Friday, August 03, 2007

the toronto subway song

Recently, I was contacted by the proprietor of I'm Learning to Share for background information about a 78 he found, Sunday in Toronto/The Toronto Subway Song, recorded by local bandleader Ozzie Williams in the early 1950s. We swapped a few e-mails, resulting in crossover entries on our sites (it's the wondrous Warehouse age of collaboration!). Check out the partner post for pics of the record and more .

For the dawn of the Yonge subway line, check out the thorough history over at Transit Toronto.

As for no fun on Sundays...

Once upon a time, Toronto shut down on Sundays. If you were a good, upstanding, preferably Protestant citizen, Sunday was strictly for church and family. Shopping? Evil. Recreational sports? Devil's work. Member of a faith whose holy day was any other day? Sorry! The overreaching moral views that created the Sunday blue laws stretched into other areas, producing effects like a strong film censor office and a labyrinth of laws regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol. These were among the reasons the city came to be known as "Toronto the Good".

Even streetcar service was considered blasphemous. As Mike Filey notes in A Toronto Almanac, opponents of votes on Sunday service in the mid-1890s portrayed Sunday transit as "a desecration of the Sabbath" and "the work of the Devil". It took three civic votes before service was approved in May 1897, by a margin of 222 votes.

With nothing to do in Toronto, little wonder people took the advice of the song and shuffled on down to Niagara. I recall Dad grumbling about the long traffic jams on QEW, especially over the then one-span Burlington Skyway.

Cracks in Sunday laws came slowly. Professional baseball games weren't allowed until the late 1930s. Future mayor Allan Lamport led the battle for full approval of any Sunday sporting activity, which succeeded in a public vote in 1950. At the same time, several grocery stores attempted to break the law, beginning periodic battles that peaked in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Eventually, the loosening of spiritual ties and a diverse base of new immigrants to the city would hammer nails into many of these blue laws.

***

My search for quick information about Club Kingsway ran into dead ends. I scoured various newspapers from the 1930s through 1960s, but all I could find was an ad that appeared intermittently in the Toronto Telegram during the fall of 1948, featuring today's artist:

Vintage Ad #314: Weekend Dancing in Toronto, 1948
A phone number, but no address. Frustrated by these dead ends, I now realize that I probably should have tracked down a late 1940s phone directory...but that's for another day. The city archives hold a picture of either South Kingsway or Riverside Dr "taken from in front of the old Club Kingsway" circa 1912. A online search through archive holdings reveals several documents from the Swansea Area Ratepayers' Association regarding traffic issues with Club Kingsway in the 1960s and 1970s, opposition to Sunday bingo in the late 1970s and a land use committee to determine the redevelopment of the site. Though the records themselves aren't online, the latter finally reveals an address: 100 The Queensway.

If you know more about the location, leave a comment.

Ad source: Toronto Telegram, September 16, 1948 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to see anything on the web about Club Kingsway:) My dad (Bert Worth) was a musician (bass player) who played regularly at Club Kingsway for years. The original club was on South Kingsway at the foot of Riverside Drive by the Humber River (where a gas station now stands). It burned down around 1955-56, and was rebuilt on Southport Street near the Queensway. (Later a plaza and now condos). It was a lavish and popular dancehall. My mother worked the coat checkroom while my dad played and often she'd take me to work and let me sleep on the ladies' fancy fur coats. (shhhh! lol) Once again, so happy to see something about this place. Thank you, Christine Wrigglesworth

Anonymous said...

My elder sister tells me that the original name of the location of Club Kingsway on South Kingsway was called "The Silver Slipper".

Christine Waloszczyk said...

PS: These 78s were stored in our basement where I grew up, on South Kingsway, and it is my dad, Bert Worth (Wrigglesworth) playing bass on these songs. He played with Ozzie Williams at other popular dancespots, such as the Palais Royale in Toronto and the Bala Kee for years. He also had a Sunday radio show in Wingham during the 40s under the name "Berth Worth and His CKNX Amabassadors". Any more info on this you may be able to find on him would be much appreciated. Christine Wrigglesworth, Toronto