When I first arrived in Cabbagetown, a downtown Toronto neighbourhood, in 1970, it was an old community. I mean old in that most of the residents had been there for generations. There was an Italian fruit market across the street. There was a large Irish community. Most of the houses were "rooming houses" with many tenants. In fact, one of the first homes I lived in offered rooms by the week for $6.00 all in. The tenant had to share the bath but otherwise had their own fridge and stove and a few cockroaches thrown in for free.
Now of course it's quite different. It's primarily single family renovated Victorian homes, many valued at a million dollars or more.
There remains however a few "originals". I spent a very pleasant hour with one of them yesterday. Frank McGuey is a legend in the area. Everyone knows Frank (or McGoo as he's often refereed to). He's been there since 1947. His dad bought the house he still lives in for $8,000.00 and paid it off in 7 years. According to Frank, they "rented most of the rooms to help with the mortgage. That's what everyone did in those days."
He shared a bit of his life in that hour, and what a life it's been.
He kept pigeons when he was in his teens. He and many others had cages full of birds in their yards and occasionally would enter "homing contests". Frank won $1,800.00 one time (and has the ribbon to prove it). The idea was to send his pigeons to Chicago at 5:00 a.m. and the first one to return would win a prize. His bird came in second. I think he said there were over 20,000 in the race.
He worked for 38 years at the University of Toronto in the research lab. His job was to care for 500 mice used in medical research. I guess that would mean feeding them and picking out the babies and the dead ones. He recently retired. Apparently there's a large turnover in this department (easy to see why) and they're often asking him to return.
His mom died last year so he's alone now. No one to leave his house to. He often goes to the race track. He's been doing that his entire life.
Yes, he's an old timer. He's a legend and one of the most interesting men I know.