David Zimmerman and Ruth Lyons

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David Zimmerman is an American exile from New Jersey and a skilled automotive mechanic. Ruth Lyons, David’s companion, is a Canadian of mixed Japanese and European ancestry. They both lived in or near Baldwin Street in the late 1960s.

Ruth Lyons was born and raised in Canada. She, Bryan Richmond and his girlfriend Faith were all students at Toronto’s first alternative high school at 190 Beverly Street in September 1969. The high school was called “Superschool” and was highly controversial. The school was located around the corner from Baldwin Street and the hippie merchants on Baldwin Street knew many of the school’s students. Brian Richmond and Randy Rauton of the Ragnarokr leather shop were friends.

David Zimmerman immigrated to Canada in 1968. He and Philip Mullins met at a meeting of the Union of American Exiles at the Newman Center at the University of Toronto in the summer of 1968 while Philip was still trying to put together an employment service of American exiles. David explained that he was a licensed Volkswagen mechanic and Philip suggested that he would have no trouble finding a job in Toronto. In 1969 David shared the house at 64 Beverly Street with Janice Spellerberg and Margaret Thurlow and later moved to 17 Baldwin Street where he lived with Helen Gilbert. When Helen was expelled from the Ragnarokr commune, she sent Dave and three other men to pick up a sewing machine which she had laid claim to. Jessica Zimmerman, Dave and Helen’s daughter, was born in January 1971. Jessica was one of only a handful of children born to the Baldwin Street hippie community in the early 1970s.

In the fall of 1972 Ruth Lyons and Peter Judd built a large 26-foot diameter yurt near Doyle’s Mountain on property belonging to Barbara Miller and Mike Siegel of the Baldwin Street Sunshine Co-op. Ruth and Peter lived there through the winter. She did not like the isolation and living conditions at Doyle’s Mountain and moved back to Toronto in the spring. In June 1975 she sold the yurt to Tony Wilson for $50 on the condition that he would pull it down. (Tony Wilson is Jimmy Wilson’s younger brother.) She, Dave Zimmerman, Helen Gilbert and baby Jessica drove to Doyle’s Mountain with a trailer to recover Ruth’s piano from the yurt. After Helen and Dave split up, Ruth and Dave moved into a two-story garage in the alley behind the Ragnarokr Leather Shop. Dave repaired cars on the ground floor and renovated the upstairs into a nice apartment where he and Ruth lived for a number of years. Dave and Nick Type were the community’s auto mechanics although Dave soon branched out into other endeavors.

In 1979 Ruth began working at the Ragnarokr leather shop as a trainee. She was paid a salary in April and May and again in July and August. After completing her training she began working steadily at Ragnarokr until May of 1980. She returned to work there again for the Christmas season of 1980. She continued to consign leather goods to the leather shop for the next two years. Like several other American exiles, Dave received a Loss of Nationality letter from the US Passport Office after becoming a Canadian citizen. Unlike many others, Dave appealed the loss of US citizenship and hired a lawyer to handle the case. Since the Government’s case rested on intentions, Dave successfully argued that he did not intend to relinquish US citizenship.

Ruth and David began working in the film industry in Toronto. Ruth made costumes and David worked as a handy man on the sets. He gradually built an inventory of tools used in the trade including an electric generator, lighting sets, a camera trolley and other items that he rented to the companies making movies in Toronto. He also worked on the sets and occasionally appeared in small non-speaking roles as a carpenter or mechanic. He purchased a large van to move his equipment from one location to the other. He and Ruth continued to work in the film industry in Toronto for a number of years. In the 1990s he and Ruth purchased a crossroads store and some outbuildings in Washington State and moved there with the intention of working in Vancouver. However most of his contracts required him to work in Toronto. They later sold their property in Washington State and returned to Toronto.

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