Corp Comm Connects

City cracks down on senior who dares to pull weeds

Charles Nemeth, 86, was given a ticket last year for the astounding crime of pulling weeds in a corner of Eglinton Flats
June 23, 2015
By Joe Fiorito

My source knows an older guy who spends the bright days of the summer with his pals near the bocce courts at Eglinton Flats Park; according to my source, this older guy tends the greenery nearby, but - wait for it! - he was given a $444 fine by the city for pulling weeds.

Are you kidding me?

Of course I called. And when Charles Nemeth picked up his phone, I introduced myself and said I was from the Star. And that is all I got a chance to say because Charles said he wasn’t interested in subscribing and he slammed the phone down hard. I rang back all day, which is how long he refused to pick up; damned telemarketers have ruined things for all of us.

But this is what I love about I older guys. They just don’t give a damn. They’ve earned the right. Move over, boys, I’ll be there soon.

So then I called my original source, who happens to live in the same building as Charles, and he arranged for Charles to meet me in the lobby.

I wanted Charles to lead me to the scene of the crime, I mean the park. I showed up on the appointed hour. No Charles. Hmm. Was he stiffing me, had he forgotten, or did he really just not give a damn?

On the chance that, like a lot of older men, Charles was a creature of habit, I wandered down the road and around the corner to the bocce courts; several fellows there, seated at a picnic table.

I approached. They watched me warily. I said “Hi, fellas.” They said nothing, because who am I, a cop?

I said, “Is one of you guys Charles?” No one would admit to that. So I said, “OK, who’s the guy who got the ticket for gardening?” Five pairs of eyes swivelled to one fellow who kept his eyes squarely on me.


I told Charles I was not there to sell him any papers, and he laughed, and we shook hands, and I explained to the others about the slamming down of the phone, and they also laughed.

There was some immediate and instructive confusion. Charles’ ticket is not recent; it is from last summer. And when I say the confusion was instructive, I mean I was reminded once again that news is new only at the moment when you hear it, and my source had just heard about the ticket. Also, it was not for $444, but for $350; the amount has grown over time because Charles has not paid the fine, and he has no intention of paying.

I’m with him.

Charles said he came here from Hungary in 1956. There, he was a student leader and a freedom fighter. Here, he was in the restaurant business. Now he gardens near the bocce courts.

He said, “Last year for three months I am every morning working here.” He would put in four hours a day, sowing and weeding.

He planted spearmint and chocolate mint. He planted lilies and camomile. He planted many other things, including some bushes which produce berries that drive the blue jays wild.

Why does he do this?

He said, “I like the good exercise, and helping the people.” And the showed me a certificate he got from former mayor Mel Lastman in recognition of his role in helping to plant a thousand trees along the Humber River in 2001.

Like all gardeners, Charles would keep an eye on the weeds in his corner of the park, and he would regularly take out the thistles which grow so fast here, and so high, that they choke out the spruce trees planted by the city.

The story of the ticket?

“Last July is coming three guys from the city. They say, ‘Where is your permit?’ I said, ‘I don’t need a permit.’ ”

And then, in retaliation or response to this, Charles was issued a ticket for the crime of weeding in a park without a permit.

Stay tuned.