Leslieville Lives; Stories from the ‘Ville – Aubrey Clyke Jr. aka Junior
Meet Junior. When I had my first dog, George, back in 2004, every morning we would walk up Hiltz Ave., en route to Greenwood Park. Occasionally we would see a guy on his bike riding up or down and he’d wave. Then the wave turned into ‘Mornin’ Darlin’. I remembered ‘that voice’. Loud and deep. It was fit for radio. I imagined hearing it on a Jazz station or as a deep baritone/bass in a choir. He stopped one day and gave George a nice head scratch and we exchanged our hellos again. Ever since then, I’ve been seeing Junior riding his bike around Leslieville, or doing work in people’s gardens, on their roofs or doing renovations. I always shout out a ‘Hi’. He eventually came and did some work for me (and most likely many of you!) too. From George, to Gracie and now Sunshine, whenever we see him, we always stop, or wave, have a chat. There’s something about Junior.
The 4th oldest of twelve (!) kids, Junior hails from the east coast; more specifically, near Antigonish, Nova Scotia. His mom, Christina, was born into the slave settlements that started in New England and ran up the east coast into Canada. His dad, Aubrey Sr., was of French Canadian and Mi’kmaq/Metis descent. Large families were encouraged back then. The government gave grants of land to settle and work/live off. He recalls a happy childhood, and even as a young kid, Junior was working as a logger/pulp cutter in the mill and in the farming and fishing industries after school.
In 1974, at the age of 18, being a bit of an ‘adventurer’, he left N.S. and headed for Toronto where one of his brothers and other relatives lived. “I planned to go for 2 weeks”, he laughs. That was 43 years ago. “Toronto was the place to be – the land of opportunity Di!” He’s worked in every conceivable job since, from foundry work, to roofing, as a mail sorter at Canada Post and ten years as a driver for Toronto Barber & Beauty Supply.
In 1980 he moved from his Dundas W. neighbourhood over to the east end. “Some of my relatives lived over here and I found the east end nicer. The people as well.” His first digs were at Logan & Queen and he’s lived on pretty much every street in Leslieville since, including Queen, Logan, West Ave, Boston, Hiltz and Leslie St.
Needless to say, Junior made a lot of friends fast. And he liked to party. That resulted in a criminal record after a serious amount of crack was found at one of his house parties in the early 80s. He was charged (federally) with possession/intent to traffic, serving the better part of a year in jail for it. He maintains his innocence, but became a bit of a whipping boy after that for the police and for years was tormented, stopped, profiled, harrassed. He was dubbed ‘The Kingpin of Queen’ by the head of 55 Division way back when. He laughs. “Those guys are gone now, but they knew I knew a lot of people and were probably hoping their torment would make me snitch. Which I never did. I was even stopped while on my bike on Hiltz one day by a cop on a horse! It doesn’t get crazier than that.” His sense of humour must’ve saved him. He’s always smiling and/or laughing. Despite this, he rose above it and got on with his life. In the early 90s, with the promise of long term work he did a gruelling 8 month course in the construction trade. Sadly, the bottom fell out of the industry shortly after and the long term work lasted … 2 1/2 years.
Love came calling in early 2000 when he met a woman from New Zealand. He nearly left us for the Antipodes, but never made the trip. “I’d never even been on a plane!”. We both laugh. “She came back to visit but it eventually petered out”.
Since then Junior has been working in/out of the neighbourhood as a handyman, contractor, landscaper, woodworker. And in crews for larger reno/industrial jobs. “So what about your relationship with the cops now?” I ask. “Oh, it’s fine. One day 3 or 4 years ago I just walked into 55 Division, slammed my fist down and demanded to file a harassment report against a few of the cops there. I never did, but I think they finally got the message I meant business”. Yep, don’t get on Junior’s bad side. “You know, it was the weirdest thing Di. Some of the people I’ve crossed paths with in my life who really put my nose out of joint, I secretly wished a curse upon them. And not long after, I heard they died! Of course I didn’t do anything but there you go eh? Ya better be a nice person, because bad people get theirs in the end. And no, I didn’t make voodoo dolls!” He smiles that trademark huge grin and laughs in that low bellow. You can’t help but join him.
As we wrap up, we walk out of the cafe and he gets on his bike. “Hey, you left your bike out here unlocked for nearly 2 hours?” I say. “I know all the thieves in the ‘hood Di. No one would dare.” He laughs again and cycles away.
If you don’t know Junior or haven’t seen him around Leslieville, you will now. Say ‘Hi’ and get a dose of friendly. And you’ll get that bonus bass/baritone.