The Loyal Orangeman Versus the Mayor of All the People

Originally published as a Historicist column on Torontoist on September 18, 2010.

Toronto Board of Control, 1956. Left to right: Leslie Saunders, Ford Brand, Nathan Phillips, Joseph Cornish, William R. Allen. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1258.

For the first half of the twentieth century, one prerequisite to be a serious contender for the mayor’s chair in Toronto was membership in good standing with the Orange Order. As 1954 dawned, it didn’t appear that the situation would change much: Orangeman Allan Lamport had won a third term and the challenger most likely to run against or in place of him that December, Leslie Saunders, was a high-ranking official in the Order. Yet 1954 wound up being the beginning of the end of Orange dominance over civic affairs, thanks partly to a series of snafus by Saunders. The municipal election of 1954 not only proved a key element in breaking the Order’s hold, but showed that antagonizing the press wasn’t a good idea and that you didn’t have to be Protestant to take the mayor’s chair, even if it took you three efforts.

Cartoon depicting Allan Lamport, The Telegram, June 24, 1954.

Our story begins at the Toronto Transit Commission, where the combination of an expanded administrative board and the death of Chairman W.C. O’Brien left several key vacancies. Sensing the prospects of steadier employment with the TTC than at the whim of voters, Mayor Lamport resigned from office in June to make himself available as a candidate for O’Brien’s job (he wound up as Vice-Chairman when William G. Russell won the top spot). On June 29, Saunders, a veteran member of the Board of Control who was serving as president of City Council, assumed the mayoralty amid general respect for his abilities as an administrator.

Saunders’s honeymoon was short-lived. Shortly after assuming office, Saunders was also named Deputy Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, just in time for the annual Orange parade in early July to celebrate William III’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Saunders decided the parade would be the perfect opportunity to issue a statement to Torontonians “reminding them of their British heritage” by stressing how important that the battle was as a victory for democratic and religious freedoms for all (even if some of faiths were deemed less worthy than others). Amid its glorification of the Orange Order, the statement requested citizens “to thank God for those whose courage against wrong hastened the dawn of freedom,” and compared the triumph of Protestants over Catholics to more recent victories against “the Hun, the Nazi and the Fascist.” One problem: Saunders issued the statement on official city stationery.

To Catholic councillors and other Orangemen in the city government whose views were less fervent than Saunders, the statement was received like an intolerant slap against citizens who weren’t connected to the Order. Controller David Balfour felt that the mayor should represent all faiths; in response, local Orange Order Secretary B.G. Louden challenged the Catholic Balfour to run for mayor. Saunders did not apologize for issuing the statement. “I’m proud,” he said, “to be able to make a statement of this kind to the people of Toronto on this great day in Orange history.” His statement did not find favour among the press, whose views were best summed by an editorial in the Telegram which noted that “the only rivers that Leslie Saunders is expected to concern himself with as Mayor of Toronto are the Don and the Humber.”

The Telegram, December 4, 1954.

Watching from the sidelines was former city councillor Nathan Phillips, who was taking a rest from elected office after a quarter of a century as an alderman and two unsuccessful mayoral runs against Lamport in 1951 and 1952. As controversy about Saunders’s statement grew, Phillips was contacted by Star reporter Bob McDonald to see if he would consider a third run for the mayor’s chair. Phillips decided he would, but only if his wife supported another run (she did) and if he could secure more newspaper support beyond the Star, which had backed his previous campaigns. He contacted Telegram publisher John Bassett, who indicated that Phillips could soon tell anyone he “damned well pleased” that he had Bassett’s full support. That Phillips was Jewish would make for an interesting angle in editorials in all of the city’s papers criticizing Saunders for trying to provoke religious strife. Upon hearing of Phillips’s entry, Saunders told the press on July 10 that when all the ballots were counted, he would be “be sitting right where I am now.”

Phillips’s entry into the race was timed well, as Saunders bounced from one fiasco to another. The mayor’s relations with the press were frosty at best when he had a confrontation with three reporters who entered a Board of Control meeting on July 14. The meeting was supposed to be held in private out of respect for any candidates named as potential successors for outgoing Parks Commissioner Oscar Pearson. The reporters from the Star and Telegram refused to leave due to their editors ordering them to be there. Much yelling ensued, mostly from Saunders. He was reported to have said “You’ll obey me! The newspapers aren’t going to tell me what to do!” Then Saunders chastised the reporters for not being good gentlemen by ignoring his requests to leave. The Mayor’s tactics appeared to outrage half of the four-person board, as Balfour and fellow Controller Roy Belyea stormed out of the room and accused him of being an autocrat.

Once again, Louden challenged somebody to run for mayor, but this time it was fellow Orangeman Belyea, who Louden warned to watch his tongue if he didn’t want to lose the up to ten thousand potential votes the Order could deliver. Saunders invoked a press ban at City Hall, which was the cue for the media to write editorials echoing the complaints of the controllers. The ban lasted for a day before Saunders reversed himself and declared that he would no longer have any private meetings with city councillors. As revenge, Saunders attempted to blacken Belyea’s reputation by questioning why the controller hadn’t served his country proudly during World War I, after Belyea stated that “dictators are being fought all over the world. Now is the time to fight them at home.” The electoral silly-season had kicked into high gear.

Amid these antics, both the Star and Telegram printed their endorsements of Phillips before the month was over. Both papers praised Phillips for his long public service record and for his dignified bearing,the antithesis of Saunders’ increasing irritability. As the Star noted, Phillips “possesses tact and natural friendliness and by these qualities, as well as by cogent arguments, he will, we think, improve Toronto’s standing in the Metro council, and represent her well in his contacts with municipalities outside this area.” For his part, Phillips vowed to run a campaign based on tolerance for all regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Telegram, December 4, 1954 (left), December 1, 1954 (right).

The question of who the Globe and Mail would support remained in the air for awhile, as neither of their favoured candidates could decide if they would run. Press speculation was that if Belyea didn’t run, former Toronto Board of Education Chairman Arthur Brown, who was defeated by Lamport the year before, would make a second attempt to become mayor. Belyea dithered for several months until he decided in late September that he would run again for the Board of Control. A few weeks later, Brown declared his intentions and the Globe and Mail printed their endorsement (while the paper found Phillips an agreeable person, they felt he never shown any signs of leadership or innovative thought). Saunders responded to the news by saying Brown was “wasting his time. I’ll lick him just as easily as anyone else. He’ll be pie.”
Over in the Phillips camp, the former councillor had an inkling that the campaign might be turning in his favour.

My campaign ran smoothly. I sensed that support was coming to me from every part of the city. I didn’t hear much said either for or against Brown, but there certainly was a rising tide against Saunders. As I look back, I don’t think it was so much a case of the people voting for me as it was of the people voting against Saunders. People do not often vote new governments into office. They vote old governments out.

Globe and Mail, November 26, 1954.

Among the crucial endorsements Phillips received was one from the Sunday Sports Committee headed by former controller Fred Hamilton, an old enemy of Saunders who was certain the incumbent candidate would reopen the issue of allowing sporting activities on Sunday and find a way to ban them again. An ad produced by Hamilton showing a collage of anti-Saunders articles left the Mayor fuming.

But this was only one of the image problems plaguing the Saunders camp. An attempt to ban municipal candidates from appearing before the Board of Control during the campaign, which appeared to be aimed at Phillips, backfired when the majority of the Board of Control opposed it. An ad listing prominent Torontonians who supported Saunders’ campaign was questioned when it appeared that some of those listed were unaware their names would be used in such a way. Three days before the election, Brown condemned the mayor for reportedly allowing a suite in the Royal York Hotel to be used for secret meetings of city council executives and to lavishly entertain visitors. The rumours of a secret clique running were too enticing for newspapers to resist running headlines decrying extravagances. Phillips demanded an investigation into the suite, which ultimately revealed that there wasn’t anything too shameful going on.

Globe and Mail, December 2, 1954.

Saunders felt confident of his chances on election day, believing the righteous citizens of Toronto would see through the “lies” in the press and cast their ballots in their usual fashion. He felt it was impossible that he would be unseated on December 6, especially to previous losers like Brown and Phillips. As the results came in, he maintained a positive face.

I had no idea that I could be defeated. We carried on an active campaign over radio, press and an 110,000 distribution of election literature through an agency. A victory party was arranged in Victoria Hall. As I listened, on my radio in my car, I was well down. My driver encouraged me, remarking that there were several polls to hear from, but I knew that I could not gain sufficiently. I listened until I had passed Arthur Brown, whose purpose in the running could only have been to split the Church and Gentile vote…Then I went up to our headquarters knowing I was defeated. At least I could walk with my head up, despite the unprecedented campaign waged by the three papers, Hamilton, et al.

Ett Phillips relaxing at home. “Did you ever see a dame like that?” her husband observed when this photo was taken in November 1962. Photo by Reg Innell. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0073605F.

Phillips had greater worries during election day than the results. The night before, his wife Esther (“Ett”) began preparations for the post-results party. On her way down to the basement to retrieve a turkey, her foot caught on a metal strip and she fell down the staircase. Mrs. Phillips was rushed to the hospital and underwent brain surgery. The candidate got little sleep that night and stayed in constant contact with the hospital during what Phillips later called “the longest day” of his life. He barely thought about what he would say after the votes were tallied until an editor from the Telegram called him around 10 p.m. to indicate that he had likely won in a very tight race (less than four thousand votes separated Phillips from Saunders, with Brown just over a hundred votes behind the incumbent). Phillips took fifteen minutes to draft a speech, in which he thanked the voters and discussed what really mattered to him at that moment.

As I speak to you, my heart is filled with sadness because my wife suffered a serious accident last night as a result of which she is in the hospital. She is still not out of danger and I appear before you now to express our thanks and gratitude because I know she would want me to. I have been deeply touched by the many inquiries during the day and the prayers offered for my wife’s recovery. I believe in prayers, and I ask you to continue to pray for her, because if I ever needed her, I need her more than ever now. Mrs. Phillips has in her the inspiration a husband needs to help him carry on.

Mrs. Phillips went on to make a full recovery, though her memories of the accident and the following days never returned.

Phillips then touched on the general nastiness of the campaign and expressed his pride at Toronto voters for rejecting the tactics from the Saunders camp.

Every person should be proud of his ancestry, and I am proud of the blood that flows in my veins. I am sure that every other citizen is proud of the blood that flows in his veins. I shall represent all the people, and I mean all the people in the broadest sense, fairly and without discrimination. I shall cut intolerance, I will try and be you, all the people of Toronto, and reflect your aims, ideals, aspirations and ambitions.

The Telegram, December 7, 1954.

The speech earned Phillips the nickname “Mayor of All the People,” a title he tried to live up to during his tenure. Third-place finisher Brown offered his congratulations and seemed at ease despite his loss…which was something that could not be said for Saunders. He refused to offer a formal concession to Phillips and never stopped blaming the press and non-Orangemen for engineering his defeat. His statements after the election lacked even traces of graciousness amidst his utter disbelief that the voters didn’t rally for him (“This is hardly the reward a person should receive for that type of service. No man has served Toronto better than I.”), and he never got over how the press turned against him, having had praise heaped on him before becoming mayor.

Having lived in East York for several years, Saunders eventually turned his political attentions to that municipality. As in Toronto, Saunders would serve as interim Mayor of East York in 1976, but with far less controversy. He never apologized for his fervent Orange beliefs or any actions he took during the 1954 election campaign. Yet the zealousness of his actions and his apparent ability to think only in terms of black and white, in contrast with the growing multicultural makeup of the city, helped spark the demise of the Orange Order’s hold on power in Toronto. The parades no longer draw the crowds they once did, and no mayor since the retirement of William Dennison in 1972 has been a member.

Sources: Mayor of All the People by Nathan Phillips (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967), An Orangeman in Public Life: The Memoirs of Leslie Howard Saunders by Leslie Saunders (Toronto: Britannia Printers, 1980), and the following newspapers: the July 10, 1954, July 15, 1954,and November 18, 1954 editions of the Globe and Mail; the July 29, 1954, and October 5, 1954 editions of the Toronto Star; and the July 10, 1954, July 13, 1954, July 14, 1954, July 16, 1954, July 21, 1954, and December 7, 1954 editions of the Telegram.


Globe and Mail, June 29, 1954.

Globe and Mail, July 12, 1954.

Toronto Star, July 15, 1954.

The Telegram, July 15, 1954.

The Telegram, October 6, 1954.

The Telegram, November 17, 1954.

Globe and Mail, November 22, 1954.

The first of several editorials in the G&M backing Arthur Brown. While Phillips, Saunders, and Brown had a tight race, the only other mayoral candidate finished far behind, with just under 5,000 votes: former Bellwoods MPP A.A. MacLeod, a member of the Communis…erm…Labor Progressive Party and the uncle of Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine.

Globe and Mail, November 27, 1954.

Globe and Mail, November 29, 1954.

Globe and Mail, November 29, 1954.

Toronto Star, November 29, 1954.

The Star’s endorsement of Phillips.

Toronto Star, December 3, 1954.

The Telegram, December 3, 1954.

The Telegram, December 4, 1954.

The Telegram, December 4, 1954.

Toronto Star, December 7, 1954.

The Telegram, December 7, 1954.

The Telegram, December 9, 1954.

Voting Rights in Toronto: Who Has (and Hasn’t) Been Allowed to Cast a Ballot in Our Elections

Originally published on Torontoist on September 15, 2014.

Ballot box preparation, Township of North York office at 5000 Yonge Street, 1964. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 261, Item 1.

For most of Toronto’s history, the privilege of voting in municipal elections belonged to an elite group. If you were male, 21 or older, and owned a certain amount of property, you automatically gained membership. If you were a male tenant, or a woman in general, the road to getting the municipal franchise was long and frustrating, often pitting the city against the reluctance of Queen’s Park.

The limitations on who could vote were enshrined in the document that created the City of Toronto, the York Incorporation Act of 1834, and written in convoluted legalese:

That the Aldermen and Common Councilmen of the said City shall be elected respectively by the majority of votes of such persons being male Inhabitant Householders within the Ward for which the Election shall be holden, or the Liberties attached thereto, as shall be possessed at the time of the Election, either in freehold or as tenants for term of years, or from year to year, of a Town Lot of Dwelling-house within the said Ward or Liberties: Provided always, that a portion of a House in which any Inhabitant shall reside as a Householder, and not as a Boarder or Lodger, and having a distinct communication with a street by an outer door, shall be considered a Dwelling-house within the meaning of this Clause: And provided also, that no person shall vote at any such Election, who has not been a resident Inhabitant with the said City or Liberties thereof, for the period of twelve calendar months, and who had not resided within the Ward for which the Election shall be holden, or the Liberties attached thereto for the period of three calendar months next before the Election.

The minimum monetary property value set by the province varied over time. Amendments under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1849 set the minimum at 50 pounds (pre-decimalization); by the time a revised Municipal Act passed in 1866, the minimum was $600, later reduced to $400. The ownership restrictions effectively shut out the city’s growing working class, despite calls as early as the mid-1860s to extend voting rights to all male taxpayers aged 21 and older.

Although women chose educational trustees as early as 1850 (since schooling was seen as a domestic concern), getting the municipal vote took nearly half a century. The fight for women’s suffrage gained traction after women’s property rights were officially recognized in the early 1870s. Organizations such as the Toronto Women’s Literary and Social Progress Club (TWLSPC, founded by pioneer suffragette Dr. Emily Stowe) urged city council to petition the province to extend the vote. Defenders of the status quo made ridiculous arguments against doing so: women lacked the mental capacity to comprehend politics, extending the vote to women would destroy marital bliss, the whole political process was too degrading, and virtually every other misogynistic complaint you could think of.

There were even fears that allowing women to cast ballots would disrupt child-rearing. “Some people think it will take women from the fireside, and cause them to neglect the babies and spoil the dinners,” observed a TWLSPC member during a meeting held in the city council chamber in March 1883, “but there need not be much fear that our absence will greatly affect our domestic concerns.” The TWLSPC soon renamed itself the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, and fought for the vote at all levels of government.

1914 calendar advertising Belle Ewart Ice Co. with reference to women’s suffrage. Toronto Public Library.

In March 1884, Queen’s Park passed legislation that allowed women to vote municipally, though the franchise was restricted to spinsters and widows, and only those who met the same property ownership qualifications as men. It was believed married women, even if property was held in their name, would be represented by their husbands at the ballot box.

Thanks to implementation delays, it wasn’t until January 4, 1886 that women in Toronto cast their first municipal ballots. Reform candidates such as mayoral contender William Holmes Howland counted on the 2,000 eligible female voters to support their stands on middle class concerns like the temperance movement. The Globe predicted that the injection of female virtue would cause inebriated, rowdy behaviour on election day to vanish: “No woman need fear having to endure any insult or having in the slightest degree to part with her womanliness in consequence of exercising her privilege of voting.”

Nearly 40 years passed before married women were allowed to vote, over which time countless attempts by city council and opposition parties in the Ontario legislature to change the rules failed. But the will was there, as shown by council’s actions when its Civic Legislation and Reception Committee heard from a delegation of 30 local suffragettes on January 11, 1912. Constance Boulton noted how the “public spirited ladies of Toronto” influenced council to back major infrastructure projects like the Ashbridges Bay water treatment plant. Dr. Margaret Gordon, president of the Toronto Suffrage Association, observed, “We are allowed to vote only when our husbands die. They do not die until we are well up in years.” The councillors in attendance (apart from George McMurrich, who believed that giving women the franchise would discourage their husbands from voting) praised the suffragettes. “There are hundreds and thousands of women in this city who pay taxes yet are without a voice in municipal affairs,” reflected controller J.O. McCarthy. “It is not square. The individual who pays taxes has some right to a voice in the government that spends them.”

Two weeks later, council voted unanimously to apply to the province to extend the franchise to married women. Mayor George Reginald Geary originally insisted on a rider that recommended that if a couple was jointly assessed for taxes, only the husband would vote. Sensing the mood, he consented to dropping it. Fifty women were on hand for the vote, but only after councillors gave up their seats to allow more to enter a council chamber packed that day for a separate debate on legalizing Sunday tobogganing.

James Pliny Whitney. Wikimedia Commons.

But the province didn’t feel like rocking the boat. When three proposed bills allowing women’s suffrage were defeated in the legislature on April Fools’ Day 1913, Premier Sir James Whitney noted that they were contrary to British precedent. “The restriction of the franchise to men is a good custom that is quietly helping to corrupt the world,” an editorial in the World noted, “and it will have to change.” Married women were granted the right to vote in provincial elections in February 1917, but they had to wait until the passage of the Municipal Franchise Act in 1922 to vote in municipal elections.

The next great battle was extending the franchise to anyone 21 or older, regardless of their property holdings. While some community leaders, like Mayor Jimmie Simpson, supported the idea during the 1930s, others not only opposed it, but also wanted to reduce the number of eligible voters. At a provincial hearing on reforming municipal taxes in April 1938, Property Owners’ Association of Toronto president H.E. Manning argued that the administration of social services and assistance to the poor should be eliminated from municipal budgets. “With the removal of the above services from the municipal field any sentimental reasons for preserving an unrestricted municipal franchise disappear,” Manning stated. “The temptation to win elections by promises of spending the taxpayers’ money on airports, uneconomically cheap housing projects, harbour improvements and other enterprises not particularly the concern of either local government or property ownership will persist as long as non-taxpayers control the election.” In a piece published by the Globe and Mail a few months later Dr. Charles Sheard wrote, “to have members of Council representing tenants is like being asked to contribute to a charity by a canvasser when she herself contributes nothing, but merely seeks to point out to others wherein their duty lies.”

Globe and Mail, November 9, 1956.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, calls to update voting qualifications grew louder. The existing laws allowed tenants to vote only if they met absurdly convoluted qualifications. In 1949, for example, the Municipal Act stipulated that tenants had to rent two or more rooms that could be assessed for at least $400 worth of taxes, and in which they regularly cooked and slept. If an adult lived in their parents’ home, they were disqualified from voting if they ate meals in the parent’s portion of the residence. Extending the franchise to tenants was seen by some as a blow to the ego of taxpayers.

In a referendum during the 1956 municipal election, Torontonians were asked if they would allow city council to request the province extend the franchise to all people 21 or older who had resided in the city for at least a year and were British subjects. The ballot question exempted public votes on money matters, which would continue to require proof of property ownership. By a two-to-one margin, voters approved of the idea.

Yet the province stalled. When the matter finally arose in March 1958, proposed legislation required Ontario municipalities to hold a referendum before extending the vote, with the exception of the three cities (London, Port Arthur, and Toronto) that had already done so. The province’s municipal law committee unanimously approved the proposal on March 24, but overnight dictates from Premier Leslie Frost and his cabinet provoked backtracking. The next day, the committee announced the three exempted cities had to hold fresh referendums. The move was defended by Renfrew South MPP James Maloney, who believed the bill should be reconsidered because “there are certain matters in it which trouble my people down at Renfrew”—namely, the notion Toronto was receiving preferential treatment. Bewildered opposition officials, including Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the forerunner of the NDP) leader Donald MacDonald, wondered why on earth anyone in Renfrew cared. He chalked up the mood shift to “railroading tactics.”

Globe and Mail, November 21, 1958.

City council reacted swiftly. Another referendum question was placed on the 1958 municipal ballot; it passed by an even larger margin than the last one. In response, Queen’s Park allowed an extended franchise (with some lingering restrictions) to be implemented in 1960, on condition that a pricy separate voters list prepared by a separate enumeration team was maintained for newly eligible electors. The move reeked of spite.

Over the course of the 1960s, city council worked on proposals to base voter qualification on residency instead of the few remaining property ownership restrictions, most of which were abolished years earlier for federal or provincial contests. These efforts caused at least one right-wing councillor to cry “Communism!” Loosening the franchise occurred gradually in the suburbs within Metro Toronto, though communities like Scarborough resisted as long as possible.

Toronto Star, October 26, 1972.

The piecemeal process of reform ended in June 1972, when the province passed the Municipal Elections Act. The new legislation lowered the voting age to 18 and removed the last property value qualifications—the main requirement was Canadian citizenship or being a British subject (the latter a right Toronto retained into the 1980s). The city’s current voter qualifications reflect these changes; they also allow non-residents who own or rent property within the city’s borders to vote, which some observers say is a means of padding the electoral rolls.

Current efforts to extend the vote to non-citizens are not without historical precedent. In 1971, councillor Joe Piccininni proposed allowing non-citizens who owned property in the city to cast ballots. The idea was attacked in letters to the editor by those who argued that the right to vote is one of the few incentives to become a Canadian citizen. Yet, as Ryerson University political science professor Myer Siemiatycki pointed out in a 2006 report on voting and social inclusion, nearly 16 per cent of Toronto’s population was ineligible to vote due to lack of citizenship. Will this group bring about the next stage in the evolution of our municipal franchise?

Sources: Mayor Howland: The Citizens’ Candidate by Desmond Morton (Toronto: Hakkert, 1973); Statutes of His Majesty’s province of Upper Canada, passed in the fourth session of the eleventh provincial Parliament of Upper Canada (Toronto: Robert Stanton, 1834); The Muncipal Franchise and Social Inclusion in Toronto: Policy and Practice by Myer Siemiatycki (Toronto: Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, 2006); the August 30, 1866, March 7, 1883, January 12, 1912, and January 23, 1912 editions of the Globe; the April 29, 1938, July 27, 1938, December 1, 1949, June 9, 1961, May 10, 1962, and April 21, 1972 editions of the Globe and Mail; the March 25, 1958, December 16, 1958, April 12, 1960, December 9, 1971, and December 13, 1971 editions of the Toronto Star; and the April 2, 1913 edition of the Toronto World.


According to the City of Toronto’s website, the following can vote in the 2022 municipal election:

  • Canadian citizen
  • 18 years old and older
    • Either a resident in the city of Toronto, or a non-resident who owns/rents property in the city or has a spouse who owns/rents property in the city
  • Not prohibited from voting under any law

Four bullets points list who officially cannot vote: prisoners currently serving sentences, corporations, an executor or trustee who isn’t serving as a voting proxy, and anyone who has been “convicted of a corrupt practice” under section 90(3) in the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.


Globe and Mail, July 27, 1938.

An opinion piece arguing why those who didn’t own property did not deserve to vote in Toronto municipal elections. Later that year, mayor Ralph Day opposed suggestions that eligible voters needed to show their tax receipts before they could cast their ballot.

Globe and Mail, January 31, 1945.

One example of an unsuccessful attempt at municipal franchise reform from the mid-1940s, proposed by controller Stewart Smith, who belonged to the Communi…err…Labor Progressive Party. I would have words with Mr. Walton about renters not having a stake in the city.

Editorial, Toronto Star, February 1, 1945.

Two Days With the Queen

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on March 16, 2013.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip riding down Bay Street, June 29, 1959. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4986.

As Toronto prepared to welcome Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in the weeks leading up to the couple’s two-day visit in June 1959, press on both sides of the Atlantic debated whether Canadians suffered royal tour fatigue. The upcoming tour would be Elizabeth’s third of the decade, and the first to pass through Toronto since 1951, when she was still heir to the throne. Other royals, such as Elizabeth’s sister Margaret and aunt Mary, Princess Royal, conducted their own tours. What had been a rare experience was becoming less so.

Controversy exploded when Joyce Davidson, one of the hosts of CBC-TV’s Toronto-based newsmagazine Tabloid, headed to New York City for a featured guest stint on Today. When host Dave Garroway asked Davidson on June 18, 1959, about the Queen’s visit, she surprised him by saying “we’re still annoyed at still being dependent on a monarchy.” She declared most Canadians expressed “indifference” to the Queen because their backgrounds were not British. Davidson tried to cover her tracks by indicating her remarks did not necessarily represent her own opinion.

Joyce Davidson on the front page of the Telegram, June 20, 1959.

That point was lost when the news hit Toronto. Phone lines at the CBC and daily newspapers were flooded with outraged callers incensed by the gall of Davidson to suggest anti-monarchist thoughts. Mayor Nathan Phillips demanded an apology, stating that Davidson “doesn’t represent Canadians or the people of Toronto.” Ethnic organizations declared their loyalty to the crown. Though more politely written, letters and statements condemning Davidson displayed an underlying tone of ugliness towards her familiar to anyone visiting online comment sections recently—a Telegram editorial declared “Joyce is no brain” and that she was “posing, as some Canadians do when absent from Canada, as superior to things Canadian and thought she would show Mr. Garroway just how emancipated she is. La-de-da-da-da.” Davidson’s two young daughters, who were being watched by their grandmother in Toronto, were taunted as “traitors” by playmates.

Initially, Davidson refused to apologize. Interviewed on Tabloid that evening, she told co-host Percy Saltzman, who admitted he would have internalized similar thoughts, that “nothing I said had any reflection against the Queen… or anyone in her entourage.” During her final appearance on Today the following morning, she joked that when she returned to Toronto, “they’ll probably shoot me when I get off the plane.” She wrote a piece for the Telegram where she expressed her astonishment at the vitriol she unleashed over “a mild opinion from a mild girl.”

Discussions with CBC brass determined that Davidson would not return to Tabloid until the furor died down. In a second Telegram piece, she apologized for distressing people. Calls to media outlets continued, but opinion started to favour Davidson. CBC, which was experiencing unrelated troubles with the federal government, was criticized for pulling her off the air. Star columnist Pierre Berton doubted a similar stir would have arisen had she declared herself an atheist. He believed Canadians generally were indifferent to royal visits and that “if this be treason, make the most of it.” Davidson took her daughters to watch the royal procession when it arrived in Toronto and returned to the air a week after the Queen departed. Within a couple of years, she moved south of the border and married TV talk show host/producer David Susskind.

The Telegram, June 29, 1959.

While the Davidson furor died down, another tour-related controversy flared briefly at city council. Mayor Phillips’ eight-year-old granddaughter Linda was designated to present the official city bouquet to the Queen at City Hall, as she had for Princess Margaret a year earlier. While some aldermen had no problems, others felt the choice should have been made from local schools or children’s hospitals. Future mayor William Dennison thought that at least Linda should have an assistant who was “a crippled child or an orphan.” Phillips stuck by his choice.

The Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Toronto Harbour aboard the royal yacht Britannia around 9 a.m. on June 29, 1959, accompanied by an entourage of royal naval ships, RCMP patrols, and harbour police. Temporary stands were filled when the royal couple stepped onto land near Queens Quay and Yonge Street around 9:30 a.m. Military guards and musicians were dressed in heavy ceremonial garb ill-suited for temperatures hovering around 33 degrees Celsius. At least three collapsed during the ceremony, the first of many guards and spectators who crumpled from the heat over the course of the day.

After dedicating docks named in her honour, the Queen and Prince Philip loaded into the open-air royal car. They headed east to Kew Beach to meet Beaches residents and physically challenged children. Greeting them was Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe, who joked that he wanted to “give the Queen a tip” for the following day’s Queen’s Plate horse race, preferably for Smythe’s entry, Major Flight. Instead, he introduced her to that year’s Easter Seals “Timmy.”

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and Nathan Philips at civic reception at Old City Hall, June 29, 1959. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4980.

The royal party arrived at Old City Hall at 11:30 a.m., 15 minutes early. Despite strong winds which nearly blew away his speech, Mayor Phillips officially welcomed the Queen at a ceremony which drew 6,000 spectators. “There is probably not a member country of the Commonwealth which is not represented in this vast concourse of citizens assembled here,” Phillips noted. He invited the couple to “come again when we can promise an entirely new batch of sites.” One of those future attractions caught Prince Philip’s eye: a model of the new City Hall, which reminded him of a boomerang. He asked how to contact architect Viljo Revell.

After receiving a painting of the waterfront by Manly MacDonald, the Queen thanked Torontonians for “a demonstration of love and loyalty which has touched us beyond measure.” The royal motorcade received the ticker-tape parade treatment as it proceeded south along Bay Street before heading back to the Britannia. Following lunch, the couple visited the Redpath sugar refinery. Photographers trailing the Queen for American and British newspapers balked when told they would have to walk up many flights of stairs to follow the royal party, which had exclusive use of the freight elevator. These photographers sulked in a nearby bus, while their local counterparts braved the stairs. They were rewarded with shots of the Queen quizzing Redpath officials about sugar and the prince demonstrating his refining knowledge.

Maps of the royal tour routes, the Telegram, June 27, 1959.

Next stop was High Park, where the royals viewed floral displays, took tea with the mayor, and presented awards to Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. As he returned to the car, Prince Philip glanced at Grenadier Pond and announced that he would go for a swim. A nearby Scout warned him the water was polluted. “If we both went in,” Philip responded, “it would be more polluted.” A stop at the CNE Grandstand for a military review featuring the 48th Highlanders followed. The crowd of 20,000 roared when she closed her parasol as the car entered the stadium.

The evening was spent with 1,500 dignitaries at the Lieutenant-Governor’s gala dinner at the Royal York Hotel. Over a meal of Lake Erie pickerel, avocados, strawberries, and domestic champagne, the royals chatted with Premier Leslie Frost, who had been present during opening ceremonies for the St. Lawrence Seaway days earlier. Frost told the audience that the Queen consented to bestow her name on a provincial scholarship program. The Queen told her fellow diners that she and Philip felt at home in Canada. “Each time I come here,” she observed, “I am fascinated by your way of life, your homes, your work, your games and recreation.” They are at once so familiar yet so different that I always want to know a bit more about them.”

Some people could be overly zealous about showing respect to the Queen, as this story from the June 26, 1959 edition of the Telegram demonstrates.

The next day the royals headed off on separate itineraries. Prince Philip attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Medical Association at the Royal York, where he was named the organization’s president. He viewed the session as “a perfectly marvellous opportunity to do a little preaching” and urged members to combat the decline in Canadian physical fitness. His suggestions included more physical education programs in schools, recreational facilities, and expanding the role of youth organizations.

Meanwhile, the Queen made numerous stops around Metro Toronto. She started at the O’Keefe Centre construction site, when she spent an extra 10 minutes asking questions about the performing arts centre and its future users. She visited seniors at the Arthur Meighen Salvation Army residence on Davisville Avenue then greeted onlookers at the Golden Mile Plaza. Metro Toronto Chairman Frederick Gardiner presented her with a $5,000 cheque in her name to the Canadian Cancer Society, while other local dignitaries gifted her with heavy wool cardigans for Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Scarborough Reeve Albert Campbell invited her to shop at the strip mall’s Loblaws, but the tour had to move on. “I’d like to go shopping in it,” she told a Loblaws official, “but unfortunately I don’t have the time.” Later accounts suggest she might have briefly roamed the store.

Heading back west, the Queen stopped along Bayview Avenue at the Canadian Institute for the Blind, where she took extra time to talk with those welcoming her. At Sunnybrook Hospital, the Queen prevented an RCMP handler from stopping a war veteran from approaching her in his wheelchair. She also surprised veteran Walter Crossmith when she recognized his medals as Boer War vintage. After reuniting with Prince Philip, the couple stopped at the Etobicoke municipal officials for a meet-and-greet with local officials led by Reeve H.O. Waffle. The Globe and Mail called it the most formal presentation of the entire visit, “perhaps caused by the fact that all of the dignitaries were done up in toppers and such finery.”

Prince Philip, jockey Bobby Ussery, Queen Elizabeth II and E.P. Taylor at the Queen’s Plate, June 30, 1959. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4997.

Like the royals, these snappy dressers made their way to the new Woodbine Racetrack for the 100th running of the Queen’s Plate. When the royal party was over half an hour late, jokes flew that the entourage visited the old Woodbine track by mistake. While temperatures had dropped 10 degrees, the threat of rain reduced the expected crowd from 35,000 to 25,000. After a ceremony featuring the Governor-General’s Horse Guards, the Queen and Prince Philip joined business tycoon E.P. Taylor in the royal box. He was good company for the couple, as his horse New Providence won. Signs hadn’t boded well for the horse: he had won once in 13 starts that year, while his usual jockey, Hall-of-Famer Eddie Arcaro, was injured during the Belmont Stakes. Replacement jockey Bobby Ussery called his victory “the second biggest thrill of my life. The first was when I won my first race.” Smythe’s Major Flight finished second, while race favourite Winning Shot placed third.

The royals departed for Ottawa via an RCAF VIP plane from Malton Airport at 6:18 p.m. Before they left, Premier Frost observed that the Queen’s reception during her two days in Toronto was the opposite of indifference. An estimated 500,000 people came out to see the royal visit. Unlike past tours, the couple seemed to reach out more to their subjects, going over allotted time at many stops to talk to them about their lives and their city. Conversely the experience, combined with the Seaway opening and the city’s 125th birthday, provided, as a Star editorial noted, “an occasion for Toronto and Torontonians to celebrate themselves.”

Sources: the June 19, 1959, June 30, 1959, and July 1, 1959 editions of the Globe and Mail, the June 18, 1959, June 20, 1959, June 22, 1959, June 27, 1959, June 29, 1959, and June 30, 1959 editions of the Toronto Star, and the June 19, 1959, June 20, 1959, June 26, 1959, June 27, 1959, June 29, 1959, and June 30, 1959 editions of the Telegram.


Maclean’s, May 23, 1959.

Toronto Star, June 18, 1959.

The Telegram, June 19, 1959.

The Telegram, June 24, 1959.

Toronto Star, June 22, 1959.

Globe and Mail, June 26, 1959.

Toronto Star, June 27, 1959.

The Telegram, June 29, 1959.

Globe and Mail, July 1, 1959.

The Telegram., June 30, 1959. In fairness, Frederick Gardiner (at the far right) often looked sulky in photos from this era. Perhaps he was afflicted with RBF.

Come Out to Caribana ’67

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on July 27, 2011.

“Laughing girls in leopard skins dance along Bloor St in Saturday’s Caribana ’67 parade. Toronto’s 8,000 West Indians are throwing a week-long centennial party on Centre Island and inviting the rest of the city to join in the fun.” (The Telegram, August 8, 1967.) Photo by Lee Harrison.

Festival fever was in the air in 1967. Canada was in a celebratory mood during its centennial year and while most of the action was at Expo in Montreal, the federal government encouraged ethnic groups across the nation to showcase their contributions to a country starting to embrace its multicultural makeup. One such group was Toronto’s Caribbean community, who determined it was time to infuse the city with the colour and spirit of carnival. With less than a year of preparation, and long before there were any squabbles over management, financing, and name proprietorship, the first edition of Caribana was quickly embraced as a highlight of Toronto’s summer.

“Mayor (William) Dennison enjoys some West Indian culture.” The Telegram, August 11, 1967.

The first discussions for a West Indian–themed festival occurred in a downtown fire hall in late 1966. Organizers felt the one cultural expression found on every Caribbean island was the colourful tradition of carnival, with the pre-Lenten celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago serving as a model to follow. The August long weekend was ideal for a celebration due to its close approximation of tropical heat and low risk of rain. Centre Island was chosen as the focal point for activities, though this would affect how much profit the festival could make due to municipal regulations which restricted admission fees on park property to 50 cents or less. The festival’s name, Caribana, was devised to convey notions of Canada, the Caribbean, and all-around fun. Packed volunteer meetings dealt with issues like muting the raunchier aspects of carnival so as to not offend Toronto’s prudish tastes (answer: discourage explicit dancing and public drunkenness). By the end of July 1967, an official organizing body (the Caribbean Centennial Committee, later the Caribbean Cultural Committee) was in place and volunteers geared up to prepare events ranging from balls to a book exhibit spotlighting the works of Austin Clarke.

“A calypso band supplies the throbbing beat to make the big day swing for the Caribana parade.” The Telegram, August 8, 1967.

The first Caribana parade was scheduled to begin at Varsity Stadium at 9 a.m. sharp on Saturday, August 5, 1967. But as organizer Dr. J. Alban Liverpool told the Telegram, “West Indian time is different than North American time.” Ten floats and over 1,000 participants didn’t leave the stadium until 11:30 a.m. Mounted police assigned to guide the parade were occasionally shocked to find nobody behind them, as participants moved in circles instead of a straight line (several years passed before police accepted that they couldn’t pace the Caribana parade with the military precision of the Santa Claus Parade). The inaugural route went east on Bloor Street, south on Yonge Street, then west on Queen Street to the still-new City Hall. The designated route was a symbolic one for festival organizers, who wanted to demonstrate that a minority group with little political clout belonged on major city arteries, while the backdrop of City Hall would show that the community was an integral part of the new Canada. Several participants noted that although the parade attracted 50,000 spectators, the cold reserve Torontonians were known for led to one of the quietest carnival celebrations they had ever seen.

Globe and Mail, August 7, 1967.

While a concert in Nathan Phillips Square followed the official greeting from Mayor William Dennison, many ferried over to Centre Island after the parade to take in the main festivities. During the opening weekend, Caribana officials estimated over 35,000 people checked out the festival’s music, food, and exhibitions. Among the praise that poured in was a glowing editorial in the Telegram:

Here’s a toast in a planter’s punch, or in pop if you prefer, to the West Indian Centennial Committee for the swingiest, gayest, jauntiest party in this old town all this week at Centre Island. “We appreciate Canada,” said Eric Lindsay, business manager of the Caribana Committee, and the West Indians of Toronto are singing it in the hauntingly beautiful rhythms of their islands and expressing it in their dances and in the radiant colours of their native costumes—a festival for which they have expended $40,000, no small feat for the smallest ethnic group in the city. “Thank you,” Toronto says for this delightful treat, and may Centre Island continue to pulse with the warm hearts of this city to enjoy it.

Even when disaster loomed, things went right for the first Caribana. Little seemed promising for the Trinidad and Tobago show brought in from Expo 67 on August 9. The troupe had no rest from their routine of four sold-out shows a day in Montreal. Rain half-an-hour before the main performances didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of an audience, huddled under umbrellas, who yelled “More! More!” to the warm-up steel band. When the lights short-circuited, the band played three more songs without missing a beat. A Caribana official mopping the stage received roaring applause when the lights came back on. The rest of the evening went off without a hitch.

Advertisements, (left) the Telegram, August 11, 1967, (right) the Toronto Star, August 12, 1967.

By popular demand, Caribana was extended one day to end on August 13. The move was a wise one, as closing day crowds helped set a one-day record for ferry use. The day also included a surprise visit from Sir Clifford Campbell, the Governor General of Jamaica, who was on his way back to the Caribbean from Expo 67. As the festival wound down, Mayor Dennison indicated to festival organizers that he would support making Caribana an annual event.

Despite the difficulties which have threatened to derail the festival over the years, the core celebratory spirit that infused Caribana in 1967 should be on display during this year’s Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, along with outfits that would shock the quiet, repressed, upstanding Torontonians who lined the route of that first parade. Perhaps one of the key goals the festival has aimed for throughout its history was best summed up by one of its early officials, businessman Trevor Clarke: “Integration is something that can only be effected when people can give as well as take. Culture could be the beginning of this. Unless I can project myself into your culture and you into mine, we are not equal. Caribana ’67 is showing people that it is more pleasant not to disregard us.”

Sources: Caribana The Greatest Celebration by Cecil Foster (Toronto: One World, 1995); the August 8, 1967, August 10, 1967, and August 14, 1967 editions of the Toronto Star; and the August 5, 1967, August 8, 1967, August 9, 1967, and August 11, 1967 editions of the Telegram.


“Twirling and spinning; gaily costumed dancers cavort to the pounding beat of musicians from the Trinidad and Tobago show at Expo; in Toronto as part of Caribana ’67. Despite a summer rain storm and a brief power failure; some 8,000 persons flocked to Centre Island for last night’s show and most ended up singing and dancing along with the performers.” Photo by Frank Lennon, originally published in the August 10, 1967 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0102988F.

Once in awhile, I irritate readers. One, using a pseudonym based on an early 1960s Jack Lemmon/Shirley MacLaine movie was not happy with a characterization I made near the end of this piece when it was republished in 2015.

“the quiet, repressed, upstanding Torontonians” Just out of curiosity, how do you know that Torontonians were particularly quiet or repressed? I’ll bet you weren’t even alive back here then, were you? Why do people make these blanket statements? Does anyone really think the people here were any more quiet and repressed than Vancouverites or Montrealers when it came to Caribbean parades, or has it just become a habit amongst everyone assuming they know what life was like back then?

The next day, under the alias “I. Give Up,” they were miffed that Torontoist was ignoring their complaint.

I give up on Torontoist. I wrote a perfectly valid question yesterday as to why the author was so quick to condemn Toronto as being any more cold, prudish, etc… than any other Canadian city, but apparently it was not sycophantic enough to be printed. People who write these articles weren’t even here back then and are simply re-writing history as they believe it should be. Shame on Torontoist for only printing comments that agree with them; that is what the Sun newspaper does.

My editor provided a great response.

We have had a big uptick in spam over the past few months, and your comment got caught up in that filter. It has now been published–our apologies for the delay.

We hope you enjoy reading Historicist.

Answering their charges after all these years: no, I wasn’t alive in 1967. No, I’m not looking for sycophantic comments. But I’ve read enough material from that era both depicting and poking fun at the stiff image of Torontonians – including that year’s Caribana coverage (I had already discussed concerns organizers had about offending prudes) – that it seemed like a good line to use. That the complainant chose to use two aliases while leaving their comments and compared the perceived slight to Toronto Sun editorial page policy indicated that neither me nor my editor needed to take them seriously.

Don’t Scream for Ice Cream

Originally published as a Historicist column on Torontoist on August 4, 2012.

“Cecil Heal sells ‘ices’ from insulated basket he uses. A second man stays at truck to watch out for children crossing street.” Photo by Barry Philip, originally published in the July 11, 1966 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0018658F.

The sight and sounds of an ice cream truck are, as Torontoist declared last year, “SUMMER INCARNATE.” While many of us enjoy walking up to the nearest parked truck to sample its dairy/pseudo-dairy delights, there are those who see a darker side to the vehicles. Half a century ago, Toronto’s suburbs engaged in a war against roaming vendors of ice cream and other treats in the name of safety and preserving tranquility.

The main reason cited for banishing ice cream trucks and other mobile food vendors was child safety. Thanks to periodic accidents, politicians and editorial page letter writers maintained that children were so distracted by the lure of dairy delights that they were oblivious to oncoming traffic. Read between the lines of the complaints and you’ll find that the trucks were targeted for their ability to drain the pockets of parents, create noise pollution, and a sense that they brought the class of any upstanding neighbourhood down a notch. In a letter to the Don Mills Mirror published in June 1963, Don Mills resident Bridget Rees found it “quite touching but at the same time hypocritical” that North York officials pushed to remove trucks from township streets. “If children’s safety is the reason for the ban,” Rees wrote, “why are there so few sidewalks in North York.” Rees pointed out that nobody was calling to ban bread or milk delivery trucks, and pointed to one neighbourhood, Glenorchy Gardens, which was fighting sidewalks it believed were “a mark of poverty.”

Following Etobicoke’s decision to implement a mobile vendor ban in 1961, other suburban municipalities within Metro Toronto considered their own restrictive bylaws. When York Township contemplated a ban the following year, the major newspapers attacked it. “It is not possible to bring up children by bylaw,” a Globe and Mail editorial began. “And even if it were possible, it would not be desirable.” The paper felt the real problem was parents, especially mothers, “who lack the strength of mind to forbid twice or thrice-a-day ice cream to their children would like a bylaw to do it for them.” It was pointed out that if truck bells tempted children to run into traffic, why not ban balls that could roll into the street? “The ice cream salesman with his tinkling bell is one of the legitimate joys of childhood,” the paper concluded. “It is ridiculous that the child should be deprived of his joy, or the salesman of his livelihood, because an officious council is endeavoring to take the place of a number of timorous parents who do not have the courage to say: ‘No, Junior, you cannot have another ice cream cone.’” The Star brought up similar points, adding that if the sound of bells was so annoying, “are the same residents up in arms against power mowers?”

While no bans on lawn manicuring aids were forthcoming, removing ice cream trucks became a hot issue at North York Township council during the spring of 1963. Beyond fears surrounding safety, complaints from the public included the ability of ringing bells to wake children from their afternoon nap. The push for a ban came from council’s traffic committee whose chair, Murray Chusid, credited his personal stance against trucks for getting him elected. Traffic co-ordinator Sid Cole insisted that rising motorist speeds meant on-street retailing could not be considered safe. Lawyers representing hard and soft ice cream vendors pointed to polls which suggested that while introducing restrictions like turning off the bells after dark would be appreciated, most questioned were against a total ban. From a modern perspective, at least one claim from the soft ice cream lobby seems dubious: “Many mothers appreciate the fact that with ice cream sales Johnny doesn’t have to cross busy intersections for his daily intake of vitamins via ice cream.” Remember that health tidbit next time you stop at a Mister Softee.

A crowd of children gather around a Good Humour salesman selling his treats in a North York driveway. The Don Mills Mirror, July 13, 1966.

Compromise proposals struck some North York councillors as ludicrous. A map presented at a June 1963 council meeting suggested allowing trucks to prowl some roads (marked in green) but not others (marked in red) made reeve Norman Goodhead laugh. “We could paint street signs red or green so people could decide if they wanted to live on an ice cream street or not,” he joked. Council voted in favour of a ban affecting ice cream trucks and mobile vendors of candy, fruit and peanuts that month, but deferred enacting it to provide time to gather more data and avoid harming existing vendors entering the busiest part of the season. Among the evidence considered was a Metro Traffic and Safety Council report stating that in the previous three-and-a-half years there were 45 accidents involving children and ice cream trucks. Of those, 43 were blamed on the children, with only one involving direct contact between truck and victim. In the end, council voted to implement a ban in November 1963.

As North York deliberated, Scarborough Township council voted in favour of its own mobile vendor ban. Besides the reasons outlined elsewhere, reeve Albert Campbell believed operators brought the wrath of the community upon themselves; “They disturb shift workers trying to get some sleep in the daytime and have done nothing to make themselves less of a nuisance.” While vendors were allowed to operate for the rest of the season in Scarborough, the final bylaw passed in January 1964 prohibited mobile sales on all but 46 streets located in industrial parks or areas that hadn’t been built up yet. Violators would be penalized up to $300.

Vendors unsuccessfully fought the Scarborough ban in court but won a minor victory when a case against an ice cream truck was dismissed in July 1964 when it was revealed a police officer ate the evidence. Dundurn Foods was among the first companies to exploit a loophole in all of the suburban bylaws: while ice cream was specifically mentioned, ice milk wasn’t, which led salesmen to claim, as they did in this case, that they were selling not-quite-ice-cream whenever cops approached them. When magistrate James Butler asked the officer what his “Big Gem Banana Split” tasted like, he replied “ice cream.” Since the truck wasn’t patted down and no chemical analysis to determine if the treat really was ice milk was conducted before the officer downed the dish, charges were dropped. Reports didn’t indicate if the officer enjoyed his banana split.

Toronto Star, August 28, 1965.

Fervour seemed to die down for a time, but a fatal accident brought the issue back to the forefront for suburban governments. On August 27, 1965, three-year-old Karen Davies when killed when she was run over by an ice cream truck on Peacham Crescent in North York. She had pedalled her tricycle into the seven foot blind spot in front of the stopped truck. When driver Mike Giambattista pulled out, he heard a bump. A coroner’s inquest two months later found both parties responsible for the accident, though coroner Eli Cass warned that the truck’s bells had a “Pied Piper” effect on children. The jury recommended that drivers have a helper to determine if the way was clear before pulling out, that products should not be sold to anyone under the age of 10 unless accompanied by an adult, and that North York should rewrite its bylaw to cover all types of confectioneries. The incident caused the Globe and Mail to change its tune—having long mocked all attempts to restrict ice cream sales, an October 1965 editorial admitted that young children were impulsive and “probably no amount of traffic safety instruction by their parents will entirely overcome their tendency to run toward any sight or sound that interests them.”

Following the advice of the coroner’s jury, North York rewrote its bylaw, which was also passed as a private member’s bill at Queen’s Park in May 1966. The key new word was “foodstuffs,” which was felt to cover all the bases. But the ever-crafty minds at one of the largest ice cream vendors, Good Humor, found another loophole to exploit. While the new bylaw banned selling food from a truck, there wasn’t any specific wording restricting drivers from temporarily parking their truck, getting out, then walking with a plaid-covered insulated basket filled with treats that could be sold door-to-door or along driveways and sidewalks. Good Humor vice-president J.L. Jackson promoted his new distribution method as a safe one that would prevent kids from tackling numerous dangerous street crossings to grab a treat at a shopping plaza—“We think we reduce accidents rather than cause them.” To prove their dedication to safety, trucks now carried warning signs like “Wait on the Curb, I’ll Come to You,” while drivers made thorough checks around their vehicles for any lingering kids before driving off. The company pointed to recent statistics from the Metro Accident Bureau, which showed that out of 4,261 children injured in traffic accidents since 1963, only 33 were due to ice cream trucks.

“Noise is everywhere. Added to the many other sounds of the city, even the pleasant chimes of an ice cream truck can be felt to be disturbing to peace.” Photo by Barry Philip, dated June 28, 1966. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0018659F.

Good Humor’s actions irked North York politicians, who continued to raise the spectre of fatalities based on residential fears. The company was hauled into court several times through the early summer of 1966, one of whom was Mike Gambattista, who claimed to be unaware of the new bylaw (and whom the court didn’t realize was involved in the Karen Davies fatality). After several convictions for selling ice cream from a truck parked on a roadway, Good Humor stopped looking for further loopholes and ceased operating in North York in late August 1966. When Etobicoke’s ban was being beefed up and considered by Queen’s Park in early 1967, a North York MPP noted that residents in his riding had quickly tired of youngsters on their lawns and the garbage left behind when the ice cream salesmen departed.

The bans remained in effect for decades to come. North York’s remained among the tightest, though it did allow for some vending along Yonge Street north of Highway 401. While offering to support downtown Toronto street vendors facing harassment over where they could operate in the mid-1980s, North York mayor Mel Lastman defended his municipality’s ban by stating there weren’t enough crowds on the streets to justify overturning it. Eventually, the bans faded into history as the amalgamated city adopted its own regulations regarding ice cream trucks, allowing these icons of summer to remain in our midst for years to come.

Sources: the May 29, 1963, June 5, 1963, and November 13, 1963 editions of the Don Mills Mirror; the July 18, 1962, July 3, 1963, October 21, 1965, October 22, 1965, and August 3, 1966 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the July 25, 1962, January 14, 1964, July 16, 1964, August 28, 1965, May 19, 1966, July 11, 1966, February 16, 1967, and May 23, 1985 editions of the Toronto Star.


Globe and Mail, July 18, 1962.

Toronto Star, July 25, 1962.

Don Mills Mirror, May 29, 1963.

Don Mills Mirror, June 5, 1963.

Globe and Mail,. October 22, 1965.

Toronto Star, March 1, 1966.

Toronto Star, July 11, 1966.

Don Mills Mirror, July 13, 1966.

Proclaiming Our Pride

Originally published on Torontoist on June 24, 2014.

Cover of Lesbian and Gay Pride Day program, Xtra, June 16, 1989.

When Mayor Rob Ford refused to participate in Pride-related events in 2011, it was, as Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee put it, “an embarrassment for a city that proclaims its diversity to the world.” Ford also reopened old wounds, recalling predecessor Art Eggleton’s refusal to lend support. But Art Eggleton had taken things one step further than Ford—during his tenure from 1980 to 1991, he had refused to proclaim Lesbian and Gay Pride Day, even though his office marked Harold Ballard Day and Walk-a-Dog-a-thon Day.

Eggleton’s reaction to the gay community in the aftermath of the 1981 bathhouse raids foreshadowed his handling of Pride. Eggleton told a provincial committee that the Ontario Human Rights Code should be amended to prevent discrimination based on sexual preference. Questioned further, Eggleton explained, though, that he believed that homosexuals “shouldn’t be allowed to thrust or force their sexual orientation or sexual inclination on other people” and that promoting their lifestyle should be grounds for dismissal. When a report on relations between the police and the gay community appeared later that month, Eggleton feared recommendations such easing arrests for sex in public places would “suggest special status for the gay community.”

Few were shocked when, starting in 1985, Eggleton refused requests from Pride organizers to proclaim Lesbian and Gay Pride Day. He reaffirmed his beliefs when city council’s executive committee recommended a proclamation in early 1989. “It is what I consider a personal matter,” he told the Star. “It is not appropriate for the naming of a day.”

On April Fools’ Day, the Star gave Eggleton a dart for his proclamation refusals, noting his comfort with recent declarations of days honouring notable contributors to Toronto’s cultural fabric like American comedian Red Skelton and the Muppet Babies:

This kind of silly hypocrisy would be funny if it didn’t have such a dark side. Gays have long been discriminated against. They are still victims of random violence. Yet by his continued obstinance, the mayor serves to reinforce the narrow views that foster needless ill will in the community.

“No Sourpuss” was the caption used for this picture of Art Eggleton dressed as a pickle for Halloween during the 1978 municipal election campaign. Photo by Dick Darrell, originally published in the November 1, 1978 Toronto Star. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0045479F.

Eggleton responded via a letter to the editor. He blamed Muppet Babies Day on an unnamed former Metro Toronto chairman, while Skelton was cited as an entertainer beloved by Torontonians. He defended his record of promoting anti-discriminatory human rights legislation, but reiterated his “private matter” excuse.

City council debated the matter throughout the spring of 1989. Letters and public deputations were a mixed bag: Pro-proclamation sentiments, such as those from Pride organizers, noted the event offered an opportunity for those across the rest of Ontario to gain support from fellow gays and lesbians. Other submissions strained credulity—letter writer Shirley Ratcliffe, for example, complained that she was both offended by the public celebration of sexual preference and concerned that declaring June 25 as Pride Day would mar a treasured personal moment. “June 25 was a very special day in my life 18 years ago as it was the day I gave birth to my daughter,” she wrote. “It was the happiest day of my life and now to think it may be possibly ruined.” Complaints about the date came from the Korean War Veterans Association of Canada, who used June 25 to memorialize that conflict.

After the executive committee voted 3-2 in favour of a proclamation, the matter moved to city council on June 1. Councillor Jack Layton framed the debate as a human rights issue:

The simple question to ask is this: would any other group coming forward be refused? The guidelines (very informal) indicate that religious and commercial events would be excluded. The Lesbian and Gay Pride Day is not one of these. Rather, Pride Day is a statement that it should no longer be necessary for homosexuals to hide in the closet for fear of discrimination. It is a statement of victory over years of unacceptable treatment. Of course the City should be saluting this achievement. If City Council votes against this request, people will be left to conclude that the only reason the event is denied its proclamation is discrimination. Not only this, but it will legitimize discrimination by others once again.

When Layton commented on the declaration of Purebred Dog Week, councillor Tony O’Donohue asked if he would have separate days for gay and straight pooches. O’Donohue also criticized Layton for promoting such a divisive issue, as there were “better things to discuss.”

Though the vote was 9-5 in favour of proclamation, there was a hitch. Councillor Betty Disero voted for the motion solely to reopen the matter at the following council meeting—under council rules at the time, one had to vote in the affirmative to pull such a trick. She claimed her actions were made on behalf of councillor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, who was unable to attend the meeting but wished to state his opposition.

Photo from 1989 Pride parade by Tony Bock, Toronto Star, originally published in the June 26, 1989 Toronto Star. Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0010605F.

When council reconvened on June 15, the key vote was councillor Kay Gardner. Usually part of council’s progressive faction, she opposed the proclamation. Her decision was a stressful one. “Perhaps I’m wrong,” Gardner noted, “but deep in my heart, maybe it’s because of my religious education, I think whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual, have a mistress or a lover, it’s a personal matter.” Pressed by reporters, she indicated that “maybe next year I’ll vote for it.”

Eggleton noted he wouldn’t proclaim “Heterosexual Day” either. Korwin-Kuczynski claimed that the gay community in his Parkdale ward was embarrassed by the fiasco—“They want to get on with their lives and want to be left alone.” Onlookers jeered that response.

Layton continued to lead the defence. “He wore his heart on his sleeve,” observed the Sun’s Christie Blatchford. “It was apparent—by his flushed cheeks, the anger in his voice, his evident disappointment afterwards—that he meant every word.” In the end, the declaration was defeated 8-7.

Pride officials and gay activists swiftly filed a discrimination complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Realizing it wouldn’t be dealt with in time for Pride (it was dismissed the following year), a lawsuit was filed against Eggleton and the City. The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Ontario on June 23 on the grounds that the Pride parade would proceed with or without a declaration. Eggleton’s response was the creation of Equality Day. To be held every January 31 (the date the City’s equal opportunity policy was implemented in 1977), the day would be an inoffensive examination of all forms of discrimination, starting with sexual. Activist Kyle Rae noted some people were so upset that they were making effigies of Eggleton. “I’m not sure what they are going to do with them,” he told the Globe and Mail.

Pride Day rolled along as planned, drawing over 25,000 people. Jokes about the lack of a proclamation drew cheers from the crowd. As promised, on January 31, 1990, Eggleton presided over Equality Day, which featured displays from community groups in the City Hall rotunda. A group of protestors supporting a proclamation stood in Nathan Phillips Square before interrupting the mayor at a concluding reception.

Xtra, November 23, 1990.

Council finally supported a proclamation in the fall of 1990 as part of a package of anti-discriminatory measures (including adding lesbian and gay issues to the school curriculum), which passed by a 9-5 vote on November 13. Councillor Nadine Nowlan added an amendment that allowed council to make the proclamation instead of the mayor. Eggleton defended his continuing opposition by claiming he had never declared days for minority groups, although he had proclaimed Ukrainian Week and Jewish Community Centre Month earlier in the year. When news broke, Woody’s put up a marquee thanking council.

When 1991’s Pride festivities rolled around, Layton read the proclamation at the opening ceremony. Eggleton refused to attend. “I didn’t proclaim it,” he told the Star. “I didn’t feel it was necessary.” The following year, June Rowlands became the first mayor to sign a proclamation, though the honour of being the first mayor to attend the parade went to Barbara Hall in 1995.

When Rob Ford skipped Pride in 2011, Eggleton was asked for his thoughts. Eggleton said of Ford that “he had to do what he thinks is the right thing to do.” Reflecting on his own experience, the former mayor suggested that few knew what to make of the event and that, despite the human rights issues involved, Pride back then “seemed more about fun and frivolity.” He admitted that if he held office now, he would sign the proclamation.

Sources: the June 2, 1989, June 16, 1989, June 24, 1989, June 26, 1989, June 23, 2011, and June 24, 2011 editions of the Globe and Mail; the June 8-14, 1989 edition of Now; the September 9, 1981, September 26, 1981, March 29, 1989, April 1, 1989, April 15, 1989, June 2, 1989, February 1, 1990, July 1, 1991, and July 1, 2011 editions of the Toronto Star; the June 16, 1989 and November 14, 1990 editions of the Toronto Sun; the November 23, 1990 edition of Xtra; and the Toronto City Council Minutes from 1989.


Toronto Star, March 29, 1989.

Toronto Star, April 15, 1989.

The Metro chairman in question was Dennis Flynn, who had declared December 8, 1988 “Muppet Babies Day” to tie into a touring production of Where’s Animal that played at the O’Keefe Centre (then owned by Metro Toronto). Red Skelton Day was held on March 16, 1989 to tie into two performances by the comedian at Roy Thomson Hall.

Toronto Sun, June 16, 1989.

Globe and Mail, June 26, 1989.

Xtra, November 23, 1990.

Read of the Fifty Days

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on February 6, 2010.

Sketch of David Breakenridge Read, Toronto World, May 12, 1904.

Of the possible futures for those in the current race to succeed David Miller as mayor of Toronto, there is one distinction that the victor will not likely achieve unless death or scandal strike immediately: the shortest term in office. Those vying for that title have generally been caretakers brought in to fill out a term, as happened when Fred Beavis filled in for Mayor David Crombie in 1978 when the latter ran for federal office. The winner of the short-term sweepstakes is David Breakenridge Read, who owed his fifty-day tour of duty to a police scandal. Make any jokes you want, but, as a study of the city’s early high officials noted, it would “be an injustice to Read to belittle his talents, abilities, and accomplishments because of his being somewhat a cipher as Mayor.”

Toronto City Hall, 1868. This building is currently incorporated into the south building of St. Lawrence Market. Wikimedia Commons.

Read was born on June 13, 1823, in Augusta, Upper Canada of United Empire Loyalist stock. He moved to Toronto in his early teens to study at Upper Canada College, which is where he happened to be when the Rebellion of 1837 broke out. Read later liked to tell friends of his attempt to aid the government forces against William Lyon Mackenzie’s rascals. According to Read’s obituary in the Globe, when the future mayor and several of his classmates offered their assistance to Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Bond Head, they received a pat on the head and were told they weren’t needed. This experience might have coloured the pro-government bias he displayed when he wrote The Canadian Rebellion of 1837 sixty years later. Following his time at UCC, Read studied law and was called to the bar in 1845. He rose steadily in his profession, his law career culminating in appointments as a bencher of the law society in 1855 and a Queen’s counsel in 1858.

It was bungling of the law that led to Read’s assumption of office. Until the late 1850s, city council was responsible for appointing police officers, which led to constables who gained their position through political connections rather than ability. Samuel Sherwood, who served as chief of police from 1852 to 1859, epitomized the downfalls of this approach. A tavern owner, Sherwood’s family had close ties with the conservative “Family Compact” that reigned in the city and province—his brother Henry had served as Toronto’s mayor for a spell in the 1840s. As described by Conyngham Crawford Taylor in Toronto Called Back From 1892 to 1847, Sherwood was “a quiet, good-natured man, who did not insist on any strict regulations as to the dress or discipline of the men. They wore a uniform, but without uniformity, except in one respect—they were universally slovenly.” This sloppiness translated into inept handling of high-profile incidents, especially during several riots in the 1840s and 1850s—most of the force were members of the Orange Lodge and didn’t mind assisting fellow Orangemen in beating up anyone in a melee who didn’t belong. Favours to friends were the norm, which sometimes meant overlooking small details like participation in a bank theft.

When Sherwood let a prime suspect in the robbery of the Bank of Upper Canada go free without question in October 1858, Mayor William Henry Boulton blew his top. An inquiry was called, with which Sherwood did not fully cooperate. When the police commissioners filed a report that let Sherwood off lightly, Boulton noted his dissent and planned to have the matter discussed further at city council. Sherwood sent a letter to local newspapers, printed on October 27, in which he claimed he was unable to provide evidence and tarred Boulton for taking a “star chamber” approach to decision making. This infuriated Boulton, whose rebuttal was published the following day. Boulton proposed to council that Sherwood and the deputy chief of police should be suspended or dismissed.

One of the seediest objections to Boulton’s call came from Councilman James Smith, who urged Sherwood to resign so that the police chief could still receive another government job that was promised to him. Subsequent council meetings broke down into accusations over who said what in the affair. When the matter came to a vote, council voted fourteen to ten in favour of Sherwood. Disgusted and humiliated by what he saw as a miscarriage of justice, Boulton handed in his official resignation on November 8, though he remained a candidate for high office in the upcoming municipal election, which would be the first where the general public would directly elect the mayor. As for Sherwood, provincial legislation mandated that cities were required to establish independent police boards by 1859, which soon led to the dismissal of Sherwood and his entire force in favour of better trained, better disciplined officers.

David Breakenridge Read. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1267, Series 1397, Item 91.

When council met on November 11 to nominate a fill-in for the rest of Boulton’s term, Councilman William Ramsay urged Boulton to take back his resignation; the former mayor refused. Read’s name was put forward and approved by a vote of fourteen to eleven. Read had missed most of the battle, having skipped council meetings due to other pressing matters. He had only served one term as an alderman for St. Patrick Ward (whose boundaries were present-day Queen, Bathurst, Bloor, and University) and had decided not to return for another go-round, which probably made him an ideal candidate. Read hoped that he could restore harmony to council, work for the public good, and, as the Leader noted, “maintain the dignity of the chair.”

Since Read was a caretaker, little of consequence was decided during his brief term. Among the items published in newspaper summaries of council business were debates on home drainage systems, the acceptance of a petition to build a sidewalk on Jarvis Street, intense discussions on whether to sell land earmarked for an industrial farm to be located next to the new jail on the east side of the Don River, the necessity of buying new capes and shoes for the police, and the receipt of a “fine map” of Troy, New York.

After his term ended, Read carried on in the legal profession until his retirement in 1881. His attention drifted towards writing, especially sketches of early judges in Upper Canada, records of whom were on the verge of disappearing forever. The subjects of the five historical tomes he wrote between 1888 and 1900 included Sir John Graves Simcoe, Sir Isaac Brock, and the lieutenant-governors of Ontario. Read also stayed busy as a warden of St. Matthias’s Church, a member of several historical societies and the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, an active alumni member of UCC, a devoted supporter of the Conservative party, and the honourary president of the Caer Howell Bowling Club. Friends found him a warm, witty companion—an editorial in the Globe upon his death noted “he had a fund of anecdotes of the stirring period in his early manhood which served to enliven his conversation when he was in a reminiscent mood. All trace of partisan aggressiveness passed away from him long ago, and during his later years some of his most intimate friends were his former opponents.”

Read’s activities were curtailed after a stroke in November 1902 left him bedridden. He died surrounded by family on May 11, 1904, at his home on Breadalbane Street (a site now occupied by the Metro Central YMCA) and was buried in St. James Cemetery.

Sources: Mayors of Toronto Volume 1 1834-1899 by Victor L. Russell (Erin: The Boston Mills Press, 1982); Toronto Called Back From 1892 to 1847 by Conyngham Crawford Taylor (Toronto: William Briggs, 1892); the May 12, 1904, edition of the Globe; the October 26, 1858, October 28, 1858, November 9, 1858, November 12, 1858, November 23, 1858, and December 31, 1858 editions of the Leader; and the October 23, 1982, edition of the Toronto Star.


Toronto World, May 12. 1904.

Editorial, The Globe, May 12, 1904.

BondTO: Dr. No

As the James Bond film series marks its 60th anniversary this year, my wife and I are doing a marathon viewing of all of the Bond flicks, providing an excuse for a series of posts on the movies and Toronto: how they were covered, how they were promoted, where they played, and other related stuff.

Evening Standard, October 4, 1962.

While the first official Bond movie, Dr. No, debuted in British cinemas in October 1962, Torontonians, along with much of North America, had to wait awhile before getting their first big screen glimpse of 007 thanks to an eight-month long lag in release dates.

Daily Telegraph, October 6, 1962.

The People, October 7, 1962.

The Guardian, October 8, 1962.

A trio of opening reviews from the London press.

The week Dr. No opened in Great Britain, writer Hugh MacLennan discussed Fleming’s Bond novels in his “A Writer’s Diary” column for the Toronto Star Syndicate. Here’s how he summed up the literary version of Bond.

For Bond, though he is not a bounder, is unquestionably a cad…He uses with relish every dirty trick in the book from the trained edge of his hand against the Adam’s apple to a harpoon shot into the back of a half-naked man surprising on a springboard. He drinks and swears hard, and every woman between 17 and 25, providing she is slim and not a virgin—the latter point is superfluous because he does not believe virgins exist any more—is his natural prey. Moreover, he leaves them to their fate after he has enjoyed them.

Showcase #43, cover dated March-April 1963. Art by Bob Brown.

Comic book readers received an early glimpse of the movie when Showcase #43 hit newsstands in January 1963. The adaptation was originally published in the UK as part of the Classics Illustrated series, but the American edition wound up with DC Comics. They slotted it in Showcase, an anthology series that over the course of its original 93-issue run from 1956 to 1970 introduced readers to the “Silver Age” versions of the Flash, Green Lantern and the Atom, along with heroes such as the Challengers of the Unknown, Space Ranger, Adam Strange, Rip Hunter, Metal Men, Creeper, Hawk and the Dove, and Bat Lash.

Inside front cover of Showcase #43.

Flipping through the adaptation, what sticks out is the colouring of all black characters as Caucasians. I suspect this was done to satisfy distributors and retailers in the southern US.

Artist Norman Nodel muted the iconic introduction of Ursula Andress coming out of the sea, which was probably far too racy for the educational-minded editors of Classics Illustrated. Nodel’s take is too blandly photorealistic – it would have been interesting if DC had decided to do the adaptation in-house with one of their top regular artists (I’m imagining a gritty Joe Kubert take, an adventurous Alex Toth rendition, or plenty of Gil Kane nostril shots).

Toronto Star, June 25, 1963.

Dr. No made its Toronto debut on June 27, 1963 at Loew’s Yonge Street, a complex which marked its 50th anniversary that year. Today the site is the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre.

The first title sequence by Maurice Binder. Several elements that will stay throughout the series are already in place: the gun barrel, the silhouettes of women, the presence of Bernard Lee as M and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny in the credits (I’ll cover Lois Maxwell’s Toronto connections in a future post).

Globe and Mail, June 22, 1963.

Review by David Cobb, Toronto Star, June 29, 1963.

We enjoyed Dr. No as a first step, but couldn’t resist doing some Mystery Science Theatre 3000 style riffing at certain moments, mainly during Jack Lord’s first few appearances as Felix Leiter…

…which involved humming the Hawaii Five-O theme (which was only six years away for Lord) and making “Book ’em Dano” jokes.

Toronto Star, June 27, 1963.

For its Toronto opening, Dr. No was accompanied by two vintage Tom and Jerry cartoons. Puss Gets the Boot (1940) was the pair’s debut, though they didn’t receive their names until their second appearance. Here’s Leonard Maltin’s description of their initial appearance.

Tom (or Jasper, as he’s called here) is mangy, moon-faced, and designed with a plethora of drawing details (no less than three eyebrows, for instance)., He’s convincingly real as he chases after the mouse, harassing his prey with undisguised delight—and equally credible when he cowers in fear, certain that the smashing of a vase or dish is going to get him kicked outside. The mouse bears a strong resemblance to the later Jerry, although this one is skinnier and more angular than the cuter version that evolved. However, he already possesses the range of expression—registering everything from mischievous glee to cocky pride—that made him so endearing. There is no dialogue between the cat and mouse, and none is necessary. The situations establish their adversary relationship, and the animation pinpoints their character traits.

The other cartoon, 1942’s Fine Feathered Friend, saw the pair engage in henhouse hijinks.

Why would cartoons over 20 years old be paired with a potential blockbuster? United Artists, which distributed Dr. No, had no connection to any theatrical cartoon studio at that point, and would not until it began releasing DePatie-Freleng’s Pink Panther series in 1964. MGM (which had once been owned by Loew’s Inc.) closed its cartoon studio in 1957 but tested the waters for a Tom and Jerry revival via 13 shorts produced in Czechoslovakia by American director Gene Deitch in 1961 and 1962. Despite the obvious low budgets of the Deitch shorts, they were popular enough for MGM to hire Warner Brothers veteran Chuck Jones to produced a new series, which reached theatres with Pent-House Mouse in July 1963.

Toronto Star, June 27, 1963.

The major blockbuster opening that week in Toronto was Cleopatra at the University on Bloor Street. The uncredited writer sounds disappointment people weren’t tying up traffic or acting like screaming teens to get a good view of VIPs like recently retired Broadview MP/former Diefenbaker cabinet minister George Hees.

The prediction that Cleopatra would run two years didn’t hold up. A quick scan of the January 4, 1965 Star shows it wasn’t playing at any of the listed first- and second-run theatres, even though other films released around the same time in 1963 (such as Donovan’s Reef and The List of Adrian Messenger) were still kicking around.

Toronto Star, June 29, 1963.

The following week saw another legendary film make its premiere: The Great Escape.

Additional sources: Of Mice and Magic by Leonard Maltin (New York: Plume, 1987); and the October 6, 1962 edition of the Calgary Herald.

Grossman vs Salsberg in the Battle of St. Andrew, 1955

Background: Call this a lost article. It appears to have originally been written in October 2010 and may have originally been intended as a Historicist or Vintage Toronto Ads column for Torontoist. I found it while poking around for material to write a post related to provincial elections. I have edited the original text, including research materials published after this piece was originally prepared.

Toronto Star, June 8, 1955.

Elections have a habit of bringing out the worst in people. Political rhetoric and rivalries reach levels of intensity that cause candidates and/or their supporters to resort to any means possible to influence the results at the ballot box. One of the nastiest races in Toronto history was the battle for the riding of St. Andrew during the 1955 provincial election. District returning officer Murray Caplan summed up the tricks employed during the campaign when he told the Toronto Star that “I’ve never seen it so low.”

In one corner of the ring was J.B. Salsberg, the lone remaining member of the Labour-Progressive Party (the label the Communist Party ran candidates under after it was banned in the early 1940s) at Queen’s Park. The likeable Salsberg had represented St. Andrew since 1943 and was highly regarded among the riding’s Jewish working-class constituents for his dedication to fighting for labour causes and for the rights of the socially and economically disadvantaged. He drew the respect of his politican rivals, including premier Leslie Frost, who once remarked that, along withfellow LPP MPP A.A. MacLeod, had “more brains than my entire backbench put together.” Salsberg successfully fought off a number of noteworthy challengers over the years, including future mayor Nathan Phillips, but by 1955 cracks were showing in his armour. Despite growing doubts in his mind, Salsberg publicly continued to support the Soviet Union even as reports of purges, including those against Jews, filtered out of the country. During one of his last speeches in the legislature before it dissolved for the election, Salsberg faced jeers about Soviet leaders while trying to make serious points about slum housing in Toronto.

Toronto Star, June 3, 1955.

The community that Salsberg represented was changing, as constituents experiencing post-Second World War prosperity migrated from the city’s core to its northern suburbs. A growing number of Jewish community leaders felt Salsberg was an embarrassing throwback that made others link faith with Communism. As Peter Oliver noted his book Unlikely Tory, “so long as Salsberg represented the community as the member for St. Andrew, Jews were double losers: they were being exploited on behalf of a totalitarian and anti-Semitic ideology; and they were disliked and distrusted by many Canadians for their support of the Communist cause.” What some members of the community desired was a candidate who lacked such a taint and who could provide a face that represented the growing middle-class among Toronto’s Jews.

Enter Allan Grossman, the sitting alderman for Ward 4. To Grossman, taking on Salsberg was a sacred battle between good and evil. Beyond a belief that Communism was a system that ruthlessly disregarded human life, Grossman was well aware of the party’s campaigning techniques: when he first ran for alderman in 1951, he had problems keeping his signs in store windows.

You’d put your card in a store window, for example, and a few days later you’d find it had been removed. If you knew the merchant well enough, he’d confide in you that he’d been visited by a communist worker who’d tell him that if he didn’t take that card out of the window, none of their people would ever shop in that place again. They had enough of a following to carry through with that threat.

Grossman’s deep dislike of Communists was also fuelled by stories about living under Stalinist regimes that he heard from the increasing number of immigrants from Eastern European countries who moved into his ward. Though he ran as a Progressive Conservative, Grossman played down the party label. He quietly received support from federal and provincial Liberals who hoped he would oust Salsberg.

Beyond the usual posters, pamphlets, and radio broadcasts, Salsberg’s campaign included a few poems, such as this one:

Needing his help we didn’t vote blind
We put in Joe cause he’s our kind
Sent up to Parliament the best we could find
A union man with a union mind

As the campaign wore on, mud flew freely as Grossman and Salsberg accused each other of a long list of dirty tricks. Grossman’s family was besieged with threatening phone calls from Salsberg supporters, which resulted in a policeman living with them for the duration of the campaign. Enumerators supplied by Salsberg offered to save time by typing up voter lists, free of charge, in their own homes. Grossman was accused in the Communist press of consorting with anti-Semitic groups, which led Grossman to mention Salsberg’s glowing eulogy for Joseph Stalin at Queen’s Park in 1953 in his campaign literature. Salsberg felt too many election officials in the riding belonged to the ruling Tories, so he called for an “Honest Election Committee” to be drawn from representatives of the major religious faiths and employees of the city’s daily newspapers.

Just as nominations were about to close, a last-minute independent candidate entered the race: Elizabeth Sarah Langfield, who ran on an anti-liquor platform. Most of her charges were aimed at Grossman’s interest in the 300 Tavern on College Street, even though he had sold that interest months earlier. When both newspapers and Grossman’s camp dug into Langfield’s background, they surmised she was a Communist “stooge” candidate who had entered the race solely to split the vote in Salsberg’s favour. All evidence pointed to her having been a campaign worker for Salsberg during the previous election under the name “Sarah Langfield” (when asked why she decided to use “Elizabeth” as her first name for her own run, she claimed “Sarah is old-fashioned”).

The Telegram, June 9, 1955.

On the eve of the June 9 election, mysterious letters surfaced which were intended to inform voters that Grossman had pulled out of the race. In response, Caplan commissioned ads which declared otherwise. This raised the ire of the other candidates in the riding, especially the CCF’s Boris Mather, who felt that rather than singling out Grossman, all eligible candidates should have been listed. That Caplan was also a Tory riding official alongside his official electoral duties did not go uncommented upon.

The polls had barely opened on election day when Salsberg nearly came to blows with Tory riding association vice-president George Shear after the incumbent noticed that the cars hired to deliver forty special constables to oversee polling stations bore Grossman posters. Salsberg ripped one off of Shear’s car and yelled “I demand an honest election, a fair election.” Caplan countered that since the Election Act didn’t have provisions for transporting the constables, they had every right to be in such vehicles. Around 9:45 a.m., two policemen noticed that the fuel tank on Salsberg’s car was open and soon discovered sugar scattered around the fuel pipe. Salsberg, thinking he was receiving a parking ticket, went over, took one look and declared ‘those dirty Tories. What they won’t do next.'” Caplan was reported to have replied “That’s a really dirty trick.”

By early afternoon three trucks were sent around the riding to tell constituents that no candidates had withdrawn after several voters complained that they had received phone calls from men with British accents advising them that Grossman had dropped out. Caplan also received an anonymous phone call which indicated someone would attempt to intercept the ballot boxes before they made it to his office on Spadina Avenue if the vote was close. Caplan contacted the police subversive squad and secured a fleet of uniformed and plainclothes officers to escort the boxes that evening.

The Telegram, June 10, 1955.

The bitter race ended with Grossman defeating Salsberg 5,060 votes to 4,380. Langfield’s impact was negligible, as her 150 votes placed her well behind the CCF and Liberal candidates. Grossman would represent the riding (which became St. Andrew-St. Patrick in 1967) until 1975, when he was succeeded by his son Larry.

“Don’t worry,” Salsberg told a well-wisher after conceding the race, “I’ll be back.” One account suggested that Frost was seen possibly consoling him in a hallway at the legislature after his defeat. Four months later, he finished third in a federal by-election called when Spadina’s Liberal MP David Croll was appointed to the Senate. He was also experiencing doubts about his continued belief in Communist political theory. Disillusioned after a visit to the Soviet Union the following year, on which he witnessed a high degree of anti-Semitism, he left the LPP, Communism and politics. Despite many overtures from the three mainstream parties to persuade him to run under their banner, Salsberg dedicated himself to social activism rather than party politics until his death in 1998.

Sources: Unlikely Tory by Peter Oliver (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1985); Joe Salsberg: A Life of Commitment by Gerald Tulchinsky (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013); the June 6, 1955 and June 7, 1955 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the June 9, 1955 and June 10, 1955 editions of the Toronto Star.

Campbell House on the Move

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on August 22, 2009.


The procession following Campbell House, March 31, 1972. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 146.

Anyone crossing Adelaide Street between Jarvis and University on the morning of March 31, 1972, would have noticed a slow procession moving in the opposite direction of the street’s normal traffic flow. A crowd had gathered to follow the move of Campbell House, a century-and-a-half-old building that was spared a date with a wrecking ball that other historic buildings in Toronto had experienced during the preceding decade. The relocation was due, as Joni Mitchell might have said, to one company’s desire to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.


Coutts Hallmark bids Campbell House adieu, March 31, 1972. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 147.

When jurist Sir William Campbell built his Georgian-style home overlooking the intersection of Frederick Street and Duke (now Adelaide) Street in 1822, it was said that he had a clear view of the peninsula across the harbour. Following Campbell’s death in 1834, growth of the city obscured that view from a building that served at various times as a home, factory, office space, and warehouse. By the dawn of the 1970s the property owner, greeting-card maker Coutts Hallmark, was eager to demolish the building to make way for an expanded parking lot. When the Advocates’ Society purchased Campbell House, it was on the condition that the building had to be uprooted. Negotiations with the city’s planning department to find a new home were underway by July 1970. The Advocates’ Society’s original choice on Simcoe Street south of Dundas was rejected by the city due to development plans for the area. The law group didn’t have to look far for a suitable alternative: the south end of Canada Life’s property at Queen and University.


A long-distance view of Campbell House being moved, March 31, 1972. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 144.

In August 1971, the city approved a request by a trustee of the Sir William Campbell Foundation to designate the chosen site as a tax-free zone, which would save the operators forty-three thousand dollars a year. Within a month, tax-free status was granted. A further request for the city to pitch in over fifty thousand dollars a year to maintain Campbell House drew the ire of several councillors, especially Aldermen David Rotenberg and John Sewell. As the plans called for half the building to open to the public as a museum and the rest to be used as space for the Advocates’ Society, Sewell noted “it’s a perfect place to have a private club, particularly for lawyers, but I question whether that club should be subsidized in any way, shape or form.” Rotenberg, then the city budget chief, called the proposal “a new curve that has been thrown at us.” These reservations did not prevent Rotenberg from attending a party held in Moss Park in December to celebrate the preservation attempt, which now included local architecture expert Eric Arthur among its consultants.


Almost there! University Avenue south of Queen Street, March 31, 1972. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 148.

Plans for the move went ahead. Envisioned for fall 1971, it wasn’t until mid-February that preparations were undertaken for the route. To ensure a clear ride for the three-hundred-ton, forty-one-foot-high building, streetcar power lines and traffic lights were removed and manhole covers were shored up. The move took six-and-a-half hours, with the house arriving at its new site only five minutes later than anticipated. A city council meeting on moving day endorsed a resolution to push for a stronger policy on building preservation from the federal government. The lone dissenter was Sewell, still miffed about Campbell House’s “obscene” tax-free status and uprooting. He felt it was “hypocritical” for the city to seek federal aid when it rarely made motions on its own to preserve historic sites. Mayor William Dennison felt the resolution would increase preservation and dismissed Sewell’s comments as “whining.”
Stronger heritage regulations eventually came into effect that saved all or portions of similarly threatened structures. As for the parking lot that prompted the move? It proved to be a less permanent element of the city than Campbell House, as the site is now occupied by George Brown College’s Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts.

Sources: the August 5, 1971 and February 16, 1972 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the July 18, 1970, September 23, 1971, December 3, 1971, and April 1, 1972 editions of the Toronto Star.