Christmas Tradition in Weston

For 26 years now, 5 families in Weston have had a tradition of a ‘walk around dinner’.  The families are neighbours, living within a few paces of one another. In early December, each family prepares one course: Appetizers, Soup, Salad, Main and Dessert.  Then, starting in the early evening, the adults all walk to the home serving the Appetizers, and spend an hour or so over that course, talking and catching up.  The couple serving the soup walks to their house to finish the prep, and a few minutes later everyone else moves to the soup course. The conversations continue. And so on through the evening, until finally, dessert.  There’s always some Christmas music in the background, and Christmas decorations are mostly up.

Because each couple only prepares one course, it is usually something special.  This year’s menu featured shrimp, seafood, brie and cranberry tarts, squash and pear soup, radicchio salad, spicy and mild chicken wings, a fruit pavlova, butter and mince tarts and a cheese board.

In the beginning, the children were all fed and looked after by each other in the basement of one of the houses over a movie or games while their parents walked from course to course.  As the night wore on, various ages of kids fell asleep and had to be moved home at the end of the evening.  As the years went by, the kids grew up, moved out and had families of their own.

Though the tradition continues, the conversations change.  Early on, it was home renovations, or children’s schoolwork, or decorating the house for Christmas.  As the couples age, it becomes catching up on children and grandchildren, with the requisite photos shown around.  The more recent conversations tend to revolve around bodily ailments, who’s back is acting up, who just went for an MRI, who had cataract replacements.

Alcohol is served with each course, though the quantities have diminished greatly over the years. But being a walk around event, no one needs to be a designated driver. And the timing changes, too.  What used to start at 7 and go until 2 am, now starts at 6 and the yawning starts at 1030.  All are in bed by 11.

Arranging the date can be laborious.  One of the participants keeps track of who serves what course over time, so there isn’t a repeat, and sends out the reminder in November.  Invariably, someone has a conflict, so emails and phone calls go back and forth until a date is set.

One of the couples moved away from Weston, but comes back with food in tow, just for this event each year.  It is a lovely tradition.

160 Years of Weston CI

Since its opening in 1857, Weston Collegiate Institute has been home to some exceptional graduates. As October approaches, the school prepares to celebrate this momentous occasion. But, before we get into all the amazing things Weston’s Alumni Foundation have in store this year, we must reminisce on all the outstanding milestones Weston has had over the years.

Weston wasn’t always 4 floors of lockers, classrooms with hidden doors and a swimming pool that has all the other schools jealous. Weston was originally called The Weston County Grammar School and was built due to the signatures of 18 local citizens who endorsed its establishment.

Unfortunately, the original school would only be used up until 1875 due to a fire, and while no images are known to exist of the original school, the second one was based on the designs of the first and still holds the heart of the great students who attended it.

Eventually, the school was rebuilt and continued to be a home for all young people in the area to study. As years went by, the school continued to be prosperous and was celebrated throughout the community. However, with an increase in neighborhood population, in 1912 the cornerstone was laid for the expansion of the school. By 1913, the original one-room school had expanded to one with six classrooms, an office, a laboratory, gymnasium, and auditorium.

In 1949, possibly the most iconic changed happened to the school. Weston, whose mascot was previously called “The Knights”, was changed to “The Ironmen”; due to a newspaper article written about Weston’s exceptional and perseverant senior football team. To this day, Weston is known across the city and constantly defies odds with outstanding success. From our SHSM Tech genius’ to our Olympic worthy athletes, the Ironmen are without a doubt some of the most amazing students in the city.

However, the school wasn’t filled with joy and prosperity all the time. In January of 1979, the community and school was faced with a great tragedy. On an outdoor activity ski trip, the bus taking students up north crashed; causing the deaths of four students, and many others faced severe life-changing injuries. Later that year three other students died, from other causes, showing the community how fragile our lives are.

As years progressed, the school and community slowly recovered from these tragic losses and began to prosper once more. The alumni began creating awards and started projects including the ‘Weston Hall of Fame’ which is still one of the most iconic parts of the school. It is made up of pictures and documents of students throughout the years and celebrates their success.

To celebrate 160 years of memories, The Weston Alumni Foundation will be hosting a reunion party, as well as various other events for all grads, community members, and current students.

All Details are listed below

October 13th – Weston CI VS East York CI football game with an Alumni Run BBQ at 2pm

October 14th– Past & current staff Brunch 11am in Weston’s Cafeteria

Alumni Tea Room- 1pm 3pm Weston’s Staff Lounge

Alumni Pub Reunion 1-5pm Weston’s Cafeteria

Westons Current Address– 100 Pine Street

October 15th – Hockey Game at Weston Lions Arena at 12:45

A final thank you goes out to Jane Ross from the Alumni Foundation and the Weston Historical Society, for providing me with all the historical information mentioned in this article!

This article was sponsored by: Luisa Bada: Living in Weston and loving it. 

Use our search and get lost – literally.


Weston Web has been online since Adam created it in May of 2010. Designed to cover the Weston / Mount Dennis area, as a community resource, it has kept people informed about local events and political happenings since then.

Every article ever published on Weston Web still exists online and can be accessed through a search by topic or slightly more reliably by date. Our search is a bit of a blunt instrument and gathers large swathes of articles. That’s part of the charm when a random article pops up. For example a search for May 2010 will bring up every article written in that month (plus a few more). A search for Weston Hub will get a number of articles on that topic – unfortunately they’re not in chronological order (we’re working on that) and although the search isn’t as good as Google, reading the articles can give an idea about how much thinking has changed over the years. This is way to track the progress of a topic of local interest through the past (almost) seven years.

To access the search, click in the text box by the magnifying glass in the top right corner of the page (below the banner photo) and enter your search word(s).

Sit down with a cup of tea (or a beer) and take a trip down the rabbit hole memory lane.

Weston Treasures – Toronto Bell Cote.

The former St. Matthias church newly renovated.
The former St. Matthias church newly renovated.

There is a small white church on Scarlett Road (in Greater Metropolitan Weston) that featured large in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel. Then named St. Matthias Anglican, (the congregation relocated in 1957) it became a centre for community donations to assist victims of the disaster that killed and rendered homeless many people in the area. Even without that role, it has a fascinating history having been built in Malton in 1895 and was moved to its current location on Scarlett Road in 1923. Eighty years later, in 2003, the site was given Hertitage Site designation by the city thanks to the hard work of local historical societies. An application to have the site redeveloped as a townhouse complex came in 2004 but the City and then the OMB said no (demonstrating the worth of a heritage designation).

In 2010, current owners, the Sukyo Mahikari organization tried to have it demolished, justifying demolition with a report which stated that:

  • the building has fallen into disuse and disrepair, it has been neglected and is in a rapid state of deterioration
  • the foundation walls are on the verge of collapse, and there is an immense amount of energy loss given the original construction materials and methods
  • The building is a major eyesore in the community
  • When the application was made for heritage designation, critical structural and material analysis were not completed which would have revealed unsafe conditions
  • In order to maintain and rehabilitate the current building, the cost would be overwhelming

Details of its condition can be found here.

City planners recommended against demolition, and mercifully, Etobicoke York Council unanimously voted against the application. The group was told by then Councillor Doug Hoiyday to have a re-think and look around for grant money which they did – very successfully – and the rest is history so to speak. The costly renovation that has been done is very sympathetic and has ensured many more years of existence for the 120 year-old building and the preservation of a local landmark. The installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system will ensure low running costs for many years to come.

The Sukyo Mahikari organization has only one location in Toronto and this is it.

The sympathetic addition can be seen on the right.
The sympathetic addition can be seen on the right.

The church is one of 16 buildings competing for a Heritage Toronto Architecture award in the category of projects which “restore or adapt buildings or structures that have been in existence for 40 years or more, or are included on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties.”

The church is still working on further restoration and a major project will be to replace the bell that went missing a few years ago.

If readers would like to have a tour, one may be arranged by phoning 647-748-2683.

Marking by day, monologues by night

(Left to right) Olivia Jon (Ophelia) and Rob Glen (Polonius) in Hamlet at Kew Gardens.
(Left to right) Olivia Jon (Ophelia) and Rob Glen (Polonius) in Hamlet at Kew Gardens.

It isn’t often that the english teacher who helps you analyze Shakespeare’s soliloquies in class is also reciting them to an audience the same night.

Weston Collegiate’s IB english and philosophy teacher, Rob Glen plays Polonius, a chief counsellor to the Danish royalty of Elsinore, in Shakespeare’s well known tragedy Hamlet. While delivering philosophical spiels about tabula rasa at the chalkboard, he can undoubtedly deliver powerful soliloquies at center stage.

Glen is a member of two theatre companies; Stage Centre Productions and Bard in the Park, a volunteer-based company whose Shakespeare adaptations are performed every summer along the Toronto Beaches.

Bard in the Park is currently showing a condensed two-hour version of Hamlet, as the tragedy’s five acts typically runs for four hours. The company will be performing at the Kew Gardens with evening shows at 7 PM from Tuesday to Saturday (June 16 – 20), and matinée shows running during the weekends at 2 PM (June 20 – 21). All shows are pay what you can.

Polonius exposing Hamlet of his sappy love letters: the Shakespearean equivalent of your parents reading your texts.

Yet, our Polonius had only joined the company quite recently. His acting career began after receiving numerous comments on his animated and comical behavior (which certainly sneaks itself into our philosophy lectures). When he wasn’t marking essays on Al Purdy’s poetic techniques, Glen enrolled himself in a few professional acting classes and began auditioning around various Toronto theatre companies.

Five years ago, he scored his first role, and one of his favourites, with Stage Centre Productions as Freddy in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

From then on, his thespian opportunities skyrocketed. Taking an immediate liking to his skill, Garth Allen, the artistic director at the time, offered Glen more roles despite him being novice. With Allen, he played Gerald in JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, and Father March in Little Women. 

With a new artistic director, Michael Burgess (to which he adds, “not the singer, the other guy,”), Glen continued with Stage Centre Productions to play Bo Dekker in Bus Stop, an ageing detective-wannabee in The Game’s Afoot, and a German violinist with Nazi affiliations in Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides. The same year, Taking Sides was remounted at Al Green Theatre in honor of Holocaust Awareness Week. In Stage Centre Production’s most recent show, Glen played Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic and Lace. His next role will be in Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, a comedy involving cross-dressing and conning for money, coming March 2016.

Joining Bard in the Park just two years ago, the company invited Glen back to embody Polonius after playing Lodovico in their previous production of Othello. Preparation for Hamlet began in January, where the cast of ten rehearsed two days a week for two and a half hours.

“It’s interesting how different Shakespeare is. It’s all about finding the character in the language,” says Glen on his role as Polonius. “With other types of more modern art, you kind of develop ideas on your own and bring that into the language. But the more I have a feel of the words I’m saying, the more I start doing the things that perhaps my character is supposed to do… Hopefully I’ll get a few laughs.”

(Left to right) Hom Bradwell (Claudius) and Rob Glen (Polonius) probably discussing how to figure out Hamlet’s level of sanity.

While playing the loving father of Ophelia and Laertes, there’s a weasel-esque essence to Polonius that, if exhibited appropriately, can provide a comic relief to the play’s dark overtones. To see their interpretation of Polonius and celebrate an end to exams, I attended one of the evening shows at Kew Gardens. Sprawled over the park’s lawn on burlap sacks, we watched as Mr. Glen read aloud Hamlet’s teenage-sap-ridden love letter and plotted his conniving plans. His portrayal of the fishmonger and worm-like Polonius did indeed invoke laughter.

“At first, I was excited about just seeing the play, but later I was excited that I got to see a different Mr. Glen,” says Heeho Ryu, a philosophy student. “Before we only knew him as the well-dressed, humorous teacher, but now I know that he can be Polonius.”

Another student, David de Vries, recalls, “It was really cool to see that he can put aside the philosophy and do a really great job at playing a Shakespeare character. It reminded me that all of our teachers are super talented individuals.”

One might assume that balancing teaching two separate subjects whilst acting in two separate companies is difficult. But Mr. Glen thinks otherwise: “It’s kind of like when you come back from a hard day at work, so you go out dancing. Then you discover you have this hidden reserve for special types of energy.

“Teaching is acting. There’s even an entrance – everyday you come through a door. And even though it’s very informal and a lot of the time you’re not the center of attention, there is something performance-y about it. I feel like [acting is] helping my teaching.”

Be sure to catch Rob Glen in Bard in the Park’s production of Hamlet this weekend, and Leading Ladies with Stage Centre Productions next March.



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Interesting Mount Dennis article

There’s a fascinating article about Mount Dennis that was published in blog.TO on October 5. The tone of the article is mostly positive with many interesting observations but the comments that follow are equally interesting and reflect the dichotomy of opinions that currently swirl around our close neighbour. Weston itself gets a couple of mentions too.

Rick McGinnis toured through the neighbourhood and extolled its upside potential, saying

the main drag on Weston Road is only gradually shaking itself out of its doldrums and decay. In the meantime, day-trippers to the area can stake their claim to seeing Mount Dennis ‘when it was still dodgy,’ and perhaps shop for more house than they’d find in Parkdale or Leslieville.

He also walked through Weston, complimenting us on our nice houses and excellent fish and chip shop.

But an otherwise generally complimentary and sympathetic article was marred by a startling assumption about crime. McGinnis said:

“Here’s how to spend a day in Mount Dennis, from morning to as late as you feel safe” and “It’s not generally a great idea to be found on Weston Road after the sun goes down”.

Let’s be clear: he is wrong. Mount Dennis is very safe. In fact, it has a lower assault rate than any neighbourhood in the downtown core. It’s safer than U of T, than Bay Street—safer even than Toronto Island.

Read all about it here.