastman. A few years later, during the garbage strike, Tooker proposed digging some long ditches in the park, for burying food scraps, so they could become compost in the ditches. But the ground in any urban park is very compacted by all those people walking on it, over years, and it's very hard to hand-dig even a little ditch. It seemed unlikely that such a project would succeed.

The last time we saw Tooker in the park was at the Clay and Paper "Night of Dread" parade. Like many people, he had put together some kind of fanciful costume and he seemed to be having a really good time. The ghosts were dancing around the ceremonial bonfire, the band was playing -- and then the roast pig from the Churrasqueira Berreida was carried into the circle, on its ceremonial tray. Tooker looked aghast. He yelled, "WHO brought THAT?" But the noise and the dancing went right on and nobody answered him.

No doubt there were other vegetarians in the crowd who didn't like the dead pig with an apple in its mouth. But Tooker looked as though he had been cut with a knife. So our park has the unenviable status of having contributed one bead to the string of Tooker Gomberg's great sadness.

Park Heroes of the Month

-- Mike Bruggeman works for the City Property Department. He was asked to put up some protective window screens on the east side of the rink house, where night-time shinny games had put several pucks through the windows. We were bracing ourselves for some depressing prison-style window grilles like the ones on so many park buildings in the city, but we got a nice surprise. The new window screens have crossed metal "hockey sticks" as their reinforcement. Mike said he didn't want to just have ugly bars to strengthen the screens, so he and the welder decided on a hockey theme. The screens look wonderful - random acts of nice design, by city trades staff.

-- Mark Culligan is the park maintenance worker who often drives the big case loader that moves the snow off the rink after a snowstorm. In early February, Mark used the loader's heavy weight to make a snow road that connected the two ends of Gladstone Avenue through the park, so people would have an easier time walking there. At the end of February we asked him back to get some of the big snow "mountains" shifted away from the rink and the ovens. Otherwise, when the weather turns warm and all that snow starts the melt, the whole area changes into a giant muddy bog. Mark used the loader's huge bucket to carry the biggest snow mountain away by the giant shovel-load. With this snow he created a long snow climbing-wall to the west of the park oven, where the hill slopes toward the street and the melt-water can drain away. Since then the kids (and dogs!) swarm all over the climbing wall and the bakers get to walk around with dry feet.

Mark, who drives a Harley-Davidson motorbike in his off hours, says he has so much fun using the case loader, that he can't believe the city actually pays him to operate it.

-- Yakos Spiliotopoulos and his friends had the Sunday evening shinny hockey permit. Before he got this permit, Yakos used to come to the rink late at night after he finished his work at a restaurant, and hop the fence. Once he got caught in there by Jutta at 1.30 in the morning. She wanted him to leave, but he explained that he had such long working hours that he could only come and skate in the middle of the night. He promised not to take slap-shots against the boards, so he wouldn't wake the people in the apartment building. So he talked his way out of having to leave.

The following summer, Yakos came by the park and went up to Anna Bekerman, one of our park staff. He talked her into coming for a walk with him after her park shift ended. She did, and now they've gone to Greece together, to stay in Yakos' home village for six months. (The family house has a 200-year-old wood-fired bake-oven in the back, so Anna can carry on baking as she did at our park.)

Before they left, Yakos went over his group's shinny hockey accounts and realized that they had collected more money than they owed the city for their shinny permit. They were over by a lot: $420.50. So Yakos told his team-mates about the money we needed to put a fourth sink in the new park kitchen, as required by the public health inspector. Yakos managed to talk his shinny hockey group into donating their entire surplus to our handwashing-sink account. This man is a very good talker. And a loyal friend of the park, as well.

-- Suchada Promchiri, a friend of the park who comes from Thailand, likes to cook and bake in her spare time. This past winter she got the idea that the rink staff were working too hard, on some of those busy days when the rink was so crowded. So Suchada began to cook special dishes for the staff. Every few weeks she came by with some delicacy - spring rolls draped with fresh mint, or cranberry-brie turnovers, or - most recently - a fruit flan covered with concentric circles of perfectly arranged raspberries, kiwi slices, and tangerine pieces. Sometimes she came and went so quickly that the staff didn't even notice her - only to find another of her platters on the counter.

The staff have now come to the conclusion that regular platters of really good Thai food ought to be part of the next CUPE collective bargaining agreement.

--The secret toy delivery: the reason why there are toys at the rink is that parents with kids of different ages sometimes have a hard time pleasing everybody when the family comes skating. The older kids may want to stay out skating all day, but the little ones, who can't skate as well, get bored sooner and then they want to go home: a tough time for parents, when the arguing starts. The mini-pizzas and the cookies help, but the toy corner helps too, to keep the little ones occupied. However, every year the toy collection dwindles as things get broken from use by many small hands. We've mostly tried to replace toys by going to garage sales, but this year something strange happened: the toys appeared to begin breeding on their own. Toy trucks begat more trucks and new stuffed animals were sitting on top of unfamiliar storybooks when it came time to clean up, along with plastic tool kits and toy medical bags that no one had seen before. We're guessing that the toy corner has acquired a secret toy elf. Thank you, whoever you are. You're helping to keep the peace.