Memories of the Christmas windows of the Simpson’s Store at Queen and Bay Streets

Below are photos of the Simpson’s 1921 catalogue. This was year that my father immigrated to Canada. When I was a boy, he told me many stories of his adventures in Toronto during the 1920s. My mother frequently mentioned shopping at the Simpson’s Store when she was a young woman, although she preferred Eaton’s. I believe that her customer loyalty was mainly due to the fact that Eaton’s sponsored the annual Santa Claus Parade. However, as children, we always crossed over to the south side of Queen Street to view Simpson’s Christmas windows. They were magical.

The animated dolls, toy soldiers, and mischievous elves enchanted and delighted. As a boy, my favourite window was always the one that displayed model trains, which raced into tunnels and across bridges. Sometimes, it was difficult to secure a spot to view the displays, as so many children were crowded around the  windows.

One evening in early December of this year (2011), I visited the windows and relived the magic I experienced so many years ago. Children of all ages and many adults still gather to point, laugh, and chat excitedly among themselves about the wonderful display that are now provided by The Bay. Simpson’s has disappeared from the Toronto scene, but thankfully The Bay continues to honour this fine tradition.

                                      Simpson’s 1921 Catalogue

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    Today’s Christmas windows of The Bay department store on Queen Street.

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If you enjoy books that evoke memories of Toronto’s past, you might enjoy the following novels.

“There Never Was  a Better Time” – a story of two mischievous immigrants who arrive in Toronto in 1921 from their small village on the rocky shoreline of Newfoundland. This was the days prior to confederation, and they were pleased to have successfully passed through immigration in North Sydney, and arrive in Toronto’s old Union Station, erected in 1884. The book chronicles their adventures as they explore the sinful haunts of the city, including the burlesque houses and movie theatres, during the decadent “Roaring Twenties.” The book contains vivid scenes of their “chasing the girls” at glorious “Sunnyside” beside the lake, and at the wondrous CNE, in the days when Torontonians considered it the most popular late-summer entertainment venues of all time.

A Link to this book:

“Arse Over Teakettle – Book One of the Toronto Trilogy,” is an amusing tale of a young by and his friends coming of age in Toronto during the wartime years of the 1940s. It is a heart-warming and humorous book about the lads’ adventures as they become sexually aware and yearn to exp[lore the world of the “big boys.” The book provides a detailed tongue-in-cheek account of life in the elementary schools of Toronto during this decade. The many archival photographs in the book add to the realism of the tale.

A link to this book :

“The Reluctant Virgin – Book Two of the Toronto Trilogy,” is a murder/mystery that occurs in 1950s Toronto. This chilling story of a serial killer that haunts the streets and laneways of old Toronto is a classic whodunit. As well as exploring the decade of the 1950s, the reader has an opportunity to try to identify the killer ahead of the police. This book also contains many archival photos. The characters in the story are the same as those introduced in the first book of the trilogy.

A link to this book :

The non-fiction book “The Villages Within,” nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards, provides a cheeky version of the history of Toronto, and explores the history and architecture of the Kensington Market, The Kings-Spadina area, and the glorious tacky Queen Street West.

A link to “The Villages Within,”

A link to the author’s Home Page:

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