Wednesday, May 28, 2008

so long southwyck

Southwyck Sign
A large domed centre court with a long set of steps that were ideal for kids to run up and down until they ran out of breath. A nearby carousel when running lost its charm. Restaurant chains such as Friendly's, Frisch's Big Boy and McDonald's that were suited for young'uns. A department store named after the king of the jungle.

Welcome to wonderland for a kid on a family vacation in Toledo, Ohio in the late 70s/early 80s.


Southwyck Entrance
The death notice has just been signed on another element of my childhood. As of June 30, Southwyck Shopping Center in Toledo will shut its doors permanently.

Fountain's On
Opened in 1972 on the west side of Toledo along US 20 (Reynolds Road), the anchors by the time we shopped there were Montgomery Ward and Lion, a local department store chain which operated two locations in the mall (the main store on the east wing, a home store on the north end that replaced an earlier tenant). My parents usually had good luck shopping at Lion, while my main memories are trying on clothes and tasting a Mon Cheri chocolate for the first time after having seen them advertised on television.

The Anchor
Former main Lion store, later Dillard's

Lion was part of the Mercantile Stores group of department stores, which were purchased by Dillard's in 1998. I recall my parents going back to Southwyck for the first time in years after the purchases and coming away less than impressed with the products offered by the new owners.

Center Court
The centre court, once crowded with kids. The carousel is obscured by the flag. The Montgomery Ward wing is to the left, Lion Home Store straight, Lion main store to the right.

Old McDonald's
The Taste of Nations on the right was McDonald's, one of the few mall branches I saw during those years. It had brown tiling similar to the old look the branch across from the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street, with the cashiers set deep in the restaurant. Friendly's was nearby, which specialized in well-decorated ice creams sundaes (usually involving a cone "hat").

Coney Island at Southwyck
The mall's demise got rolling when Montgomery Ward closed in 2001. Two years later, Dillard's closed their home store, leaving their main store as the sole anchor. Proposals to redevelop the mall came and went, the stumbling point being financial disagreements between the property's various owners that meant neglect for the mall itself. Tenants, such as the coney island above, closed but left their storefronts from whichever era they opened in. Chains like GNC that are the last to turn out the lights in dying malls hung on.

Montgomery Ward Corridor
Looking towards Montgomery Ward

Hearing that it had become a "dead mall museum", I stopped in last May on my way back from a New York-Lancaster-Pittsburgh roadtrip. I felt like I was walking through a graveyard, with a dozen or so distractions from the retail tombstones lining the corridors. Walkers outnumbered shoppers and security guards looked half-asleep. The colours in the centre court dome panels had faded or replaced with mismatched glass.

No Calls Today
Even the phones had taken a hike.

If Nothing Else, There's Bath & Body Works
Dillard's (Lion) main store wing

Once upon a time the Toledo area had four malls: Southwyck, North Towne, Woodville (the other Toledo mall we shopped at, whose main oddities were carpeted floors and a tire store mixed in with other shops) and Franklin Park. The first two died, the third is barely breathing while the latter keeps growing. Despite these failures, two large outdoor "lifestyle centres" have sprung up in the south end. One, Fallen Timbers, struck the final death blow to Southwyck when Dillard's moved their store to the new complex a few months after the photos in this post were taken. If the ownership details are worked out, the current plan involves transforming much of the property into yet another lifestyle centre. If the plan comes to fruition, will a new Glass City retail death race begin?

Southwyck at Sunset
Southwyck 1972-2008

All photos taken May 18, 2007. Flickr user johnnygracie has posted a set of Southwyck photos taken this month.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

we wuz interviewed

Your humble proprietor was interviewed this week over at Ephemera about the lovely vintage ads regularly featured on this site.

Friday, May 16, 2008

what lurks under eglinton avenue?

Art Under Eglinton (3): Batwoman
Where the bat-people reside in Toronto.

Snapped under the Eglinton Avenue bridge over the Humber River, May 4, 2008. This was one of the sites on the Mount Dennis Jane's Walk - more pictures over on Flickr. - JB

Thursday, May 08, 2008

soccer stories

6:30 p.m. last night. Dithering time.
I had indicated that I would show up for a pickup soccer game over in Riverdale friends had organized, as long as it wasn't pouring rain out. I listened to the number of drops hitting the air conditioner. After contemplation, What would it hurt to drive down to the game site in Riverdale and see if anyone was there? At worst, what would be a week's delay for the first time I would kick a soccer ball in a decade?


After discovering I was hopeless at baseball, my parents signed me up for soccer when I was 9. The teams I played for varied in ability - the only incident I remember was a game where I was on defence and wound up being the only one to chase after an opponent on a breakaway, while my fellow defenders carried on a conversation.

The game lost its appeal when Dad forgot that he was supposed to sit on the sidelines, not attempt to coach me in the middle of the action. It may have come unconsciously, since he coached basketball and football. He didn't bark out orders as much in those sports as he did towards me on the soccer field, though he was quieter when my coaches were competent. Three years proved my fill and marked the end of my participation in community sports.

Rarely played soccer in high school, apart from a week of phys. ed. every year. I was odd in that after the mandatory gym class in grade 9 I kept signing up for courses even though I was lousy at most sports (volleyball was the closest I came to mediocrity). I had always liked gym, preferring to play sports over watching them and work in exercise that my couch potato-self rarely undertook outside of that setting. As time wore on paperwork crept into the courses and by grade 12 my marks were higher than several jocks.

I would have continued into OAC but timetables didn't leave space for gym. My weight ballooned that year. Coincidence? Count me in among those who think slashing phys. ed. classes during educational budget cuts is a lousy idea.


Arriving around 7:15, I saw a few souls mulling about downhill from my parking spot on Broadview. Seven showed up, with levels of playing experience all over the map. Side-kicking the ball in a circle came back quickly. We played 4-on-3 or 3-on-3 (depending on how one counted the youngest player, who shifted between play and "officiating") and I managed to score the first goal.

I also quickly discovered my stamina level had not improved over the years, due to running too hard off the bat. Slowly my body began to adjust but I suspect I won't be so worn when more players show up and can stay at one end of the field. It was painful at first but ultimately felt refreshing.


Along came university and Team Bob. One of the many reasons Guelph proved a wise choice was its extensive intramural sports program. Offering a wide variety of games at varying skill levels, it allowed

Arts House dove in, fielding volleyball, innertube water polo, basketball, broomball and soccer squads at the "fun" level. We'd never win in the athletic sweepstakes, so we aimed to be the silliest team on the field. In soccer, this meant taking the field with black stripes under our eyes and indulging in antics that would have made the Harlem Globetrotters proud.

Team Bob - Soccer Edition
Team Bob in full finery, Fall 1996

Much of the time this was fine with other teams, but there were a few squads who did not belong at our level. Taking the game too seriously when faced with competition like us, these teams ran up the scoreboard. Trying to find pleasure in such situations, we used tactics like huddling around the ball en masse while kicking it up the field or scoring on ourselves. The more humourless the opposition, the goofier our tactics. This led one team to declare "YOU DO NOT RESPECT THE SOCCER! YOU DO NOT RESPECT THE SOCCER!"

Isn't that the reaction a satirist loves?

Later I switched affiliations to the Ontarion's team, who were more competitive but equally as fun. It also helped that our season was before staff relations broke down, which would have made for ugly scenes (teammates spiking each other wouldn't have been farfetched). The staff pics in the frosh issue were shot in soccer gear, though you won't see me as I was hired after the shoot.


The rain faded and a misty sunset emerged over the Don Valley Parkway. The Bloor Viaduct had an eerie beauty, from an angle that some of us rarely view. Play continued until dusk, 2-on-2 with a rotating sub, which helped those of us with diminishing energy levels. After packing away the ball, we refueled at a nearby diner.

Monday, May 05, 2008

woke up, it was a swansea evening and the first thing that I saw

Rennie Park Rink (2)
Was a melting city hockey rink, too wet for any skates
A net sat there waiting, for the next puck to come through

Visitors Bench Home Bench
Oh, won't you stay
Walk around or play
There are benches to examine
(apologies to Joni Mitchell)

Swansea was one of the smallest of the municipalities folded into Metropolitan Toronto back in 1954 and was annexed with Forest Hill into the old city of Toronto in 1967. Bounded by Bloor, the Humber River, Lake Ontario and High Park, Swansea is primarily residential with most retail lying along its northern edge (the Bloor West Village strip). Cue a late March stroll through the former village.

The Treehouses Grow So High
On the way out of Rennie Park rink, we noticed a high treehouse. We meandered around the neighbourhood, walking up dead-end courts with views of the homes and Humber River below.

The Loneliest Novelty Machine in Swansea
Over in nearly-abandoned Swansea Plaza we discovered the loneliest novelty vending machine on this side of town in a former Shoppers Drug Mart, (which I wrote about on Torontoist. Located on a side street north of The Queensway, Swansea Plaza is one of the city's hidden shopping centres and is on its way to becoming a condo site. Shoppers, Valu-Mart and CIBC have pulled out of the plaza, leaving a restaurant and convenience store.

Elect David Garrick
Though this candidate didn't win a seat on city council on 2006, his sign was not a wasted investment as it still stands above the homey campaign office.

Lucy Maud Montgomery Plaque
From the plaza we headed up Riverside Drive, which rises high above the Humber. Around its peak was a parkette with a plaque dedicated to one-time resident Lucy Maud Montgomery. No pig-tailed redheads were observed that night.

All photos taken March 27, 2008. Full set on Flickr.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Ferret Frenzy
American supermarkets tend to fascinate those I introduce them do. Whether it's a stock-up on cans of spray cheese or searching for sodas, most travelling companions are transfixed by the selection of products.

When was the last time you saw a full shelf devoted to ferret care products in your Loblaws, Dominion or Sobeys?

Remember: nobody likes to see a ferret cry after a shampooing.

Photo taken in Wegmans, Amherst, NY, March 29, 2008