• Ed Brown

Fergus O’Connell's Flemingdon Park

Fergus, his wife Sheila, a son and a daughter lived in a series of apartments and flats before moving to townhouse #23 at 61 Grenoble Drive in the early 1970s where two daughters added to the brood. Fergus reflects, "Compared to where we had been living before, Flemingdon Park was quite nice."


The retired caretaker worked for the Toronto District School Board. Fergus – Ferg to friends – is an East Ender, born and raised. Judging by the timbre of his voice, you wouldn't know he's 78 years old, projecting the vigour of a man half his age.


When the family moved here, the courtyard had flowerbeds and attractive pathways.

Courtyard in 1961

The O'Connell's extended backyard backed onto the park at 75 Grenoble Dr. "Out back, we had a nice yard facing the park. There was an apple tree back there, and we planted tomato plants. It was fenced in. It was nice to have a little privacy."


The benefits of raising a family in Flemingdon Park were numerous, including good schools. "The schools were close. The kids could walk back and forth." As far as a sense of security in the community, Ferg reflects, "It was relatively safe as far as crime and all that kind of shit that was going on everywhere."


Opportunities for sport and play were abundant. "It was good for the kids. Lot's for them to do. The tennis court beside the arena was converted into an outdoor rink in the winter." Ferg's son Rick played ice hockey at the Flemingdon Park Arena beginning at ten. He would later play in a North York league. "He played pretty good hockey."


A daughter attended Brownies at the community centre at 150 Grenoble Dr. Another took tap dance lessons here. Wife Sheila signed up for aerobic classes. In winter, the O'Connells ice and roller-skated at the arena and in summer swam in the outdoor pool behind Deauville Lane and learned to swim at the Flemingdon Park Resource Centre at 29 St. Dennis Dr.

Original baseball diamond in hydro field

Ferg has particular praise for the baseball diamond in the hydro field and Dennis Timbrell, the local politician who oversaw its installation. Timbrell represented Flemingdon Park at Queen's Park beginning in 1971. Before this, he represented the community on the North York council. Ferg believes "Politicians get a lot of slamming, so when they do something they said they were going to do, they should get credit."


His youngest daughter played in an all-ages league at the diamond. In addition to adult, youth and children's leagues, local youngsters got a lot of use from the sandlot. Ferg explains, "It was well done for the time. Kids organized many games on their own. Whoever showed up – you're on this team, you're on that team – then another couple of kids come along, and everybody plays."


Ferg was a solid presence in his courtyard. He was a peacemaker. He got on well with neighbours and befriended many of his children's pals.


One neighbour, however, took issue with Ferg. "He had a dislike for me."


All these years later, Ferg is too gracious to name the individual. He will only say conflict arose concerning an issue involving local youngsters, snowballs, and a disgruntled neighbour's belief that snow should remain where it falls and not be converted into projectiles.

The neighbour itched for confrontation. Ferg refused to oblige and took the high road instead. "You try to set an example for the kids. Confrontation is not the way to go."


On modelling positive behaviour, Ferg is humble, "You just do what you do."


Eventually, his kids grew up. The girls married and moved from the city. Unfortunately, son Rick passed away in 2015.


Sheila and Ferg left Grenoble Drive around 1995. It baffled Ferg to learn, "After we moved [management] went in with bulldozers and bulldozed everything in the backyard down and left a little patio."


The courtyard was altered, too.

Courtyard in 1995

Now a proud grandfather, Ferg boasts about his grandkids. One of them, Liam, authored the children's book, Honey Money.


He hasn't been back to the neighbourhood in twenty-plus years. Still, there are lots of fond memories. Life in Flemingdon Park was decent. Back in the day, the family car was a sporty Dodge Dart Sheila christened Bluey. "If life was terrible, I would have tried harder. I was happy to have a steady job and steady income. We didn't have extravagance, but we managed to get by."


Fergus O'Connell's Flemingdon Park? "A good place to raise a family. It was better than a lot of places."

 

Thank you Fergus O'Connell for his contribution


Baseball diamond photograph courtesy Billy Moroz


1961 courtyard photograph from Canadian Homes Magazine, Nov 1961


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


edbrownwriter@gmail.com