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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Thoughts about Toronto’s 2014 CNE

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The Zip Line at the 2014 CNE, in the background the Food Building and the BMO Stadium.

Attending the CNE is an end-of-summer ritual for many Torontonians. Some consider summer incomplete without at least one trip to the Ex. Although the CNE may have diminished in size and lost some of its lustre through the passing years, it will still attract over a million visitors in its 19-day run in 2014. It remains the largest annual fair in Canada. When it closes after Labour Day, similar to New Year’s Eve, we become aware that another milestone in time has passed.

Those of us who are older remember when the Ex introduced Canadians the latest technological advancements, featured the most up-to-date household appliances, and showcased the next year’s automobile models. Its grandstand shows attracted the biggest names in show business and the bandshell offered performances by brass bands from Britain and military bands from the United States. The horse show was also a highlight, as were the cattle and hog judging. In the Warriors’ Day Parades, thousands of veterans marched, their medals reflecting the late-summer sun.

The free samples in the Pure Food Building were welcomed treats. I particularly recall the small cups of various flavours of Campbell’s Soup, V-8 juice and different brands of breakfast cereals. However, they were never sufficient to make a meal, as many have claimed. I also remember buying a bag of chocolate bars, all for the price of one dollar. As great as the Ex was in those year, like last year New Year’s Eves, it has disappeared into time. However, I now realize that the greatest thing about the Ex in decades past was the fact that I was young. In our youth, everything was better and bigger, even if in reality it was not.

I sometimes feel that the Ex began its decline after the Manufacturers Building was gutted by fire and never replaced. During the next few years, the Flyer (rollercoaster) and the CNE Grandstand also vanished. Today, the Horticultural, Arts and Crafts, and Ontario Government Buildings are no longer part of the annual Exhibition. However, I was pleased to discover that this year (2014) people were again able to access the grounds via the Dufferin Gates. When returning on the streetcar from my trip to the Ex this year, I heard a woman declare on her cellphone to someone, “The Ex is mainly one big effort to sell you something.” There is much truth to this statement, but there is another side to the Ex that remains as glorious as former decades.

It remains a place where children and young people create memories that in the the years ahead they will refer to as “the good old days.” They have no recollections of the way the Ex used to be, so accept it for what it is and revel in the experience. In future years, they too will exaggerate the virtues of the Ex of 2014. In some respects, they will be correct. The assortment of rides is even better than in former years, even though there is no rollercoaster. This year there is the “Zip Line,” where a person signs a liability waver, pays $20, and zips from one end of the Ex to the other on a high-wire like a circus performer. As well, the gut-wrenching foods are as gut-wrenching as ever and the Tiny Tim Donuts as plentiful as they were in years past. I also noticed at the 2014 Ex the large number of immigrants experiencing the fair for the first time, seeing it through new eyes. I envied their sense of amazement and delight.

The CNE grounds are immaculately maintained and the landscaping is excellent. The flower beds and planters are a sight to behold, and the plantings around the Princess Margaret Fountain are wonderful, even though I admit that I miss the old Gooderham Fountain that was demolished in 1958. Walking the grounds is relaxing and pleasurable. The butter sculptures in the Better Living Centre are as fascinating as ever, even though they no longer portray Borden’s Elsie the cow. The sand sculptures are also skilfully executed, though I must confess that I have no interest in the stalls in the Direct Energy Centre Centre that sell crafts and products from all over the world, most of which are available in the shops in the Kensington Market or on Spadina Avenue.   

The Ex has changed. It is no longer the exhibition that I knew in my youth. I accept this, but still derive great pleasure visiting it each year, when I relive past memories and create new ones. In the latter respect, I am no different to the young who flock to the CNE each year. When I stroll the midway, I am again a teenager, even though I am an observer rather than a participant. Sadly, this now applies to more things in life than I care to mention.

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The planter boxes at the Ex, to the west of the Food Building, the view gazing west towards the old Music Building.

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       The Food Building built in 1954 to replace of former building of 1921.

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The former Music Building, originally the Railway Building, designed by George W. Gouinlock in 1907. 

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The Zip Line, a new addition to the 2014 CNE. For $20 a person can ride on a high wire from the west end of the Ex to the east end, almost to the Princes’ Gates 

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The Princess Margaret Fountain, opened in 1958, replacing the old Gooderham Fountain of 1911. 

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The Press Building, originally the Administrative Building, constructed in 1905.

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A gigantic elm tree, a survivor from the old days of the Ex, and two Muskoka chairs where a person can relax in the shade.

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                  The children’s merry-go-round in the Kiddie Rides

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                 The butter sculptures in the Better Living Centre

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The CNE Midway in 2014. This scene might be from the 1950s or 1960s, as little has changed. 

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                     The sand sculptures in the Direct Energy Centre

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             View of the Midway looking west, the Sky Ride in the background.

To view Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For links to previous posts about the CNE throughout the years

The Princes’ Gates at the CNE

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/torontos-architectural-gemsthe-princess-gates/

The CNE when “The Flyer” (rollercoaster) was king of the midway.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-wild-side-of-the-cnes-when-the-flyer-was-king/

Going wild at the 2013 CNE.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/going-wild-at-the-2013s-cne/

Memories of the CNE of yesteryears.

tps://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/memories-of-the-cnetoday-and-yesterday/

The old Gooderham fountain at the CNE, which preceded the Princess Margaret Fountain, was a copy of those in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/the-fountain-at-the-cne/

Ten suggestions to improve the CNE

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/ten-suggestion-to-make-the-cne-great/

Attending the 2011 Ex.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/whats-it-like-to-attend-the-cne-in-2011-in-comparison-with-yesteryear/

Memories and photos of the Grandstand shows of the 1950s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/the-magnificent-grandstand-shows-of-the-1950s/

Postcard views of the CNE from the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/postcard-views-of-the-1947-cne-part-one/

More postcard views of the CNE from the 1940s

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/postcard-views-of-the-1947-cne-part-two/

The historic fountain at the CNE that has now disappeared

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/memories-of-the-cnemeet-me-at-the-fountain/

A post about the sculpture in butter of Rob Ford

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/if-rob-ford-is-a-turkey-at-least-hes-a-butterball/

Visiting the 2012 CNE

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/try-viewing-the-2012-cne-through-new-eyes/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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The Systems Building at 40-46 Spadina Avenue—Toronto

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The Systems Building is located at 40-46 Spadina Avenue, on the west side of Spadina, between Wellington St. West and Adelaide Street. In the 1920s, there were three houses located on the site, with the postal addresses 52-56 Spadina Avenue. These postal number were later changed. In 1928, only one of the houses was occupied, and the following years, all the houses were demolished. The 1929 Toronto Directories indicate that the Systems Building had been constructed on the property. The full name of the company was “Business Systems, Printers Specialties Limited.” 

The five-story, red-brick structure is typical of the brick and beam warehouses on Spadina Avenue between Front and Richmond Streets. It was constructed as a warehouse loft, the various floors containing open space that could be divided into separate areas to accommodate the requirements of the companies that rented space within it. On the east facade facing Spadina, there were large doorways on both the north and south ends of the building. They allowed easy access for different renters. The east facade has very few architectural details, any ornamentations that exist created by the brickwork. The other three sides have even less detail than the front of the structure.

Despite the plain architectural style of the Systems Building, the two entranceways are rather grand, with their stone and brick arrangements that surround them. They are perhaps the most impressive architectural features of the building.

Similar to earlier decades, today, the building offers prestigious rental properties to a variety of tenants, there being a high demand for rental space in the city’s heritage buildings.

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The east facade of the Systems Building, overlooking Spadina Avenue.

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The sign above the north entrance of the building (left photo) and the north doorway (right photo), with its impressive trim of stone and brick surrounding it.

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The southern portion of the east facade, with the steps to the south entrance of the building.

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The south entrance of the Systems Building on Spadina, with the stone trim surrounding it.

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The east facade, facing Spadina, the two entrances of the building evident in the photo.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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Toronto’s Apollo (Crystal) Theatre on Dundas Street West

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The Apollo Theatre on Dundas Street West. City of Toronto Archives, SC 488 File 1105

The Apollo Theatre was located at 2901 Dundas Street West, in the Junction area in Toronto’s west end. It was on the south side of the street, near the corner of Mavety, which is one block west of Keele Street. It was in a  building with shops on the ground floor and apartments and offices on the second and third floors. Unfortunately, the theatre has long since disappeared from the scene.

The Toronto Directories reveal that in 1921, on the second floor of the apartment building at 2901 Dundas West, there was an apartment rented by Sarah Ford, which also contained Robert J. Bruce Amusements. The files show that the following year, Sarah Ford’s name is still listed but the amusement company has disappeared, and the apartment contains the Crystal Theatre. I thought that perhaps the second-floor location was the offices for the theatre, but on the ground floor, the theatre is not listed. It was not until 1931 that the Directories state that the Crystal Theatre is on the first floor of the building, with the postal address of 2901 Dundas Street West. However, a 1922 photo seems to contradict this information, as it shows a large canopy with the words Crystal Theatre, hanging out over the sidewalk. I suppose it’s possible that the canopy was for the theatre on the second floor, but this seems unlikely. It is also possible that the date on the photo in the archives is incorrect.

The Crystal was a small neighbourhood theatre that competed with the more up-scale Beaver Theatre that opened in 1907, at 2942 Dundas West. If the Crystal Theatre was ever on the second floor of the building, it would have been contained within a small space so would have had very little seating capacity. However, when it was on the ground-floor level, the records indicate that it contained 562 wood seats, in an auditorium that was narrow, extending back a considerable distance from the street. There was no balcony, but the theatre possessed a stage as it offered live theatre performances and vaudeville, as well as the screenings of silent movies. The talkies (sound films) had already arrived in Toronto, but because the Crystal was a small neighbourhood operation, it was unlikely that it had converted to sound. The theatre’s box office was close to the sidewalk, in a central position.

In 1934, its name was changed to the Apollo, and by this year, the theatre was likely screening sound films. The Apollo was just one of several theatres that were located on Dundas Street West in the Junction area of the city.

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Gazing west along Dundas Street West. This is a TTC photo (#2863), taken when the road was undergoing construction, in 1922. The canopy of the Crystal Theatre is visible on the left-hand side of the photo. 

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This close up view of the Crystal reveals the canopy of the theatre that extended out over the street. There is a signboard advertising the films being shown and a sign that says “Vaudeville.” According to the Toronto Directories, the Crystal Theatre was on the second floor in 1922, but this photo seems to contradict this information.

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The building where the Apollo (Crystal) Theatre was located after the theatre was closed.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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Toronto’s Bonita Theatre on Gerrard East

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Undated sketch of the facade of the Bonita Theatre (from the Toronto Archives)

The theatre at 1035-1037 1/2 Gerrard Street East is one of the earliest theatres that opened in Toronto. In 1911, two houses on the south side of Gerrard Street East, a short distance west of Jones Avenue, were converted into a theatre. The dormer windows on the third floor remained, and on this floor and the one below it, there were likely residential apartments, which was common in that decade. The box office was in a central position, with entrances to the theatre on either side of it. The brick facades of the old houses were covered with stucco. The marquee was relatively small, extending only a short distance out over the sidewalk, although a larger canopy was constructed in the years ahead. I was unable to discover how many seats were in its auditorium when it first opened. It would likely have contained a small stage, as theatres in that era usually offered vaudeville alongside the silent movies. There was no balcony.

The web site @SilentToronto, written by Eric Veillette, tells about an incident concerning the theatre that occurred in 1931. At the time, the theatre was owned by Harry Lester, a prominent businessman in East Toronto. To increase attendance, he offered patron free silverware. Charges were laid and the case went to court, where the judge dismissed the case. As a result of this judgement, giving free items at theatres for promotional purposes became common. It was not long before theatres began giving away dinnerware, autographed photos of movie stars and even encyclopaedias.    

In the years ahead, the name of the theatre changed several times; it was closed in 1965 and reopened in 1966 as the Athenium and screened Greek films. Later, it became the Wellington. In 1933 it was renamed the Gerrard. The theatre was renovated in 1947 and a candy bar was installed. In the early 1950s, the seating capacity of the theatre was reported as 542 seats and that it was operated by the Allied Group.

In March 1955, an inspector saw a young boy stretched out over two seats. The inspector chatted with the lad and discovered that he was eleven years old, and that he had been unchallenged when he purchased his own ticket. The boy claimed that he did this quite often. The theatre’s owner was notified of the incident and was warned to enforce the age-restriction codes. On November 3, 1959 a fire broke out in the theatre during a matinee, when over 400 children in attendance. The fire was quickly extinguished and after the smoke had cleared and the theatre doors opened to dispel the worst of the odour, the children returned and the matinee continued.

In 1957, it was noted that the theatre’s matron was taking tickets at the door when she should have been on duty inside the auditorium. The inspector asserted that because the matron was not patrolling the aisles, the kids were noisy and unruly, and it was impossible to hear the sound track of the movie. When the inspector reprimanded the matron, he discovered that she spoke no English. As a result, the theatre received an official notification about its infraction of the codes. In 1959, the theatre was again cited for improper supervision, as eight children were sitting in the aisle.

In 1960, the theatre’s seating capacity was listed as 523. The following year, an inspector demanded that ticket sales at the theatre be halted as several kids were seated in a single seat. The various reports of the inspectors illustrate how closely theatre’s were inspected in earlier decades. I wonder if this remains true today. We now live in a society that is more permissive about what is shown on the screen, but bureaucracy remains a formidable foe.  

In 1968, the building was for sale at the listed price of $54,000, and another $21,000 for the business.

In the 1980s and 1990s it was called the Sri Lakshmi and screened films in the Tamil language. At various times, the theatre was closed, but it always seemed to reopen again. On July 12, 2011 the Bonita Theatre of old was revived and opened as an independent movie theatre, named the Projection Booth. It screened art films, as well as individually produced films and foreign movies. This was accomplished by the same people who renovated the Metro Theatre on Bloor Street West.

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     The theatre when it was employed for other commercial purposes.

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              The old Bonita in the 1960s when it showed Greek films.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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Memories of Toronto’s Ace (Photodrome) Theatre on Queen West.

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The above photo gazes at the south side of Queen Street West, where the Ace Theatre was located. The view looks east toward Yonge Street. The Simpsons Store, now the Bay, is in the top left-hand corner of the photo. The photo from the City of Toronto Archives was taken September 6, 1941, although there is a 1930s auto on the north side of the street.

The Ace Theatre was originally named the Photodrome, which opened in 1915. Its name was derived from an apparatus “consisting of a large wheel with spokes, which when turning very rapidly is illuminated by momentary flashes of light passing through slits in a rotating disk. By properly timing the succession of flashes the wheel is made to appear to be motionless, or to rotate more or less slowly in either direction.” (Source: Free Dictionary online.)

The theatre was one of Toronto’s early-day movie theatres. It possessed a stage, so likely featured vaudeville as well as silent movies. It was located at 39 Queen West, to the east of Bay Street. Unlike the Colonial (Bay) Theatre, two doors to the west, the Photodrome was not located in a structure that was purposely constructed for it, but was on the ground floor of a four-storey office building. The theatre possessed a large rectangular canopy that extended out over the sidewalk.

When it opened, the First World War was raging in Europe and silent movies were well attended since they provided an escape from the horrifying news from the front lines. It remained a popular theatre after the World War One and this continued into the 1920s. After sound films were introduced in the late-1920s, the theatre was converted to accommodate them. This assured its popularity during the Great Depression. 

In 1935, Sam Ulster purchased the Photodrome Theatre. In 1941, the son of Sam Ulster, Ben Ulster, renovated the theatre and reopened it on September 1 of that year as the Ace Theatre. It contained approximately 360 seats, about the same capacity as when it had been the Photodrome. For the opening, it offered a midnight show, a novel idea in this decade. Ben Ulster also owned the Broadway on Queen Street and Rio Theatre on Yonge Street. The Ulster family owned of the Town and Country Restaurant on Mutual Street. I remember this eatery very well as it was famous for its buffet, which featured roast beef and lobster. Its main rival was the Savarin Tavern on Bay Street. In 1942, the lobby of the Ace Theatre featured a display of sandbags and weapons to draw attention to the war effort and to encourage the purchase of War Bonds. The Ace Theatre was a familiar sight for many Torontonians as its huge sign, containing the letters A,C and E, were huge, each of them surrounded by large circles.

Similar to the Bay Theatre (the former Colonial), the Ace was sold to Simpson’s. The large sign for the Ace, which had sparkled nightly on Queen Street for many years, was sold to Nat Taylor’s 20th Century theatre chain, about the year 1947. It was installed on the former Regal (Iola) Theatre at 605 Danforth Avenue, which then became the Ace, but it had no connection with the theatre on Queen Street other than the sign.

Note: I am grateful to Mildred Ulster, the wife of Ben Ulster, for supplying information for this post. 

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This 1918 photo shows the Photodrome Theatre at 39 Queen West. It is on the left-hand side of the photo, with the large rectangular canopy extending out over the sidewalk. To the right (west) of it is the Colonial (Bay) Theatre, at 45 Queen West. The view gazes east along the south side of Queen Street, toward Yonge. Simpsons (now the Bay) is to the east of the Photodrome.

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This undated sketch from the Toronto Archives depicts the interior of the Photodrome Theatre. It reveals that there was a stage and that the washrooms were in the basement.

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                                     The Ace Theatre in the 1940s.

Sept. 6, 1941

Gazing east on Queen Street West toward Yonge Street, from the intersection of Bay and Queen on September 6, 1941.This photo from the City of Toronto Archives (G&M 13893) was taken at the height of the Second World War. In the right-hand bottom corner of the photo is a delivery truck of the Toronto Telegram newspaper.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to other posts placed on this blog about the history of Toronto and its heritage buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/links-to-historic-architecture-of-torontotayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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Memories of Toronto’s KUM-C Theatre in Parkdale

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      The KUM-C Theatre c. 1935. Photo, City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, It. 350

I was unable to discover the exact year that the KUM-C Theatre opened, but according to John Sebert’s book, “The Nabes,” it originally screened silent movies and featured vaudeville. This means that it was in operation prior to the introduction of the“talkies.”  One source states that the KUM-C Theatre opened in 1919, the year before the Parkdale Theatre. The Parkdale, which was the KUM-C’s rival, was located further west along Queen Street and was a much larger and classier theatre. It originally screened recently released films, while the KUM-C showed movies that were a year or two old.

The KUM-C was located at 1288 Queen Street West, on the eastern edge of the community of Parkdale. It was on the north side of Queen, one block west of Dufferin Street. I did not find any reference to the source of its name, but I assume that it was a play on word, “Come See.” Whoever named the theatre had a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. I doubt that anyone today would choose such a name. Pity!

When the theatre opened, it was only half the size of the theatre shown in the 1935 photo. The original solid-brick building that housed the theatre was set back a short distance from the sidewalk. It possessed a rather plain facade of stucco over brick, with an unadorned cornice. There were two large rectangular windows on the second floor that had rounded edges at the top. As was the case with most theatres in the early decades of the 20th century, the second-story contained residential apartments that provided rental income for the owner of the theatre. There was no air-conditioning, but it possessed a vent and a roof fan. The auditorium contained only one aisle, which was in the centre.

In 1930, the theatre was extensively renovated by the architects Kaplan and Sprachman. Their sketch is shown below, and is dated June 1930. It shows the theatre’s alterations as conceived by the architects. It remained only half the size that it was later to become. However, in 1930, the front of the theatre was extended to the edge of the sidewalk, and the box office was in a central position, with French doors on either side of it. 

I was unable to discover when the KUM-C Theatre purchased the store to the east of it and extended the theatre into the space that the store had occupied. One note in the archives’ files states that this occurred in 1930, but the sketch by Kaplan and Sprachman seems to contradict this information. However, it is known that after the theatre was enlarged, it contained almost 600 seats, with leatherette bottoms and wooden backs. There were also fourteen extra folding chairs that were employed when the theatre was crowded. The floor of the auditorium was concrete.

On February 24, 1943 the theatre was reprimanded by the Chief Inspector of Theatres for allowing the screening to extend beyond the midnight hour. On November 6, 1943 an inspector sat in an automobile across from the theatre from 7:15 to 7:45 pm. He observed nine children, under sixteen years of age, entering the theatre unaccompanied by an adult. The following day, the same inspector saw the theatre’s matron sitting in the audience watching the film, and she was not in uniform. The inspector forcefully reminded the theatre manager that the matron’s job was to circulate up and down the aisles and be evident at all times. When the inspector returned the next day to see if his warning had been heeded, he discovered that the matron was indeed visible, but her uniform was old and it was the wrong size. The manager assured the inspector that a new uniform had been ordered.

In April 1947, a candy bar was installed at the KUM-C. On December 21, 1957 the theatre was gain in trouble. It was found that three of the fire doors had been bolted shut with 2 by 4s, during a children’s matinee. The theatre was taken to court, found guilty, and fined $50.

In 1961, the theatre was on the real estate market, at the asking price of $68,500. The ad stated that the taxes were $9600, the heating cost were $300 annually, and the insurance was $100. It is assumed that this was when Nat Taylor of 20th Century Theatres purchased it, as the files state that he owned the theatre during the 1960s. The theatre ceased screening films about the year 1970. However, as late as 1973 it remained empty, and was for sale in that year for $175,000. The building was eventually purchased and renovated for other commercial purposes. 

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The sketch showing the plans for the KUM-C in June, 1930, as conceived by the architects Kaplan and Sprachman.

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                                     The KUM-C Theatre c. 1962.

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The auditorium of the KUM-C. This photo was likely taken prior to the theatre being enlarged as in this photo the auditorium remains long and narrow, with a central aisle.

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The lobby of the KUM-C, possibly after the theatre was enlarged as there are two doors leading to the auditorium, which suggests that there was more than one aisle.

Kum-C Sept. 1970 Real Estate Photo

A real estate photo, September 1970, when the theatre was for sale for $150,000. The building to the east of the theatre has since been demolished. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 96

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The site of the KUM-C Theatre at 1288 Queen St. West in Parkdale. Today (2014) the building is painted flaming red. The windows on the second floor have been modernized. The building to the east of the theatre’s site has disappeared.

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The east facade of the old KUM-C Theatre, with its colourful mural. Photo taken on August 3, 2014.

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The east facade, showing a concrete-block addition that has been added to the rear of the building that once housed the old theatre.

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                         Site of the KUM-C Theatre, August 2014.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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Memories of Toronto’s Birchcliff Theatre on Kingston Rd.

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                                     The Birchcliff Theatre in 1949.

Judging by comments posted on the internet, many people retain fond memories of their youth in the Birch Cliff community in East Toronto, and the Birchcliff Theatre in particular. Because I grew up in the west end of Toronto, I was never in this theatre, but I can certainly relate to the comments posted online about the Saturday afternoon matinees at the Birchcliff and the memories created by some of the great films screened there in the 1950s and 1960s.

The theatre was built in 1949, in the days when Birch Cliff was a quiet neighbourhood where people knew each other, as there were street parties and other community events. Birch Cliff was within walking distance of Lake Ontario, so it was an ideal neighbourhood for a kid to grow up. Many considered the Birchcliff Theatre the “icing on the cake” that made growing up in the community so special.

The theatre was built on the site of an old streetcar barn. It was located at 1535 Kingston Road, on the south side of the street, near Warden Avenue. It was part of the 20th Century Theatre chain, owned by Nat Taylor. In later years, Nat Taylor owned Loew’s Uptown, and in 1979 he partnered with Garth Drabinsky to built the Odeon Cineplex Eaton Centre, the largest multiscreen theatre complex in the world at that time. 

The Birchcliff Theatre was typical of theatres built after the Second World War. Its architecture could be referred to as “ranch-style”, although this was a term usually applied to homes constructed in the suburbs in the post-war period. The theatres in this style were one storey in height, built with brick and often had large surfaces of concrete or granite. They possessed large windows that allowed plenteous light into their lobbies, and for their interiors to be seen from outside. In many ways, the Birchcliff’s architecture was akin to that of the Nortown on Eglinton Avenue West, although the latter theatre was more plush. The Birchcliff was also similar to the University on Bloor Street, although it was larger, more impressive, and possessed a granite facade rather than concrete. Perhaps the theatre that most resembled the Birchcliffe was the Westwood Theatre near Six Points, in the west end of the city. It was “boxy” and composed of basic rectangular shapes.

The Birchcliffe screened films until 1974, when television diminished attendance to the extent that it became unprofitable. After the theatre closed it was demolished and today there is an ambulance service—The Toronto Emergency Medical Service—on the site.  

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous posts about other movie houses of Toronto—old and new

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/torontos-old-movie-theatrestayloronhistory-com/

To view links to Toronto’s Heritage Buildings

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/ 

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                           cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

                 To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

 

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