This wonderful photo of the Lakeshore Boulevard, taken on 3 August 1922, is from the Toronto Archives (Fonds 1231, Item 0540). It was likely taken on a weekday as there are few people on the boardwalk considering that it is a summer day. The shadow cast by the lamp post indicates that it is the morning hours. The pavilion beside the lake remains in existence. The picture below is of the pavilion as it appears today, but was taken from the side of the building that faces the lake.
In 1922, Sunnyside was the city’s latest amusement area, constructed on landfill that they had been dredged from beneath the surface of Humber Bay. In those day, people said that if you hadn’t seen Sunnyside Beach, you hadn’t seen Toronto. Sometimes Torontonians referred to Hanlan’s Point as “Canada’s Coney Island.” Others felt that this was ridiculous—Coney Island was, in fact, America’s Hanlan’s Point.
Sunnyside also had a nickname—“The Poor Man’s Riviera”—but it was not truly representative. Although most visitors to Sunnyside were indeed of modest means, even the wealthy, including those who had cottages in Muskoka, flocked to Sunnyside whenever possible. Rich and poor alike thrilled to the resort’s alluring charms. The Scarborough Amusement Park, in comparison, had not received any special title, though children often referred to it as “the park with the diving horse.”
In 1922, Sunnyside’s construction was not yet complete. However, the fun-seekers of the city eagerly sought the facilities that had already been built: the Parkdale Canoe Club, the Pavilion Restaurant, amusement rides, games of chance, and the numerous ice-cream and hot-dog stands. Concerts at the bandstand, lunch at the terraced tea garden, and ballroom dancing were also favourites. The bathing pavilion was nearing completion, and was scheduled to open before the end of the summer. On the far side of the pavilion, beside the lake, the wide, sandy beach was available to everyone.
Two years earlier, Boulevard Driveway—today called Lake Shore Boulevard West—had been completed, and every weekend now, it was crammed with boxy black autos. The traffic was directed by Sunnyside’s policemen, who wore large, white helmets similar to those of London’s “Bobbies.” Toronto’s officers were almost as well-known as England’s famous brigade. They directed traffic with exaggerated hand signals, their white-gloved gestures appearing as choreographed as moves in a theatrical production.
Under construction at Sunnyside was a twenty-foot-wide wooden boardwalk that would replace an older and narrower structure. The section already completed formed a glorious promenade for strolling and showing off new attire. Each spring, visits to the lakeside amusement park attempted to coax the arrival of summer, Canada’s frigid winters inviting such acts of desperation. Thousands arrived to strut their stuff and display their latest outfits. It was a preview of the Easter Parade that would be held the following week.
Ladies sported stylish hats and gaily coloured spring coats. The men donned snappy straw boater hats. Despite the cool lake breezes, women wore their coats unbuttoned, clearly displaying their trim figures and stylish dresses. It was a sight to cause the hearts of young men to beat faster. Male visitors to Sunnyside admired the girls, especially those who daringly wore their hems above the knee. It was a grand life that allowed more revealing experiences than they ever expected.
The above information is contained in the novel, “There Never was Better Time.”
I love living in Toronto. I have spent much of my adult life researching the history of the city. It is the background for the seven books that I have written. My book “The Villages Within” was short-listed for the Toronto Heritage Awards. If interested in novels with a Toronto setting, descriptions of the books are available by following the link: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/toronto-author-publishes-seventh-novel/ They can be purchased in soft cover or electronic editions. All books are available at Chapters/Indigo and on Amazon.com. The electronic editions are less that $4. Follow the links:
There Never Was a Better Time: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000056586/THERE-NEVER-WAS-A-BETTER-TIME.aspx
Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx
The Reluctant Virgin; http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx
Author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/
Authors can be contacted at: [email protected]