Leslieville Lives: Stories from the ‘Ville – Don McManus


Meet Don McManus. Dog lover, kid lover, neighbourhood people gatherer, master storyteller, wayfarer, artiste.  I met Don walking my dog, George, twelve years ago. We would pass his house every day heading to Greenwood Park and if he was out and about we’d stop for chats and treats.  We’ve been neighbourhood chums ever since. Don has lived in Leslieville for over 30 years. He made his living singing bass for the Canadian Opera Company for over twenty years, his first season with them (then known as the Toronto Opera Festival) in 1956. He’s worked in most theatres in Toronto  either acting or singing, including the original Royal Alex – before Ed Mirvish saved it from its certain demise in 1962 – and has worked as an actor/singer on radio shows all over the country, namely CBC and more recently in TV commercials. You may recognize him from an ad for Bell playing Santa a few years back. A little less hair and a little more deaf than he was in those heady days, 84 year old Don is the most youthful octeganarian I know. He knows everyone on his street and on streets either side of his, in the Greenwood and Queen area.


Don Moved to Leslieville in 1986 after touring Europe working in the theatre and eventually migrating from his hometown of Vancouver for good. Married to another well know actor/singer from the 1950s, Marie Gauley, they later separated, but remained friends. After Don moved to Leslieville, he convinced Marie to stop renting and buy a house. When she said ‘Only if it’s on your street’, he replied, ‘You’re in luck. There’s one for sale right now.’ In 1996 Marie moved two doors down from Don and they remained good friends until her death in 2006.


When he moved to Leslieville in 1986, Don recalls the street he lives on being fairly white and working class where he knew only a few of the other residents. He was used to living in the heart of the Annex where life was more bohemian and diverse. When Leslieville became new territory for young people, artists and families in the late ’90s,  he was overjoyed. ‘A breath of fresh air’ he says laughing. Young families, dogs, going out to the theatre, telling stories at every opportunity (fascinating ones at that) and working on his bucket list are what keep him going. Not to mention the yearly summer street party put on for him by his neighbours on his birthday every year. How great is that? I plan to be at the next one – the big 85.

  • Rachel

    February 16, 2016 at 9:35 am Reply

    Wonderful Diane! Don, I’ll be at your next party, too! <3

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm Reply

      Thanks Rachel! Looking forward to this project. And I’m so glad people liked it. I was a bit worried they wouldn’t be interested in a blog style, but I was wrong. Who knew? Don’s 85th. You and me both.

  • Savoy

    February 16, 2016 at 10:13 am Reply

    Love that you’re doing this!!!

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 10:31 pm Reply

      Thanks Savoy! I was amazed at the great reception today on the Leslieville page so am really excited now. I was a little tentative about people would receive it, but I’m ecstatic. Looking forward to the next story.

  • Golnar

    February 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm Reply

    I hope to be that zesty about life at 84! He’s movie material 🙂

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 10:29 pm Reply

      Ha! Me too. I’m 55 and I don’t have his energy ;). He is movie material. He has so many amazing stories. If I had the time I know I’d spend many afternoons just listening to them. And he’s got that great booming voice (the operatic bass after all!) that makes the story so much richer.

  • Cheryl

    February 16, 2016 at 2:53 pm Reply

    Diane, this is fantastic.
    I love how you just take the hood and make it even better!
    Great story, keep up the good work.

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Thanks Cheryl! What a sweet thing to say. I do love this new project and think it will be great. A little less pressure as well. I can sort of do a story when I want/time permits etc. And it’s a fun concept. Btw, I’m new to WordPress and thought I replied to all of the comments at once, but who knows! Lol. Hope you’re well! The trip to NWT is on my bucket list so hope you’re still there then.

  • diane

    February 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm Reply

    Thanks you guys! Yes, Don is a real character. The perfect person to kickstart this project with 😉

  • Rosemary Walton

    February 16, 2016 at 4:23 pm Reply

    Loved reading that~ what a great story – makes you want to sit and drink a pint with him and hear his stories. I think I do remember him from a commercial or two ~ !

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Marge! He has the most amazing stories. He reminds me of Mom. Still sharp as a tack (a bit deaf) very entertaining and remembers every detail; whether it’s from 1950 or yesterday. Amazing.

  • Debbie

    February 16, 2016 at 5:27 pm Reply

    A few years ago, after lunch with family on Don’s street, he stopped at the bus stop where I was waiting. I felt brave and he ended up driving me all the way to my work place. I really enjoyed the trip. He is a true good neighbour.

    • diane

      February 16, 2016 at 10:24 pm Reply

      He is! I know if I had time, I could spend a lot of afternoons listening to his stories. He’s led an amazing life and is a kind, gentle soul. And I usually like/trust people who genuinely likes dogs ;).

  • Mandy Biggins

    February 18, 2016 at 2:30 am Reply

    Love your writing style Di, its very engaging. Don sounds like a wonderful character, can’t wait to read more stories xxx

    • diane

      February 18, 2016 at 5:37 am Reply

      Thanks Mandy! I know I’m going to love this new project. I did miss the writing. Hope to get a new story up every few weeks.

  • Don McManus

    February 18, 2016 at 6:41 am Reply

    Hi Di, Thanks for the fun visit & ‘the Modeling Course, not to mention the bio blurb. I have to own up to one faux pas, I’m still a few months away from 84, but have just been using the upcoming even number when I’m asked. So, in fact, the 85 is still down the road a bit. Do have a bit of an excuse for the bragadoccio, inherited from Ole Dad. He always figured we should get credit for gestation time & be given a ONE on arrival. So if you are in your 84th year, you are almost 85, even if you’re still 83. I know, I could never figure it out either. Would really play hell with fortune tellers and leap years. HA
    Hope you have a great time doing the Leslieville Adventure Series. Cheers, Don.

    • diane

      February 21, 2016 at 11:56 am Reply

      Don – Not to worry about the faux pas ;). You’ll just have to have an extra big bash when it’s time for the big 8-5. Thanks for being my first story. I know I’ll have a great time with this project.

  • Paul Smitz

    February 19, 2016 at 9:30 am Reply

    What a very nice piece on an old buddies life. I have known Don since first working with him in the mid 60’s, when he was the musical director for the show OLIVER . We have worked together here in Charlottetown at the Festival for a number of years when he was a lead in many productions. I talk to him about once a month. He has always been the same cheery chap, someone you can always count on.

    • diane

      February 21, 2016 at 11:55 am Reply

      That’s great Paul. What a great time you guys must have had in the theatre! I love Don’s stories. And there are so many of them. I always love hearing them.

  • Anne-Marie Maides

    February 19, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Hi there Diane.
    I also love your writing!.I have known Don since we were in Point Grey Junior High School. we are the same age.His birthday is 2 weeks before mine.
    We have always kept in contact since those days.he is a brilliant person, his turn of a word is special to me and many others, I know.
    There are many tales to be told, or not!!

    • diane

      February 21, 2016 at 12:34 am Reply

      That’s so great Ann. Wow – junior high. Clearly he hasn’t changed much ;). Well I was glad that he was happy to be my first ‘Leslieville Lives’ story. It was a big hit on the community Facebook page. And yes, I know the stories are endless! I hope to hear many more in the coming days/weeks/month. A fascinating man.

  • Alexandra Hrachovsky

    February 29, 2016 at 9:25 pm Reply

    What a great idea! Don is a close friend of George Merner, my husband, another well known thespian. Maybe you could inspire Don to write a collection of his stories and e-publish!
    Don is a very kind and caring person, a real humanitarian. If we could clone him we would be living in a more altruistic world. As you know there are many interesting “Leslieville Lives” in the area. Thanks Diane.
    Alexandra H. Merner

    • diane

      March 1, 2016 at 8:31 pm Reply

      Thanks Alexandra! I would love Don to write some stories. I know I could listen to him tell them endlessly. A real character. What a rich life he’s led. He is indeed a very caring man. I think you should nudge him about the ‘stories’ as I will.

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