• Ed Brown

I Am a Pedestrian: Part 9

Walking around a city


I Am a Pedestrian is the result of a 159-kilometre walk around Toronto. The book consists of 159 observations gleaned from a 42-hour adventure at the perimeter. I Am a Pedestrian is a record of underexplored places, stories of people encountered and lost histories rediscovered at Toronto’s current city limits.


Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, I promoted I Am a Pedestrian in public libraries and other venues with a talk titled, The Time Travelling Pedestrian. With the aid of historical photographs, maps, and group discussion, the presentation revealed how Toronto has grown from a lonely French outpost in 1750 to today's bustling metropolis.


Walking the eastern boundary of the city is a stroll through the countryside. This is the most underpopulated region of Toronto. Below is an excerpt from the book.

 

112—Glenn Barky's Story


I am eating pie.


Before opening the screen door Glenn Barkey wipes his hand on his apron. With a moustache to match his salt and pepper hair, Barkey fixes his hazel eyes on me and groans when I ask about his pie stand.


Barkey claims the last thing he needs is publicity.


Locals purchase Barkey’s pies from a rickety cabinet on his lawn. The oven-fresh desserts come in four flavours: cherry, apple, blueberry and apple caramel. Fresh pies are available daily, midday until dark. Get here early. They sell out fast.


Semi-retired, Barkey whistles pensively, peppering his speech with long, reflective pauses. He became a pie monger late in life after he quit working in the computer hardware business and moved into his mother’s home to assist the ninety-seven-year-old as her health declined.


Poking around the kitchen one day, Barkey took a notion to bake a pie. Barkeys are Mennonite. When she was in better health, his mother, Mary, knew her way around the kitchen.


Following one of his mom’s recipes, Barkey combined the ingredients, rolled out the dough, pressed it into a pie plate, spooned in a heap of filling and popped it in the oven.


With baking in the genes, his entrepreneurial side believed his mom’s pies were tasty enough to sell. In 2006 he placed a pie on a flimsy card table at the end of the driveway with a sign reading Pie for sale and waited.


At its busiest Scarborough–Pickering Townline Road sees few cars. Growing restless, Barkey placed an empty Mason jar with instructions on the card table to test the honour system. The pie sold. Barkey remembers that day well. The same customer still buys pies today.



A whitewashed Queen Anne cabinet mounted on a wheeled contraption has replaced the card table. A permanent handmade sign is posted across the road. In recognition of his mom, the venture was christened Mary’s Pies. The honour system is still used.


Glenn on the honour system: “I wouldn’t do it downtown or nothin’, but out here it works really well.”


About eighty or ninety pies are sold in a week. Caramel apple is the bestseller.

“Brown sugar. A shot of vanilla. Sour cream. They just go nuts for it. They love it.”

To compensate for slow sales on Tuesdays, Barkey conceived Just Tart Tuesday. Customers can choose from a selection of fruit-filled tarts as well as pecan and raisin butter tarts.


Barkey never imagined the enterprise would become this successful.

“I can’t even take a vacation.”


Glenn on growing the business: “I’d like to, but I don’t know. A lot of people say keep it small. I guess I could go nuts with it.”


 

I Am a Pedestrian is available through this website.