Mission Hill resident John Toner. Photo by Jordan Erb.
Mission Hill resident John Toner. Photo by Jordan Erb.

Life in Mission Hill: John Toner

If John Toner had the chance to go back to the Mission Hill of his youth, he said he would take it. 

The 61-year-old retiree was born and raised in Mission Hill. His family has been in the area for three generations, and he now lives in the house his grandfather used to own. He attended the Mission Grammar School as a child, Mission High School as a teenager, and played on little league teams in the years in between. His dog, a German shepard, is named Delle; a tribute to a little avenue in the neighborhood. 

When he was growing up, the neighborhood used to be filled with families and children, old people and people of color, Toner said. He could always find friends, because each home had several kids to spend time with. He said he remembers it being like a Disneyland as a neighborhood.

But recently, Toner said he hasn’t seen the diverse neighborhood he once knew. 

“It’s all students, and a few of us old timers hanging on by a thread,” Toner said.

Young professionals and students are increasingly replacing families in Toner’s neighborhood. Expensive apartments have risen where family homes once stood, and construction and noises are never-ending, Toner said, as an ambulance screamed by in the background.   

Even the bars have changed since he was growing up; from dive joints with cheap drinks to trendier, more expensive bars catering to new residents. 

Toner said he tries not to think too much about where the neighborhood is headed. He thinks it’s too late to develop affordable housing for middle class families, as most lots are already filled. Mission Hill seems to have made its transition with few backward glances.

“Whatever way it’s going, it’s gone already, so I don’t worry too much about it. I don’t think that’s going to help very much,” Toner said. “It’s sad; It really is.”

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