What's the Future Ever Done for Me?

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Vintage Toronto Film from 1935

Shots of Toronto Transit Commission traffic at Broadview and Danforth, Sunnyside, Danforth Division, Canadian National Exhibition entrances, the Bay Street terminal, ferry service, and North Toronto terminal.

Source: Library and Archives Canada. Toronto Transit Commission fonds, 1981-0211.


The Vesta Lunch on Dupont

I’d always believed that the Vesta Lunch was the inspiration for the famous Saturday Night Live sketch “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger!”

P1040497After all, Dan Aykroyd lived in Toronto in the early 1970’s…

This video about the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago dispels this belief.




The Original Sunnyside Villa

This house, part of St. Joeseph’s Hospital is the original Sunnyside Villa built by John Howard in 1853 which he named Sunnyside. Howard never lived in this house but built it on spec and sold it to an American, George Cheney. The house became part of St. Joe’s in 1876 when it was an orphanage.


1024px-Sunnyside_Holiwell_Pic-nic 11021463_831713780231941_3393318440167273485_oFrom the Toronto Historical Association:

A surveyor and architect who is woven into much of Toronto’s 19th century history is John George Howard. He had built himself a home, Colborne Lodge, in what is now High Park, and continued to look around at other properties. In 1844, he and one partner purchased Park Lot 25, consisting of 100 acres. Four years later he was sole owner and decided to build a house near the lake, which he named  Sunny-side. This is the name used later to define an amusement park and, even later, to define a host of small business enterprises. Howard intended the building as an attraction among the many building lots he laid out on the Park Lot, and called the house a “marine villa” as it looked out to the lake. From the house, he watched a famous ship founder in a storm and engaged in the rescue of its crew, but he did not live in the house. Howard was also selling off timber cut from his land. Eventually, all of the building lots were sold and by this time the area was known as Sunnyside. The last sale made by Howard was of the house and the 9-acre lot on which it stood. George Cheney purchased it and converted it into a picnic area. There were subsequent owners, the last of whom became aware of the space crisis at the House of Providence on Power Street and its problems in accommo-dating children. At first, Sunnyside was loaned to the Sisters of St. Joseph, who used it as a boys’ orphanage. In 1881, the Roman Catholic Diocese purchased the property and the institution became Sacred Heart Children’s Orphanage, still run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, but accommodating both boys and girls. The original four-storey house had many additions, but the basic structure was octagonal in shape and Romanesque in style. It soon disappeared as the work expanded. In typical fashion, the City of Toronto decided to expropriate the property for use as a school in the growing residential area. To prevent the expropriation, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Diocese decided to convert the property into a hospital, which could not be expropriated. The hospital opened in 1921. During successive expansions, Howard’s house was demolished in 1945.

Yonge and Finch 1971/ Toronto’s First McDonalds

Yonge and Finch 1971This is Wimpy’s Dairy Bar in 1971. It bears a striking resemblance to an early McDonald’s outlet.
Including the truncated arches and red and white stripes.
Yonge and Finch 1971
McDonald’s didn’t enter the Ontario marketplace until 1970 so it’s reasonable to assume that Wimpy’s is a clone rather that a converted restaurant.
According to Howard, this was McDonald’s first Toronto location that went out of business. The arches were cut down, and the restaurant business continued under the next name.

Keele and St. Clair/Then and Now

The east side of Keele south of St. Clair in the early 1930’s.

10983315_829210557148930_8147457365367837628_o Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.05.16 AM$_20Goodrich Silvertowns on a vintage Hot Rod


This came in from Mark Moore…


West Lodge/Then and Now

s0372_ss0058_it0567Looking north up West Lodge in the summer of 1946 towards the Gutta Percha Rubber Factory.

The largest industry in Parkdale was the Gutta Percha & Rubber Manufacturing Company, established in 1883 on West Lodge Avenue next to, and served by the CPR. It made hose, belting, rubber boots and many other products and once was the largest all-Canadian rubber company. It was closed in 1960.

Screen shot 2011-11-20 at 9.54.34 AM2010 and the factory/warehouses are long gone.

gutta_perchaAnother view of the Gutta Percha factory.

1966325_830798296990156_1803760713334574668_o 10990919_830798250323494_3287943404680863250_o 1501133_830798246990161_2741033443974836318_oInside the factory and the front entrance.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.16.40 AM Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.16.56 AMAn online version of their catalogue from 1905 can be viewed here.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.23.02 AM47 Yonge in 2010.

Screen shot 2011-11-21 at 7.17.21 AMCompanies back then would exaggerate the size of their factories.

x861a x861percha-rubber-600x368“It would not be until January 1883 when the annual election would produce a majority in Parkdale’s town council for the village’s pro-development proponents. This allowed Parkdale to adjust its trade bylaws, allowing them to directly compete for industries with Toronto. As a result, the Gutta Percha Rubber Company was granted a ten-year tax exemption, a special water rate, and free gas. In return, the factory provided over one hundred jobs, mostly to people living in the municipality. This was an important time for industry in Parkdale, and the residents certainly benefited from the increase in near-by jobs. Of course, once the village was annexed, Parkdale lost the ability to adjust its own laws and thus its ability to compete with other areas of Toronto for industrial development.”

My grandfather worked here as an accountant in the early 1930’s.


And now the fine print…..

Gutta-percha ( Palaquium gutta) is a fruit-bearing tree belonging to the Sapotaceae family that shares its genus with more than 100 other members. Found scattered throughout Southeast Asia, this tropical botanical received its name from the Malaysian word for getah perca, which loosely means “rubber.” This was a reasonable nomination since the sap of the tree yields a naturally occurring latex that had been put to use by native residents for hundreds of years before being “discovered” by the British in the mid-1800s. Since that time, however, gutta-percha has been part of an equally long and fascinating history.

Initially, gutta-percha was an attractive alternative to the latex obtained from the rubber tree of the same region, otherwise known as unvulcanized rubber. This was due to the fact that the latter was prone to becoming brittle since it was susceptible to ozone cracking because of its double bonded molecular structure. In contrast, gutta-percha exhibited thermoplastic properties, which meant that it was much more stable and could be reshaped when heated. This property led to the development and improvement of numerous 19th century products, and even a few famous firsts.

For example, gutta-percha resin replaced the rubber used to insulate telegraph cables, including those that draped the floor of the Atlantic Ocean to enable the infamous transatlantic telegraph communication between Queen Victoria and U.S. President James Buchanan. The same material was used to produce daguerreotype and tintype cases and to make jewelry, such as decorative hairpieces and combs. Of particular note was the use of gutta-percha to embed the hair of a lost loved one into pearl, enamel, and other materials to create “mourning” jewelry to honor their memory. Some of these pieces have survived and are of considerable value today.

Even the furniture industry of the 19th century took notice of the exceptional properties of this material. In fact, The Gutta-Percha Company quickly seized the opportunity to make chess sets, figurines, and tea trays from the substance of the same name. However, they also began producing molded mirror frames, sideboards, chairs, and sofas that rivaled the elaborate detail found in pieces hand carved from wood. This was a far leap from the traditional furniture-making standards of the time.

Many of these trinkets and furnishings of the past live on in museums or in private collections. However, examples of gutta-percha handiwork can also be found by looking in the mirror and saying “aah”—that is, for those who have endured a root canal. That’s because the stuff is mixed with other resins and zinc oxide and used to fill up the void left in the tooth after it’s been drilled out. This practice, which also began shortly after Britain introduced gutta-percha to the world, continues today. In fact, Brazilian gutta-percha farmers harvest the resin for this purpose, which earns approximately $30,000,000 US dollars from the U.S. each year.

Scan10001A typical factory from the early 1900’s with belt driven machinery.

College and Robert/Then and Now

The N/E corner sometime in the late 1920’s. This photo shows the damage after a fire.

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Yonge and Gerrard/Then and Now

The N/E corner just east of Yonge. 1938. note the curbside gravity feed gas pump. The city would soon pass a law banning these curbside gas stations.

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The early pumps were ‘visible gas’ pumps, with a clear glass cylinder, usually 5 or 10 gallons on top of the pump, so you could see what you were getting, or if the gas was dirty (a big problem at that time). There was a manual pump you’d pull back and forth to pump the gas out of the underground tank into the cylinder, which was 8 or 10 feet tall. From there the gas flowed by gravity down the hose into the car.

College and Lansdowne/Then and Now

College and Lansdowne/Then and NowLooking west on College towards Lansdowne in 1939. The houses in the centre of the photo were demolished shortly afterwards to allow College to continue and join up with Dundas Street.
This is the location of a famous police shoot out with the Boyd Gang in 1952.”On the morning of Thursday March 6, 1952, Suchan and Jackson would leave the Wright Avenue hideout to case a local bank for a future robbery. After laying low for almost four months the gang members were short of cash. As Suchan drove the 1951 Mercury Monarch, with the license plate 418-A-2, north on Roncesvalles Detectives Edmund Tong and Roy Perry of the Toronto police fell in behind. The detectives had been watching the Mercury for days on a tip that is believed to have come from one of the gangs girlfriends. Suchan turned at College and as he approached the intersection at Lansdowne, the detectives instructed him to pull the Mercury over. As Tong approached the car shots rang out and a bullet ripped through his chest severing his spinal cord. Perry was wounded in the arm.
Suchan and Jackson sped off east along College for four blocks turning onto Sheridan Avenue where they ditched the Mercury and took a cab back to the Sorauren Avenue hideout.”
-Michael Wilkins www.Examiner.com
P1140672The Sorauren Ave rooming house the Boyd Gang used.
1471342_592519630818025_1992699926_nBoyd in the Don Jail.
College and Lansdowne/Then and NowIn 2010 the Supertest gas station is gone and a Tim Horton’s stands in it’s place.
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College and Lansdowne/Then and NowA Supertest Station.

Queen and Peter/Then and Now

QueenPeter_oldThe S/E corner in the 1970’s (there’s a hint of a car on the far left). The Peter Pan Lunch, formerlty The Savoy Restaurant  is probably the oldest, original restaurant in the city. A friend of mine had an apartment in the building to the left that burnt down last year. He had a crush on his upstairs neighbour, Patricia (Trish) Cullen who was a musician and friends with the Battered Wives. The next building to the left is (was) the former W.J.Burroughs Plumbing Building and later home to Silver Snail Comics for years.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 11.04.47 AMurbantoronto-5216-16127Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 11.10.16 AMThe original storefront was still intact when this photo was taken.

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Toronto’s First Condominium?

Before Toronto was overwhelmed with the condo craze, most people lived in houses or apartment buildings.

The Masters on Mill road in Etobicoke was one of the first purpose built condos. An ad from Maclean’s magazine from 1976.

Priced from $50,000-$80,000.

5e 1 Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 3.33.52 PMFurther research shows that Toronto’s FIRST condominium was built in 1968

 When the condominium concept finally made its way to Ontario in 1968,  Rockport  built the first in Toronto, by converting a 59-unit rental townhouse project already under construction in Rexdale.

Today you can purchase a 300 square foot micro condo for about $250,000.00.

This is progress!

What Killed the Scale Modelling Craze?

What single event in the mid 1960’s  killed off the model building craze of the early 1960’s?

A selection of model magazine covers below from 1964.

Hint: the bell had already tolled at this point.


The Beatles

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 11.50.50 AMThe Beatles made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9th, 1964 and thousand’s of teenage boys rushed out to buy electric guitars and drum kits leaving their model making days behind…….

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Chown and Cunningham Catalogue 1892

A selection of pages.Screen shot 2015-02-06 at 12.03.28 PM

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City Directory 1890

Some vintage ads from the 1890 City Directory.

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Simcoe and Adelaide/Then and Now

Bishop’s Block on the N/E corner of Adelaide and Simcoe circa 1890. Built in 1833.
According to Patricia McHugh in her excellent book “Toronto Architecture-A City Guide”
“These two brick and stucco row houses are Toronto’s oldest example of the genre. though now sadly bereft of their three original sisters and most of their Georgian dignity as well. Joseph Bishop was a butcher who built these houses for speculation.”
When this photo was taken (1890) The building on the right is operating as a Hotel. I can’t make out the entire name but it could be the J.J. O’Conner Hotel….
Below, some of the tenants occupying the block in 1890.
Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 12.52.59 PMScreen shot 2015-02-06 at 12.30.56 PMThis map from 1924 has it listed as the Clarke Hotel.
Simcoe and Adelaide/Then and Now
Bishop’s Block some time in the late 1960’s when it operated as the Pretzel Bell Tavern.
4 of the original townhouses still exist.
10176258_654661444603843_3388970756784185235_nSeen here in the late 1970’s, down to 2….
4458734920_4649914ab3_bA recently discovered photo perhaps from the early 1980’s.
Simcoe and Adelaide/Then and Now
Sadly, since the book was written, the remaining two houses were torn down last year to make way for more condos. The developers are supposed to re-build the original facades and incorporate them into the new structure.
The city did conduct an extensive archeological dig at the site.
Details can be found here.
Simcoe and Adelaide/Then and Now
When demolition started I was lucky enough to spot this old hand painted sign that had been covered up for years and managed to liberate it…
Harv’s Hang Inn.
Simcoe and Adelaide/Then and Now
Bishop’s Block as seen in 1856.
1970530_641264245943563_1593457382_nThe back view in 1982 and below the rebuilt version.
P1140659 P1140663 P1140661The bricks look to be vintage…

Toronto 1954/The Crew Cuts

the-crew-cuts-buckle-down-winsocki-mercuryThe Crew Cuts from Toronto scored the very FIRST number 1 Rock n’ Roll single with their cover of the Chords song Sh-Boom in September 1954.

When the Crew Cuts toured England in 1956 a young Paul McCartney was in the audience and waited backstage for an autograph!

I prefer this version from Dennis Potter’s “Lipstick on Your Collar” with a young Ewan McGregor and Louise Germaine miming the song.

Adelaide and Victoria/Then and Now

Looking east along the north side including the Post Office Building.

pictures-r-5901 P1140667Below, some more photos of the Post Office through the yeras.

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