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!
How did the lane come to be named Krawchuk? “The lane began as a shortcut to and from the post office until the redevelopment of the corner property put townhouses on Millwood, but also fronting on the lane,” Lorna explained. “Jenner Jean-Marie and I, the two local councillors for the Borough of East York, told the developer that East York would provide the name. I chose Osborne, after the second mayor of the original town of Leaside. All well and good, until the naming motion came to East York Council, where my fellow councillors, unknown to me, had decided otherwise – and the motion became to name it Krawchuk Lane. I was honoured, but also find it a bit awkward to acknowledge. Over the years, I have met people who live on ‘my’ lane, but don’t know any of them well.”
As we passed the condos of 928 Millwood, a woman waved good morning from her balcony. She introduced herself as Christine Simmons, the self-appointed keeper of the laneway. We spent a few minutes chatting and then Lorna and I continued along, admiring the gardens, musing about the impact of the new condos going up and the condition of the laneway. Lorna commented: “It’s disconcerting to see that the road surface is in such bad shape, when it is a municipal responsibility, and not just a back lane. And it does have my surname.”
A few days later Christine and I met at the library. She explained that Herta Goodyear, one of the original residents, decided that she wanted a nice vista from her balcony. The idea of creating an English garden laneway was born. First, she applied for permission from the Commissioner of Works for the Borough of East York to create a landscaped space across the roadway. Then she began the task of preparing the garden beds. She recruited a few helpers and they began digging only to find a lot of junk buried beneath the soil, including old toilets and a lot of weeds. Once the soil was reclaimed she added topsoil, a soaker hose and orange and yellow day lilies and daisies.
After Herta moved, the laneway fell into shabbiness until Christine arrived in August 2011. Standing on her balcony, she said, “I don’t want to look at this.” That fall she cut back the weeds and in the spring began to putter. She cleaned up garbage, edged the garden with stones from her brother’s cottage, added topsoil, planted rhododendron, clematis, and a spring flowering almond – a sentimental favourite – and recruited residents to water, weed and keep the laneway litter free. “As a community we raise about $200 a year collecting wine and beer bottles, I use my PC points to buy garden supplies, I’m a member of the Leaside Garden Society, and I work at the annual plant sale where I purchase local plants. Last year we saw a posting on the Leaside Community Facebook site where a home owner was giving away hostas.”
She recounted some funny stories: a neighbour who complained their garden “weeds” were creeping into her backyard; a gentleman driving down the laneway who stopped and attempted to pilfer a large urn before she shooed him off; people picking off the daisies and sadly her favourite watering can.
Each of us can make Leaside more beautiful and liveable by taking on a project that has personal meaning and purpose. Just look at Krawchuk Lane, thanks to Christine and the garden champs from 928 Millwood.