On the Beat

Pleasantly silent at King’s tomb

I’m not one to haunt cemeteries, even if pleasant is in the name.

But as I ambled down the path at Kay Gardner Beltline Park and into Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I figured there might be something to the phrase “as silent as the grave”.

With “Slow Ride” by Foghat as my anthem, I took it easy walking along the path with joggers, cyclists and Jaguars.

There was a sweet set of wheels parked along the road. The XJR’s owner was out under the shade of elderly oaks, elms and maples.

Luxury car spotting aside, there was a reason for my traipsing around a lively graveyard. I was paying my respects to Canada’s longest-serving leader: William Lyon Mackenzie King.

The prime minister who held office for 21 years is buried somewhere on the grounds, and I plotted to discover where.

I had to venture through a wave of granite headstones cut into rectangular cubes, however.

When I looked at them, I remembered a university archaeology trip to St. James Cemetery at Parliament and Bloor Sts. There I observed various symbols like laurel leaves, Freemason icons, obelisks, urns and angels.

Those same themes are at Mount Pleasant, but there are also massive mausoleums, including a very bold one in honour of the Massey family.

With Ian Anderson telling the “Thick as a Brick” tale on my MP3 player, I studied the solid stone facade, complete with turret to one side and courageous-looking figure atop.

It was rather extravagant, looking more like a fortification than a crypt, but it was colourfully accented with lilies of the valley and lilacs at its base.

Still, it was not my goal. I continued my pilgrimage and came upon a plaque with the stern face of Mackenzie King on it.

Pay dirt.

Oddly enough, while I gazed at Mackenzie King’s headstone, the guttural German lyrics of Rammstein collided with my eardrums. Mackenzie King was, of course, Canada’s prime minister during the Second World War. The irony was not lost on me.

My MP3 player must have sensed the miscue and switched to Mick Jagger singing: “I’ll be your saviour, steadfast and true. … I’ll come to your emotional rescue.”

I take a moment to let the surroundings dig in. Fresh flowers — pink lupins, red and white roses and a small juniper at the foot of the memorial — add flourish to Mackenzie King’s grave.

But the kindest gesture I find is one simple penny placed atop the stone, its oxidized copper popping out from the grey limestone.

Above, with leaves just touching the top of a cross monolith, is an elder maple.
Though Mackenzie King died in 1950, 15 years before the nation adopted the maple leaf for its flag, the tree still seems patriotic.

I continue my venture through the hive of paths. To my left, hiding behind the canopy of shade trees, are condos.

But the path seems to drag on, as I walk under Mt. Pleasant Rd. I seriously wonder how gargantuan the place is.

It’s big enough, running from Yonge St. to Bayview Ave. and Moore Ave. to Merton St.

No matter. I find an exit.

Several signs ward off urban woes: no dogs or rollerblades, a 30-kilometre speed limit and strict guidelines for cyclists not to exceed 10 klicks.

There’s no time to gauge the speed of cyclists. I have my own problem: I am completely disoriented once my foot lands on Mt. Pleasant Rd.

I thought I was on Moore Ave. Seems I am mistaken.

Through the confusion, the Clash asks, “Should I stay or should I go?”

I go, but not without getting my wits and noticing the sharp contrast between Mt. Pleasant the road, and Mount Pleasant the cemetery — an island of silence in bustling midtown.

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