Rob Young's Flemingdon Park
If you're looking for someone to give you the straight goods and don't pull their punches, don't look any further than Rob Young. Loyal to a fault with an excellent memory and the ability to tell a joke or spin a yarn, did growing up in Flemingdon Park contribute to the man he is today? You be the judge.
The Youngs moved into unit 19 at 6 Vendome Place the same day Canada celebrated its centenary, July 1, 1967. Future hockey superstar Angela James was a neighbour, as were the Dynes and the Barron families.
Before moving to the neighbourhood, the Youngs lived above the Haven Restaurant on Eglinton west of Dufferin. When Rob was five years old, they moved to Flemingdon Park. His grandmother moved here, too, into a fifth-floor apartment at 35 St. Dennis Drive, proving fortuitous. When he was eight, his parents separated and having his grandmother nearby meant she could pitch in and help in the care of Rob and his siblings.
Rob's mom worked as a cashier at the Dominion store at the plaza at 747 Don Mills Road. She would work for the grocer for thirty-four years. Back then, there was a hotdog stand in the store and she worked many a shift serving up hotdogs to hungry customers. As a youngster, Rob got a job working in the store's produce department. Rob recalls, "Instead of money, the produce manager took me to a Maple Leafs game."
Baked goods delivered to the back receiving doors early in the morning were vulnerable when kids on the way to school periodically helped themselves to the goodies. Rob remembers when he and other boys "Stole a bunch of cakes and pies." Instead of devouring the sweets, "We went over to the parking lot at the Conquistador [at 35 St Dennis Drive] and washed every car's windshield" with pilfered goodies. He was about eight or nine at the time.
Rob remembers lots of childhood friends. "I was The Fonz," he jokes today, "I had long hair." He attended Cub Scouts and, as a teenager, went to dances on Saturday nights at the Community Centre. Born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture, when asked what it was like growing up in Flemingdon Park with a visible disability, Rob deadpanned, "I didn't have a disability; everyone else did."
The disorder impacted his gait. Those who teased him did so to their detriment. One day a boy named Barry told Rob, "I don't like the way you walk." Rob replied, "I don't like the way I walk, either." They were in the underground garage. Barry offered to remedy Rob's affliction. "He went inside his house and came out with a baseball bat and hit me across the knees as hard as he could." In tremendous pain, Rob cursed, "Now I can't walk at all."
In retaliation, a band of friends rallied around Rob, and not to put too fine a point on it, in Rob's words, "Beat the shit out of him." This wasn't the only time Rob was picked on. "I used to get beat up in the field behind 61 Grenoble Drive on the way to school."
The outdoor swimming pool behind 6 Vendome Place was a popular summertime destination for kids, and Rob was no exception. The summer of '71 holds vivid memories relating to a ghastly death that became neighbourhood lore for a particular generation.
In July of that year, the 20-year-old lifeguard, Larry Hough, befriended truck driver David Todd, 37, a regular at the pool. Hough lived in Scarborough. Todd lived steps away in a Deauville Lane apartment. Chatting poolside one day, Todd informed Hough his wife Grace had moved out of their nearby apartment. Todd suggested it would be convenient for Hough to move in with him. Hough could walk to work instead of commuting. By the end of July, Hough and a second lifeguard were rooming with Todd. Unbeknownst to the lifeguards, Grace hadn't moved out; her murdered remains were concealed in the freezer, placed there by Todd after killing his wife.
The bizarre murder became public months later when Todd moved the sealed freezer from Deauville Lane to an apartment on 4 Vendome Place. When curious youths pried the hinges off the freezer, they got the shock of their lives.
Today, Rob has distinct memories of hanging around with Todd at the swimming pool that summer. Did it strike Rob odd a man of 37 would be chumming around with so many youths? "It might have been weird, who knows. He wasn't weird with me, but that don't mean nothing."
David Todd was convicted of manslaughter and received a ten-year sentence. Rob believes he's alive today, at least, "He was alive a couple of years ago, I know that for sure."
Before attending Gateway Public School, Rob did a short stint at Sunny View Junior Public School, serving students with complex physical needs located in North York. "I was kicked out for stealing wheelchairs and racing them down the hallways and doing demolition derbies." He was 6-years-old. Expelled, he transferred to Gateway PS, went to Valley Park Junior High and finished his education outside the community at Tabor Park Vocational School.
With a comprehensive knowledge of classic cars, the car enthusiast pinpoints the source of his affection. The husband of the woman who babysat him, Ron LeBlanc, acquired a brand-new Grand Prix in 1969. The first time Rob laid eyes on the green Pontiac, it was love at first sight. He recollects, "That's what started it." Rob differentiates between his first set of wheels and his first roadworthy car. When he was 13, he purchased a four-door 1966 Pontiac Laurentian from a neighbour for fifteen dollars. He didn't get much mileage out of that one but since has driven numerous classics.
Rob left the neighbourhood in 1977. The rest of the Youngs departed Flemingdon Park two years later. For three decades, Rob has worked as a custodian with the Board of Education at various schools throughout the city.
Rob Young's Flemingdon Park? "Awesome."
Read more about lifeguard Larry Hough's testimony at David Todd's 1972 trial here:
Thank you Rob Young for his contribution
Photographs courtesy Toronto Public Library and Ritzsite
Additional content from Toronto Star, May 29, 1972, pg. 4
Ed Brown lived in Flemingdon Park at 58 Grenoble Drive from 1969-1991