Friday, January 31, 2014

the toronto that wasn't department

Source: the Globe and Mail, March 19, 1976. Click on image for larger version.
"A master plan for Aquatic Park in Lake Ontario calls for expenditures of $26 million for a 5,000 seat ampitheatre, campsites, a wildlife area, fishing piers, and accomodation for 1,500 power and sail craft," opened a 1976 Globe and Mail article on future plans for the Leslie Street Spit. The plan also provided for the private sector to build attractions like hostels, hotels, and a "20-acre marineland park."

A Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority official noted that over 150 potential uses for the site were studied so that the proposed park would complement, not compete, with existing recreational facilities along the waterfront. Under the plan, the public would enjoy unrestricted access to 70 percent of the park's shoreline.

The article doesn't address the pressing concern of what to do with the quonset hut in the middle of the spit, whose naming rights were later claimed one fine April 1 by Spacing magazine.

Alas, you cannot go swimming in an artificial lake in the middle of the Leslie Spit, nor can you enjoy water rides at its mini-marineland, or shower after an overnight camping trip. I think the non-realization of this plan was a good thing, as the greenspace which evolved along the spit provides a temporary weekend escape from the hurlyburly of the city. It's a ideal place for a lazy day's bike ride or walk, to stare at the many species of birds who stop by for a rest, or guess where the debris along the water was carted in from.

Additional material from the March 19, 1976 edition of the Globe and Mail

Thursday, January 30, 2014

vintage toronto media infighting department

When reading Toronto's early newspapers, you have to remember that half of what you're reading is either partisan sniping or satirical attacks. That little context is provided for most of these attacks can drive a researcher mad, unless you're already deeply immersed in the subject. Reading these stories at random can be a head-scratcher - you know it's supposed to be funny, but you're not sure why.

And then there are times when a great headline lures you into an attack piece. Take the case of the following headline I stumbled upon in the January 12, 1849 edition of the Toronto Mirror:

Death from Intense Cold

Naively, I thought Toronto might have endured a cold snap 165 Januarys ago similar to the new ice age we've enjoyed this month. Maybe this headline topped a tragic tale of a victim of deep freeze.


Instead, the story "mourns" a rival newspaper, the original incarnation of the Toronto Standard (whose modern-day namesake has endured its own deep freeze). I should note that the Patriot was another rival rag.

This story helps explain why if you flip through surviving copies of the Toronto Standard in the Toronto Reference Library's Baldwin Room, there aren't any editions past number five.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

great moments in toronto transportation history

Source: The Telegram, October 14, 1961. Click on image for larger version.
An amazing fact: if this was the first accident on the DVP, it occurred a month-and-a-half after its first section (Bayview/Bloor to Eglinton Avenue) opened. Were drivers that much more careful in 1961, or was it plain old luck that nobody else had spun out or suffered a fender bender?

If you're wondering when the DVP experienced its first traffic jam, the answer is: August 31, 1961, the day it opened. Star reporter Fred Hollett was brave enough to experience the DVP's first evening rush hour.
I rode the new five-mile section of parkway yesterday during its first evening rush-hour. And it was a five-minute trip from Dreamsville to Nightmare junction.
Dreamsville was the Danforth Ave. entrance to the parkway, where I had all three lanes to myself for nearly a mile. Nightmare Junction was the Eglinton Ave. exit where hundreds of motorists celebrated the parkway's official opening with one of the worst traffic jams in Metro history.
Eglinton Ave. during rush hour is usually jam-packed. The parkway traffic just increased the pressure. There were so few cars at the Danforth end of the parkway I could have sat down in the middle of the road and boiled a three-minute egg. At the Eglinton end the only things boiling were motorists and radiators.
Hollett suspected the south end of the highway was empty because motorists couldn't figure out where to enter it from either side of the Bloor Viaduct.

Additional material from the September 1, 1961 edition of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE: It appears Brian Ferguson wasn't the first driver to get into an accident on the DVP, though he may have been the first under normal circumstances. During the opening procession, Toronto alderman Joe Piccininni smashed a taillight while trying to make a turn. Thanks to Chris Bateman for this piece o' information.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

vintage letters to the editor department: "he should be forgotten, not revered"

While doing some research for the next installment of Torontoist's "Meet a Mayor" series at the city archives this week, I found a photocopy of the following letter to the editor, submitted to the Toronto Star in late 1972. Seems this correspondent was no fan of our first "rebel mayor," William Lyon Mackenzie.

Source: Toronto Star, December 5, 1972. Click on image for larger version.
The writer was wrong to state that Mackenzie's writings had never been republished; Oxford University Press published a curated selection of our fiery first mayor's opinions in 1960 (The Selected Writings of William Lyon Mackenzie).  The letter writer's tone echoes sentiments felt by the Family Compact and their Tory allies during the 1820s and 1830s, who were as guilty of "yellow journalism" as Mackenzie.


Speaking of former mayors, here are the questions to round two of our Jeopardy-style quiz:

1) Who was Robert John Fleming? The street's name derived from his initials ("R.J."). His son owned land in the area when the street was developed, and requested that it be named after his father, who served as mayor from 1892 to 1893, and from 1896 to 1897. Read fellow Historicist writer Kevin Plummer's take on Fleming.

2) Who was Thomas Foster? One of our stingiest mayors during his term from 1925 to 1927, but he was more than happy to blow his money on a massive memorial to himself. In the end, he proved he had a philanthropic spirit via the odd bequests made through his will.

3) Who was William Dennison?  I've written about his speech therapy school - during his tenure as mayor (1966 to 1972) he continued to attend seminars on the subject.

4) Who were Sam McBride (died 1935) and Donald Summerville (died 1963)? We came close in 1837 - the first candidate for the mayoralty that year, Simon Washburn, died shortly before the rebellion (George Gurnett was named during the second vote that January). I wrote an article on the memorial services held at (Old) City Hall for both mayors.

5) Who was Horatio Hocken? The former printer served as mayor from 1912 to 1914.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"i'll take toronto mayors for $400, alex"

Before we go into round two, here are the questions to yesterday's answers (from top to bottom):

1) Who are the Howlands? (William Holmes Howland 1886 to 1887, Oliver Aiken Howland 1901 to 1902). Some may try to claim Rob and Doug Ford, given the latter's penchant for assisting his brother.

2) Who is Fred Beavis? I wrote about the hat draw for The Grid.

3) Who is Henry Sherwood? Mayor from 1842 to 1844, Sherwood expired while traveling through Bavaria in 1855. ending a career which also included an eight-week stint as the attorney-general of Canada West.

4) Who is John Shaw? Here's a fuller excerpt of Shaw's remarks on the opening of (Old) City Hall in September 1899 (Shaw served as mayor from 1897 to 1899):
Why people will spend large sums of money on great buildings opens up a wider field of thought. It may, however, be roughly answered that great buildings symbolize a people's deeds and aspirations...It is now the most attractive place in Toronto, and will stand for generations to come, a splendid permanent mark and sign of the strong will, the energy and foresight, the splendid confidence and perfect faith of the citizens of Toronto in the future of their glorious city.
5) Who is Ralph Day? He served as mayor from 1938 to 1940,  TTC chairman from 1963 to 1972, and operated the Ralph Day Funeral Home.

And here we go with round two. You can answer in the comments section.

Additional information from Mayors of Toronto Volume 1 1834-1899 by Victor Loring Russell (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1982).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"i'll take toronto mayors for $200, alex"

This week was yet another goldmine for people to make fun of our fine city's mayor. Even Jeopardy got into the act. Which got me to thinking...what if there was a category on everyone's favourite quiz show dedicated to Toronto's mayors?

Thanks to a clue screen generator, we have made this possible. Over the next two posts, test your knowledge of our city's past chief executives!

Here's the first quintet of questions. Place your answers in the comments section. Enjoy...and no cheating! Answers will be posted with round #2 tomorrow!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

bonus features: john powell

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

An illustration of Powell escaping the rebels on December 4, 1837. I wasn't able to figure out the exact documentation for it, though it was suggested by the fine folks at Mackenzie House that it probably belongs to the National Archives. The image was sourced from this article about William Lyon Mackenzie and the rebellion.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

what if...linkbait had existed in 1914?

What If Linkbait Had Existed in 1914?
Click on image for larger version. Don't click on it expecting to go to any of these stories.

Foods you shouldn't eat. Celebrities you shouldn't care about. Items that could change the destiny of humanity. Forgotten child stars as they look now. Sensationalistic photo galleries depicting people who require quiet, sensitive help.

You know what I'm talking about: those squares of content, usually at the side or bottom of a webpage, which drag you into an infinite hole of linkbait. There are whole sites whose grand purpose is to link you to links that will link you to links that will link you to linkbait links. The depths you can plumb are depressingly impressive.

After seeing one roundup o' linkbait too many, a light went on in my head: what if this stuff had existed a century ago?

The result: the collage above, based on what a websurfer might have run across had the internet existed in January 1914.

Some of the faux links are based solely on the teasers linkbait producers reel us in with. Others, I can answer:

What's The Deal With Kaiser Bill's Arm?: Traumatic delivery during the future German emperor's birth in 1859 led to Erb's Palsy in his left arm, leaving it shorter than the right. Wilhelm II used several techniques to mask the situation, including holding a pair of gloves or, as seen here, clutching the arm.

You Won't Believe Which Keystone Comedian He Is!: Ford Sterling, one of the legendary silent comedy studio's first stars. During his tenure at Keystone, Sterling usually glued on a goatee to portray a "Dutch" character. Were this collage produced later in 1914, I might have used makeup-free pictures of Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, or anyone else known for their screen mustaches.

Politicians You Wouldn't Recognize From Their 70s Looks: The 1870s, that is. We'll let you guess this one. Hint: American president.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

vintage toronto sun ad of the day

Vintage Ad: Brett Halliday Invites You To The Buccaneer's 8th Anniversary\
Source: the Toronto Sun, November 1, 1985.

The Warehouse starts off 2014 with from a visit from our old pal Brett Halliday, purveyor of advertorial delights in Toronto for decades. Today's selection could be classified as an outright ad, as it lacks the tidbits about the entertainment scene, local retailers, and pieces of wisdom which usually broke up Halliday's advertorial columns. 

The tone's the same, as is the colourful language. When was the last time you heard anything referred to as a "neon of activity?" Dammit, let's revive this phrase! 

SPEAKER 1: I'm bored tonight.Where shall we go?
SPEAKER 2: Let's go to (fill in the trendiest neighbourhood in your city or village)! I hear it's a neon of activity!
SPEAKER 1: Good enough for me. Or, we could go to (fill in the second-trendiest neighbourhood in your town or crossroads). I hear it's a gaslight of activity!
SPEAKER 2: Better toss your cyberpunk gear on if we're heading there...

Halliday also introduces readers to the locale readers will discover that neon of activity, the region of Malton-Mississauga. This is the first time we've encountered this hyphenated description for the area north of Pearson Airport, and suspect it may be the only place it ever appeared. We could create an alternate history of Peel Region based on this ad, where Malton demanded equal billing when the province amalgamated  municipalities to form the Town of Mississauga in 1968, and made it a provision of remaining when city status arrived several years later. The "pins in a veritable haystack" grew together to form a vibrant city centred around Airport and Derry Roads. As population and business development exploded in Malton through the 1970s, voter strength ensured that it would be the dominant political centre over Port Credit, forever dashing the hopes of perennial mayoral candidate Hazel McCallion. Developments like the Airport One shopping centre, the "Little India" cultural district along Airport Road, and a hipster strip along Goreway Drive (several blocks of which were renamed Avro Street to reflect the region's heritage) fulfilled Halliday's vision of a thriving metropolis...

Maybe we indulged in too much grog in the Captain Kidd room.

Googling the address indicates the site is currently used as a banquet hall.