By George Pinch
The gardens were started in 1942 as Victory Gardens, hence the name we have for our “patch”. The founder was Dr. Donald Flather, who lived in the house on East Boulevard that is identifiable by the conical turret above the front entrance. His doctorate was in botany and biology, and he kept gardening up until his death in 1990. When I started my garden in 1984, I told him I wanted him to be my mentor, and he seemed more than happy to oblige. He was a most knowledgeable and kindly person; the kind of man you would be glad to call a friend. And to me, he was a true friend.
Dr. Flather told me he started gardening there after the government urged the population to produce as much food as possible to enable Canada to ship as much as possible to keep Britain fed during those terrible years of World War II. He told me that once he started, his neighbours followed suit, and soon there were gardens along the tracks between 49th and 54th, right until the end of the war. When the war ended, he and a couple of neighbours carried on, while most others went back to playing golf. The CPR never bothered anyone about encroaching on their right-of-way, until now.
I started my garden one year after my neighbour and “buddy”, Howard Hurt (I always thought that Pinch and Hurt had the makings of a good friendship) started his garden at the instigation of his then 14 year old son Keith. Keith and his kids still help Penny, Howard’s widow, with the garden, as does their other son, Doug. After Dr. Flather died, I carried on his garden, as well as my own, until his wife died and the house was sold. I also looked after the garden immediately to the north, “owned” by Dr. Father’s neighbours, the Gardiners (which, despite their name, they weren’t.) That garden was subsequently taken over by “Captain Jack,” a retired ship captain and dockyard manager. (He managed a seaport or dockyard in South America during the war- another man I truly admired.) After Captain Jack died, I don’t recall who took it over. To the immediate north, the garden was cared for by a most elegant lady— her name was Eve Kennedy. She spent some time in Asia, where her husband had a very responsible job. (That was Maureen Kinney’s mother. Maureen, like her mother, is also an elegant lady.)
The gardens really took off after I got the City to provide us with water service on our side of East Boulevard. (Thank you, Alderman May Brown.)
Anyhow, it has been an interesting 30 years for me. I have met many interesting people, such as two guys on the other side of east Boulevard who wanted us kicked off, and their neighbours who supported us 100%.
To read more about Donald Flather’s garden work and art, please click here.