Mary Jackman


Prisoner of Tehran















I was born in Hamilton, Ontario in the fifties. I have one sister living in Binbrook Ontario who I’m close to and one brother in Toronto who I enjoy long telephone conversations with but seldom see. My mother is living with assisted care in Hamilton. I visit regularly.  My father passed away a few years ago. 

Considered gifted as a child I did exceptionally well as a student until high school when I discovered how much fun boys were and had to repeat grade nine. I hobbled to the end of Grade Thirteen with English, French and Latin as majors. I was athletic, joining every sports team available, except baseball - I couldn’t hit a ball if my life depended on it, and was President of the Girls Athletic Committee for two years. Gymnastics was my favourite sport and I gave a championship performance on the uneven parallel bars landing a perfect ten and then tripped over the mat as I left the floor.  I left for Toronto on the last day of school to look for work, much to my mother’s dismay, and never moved back. I’ve spent weekends but that’s different.

I was miserably employed as an insurance rate adjuster for a year and then got a job as a waitress. My life was transformed. The money was better, the hours were shorter and the social life was great. I met a diverse mix of characters and while I decided whether to continue my education, attending architectural seminars at UFT, the hospitality bug bit me. For years I dreamed of opening my own establishment. In 1976, along with Sandy Stagg and Larry Guest, two people I barely knew, I started the Peter Pan. The first day we opened there was a line-up around the block. It was the first restaurant of its kind in Toronto, catering to an indefatigable art crowd and the underground hip scene. We had waiters from controversial groups like ‘General Idea’ along with musicians from local punk rock bands, such as The Dishes and The Diodes. Artist, Charlie Pacter, presented us with a triptych of the now very collectible Red Rocket Queen Street Car series.

By 1980 Queen Street West had exploded with restaurants and bars and I moved uptown to open the Metropolitan Restaurant at Yonge and Charles Street.  Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor worked as bartenders there and I remember going to hear them play long before they were Blue Rodeo. I heard the first demo cut of their famous “Cry” on my dual cassette player in my living room the night they recorded it. Kim Kozzi from Fast Wurms also worked as a waitress at the Met. She and her cohorts are responsible for the giant woodpecker sculpture outside the sky dome or Rogers Centre as it is being called today.

Three years later during the one of the worst recessions in recent history, the Metropolitan went into receivership and I was forced to sell my house on Browning Avenue near the Danforth. Back at the Peter Pan I worked with Larry to hold the restaurant together. We have suffered through two recessions, Sars, a flood and the recent 2010 summit. 

 I volunteered for the Toronto Film Festival in the eighties and was hired as a liaison in the Guest Office under Rosie Levine’s tutelage. I actually got to meet Jeff Goldblum who indeed is very tall.  

People like John Tong, a well-known Toronto designer and Emily Haines, from the Metric came and went through the Peter Pan.  Susur Lee, the super star chef stayed with us for three years. 

I became friends with one of our customers, Ron Bloore, of the Regina Five, a modernist group of painters from the seventies. He passed away in 2010 but his estate as per his instructions, continue to exhibit his paintings on our walls which goes against convention.

I had my son Luke in 1986 and although I continued to work at the Peter Pan my hours were greatly reduced. I bought another house in Riverdale where we lived for eighteen years. In 2004 I sold this house and bought a house with a giant swimming pool in Scarborough. I like to swim. I am a board member for the North Bendale community and write for their local newspaper called the Bugle.

I lectured at George Brown to graduating chefs briefly several years ago and would do more if I had the time. I appeared in a special on Susur Lee’s life as a narrative sound bite.

I have written several children s books, a juvenile chapter book, fiction and editorials for small press. I wrote a short story for cottage Life while owning a cottage in the Muskoka’s.  After cleaning up mouse turds for ten years I sold it too. I have a second Liz Walker mystery and a third on its way. I live with my son and two cats.

My partner and good friend, Larry Guest, passed away at Christmas of 2010. I continue to operate the restaurant as well as two floors of rooming house above it. 

There have been so many newspaper and magazine articles written about the Peter Pan over the last thirty five years that I am unable to list them all.