Updated: May 17
Surface: wood chips.
Most Toronto playground-goers are familiar with the castle-style playgrounds in High Park and Kew Gardens, but few people outside of St. Cecilia’s catchment area know that this little Catholic school has a castle of its own. It might be the best play structure at any Toronto school.
And ironically, I only discovered it because of a teacher’s strike.
In 1997, as I was coasting my slump-shouldered way through my final lap of high school, teachers across the province decided to shock me out of my academic lethargy by staging a strike that threatened to put off my graduation for another year. This was the tail end of Ontario’s 5-years-of-high-school era; if the strike had gone on much longer, I would have been almost 20 by the time I graduated.
In any case, the strike only lasted two weeks, but not before my girlfriend and I decided to get a bit entrepreneurial and offer cheap child care for parents in the High Park area. It was fun; we read them stories, dreamed up crafts, took them to playgrounds. Because my girlfriend lived in the neighbourhood (I was, of course, a Danforth kid, so my mental map of the west side of the city was basically the ROM, a long sea of nothing, and then the island of High Park) she knew all the best spots. And she knew that a Catholic school near her house had recently built a great playground.
Taking our charges there was an interesting experience. My own playground days were, by that point, a good 7 or 8 years behind me, so it was the first time I’d watched the action of a playground from a semi-adult point of view. I marvelled at how frantically the kids would zip in and out of the structure. How they appeared to have no fear of falling. In fact, one kid we took care of did have a pretty nasty spill – but as my girlfriend and I approached, worried that we might get sued for holding hands with each other when we should have been holding this kid’s hand, he popped back to his feet, proclaiming: “It’s okay, I’m made of wubber!”
With 20+ years of daily use behind it, the castle is beginning to show its age, but it’s still a viable alternative to the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in the summer, when the schools are empty and High Park is full. Being a school spot, there are no shared toys, water features, or bathrooms, except the community centre right next door will work if someone in your party needs an emergency trip to the toilet.