Wednesday, July 28, 2010

elizabeth street scene, 1934

elizabathstreet1
Photograph by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10091.

According to the City of Toronto Archives, these pictures show a "traffic tie up on Elizabeth Street south of Dundas with truck having lost a rear wheel parked on tracks on Elizabeth Street delaying a Peter Witt streetcar on the Dundas route" on January 10, 1934.

elizabethstreet2
Photograph by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10092.

This incident may not have made it into the day’s papers, but Elizabeth Street figured in two stories in the following day’s edition of the Star. A front page headline noted that “GAMBLING DENS THRIVE IN CITY HALL’S SHADOW OPEN TO ALL COMERS.” An undercover reporter, “who had never placed a bet or risked a nickel in any public gambling house,” visited three bookie joints within three blocks of (Old) City Hall. Among those stops was “a rendezvous on Elizabeth Street” that was “known to the sophisticated. The reported wasn’t asked any questions by the doorman as he passed through a set of swinging doors into a dimly-lit room where wagering over cards and horse races moved at pace “that only experts could keep track of.” The venue, referred to as “Joe’s Place,” was staffed by four men: “Joe,” who kept his ear on the telephone for race results and handed out money to lucky bettors; “Slim,” who took the money and looked after the book; a blackjack dealer; and “a prosperous-looking Chinese who hovered in the background and put in a word now and again to keep things running smoothly.” The reporter had mixed luck in the smoky room—a horse bet turned a profit, while a lucky streak at blackjack quickly turned sour.

The other reference to Elizabeth Street was found in the “Shopping with Estelle” column, where thrifty consumers were notified that Goodman’s at the corner of Elizabeth and Dundas was having a liquidation sale. Noted as one of the oldest stores in the Ward neighbourhood, Estelle wrote that “Goodman’s have so long been identified with this romantic district that they need no introduction from me,” which is the first time I have ever seen the Ward described as “romantic.” Estelle recommended picking up new dress arrivals from New York ($5.95 each), which were “the sort of dress you will wear, with a certain swagger to your bridge club or out to dinner.”

Additional material from the January 11, 1934 edition of the Toronto Star. - JB

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