Although Queen Street West has changed over the years, it remains one of the most interesting streetscapes in Toronto. When I first moved into the area, there were more eccentric characters, most of whom have since disappeared from the scene. A few years ago, there was a gentleman who dressed elegantly in an expansive suit, tie, and overcoat, along with a fedora and leather gloves. However, even in winter, he never wore shoes or socks. He paraded along Queen Street in bare feet, oblivious to the snow and the cold. There was another gentleman, in a wheelchair, whom I often saw frequenting the street. A team of two husky dogs pulled him and his wheelchair along the sidewalk. At each intersection the dogs stopped, waited for the traffic light to change, and then safely pulled their owner across the street.
In years gone by, I observed the “tailpipe” lady. She regularly stopped beside a car, bent down, and conversed with the tailpipe of the automobile. Whatever information the tailpipe told her, she happily carried to the next tailpipe. If the second tailpipe disagreed, she went back and consulted the original tailpipe. She appeared to have many a lively conversation, and there was never any backtalk, or should I say “backfiring.” It was indeed a fortuitous arrangement for her and the tailpipes.
However, my favourites were the the two young ladies who strolled the avenue, usually on Saturdays, dressed as French maids, with the frilly little caps and white lace-trimmed aprons. However, unlike traditional maids, the front of their dresses were cut out to reveal their white panties. I am certain that their grandmother never dressed like this! I never did discover if they were discreet hookers or were advertising some commercial product or another. However, I am certain that “commerce” was involved in some manner or another. There were also two women who used to dress in nuns’ habits, with the front of their long black robes cut out to display their holy white panties. I often wondered if the French maids and the nuns were the same women. I never solved the mystery. Life is certainly full of suspense when a person strolls Queen Street.
On Sunday mornings, there used to be a man who frequented Queen Street, a short distance east of Spadina. He was attired in the long robe of a biblical shepherd, with a large staff in his hand that contained a traditional hook at its tip, employed to snare lost sheep. He continuously shouted, “I’m Jesus and I’m not pleased with the state of the world.” Several old-timers who observed him, shook their heads in agreement. Later that day, if they attended a church service and the preacher asked, “Have you ever met Jesus?” they could honestly reply “I certainly have. He was on Queen Street this morning.”
Queen Street West has been somewhat gentrified during the last decade, high-end clothing shops moving into the area, replacing the shops that catered to the Goths and those seeking second-hand goods. However, it remains an interesting place to stroll and observe the passing scene. The section between Spadina and Bathurst retains more of the character of the street as it appeared a decade ago. The inclusion of the new Loblaws store at Portland and Queen, and the new restaurants and sandwich shops have not destroyed the scene, but add contrast as they nestle in among the shops of the garment trade and other retail venues of the past.
I particularly enjoy Queen Street as Halloween approaches. Examining the creative window displays, where images of the heritage buildings that line the avenue are reflected in the plate glass. In late-October, the trees flanking the sidewalks and the leafy giants in Trinity Bellwood Park add their magnificent reds, golds and oranges to a scene that is already rich with colour. At the end of my stroll, I select a sidewalk cafe and treat myself to a coffee, hot and rich with creamy goodness.
Queen Street shop windows—Halloween 2013
A shop at Queen West and Markham Street, with ghosts in front of it. Although it is on the corner of Queen Street, the front of the store faces Markham.
The scene in front of the shop at Markham and Queen West.
This t-shirt shop portrays the spirit of the season.
A great t-shirt, but I don’t think I’d want my daughter wearing this one (or my son).
Shanti Baba is on the north side of Queen, a short distance east of Bathurst Street. Its windows are always colourful.
Windows in Shanti Baba
A club near Bathurst and Queen advertising its Halloween bash. (held the Saturday prior to Halloween)
Lingerie shop with its window display, the heritage buildings on the north side of the street reflected in the glass.
Greengrocers on Queen, west of Bathurst, with its seasonal display.
Pots of asters at the greengrocers.
Halloween treats for dogs.
This display appears great, from either inside or outside the shop.
Who can resist a treat at Dufflet Pastry Shop?
This shop is certainly in the spirit !
The black Halloween bat in this display seems to hover over the reflection in the glass of Trinity Bellwood Park
End the stroll with a coffee or spiced cider in one of the many cafes that dot Queen Street West. Perfect!
To View other posts on the blog about Halloween in Toronto.
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To view links to a photographic snapshot of Queen West on the morning of October 5, 2013.