Saturday, May 8, 2010

Culture: Crombie on Walking

Member of Provincial Parliament Cheri DiNovo presented a certificate to Swansea Historical Society President Norm McLeod for the 25th anniversary of the organization on 5-May-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The Swansea Historical Society reached a remarkable milestone this week--25 years of existence. The packed room at Swansea Town Hall included about a dozen people who had been with the organization from the very start, including President Norm McLeod. The event drew media figures, politicians, and other notables--Member of Provincial Parliament Cheri DiNovo even presented McLeod with recognition from the province.

The choice for speaker on this historic night was pretty obvious. David Crombie had grown up in what had been an independent village of Swansea (it was not annexed to Toronto until 1967) and went on, amongst other things, to be mayor of Toronto from 1972 to 1978, leading some in Swansea to say that "We took over Toronto; they didn't take over us." Crombie remains immensely popular in his home neighbourhood, and was well-received despite a double-booking that led to his late arrival to anniversary meeting.

Though often described as a "red Tory," Crombie was a Progressive Conservative when in Federal politics, so it seems a bit surprising to hear him say things that could have come out of the mouth of present mayor David Miller, who is closely linked with the New Democratic Party (NDP). Crombie pointed out that the things that define the neighbourhood--parks, trails, roads, and buildings like Swansea City Hall--are all public infrastructure, and that we should not lose sight of the government's role in enabling the building of communities that hold everyone together.

David Crombie spoke to the Swansea Historical Society during its 25th anniversary meeting on 5-May-2010

The bulk of Crombie's speech, though, focused on walking. He described how his uncle used to walk a significant distance to work each day (it would take me well over an hour to walk the route), and how the culture of Swansea was walking, since east-west public transit lines ran only at the far south end and north of Swansea proper. It was this background that made the ideas of Jane Jacobs--which Crombie had substantially embraced as mayor--so compatible with Crombie's world view.

Today, Crombie continues to structure his life around walking everywhere he can, taking transit for trips that are too long. When he needs to clear his mind, he will return to Swansea and walk through High Park and Rennie Park. He embraces the legacy of Jane Jacobs by leading a Jane's Walk through Swansea each year. He strongly encouraged everyone in attendance to walk at least two kilometers a day to help maintain their health.

Is it any wonder why I feel so comfortable in Toronto and Swansea? David Crombie made it all very clear with his speech emphasizing the past and present of walking in the neighbourhood of his youth and his city of today.

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