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Monthly Archives: December 2015

The lost Hanlan’s Hotel on the Toronto Islands

Fonds 1244, Item 176

Hotel Hanlan on Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands, c.1908. Toronto Archives Fonds 1244, Item 0176

The Toronto Islands have been viewed as an idyllic recreational escape from the summer’s humid heat on the mainland since the days when Toronto was the small colonial town of York. Ferry service across the bay commenced in the  1833, powered by horses walking on treadmills. The same year, the first small hotel opened on the Islands. Steam-powered boats began crossing the harbour in the 1850s. At the beginning of that decade, the Islands formed a peninsula, until severe storms in 1852 and 1858 washed away the low-lying sandbars that formed an isthmus at the harbour’s eastern end, creating an open channel that became known as the Eastern gap. 

The Islands were crown land that was ceded to the City of Toronto after Confederation in 1867. The city leased property on the Islands, but the there was no official plan so the leases and grants were haphazardly parcelled out. However, most people visited the Island on day-trips, the wide sandy beaches on West Point (today’s Hanlan’s Point) particularly attractive to sun bathers. Lieutenant Governor Simcoe referred to this area as Gibraltar Point, but the name now seems to apply only to the southwest part where the historic stone lighthouse is located.

In the early 1870s, City Council studied ways to develop the Islands properly. At the time they were mostly grasslands and trees, many of which were ancient willows, well suited to the low-lying sandy soil. Landfill was employed to create more islands and extend small peninsulas such as West Point.

Because of the increased number of visitors, in the 1860s John Hanlan, an Irishman immigrant and former fisherman, was appointed as constable to patrol the beaches and parklands. In the early 1870s, he built a one-storey frame home on West Point (east of Gibraltar Point) and a wharf beside it. A boathouse adjacent to the wharf accommodated visitors who arrived by boat. During these years, there were few places on the Islands for people wishing to remain overnight. They stayed in tents, boarding houses, and a few small hotels. In 1878, John Hanlan responded to the need and converted his house into a hotel, which by 1880 had expanded to contain 25 rooms. 

pictures-r-3433[1]

      Hanlan’s Hotel and wharf, c. 1880, Toronto Public Library, r-3433

1884 Atlas of the city of Toronto and suburbs from special survey and registered plans showing all buildings and lot numbers r-12[1]

This 1884 map in the collection of the Toronto Archives reveals the location of the Hanlan Hotel, on the northern tip of the peninsula.

1889, R. L. Polk and Comany, Tor. Archives  [1]

This 1889 map depicts Hanlan’s Point and the hotel on the northern tip of the small eastern peninsula. Map by R. L. Polk and Company, Toronto Archives. Landfill joined these two small peninsulas into one land mass and the area to the north of Hanlan’s Hotel was eve eventually filled in, and is where the airport on the Island is located today.

John Hanlan’s son, Edward (Ned) Hanlan, born in 1855, spent his boyhood on the Islands, becoming a skilled oarsman at an early age. While attending George Street Public School on the mainland, he rowed across the harbour each day. When he was 18, he won the championship of Toronto Bay in rowing, a highly popular sport in that day, as it involved extensive gambling. Four years later, he won the American championship, and in 1878, the American title. On November 15, 1880, he won the world championship on the Thames River in England, the first Canadian athlete to receive world recognition. Hanlan won over 300 races during his professional career.

At the pinnacle of his fame, Ned Hanlan took over the management of his father’s hotel. Grateful for the fame Hanlan had brought to the city, Toronto City Council officially changed the name of West Point to Hanlan’s Point, which it retains today. Shortly after, Ned leased 1.2 hectares of land on Hanlan’s Point, near the home where he had spent his boyhood, to extend his father’s hotel business.

In 1880, he constructed a larger hotel, a three-storey structure in a variation of the Second Empire style, designed by the firm of McCaw and Lennox. It was a frame building, its exterior covered with wide boards cut in a sawmill. Constructed entirely of wood, only the hotel’s foundations contained any masonry. Its overall appearance, with its many wings, ornate trim and pointed cupolas, appeared light and airy. In the eyes of many, it was akin to a summer palace, an ideal place to holiday during the hot, humid Toronto days of July and August. The various sections of the building were topped with pointed turrets containing sloping Mansard roofs. On the east facade there were wide balconies that provided excellent views of Blockhouse Bay, Toronto’s harbour, and the city skyline. The year after it opened, a billiard room and bowling alley were added.

The hotel became the centre of social life on the Islands. Anglican church services were held in its parlour, summer residents picked up their mail there, and the first telephone installed on the Toronto Islands was in the hotel. Four lines of ferries transported overnight guests and day-visitors to the dock in front of the hotel. In 1882, Ned Hanlan leased the hotel to James Mackie, who managed the American Hotel on the mainland. Mackie enlarged the premises by adding a fourth floor and also constructed a summer opera house and carousel.

C. Pelham in his book, “Toronto Past and Present,” written in 1882, stated that at the Hotel Hanlan, “. . . the table d’hote [fixed-price menu] and restaurant are well known to the citizens of Toronto, and the enjoyment of a nice dinner in the cool of the evening, has come to be known as one of Toronto’s luxuries.“

Ned Hanlan died of pneumonia in 1908, the funeral service held in St. Andrew’s Church. He was buried in the Necropolis Cemetery on Winchester Street in Cabbagetown. Sadly, the magnificent hotel was destroyed by a fire that swept Hanlan’s Point on August 10, 1909.

Note: the author is grateful to the book, “Lost Toronto,” by William Dendy, Oxford University Press, 1978, for some of the material contained in this post.  

1903 Atlas of the City of Toronto and suburbs founded on registered plans and special surveys showing plan numbers, lots & buildings r-101[1]

Map of 1903 from the Toronto Archives. It reveals the location of the Hanlan Hotel overlooking Blockhouse Bay, and the amount of landfill employed to create land to build the amusement park at Hanlan’s Point.

boathouse, 1870-- pictures-r-3424[1]

 John Hanlan’s Boathouse, his hotel evident in the background, c. 1880. Toronto Public Library, r-3424 

Fonds 1244, Item 175

Hanlan’s Hotel c. 1890. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0175

btw, 1885 and 1895  f1478_it0013[1]

Hotel Hanlan between 1885 and 1895. The carousel is evident on the right-hand side of the hotel. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1478, Item 0013

Fonds 1244, Item 163

    Hanlan’s Hotel in 1907, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 0163. 

Fonds 1244, Item 6029

Hotel Hanlan in 1907, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1233, Item 6029.

         Fonds 1244, Item 164

         Hanlan’s Hotel 1907, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1478, Item 0164.

Hanlan Hotel, a four storey frame building bought from Edward Hanlan by the Toronto Ferry Company, destroyed in the fire which swept Hanlan's Point on August 10, 1909 – January 1, 1908

The hotel in 1909, the year it was destroyed by fire. Toronto Archives, S1171, Item 1724

TRL, 1909,  pictures-r-3441[1]

         Hanlan’s Hotel in 1909, Toronto Public Library r- 3441

TRL, 1910--pcr-2146[1]

Postcard of the Hanlan’s Hotel, c. 1909, Toronto Public Library, pcr-2146

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Merry Xmas 2015 from tayloronhistory.com

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“View from the Terrace on a Rainy December Afternoon, 2015—watercolour on paper, 8 1/2” by 11” 

Greeting to those who have followed this blog and offered kind comments, suggestions and added information about Toronto’s heritage buildings.

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2016 .

Doug Taylor

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

Toronto’s lost “Palace”

Btw. York and Simcoe, TRL. c. 1885  pictures-r-4382[1]

“The Palace,” built in 1818, was the home of the Reverend John Strachan in the town of York (Toronto). In 1839, he became the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. The above photo is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library (r-4382).

John Strachan was born in 1778 in Aberdeen, Scotland, and educated at St. Andrew’s University, a Presbyterian institution. He immigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1799, settling in Kingston. In 1803, he converted to Anglicanism and became a priest. Appointed as the rector of the Anglican Church in Cornwall, he established a private school that eventually became the most important school in the town, educating the sons of some of the elite families in the province.

In 1812, he was invited to relocate to the town of York, as rector of St. James on King Street East. He was not impressed with the offer, but finally accepted after Sir Isaac Brock included the position of chaplaincy of the garrison and also of the Legislative Council. He moved to York in June 1812, about the same time as the United States Congress was preparing to declare war on Great Britain. Strachan was to play a leading role in events when the American troops invaded York in April 1813.

When John Strachan arrived in York, he rented housing accommodations. Unfortunately,  in February 1817, it was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Shortly after, he purchased an estate-lot the west of the town. The property was bounded by today’s York, Wellington and Front Streets, as well as University Avenue. Desirous of constructing a residence that was more resistant to fire, he contracted to have a brick house built. Today, the site of the house is on the northwest corner of University Avenue and Front Street.

Built between the years 1817 and 1818, Strachan’s home was among the first brick houses constructed in the town of York (Toronto). The house was in Georgian Style, similar to the Grange, which today is part of The Art Gallery of Toronto. The Georgian style originated in Great Britain and was highly popular between the years 1750-1850. It was brought to Upper Canada by the United Empire Loyalists following the American Revolution. These immigrants had remained loyal to the Crown, and wished to reflect British traditions in their architecture, even if it were a log cabin. In the United States, the style evolved into the Adam (Federal) style, as the new nation shunned English terminology.

Construction on Strachan’s house commenced in 1817 and was completed by the end of the following year. Its south facade possessed 12 large rectangular windows, plus an added semi-circular fanlight (transom) window above the set of double doors. This window allowed daylight into the centre hallway that contained the grand staircase to the second floor level. The drawing room (parlour) and dining room were on opposite sides of the centre hall. There was another semi-circular window in the triangular pediment above the second storey. The porch was in the Greek Doric style. The symmetrical south facade was impressive, with a commanding view of the harbour. Its design was orderly, traditionally British, and dignified, reflecting the ideals that Strachan strived to emulate.

The cost of the house was enormous for its day—4000 pounds. However, despite Strachan importance within the community, the remuneration he received as a clergyman was not generous. In 1818, when Strachan’s home was completed, Lieutenant Governor Gore departed York. Strachan purchased his furnishings, resulting in substantial savings.

John Strachan was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto in 1839, and the house became the Bishop’s Palace. Although it was not an exaggeration to refer to it as a palace, if compared to other homes in York, the term actually denoted that it was the official residence of a bishop. To refer to a bishop’s residence in this manner was customary in both the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Churches. Some people in York expressed the opinion that when Strachan built his house in 1817, he purposefully constructed an impressive structure in anticipation of eventually being appointed a bishop.

In 1832, Strachan gave property on the east side of his estate to his son-in-law, Thomas Jones, who built a house for him and his wife. The house was later occupied by Strachan’s eldest son James, who in the 1840s, sub-divided a portion of the northern part of the estate to create building lots to generate funds.

John Strachan died on November 1, 1867, his funeral procession one of the largest that the residents of Toronto ever witnessed. Strachan was buried beneath the high altar in St. James Cathedral, on King Street East. A brass plaque was placed over the internment site, and today, sunlight from the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary continue to  reflect from its shiny surface.  

Sir John Carling purchased the residence, but the area had by now deteriorated as landfill had pushed the lake further south to accommodate the construction of the rail lines. Carling rented the house to various tenants and it became known as the Bishop’s Boarding House. Though the property on Front Street was no longer desirable for residential purposes, property prices continued to increase as it was ideal for commercial buildings. The house was sold and demolished in 1890, a seven-storey building erected on the site.

TRL.   c. 1900  pictures-r-4378[1] 

Watercolour of the Bishop’s Palace, dated 1900, from the Toronto Public Library (r-4378)

                    NW corenr, Front and York, James Stachan, son, 1910   I0021809[1]

Residence of James Strachan, eldest son of Bishop Strachan, built on the southeast corner of his father’s estate. Taken in 1910, the photo is from the collection of the Toronto Public Library (10021809)

TRL  1867, King Street, pictures-r-1855[1]

Funeral cortege of Bishop John Strachan in 1867, proceeding eastward on King Street East toward St. James Cathedral. Toronto Public Library, r-1855. 

2011216-Philpotts[1]

Map of the town of York in 1823, drawn by Lieut. Phillpotts of the Royal Engineers. The map shows three of Toronto’s lost creeks, which were eventually filled in or contained within the sewer system. The creeks are depicted on the map as swaths of greenery that flow from north of the town, southward into Lake Ontario. On the right side of the maps is Taddle Creek, in the centre is Russell,Creek, and on the left is Garrsion Creek. The large lot that John Strachan purchased was on Front Street, on the west side of Russell Creek, where it flowed into the lake near today’s University Avenue (map from the collection of the Toronto Archives). 

26[1]

This 1858 map of Toronto depicts the Bishop’s Palace on Front Street, set back from the roadway to allow space for gardens and a carriageway. The map also depicts a house on the east side of the Palace. It was the home of Strachan’s son-in-law, which was later occupied by his son, James M. Strachan Esq. The lots that were divided and sold in the 1840s by James are shown on the map on the northeast corner of the estate. In this decade, neither Simcoe Street nor University Avenue extended south to the harbour, but Bay and York did reach as far as Front Street. The street in the centre of the map, to the east of the home of James Strachan Esq., is Bay Street. Map from the Toronto Public Library (Boulton Atlas of 1858, surveyed and mapped by W.S. and H. C. Boulton).

Map of 150 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5J

The site of Strachan’s home, now 150 Front Street West, a short distance west of University Avenue. The land to the south of Front Street is land reclaimed from the lake by dumping landfill into the harbour.

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Building that today occupies the site of the Bishop’s Palace, on the northeast corner of Front and University Avenue (photo December 16, 2015).

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                    Historic plaque on the east wall of the building.

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

       

 

  

 

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A Christmas concert in an historic Toronto cathedral

DSCN0091   DSCN0105

A Christmas concert is a major part of the festive season for many people, and when it is presented one of Toronto’s historic cathedrals, the enjoyment is greatly increased. When I was a boy in the 1940s, I attended a small church that had no resemblance to a cathedral, and the Christmas concert was certainly not of the calibre that I witnessed this year (2015) at the Metropolitan United Church at Queen Street East and Church Street.

In the 1940s, in the small church of my childhood, the roles that we were to perform in the Sunday School Christmas concert were arbitrarily handed to us in mid-November, and the rehearsals commenced the first week of December. The concert was always held on a Saturday night, and it resembled a variety show. There were solos, duets, trios, pantomimes, short plays, elocutionists, and a choir composed of 35 or 40 children. There were always a few singers who were slightly off-key, someone who forgot their lines, and another who invariably tripped over the the heavy draperies that had been suspended in front of the pulpit to act as a stage curtain. However, the evening was always considered a great success by the parents and adult friends that filled the church to capacity. One or two gushing parents told us that we were almost ready for the stage at Massey Hall.

Following the concert, everyone gathered in the church basement around the enormous tree to receive our presents from Santa, who possessed a striking resemblance to the choir master. We did not think it strange, as Santa, carols and music were such integral parts of the festive season so why shouldn’t they all look alike? Along with our gifts, we were given an orange and a large shiny B. C. apple. These were considered  great treats in the 1940s, as fresh fruit was difficult to obtain. There was no imported produce during the winter months and much of the available food supply was being shipped overseas to feed the troops fighting in Europe or the Pacific.

The Christmas concert at the Metropolitan Church rekindled many fond memories from my childhood. The pageant presented during the morning service on December 13th was much different to the simple Sunday school concert of my youth. The costumes and lighting were quite professional, the narrators the quality that one might expect of the CBC, and the soloists and choir were excellent. However, some parts of the pageant were the same as the days of yesteryear—the wonderful carols, the nervous smiles of the children, and the inattentive little boy in the shepherd’s costume who removed his woollen lamb’s-head to obtain a better view of the scene.

I departed the church with the wonder and warmth of Christmas within me. As I walked home along Queen Street, I paused to observe the adults and wide-eyed children enjoying the animated Christmas windows in the Bay Store. Then, continuing westward, I paused again to watch the skaters on the rink in Nathan Phillips Square, their excited laughter and shouts filling the mild December air. The magic of the season was everywhere throughout the city.

However, perhaps the greatest expression of the message Christmas this year is the arrival of the Syrian refugees and the manner in which they have been welcomed by Torontonians and other Canadians across the country. The true message of Christmas lives on after almost two thousand years, expressed in many different ways.             

Merry Christmas 2015 

P.S. The Carol Service at Metropolitan United Church at 7 p.m. on Sunday December 20, 2015 will be a real treat.

Scenes of the Christmas pageant at Metropolitan United

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A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

A link to five favourite sites in downtown Toronto to view Xmas lights

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/downtown-torontos-five-best-xmas-displays2015/

List of my 25 favourite memories of Christmas’ past.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/list-of-25-favourite-things-from-christmas-past/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

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List of 25 favourite things from Christmas’ past

The Christmas season revives memories of childhood for many people. We recall favourite toys and games that we unwrapped under the lights of the tree. Few of us ever forget receiving our first pair of skates, a sled or toboggan. There are scents, sounds and images of Christmas’ past that remain with us forever, the present-day festivities often causing them to rise to the surface from deep within us.

On November 11th this year (2015), I was struck by the fact that the number of soldiers who fought in the Second World War is dwindling. It caused me to realize that those of us who were children during the war are also declining in numbers. We remember the rationing, casualty reports, and the newsreels at the Saturday afternoon matiness that depicted scenes from the battlefront. As I viewed the yuletide lights this year, my thoughts wandered back to Christmas of 1944. It was the last festive celebration of the war, as the by the end of the year the conflict had ended in both Europe and the Pacific. That last war-time Christmas remains embedded forever within my memory.

The year 1944 was also when the greatest snow storm to ever hit Toronto descended on the city. The snow began on a Monday evening, December 11th, when light flurries silently swirled across the streets and laneways. Their intensity increased as midnight approached and in the early hours of the morning of December 12, I awoke to a wintry world beyond my imagination. By 8:00 a.m. 19 inches (nearly 50 centimetres) had fallen. The storm continued and by 10:00 a.m. there were 20 inches and 21 by noontime. Before the storm abated in the afternoon, 22.5 inches of snow had accumulated. As a child, I thought this was the greatest Christmas present that anyone could ever receive.

Series 372, S072, SS0100, It. 0450

Clearing Bay Street of snow after the December 1944 storm. View looks north on Bay Street from near Adelaide Street, the tower of the Old City Hall in the distance. Toronto Archives, Series 372, SS100, Item 450. 

Series 372, S072, SS1100 Item 449

Gazing north on Yonge Street south of Richmond Street, the Bay Store in the distance. In 1944 it was Simpson’s Department Store. Toronto Archives, Series 372, SS 100, Item 449.

When Christmas arrived in 1944, the enormous drifts of snow remained on the streets of Toronto. They appeared clean and white as they had been refreshed several times by Mother Nature during the preceding weeks. Unlike previous years, there was a different mood in the air. The war was in its final stages as the Normandy landing had been successful and Allied troops were invading Nazi Germany. There was expectation that 1944 would be the last Christmas that loved ones would be overseas.

For those who remember the war, especially the Christmas of the final year, the 25 things listed below may produce a few fond memories.

1. The Simpson’s windows on Queen Street (The Hudson’s Bay store still honours the tradition today)

2. The Eaton’s Santa Claus Parade, Eaton’s Toyland on the fifth floor, and having our picture taken with Santa. The Eaton’s Parade ended in 1982, and a charitable organization assumed responsibility for it.

3. The Xmas carol sheets that came with the Toronto Star newspaper, with the address for send for extra copies for a family sing-along or a church Xmas concert.

4. The Xmas displays in Kresge’s and Woolworth’s.

5. The dark Xmas cakes and mincemeat pies sold by Eaton’s.

6. Building snow forts, snowball fights, and running along the tops of the snow banks shouting, “I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal.”

7. Singing loudly while snow-ball fighting:  

                There’ll always be and England, There’ll always be a France.                

                There’ll always be a great big hole in Hitler’s Sunday Pants.

        or another song spoof,

     Whistle while you work, Hitler is a jerk.

     Mussolini is a sheenie, whistle while you work.

These revised words were based on the songs “There’ll always be an England” and the hit from Walt Disney’s film, “Snow White” (1937).

We also changed the words to a few Xmas carols.

     While shepherds washed their socks by night

     All seated round the tub.

     The angel of the Lord came down,

     And taught them how to scrub. 

8. Candy canes in all sizes, some in red and white and others in green and white.

9. Packages of Life Saver candies that came in a carton that opened like a book, sold as stocking stuffers, and only available at Xmas time.

10. The strings of lights hanging over Yonge Street.

11. Packages of Xmas candies sold in Dominion Stores, Loblaws, A&P, Red and White Stores, and Power Stores.

12. The oranges and apples that appeared in our Xmas stockings that were considered a great treat as they were difficult to obtain during the war years.

13. The 15-minute Eaton’s Santa Claus radio broadcast with its theme song from the musical “Babes in Toyland.”

14. The light on the family Xmas trees that were on a single circuit. When one bulb burnt out, the entire string of lights went dark.

15. The corner lot where Xmas trees were sold, the vendor keeping warm by sitting around a fire in a huge oil drum. Artificial trees had not yet appeared. The first day after New Year’s when there was garbage collection, our street was lined with discarded Xmas trees. We dragged away as many as possible and built a pile of them behind our garage. We then climbed on the garage roof and jumped into the trees. My father was not happy when he had to put them out to the garbage in early spring.  

16. Being threatened that if we did not behave we would receive a lump of coal in our Xmas stocking  

17. Xmas tree decorations of wood, glass and paper, as there were no plastic ornaments.

18. The school Xmas party where our parents sent treats. My mother always sent a large tin of butter tarts. Store-bought treat were unheard of in our neighbourhood.

19. Going door-to-door selling boxes of Xmas cards to earn money to buy gifts.

20. Knocking on doors and when people answered we started singing carols. The people invariably gave us a nickel or dime.

21. The Salvation Army band playing carols under a streetlight, while volunteers went door-to-door to collect funds to send parcels to the troops overseas.

22. If we has a paper route, we collected a “fortune” in Xmas tips (25 cents was considered the best we could expect).

23. Getting Brazil nuts in our stocking for the first time, as in 1944 the Atlantic shipping routes had been cleared of Nazi submarines.

24. The extra Xmas matinees at the local theatre.

25. Going skating at night under the lights at the local park, the sound of the slap of the hockey pucks on the boards resounding in the crisp night air. 

           Merry Christmas

A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

A link to five favourite sites in downtown Toronto to view Xmas lights

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/downtown-torontos-five-best-xmas-displays2015/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

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Downtown Toronto’s five best Xmas displays—2015

Five of my all-time favourite places for viewing Toronto’s Christmas lights are contained in this post. Most of us know locations where we enjoy viewing the seasonal displays. For many, they are within shopping malls or in commercial districts like the Kingsway and Bloor West Village. Others are on busy downtown streets or on quiet residential avenues. On a mild December night in 2015, I photographed the festive lights in Toronto, an activity that I have done for many years.

Xmas light, Yonge St. 1959

Christmas lights on Yonge Street in 1958. Photo taken with a 35mm Kodak Pony camera.

Below are a few images of my favourite locations in downtown Toronto in December 2015.

Site #1—Nathan Phillips Square Square at City Hall

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Site #2—The Eaton Centre 

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Site #3—The windows at the Hudson’s Bay Store

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Site # 4—Dundas Square at Yonge and Dundas Streets

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Site #5—The Christmas Market at the Distillery District

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And . . . a few extra scenes that invoke memories of childhood

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The old Simpson’s Store, now the Hudson’s Bay, on the southwest corner of Yonge and Queen Street in 2015.

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                    Gazing north on Yonge Street from Queen Street in 2015

A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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 the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

 

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Santa’s trousers dropped in the Eaton’s Parade and . . .

Mr. Claus’ trousers fell to his ankles when he was climbing the ladder to enter Toyland at the end of one of the Eaton’s Santa Claus Parades. A heavy rainstorm had soaked his red and white costume, and the weight of the wet pillow that padded his stomach caused the disaster. On another occasion, Santa was under the influence of alcohol and shouted a few intemperate words to the young children along the route. In one parade, a young woman dressed as “Felix the Cat” had her costume split down the back, revealing far more than the children watching the parade should ever see. She was rushed to a tailor’s shop on Bloor Street, her costume hastily stitched, and she re-joined the parade. There was also the time when a low-hanging tree branch struck Santa and he almost tumbled from his perch in the sleigh. However, such incidents were rare. For over 100 years, the parade has occurred without a visible hitch, thrilling millions of spectators and those watching on television. In 2015, Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade arrived in Toronto for the 111th consecutive year. It is one of the largest and oldest parades of its type in the world. Though extremely well organized, it has had a few mishaps

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Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade was first held in 1905, an idea of Timothy Eaton, the founder of Canada’s famous retail chain. He arranged for Santa to arrive at the old Union Station (now demolished) on Front Street. Having completed his journey from the North Pole, Santa climbed on a horse-drawn wagon decorated with bunting and sat on a packing crate. The wagon journeyed east on Front Street to Yonge, and then north on Yonge to the Eaton’s store at Queen and Yonge. Along the way, he tossed small bags of candy, nuts and trinkets to children lining the route. Timothy Eaton’s son, John Craig Eaton, realizing the potential of the event, continued and enlarged the parade that his father had started.

In 1909, the parade terminated at Massey Hall. Waiting inside the building was a multitude of excited children. In one early-day parade, a cart containing five or six real reindeers followed Santa. In 1910, the first costumed characters appeared. In 1917, Santa’s journey again ended at the Queen Street store, where he climbed upon a platform above the James Street entrance. From the platform, he ascended on a ladder into Toyland, which in that year was on the third floor.

1918, Ont. Archives I0020538[1]

Santa alighting from his sleigh in 1918 at the James Street entrance of Eaton’s Queen Street Store. The ladder is evident that allowed the jolly old man to climb to the canopy over the doorway.  Photo from Ontario Archives.

During the years ahead, the parade became larger and the floats more elaborate. In 1920, Gimbal’s Department Store in Philadelphia copied the idea, and in 1924, Macey’s in New York and J. L. Hudsons in Detroit adopted Timothy Eaton’s idea. However, Eaton’s was reputed to be the grandest and most creative of all the parades, setting the standard for the others.

In 1928, Jack Brockie, Eaton’s special events manager, was given the responsibility of organizing the parade. The floats and costumes were created in an old factory on Albert Street. Every float, costume, paper-mache head, and prop was created by the staff of Eaton’s Merchandise Display Department. They worked 12 months each year to assemble the parade, the floats built from sketches rather than blueprints. In 1925, after the Toronto parade was over, Eaton’s shipped the floats on railcars to Montreal to create a parade for that city. It was held the week after the event occurred in Toronto.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Eaton’s stores across Canada were streamlined to reduce costs, but the colourful parade continued in all its glory. For many people, the parade was the beginning of the Christmas season. This has continued into the modern era, although many stores now place festive decorations in their stores shortly after Thanksgiving.  

My earliest memories of the parade are from the 1940s, when the floats were pulled by horses to save petrol during the years of the Second World War. When I visited Toyland in that decade, it was on the fifth floor. When I asked my mother why there was another Santa at the Simpson’s store, she explained that all other Santa’s were merely helpers. The Santa in Eaton’s Toyland was the real one, as he was the Santa in the parade. I never questioned such a wise explanation. I retain a photo of my brother and me with Santa in the Eaton’s store, my mother standing beside us. The most exciting moment was when I whispered into Santa’s ear my secret wish for my Christmas present. My mother had warned my brother and me that we were allowed one wish each.

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        My brother and I with the “real” Santa at Eaton’s in 1942.

In 1948,  Charles Thorson of Winnipeg was asked to design a cartoon character distinctively for Eaton’s. Thorson was the creator of Elmer Fudd and the prototype for Bugs Bunny. For Eaton’s, he devised a teddy bear with a thick lock of woolly hair on the top of his head. The bear’s name was Punkinhead, and he first appeared in the 1948 parade. Punkinhead was an enormous hit and inspired a host of merchandising items, as well as a song that sold many records.

Punkinhead 1977  I0020362[1] Punkinhead 1980  I0020476[1]

Punkinhead on floats in 1977 (left) and in 1980 (right). Photo from Ontario Archives.

In the 1950s, the parade had over a thousand marchers. In 1954, the theme for the parade was “Rhymes and Fairy Tales from Distant Lands.” In 1956, Eaton’s built a 1.1 million square-foot warehouse at Sheppard Avenue and Highway #400 to stock heavy goods and a service department for the company’s fleet of trucks. Over 15,000 square feet of the building was reserved as a workshop for the parade.

In 1957, the theme was “The Parade of Merry Times,” and in 1958 it was “The Royal Road to Toyland.” Some floats were recycled from the previous year, but they were always well disguised. Each year, the most popular float was Mother Goose. Others that were particularly well-received were Cinderella, Gulliver, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Fairy Queen. The most popular song played by the marching bands was “Jingle Bells.” For many years, the band the preceded the Santa float played this festive song.

The Santa Claus float was always the largest and most spectacular in the parade, and was the parade’s climax. For many years it consisted of Santa in his sleigh with his team of reindeers positioned above snow-covered roof tops. To increase the visual impact of the float, it was decided that the reindeer should be animated. However, this was technically difficult in a decade without powerful batteries. It was solved by hiring high school to pedal stationary bicycles inside the float. They provided the power that moved the reindeer up and down as it they were flying through the skies to deliver toys. Behind the Santa float was a dark-blue van that contained a doctor, a nurse, and a spare Santa, in case the grand old man had any medical problems. The spare Santa appeared from this van the year that the jolly old man became “too jolly” by drinking more than sarsaparilla juice.

By 1969, the parade was 1 1/2 miles long, with 500 musicians and 1100 children in costume. Every child’s costume was individually fitted. To participate in the parade was very competitive as there was a long list of applicants. Eaton’s offered a small remuneration and hot chocolate following the parade. 

In 1982, Eaton’s decided not to sponsor the parade since its cost exceeded $250,000. Despite over a million people annually lining the parade route and a further 30 million watching it on TV throughout Canada and the United States, it was felt that it did not generate sufficient sales to justify the expense. A non-profit organization stepped in, and with the assistance of various corporations that each provided a float, the event continued.

In 2015, the 111th parade arrived in Toronto. It remains as anticipated today as it was in 1905, and remains one of my fondest memories of childhood. I take my hat off to Eaton’s as they were the originators of the greatest event of the yuletide season.

1919, Ont. Archives I0020525[1]

The Santa Claus float in 1919 on University Avenue, a short distance north of Queen Street. In 1919, University Avenue ended at Queen Street. It was not continued further south until the 1930s. The Armouries and the Registry Building are in the background, both these buildings now demolished. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1925.  I0020441[1]

           The parade in 1925 on Dupont Street. Photo Ontario Archives.

1935, Zeppelin Ont. I0020465[1]

Zeppelin Airship in the parade in 1935 on University Avenue a short distance north of Queen Street West. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1936, Ont. I0020467[1]

Mother Goose in 1936 on University Avenue. The corner of the old Registry Building is evident in the background. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1962. I0016068[1]

Float on Yonge Street in  1962, with Eaton’s College Street in the background (now College Park). Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1963,  I0020380[1]

Toyland Train in the 1963 Santa Claus Parade. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1963.  I0016069[1]

    Santa Claus float on Yonge Street in 1963. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971, Ont.  I0020392[1]

The “Bed Knobs and Broomsticks” float in 1971 on Yonge Street. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

1974, Ont. I0020383[1]

    Float on University Avenue in 1974, photo from the Ontario Archives.

1976, Ont. I0020396[1]

Upside-down clowns in the 1976 parade. These clowns have remained popular for many decades. Photo from the Ontario Archives.

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                        Celebrity Clowns on University Avenue in 2015.

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                      Teenagers dressed as dolls on University Avenue in 2015.

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                                    Float on University Avenue in 2015.

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                                 Disney’s “The Good Dinosaur,” in 2015.

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                                    “Games” float in 2015.

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                            Float on University Avenue in 2015.

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                          Float sponsored by the Royal Ontario Museum in 2015.

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                            The Santa Claus float in 2015.

Note: The author is grateful the information provided by the book, “Eaton’s—the Tran-Canada Store” by Bruce Allen Kpoytek, published by History Press in 2014, as well as, “The Eaton’s” by Ron McQueen, Stoddart Publishing, 1998.

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

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

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

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

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

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It 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:

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 Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

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