Forward: This is a long post. If you have the time to read it, I say go for it! If you don't, then I also understand. As of the end of this sentence, it's 1720 words, so I hope you've put aside at least 10 minutes!
I think my grandfather heavily influenced my addiction to automobiles. If he didn't, then he sure as Hell was an instigator, because every time I went to see him he always had some sort of a toy car for me to have and to play with. He also kept gumballs in a jar in a dilapidated 1950's era fridge that didn't run, in his apartment. With each twist of the lid to give me one, he'd tell me not to tell my mother, and would lure me into a certain colour of gum with a monotonous, repetitive "Wow Wow Wow Wow" as he plucked one from the jar.
Of course, I refer to him as my grandfather loosely, because he was not in fact blood related, but was the closest thing I had to a grandfather until his death in 1999. He loved me as a grandson until then, and never growing up with a father or any other male figure in my life besides him, it was always a relief and a treat to go spend a couple days with him and my mother in his attic based apartment near downtown Toronto.
Where he lived and how he lived however, was what made him most unique.
My grandfather (Yes, I'm going to keep referring to him as such) grew up in Toronto, and spent almost his entire life loping around, doing odd jobs to make a living. At one point, he got a job for the government organizing tax returns, met a woman, got married, had some kids, and then promptly lost his job due to cutbacks. With no money, his wife quickly grew tired of his flanéur ways and his incessant obsession with the Blue Jays Baseball team, and took the children and left him, all by himself. Every attempt to make contact with them was met with a "you're a terrible father - you can't even keep a simple job", and she instilled that mindset into his kids heads. Despite his interest in getting to know his children, he never really did get the opportunity to, so when my mother showed an interest in getting to know him as a friend when she was pregnant with me, he seized the opportunity to be a role model to a child that was born a bastard (my father left as soon as he found out my mother was pregnant).
In his later years, my grandfather finally did get a steady job working for the government again, and was tasked with the custodial duties of three historical properties on the corner of Jarvis and Wellesley: 515 Jarvis, 519 Jarvis, and 529 Jarvis.
In order, this was the (Hart Massey) Keg Mansion, Vincent Massey Mansion (which at the time was a CRA office), and Victoria daycare (which no longer exists).
Entrusted with these duties, he was offered monetary compensation, a decent benefits package, and the opportunity to accommodate himself in one of the residences, in particular the attic of 519 Jarvis. It was through this line of work that he met my mother, while she was searching for a daycare for me to attend, and chose Victoria Daycare based solely on it's "very nice elderly janitor". At the time, these three properties were privately owned but government subsidized. For his work, he was also given a key to each and every room in the residences, as well as the keys to the cellars. It's there where this story takes us...
Being a bit of a flanéur and a loner, he often waited until most or all the workers had gone home from the properties late at night to do his custodial work. Often times, he'd find himself cleaning the Keg mansion, only to discover money or valuables lying around. He'd pick them up, leave them at the front desk with a note, and was entitled to them if the person didn't come back for them within 72 hours. Often times, he'd find watches, wallets, necklaces, and sometimes even keys to storage lockers and safety deposit boxes. Why these people were leaving this kind of crap in a restaurant is bizarre to me, but I guess when you're drunk and disorderly at a big bar, you do stupid things.
One of the places he was most fond of having access to, was an underground tunnel underneath the Keg Mansion. This underground tunnel had been dug out by Hart Massey (the original owner of the mansion in the 19th century) so that he could have a direct route to the Wellesley Hospital, where he sought medical treatment for his autistic son. Hart's concern for his own fame was so selfish that he refused to take his autistic boy out in public, for fear of being ostracized. Back then, nobody knew what autism was, so doctors just assumed the boy was mentally retarded. This made Mr. Massey somewhat of a careless father, and his concern to have his boy cured seemed to only lie within the confines of his huge mansion, as he was consistently outside of it, trying to soak in as much public fame as he could. In return for the hospital allowing him to dig a private tunnel (which allowed him to keep the boy out of the spotlight and therefore not tarnish his reputation) he would often donate large sums of money to it.
One day, while taking the son back from getting experimental medicine at Wellesley hospital, Mr. Massey's maid was shocked to see the boy start to seizure. By the time she could get a doctor, it was too late, and the boy had died. It was the experimental medication to cure an unknown disease that had caused the death, and he was put to rest quietly in a graveyard out of the city limits. The maid was so taken a back by the loss of the boy she took care of every day, that she hung herself from the inside second floor balcony at 515 Jarvis. These two deaths are what led credence to the Keg Mansion being "haunted".
Anyways, getting back to the story at hand, my grandfather had an almost sickening fascination with this underground tunnel. He thought it was a truly magnificent piece of architecture, and was in awe that it could be built so secretly under a pre-existing structure. Since he was the only person who had access to it, he would keep his cleaning supplies in it, as well as the valuables he amassed over the years of working there, and through his fishing ventures to Lake Ontario.
When I was 7, he took me into his spare room in the attic. In it, he had all his valuables sprawled out and all his cleaning supplies laying around. He told me that the superintendent of the buildings wanted to review all the rooms and their cleanliness, and that my grandfather had feared that had the superintendent found out about his personal use of the underground tunnel under 515, that he would have lost his job and his home, so he had moved all the stuff to the spare room.
As a kid, I was absolutely smitten. Portraits of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe sat on the tabletop, signed, and in mint condition. So many Rolex's were sprawled out on another table that they seemingly looked like a river of metal. In the corner of the room sat a model of a jet... To a 7 year old, any jet was amazing, so I had to inquire.
When I asked about the jet, my grandfather informed me that he had "got that while doing some fishing up in Lake Ontario, and that if the Government knew he had it, they'd want it back." It wasn't until later that I realized that the model jet I was looking at was one of 9 scale models of the Avro Arrow that were shot into the lake in the 1950's. Looking yellowish green and faded, it's shape would have belied it's true value... Likely in the millions, if not priceless for its historic relevance to Canadian Aviation history.
A few years later, after having put all his valuables back into the underground tunnel, my grandfather was informed on extremely short notice that all three addresses would be sold to the highest bidder, and that Wellesley hospital would be torn down, and that the new landowners of where the Keg sat requested that the tunnel be closed off. In a rush to take his valuables out before the new owners cemented and painted the doors to the tunnel shut, he misplaced his key. A few days later, the doors were sealed off, and all of his valuables were locked under the Keg for good. His protests to get back into the tunnel to retrieve his items were met with disdain by the new owners; he was nothing more than an elderly custodian has-been to them, and they informed him that he was lucky that they were even letting him stay in his attic apartment.
A few days after that, he had a heart attack, likely due to the stress of all that he had worked hard for, being locked up forever.
When his real children came to identify him, they were disgusted at his lack of valuables. They claimed that it looked as if he had been robbed, and that he had never amounted to anything anyways. According to my mother, who also went to identify him, his own daughter said "Our mother was right. He never amounted to anything.. He didn't even have a cent to leave behind to his own children".
If only she knew...
Of course now, it would be nigh impossible to break open those doors to the underground tunnel. Sealed off for the better part of 15 years, it's hard to say what condition his valuables would be in. No one would ever know for sure, because as of now, the 515 and 519 mansion's have been identified as "Monuments of historical and architectural significance" and most certainly, no one would allow a construction crew down there to dismantle the wall to find out. Furthermore, the entire Keg kitchen is down in the basement. Asking a corporation as big as the Keg to relocate it's entire kitchen staff in its most famous of restaurants, to accommodate the removal of a cement wall just to get to some buried treasure that may or may not be there based on one 25 year olds story might be tricky to do, if not absolutely impossible.
But one thing is for sure. Both I, and my mother, remember very clearly the collection of valuables he had. We remember the Arrow. We remember the portraits. We remember the Rolex's and the Tag's that seemingly numbered in the hundreds. And with no signs of forced entry to his premises upon his death, we know exactly where they are.
Thankfully, 519 still sits in magnificent condition to this day, along Jarvis. Sometimes I like to go and sit on the steps in the summer and think back to being a 3 year old and playing with my model Cobra 427 he gave me. I used to roll it along the cracked perch, making little engine sounds. Sometimes I feel him there with me. And sometimes I thank him for inspiring me to be who I am today.
I know he would have wanted his story to be shared. I think it's about time I shared it.
-Dedicated to the memory of Stanley Anderson, who died in 1999 at 519 Jarvis St. in Toronto, alone and penniless.