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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Toronto’s old Circle Theatre

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The Circle Theatre c. 1945. Photo from Toronto Archives, Series 881, File 374

The Circle Theatre at 2567 Yonge Street opened its doors in 1933, on the east side of the street, north of Sherwood, five blocks north of Eglinton Avenue West. The architect of the Circle was Eric Hounsom, who was employed by the architectural firm of H. S. Kaplan and Abraham Sprachman. In later years, Hounsom designed the interior of the University Theatre on Bloor Street West.

         Map of 2567 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P 2J1

                                            Map from Google, 2014.

Similar to most theatres designed by Kaplan and Sprachman, the Circle Theatre was in the Art Deco style, its façade containing strong vertical lines rising above the marquee. Contrasting with the vertical lines, were bold horizontal lines. The cornice was relatively plain, divided into sections of varying heights.

The theatre’s auditorium possessed 750 seats, with a wide centre section, aisles on either side of it, and more rows of seats across from the aisles. There was no balcony. The side walls were sleek and smooth, with horizontal lines. The corners near the stage were curved. There were Art Deco designs on the rear wall and near the stage, with elongated Art Deco lighting fixtures on the side walls.

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View of the auditorium of the Circle Theatre from the rear seats. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, It. 374

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View from the stage area of the auditorium of the Circle Theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, It. 374.

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Isometric Drawing of the Circle Theatre in 1933. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 122, Series 881, File 413. This drawing reveals some of the art deco designs that were in the interior spaces.

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Lobby of the Circle Theatre, c. 1945. City of Toronto Archives, Series 881, It.374

In the 1930s, few people owned automobiles, and those who possessed one, tended to drive it only on weekends in an effort to save gasoline. Neighbourhoods bordering Yonge Street, to the east and west of it, were connected by the square-shaped Peter Witt streetcars that rattled along Toronto’s main street. North of Eglinton, the streetcars were the main method of transportation to travel downtown. However, because streetcar tickets were considered expensive, most people preferred to walk to the local theatres rather than journey to the larger movie houses near Yonge and Queen Streets. For those living near Yonge Street, north of Eglinton Avenue, the Circle Theatre was popular as it was within easy walking distance.

From its earliest days, Torontonians had always possessed a strong sense of community. Families lived in a neighbourhood, raised their children and retired in the same houses that they had dwelt in for decades. Neighbours knew each other and chatted with easy familiarity in the local shops or in ticket lines at theatres. They often shared the same butcher, green grocer and mailman. The same milkman and bread man delivered their products to the doors of their homes, where they shared local news and gossip. When people attended the Circle Theatre, it was not unusual for them to recognize several neighbours among those in the audience.

Within the homes, the only sources of entertainment were radios, books, magazines, newspapers and for some, decks of cards. For the children, library books, homework and board games occupied their time. Thus, for adults, a night out at the Circle Theatre was a well-anticipated event and for the children, a Saturday afternoon matinee.

In the years following the Second World War, community life was forever altered. People had more money to spend and purchased automobiles and eventually homes in the suburbs. Telephones allowed people to remain in contact, removing the necessity to live within close proximity to friends and relatives. Many families moved away and others bought their homes. Local theatres became less important in the daily lives of the residents of the communities.

Then, with the advent of television, people stayed home to view programs and movies on TV. Theatres lost much of their appeal. Attendance at local theatres declined, many of them shutting their doors. The Circle Theatre on Yonge Street closed in 1956. The building was demolished and today there is an apartment building on the site.

The author is grateful to cinematreasures.org and lost-toronto.blogspot.com for some of the information contained in this post.

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Site of the Circle Theatre, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278. It. 45

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s old Prince of Wales Theatre

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               The Prince of Wales in 1927, photo, Toronto Reference Library

The Prince of Wales Theatre was located at 2094 Danforth Avenue, on the north side of the street, near Woodbine Avenue. Today, the Woodbine subway station is nearby. The theatre opened on May 5, 1924, six years after the Prince Edward Viaduct was completed across the Don Valley. On its brick facade were several narrow horizontal bands of stone, which gave the building a degree of individuality that differentiated it from the structures on either side of it. The theatre possessed a heavy cornice that contained a row of dentils beneath it. Above the cornice was a parapet that created the illusion of extra height. On the second storey were residential apartments, their rental income helping to defray the operating expenses. The theatre’s auditorium contained 1250 seats.

                 Map of 2094 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C 1J9

                                                  Map from Google, 2014

There is very little information on the theatre in the archives, but it likely possessed a stage and an area to accommodate musicians, since it was built in an era when theatres featured vaudeville acts along with the silent films. Both of these forms of entertainment required music.

The film advertised on the marquee of the 1927 photo of the Prince of Wales is “An Affair of the Follies,” released in February 1927, directed by Millard Webb, starring Billie Dove. This movie is one of many films from the era of silent films that has been lost. The fact that the film was being shown at the Prince of Wales the same year it was released illustrates that the theatre was showing recent films in direct completion with the larger theatres on Danforth Avenue. The theatre shut its doors in 1966, but the building remains today though it has been altered to accommodate other commercial enterprises.

Note: The author is grateful to cinematreasures.org for the information about the opening and closing dates of the Prince of Wales Theatre.

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The site of the Prince of Wales  after the theatre was demolished. Photo, Toronto Archives.

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags:

Bay and Gable house at 64 Spadina Avenue—Toronto

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The Bay and Gable House at 64 Spadina Avenue. Its facade is partly obscured by the glass extension built across the front of the structure.

On the west side of Spadina Avenue, south of King Street West, there is an architectural oddity that has survived for over a century. I refer to it as an oddity, as only half of the structure remains, the other portion having been demolished. The future of the section that remains is in doubt, as the area has become increasingly popular with condominium developers, and thus, the land where it is located is extremely valuable.

Map of 64 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5V 2H8

The Toronto Directories reveal that in 1888, two houses were under construction on the site. The houses were Bay and Gable in style, with the postal addresses 56 and 58 Spadina Avenue. When the houses were completed in 1889, Dr. T. H. Little M.D. moved into # 56 and John Clegg, a vocalist by profession, moved into #58. In 1890, the postal addresses of the homes were changed and they became numbers 62 and 64 Spadina Avenue. In that year, John Clegg continued to live in #64, but in # 62 was George W. Morse. In 1904, John Clegg remained in his home, and in the other house was James F. Campbell. 

Bay and Gable style

This pair of Bay and Gable houses, built in the latter decades of the 19th century, survive today on a quiet street in Toronto’s Kensington Market area. They are similar in design to those constructed at 62 and 64 Spadina Avenue. The Bay and Gable design originated in Toronto and is the city’s unique domestic architectural style. These houses featured bay windows in a soaring gable that stretched from the first-floor level, high into the third-storey. The style became very popular in the last two decades of the 19th century. Houses in this design permitted extra light to enter the interior, an important consideration during Toronto’s short winter days, in an era without electric lighting. The style spread throughout most of Ontario and even into some other provinces.

Bay and Gable

These Bay and Gable homes on Bellevue Avenue in the Kensington Market area are personal favourites of mine. The bright blue trim of the left-hand house gives it a jaunty appearance, adding colour to the Kensington Market scene, which is already colourful in its own right.

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View from the south side of the house at 64 Spadina Avenue. The house at #62 was demolished shortly after World War II and a laneway occupies the site of the demolished house. The lane leads to the rear of the building. All that remains of #62 is the wall that it shared with #64. At #64 Spadina, behind the glass extension built across its facade is the gable with its bay windows. The top of the gable is visible in the peak. 

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       View of the top of the gable on the third storey of the house

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View of the south facade of 64 Spadina, the soaring Bay and Gable design mostly hidden by the glass addition on the east facade facing Spadina Avenue. .

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Number 64 Spadina, the laneway visible on its south side. To the north of #64 is the facade of the Samuel Building, located on the southwest corner of Spadina and King Street West.

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Number 64 Spadina is on the left-hand side of the picture, and the Samuel Building is to the north of it. To the north of the Samuel Building is the old Back Packers’ Hotel, which is presently under restoration (2014). This photo displays why the future of the house at 64 Spadina is uncertain. 

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags: ,

Old houses hidden behind 58-60 Spadina Avenue—Toronto

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The east facade of the building at 58-60 Spadina Avenue, where a gable is visible in the roof of the houses behind the red-brick extension.

The Toronto Directories reveal that in 1888, two unfinished houses were on the site that today has the postal addresses 58-60 Spadina Avenue. The houses were completed in 1889, and in that year their postal addresses were # 52 and #54 Spadina Avenue. Number 52 was occupied by J. W. McDougall. In #54 lived Mrs. S. Hawthorne, the widow of Thomas Hawthorne, a retired foreman at the P. R. Lamb and Company. Eventually, the postal addresses of 52 and 54 Spadina were changed to numbers 58 and 60.

In the 1920s, the two houses on Spadina ceased to be residential and were renovated to accommodate the requirement of commercial enterprises. In 1928, #58 was occupied by Waterburg Chemicals and number 60 was vacant. The following year, the chemical company occupied both of the houses. In the 1940s, a two-storey red-brick extension was built across the front of the old houses. The extension remains on the site today. Originally, I had suspected that the houses behind the extension were Bay and Gable style, since the two houses to the north of the houses (numbers 62 and 64) were constructed the same year and they were in the Bay and Gable style.

However, peering at the roof of the old houses, visible behind the extension, there is a peaked gable. This is not typical of homes in the Bay and Gable design. More likely, the semi-detached houses were of another design. In the 19th and early 20th century, builders did not mass-produce houses such as is done today in the suburbs or in downtown infill sites. They contracted to build only one or two houses at a time. Thus, on a street, many different architectural designs were evident, which can be seen when walking along the older streets of downtown Toronto today.

The houses at 58-60 Spadina Avenue possibly appeared similar to one of the sets of semi-detached homes shown below.

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DSCN5450    DSCN5446

All of the semi-detached houses shown above were built in the final decades of the 19th century, and possess a gable in the centre of the roof. The houses in the photo in the upper right-hand corner have windows in the peaked gable.

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View of the small gable in the roof at 58-60 Spadina Avenue. The gable has a window or possibly a door, as there is a terrace on the roof of the extension from the 1940s.

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The east facade of the 1940s extension built across the houses at 58-60 Spadina. It possesses a rectangular shape, with a heavy cornice that includes a row of dentils. The rectangular windows are large to allow plenteous light into the interior. Today, the buildings continues to accommodate commercial enterprises.

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The cornice of the extension across the facades of the houses at 58-60 Spadina Avenue is topped with stone. A row of dentils (teeth-like decorations) is visible.

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The north facade of the home behind the extension at 60 Spadina. In the left-hand photo, the 1940s extension and the old house are visible. Some of the windows of the house have been bricked-in.

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Another extension added at the rear (the west side), of the old houses. 

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A view of where the bricks of the 1940s extension touch the 1889 bricks of the old houses.

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The east and south facades of the extension built across the front of the the 1889 houses. (Photo taken in 2014)

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

Tags:

Remembrance Service of 2014 evokes memories of yesteryear

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The year 2014 has special significance for Canadians as two of our soldiers were recently brutally murdered on home soil. Although the idea of sacrifice is ancient and deeply engrained into our cultural conscience, the deaths of the two soldiers poignantly brings it forward into our modern world, creating a renewed commitment to the concept. “They shall not have died in vain.”

On the Sunday prior to November 11th, I attended a Remembrance Service at Metropolitan United Church, located at Church and Queen Street East. It was deeply emotional, evoking memories of past services, when I was a child. I attended my first Remembrance Day Service 1946, the war having ended only the previous year. Almost every family in our neighbourhood had suffered the loss of a loved one, a friend or a neighbour. The names of the men and woman who had lost their lives in the Second World War remained open wounds that the passage of time had not yet healed.

I was in grade two at D. B. Hood  School in 1946. The school was located near Dufferin Street and Eglinton Avenue West in the Fairbank Community, then a suburb of Toronto. The school had no auditorium or gymnasium, so we assembled in the basement of the school, a space usually reserved for the children who brought their lunch to school. In that decade, we were not allowed to do this unless one of our parents signed a note to give to the teacher. For the Remembrance Day Service, we sat on long wooden benches, gazing at a podium that had been created for the occasion. The principal, a local minister and several teachers officiated at the service. It was an experience I never forgot.

In the 1940s, the educational system was vastly different to that of today. Student in grade eight were sometimes 16 years old, as no one was promoted unless that they achieved a passing grade in all academic subjects. They passively sat in classrooms and waited for their 16th birthday so their parents could sign them out of school and they were able to enter the work force. Many of these students, when they turned 18, joined the military. As well, many of the teachers on the staff of the school had enlisted.

Thus, during the first Remembrance Day service I attended in 1946, tears streamed down the cheeks of many of our teachers when the names of those who had died in the war were solemnly read from the Honour Roll. Teachers recalled former colleagues and remembered students who had recently sat in their classrooms. Two young girls sitting behind me cried softly. They had lost their father and an older brother in the conflict. No more would their brother’s voice ring in the frosty air in nearby Fairbank Park as he whooped and hollered while sledding down a snowy slope on a winter’s day. No more would his laughter be heard as he teased the girls while waiting in line to purchase a ticket to one of the local theatres—the Grant or Colony. Though not forgotten, their brother had departed their young lives, his sacrifice a present-day reality. 

There are other memories of the soldiers who served that remain with me today. In the late 1940s, I remember standing on Dufferin Street with my father and brother to watch the Warriors’ Day Parade enter the gates of the CNE. The long lines of men, six or eight abreast, seemed endless. Their medals shone in the late-summer sun. The men were young, having returned from the battlefields only a few years earlier. Some marched with a pronounced limp, some were missing an arm and others bore wounds—emotional and physical—hidden from view. However, their faces were youthful and expressed the hope that the years ahead would be peaceful and that they would never again be required to return to the killing fields of battle. Their hope was that the world would learn from the past and that the horrors of conflict would never again descend upon humanity.

Times have indeed passed since 1946. On the morning of November 9, 2014 at Metropolitan United, only one veteran remained in the congregation to represent those who perished in the Second World War. It was with grateful heart that I attended the Remembrance Service, which was tinged with sadness, loss, but also gratefulness. Amid the wreaths, the poppies and the music of remembrance was the hope that the future will be better and that the ideals that the men and woman fought for will survive and flourish in the years ahead.

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Entrance of the 78th Fraser Highlanders (York) to commence the Remembrance Service at Metropolitan United on November 9, 2014.

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           The chancel of Metropolitan United Church.

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                Departure of the 78th Fraser Highlanders.

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Following the service, two volleys were fired in honour of the two soldiers who recently perished.

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The memorial window in Metropolitan United that commemorates and honours those from the congregation who gave their lives in the two great wars.

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                    “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow  . . . . .”

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

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

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

To view previous blogs about old movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

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

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in historic Toronto, Toronto history

 

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