150 years of noise in South Leaside


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”.

At 11:30 p.m. I open the windows for a little night air, close the blackout blinds to minimize the city lights, turn out my bedside lamp and begin to drift off to sleep. It’s not long before I am startled awake by the sounds of a barking dog. I can only assume it is out “doing its business” for the last time that night and has spotted a raccoon. Different owners have different approaches. One neighbour shouts encouragement – “GO GET HIM!” – as the dog races back and forth barking at a sharp pitch. Another neighbour yells “QUIET!” repeatedly, in a very unquiet voice. After a few more minutes of frantic barking and chasing, the raccoon escapes up a tree to safety, the chase is over, the dog and its owner go inside and the night becomes quiet again. Time for some Zen breath counting to help me drift off for the second time.

Drawing by Aino Anto
Drawing by Aino Anto

I must have, because it’s now 2 a.m. and I am awakened again, this time by snarls and cries. The other day, my neighbour asked, “Are you being woken up by horrible noises? It sounds like someone is being murdered!” Ah, “raccoons,” I say. “Did you know that raccoons interact by using more than 200 different sounds, which include purring, chittering, growling, snarling, hissing, whimpering, screeching like owls, mewing, crying, and whining?” Grumpily I mutter to myself, “What have they got to fight about? Is one not sharing a juicy piece of garbage with his friend? Or did one take the other’s favourite sleeping spot? Can’t they all just get along?” So out I go to investigate, poke the ones curled up in the vines covering our pergola with a broom stick and toss a few pine cones at the ones tightrope-walking our fence. Thankfully they quickly relocate to our next door neighbour’s backyard and once again, the night is quiet. I head back up to bed, do another round of breath counting and mercifully drift off to sleep.

It’s now 4 a.m. and I’m awakened again, this time to the sound of the airplanes coming in for a landing at Pearson – a situation the Toronto Aviation Noise Group (T.A.N.G.) knows only too well. I know planes have to fly over some neighbourhood and I like to fly. “I hope they enjoyed their trip,” I say to myself, and drift off again.

It’s now 6 a.m. and I hear the sounds of freight trains in the valley, car and bus traffic on the streets and the beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up into a construction site somewhere. Thankfully it’s time to get up, have a coffee, read the paper and get ready for my day. I hope I can fit a nap in somewhere!

About Cheryl Vanderburg 43 Articles
Cheryl Vanderburg writes the monthly column "Leaside Litterati." She is a local 'plogger' who combines her love of walking with picking up litter. She hopes to inspire all Leasiders to join this newest craze to stay fit and keep our neighborhood green and clean.