friends of dufferin grove park
October 2001 Newsletter

In this issue:

September 11: On the morning when the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City came down, the Tuesday mothers' exercise group was working out in the park. As the news came in they eventually just stopped moving. Who could believe this? Jutta Mason and Larry Lewis were baking at the park ovens for the Riverdale Organic Farmers Market. Jutta wanted to throw the rising dough into the trash but wiser counsels said: people still have to eat bread. And then, every night for the first weeks the basketball regulars could be heard in heated discussion, turning over every possibility of who might have done this and how to deal with it. Many of these youth have relatives in New York but none was near the Manhattan business district and so none was hurt.

The Second Annual Night of Dread Parade: SATURDAY OCTOBER 27.
David Anderson, director of our parks resident Clay and Paper Theatre, says this year we seem to have more to dread than formerly. He and his company and many people from the neighbourhood have been working every Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the park, making masks and costumes for this years celebration and parade. David says a featured puppet this year will be modelled on a Portuguese tradition called "Big heads" – a huge head, sometimes with many faces, worn by a puppeteer in the parade. The puppet is now being constructed. Its name is "War head" and it has many frightened and angry faces of war on it. The Night of Dread, says David, is meant to give expression to the many real and imagined dreads that people face in their lives. In that way it builds on widespread folk customs like the Mexican Day of the Dead. The idea is that if you look such "dreads" square in the eye, they may shrink, and you may grow in the strength you need to deal with them.

Last years' parade was a big, lively, dancing revel parading along Bloor Street and College Streets and then returning to the park for performances and more music around a big bonfire. This year David says there is even more music. Participant schools are St.Mary's and Bishop Marocco Catholic High School and Cityview Alternative School (which is bringing a band of didgerydoos). The bands are Arythmics Marching Band, the Knights of Snare, the Two by Four Marimba Band, the Holy Cows Band, and the Escola de Samba. Swizzlestick Theatre is in charge of the stilt walkers (you too can be a stilt walker – come and learn at a Saturday or Sunday workshop).

The parade will assemble at Dufferin Grove Park at 4 p.m. and leave the park at 5.45 sharp. The route is north on Gladstone to Bloor, east to Shaw, south to College, west to Dovercourt, and from there back to the park for performances and a big bonfire (for burning up your fears). David says this year there will be two piglets roasted on a spit, one of them donated by Bairrada Churrasqueira at College and Rusholme, and lots of good park bread, (including the Mexican sweet "bread of the dead (Pan do Muerte)" to eat at the celebration.

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved, call 416/654-6642.


Mimo is the homeless Italian man who often comes to the park, almost the only homeless person who regularly came to the park this summer. To recap: in the last issue we asked, does anyone know where Mimo comes from? Does anyone have thoughts on how people in this neighbourhood could help him out a bit more?

Mimo told Jutta Mason that he came to Canada, by boat, with his family from Italy in 1957, when he was 10. Jutta came to Canada with her family, also by boat, in 1956, when she was 9. So they found they had something major in common. Judy Simutis found out that Mimo may have a room to stay in but that he won't use it. There is a bakery near College and Dufferin where Mimo gets food and may make contact with a case worker who is responsible for him. Judy is still trying to get in touch with this caseworker. At the neighbourhood street fair Sept.8, Dr. Sam Masri, a local community psychiatrist who has worked with many homeless people, told some very good stories about imaginative approaches to such problem situations. He once hired a homeless man who preferred to be nomadic (i.e. he didnt want shelter). The job involved going around to other homeless people with a well-stocked knapsack and helping them out in various ways. If they were having a very bad time, the knapsack worker would spend the night near them. He also accompanied people to counselling appointments when they were willing to go, and then followed that up by persuading them to take their medications. He was, in other words, although (or because) he was a nomadic wanderer, a very valuable streetworker.

Dr.Masri has said he is very willing to see Mimo if we can get him to his office.

But for now, here are two more immediate possibilities:
1. Mimo needs a bathroom, but he always plugs up the toilets with paper and cardboard (he says Jesus tells him to do this). So no one will let him use the bathroom and for that reason he is often dirty. (He actually seems to try very hard to keep clean.) Does anyone in the neighbourhood know where we could rent or borrow a portable toilet for one month and lock it up to the chain link fence near the rink house? The Parks department uses this type of toilet for its allotment gardens in the summers. Mimo could be given the key so that only he could use it. We believe he would probably try to keep it clean. And you can't easily plug a portable toilet. This would be one-month experiment. If you know where we can borrow or rent such a toilet, please call the rink at 416/392-0913 and leave a message or e-mail through the list-serve:

2. Mimo needs clothes. He is rather particular (he told us that what he really wants is a good suit). We have set up a park storage box near the chain link fence by the rink house, and used clothing in good condition will be welcome there. Whats needed is men's clothing (pants, underwear, socks, shoes size 9, shirts, sweaters, jackets - all to fit a thin man about 5 feet 7 inches.

Mimo is a generous soul, and not violent. He may often be hungry, but Judy Simutis says last week he offered her part of a cup of coffee he had found.


In the last newsletter we put out a RINK ALARM, because the Parks Department was considering NOT OPENING CITY OUTDOOR RINKS UNTIL DECEMBER 22. The final decision has still not been announced. Rink users in other parts of the city have also become aware of this and are expressing their disagreement.

This is the time for rink users to give the Parks Department some guidance, either directly or through your city councillor. (Remember, city council voted for this restriction.) Don Boyle is the director of parks and recreation for the former city of Toronto. His e-mail is: WRITE AND LET HIM KNOW HOW YOU WOULD FEEL IF THE RINK IS KEPT CLOSED FOR MOST OF DECEMBER. He is a nice person who got his start with Parks in rink maintenance, way back when. He needs to know that outdoor rinks are very important to our kids (including teenagers!) and our families.


If your child's school takes the classes skating, send the teacher a message letting them know these e-mail addresses. So many kids come for skating days before Christmas that the last year we counted (1999), there were 2454 visits to our rink the middle week of December.



New uses for the parks outdoor bake-oven:

a prop for photo shoots: On the last Friday in September a big group of women and men gathered in front of the larger bake-oven, with a photographer. It turned out they were from the Working Women's Community Centre on Gladstone. None of them had ever used the oven but they're publishing a cookbook. Since many of the people using the Centre are immigrants, they were just using the oven, they said, as a suitable (traditional) prop. – Move over, Casa Loma and High Park Formal Gardens. Dufferin Park's bake-oven has arrived as a prestige photo-shoot backdrop.

– a feather-warmer for chilly small birds:
as soon as the temperature dropped, the same sparrows that have been stealing Ben Figueiredos grapes all August started hanging out in from of the oven doors, as close to the heat as they could get. Sometimes there's just one, sometimes six of them in the doorway. It means we have to scrape the front of the hearth before we bake. But the sparrows look pretty pleased with themselves.

– a test kitchen:
for the second month now, every Tuesday both bake-ovens have been in production, for bread and now cinnamon buns, for the Riverdale Organic Farmers Market (held at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday afternoons from 3.30 on). Jutta Mason and Kate Cayley are trying to find out how many loaves (80?100?120?more?) can be made in six hours, and Larry Lewis has got up to 102 cinnamon buns. Baking in quantity in a wood-fired bread oven that has no dials to adjust the heat is a wicked challenge. But the organic bread and cinnamon buns are so popular that they never last longer than an hour at the market. We think this is a very interesting piece of market research for a future youth project at the park. In the past, our parks "odd jobs for youth" programs have often been very light work, not preparing youth for much. There is nothing light about baking: when fifty loaves are rising, and the next forty loaves are ready to bake, there is never a minute to waste. Its a demanding, challenging kind of work that accepts no excuses, and the park is a pretty good source for youth who need to stop making excuses. The G.H.Wood Foundation has said they are interested in this idea, and are helping us explore it.

Slow cooking at the park:

Barbara Kerr and her family came and picked elderberries in the park in early September and Barbara made pies. She followed this up at the end of the month by cooking a cassoulet in the residual heat of the smaller bake oven. This slow-cooked dish is a French specialty containing white beans, tomatoes, and various kinds of meat. In parts of France the pot was never removed from the oven except to dish up some for dinner and then to add some more ingredients and put it back in to cook again. One of Barbara's recipes said that the cassoulet of Mère Clemence in Montparnasse simmered for twenty years, while another one in a nearby town was cooking for over a hundred years, until it was interrupted by the German occupation in 1940. Barbara's clay pot was only in for a day, and then the stew fed a large party of people, with none left over to keep cooking. Slow cooking like this can be done in the park oven on Wednesdays (overnight) and on Saturdays in the daytime. To borrow an oven key for your stew, call the park at 416/392-0913 and leave a message. (Recipes for pizza and slow cooking stews can be found in two scrap books at the rink house.)

Sports in the park:

Tai chi:
As soon as the sun rises, the first people doing tai chi appear in the park. Some people do it inside the hockey enclosure, some on the basketball court, many more out under the trees in various parts of the park. It seems as though the number is increasing.

On Saturday evenings the Sudanese play. Thats when you see many taxis parked at the side. On Sundays its Brazilians and Portuguese. Weekdays its sometimes pick-up.

Ball hockey, roller hockey:
On Monday evenings theres a permit. All the other days are unscheduled. If your group would like to book a permit, its still free, and you can have the lights on if you arrange ahead: call the park and leave a message at 416/392-0913.

last year some high school students put together an information poster about skateboard parks in other cities. This poster was supposed to be followed by some meetings, but the kids never got around to arranging them. (Too busy skateboarding and doing homework-now theyre off at college.) Some public school students also wanted to put together a display as a school project, but that never materialized. Every couple of months there is an inquiry at the rink house, when the skateboard facility will be built. The answer is, never: unless someone makes that their project, there will be no facility. And a warning: getting something built would be a very time-consuming task.

Since the kids who skateboard seem to be doing lots of interesting tricks on the stairs and the street in front of St.Marys Catholic High School, maybe nothing more is needed. If anyone wants to take charge of a more ambitious project, call our local recreation supervisor Tino DeCastro at 416/392-0041, or email him at

Arts in the Park:

Potter David Windle did a barrel-firing of pottery near the small oven on September 21. Earlier in the summer, potter Tanya Love did a firing in the same place. They'll be back again. Both of these potters are very friendly to passersby who ask questions, especially the kids.

The Darbazi Choir is rehearsing at the rink house every Sunday evening. If you come and stand near the windows you can hear their beautiful a capella music, with the harmonies and the language of the Republic of Georgia. And now the marimba group Nyamamusango has started rehearsing at the rink house on Thursdays. I asked them what their name meant, and Dawne MacFarlane (formerly the treasurer of Friends of Dufferin Grove Park) said it means "meat in the forest." It comes from a Zambian story about a boy who asks his father for meat to eat. The father gives him meat three times, and when the boy asks the fourth time, the father gives him a spear, saying, nyamamusango. There's meat in the forest, go get it yourself.

When the marimba group rehearses in the rink house the whole building vibrates in rhythm. Both groups get free rehearsal space in return for doing free performances for the park. If the rink opens on time at the end of November, that will be an occasion for celebration, and we'll ask both groups to come and perform.

A new school year at St.Mary's:

Principal Tony DeSousa was in the park in the last week of September, checking for students skipping class. He was wearing a sports shirt and jeans instead of his usual suit. He said that about once a month St.Mary's has a day when casual clothes can be worn, at a cost: $2 per student ($3 for latecomers). The school supports two foster kids, and in September the money raised this way is allocated to them.

Tony said he received a petition from the neighbours to crack down on kids speeding with their cars in front of the school. He has been taking down licence plate numbers, and has asked the police to give special attention to the school at opening and closing times. The first month back after the summer is always the time when a handful of students seek to impress in this way. Tony says that if he catches students, or their friends, speeding in front of the school, he will have them charged and will follow up in court.

Gardeners' news:

Arie Camp has flower seeds available, ready for seeding in the fall. To connect with him, call 416/392-0913 and leave a message. You can buy them and add to our gardening fund, or you can trade for some rare seed you may have.

Recently someone sent us the book The Man who planted Trees to add to our park library. This book might be another version of what Arie does: the man who planted flowers.

Gene Threndyle, who planted and looks after the marsh fountain and the other native-species areas in our park, is going to a conference this month in New York City, put of by the Project for Public Spaces. These are the same people who gave our park the chair award. New York is full of interesting community gardens and Gene will report on what he saw, when he returns in November.

This month, special thanks go to:

Hussain Ali: for giving us two truckloads of excellent firewood from his skid factory.

Mike Hindle and his parks maintenance crew: for picking up the firewood and delivering it to the rink house in a Parks truck.

Cameron Newitt, park staff: for spending two days cutting the firewood and wedging it into every possible space in the garage.

Tino DeCastro, recreation supervisor: for changing Cam's work assignment so he could come and cut the wood.

Ben Figueiredo: for helping Cam with the cutting, for fixing broken park tools, for stepping in often when somebody needs help (including helping Mimo).

Melanie Stephens: for weeding the rose garden this summer so Margie Rutledges ornamental brick paths could be seen again; for donating bunches of sweetgrass from her garden, and planting them by the wildflower sign.

Winston Young: for noticing that there were nails all over the ground near the ovens (they get swept out with the ashes after we burn Hussains skid wood) and coming back with a donated magnet so strong that it picks up big bunches of nails at once (anyone who wants to, can use it: its fun).

Vivian Smetana: for saving a whole lot of cedar branches from her garden for the park fires. Some of the branches will be used at the Night of Dread bonfire, and the rest will make the wood stove in the rink house smell good all winter, beginning - we hope - at the end of November.

Joe Longo of Longos Grocery Store. All summer long and into the fall, Joe delivered our food orders to the park: boxes of cheese, big bags of flour and sugar and oats (for cookies!), sacks of wheat and rye for grinding into bread flour, skids of box drinks, and cases of tomato sauce. He adds this task to his (and his family's) six-day twelve-hour a day work week at the store, not to mention the responsibility of listening to all the stories that get told at their store, since it's such a neighbourhood meeting place. Without Joe the pizza days wouldn't have come off at all. He's been a great friend of the park and the neighbourhood.

For ongoing updates on Dufferin Grove Park, and to share your views on community issues, join our Friends of Dufferin Grove email listserve. Just click here to join.

Newsletter prepared by: Jutta Mason; Illustrations: Jane LowBeer

Technical support: John Culbert

Web site: Joe Adelaars, Henrik Bechmann, Caitlin Shea

Park phone: 416 392-0913; street address: 875 Dufferin Street


List Serve: Emily Visser, Bernard King