Growing up in Jane-Finch
by Ned Lecic
(Originally posted on October 31, 2009 on forums)
Ned Lecic climbing the monkey bars at Topcliff Park (circa 1984/1985)I would like to share some of my memories of living in the Jane and Finch neighborhood; it is a strong link to my early childhood, which I remember well. My family moved there a few months after immigrating to Canada in 1981, when I was one and a half. My mother says she had wanted to take an apartment in the Yonge and Eglinton area, but for whatever reason, my father didn’t want to and had preferred Jane and Finch, so we moved into the Bristol House high rise block at 10 Tobermory Dr., apt. 1106. From the balcony there was a good Westward view with dramatic sunsets. For the next four years, this neighborhood made up much of my world. I believe it helped shaped me as a new Canadian, as living in a very diverse neighborhood, I was in touch from an early age with various nationalities: our neighbors included people from Eastern Europe, Blacks, Italians and so on, and I grew up seeing diversity as something normal. When I was a child, we would often go for walks to the nearby parks.
Ned Lecic standing at Tobermory Drive (circa 1981/1982)Just down the road was a park my parents called “livaditsa” (Serbian for “little meadow”), behind Driftwood P.S., which has changed relatively little since I was a child. I visited it in 2008 and again this year, and there is still a baseball diamond with seats, the same old fountain, and a small row of trees near the power lines. On the other hand, there is some greenery around the little stream that wasn’t there when I lived there, and one feature which I know hasn’t been there in years is a small metal tubing playground. There used to be a slide, I think two swings, and a jungle gym shaped like a rocket, all painted red, blue and yellow. The last time I saw this was in 1988, and already the slide had been taken away; nowadays they make playgrounds differently, with the monkey bars smaller and “safer” (to a fault, IMO) but this was typical for my childhood and, I think, a lot more fun.
Ned Lecic at Derrydown Park (1984)Sometimes, a member of my family would take me to another local playground, for example by the Palisades project or at or near the York University campus. The other park we often went to was nearby Derrydown Park; I loved this one, as I was attracted to woods and nature from an early age. Or my father would take me to the York Woods library just outside the park. Besides looking at books, we made use of different programs offered there; I saw some of my first movies at that library, and attended one or two teddy bear picnics that I think were organized by it. Another major part of my everyday life was Jane Finch Mall. This is a spot that holds a special place in my heart, for we did much of our shopping there and I remember a mall that is quite different from how it is today. I have too many memories of what it used to be like and what I enjoyed there, it would probably merit a post of its own. I also recall the Darrigos food market in the strip mall Ned Lecic at Driftwood Park (circa 1981/1982)across the street at the Norfinch Plaza; we often shopped there. Now there is an Asian market in Darrigos’ place,

I spent a year (1993/1994) at Driftwood P.S. in Junior Kindergarten; my teacher was Ms. Ratner and she had a classroom assistant called Vivian. The next school year, I began going to French Immersion, and so I started commuting to Yorkview P.S. in the Willowdale neighborhood. Then in 1985, my family moved to Willowdale. The connection to Jane and Finch was largely lost, but we still often went shopping at Jane-Finch mall, though less and less so. After about 1994, we practically stopped going there. Since growing up, however, I have periodically visited the neighborhood to see how it has changed and reconnect with some familiar parts. I think it will always have a place in my heart.

Ned Lecic at Topcliff Public School (circa 1984/1985)Even on my most recent visits, I have found that the neighborhood has not changed on the whole. The parks are all still there, as are the housing projects I remember so well. As I said, though, Jane Finch Mall is a major exception. I can hardly recognize it. In the 80s and right through the beginning of the 90s, it was quite a typical local mall. It was not particularly fancy and the architecture was quite minimalist, with the acronym JF in a typical 70s-style font greeting you on your left as you went in through the main entrance by the McDonalds, but it contained everything a person might need on an average day. Further down the hall as you entered were fashion stores, stands selling snacks, and a yummy greasy spoon called Deli boy (the logo being a kid who looked a bit like me at that age, only Ned Lecic at Topcliff Public School (circa 1984/1985)with a belly).
Turning at the corner, you got to Towers, a department store that used to be ubiquitous and was sort of like a cross between Zellers and Wal-Mart today. I got many a toy there, and they had decent clothes as well. Further on there were two supermarkets, Food City and at the other end, a Dominion, along with a bookstore, an Italian-style café called Tombolinos, where they had homemade ice cream, and a bar called The Rustic Inn where the Tim Hortons is now.
Then in the early 90s, Yorkgate Mall was built just across the street, and a change in the profile of Jane Finch Mall seems to have followed suit. Now, there are far more discount stores and ethnic-oriented shops. The mall has been renovated with a new décor including a lot of the color purple and exposed rafters in the hall. Besides the McDonalds, among the shops that I can still recognize are the Dinky’s fast food stand (now moved inside the Target home shop, where Towers and Food City used to be), and the two hair places, Rubino’s and Luna1 (as my father remarked, hair keeps growing).
Ned Lecic playing the bagpipes in the Czech countryside (2012)I am now 32 years old and work as an English as a Second Language Teacher in Prague, the Czech Republic. I am attempting to devote more time to writing in various genres. My interests include playing the bagpipes, nature hiking, studying history, and promoting a number of social causes. When I am in Toronto, I like to visit Jane and Finch and the rest of the West End, and walk around the parks and ethnic neighborhoods.
Ned Lecic at Derrydown Park (1984) Ned Lecic at Topcliff Public School (circa 1984/1985) Ned Lecic at Driftwood Park (circa 1981/1982)
Photos courtesy of Ned Lecic

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