Monthly Archives: July 2011


The recent visit of Prince William and Catherine generated much excitement throughout Canada. Because William is the son of Diana, Princess of Wales, some of the affection that Canadian felt for his mother has descended on his shoulders.

Today, most people have forgotten that the first real super-star of the royal family was William’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Her tour, with King George VI, was the first time that a ruling monarch had visited Canada. Their reception in Toronto was one of the greatest triumphs of the 1939 tour.


                                        Toronto Reference Library Archives

             King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto in 1939


                 City of Toronto Archives, James Salmon Collection, Fonds 1231, Fl 231, Item 2075

         The reception at Toronto’s City Hall for the King and Queen


                                          Toronto Reference Library Archives

Simpson’s Store, at the southwest corner of Bay and Yonge streets, adorned for the royal visit. The Bay occupies the sight today.


For a story about Toronto during the latter years of the Great Depression, and a saucy tale of a family during the war years: “Arse Over Teakettle  

              The royal tour of 1939 is detailed in this novel.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 9, 2011 in Toronto


“Eat, drink and be merry” in Toronto’s Entertainment District at night

The motto of Toronto’s Entertainment District should be: “Eat, drink, and be merry, as tomorrow you may have to live in another city.  These photos were taken during the early-hours of a Monday morning in July, when it was swelteringly humid.


                            The Entertainment District in the early-morning hours

DSCN0736   DSCN0735 

              Restaurants on King Street West, after the crowds had departed. 

 DSCN0737  DSCN0756

When residents of Paris visit Toronto, they want to experience the city’s “street-meat carts,” as Parisians refer to out hot-dog stands. Many Torontonians derogatorily refer to them as “Wienie Wagons.” However, after the restaurants have closed, they serve a vital purpose.


The TIFF Lightbox on King Street West, with its famous Luma and Canteen Restaurants. Though crowded during the Toronto Film Festival, the building creates a buzz on King Street throughout the entire year.

DSCN0743  DSCN0744 

The Roy Thomson Hall, with its below street-level reflecting pool and gardens. By the time this photo was taken, the audiences had long departed for home.


                  The Royal Alexandra Theatre on King West, built in 1907.   


King West from near John Street, looking east toward University Avenue. Many people rarely see the street when it is this deserted.

DSCN0750  DSCN0749

     The Scotia Bank Theatre on John Street, looking north toward Queen.

DSCN0759 DSCN0757 

Queen West and John Streets, an area that accommodates the late-night coffee crowd.


The street is deserted, the crowds have departed, and the street awaits those who remove the litter from the shops and restaurants.

To view the Home page for this blog:

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Toronto



On a warm Monday evening in July, strolling around my neighbourhood after dark, I gained a new appreciation for the community where I live. For years, I have experienced the fascinating residential and commercial streets of Toronto, both historic and modern. However, I had never carefully examined them at night. My home is in the heart of the Queen Street West District, with its rough edges, historic architecture, and gloriously tacky streetscapes. After sunset, these ordinary streets become magical.

My impressions of the city must be taken with a grain of salt. I am a fanatical urbanite and unrepentant “Torontophile.” I believe that there is nothing as great as Toronto in the summer, with its myriad of sidewalk cafes, clubs, patio restaurants, and music or theatre festivals. There are so many happenings that I cannot even begin to explore a small percentage of them.

Cottage country has no allure for me. I will leave the tedious hours of driving, the annoying insects, and the endless labours of a cottage to those that enjoy such endeavours. For me, the peace and quiet of the countryside is fine for a week. I can read or contemplate the sins I intend to commit when I return to the city. Running around naked in the woods is not my idea of decadence.

Practising the art of decadence requires talent. It also requires opportunity, and the city offers boundless venues to wallow in its sweet earthy delights, even if they are only in the participant’s mind.

                         The Entertainment District at Night


 Condo at 50 Camden Street, at the corner of Camden and Brant streets.  


St. Andrew’s Playground, viewed from Brant Street, north of Adelaide Street. 


       Camden Street, looking east to Spadina, from Brant Street. 


Richmond Street West, from Brant Street, looking west toward Portland Street. 


               The corner of Queen West and Spadina Avenue. 

DSCN0720   DSCN0721 

                                                             Queen and Spadina 


                        Alleyway on the east side of Brant Street. 


              Spadina Avenue, looking south toward Richmond Street.


East side of Spadina Avenue, between Queen and Richmond streets.  

                   More street scenes in my next post. 

If you enjoy reading about Toronto, either its history or a saucy novel with a Toronto setting, Google

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Toronto




DSCN0776      DSCN0778                                                                          


Though my interests centre around the history and architecture of Toronto, I decided to include a post on Hugh Jackman after attending the opening night performance of his one-man show at the Princess of Wales Theatre. It has been a long time since I felt that I was viewing theatrical history. Every era has its “greats” – people whose skills and stage presence transcend them into “legends of the theatre.” Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Al Jolson and Frank Sinatra are a few that come to mind. We can now add Hugh Jackman to the list of “greats.”

His show is part rock concert, Broadway musical, and Las Vegas glitz. With its creative staging, his superb musical talent, and the ever-changing lighting, it hearkens back to the days of the CNE Grandstand shows of yesteryears.



                    A CNE Grandstand Show of the mid-1950s.


The CNE Grandstand in the 1950s, with the stage and scenery in place for an evening performance.

The CNE Grandstand Shows were large-scale performances of music and dance, choreographed by Celia Franca, the founder of the Toronto’s National Ballet of Canada. The similarity between these spectacles and the Hugh Jackman show in Toronto may seem obscure. However, they both centre around a single performer, whose skills are able to capture the audience for an entire evening. The orchestra, the lighting, and the staging augment the performances, but everyone knows that it is the talent of “the star” that carries the show from beginning to end.

Jackman was on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre for slightly over two hours, including a much-welcomed encore. Similar to the days of the big-band era, the eighteen-piece band was in full view, the lighting on the musicians changing according to the prominence of their role. At times, a semi-transparent curtain descended to obscure the band, and at other moments the musicians were in full view, highlighted with various colours.

Jackman opened the show with a song from “Oklahoma,” and from that moment onward, he played the audience with charm and skill, at times a trifle raunchy. He teased, flirted, shook his buns, and shimmied his body provocatively as he performed a mock-striptease and athletically kicked the can-can. This is the man who played “Wolverine?” He pulled the audience along in his wake as his dancing sailed across the stage, sometimes moving so smoothly that appeared to have no skeleton. He included tap-dancing, rumba, and waltzing, while he sang Broadway hits, Oscar winning melodies, love songs, and even a rap number. Once he perched on a bar-stool to sing, and on another occasion he reclined in a casual pose on the stairs at the edge of the stage. Even the song he performed with one hand in his pocket, and the other holding a microphone, he held the attention of his listeners. 

Visuals projected on a large screen augmented the songs. Photos of his various movie roles added insight into the range of the man’s talent. In one section, the orchestra played the opening theme-music employed by 20th-Century Fox Studios, and on the screen appeared the titles for “American In Paris,” as Jackman recreated the “dance-with-the-umbrella song” immortalized by Gene Kelly – “Singing In The Rain.” The songs that honoured his native Australia and its aboriginal people, as well as the tribute to Judy Garland, were haunting. The song from “Carousel,” “My Boy Bill,” was classic.    

The show premiered in San Francisco, but Toronto was chosen as the first city after its initial trial run. It is a natural for Broadway, but due to the demands of his contracts, he may never have the time to take it there. It is an evening of great theatre. See it if you can!

For novels about Toronto, where the characters visit the CNE Grandstand Shows and the city’s old movie theatres – – 

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2011 in Toronto


Willing to share photos or stories of Toronto’s old movie theatres ?

          PICT0035         PICT0034

             These photos were taken in 1958, from the south side of Carlton Street.


Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay Street in 1958, from the northeast corner of Bay and Queen streets. The Nathan Phillips Square is located on the site today.  


                      Shea’s Theatre taken from the same corner as the above photo.

I have collected about thirty photos of Toronto’s old movie theatres. Some are from my own collection, and others are from the City of Toronto Archives. A few are from from the Ontario Archives and the Toronto Reference Library. I have many fond memories of these theatres, and have begun writing them down. I would like to produce another book about these theatres. I thoroughly enjoyed the book called “The Nabes,” by John Sebert, but it only covers the neighbourhood theatres and does not include any of those that were downtown.

Do you have any photos, black and white or in colour, of the old movie houses of Toronto that you are willing to share. If you do not have any photos, are you willing to share memories? Saturday afternoon matinees, evening performance, movie clubs ? Please give your name and in which city you presently reside if you wish to have your name mentioned in the book.

I can be contacted at

To view the Home Page for this blog and the names of other books that I have written:

To view previous blogs about the old movie houses of Toronto

The Odeon Carlton theatre on Carlton St., east of Yonge St.


The Victory burlesque and movie theatre on Spadina at Dundas:

The Shea’s Hippodrome Theatre on Bay St. near Queen

Attending a matinee in the old movie houses of Toronto during the “golden age of cinema”

The University Theatre on Bloor St., west of Bay Street.

Archival photos of the Imperial and Downtown Theatres on Yonge Street

The Elgin/Winter/Garden Theatres on Yonge Street


Leave a comment

Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Toronto


Colour photo of the Odeon Carlton in 1956 – a Marilyn Monroe film playing

When I graduated from high school and began working in downtown Toronto, I purchased a 35mm Kodak Pony camera and began photographing Toronto’s buildings. This photo was taken in 1956. It is of the Odeon Carlton Theatre, the first cinema in Canada to contain a restaurant. It was a Honey Dew Restaurant, located on the second floor over-looking the expansive lobby. One of its delights was a “Ritz Carlton.” This was a hotdog on a toasted bun. How Toronto has changed!

In the photo, the large Cadillac driving past is also worth noting.




Novels by Doug Taylor employing Toronto as a setting, “There Never Was a Better Time” and “Arse Over Teakettle,” Toronto Trilogy Book One. The book “Arse Over Teakettle,” contain a detailed description of the Odeon Carlton’s interior, when one of the character visits the theatre with his brother and grandfather.


A humorous history of Toronto, and walking tours of three of the city’s historic neighbourhoods, “The Villages Within.”  

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Toronto