The cast of Friends has Central Perk, the Fonz and his gang from Happy Days have the Malt Shop, and the youth of Leaside had McDonald’s at Bayview and Eglinton. Now, however, with the construction of the Bayview LRT, the popular meeting spot is no longer.
The younger Leaside generation has been mourning the loss for the past few weeks, replaying the memories they have from there in their minds.
My first high school lunch was spent there. On that day, the lines to the cash register were out the door; it was hectic. That did not matter though, for the sense of community was palpable.
The restaurant was full of students reuniting after the summer break, hugging and laughing with each other. The atmosphere remained that way until the day of McDonald’s closure.
It was a well-known fact that you could walk into McD’s, as students called it, at any hour of the day or night and be guaranteed to see someone you knew.
The demolition of this popular Leaside meeting spot begs the question: Where will young Leasiders congregate now?
One major draw attributed to McDonald’s was its location. Not only was it a minute’s walk from Leaside High School, but it was a short walking distance from most Leaside homes.
Furthermore, the staff at McDonald’s was adored by many adolescents. They did not enforce strict rules, which allowed everyone to feel relaxed.
One student said that the entire student body was abuzz prior to and during the demolition. Anger, sadness and disappointment were just some of the emotions.
When the day of the demolition finally arrived, students were in tears. As the corporate leaders of McDonald’s arrived on the scene, they were faced with teary-eyed students begging them to save their headquarters.
Still, the question remains: Where will the youth of Leaside gather now? During the school day some teens choose to sit on the hill adjacent to the high school, but you can only do so if the weather permits.
The new Tim Horton’s at Bayview and Eglinton is a popular choice, but it is lacking the familial atmosphere that McDonald’s had.
Currently, the closest McDonald’s restaurant is at Yonge and Eglinton. The location has gained a lot of new business from Leaside teens trying to replace their old watering hole, but the distance is discouraging and much less convenient.
Overall, although McDonald’s might not have been the healthiest option, it felt almost fundamental to the younger Leaside population.
It had a sense of community that cannot be replaced or replicated; it was an inaugural rite of passage that many adolescent Leasiders went through.
Now the challenge lies in the hands of current Leaside teens to find us all a new Central Perk; a new Malt Shop; a new McDonald’s.
Former Leaside student Hilary Hardie is now at McMaster University.