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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Paintings of spring in Toronto’s Humber Valley

Creating paintings of the Humber River Valley has interested me for many years. Watching the river meander through Toronto toward its destiny in Lake Ontario always inspires me. Though the valley is beautiful in all seasons, I believe spring provides the most dramatic vistas, as its ever-increasing rays provide unique lighting conditions that change daily. Along the banks of the river, the dazzling early-season sun illuminates the rich carpet of plants sprouting beneath the bare limbs of the trees, which have not yet burst into leaf. The foliage possesses endless shades of green, supporting delicate spring flowers of light pastel hues. Plants that eventually will wither as the heat of the season advances, bloom in all their restrained glory. Spring is the most highly anticipated season for most Canadians and being of a short duration, its warmth and blossoms are deeply treasured.

For many years I lived within walking distance of the valley and enjoyed strolling along its man-made trails and natural muddy paths. On warm spring days, I discovered a few advantageous locations where I could set up an easel to sketch. I then employed acrylic onto stretched canvas to create a finished work. Scenes away the well-trodden paths, where snow-white trilliums bloomed, were always a delight, as were the arrays of daffodils and tulips in the manicured flower beds of James Gardens. Later, the irises of many varieties and colours provided inspiration for paintings.

Each spring, I feel fortunate to enjoy the Humber Valley and capture a small part of its beauty on canvas.  Each painting is a memory of a special day.

84.  8x10   

“Tulips in James Gardens, Toronto,” painted in 1991, acrylic on stretched canvas, 8” x 10.” This scene was painted near the parking lot that is entered by Edenbridge Drive, where each spring the colourful beds of tulips spread as far as the eye can see.

174.  16x20  1992

“Tulips—James Gardens, Humber Valley,” painted in 1992, acrylic on stretched canvas, 8” x 10.” For this painting, I chose a small group of tulips in one of the flower beds. I depicted the plants as nature first produced them, untamed by man’s centuries of hybridization.

106  11x14  1984. Humber spring

“Trilliums Beside a Rotted Tree Trunk, Humber Valley,” painted in 1984, acrylic on stretched canvas, 11”x 14.” Wandering off the asphalt path, I discovered this patch of trilliums, the display of flowers extending into the background. However, the contrasting light and shadows were the focus of the work. Unfortunately, trilliums no longer bloom in the valley in such abundance as bicycle trails now scar the landscape. 

86.  8x10  2007 Trilliums, Humber Valley

“Humber Valley Trilliums,” painted in 2002, acrylic on stretched canvas, 8” x 10.” This small group of trilliums was one of the last that I ever encountered. It is now difficult to find Ontario’s official flower, except for a rare plant surviving in a hidden location.

187.  16x20  1992  Humber Valley

“Light and Shadow, Humber Valley Spring.” This is another study of lighting contrasts, painted in 1992. It is acrylic on stretched canvas, 11” x 14.” It is one of those amazing scenes only discovered by wandering off the beaten path.

12.  16x20  1998  St. James gardens

“Daffodils, James Gardens, Humber Valley,” painted in  1998, acrylic on stretched canvas, 16” x 20.” These are my favourite spring flowers, ones that I consider the most welcomed harbinger of the new season.

182.  16x20  1994

“Irises in James Gardens, Humber Valley,” painted in 1994, acrylic on Masonite, 16” x 20.” This painting was done in June, after the tulips had disappeared. The pungent scent of the irises never failed to enchant.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto, Press Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodrome, 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 1950s newspapers-Hurricane Hazel-Part 3

When Hurricane Hazel struck the city in October 1954, I was a teenager. It was the worst natural disaster the city ever endured. This is the third post detailing major events reported in the daily newspapers in Toronto during the 1950s. To view the previous posts on newspapers of the 1950s

Part One: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/torontos-daily-newspapers-of-the-1950spart-1/ and

Part Two:  https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/torontos-newspapers-of-the-1950spart-ii/

Part Three:  Hurricane Hazel, October 15, 1954.

16aaaa. Oct. 18, 1954  Hurricane Hazel

The Toronto Daily Star of Monday October 18, 1954, reporting the destruction of Hurricane Hazel.

Hurricane Hazel struck Toronto during the overnight hours of Friday October 15, 1954. The Humber and Don Rivers flooded, causing the authorities to declare the bridges spanning these river to be unsafe. Toronto became an island, residents unable to reach the outside world.

During the late hours of the Friday evening,  I remember watching the rain pelt the windows of our home, the water gushing down the glass in torrents, the houses across the road rendered invisible. Close to midnight, when I went to bed, I had no idea what would occur throughout the city during the early-morning hours. In Toronto’s two main river valleys, flood waters rose so swiftly that many had no time to reach safety before their dwellings were either swept away or they were underwater. The worst hit was Raymore Drive, near Lawrence Avenue West and Scarlett Road, where almost 40 people perished.  

The Saturday editions of the newspapers were already in print before the disastrous details of the storm were known, and in this decade, there were no Sunday newspapers. The newspapers on Monday were the first opportunities to relate the events. The following photographs are from the Toronto Daily Star of Monday, October 18, 1954.

2 houses collide, one of Raymore and the other Gillhaven Ave.

Two houses from Raymore Drive and Gilhaven Avenue that collided, one of them demolished by the torrent of water.

Gillhaven Ave.

Gilhaven Avenue the morning after the storm, when the flood waters had receded. 

Don River Bridge on Bathurst, btw. Shepard and Finch

Bridge over the Don River on Bathurst Street, between Lawrence and Finch Avenues. 

Holland March

                    The devastation at Holland Marsh, near Highway 400.

                         Holland March, in night--20 feet depth

A house in Holland Marsh that during the night had been surrounded by 20 feet of water.

Holland Marsh--Schomberg Creek

             Houses in Holland Marsh near Schomberg Creek.

Lawrence Ave. W. in Weston

Bridge over the Humber River on Lawrence Avenue West, east of Scarlett Road.

Pine Grove Park, Woodbridge  DSCN6340

                                  Pine Grove Park in Woodbridge Ontario.

Raymore Dr.    3

Raymore Drive, near Scarlett Road and Lawrence Avenue West, showing the houses that were swept away by the waters.

                       Raymore Dr.   2

                                                House on Raymore Drive.

Raymore Dr.

                                        Another home on Raymore Drive.

The following passage is based on an account of Hurricane Hazel in the novel, “The Reluctant Virgin.” Details on this book are on the Home Page for this blog.

In Toronto, on Friday, October 15, 1954, weather reports announced that a storm would reach Toronto around midnight. Originating in the Caribbean nine days earlier, it had killed a thousand people in Haiti and hit mainland United States near the border between North and South Carolina. However, meteorologists declared that the storm was weakening considerably and it was unlikely that it would cause damage in the Toronto area, despite the possibility of strong winds. They also predicted that a cold front was moving eastward from the Chicago area, where it had already dumped heavy rain. No one knew that the two systems would collide to produce a storm with unbelievable winds and vast amounts of rainfall.

When Torontonians went to bed on Friday night, they were unaware of the drama, chaos, and death that would unfold under the cover of darkness. Hurricane Hazel, with all its wrath and fury was tearing across Toronto, a city that in 1954 possessed one million inhabitants. Many would not survive the night. Shortly after midnight, telephones in police stations throughout the city began ringing off the hook. Off-duty policemen were contacted and ordered to report to their precincts. The city had declared an emergency!

At one of the stations in Toronto’s west end, when two of the detectives that had been summonsed arrived, they were told that thieves had broken into a jewellery store in the town of Weston. Their cantankerous sergeant instructed them to “hustle their rear ends” and get out to Weston to prevent any further burglaries. As they drove out of the parking lot, through the steamed-up windows of the police car, they saw several cruisers heading west to Etobicoke, the source of most of the emergency calls.

Driving northwest, they encountered broken tree limbs strewn across the streets. Overhead, branches swayed back and forth in the wind, the crackling noises adding to the macabre scene. On one street, they were forced to detour around a tree that had fallen across the roadway. On Weston Road, north of St. Clair, they passed a crew repairing hydro lines downed by falling branches. As they drove past them, the police car shook as powerful gusts of wind slammed into the left side of the auto, at times lifting the car.

It was well past one o’clock in the morning when they neared Lawrence Avenue and Weston Road. The wind was stripping the few remaining autumn leaves from the trees’ branches and swirling them in tornado-shaped funnels, along with anything else they encountered in their path, including debris torn from houses and sheds. A plank ripped from a backyard fence flew past the car and several empty garbage tins crashed into the driver’s door. The rain was a wild torrent and at times visibility was so limited that they they were driving blind.

Unknown to them, back at the precinct, distress calls were jamming the switchboards. Many callers were unable to get through, the powerful winds and falling branches having cut telephone lines. Families in distress were isolated and helpless as the intensity of the storm increased with each passing minute.

Arriving In the town of Weston, the two detectives cruised slowly past the stores on Weston Road, peering through the misted car windows at the shops lining the street. At the jewellery store, a cruiser had secured the scene and the officers had arrested two young men. One of the detectives rolled down the window halfway and spoke to the arresting officer. The detective was grateful that it was not necessary for him to get out of the car.

The two police detectives continued their surveillance. They noticed that a tree branch had smashed a side window of Inches Drug Store, at the southeast corner of Weston Road and John Street, but the limb was hanging from the gaping hole, indicating that no one had ventured inside. The Squibb’s Stationary Store, Kresge’s, Reward and Agnew Surpass shoe stores, as well as the Loblaws all seemed undamaged. They dreaded finding someone in the act of committing a crime, as apprehending the criminal would be a daunting task.

As they drove cautiously along Weston Road, the radio crackled with static. They overheard an officer at the Humber River communicating with the station. He declared, “I’ve pulled a man from the river at the bridge …  Lawrence Avenue … I need  … ” His voice broke into small bursts and for the next several minutes, crackling noises dominated the airwaves. Then, the officer shouted, “I’ve lost contact with my partner. I think he’s somewhere on the other river bank. . .” His voice trailed off!

The officer on duty at the station told him, “Until you re-establish contact, pull anyone from the river that … try to get as far as … “ Messages were again interrupted by static, but they clearly communicated the chaos of the scene. The two detectives continued to listen.

The officer beside the river again attempted to communicate, “I see a house …  floating … my God, there’s a woman clinging to it … I need a rope … I don’t … oh shit.”

“We’re sending a car  … hold . . .” the station replied.

Another voice interrupted. “Where’s that relief car? I can’t …”

The officer beside the river yelled again into his microphone, “What the hell happened to the TTC truck?” There was a pause and he added, “Shit, this is the worst I’ve … ” Another pause. “I need help. A family … I think there are three kids  … they’re trapped … the water’s rising fast … ” More static! “My God, they’ve been swept away.”

For several moments, the radio was silent. The detectives in the police car heard only the eerie noise of the wind howling around them. Then radio contact resumed and the officer shouted, “Good God … everything is giving way … the children are now in the hands of  … I … ” The frustration and grief in his voice left the detectives speechless. They felt the sheer helplessness of those who were fighting to rescue families from the floodwaters.

Meanwhile, the rivers of rain continued to deluge the city. On the radio—static—crackling—alternated by eerie silence! Communications were at times completely severed. The silence was more ominous than the voices pleading for help, as listeners were left to their own thoughts and fears. Within a few minutes, voices resumed on the police radio.

“This is the dispatcher. Car number twenty-two is nearing to assist you. I had a report that two men are trapped in a house to the south of the bridge. Do not launch any boats. I repeat . . . do not launch any boats. They would capsize … enough dead already … three bodies … fished out … near bridge … Lawrence Avenue.” Then the dispatcher added, “Anyone who can hear me out there, proceed to Lawrence Avenue Bridge to offer assistance.”

The detectives knew that communicating with the precinct was impossible, so drove south on Weston Road and turned west on Lawrence Avenue to see if they could help the officers beside the river. When they arrived at the bridge crossing the Humber, they noticed that all the streetlights were dark. A cruiser was blocking cars from crossing the bridge, the cruiser’s flashing lights puncturing the black of the night.

One of the detectives got out of the police car and walked over to the officer at the scene, the wind and water lashing his face. The police constable was distraught, but managed to inform him that the entire western half of the bridge had collapsed. It was impossible to see across the bridge, but the officer informed him that the banks on the west side of the river were swollen and had engulfed the roadway. They then heard a thunderous noise and the ground beneath them shook. Several large boulders and a tree trunk had smashed into the remaining cement pillars supporting the eastern section of the bridge. The entire structure was clearly in danger of succumbing to the forces assaulting its foundations. They quickly backed away from the bridge.

From a safe distance, the detective asked the officer, “Where’s your partner? We heard you guys pulled out three bodies.”

“The count is now five, sir. My partner reported that a car with two people in it plunged off the west side of the bridge. In the darkness, they were not aware there was no bridge ahead of them. My partner is trapped on the west side of the bridge. He went over there before that section collapsed. He knows the area well and before he left he told me there’s a street downstream, Raymore Drive. He fears that all the houses there will be swept away. Since we arrived a half-hour ago, the water has risen over twenty feet. Residents on Raymore Drive won’t have a chance.”

The officer gazed at an approaching vehicle. “Damn!” he muttered. “There’s another bloody driver trying to cross the bridge.” The car was approaching from the east side of the bridge. As it neared the officer, the driver rolled down the car window. The officer walked over and shouted angrily, “Turn your bloody car around and get the hell out of here.” His voice was almost inaudible amidst the howling wind.

The distressed man stammered, “My wife is alone, in our home on Scarlett Road and …” The officers interrupted him as he slammed his billy stick on the side of the car and ordered the man to leave. Frustrated, the helpless man placed the car in reverse gear and backed up.

The detective understood the officer’s frustration, as it was likely the hundredth car he had redirected. Then the detective saw that his partner was beckoning him. He walked away from the river toward the parked car.

“I managed to get through to dispatch,” his partner told him. “They want us to go to the Bloor Street bridge. They need us to help control the traffic.”

It required almost an hour for them to reach the Bloor Street Bridge that spanned the Humber. Traffic was chaotic, as numerous cars had collided because of the poor visibility and the broken branches strewn about the roadways. When they arrived, they were informed that the bridge, because of the massive runoff from further up river, was in danger of collapsing. No vehicle traffic was being allowed across it. The officer in charge added, “The Lakeshore and Dundas Street bridges have also been closed, and I was told that the Old Mill Bridge has already caved-in. The city is now sealed-off from the west. No one can enter or depart the city.”

News from the dispatcher continued. On Dee Avenue in Weston, three houses had been ripped from their foundations by the flooded Black Creek and swept away. In Mount Dennis, hundreds of people had been evacuated from their homes and taken to emergency shelters. Highways surrounding Brampton had crumbled like soft mud, whole sections swept into the ditches.

Major portions of the Scarlett Road Bridge had fallen into the river, eaten away by the angry water slamming against it. The swollen river had carried large boulders and entire tree trunks in its raging waters and was pounding them into the bridge’s foundations. Some suburban streets near the Humber Valley were ten feet under water. Near Long Branch, homes had been swept into Lake Ontario, the sheer force of the wind tearing one mother’s infant son from her arms, sweeping the child into a watery grave. Throughout the city, firefighters were frantic as downed hydro wires short-circuited, igniting countless fires. Crews were busy cutting the electric wires in flooded houses to prevent more flare-ups.

Unknown to those who were fighting the flooding in the west end of the city, similar conditions were occurring in the eastern areas, as the Don River and its tributaries had also poured over their banks. Bridges there were also in danger, although the threats were not as severe, as the bulk of the rain had hit the western sections of the city, particularly the Humber Valley.

It was a night of despair that would never be forgotten.

The following morning, Saturday, the skies remained cloudy. The winds had abated and an eerie calm engulfed the rain-soaked city. In homes throughout Toronto, oatmeal was bubbling on the stoves and the coffee was perking as people listened to their radio. Details of the the aftermath of the previous night’s storm came across the airwaves. An announcer said, “As many as thirty people might be dead, and the search for bodies continues. It is impossible to estimate the extent of the property losses, but authorities are estimating that it will be in the millions. Fifteen military groups and eight army reserves, totalling over eight hundred men, are being called in to assist the city. The streets of Toronto are littered with debris and hundreds of homes have been flooded. Some streets remain underwater. The city requests that residents remain off the roads to allow crews to clean up the debris.

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The flooded Humber River as seen on the morning after Hurricane Hazel swept through Toronto. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series1057, Item 2001

During the next two days, the bridges on the west side of Toronto remained closed. The east end of the city has not been as severely hit, as the clash between the remnants of Hurricane Haze and the cold air from the west, collided to the northwest of the city, over Brampton, where the two storm systems spilled their massive rainfall. The Humber Valley acted like a spillway, channelling the water southward through the city. Toronto had been unprepared for the fury of Hurricane Hazel’s onslaught.

On Sunday afternoon, people travelled to the Humber Valley to gaze at the river. At Scarlett Road and East Drive, the disastrous water levels attained during the dark morning hours had receded, but the river remained swollen and angry. People gazed in awe at the high-water mark on the stucco walls of the Queensbury Hotel, located near the Scarlett Road Bridge. The mud caked on the walls indicated that during the night the water had reached as high as the second-storey windows, a distance of nearly fifteen feet. They were amazed by the sight of the mature trees along the riverbank that had been uprooted and toppled, their massive roots exposed to the morning’s gloomy light. Those who approached too close to the bridge, a police officer held back.

A woman standing near the bridge looked down into the swirling water. She began crying as she pointed to the debris trapped against the support pillars of the bridge. She said that it contained the walls of her home, which had floated down the river during the night. A police officer tried to comfort her.

Those who had gathered  at the scene stood silently beside the stream, still raging beyond anything they had ever witnessed. They imagined what it must have been like during the darkened hours of Saturday morning. A helicopter hovered above them, its pilot searching for bodies floating down the river. Along the riverbank, soldiers were combing through broken tree limbs and piles of debris, gathering the refuse into piles and igniting them with flame-throwers. The roof of a house floated past and was snagged by militiamen in a boat and towed to shore. When they turned it over, a man’s body floated to the surface.

A man pointed to a dead pig, its bloated pink carcass bobbing in the current. One of the soldiers employed a pole with a hook to drag it ashore, where it could be burned in the refuse pile. While it was being pulled through the current, the pig turned over in the water. It was not a pig but a young woman. The soldier gagged!

On Monday morning, further details of the storm’s devastation continued to be reported in the newspapers and over the radio. On the night of the storm, the winds had been 110 mph, and within less than twelve hours almost eight inches of rain fell on a city. It was feared that the death toll might reach a hundred. Many people remained missing and it was reported that damage would reach into the millions of dollars.

At Holland Marsh, near Brantford, during Saturday night the farms had been under twenty feet of water, only their roofs remaining visible. The boulevard between the lanes on Highway 400, where it approached Highway 401, had been a rushing river. Throughout the city, it was feared that over four thousand people were homeless, their houses either having been swept away or too badly damaged to be habitable. On Raymore Drive, south of Lawrence Avenue, fourteen houses were washed away. The water rose so rapidly that many had no chance to escape.

Hurricane Hazel was a nightmare that for many, there was no awakening.

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

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

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

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

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

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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Toronto’s newspapers of the 1950s—Coronation—Queen Elizabeth—Part II

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the beginning of the second Elizabethan Age. Part One of this series of posts on old Toronto newspapers featured Toronto’s newspapers prior to the coronation, when Princess Elizabeth, heir to the throne, fascinated the city. Reports about her constantly appeared in the press. Post #1 concluded with the death of King George VI and the ascension to the throne of the young queen.

To view Part One in this series of posts: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/torontos-daily-newspapers-of-the-1950spart-1/

2d .  March 29, 1952    2e.  Oct. 27, 1952

     Toronto Star, March 29, 1952                   Toronto Star, October 29, 1952.

Following the death of George VI, as the official morning period drew to a close, Canadians began anticipating the coronation of the new queen. Photographs and articles about the royal family appeared regularly in all the Toronto daily newspapers. The two pictures shown above are from the covers of the Star Weekly, a magazine that appeared once a week inside the Saturday edition of the Toronto Daily Star (Toronto Star). The magazine was first issued in 1910 and the last edition was in 1973. The left-hand photo is of Princess Margaret, and the right-hand one is of Prince Charles and the infant Princess Anne. The pictures are from the newspapers that I began collecting in 1951.

2d. interior of March 29, 1952     

 Feature article on Princess Margaret in the Toronto Daily Star of March 29, 1952.

2f. March 24, 1953

                       Headline in The Toronto Daily Star, March 24, 1953.

                      2h.  March 25, 1953  3

Newspaper coverage of events related to the coronation ceased as the Empire mourned the passing of Queen Mary on March 24, 1953.

2g.  March 25, 1953   2

This photo appeared in the Toronto Star on March 25, 1953, depicting King George V and Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar in India in 1911—the Emperor-King and Empress Consort  of India. Queen Mary was 44 years of age when this photo was taken.

                         2m.   May 14, 1953

The coronation excitement commenced once more in the spring of 1953. On May 14 the Toronto Telegram issued a special edition of their Weekend Picture Magazine—a preview of the forthcoming coronation.

8a.   May 30, 1953   (3)

May 30, 1953, a special section in the Star Weekly, prior to the coronation the following week.

9.  May 30, 1953   (2)

                                              May 30, 1953, the Toronto Star.

                       10.  May 30, 1953

                         Cover of the Star Weekly magazine on May 30, 1953.

          10c.  June 2, 1951

The cover of the envelope sent to all distributors of the Daily Star. It contained portraits of the Queen to be inserted inside the newspapers on coronation day, June 2, 1953.

10a.  June 2, 1953

This is the portrait of the queen that was inside the envelopes. It was printed on high quality paper. I wonder how many of these remain in existence today?

                       11.   June 6, 1953  DSCN6324

                         Cover of the Star Weekly magazine on June 6, 1953.

13.  June 13, 1953

                                   The Star Weekly on June 13, 1953.

                          13a.  June 13, 1953

                                     The Toronto Telegram, June 13, 1953.

The passage below is based on an account of the coronation in the book “The Reluctant Virgin.” Details of this book are on the Home Page for this blog. 

Today, it is almost impossible to imagine the coronation fever that gripped Toronto in 1953. Many Torontonians remember the hysteria that swept the city when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal in the Summit Series in the Soviet Union in 1972. Canada exploded! It became one of the most memorable moments in the lives of many Canadians, even though there had been only sixty minutes of playing time and the build-up to the event relatively brief. The exhilaration was similar in February of 2010, when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal in overtime at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

In fairness, it is difficult to compare the coronation of 1953 with the events in 1972, when Henderson scored the winning goal. In the 1970s, most Canadians owned TV sets. People huddled around them in their homes, and those at work watched the game in offices and factories. Children gathered in school auditoriums. In 1953, few people owned a TV set.

As coronation day approached, the shops and major department stores of downtown Toronto began frantically decorating their facades, doorways, and windows. Eaton’s and Simpson’s were festooned with flags, ribbons, and banners of red, white, and blue. The most popular designs were crowns, orbs, shields, and swords of state. The city’s inner core resembled a royal court. On Sunday, 31 May, normally a quiet day, thousands travelled downtown to gaze at the decorations. A reporter wrote that Yonge Street was “hell on wheels”, as over 10,000 pedestrians and endless lines of automobiles jammed Yonge Street from Richmond to College streets. On the day prior to the big events, the business district remained crowded with gawkers. The TTC reported that the Monday evening rush hour traffic was worse than during a major snowstorm. Pandemonium ruled rather than Britannia.

On 2 June, coronation day, as first light broke across Toronto, many had been awake since the early morning hours, having risen at five o’clock to hear the live broadcast of the ceremony on the BBC from London. As the sun crept ever higher in the sky, not a cloud marred the endless expanse of blue. Because the first films of the coronation would not arrive until late afternoon, many people travelled downtown to attend public functions. As the morning progressed, below the heights of the city hall tower, a steady stream of people passed by, most having arrived downtown on the Yonge streetcars. The Yonge subway did not open until the following year. The crowds surged toward University Avenue to reserve a position to watch the one-hour-long garrison parade, which would begin at eleven o’clock.

Not everyone gathered at University Avenue. By the hour of eleven, people lined all the streets in the downtown, within a half-mile radius of Yonge and Queen Streets. Floating above the crowds were red, white, and blue balloons, their strings held tightly in the hands of young children. In the jostling, a few balloons escaped, the cries of disappointed youngsters unheard amid the din of the excited throngs. Many adults wore paper replicas of St. Edward’s Crown, while others settled for less patriotic but more practical sun hats. It was rare to find an adult or child not clutching a flag. No painter could ever have created such a scene, or any camera capture a more animated spectacle.

By noon, the temperature had reached seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, the sky a clear cerulean blue. Crowds were immense at the ferry docks, waiting to journey to the Toronto Islands. Private sailboats in the harbour were decorated with flags, pennants, and signals, from bow to stern and hull to mast. All the YCYC yachts had been encouraged by the club to participate in the display. Even the Toronto ferries were trimmed in red, white, and blue. The harbour was a sea of patriotic enthusiasm.

In the Township of York, people journeyed to Coronation Park, which had been created for the special day. It was located on Eglinton Avenue, to the west of the township offices, near Trethewey Avenue. Officials had advertised that a whole ox was to be roasted. Many travelled to Coronation Park on the TTC, as all buses and streetcars were free for the entire day. 

As people arrived at the site, they gazed with anticipation at the large fire pit where the ox was rotating on a sixteen-foot iron spit over the flames. Actually, it was not an ox, but a number of huge roasts of beef, but nobody cared. Their mouths watered as they watched the meat sizzle and they inhaled the delicious aroma. The officials had announced that servings would begin at one o’clock.

Children considered the celebration as good as a day at the CNE. They gave away free ice cream bars and at several kiosks, free flags were being distributed. A bi-plane flew overhead, scattering a cloud of red, white, and blue cards. Those with a royal insignia on them, could be redeemed for a 1953 silver dollar. As the afternoon progressed, crowds wandered the site, the sun’s rays blazing overhead. Many listened as a band played ,“Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue.” People stood to their feet when the unofficial Canadian national anthem was performed—“The Maple Leaf Forever.” O Canada was not proclaimed the national anthem until 1980.

Shortly after three o’clock, the crowds thinned slightly, as those who owned TV sets departed to watch the sacred ceremony. Films of the coronation had been flown across the Atlantic by jet, and TV broadcasting was to begin a 4 pm.

To this day, I have never witnessed any event in Toronto that has rivalled the coronation of 1953, except perhaps the celebrations on VE Day, when World War II ended. The coronation was a memorable experience that I never forgot.

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

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

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

The 1950s newspapers and photos shown in this post were published in a decade when the movie theatres of Toronto were the major entertainment venues of the city. My recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” is akin to a book of memories of this former decade. 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 relates personal anecdotes and stories of others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodrome, 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 daily newspapers of the 1950s—Princess Elizabeth, pre-Coronation—Part 1

In 1951, I began collecting Toronto newspapers that I considered milestones in history. Included in the collection were Life Magazines and copies of the Star Weekly, a magazine inserted in the Toronto Daily Star (Toronto Star) each Saturday between the years 1910 and 1973. l recently, I sorted through these old newspapers, reliving the memories they contained, some of them pleasant and others sad. In some instances, I remember where I was the day the headlines appeared.

Copies of the newspapers are available on microfilm in the archives and online, but seeing the originals caused me to recall when I first glimpsed them on the doorstep of our home or in a newspaper box. Sometimes my first sight of them was on the kitchen table, after one of my parents retrieved it from the veranda. The kitchen table was the centre of everything in our house and the place where the news of the day was discussed. Viewing the old newspapers again after all these years, I recalled the shock, fascination and amusement my parents expressed as they saw the daily headlines.

I recently read an online article asserting that no one under the age of 50 reads hard copy newspapers any more. Unfortunately, this might be close to the truth, but I believe it is their loss. My viewpoint is prejudiced, as I am over 50 and receive two newspapers daily. I often employ my iPad to learn about the latest news, especially when I am travelling, but I do not feel as connected to the events as when I read a newspaper. For me, a newspaper has more visual impact, and besides, news posted on social media is basically derived from newspaper reports. Perusing the newspapers in my collection, the emotions that I felt when I originally read them were revived.

The photos and newspapers shown in this post represent a vastly different world from today. When the 1950s dawned, World War II had ended just five years earlier and the scars of war had not completely healed. Entertainment was more than an indulgence or mere pastime, as people sought ways to erase the memories of casualty lists and horrific reports front the front lines in Europe or the Pacific. One of the most popular ways of achieving this was to attend the movie theatres of the city. In the 1950s, they were scattered throughout every community in Toronto, their newsreels one of the few sources of visual images of events of the day. Newspapers were the other source. They linked people to the world beyond their neighbourhood. Because radios offered no visual images, people depended on newspapers and magazines. Hence the importance of the Star Weekly magazine that appeared in The Daily Star each Saturday. 

Movies allowed people to dream, and for many, the dreams included an escape from the inner city to suburban communities surrounding Toronto, where there were ranch-style homes on spacious building lots. Picket fences and two-car garages were not mandatory, but were highly desirable. Sales of automobiles soared and purchases of consumer goods to furnish the new homes increased exponentially.

Patriotism and national pride engendered by the war years remained, including loyalty to the king and queen who had led them through the years of conflict. Toronto was fascinated by their young daughter, Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne, and her handsome husband. The fascination peaked in 1951 with the announcement of the couple’s royal tour of Canada, which included a visit to Washington. Television sets remained rare in 1951, meaning that the newspapers and newsreels in theatres were the main sources of images and information about the tour.

                         1 a . Sept. 21, 1951,  Karsh portrait

This photograph by the famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh of Princess Elizabeth was inserted in the Star Weekly magazine on September 21, 1951, printed as a two-page spread. Recently, (March 2015) I saw a copy of the upper portion of this portrait in the window of a cheese shop in the Kensington Market. It was badly faded, but it brought back memories of when I first saw it. I don’t know why it was in the shop window, after all these years.

                       1.  Oct. 1, 1951

Life magazine of October 1, 1951. Americans were also interested in the royal tour as it included a visit to Washington.

1a. Nov. 1, 1951

November 1, 1951, The Telegram newspaper, reporting the princess’ visit to Washington.

                        1b .  Nov. 3, 1951

Cover of the Star weekly of November 3, 1951, a special edition issued in honour of the royal tour of Princess Elizabeth. 

1b.  Nov. 12, 1951

Although Churchill captured the headline on November 12, 1951, Princess Elizabeth still dominated the news.

1c.  Nov. 12, 1951

        The Toronto Telegram of November 12, 1951, at the conclusion of the royal tour.

1d. Nov. 17, 1951

On another note, the Star Weekly reported about a rooky hockey player on November 17, 1951. The young star was Bernard Geoffion.

                      2.a . Feb. 6,  1952

This photo from the Toronto Star of February 6, 1952 marked the end of an era. The king who had inspired the British nations during the World War II had passed away. I was sitting in a classroom at Vaughan Road Collegiate when the principal announced over the PA system that the king had died. There were tears on the cheeks of some of the teachers, especially those who had served in the Second World War. My home room teacher was among them. It was a moment I never forgot.

2b .  Feb. 6, 1952

       Toronto Daily Star, February 6, 1952, the day King George VI died.

2cc.  Feb. 16, 1952

In the days after the passing of King George VI, speculation commenced about the coronation of the young queen. The headline prediction did not materialize, as the coronation was eventually set for June 2, 1953.

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

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

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

The 1950s newspapers shown in this post were published in a decade when the movie theatres of Toronto were the major entertainment venues of the city. My recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” is akin to a book of memories of this former decade. 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 relates personal anecdotes and stories of others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodrome, 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 Princess Theatre

Princess

The Princess Theatre on November 18, 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Salmon Collection, Series 1278 File 136.

In 1880, a grand theatre opened in Toronto at 167 King Street West. Its original name was the Academy of Music, but it was changed to the more regal title of Princess. Located on the south side of King Street West, it was between Simcoe and York Streets. The row of buildings that included the theatre no longer exists as it was demolished when University Avenue was extended south from Queen Street. Thus, the site today is buried beneath the multi-lane University Avenue.

The theatre’s opening was an historic event, as it was first theatre in Toronto of any size that offered live theatre. No one knew that the opening of the Princess was the beginning of Toronto’s rise to become the third most important English-speaking theatre centre in the world. The theatre was amazing for its day. It was the first public building in Toronto to be electrified, following the lead of the Savoy Theatre in London, England, the first building in that city to be electrified.

The Princess was an early-day version of an entertainment complex, as it contained a ballroom, banquet room, art gallery and drawing room, as well as a luxurious auditorium and stage. Along with comic and dramatic plays, it also featured major sporting events. On May 23, 1896, the title contest between fighters Tommy Dixon and Frank Zimpher, for the featherweight boxing division was held at the Princess, 

Mary Pickford, whose real name was Gladys Smith, gave her first stage performance at the Princess in 1900, in the play “The Silver King.” Her mother needed money and allowed her daughter to audition for the part. Mary Pickford loved the experience and eventually became the greatest film star of her day, the first international star of the silver screen. In 1907, the city’s first performance of the opera “Madame Butterfly” was at the Princess, just three years after its Milan debut. The same year, another theatre opened on King Street, offering live theatre in competition with the Princess. This was the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which remains in existence today.

In 1915, fire destroyed much of the Princess Theatre. It required two years to repair the damage and reopened in 1917 as the New Princess Theatre. 

In November 1924, the film “Thief of Bagdad” premiered at the Princess, starring Douglas Fairbanks, the husband of Mary Pickford. It was a silent film and for the occasion the theatre hired a 20-piece orchestra to provide the background music. It was a gala performance, since the theatre rarely showed films, as it specialized in live theatre. However, because this one of the most important movies of the decade, the theatre allowed an exception.

After almost four decades as one of Toronto’s most popular theatres, it finally shuttered its doors. The theatre was demolished in 1931. 

DSCN6704   DSCN6696

DSCN6698  DSCN6703

    Programs from the Princess Theatre, Ontario Archives.

I am indebted to www.world theatres.com, silenttoronto.com, and Man in the green goggles journals.hil.unb.ca for some of the information contained in this post.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodrome, 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 Grant Theatre-Post II

  Grant 1146N-143 (2)

              Grant Theatre in 1936. City of Toronto Archives, SC 488-1146

Of all the theatres explored in my posts, my fondest memories are of the Grant Theatre, where I attended my first Saturday-afternoon matinee and where I met all the great film stars of my youth. It opened in 1930 as an independent theatre, owned by the Grant family. Located at 524 Oakwood Avenue, it was near the intersection of Vaughan Road and Oakwood Avenue. It was an advantageous site for a theatre as the Oakwood streetcars and the Vaughan buses passed by its doors. In the 1940s, there were shops surrounding it that created a mini-village. The Oakwood Hotel a short distance to the south of it was the other entertainment attraction in the immediate area.

Map of 524 Oakwood Ave, Toronto, ON M6E 2X1

               Location of the Grant Theatre at 524 Oakwood Avenue.

When I visited the Grant the 1940s, the theatre was already showing its age. However, as a child, I thought it was the most wonderful movie palace in the entire world—a constant source of pure magic. When I attended my first Saturday-afternoon matinee, the first film shown was a murder mystery that almost scared me to death. I remember gazing at my older brother, who appeared entranced with the plot and not frightened in the least. I sat glued to the seat, tighter than the chewing gum stuck to its underside. Somehow, I managed to survive.

The second feature starred Sonja Henie, the three-time Olympic champion who had become a movie star. I must admit that her graceful antics on the ice bored me. However, in the weeks ahead, I saw enough exciting films to erase the memories of Sonja Henie. I was introduced to pirates, cowboys, detective, assorted villains, comedians and musical/dancing stars.

My favourite comedy teams on the screen at the Grant were Laurel and Hardy, as well as Abbott and Costello. Their antics were enormously funny, much of their humour centring on the predicaments they encountered in daily life. Their style of comedy was familiar to me through the radio programs such as “The Life of Riley,” starring William Bendix, as well as the “Amos and Andy” show. This type of comedy continues today in sit-com TV shows such as Schitts Creek, Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairies. Another series of comedy films I enjoyed when I was a boy was “The Bowery Boys.” Their movies told about the antics of a group of teenage boys who considered themselves wise guys, but their plans to acquire a few dollars always ended in failure. The situations they created were endlessly funny, or so I thought at the time.

Even after we purchased our first black and white television in 1953, the Grant retained its attraction due to the big-screen format and the superior quality of the pictures compared to TV. However, as TV images improved and with the introduction of colour TV, the Grant Theatre finally lost to the in-house entertainment medium.

Another event that helped destroy the appeal of movie theatres was the introduction of “Hockey Night in Canada,” in the 1952-1953 season. Young men began staying home to watch the games, broadcast by the CBC. The first tavern/bar in Canada to broadcast these games was the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen West near Spadina Avenue. Saturday nights “on the town” were no longer the same. Toronto’s entertainment scene was changing and movie houses were the losers.

In 1953, our family moved away from the area where the Grant was located. The theatre closed its doors in 1956. It was demolished except for the walls, and it renovated for other commercial purposes.

Grant 1147-144

Auditorium of the Grant, showing the south wall of the theatre. City of Toronto Archives, Series  1147 It. 144

Grant 1148-145

Auditorium and north wall of the Grant, City of Toronto Archives, Series 1148, It. 145.

Grant

The Grant Theatre in the late-1950s, after it closed and was converted into a bowling alley.

Grant 532 Oakwood

The old theatre after the canopy and marquee were removed and it was a banquet hall.

Grant theatre 2

                          The site of the Grant theatre in 2013.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodrome, 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: , ,

Toronto’s old Odeon Danforth Theatre—Post 11

Odeon Danforth  4

Odeon Danforth Theatre, the film “Jassy” on the marquee. Released in 1947, it was a drama about an English squire and his daughter’s friendship with Jassy, a Gypsy psychic. Photo from City of Toronto Archives, Series 1278, File 119. 

The Odeon Danforth is another of the movie theatres on the Danforth that I remember well, but never attended. However, I viewed it many times from the windows of the old Bloor PCC streetcars, which passed in front of the theatre. The Bloor cars were removed from service after the Bloor-Danforth Subway opened in 1966. The Odeon Danforth’s main rival was the Palace Theatre, located a short distance to the east of it. Both theatres are now long gone.

The Odeon chain of theatres entered the Toronto market to screen British films, but later showed Hollywood films as well. In the 1950s and 1960s, Odeon developed the policy of featuring the same films simultaneously in several of its theatres. As I lived nearer to the Odeon Humber, there was no need for me to journey to the east end of the city to view  the films playing at the Odeon Danforth.

On a hot day in July 2014, I travelled on the subway to visit the site where the theatre had once stood, at 635 Danforth Avenue. Today, a branch of Extreme Fitness, an exercise gym, is on the location. The site is on the south side of Danforth Avenue, a short distance west of Pape Avenue.

Map of 635 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K 1R2

The Odeon Danforth opened on April 16, 1947. Later the same year the Odeon chain opened the Odeon Toronto (Carlton) on September 9th, and the Odeon Hyland on November 22, 1948. The previous year, the company had opened the Odeon Fairlawn on Yonge Street. The following year they opened the Odeon Humber on January 7th. The Odeon Danforth was the only theatre they owned located east of the Don Valley.

The theatre was impressive, its massive marquee dominating the street. The modern glass doors were recessed a distance back from the street, creating an open space that formed a grand approach for patrons entering the theatre. This compensated  for the theatre’s small frontage on The Danforth. The box office was outside, to the right of the doors. Since the theatre extended back a good distance from the street, there was space for an extensive lobby, which was richly carpeted, with a wide staircase leading to the balcony. Its auditorium was large, possessing over 1300 seats, including the ground-floor and the balcony. The seating on the main floor contained two aisles—a centre section and further seating  on either side of the aisles. Surrounding the screen were rich folds of drapery, which created elegance, but also intimacy. The walls were decorated with sweeping decorative lines that accented its modernistic style.

When the demographics of the area changed, the theatre commenced showing Greek films and its name was changed to the Rex. Eventually the theatre was no longer profitable and it closed. Finally, the building was renovated for a fitness gym, but some of the interior architectural features of the theatre were maintained. Passing by the site of the Odeon Danforth today, it is difficult to conceive that there was once a grand theatre on the premises.

Odeon Danforth   AO 2142   2

Ground-floor seating of the Odeon Danforth, with its sweeping decorative lines on the side walls and generous drapery near the screen. Photo Ontario Archives, AO 2142.

Odeon Danforth -  AO 2141

Lobby of the theatre, with the rich carpeting and the grand staircase to the balcony. Ontario Archives, AO 2141.

              Odeon Danforth (3)

The fitness gym in 2014, at 635 Danforth Avenue, where the Odeon Danforth was located.

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

To view previous blogs about 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 relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others 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 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

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), the Photodome, 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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