• Ed Brown

Bryan Fines’ Flemingdon Park

Bryan Fines is succinct when describing his childhood in Flemingdon Park: “Great times. Great experiences. I was lucky."


The Fines were pioneers in the new community when they moved here in 1961. They lived in townhouse #53 at 58 Grenoble Drive. Bryan’s father was a psychologist, his mother a school teacher. The neighbour was a doctor. Many of Bryan's friend’s parents had white-collar jobs. One boy’s dad headed the largest ad agency in the country. "There were a lot of high-income earners. I remember a lot of nice cars."

Courtyard at 58 Grenoble Drive in 1961.

Bryan attended Grenoble Public School when it was new. He walked to school across a field of tall grass profuse with grasshoppers and garter snakes where the apartment tower at 45 Grenoble Drive stands today. On November 22, 1963, halfway across the field, an older kid excitedly shouted at Bryan, "The president got killed!" referring to the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas that morning. Seven-year-old Bryan dismissed the news with a shrug, "I had no idea what a president was."


He and his friends were adventurous. "We were on every corner of the Park every day of our lives. Every building, every underground garage ever built, we knew inside and out. Nothing seemed off-limits."


They accessed a panel in a building still under construction and commandeered the elevators. As a building on Vendome Place was going up, he and his best friend and next door neighbour, Ronny, snuck inside an apartment overlooking the newly opened Don Valley Parkway and got locked outside on the balcony. “There was a Coke bottle left there from one of the workies. We had to throw it through the window to get out."

Fines' townhouse seen from underground parking lot in 1961.

Once, an officer escorted Bryan and Ronny home after they got caught playing chicken on the Don Valley Parkway. Bryan was five; Ronny a year his junior. The boys would make a few bucks retrieving golf balls from the portion of the Don River winding through Flemingdon Park Golf Course and selling them back to golfers.


Bryan and Ronny maintained a lifelong friendship until a few years ago when Ronny succumb to cancer.


“Before the days of watching TV, all us kids played all day, every day in the woods, in the river, climbed trees, played baseball, always in bare feet. We had dirt bomb fights, rode our bikes everywhere, built go-carts, tormented the workies in the perennial construction sites.”


Bryan’s pretty convinced he and his mates coined terminologies unique to the neighbourhood. Terms such as workies (construction workers) and dirt bombs (projectiles). They devised the descriptor, Gerry’s Gyp Joint, to describe the variety store still in operation today (under different ownership) located in the plaza.


Boyhood wasn’t entirely rosy. He had his share of hardships. “There were some setbacks.” His younger brother lost his life in a tragic accident. The family went through a rough time when his parents separated. For a while, money was tight. For Christmas one year, Bryan got a binder.


In Bryan’s memory, the good far outweighs the bad. He had his first ride in a horse-drawn wagon on Earl Magee’s farm in the hydro field. Bryan remembers, “We were all a little afraid of Farmer Magee” but associates fond memories with the property. A frog pond near the stable appealed to local children. Bryan skated here in the winter and in summer collected tadpoles.


His first kiss happened in fifth grade with Nadine Pemmant in Farmer Magee’s carrot patch.


Before his family left Flemingdon Park in August 1969, Bryan visited the recreational lounge atop 1 Deauville Lane and ventured out onto the sundeck. Armed with a camera, he captured images of the changing community. While taking in the panorama, it occurred to him his family may be the last of the original families to call Flemingdon Park home.


Around this time he etched 1969 into wet cement in the driveway leading to 45 Grenoble Drive. Soon after, the Fines moved to Woodstock, Ontario. Traces of the concrete inscription remained until recently.

Driveway at 45 Grenoble Drive today where Bryan Fines' etched date in wet cement in 1969.

Sixty-plus years later, there’s still a camaraderie when Bryan connects with old friends from the neighbourhood on social media. He is unequivocal, “These were the best days of my life.”


Bryan Fines’ Flemingdon Park? “A fantastic success. It brought people together like no other community could.”

 

Thank you Bryan Fines for his contribution

Photograph from Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Journal; October 1961


Next:

Dawnmarie Harriott's Flemingdon Park


Edward Brown lived in Flemingdon Park at 58 Grenoble Drive from 1969-1991

Interested in contributing memories of your Flemingdon Park, good, bad or otherwise?

Contact author at edbrownwriter@gmail.com