I admit that I’m a Jane’s Walk newbie. Nevertheless, my intentions this year were noble: to go, cane in hand, to the accessibly walk from 11 to 1 starting at Yonge and Eglinton. Naturally, the universe had other plans: I left my cane in a friend’s car after a night of music and libations.
Thankfully, my friend returned my cane and Jane’s Walks aren’t limited to the daylight hours. So, I made my way to Woodbine and Kingston Road for a “Spooky Spirit Ghost Tour of St. John’s Cemetery,” hosted by local historian Gene Domagala and Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (ward 32), and attended by about twenty-five people, including NDP MP Matt Kellway.
The tour itself was informative and fun, made more so by the corny episodes of the local theatre group Bard in the Park. Domagala clearly reveled in local lore. He told us about the rather large headstone donated to the Son’s of England Benevolent Society, which provided burial plots for working-class families. Indeed, this sort of humble detail distinguishes this resting place from many other cemeteries in the city as there are few luminaries buried here (among them, R.C. Harris, the former director of public works). There is also a sadly ever-expanding site set aside for servicemen and women.
Although many there were long-time locals with family buried in the cemetery, some of us were relative newcomers to the neighbourhood, while still others came from “away” to learn about the area.
And this is one of Jane’s Walks goals: to get folks out of their cars on to the sidewalks to meet their neighbours and experience the city in ways they may not have done in the past. These small bites of knowledge whet our appetites to understand where we live, how it became what it is, and what improvements we can make.