The valleys and cliffs on three sides of Leaside make it a unique urban neighbourhood.
My childhood street was Mallory Cres. on the edge of the Don Valley.
My earliest valley memory was a face-to-face encounter on a narrow pathway with a giant blue bird. After hearing my story my kindergarten teacher informed me that lying was not acceptable.
Years later a zoo keeper at the Riverdale Zoo told me that their peacocks often escaped into the valley. Vindication for an embarrassed child!
I remember standing at the cliff edge with my father staring in amazement at the havoc wrecked by Hurricane Hazel.
The valley was Adventureland. I picked wild apple and peach blossoms and followed mysterious paths that lead to glorious wildflowers and abandoned garden flowers. Plants thrown over the cliff because they failed to earn their keep in nearby gardens thrived in the valley. Pies were made from valley apples.
At 7 p.m. most evenings we biked to the cliff behind the apartments on Leacrest to watch the four-engine train moving north and then east shaking the valley as it passed. An incredible display of industrial age might. It also gave you hot cinders in the eye.
In winter the valleys offered tobogganing and snow drift jumping. In spring we foolishly took cardboard pieces and rode them down the steep hills. We often became airbourne and flew until we hit the fence at the bottom. I am glad I lived to tell the tale.
One exciting week we became pirates scouring the hill for costume jewellery tossed free following a small rail accident.
We gathered valley clay that we formed into pottery. We understood the name Pottery Rd.
I learned about sex from cars parked in the valleys and along the cliff. I learned to believe in the impossible after interrupting a couple in an Isetta.
As a teen I watched a nun push a grocery-filled Loblaws cart around the cliff and stop at a home. As she carried the bags inside my mind was creating positive thoughts about the duties of nuns. She came out and as was customary started to retrace her route to return the cart to the store property. She stopped, turned, bumped the cart across the grass, pushed it over the cliff and calmly went on her way.
It all ended in 1957 with the building of the Bayview Extension. The machines came destroying century oaks and leaving them in piles. The cliff and valley were scraped bare and left to erode.
I moved downtown after university but moved back to Mallory in the ‘80s. My house is literally on the edge. The cliff has one of the best views in the city, attracting people to sit, read or just look.
Trees have grown back since ‘57 and we share the cliff with assorted wildlife – rabbits, skunks, deer and druggies. The latter raid cars, leave copious amounts of garbage, used condoms and syringes but now we hear that cameras are in the offing. We are hoping for a mass extinction of the species.
Childhood events help form our world view. I treat young children and nature with respect. I confess to a hatred of soulless development, a cautious attitude towards organized religion and I believe that open space, distance and green areas are essential for our mental and physical health. What would intense densification give our children? Like other features of our neighbourhood, the valleys need our vigilance and protection.
NEXT MONTH: A few years after I returned to Leaside, development again threatened the valley.
Story contributed by Karen Fraser.