Friday, September 15, 2023

Remembering when......

It was time to visit the past. So my son Mark loaded my wheelchair and we headed for one of the queens of cemeteries, Mount Pleasant, and the celebration of the life of one of Toronto's great troubadours of civic history, Mike Filey.

(And then we scraped the ages off my father's gravestone.)

It was a suitable setting for Filey who had a quip and a smudge of history for every day of the decades he spent with us. After all, he led tours through the rolling expanses of the stones of the great and the humble for years. 

His tours and his lectures, his championing of the CNE, transit, civility, and midways in speeches and stunts and columns and broadcasts, made him as familiar as a family friend as the city moaned and grew and stumbled and flourished.

So that is why a famous TV talking head emceed the gathering, and in the front rows were former mayors like Eggs and Tiny Perfect Worship. Paul Godfrey, who had been chairman of Metro Toronto and just about everything else, spoke, and a chap named John Tory who had been a young radio reporter when Mike and I started, listened to my urgings that for gawd's sake, you got to run again.

It was a bawdy exciting time when Mike, and his buddy, Dave Garrick, built CN Towers and Skydomes and ran centennials where the Queen would have come if PET didn't want her visiting English Canada. Garrick spoke and I wandered back in my mind to when councils actually worked, instead of woked, and traffic actually moved as well as one or two cyclists in a bike lane.

I was part of that past which lives now only in my nostalgia. When you partied into the night, and the nice lady in Filey's rec room turned out to be Marilyn Bell who had an exciting time when she was only 14.

Too often the good old days were only good because you forget the goofs. But they really were in the decades before the century turned over like a dead carp and the pedestrians darting between the idling cars were oblivious to danger because of cell phones stuck in their ears.

But then it was time to leave the clumps of people from Mike's past to seek the yesteryear for the Downings, when it all began with a lad from Cornwall, who had been a teacher, professor, school inspector and surgeon named Dr. John Henry Downing. Mark and I finally found the stone that was placed nearly a century ago. Dad bought it when his first wife died. And then he died in 1939. His patients scattered through the east end included several future mayors and Conservative leaders and they mourned a charismatic character but the kids cheered because he had been Toronto school board chair and they got a holiday for the funeral.

Mark scrubbed the grime from the stone of grandparents he had never known. But the lowest lettering is difficult to see. My father had been a powerful man, in manner and stature, and he had married again when he was 66.  A bit of a scandal, or so they said, because my mother was a young nurse. Stoffelena Hoogstad died in 1941 two years after him, and my family descended into a turmoil, which is the reason her name was never on the stone until my sister Joyce found this on her return to Toronto from the small town of Chesley 17 years later.

But some people are remembered because they live in memory, not on stone memorials. And so it will be for Mike Filey.


Joana said...

Too many times, the good old days were only good because you forgot about the blunders. But these were in the decades before the century rolled over like a dead carp and pedestrians darting between stationary autos were oblivious to danger due to cell phones plugged into their ears. But for the top drywall contractor in clarksville, it was time to leave the clumps of people from Mike's past and seek the Downings' yesteryear when it all began with a youngster from Cornwall named Dr. John Henry Downing, who had been a teacher, professor, school inspector, and surgeon.

anonymous said...

With a joke and a dash of history for each day of the decades he lived with us, Filey found it to be a fitting environment. | concrete driveway near me