Residents in the shiny new condo buildings nearby may not know their neighbours. But on Draper, they celebrate the summer solstice together, meet for drinks in the shared garden they created on a vacant lot and babysit each other’s pets. They meet for movie nights and card games, and trade tips on how to keep their front gardens blooming.
When Mary Kohut turned 90 recently, the whole street came to celebrate. It was a fitting tribute for Draper’s oldest and longest resident, who moved in at the age of 9 when there was no traffic and the milkman and breadman came to the door. “My neighbours made me a beautiful party — cake and everything,” says Kohut, who still has all the birthday cards. Her family came to Toronto during the Depression from their Manitoba farm and lived in several Draper houses, including her current one, where she and her late husband Bill raised their son and her grandchildren regularly visit. One of seven children, Kohut remembers swarms of boys playing road hockey, girls skipping, everyone walking to school. No cars. Ukrainian treats from stores on Queen St. The biggest change? “All those buildings.” But some things are the same. “I love my neighbours. Anything I need, they come and help me.”