The Carlington Summit

Remembering a Neighbour: George O. Wood (1930-1999)

Even though I lived across the street from him for about 10 years, I didn't get to know George Wood very well before he died.

We occasionally chatted (he was very friendly and liked to talk) when he was out cutting his grass or trimming the hedge. That was about it.

Nevertheless, I heard some interesting stories and learned a little about this man who lived on Kingston Avenue for over 30 years.

He and his wife Muriel raised their son John at 1284 Kingston Avenue, and took care of George's parents who lived at 1288. By the time I moved in across the street, John was out on his own and George's parents had died.

Some of the stories George told were about his family. He mentioned his hobby, photography, and how he and his son took pictures all around the area and developed most of them themselves. He also mentioned the time he was robbed and he found all his glass camera filters smashed to bits on the bike path. George's stories were usually upbeat, with never a negative word about anyone, but you could tell that that incident hurt.

When he was a very young man, he got a job at the Experimental Farm, hoeing the crops. Back then, they planted in rows that extended all the way from Fisher to Merivale Road. He said it took all morning to hoe one row from Fisher to Merivale. There they would stop for lunch, and after that, they would grab their hoe and spend all afternoon working their way back to where they started.

He didn't say anything about being involved in politics or community affairs. But I know that George contributed in his own way. He did it very close to home.

He told me about the time the city planted the trees on Kingston Avenue. Very soon thereafter, some vandal with a sharp knife came along and peeled large strips of bark off many of the young trees. “Your tree was particularly bad,” he had told me. “They stripped the bark all the way around, just like a banana. I really didn't think it was going to make it. I grabbed all the tape I had, masking tape, hockey tape, you name it, and I put it on the trees holding the strips of bark in place.”

Looking at my tree, you can see that it is quite stunted compared to the others nearby. And looking at the others, you can see some of the scarring that still remains. George had saved many of the trees that beautify our street.

There was one other thing that George did for his neighbors that I know about, and did for 30 years until he was too sick to continue. He cut the grass in the vacant lot beside his house at the south end of Silver Street. He said before he started cutting it that nobody did. It grew long, and became littered. Soon, people started leaving larger and larger pieces of trash there, like old tires.

So one day he cleaned it up. He cut the grass, and was cutting it regularly when I moved in 1988. After his wife died about two years ago, he still kept the place up nice. He cut it until last year, even when he wasn't living in the old house anymore. When he came to town to cut the grass on his own property, he cut that one too.

I didn't even know he was sick. I heard he was living on his farm. When he stopped cutting the grass in the vacant lot, I just assumed he couldn't be bothered any more. Who could blame him?

I phoned the city and asked them to start cutting it like all the other vacant corner lots in the neighborhood. I also suggested they give him a commendation for the years of work he did. If I had known he was sick, I would have pushed for it a little harder.

Michael Phelan.
1281 Kingston Avenue.