RSS

Category Archives: Toronto Public Library collections

Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade through the decades

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. On one occasion, Santa was under the influence of alcohol and shouted a few intemperate words to the young children along the route. Another time, a heavy rainstorm soaked Santa’s outfit, and the weight of the wet pillow that padded his stomach caused Mr. Claus’ trousers to fall to his ankles when he was climbing the ladder to enter Toyland. 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.

DSCN9807

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.

                DSCN8187

        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.

DSCN9661

                        Celebrity Clowns on University Avenue in 2015.

DSCN9673

                      Teenagers dressed as dolls on University Avenue in 2015.

DSCN9691

                                    Float on University Avenue in 2015.

DSCN9695

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

DSCN9732

                                    “Games” float in 2015.

DSCN9712

                            Float on University Avenue in 2015.

DSCN9755

                          Float sponsored by the Royal Ontario Museum in 2015.

DSCN9821

                            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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

Toronto’s lost mansion—Holland House

Holland House is one of Toronto’s lost mansions of the past. Built in 1831, it survived into the 20th century, but was demolished about the year 1905. The photograph below (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1568, Item 3257) was taken from the roof of the Queen’s Hotel on Front Street, after the disastrous fire of 1904. Holland House is the castle-like structure in the centre of the photo, surrounded by the surviving walls of the buildings gutted by the fire. It was this photo that captured my interest in the lost mansion of Holland House. Because the entire site is today occupied by the Royal York Hotel, for the first time I was able to envision exactly where the mansion once stood. The far (north) side of the mansion was on today’s Wellington Street West.

View from hotel, 1904-- f1568_it0357[1]

Holland House hearkens back to the early days of Toronto’s history, when the town centred on the area around King Street East and Jarvis Street. The mansion was built by Henry John Boulton, born in 1790 in Little Holland House in Kensington, London. His family had close connections with the immensely wealthy Fox family, which resided in the larger and more palatial estate home of Holland House, constructed in the 1600s by the first Earl of Holland. By contrast, “Little” Holland House was a more modest structure, situated on the same estate. Henry John Boulton’s boyhood home was the inspiration for the name of the home that he was to build in later years in the town of York (Toronto).

About the year 1800, the family of Henry John Boulton immigrated to North America, settling in Renssekaer County, in the Hudson River Valley in New York State. Henry John was about 12 or 13 years of age at the time. In 1802, seeking better prospects for advancement, the family relocated o Upper Canada (Ontario), settling in Augusta Township in the eastern part of Upper Canada, near Ogdensburg. It is thought that he attended the school of John Strachan in Cornwall. His father petitioned the government for a land grant and received 200 acres, as well as an additional 200 acres for each of his three children. However, in 1804 Henry John Boulton’s father, a lawyer, was called to the bar and shortly after became part of the government of Sir Peregrine Maitland. The family now moved to the town of York.

Henry John Boulton was the second-oldest son in a family that eventually included eight children. At 17 years of age, he commenced studying law at York (Toronto). His education continued until 1811, when he journeyed to England for further studies. He returned to Upper Canada in 1816 and commenced practising law. He was readily accepted into prominent social circles and became a member of the influential group that became known as the Family Compact. In 1818 he was appointed the solicitor general and in 1829 became attorney general for the province.

Being financially secure, he purchased a large lot on the west side of Bay Street to construct a family home. The lot extended from Wellington Street to Front Street, an area that in the those years was considered suburban, as York was clustered around the east end of the harbour. Holland House was erected in 1831, in a style similar to the Grange, which his older brother had built in 1818. Both houses were Georgian in design, with plain symmetrical facades. Holland House faced Front Street, but was set back a distance from the roadway, possessing a circular carriageway with well-maintained gardens on either side. In that decade, the shoreline of the lake was on the south side of Front Street. During the years ahead, landfill pushed the water’s edge further south.

In 1832, Boulton contracted John G. Howard, who built Colborne Lodge in High Park, to implement extensive renovations to the mansion’s south facade, which faced the lake. Henry John Boulton was an admirer of the Regency style, becoming familiar with it during his student days in London. After his return to Canada, he kept in touch with the latest fashion trends in Britain, even his attire reflecting the style. Colborne Lodge in High Park and Dundurn Castle in Hamilton are two examples of the Regency style of architecture.

The term Regency refers to the styles that were popular during the early half of the 19th century. It began during the years 1811 to 1820, when Britain was under the “regency” of George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. Regency architecture, extravagant and whimsical, was much favoured by the king-in-waiting. Regency’s height of popularity was between the years 1820-1860.

Regency architecture originated with Britain’s ex-colonial officials and military officers. When these men returned to England from warmer climates, they attempted to replicate the homes they had possessed during their privileged lifestyles abroad. Thus, motifs from the Far East and Middle East were favoured, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton an excellent example as it resembled an Indian palace. Symmetry was important, and those who built in this style sought locations with a commanding view of their surroundings. The location chosen for Holland House was typical, as it possessed an unobstructed and expansive view of Toronto Harbour.

1904  TRL. pictures-r-2100[1] 

Holland House in 1904, photo from the collection of the Toronto Public Library r-2100

John G. Howard renovated Holland House to resemble a small castle, adding a tower to the south facade that overlooked the garden. It appeared as if the tower were cylindrical, but its north side was embedded in the roof. The tower was topped with battlements, the second-floor level containing Gothic windows, and a rounded balcony with more battlements. The house was of brick, covered with stucco on which lines were etched to imitate stone blocks. Four pepper-pot chimneys, as Boulton referred to them, accommodated the large fireplaces within. The north side of Holland House was also altered. Because a new entrance was built on the east side, its facade was no longer symmetrical. During the renovations, a pedestrian gate and a carriage entrance were constructed on the west side of the mansion.  

Boulton lived in the house for only two years, as he was removed from office by the colonial secretary for criticizing the British government. To clear his name and petition against the arbitrary decision, he journeyed to England. He was successful in his quest but it was little comfort, as his successor had already departed for Canada. Instead, Boulton was appointed chief justice for Newfoundland. He arrived in Newfoundland in 1833, but in 1838, he returned to Holland House in Upper Canada. Shortly afterward, he was elected to the legislature representing Norfolk, but remained in residence in his house.

It was around the year 1838 that Boulton sold a portion of his holdings on Front Street to Captain Thomas Dick, who erected four townhouses on the property. In the years ahead, Boulton sold more of his land to allow the townhouses to be converted into the Sword’s Hotel, which later became the Queen’s. Further land sales allowed the hotel to expand, and part of the garden of Holland House became the garden of the Queen’s.

1880  pictures-r-6689[1]

People relaxing in the garden of the Queen’s Hotel in 1880. Holland House is visible in the background. In this photo, it almost resembles Windsor Castle in Britain. Toronto Public Library, r-6689.

1912-  pictures-r-2130[1]

A watercolour of the north facade of Holland House c. 1890. Toronto Public Library, r-2122

1890,  pictures-r-2122[1]

The north facade of Holland House in 1890, Toronto Public Library r-2122

As Holland House became increasingly isolated from Front Street, its north side on Wellington Street became its main entrance. Land surrounding the house was sold and warehouses erected on the properties. The land sales and investments allowed Boulton to live comfortably in his retirement. He died in 1870 and the house was sold to Alexander Manning, a Toronto alderman. In 1872, the Earl and Countess of Dufferin resided in the home for a few weeks and entertained lavishly. The house was later occupied by the Ontario Reform Club.

Holland House was not damaged during the Great Fire of 1904, but during the reconstruction of the area it was demolished. Warehouses were built on the site. 

1885.  pictures-r-6761[1]

The north facade of Holland House on Wellington Street in 1885. The large pepper-pot chimneys are visible on its east side. The chimneys resemble defensive structure built on Spanish fortifications in the 16th and 17th centuries. Toronto Public Library, r-6761 

1912- pictures-r-2123[1]

Sketch of the north facade of Holland House, dated 1912, depicting the entrance of the left (east side) and a carriageway on the right (west side). Toronto Public Library, r-2123.

1912- pictures-r-2129[1]

                Watercolour dated 1912, Toronto Public Library, r-2129

Map of 61 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5J

The address where Holland House was located is today 61 Wellington Street West.

I am grateful to the following sources for information for this post:

“Toronto of Old,” Henry Scadding, Toronto Oxford University Press, Toronto, published 1873

“The Ancestral Roof, Domestic Architecture of Upper Canada,” Marion MacRae and Anthony Adamson, Clark Irwin and Company, Toronto, 1963

“Toronto, Romance of a Great City,”Katherine Hale, Cassell and Company Toronto, 1956

“Toronto, No Mean City,” Eric Arthur, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1964.

Lost Toronto,” William Dendy, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1978

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[1]

   To place an order for this book:

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

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.

 

 

 

,  

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Postcards depicting Toronto’s past

Old City hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2198[1]

The Toronto Public Library system has many resources that can be accessed online. Because of my interest in the city’s past, I frequently search the materials available in their vast digital collection for posts for this blog. To access the collection of postcards, google : “Digital Archives Toronto Public Library.” Then enter into the topic box, “Toronto Postcards.” There are over 1200 postcards of Toronto available for viewing, dated between 1909 and 1999, many of them published by Valentine and Son’s.  

Another great source of Toronto postcards online is chuckman’storontonastalgia.wordpress.com. I have frequently used this collection as well, and I am very grateful that Mr. Chuckman allows them to be accessed by the public on his WordPress web site. It’s a great collection.

The above postcard of the Old City Hall at Queen and Bay Streets is from the Toronto Public Library collection. The card dates from 1910, before the cenotaph was erected in front of the building. Below are a few more postcards from the Toronto Public Library collection.

1st grandstand 1923, TRL. pc68[1]

             This postcard of the first grandstand at the CNE in 1923.

1910, Grenadier Pond  TRL. pcr-2201[1]

Looking toward the west bank of Grenadier Pond in High Park in 1910. The name on the card, “Howard Lake,” is not familiar to me.

                   City Hall and Temple Blg. 1910, TRL. pcr-2200[1]

Looking north on Bay Street in 1910, the Old City Hall visible in the background.

Csa Loma Stables, pcr-2152[1]

                       Horse stables at Casa Loma, c. 1910.

Bank of Toronto, King and Bay, 1910, TRL.  pcr-2167[1]

Bank of Toronto at King and Bay Streets. This building has been demolished.

Massey Hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2207[1]

Massey Hall on Shuter Street c. 1910, prior to the ugly fires escape being added to its facade. The hall is presently being restored.

Old Tor. Ref. Lib. 1910, TRL. pcr-2161[1]

The old Toronto Reference Library in 1910 on College Street at St. George. The first exhibitions of the art society that became the AGO were held in this building.

A link to a previous post that explores the history of postcards in Canada: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/torontos-golden-age-of-postcards/

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/

Recent publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories 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:

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. 

 

 

Tags: , ,