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Category Archives: local history Toronto

Remembering the Steak n’ Burger Restaurants—Toronto

1970s  now le chateau  F 1244, id. 0111   a[1]

Steak N’ Burger Restaurant at 772 Yonge Street in the 1970s. Toronto Archives, F 0124, f 0002, id 0111

In the decade following World War II, dining in restaurants started to become more common among ordinary families in Toronto. Responding to the need for inexpensive but decent quality food, several family-style chains of restaurants began opening in the mid-1950s and 1960s. Among them were Swiss Chalet, Church’s Fried Chicken, Harvey’s Hamburgers, St. Hubert, Steak N’ Burger, KFC, and a few years later, Ponderosa.

The restaurants appealed mostly to budget conscience customers, so to trim costs these chains offered a limited menu, the style of the food similar to what might be referred to today as “comfort food.”  I remember these restaurants well as their openings coincided with in the decade when I first started to explore Toronto’s restaurant scene. I had landed my first fulltime job, and though earning a modest salary, was anxious to “dine out” with friends.

The Winco Steak N’ Burger restaurants was one of the chains that I visited. Two of my favourites were located at 240 Bloor Street West, across from Varsity Stadium, and at 772 Yonge Street, south of Bloor Street. My visits to the Steak N’ Burger on Yonge Street usually occurred when I attended Loew’s Uptown Theatre, which was only two doors north of the theatre. The building still exists today, but is a “Le Chateau” clothing store. Visiting the Steak N’ Burger at 240 Bloor West was when I attended the University Theatre on Bloor, between Bay and Avenue Road.

Similar to all the Steak N’ Burgers, the decor of these two restaurants looked like the wild-west during the days of the cowboys. Memorabilia from the old west were displayed on the walls, and in one or two sites, the chandeliers were wagon wheels. To augment this theme, the waitresses wore Stetson hats. The tables and chairs were not particularly comfortable, so did not encourage clientele to linger and chat. As a result, there was a relatively quick turnover of customers, as in fast food chains of the present decade.

Although the Steak N’ Burgers were certainly not steak houses like those of today, the food was reasonably good and the price was right. When the chain began, the main menu items were roast beef, hamburgers, and a small steak, the latter a cheap cut of meat, tenderized and served well-done. I don’t ever remember a waiter at a Steak N’ Burger asking how I wanted the steak cooked. Well-done, medium, medium-rare and rare were reserved for proper steak houses, such as Barbarians on Elm Street or Carman’s Club on Alexander Street, which both opened in 1959.

During the years, the menu at the Steak N’ Burger was expanded. However, when I visited a Steak N’ Burger in the late-1950s, I usually ordered the special steak dinner. It consisted of a small glass of tomato juice and a salad, which was mainly iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato and a few pieces of red cabbage. Coffee was also included. The steak was accompanied by a baked potato with generous amounts of butter, and a bread roll sliced in half and toasted.  Dessert was strawberry shortcake.

Steak N’ Burger was managed by Cara Operations Limited, a Toronto-based food company that owned a 50 percent share in the Keg N’ Cleaver, now renamed “The Keg.” In 1977, Harvey’s Hamburger and Swiss Chalet were merged into a single company named Foodcorp, which was sold to Cara Operations Ltd.

Popular Steak N’ Burger restaurants were located at 173 Bay Street, 77 King St E., 323 Yonge Street, 1427 Yonge Street, and 2287 Yonge Street. However, public tastes changed, the Steak N’ Burger sites became less popular. For inexpensive dining, people preferred a pub-style restaurant. As a result, during the years ahead, the Steak N’ Burgers slowly disappeared.

The author is grateful to these sources for information:  

https://torontoist.com/2007/04/vintage_toronto_9

www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2015/01/the_lost_restaurants_of_toronto/

Chuckman  postcard-toronto-winco-steaknburger-restaurant-interior-they-were-dreary-places-c1970[1]

The interior of a Steak N’ Burger restaurant. Photo from Chuckman postcards. 

Fonds 1465, s 0299, item 0004 undated, King Street East    201516-cyranos[1]

Undated photo of the Steak N’ Burger on King Street East. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, s 0299, item 0004.

                     Torontotoist  2007_04_01winco[1]

The special steak dinner at the Steak N’ Burger. Photo from the Torontoist.

Source. Lost Ottawa Dec. 1980   1237609_365906143543094_916181863_n[1]

Menu at a Steak N’ Burger in Ottawa. Photo source Lost Ottawa 1980.

To view a post about more Toronto restaurants in the 1960s and 1970s :

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/memories-of-torontos-restaurants-of-the-past/

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[1]    

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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Enoch Turner School (Ward School)

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The historic Enoch Turner schoolhouse in December, 2016. The view gazes southwest on Trinity Street, a short distance south of King Street East.

Today, the historic building, which once housed the first free school in Toronto, appears lonely and rather out of place as the excited voices and boisterous activities of children have long since vacated the scene. Located at 106 Trinity Avenue, the restored building is a short distance south of Queen Street East. When it opened in 1849, it was a breakthrough in the educational life of the city.

In the 1840s, Toronto was young, having been incorporated a mere 15 years before the school opened. In that decade, immigrants continued to arrive daily, many of them from Ireland, where the potato crop had failed, creating economic hardship and severe famine. When they reached Toronto, most families were too poor to afford an education for their children. This meant that for their entire lives they would likely be confined to low-paying jobs involving manual labour. One of Toronto’s prominent citizens, Enoch Turner, stepped in alleviate the situation by providing funds to open and operate a school that was free to attend.  

Enoch Turner was a successful businessman who earned his living as a brewer. Born in 1792 in Staffordshire, England, he arrived to the city about the year 1831. He established a brewery on Taddle Creek, where today the intersection of Front and Parliament Streets is located. Turner had earned a reputation as man with a strong social conscience. It was said that at his brewery he employed ex-slaves that had fled north from the United States. In 1832, a disastrous fire destroyed much of his brewery, but his reputation was such that his fellow citizens stepped in to assist him to rebuild. This was accomplished by having the York Circus give a benefit performance.

By the mid-1840s, he was once more prospering, and in 1845, he provided funds for the free school on Trinity Street. The property was owned by Little Trinity Anglican Church, located on the southwest corner of Trinity and King Street East. Turner was a benefactor of the church and well known by the church’s elders. The site for the school, which they named the Ward School, was immediately south of the church.

It is not known definitively who Turner hired to design the schoolhouse, but it is generally thought to be Henry Bower Lane, as two years previously, he had been the architect of Little Trinity Church. The school was a one-storey, red-brick building in the simple Gothic revival-style. The narrow peaked windows were trimmed with stone. Yellow bricks were inserted at the corners of the structure, around the doorway on Trinity Street, and in a solid multi-brick row near the roofline.

There’s some debate about when the Toronto Board of Education was founded, but it is thought to be in 1850 as this is the year that legislation was adopted in Canada West (Ontario) to create municipally funded education. The following year, the Toronto Board of Education assumed responsibility for educating the children of Toronto. The Ward School was taken over by the board and renamed Trinity School. However, it closed in 1859 when the public school relocated to a more spacious location. The ownership of the old school and the property on Trinity Street now reverted to Little Trinity Church.

In 1869, Little Trinity Church added an extension on the building’s west side (the West Hall), designed by the noted Toronto architectural firm of Gundry and Langley. It was one of the earliest commissions of Henry Langley, when he was in partnership with Thomas Gundry. Langley eventually became one of the most influential 19th-century architects in Ontario, designing the Metropolitan Methodist (United) Church at 56 Queen Street East, McMaster Hall at 273 Bloor Street West, and the Bank of British North America at Yonge and Wellington.   

Until the 1960s, the former school building was employed as the Sunday school and Parish Hall for Little Trinity Church. Near the turn of the century, in 1899, it was a recruitment centre for enlisting troops for the Boer War. During World Wars I and II, it was a recreation centre for serviceman training in Toronto that were distant from their homes. In the Great Depression it was employed as a soup kitchen, serving 1500 people a week. After the war, in the 1950s, it was the church’s neighbourhood youth clubhouse. In 1961, temporary services were held in it after a disastrous fire in the church. When Little Trinity was restored, the former school became a cultural centre for the community, featuring  concerts, youth programs, and the visual arts.

By the 1970s the structure was badly in need of repairs and it was feared that it might be demolished. Thanks to architect Eric Arthur, who wrote “No Mean City,” a group was formed to raise funds for its restoration. It was successful. Governor General Roland Michener officially opened it as an historic site and museum in 1972. It is today one of the oldest, continuously operated buildings in Toronto. Now owned and operated by the Ontario Heritage Trust, it is employed as a museum, conference space, and special events venue.

 

The author is indebted to the following sources for much of the information. 

http://www.lostrivers.ca/content/points/enochturner.html

https://enochturnerschoolhouse.ca

www.heritagetrust.on.ca/en/index.php/properties/enoch-turner-schoolhouse

www.theworldofgord.com/2011/10/enoch-turner-schoolhouse.html

1953, pictures-r-2817[1]

View of the east facade at 106 Trinity Street in 1953. The West Hall is visible at the rear of the building. Photo was taken prior to its restoration. Toronto Public Library, r- 2817.

1956,  pictures-r-2820[1]

View of the school looking northwest on Trinity Street in 1956. On the north side of the school is the south (rear) portion of Little Trinity Church. Toronto Public Library, r- 2820.

Series 1465, File 676, Item 38

View looking west on Trinity Street in 1990. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl0676, item 0038.

Series 1465, File 676, Item 36

Gazing south on Trinity Street toward the lake in 1991. Lake Ontario and the Gardiner Expressway are behind the buildings at the end of the street. The schoolhouse is on the west side of the street, in the foreground. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, Fl 0676, item 0036.

Series 1465, File 651, Item 33

Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in 1991. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, Fl 0651, item 0033.

www.theworldofgord.com   007[1]

Undated photo of the interior of the school. Photo from www.worldofgord .

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Gazing north on Trinity Street toward King Street East in December 2016. The shops on the north side of King Street are visible.

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View of the east facade, revealing the yellow bricks on the corners of the structure and around the doorway. The windows are trimmed with stone.

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The north facade of the original building in 2016, the east side of Trinity Street visible in the background.

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[1]

   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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Edward Leadlay’s home (St. Felix Centre)

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Edward Leadlay’s home at 25 Augusta Avenue, Toronto on October 9, 2017.

In the 1870s, along with the rest of the world, Canada suffered an economic slump. In that decade Toronto had only 80,000 inhabitants, but among them were those who, despite the harsh economic times, managed to prosper quite well. One of them was Edward Leadlay, an English immigrant who was instrumental in establishing Standard Woollen Mills at 227 Front Street. He also owned a business that processed the by-products of sheep (tallow, lanolin, hides and wool). He had retail outlets on Queen, Crawford and Front Streets.

In 1876, he built a residence for his family at 25 Esther Street, which is now named Augusta Avenue. The home was a short distance north of Queen Street West, three streets west of Spadina Avenue. When the house was completed, it was the finest and largest residence in the entire area. The 1890 Goad’s Atlas (insurance maps) reveals that it occupied several lots, and had considerable space surrounding it. A carriage house and shed were at the rear of the property, on the east side. The home remains impressive today, but people passing it on the street might wonder why such a mansion was erected in a community where incomes were more modest than Leadlay’s. However, the site was convenient for him, since his business enterprises were within walking distance or a short carriage ride from his home.

The three-storey Leadlay house is a flamboyant example of high-Victorian architecture, possessing an eclectic mixture of Gothic, Romanesque and Italianate styles. The tower that rises above the third storey faces west and remains as grand today as when it was built. The roof of the house boasts slate tiles, and the windows facing west on the second storey have large canopies above them. The wood trim on the structure (especially on the veranda) involves intricate carpentry work accomplished with a coping saw. The rounded arches on the veranda are supported by narrow columns, the pillars of the portico having capitals that somewhat resemble those of the Corinthian-style.

Facing Augusta Avenue, on the south side of the first-floor, there is a large bay window, where either the parlour or dining room was located. The bay window allowed extra light to enter the interior space, essential in an era without electricity. The large overhanging eaves are supported by fancy modillions (brackets). Though constructed mainly of red bricks, yellow bricks are employed in the quoins at the corners of the house and in the patterns in the brickwork at the top of the tower. Today, it would be almost impossible to construct a house with such intricate detailing due to the high cost of labour.  

Leadlay died in his mansion on September 17, 1899. The house was sold to the Salvation Army in 1906, the church organization employing it as a men’s home. The residence was purchased from the Salvation Army in 1937 by the Felician Sisters, a Polish order. The house became a convent for about 25 nuns that were engaged in charity work in the community. The nuns departed, and in 1993, it became the St. Felix Centre, which continued serving the community. It became a registered charity in 2003. Since 2011, it has been a transitional home for women.

Fonds 1244, Item 3071

The Leadlay home in 1909, when it was a men’s home operated by the Salvation Army. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 3071.

                 1973.  f0124_fl0003_id0012[1]

The residence at 25 Augusta Avenue in 1973, when it was the convent of the Felician Sisters. 

1976 when photo taken. tspa_0112992f[1]

           The home in 1973, Toronto Public Library, tspa 0112992f

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The large veranda on the northwest side of the house. Visible are the intricate woodwork above the arches that support the veranda roof, and the yellow-brick quoins on the corner of the house. Photo taken in 2016.

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               The bay window and ornate portico on the west facade.

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The top of the tower, designs created by employing yellow bricks. Large brackets (modillions) are under the overly large eaves.

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                     View of the house from the southwest in October 2017.

                       image 

        View in 2017 of the residence from the west side of Augusta Avenue.

DSCN1571

The view looks northeast on Augusta Avenue in 2016. The Leadlay house is on the far left, the 19th century homes to the south of it more modest in style.

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.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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 historic Massey Hall

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Massey Hall, view from the northeast corner of Victoria and Shuter Streets in May 2017.

In the early-19th century, after an electrified streetcar line was built on Yonge Street, and later on Queen Street, it became apparent that the intersection of the two avenues would become very important in the commercial life of the city, since people had access to it from all points of the compass. The T. Eaton and Robert Simpson Companies realized the value of the intersection and occupied two of the busy corners.

When the St. Lawrence Hall at King Street East and Jarvis Street opened in 1850, it became the centre of the cultural and arts events of Toronto. However, by the final decades of the 19th century, Toronto’s population had increased considerably, and since the St. Lawrence Market area was increasingly viewed as less fashionable, it was evident that a new and larger concert hall was required. It was logical that the new hall be located within close proximity to Yonge and Queen Streets. As a result, Hart Massey, a wealthy industrialist, purchased property on Shuter Street in 1892 and provided funds to erect a grand concert hall. Its location was one block north of Queen Street and one block east of Yonge Street. 

Hart Massey had built his family’s company, which manufactured farm machinery and implements, into one of the largest industrial empires in the world. His eldest son, Charles Albert Massey, had died of typhoid fever in 1884. His father decided that donating a concert hall to the city was a fitting tribute to his son, who had loved playing the piano. It was to be the first concert hall in Canada to be built specifically for the performance of music.

Massey hired the Cleveland architect Sidney R. Bagley to design the hall, which cost $150,000. A local architect, George M. Miller, was engaged to supervise the construction. Miller was the architect of the Gladstone Hotel on Queen West and also the Massey Harris factory on King Street. The cornerstone for the Massey Hall was laid in 1893 and its officially opening was in June 1894. On opening night, a grand performance of Handel’s Messiah was featured.

The building’s facade was in the simple neoclassical style, its interior more ornate as it displayed Moorish influences. The highly detailed ceiling and the pillars supporting the two balconies particularly reflected the Moorish traditions. The seating capacity was originally 3500, but today, it is 2753. In 1895, the inaugural concert of the Mendelssohn was held in Massey Hall. The New Symphony Orchestra performed in the hall in April 1923, and the orchestra’s name was changed to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in 1927. The hall was the home of the now famous orchestra from 1923 until 1982, when the Roy Thomson Hall opened.

In the 1920s and 1930s, when there was an event at Massey Hall, streetcars lined Victoria Street, south of Shuter Street, awaiting the departing crowds. This was in the days when few people owned automobiles and streetcars provided the main method of travelling around the city. In 1947, when the Silver Rail at Yonge and Shuter obtained a license to serve alcohol (the first license granted in Toronto after prohibition), it became a favourite place to dine or have a drink before or after a concert in the hall.  

Throughout the many decades, Massey Hall has been host to some of the world’s most famous performers and speakers—Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, Booker T. Washington, Nellie McClung, Rudyard Kipling, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Two famous Canadian pianists—Oscar Peterson and Glenn Gould—both had their first performances in Massey Hall in 1946. In 1953 there was a famous jazz concert with Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie. The 1960s Massey Hall hosted Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Yonge, Johnny Cash and Gordon Lightfoot.

My earliest recollections of Massey Hall are from the 1950s. When I was able to afford it, I particularly enjoyed sitting in one of the front rows of the first balcony. However, no matter where I sat, the stage seemed close at hand. I have similarly enjoyed visiting the Roy Thomson Hall, but I do not receive the same intimate feeling unless I am actually in a seat close to the stage. In Massey Hall, I always marvel at how cozy a venue it is, especially considering that it seats almost 3000 people. I believe that my affection for Massey Hall is shared by many Torontonians, as evidenced by immense line-ups to view its interior during “Doors Open Toronto,” in 2017.

I have visited Massey Hall many times, but a few events particularly stand out in my mind. In the 1950s, I participated in a brass band festival and had the opportunity to view the hall from the stage. It was an awesome sight, one I will never forget as the auditorium was filled to capacity. The hall is impressive, whether viewed from the stage or from the plush seats. In the 1970s, I saw Roger Wittaker and in 2001 and 2002, I attended the annual Christmas concert of the St. Michael’s Choir School. On one occasion I enjoyed a jazz concert that featured Winton Marsalis.

In recent years, Massey Hall has been somewhat overshadowed by the more modern Roy Thomson, now considered the city’s premier concert hall. It is interesting that when Roy Thomson Hall was being erected, it was referred to as the New Massey Hall. Later, its name officially became the Roy Thomson Hall, after a considerable donation was made by Roy Thomson, First Baron Thomson of Fleet.

Massey Hall possesses acoustics that are said to be rivalled only by Carnegie Hall in New York City. Therefore, it is good news that it is to undergo a $135 million renovation to restore it to its former glory. It will require several years to complete, so will be closed from late-summer of 2018 until the autumn of 2020. For more details, see the article by Robert Benzie in the Toronto Star on August 9, 2017. Because of its historic past and the long list of celebrities who have performed within it, many Torontonians are looking forward to its grand reopening in 2020. I wonder who will perform at the reopening concert?

Note: I am grateful for the information contained in the booklet “Massey Hall—Shine a Light,” distributed by the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, as well as as article by Robert Benzie in the Toronto Star on August 9, 2017.

1894 Ont. Archives  I0001871[1]

The interior of Massey Hall in 1894, the view from the first balcony. Ontario Archives, 10001871.

1894, Ont. Archives  I0001870[1]

View of the hall from the stage in 1894. Visible are the Moorish influences on the auditorium’s ceiling and in the narrow pillars supporting the balconies. Ontario Archives, 10001870.

1910, SW from Shuter and Bond   f1244_it2202[1]

Gazing westward on Shutter Street from the northeast corner of Bond and Shuter in 1910. The east facade of Massey Hall on Victoria Street is visible. Toronto Archives, fl 1244, item 2202.

1910, Tor. Pub. pcr-2207[2]

Postcard printed in 1910 depicting Massey Hall, the view from the northeast corner of Shuter and Victoria Streets. The hall appears very different without the iron fire escape that today sprawls over its north facade. Toronto Public Library, pcr 2207. 

 

1912.  DSCN6122

Massey Hall in 1912, after a portico and fire escape had been added to its north facade on Shuter Street. Photo from a book published by the City of Toronto in 1912.

Fonds 1266, Item 6468

Political rally in Massey Hall for William Lyon Mackenzie King on April 23, 1925. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, item 6468.

Series 1569, File 3, Item 1

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra on stage at the Massey Hall in 1927. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1569, fl.0003, item 0001.

Fonds 1266, Item 18495

Ferguson meeting in the hall in October 1929. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, item 18495.

                              Massey Hall - view from Shuter and Victoria – April 21, 1975   

Looking east on Shuter Street from near Yonge Street in April 1975. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, fl.0042, item 0001.

Series 1465, File 305, Item 6

Gazing east on Shuter Street from the west side of Yonge Street in 1980. Massey Hall is in the background on the north side of Shuter. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1465, fl.0305, item 0006.

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Pediment above the north facade in 2017, the classical statues within the triangle having been removed as they were in danger of falling into the street.

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The camera is pointed east on Shuter Street in 2017, Massey Hall on the north side of the street.

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Artist’s rendering of Massey Hall when its restoration has been completed in 2020. Sketch from the booklet, “Massey Hall—Shine a Light,” distributed by the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall.

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                   Signage for Massey Hall, photos taken in May 2017.

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[1]

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

https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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[2]    

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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Alex Wilson Community Garden—Toronto’s hidden treasure

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Nestled between two buildings on Richmond Street West is an amazing green space that constantly delights those who reside in or visit the King/Spadina community. The south side of the garden is located on Richmond Street West, and it extends northward to Toronto’s famous Graffiti Alley. This alley is between Queen West and Richmond Street, bounded on the east by Spadina Avenue and on the west by Portland Street.

Due to the modest size of the Alex Wilson Community Garden, unless a person actually enters it and walks along the boardwalk that passes through its greenery, one would never suspect the variety and scope of the plants it contains. I always derive great pleasure from strolling through the garden and observing the changes as we progress through the Canadian seasons.

The following information is posted on the door of the toolshed located within the garden.
The Alex Wilson Community Garden opened in 1998 in memory of Alex Wilson, a local landscape designer, journalist and guerrilla gardener.  He was a partner at Garrison Creek Planting Company which advocated for developing urban agriculture and reintroducing native planting into the domestic landscape. He believed this was how we could best nurture and improve not only the city’s ecosystem, but also its social and economic relations.  Alex is best known for his cross disciplinary book, The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez.

The garden showcases many native plants alongside 40 food-growing allotments while offering a pedestrian corridor and quiet green space for residents and visitors. Over the years it has become a cherished asset to this community.
The garden is cared for entirely by volunteers and members.The land was gifted by a local family to the City of Toronto, and a conservation easement was registered on title – to the Alex Wilson Community Garden Corporation, a registered charity.  The easement stipulates that the land is to remain a community garden in perpetuity.

A full restoration of the garden was completed in Spring 2017, made possible by the efforts of many volunteers and the generous funding of the Weston Family Parks Challenge, the City of Toronto and the Alex Wilson Community Garden. 
Visit us on facebook.com/alexwilsoncommunitygarden.
For membership information or to make a charitable donation to the garden, please contact alexwilsongarden@gmail.com.

The following excerpt is from a presentation made to to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2004.

“In an act of extraordinary generosity, Dianne Croteau and Richard Brault decided to donate their land in order to create a permanent community garden in Alex’s name. In order to ensure that the land would be used as a community garden in perpetuity, Dianne and Richard donated the property to the city with a conservation easement attached to the land title—an easement that would protect the integrity of this community garden as a place where community members could grow food and tend native plant habitats. As far as we know, this represents a first—the only community garden easement in Toronto’s history—and it was an arrangement embraced by the city’s Parks Department as a visionary partnership between the private and public sectors. The city was given the generous gift of a new public park/community garden, and the community took on the responsibility of building and maintaining the park/community garden.”

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The sign on the west side of the entrance to the garden from Richmond Street.

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View from the south end of the wooden pathway constructed of white oak, which passes through the garden from Richmond Street, north to Graffiti Alley.

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In this view, the individual plots maintained by volunteers can be seen. The camera faces north toward Graffiti Alley. Photo taken in August 2017.

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Each volunteer plants his/her plot according to their own needs and wishes, and then harvest the results. Flowers, herbs and vegetables are included. 

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                 A butterfly perched on the lettuce in one of the plots.

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(left) The toolshed and water reservoirs in the garden. (right) View of the green roof on the shed.

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Volunteers working among the greenery, the bright colours of graffiti art visible in the laneway behind the garden.

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   View from the north end of the garden, looking south toward Richmond Street West.

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Looking south into the garden from Graffiti Alley, the rockery of the garden in the foreground.

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People who gathered for the official reopening of the garden on September 17, 2017.

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Toronto is very fortunate to have this unique green space in its downtown core—the Alex Wilson Community Garden.

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[1]

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

https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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[1]    

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

 

Tags: , , ,

Toronto’s carousels of the past and present

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The Centre Island carousel (merry-go-round) at Centreville in July 1987. Photo from author’s collection.

The carousel is one of the few amusement rides that generates feelings of nostalgia and romance. In the past, Toronto has been the home to three great carousels and I have had the pleasure of riding on two of them. Carousels are usually found in amusement parks, where they create great pleasure for children and adults alike. When watching an adult help a toddler onto the back of one of the carved animals, it is difficult to determine who derives the most pleasure—the child or the adult. It is not uncommon to see an adult riding a carousel, employing the excuse that they are merely accompanying their child for safety reasons.

Perhaps this is because many of us remember our own childhood and the great joy we experienced when we rode a carousel. Most of us cannot wait to see the same pleasure bestowed on our own children or those of our friends. Despite the newer, faster and more modern rides, as well as electronic games and the internet, the carousel from Victorian times remains one of the most treasured experiences for youngsters.

Scarborough Beach Park

One of Toronto’s earliest amusement parks was Scarborough (Scarboro) Beach Park. It was located beside Lake Ontario, south of Queen Street East, between Kew and Balmy Beaches. The land was purchased in 1906 by Harry and Mabel Dorsey for about $160,000. When the park opened on July 1, 1907 it contained an array of rides, as well as a 30-metre obelisk-like tower and an extensive midway.

The park became famous for its diving horse, which jumped headlong from a 60-foot platform into Lake Ontario. Similar to today, the most popular ride for children was the carousel. However, during the years ahead, attendance dwindled due to lack of maintenance and competition from the amusement park that opened at Sunnyside in 1922. The City of Toronto purchased Scarborough Beach Park in 1925 and officially closed it in 1930. The carousel was sold to Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, near St. Catharines, Ontario.

Fonds 1244, Item 149    Water chute, 1908, Scarboro Fonds 1244, item 0230  20110520-SBP2[1]

(Left) The midway at Scarborough Beach Park in 1907 (Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 0230). (Right-hand photo) The Water Chute at the park in 1908 (Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, item 0230).

                          1900, pictures-r-5448[1]

The tower that resembled an obelisk, at Scarborough Beach Park. Photo taken in 1900, Toronto Public Library, r- 5448.

Scarboro Beach Park pictures-r-5447[1]

Scarborough Beach Park in 1900. The structure on the far left is likely the carousel. It was sold to Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, but not the building that housed it. Toronto Public Library, r-5447.

image

After Scarborough Beach Park was demolished, the land became a residential development. The only reminder of the park’s existence is Scarborough Beach Boulevard. It extends south from Queen Street East to the lake and is on the site of the former path that led to the entrance gate of the park. 

Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie, Ontario

I was on the carousel in this park several times in the 1940s. When I was a child, once each summer my family visited the beach at Port Dalhousie, sailing across the Lake Ontario aboard the SS Cayuga. The magnificent carousel at Port Dalhousie was carved between the years 1898 and 1905 in Brooklyn, New York. It still operates today, and has 68 animals, including horses, lions, camels, goats, and giraffes, plus four chariots.

Before the Second World War automobiles were unaffordable, so people in Toronto spent their weekends and holiday within the city or surrounding areas. It was mainly the wealthy that were able to afford to journey on the train to cottages in the Muskoka Region or Georgian Bay. During the 1930s and 1940s, each year more than a quarter million people crossed the lake in steamships to visit Port Dalhousie. The animals on the carousel are hand-carved and the horses have real horsehair tails. Today, they are maintained by the “Friends of the Carousel”, a group that repairs them when needed. All the animals are original, except for a lion carved in 2004 to replace one that was stolen in the 1970s.

Port Dalhousie, 1930  tspa_0107728f[1]

Lakeside Park at Port Dalhousie in 1930. The building near the top of the photo is likely the carousel. (Readers: please advise me if this is incorrect) Toronto Public Library, tspa 007728.

Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park

The amusement park at Hanlan’s Point was very popular during the last few decades of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th. The city’s main baseball stadium was located there, the ride across the harbour on a Toronto ferry a treasured part of the daily excursion. It was logical to add other attractions to Hanlan’s Point to lure visitors across the bay. The original wooden stadium opened in 1897, and it was at Hanlan’s that Babe Ruth hit his first home run as a professional player. After the baseball season ended in 1925, the team relocated to Maple Leaf Stadium on the mainland, at the foot of Bathurst Street.

The amusement rides alone were not able to attract sufficient people to remain financially viable. The rides were eventually sold or demolished, and by 1930, almost nothing remained. I was unable to discover what happened to the carousel.

S.S. Trillium, (Motor Coach Department) – September 1, 1927

The Trillium docked at Hanlan’s Point on September 1, 1927. The carousel is behind the ferry, near the water of the harbour. It is unknown if the carousel remained inside the structure, as they were usually sold without the buildings that housed them. Toronto Archives, Series 0071, item 5215.

Hanlan's Point, looking south, from "B," showing refreshment booth, dock entrance and merry-go-round, (Commercial Department) – August 12, 1927

On the left-hand side of the photo is the merry-go-round (carousel) at Hanlan’s Point on August 12, 1927. The ticket booth is also visible. Behind the carousel is a refreshment stand. Toronto Archives, Series 0071, item 5157.

Sunnyside Beach and Amusement Park

Sunnyside Beach Amusement Park was officially opened by Mayor Mcguire on June 28, 1922. At the time the park had not been completed, but a few of the rides and the Bathing Pavilion were ready for visitors. After its official opening, thousands strolled along the boardwalk at Sunnyside, swam in the waters of the lake, or dived into the new swimming pool.

During the next few years, the amusement park was completed. Included among the rides was a carousel, the one that provided me with my first ride aboard one. Other popular features at Sunnyside were the concession stands, dance pavilion, and an open-air theatre called the Band Stand. The annual Easter Parade was held on the boardwalk at Sunnyside, as well as the Miss Toronto beauty contests and women’s softball games. The Sunnyside rollercoaster, named the Flyer, was a wooden structure. I rode it many times in the 1950s and can still recall how the cars swayed from side to side as they descended from the highest section of track. This added greatly to the sense of danger. Being a teenager at the time, I loved it.

The golden era of Sunnyside was from the 1920s until the early-1950s. As automobiles became more affordable, families began journeying north of the city to escape the heat and humidity of a Toronto summer. The lakes of Muskoka and the beaches of Georgian Bay were the most popular.

In 1955, the Toronto Harbour Commission ordered the demolition of Sunnyside. By the end of 1956, the summer retreat that previous generations had known and loved was but a memory. The land is now beneath the Gardiner Expressway and the widened Lakeshore Boulevard. The beloved carousel of my youth was sold to Disneyland in Anaheim California, where it remains today. It is now called the King Arthur Carousel.

We lost this great carousel, and it appears as if we shall also lose the one at Centreville on Centre Island too.

Sunnyside_Boardwalk_Toronto_1931[1]

View looking west along the the Lakeshore Road c. 1925. To the left (south) of the boardwalk is Lake Ontario (not visible in the view on the postcard). The large structure with the domed red roof is the merry-go-round.

1945-sc139-2-box-148489[1]

The Sunnyside merry-go round (carousel) in 1945. Toronto Archives, SC 139-2 box 148489.

Other carousels now found within the GTA.

tspa_0014659f Tor. Star, 1985  [1]  From Woodside Amusement Pk,  photo by Smallbones  800px-Carousel_longshot_Philly[1]

Carousel at Woodbine Centre at Highway 27 and Rexdale Boulevard. Photo on left, Toronto Archives, tspa 0014659f. Photo on right by Smallbones.

View of carousel and surrounding flower beds at Canada's Wonderland – June 8, 1981

The carousel at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan at Highway #400 and  Rutherford Road. Photo was taken in 1981 and is from Toronto Archives, F 1526, file98, item 5.

Series 1465, File 362, Item 23

Children’s carousel at the CNE in the 1980s. This ride resides in Toronto only when the CNE is open. Toronto Archives, S 1465, Fl 0362, item 0023.

                       DSCN2095

                     Carousel at the CNE in 1995. Author’s collection.

Note: I have not mentioned the carousel on Centre Island. The following link will allow readers to discover its fate:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/rescue-torontos-antique-carousel-at-centreville/

Note: Sources employed for this post include: cec.chebucto.org/ClosPark/ScarBech.html

and www.blogto.com/city/2011/05/nostalgia_tripping_scarboro_beach_park 

and https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/LakesideParkCarousel.asp 

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/rescue-torontos-antique-carousel-at-centreville/

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

To explore more memories of Toronto’s past:

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

Books by the 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

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

https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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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RESCUE Toronto’s antique carousel at Centreville

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Carousel at Centreville at Centre Island—photo by Fatima Syed, Toronto Star, August 5, 2017.

Centre Island’s antique carousel is being sold for $3 million ($2.25 U.S.) to a suburb of Carmel, Indiana, where it will become the focal point of a rapidly expanding business district. The sale has generated much publicity in Toronto’s press and on social media, accompanied by an outpouring of memories from those who consider the amusement ride a cherished part of their childhood. Many have expressed the sentiment that when they were young, a Toronto summer was not complete unless there was at least one trip to the Toronto Islands, a ride on the carousel the highlight of the day.

However, I have not read of any attempts to raise funds to rescue the carousel from its fate. I do not know if it is even possible at this late date, as it is scheduled to be dismantled and shipped to the U.S. after Centreville closes for the 2017 season. This will be a loss for all of Canada, as following its departure only eight antique carousels will exist in the country. Part of our heritage is slipping away. Future generations might never forgive us for our lack of foresight.

The carousel at Centreville on Centre Island was purchased by Beasley Amusements in 1964, from Bushkill Park in Pennsylvania. The price was about $20,000. It arrived in Toronto in 1965 and was installed in the children’s village of Centreville. The grand opening was in 1967, the Centennial of Canadian Confederation. The carousel was the jewel in the crown of the entertainment rides at Centreville. For many years, its carved animals were maintained by Al Cochrane, a gifted carver.

Built in 1907 by G. A. Dentzel Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the children’s ride possesses 52 hand-carved animals, each one a unique creation. There are majestic horses that gallop faster and faster as they strain to escape the revolving wooden platform that contains them. There are wild beasts as well as animals found on a farm.

My first experience with a carousel occurred when I was four years old. The sight of it was intimidating as the animals looked real. There was a ferocious lion with jaws containing razor-sharp teeth and a bottomless blood-red throat. It stared at me as if it were deciding if it should pounce and devour me in a single gulp.

After my father paid the fare, I worked up the courage and nervously climbed aboard a horse that I was certain was 20 feet tall. I earnestly prayed that the carousel’s carnival-like music would obscure the thumping of my heart. Once I was settled in on the horse’s back, I felt safer, but held onto the pole atop the horse so tightly that if it had been a penny, the Queen’s nose would have bled. I continued to avoid looking at the lion as it reminded me of the one from my nightmares. It lived at the bottom of the cellar stairs in our house. Somehow, it had found me on the carousel.

As well as the horses and the lion, there were imaginary creatures such as a unicorn. I admired the long-necked ostriches and the barnyard animals such as roosters and pigs, but having conquered my fears to climb on the horse’s back, I considered them tame. As for the benches that seated two adults, they were for “old pussies,” as Agatha Christie referred to elderly women. Older men usually watched from the sidelines, exhibiting strange smiles and faraway looks. I was too young to realize that they were likely recalling their boyhood days when they too had struggled to conquer a carousel’s lions and horses.   

                                                      * * *

I now must confess that I have never been on the carousel on Centre Island. There were no amusement rides on Centre Island when I was a boy in the 1940s. There was a village, but it was demolished in the 1960s. There had been an amusement park on Hanlan’s Point, but it closed in the 1930s.

My first experience on a carousel was at Sunnyside Amusement Park, which was demolished to build the Gardiner Expressway. Actually, when I was a boy, I had never heard of a “carousel.” The word is from the French (carrousel) or the Italian (Carosell) and was employed by Americans to refer to carved animals that rotate on a wooden platform. In Canada, we referred to it as a “merry-go-round.” Similarly, on Halloween we never went “trick or treating.” We ventured into the darkened streets on the last night in October to go “shelling out.” We would chorus gleefully at each door, “Shell out! Shell out” We’ll break your windows inside out.” Our Canadian vocabulary remained untainted until the mid-1950s with the advent of television and the flood of American programming.  

The merry-go-round at Sunnyside was the highlight of my family’s summer trips to “The Poor Man’s Riviera,” as Sunnyside was known. As soon as we arrived, my brother and I and commenced building sandcastles on the beach along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. We imagined mediaeval knights riding their horses over the twig drawbridges that crossed the moats we filled with water from our pails. My mother had acquired the pails when she purchased quart-size containers of peanut butter, which were packaged in children’s sand pails. We had consumed enough peanut butter during the winter months to dry out our mouths so that they felt like part of the Sahara Dessert. As a reward, we now had two free pails, complete with handles and accompanied by toy sand shovels. When it was lunchtime, we hungrily wolfed down salmon sandwiches, not stopping our great construction projects to properly pay attention to our meal. Thus, though our sandwiches were garnished with yellow mustard, they were liberally sprinkled with sand.

However, our excitement increased as the afternoon shadows lengthened, as we knew that a ride on the merry-go-round was imminent. My brother was two years older than me, so when we arrived at the site of the merry-go-round, he chose the most dangerous looking carved horse he could find. I settled for a steed that might have crossed our twig drawbridges over the moats of our sandcastles at a more sedate pace. The merry-go-round ride was glorious, though far too short. When it ended, as we walked away, we both gazed back a few times, lamenting that the climax of our summer day-trip was spent. However, we were consoled by the tall bags of salty popcorn that my dad bought, pleased that the horses from the merry-go-round did not expect a share of our treat.

Everyone has treasured memories from their childhood, and for many, a merry-go-round or carousel ride is among them. It is a pity that future generations of toddlers will never ride an antique carousel in Toronto, the same one that their parents might have ridden. Beasley Amusements at Centreville intends to replace the 1907 carousel with a modern version, but the youngsters will never have the chance to share a tangible part of the childhood of their parents. It is only when we are older that we realize that allowing the destruction of landmarks and traditions of the past cheats us of the contentment derived from watching our children and grandchildren enjoying an activity or site that we too enjoyed. Sharing generational memories creates links that draw families together. This is what family and community are all about.

Our heritage should not be sold to recoup the losses of a financial disaster caused by the spring floods of 2017. The carousel at Centre Island should remain in Canada.  

Let’s start a new Toronto Tradition

Rescue the carousel from being sold and install it in the Eaton Centre. At the yuletide season, parents could take their toddlers to the Centre to see Santa Claus, ride on an antique carousel, and view the Christmas windows of the Bay.

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                              The carousel at Centre Island in July 1987.     

              800px-Lead_Horse_Carousel_Dentzel Phil.  [1]

The lead horse on the Dentzel carousel in Woodside Amusement Park in Philadelphia. Photo from Wikipedia.

Note: This post was inspired by an article and photo by Fatima Syed published in the Toronto Star on July 19, 2017.

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

To explore more memories of Toronto’s past:

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

Books by the 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.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/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[1]    

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

 

Tags: , , ,