Extending Church Street

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on September 3, 2011.

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Mail and Empire, July 17, 1931.

As Toronto grew in the 1920s and its population pushed northward, traffic pressures on the few downtown arteries that ran north of Bloor Street intensified. During that decade, city planners devised several street extensions to relieve increased traffic on Avenue Road and Yonge Street. Of extensions proposed for routes like Bay, Jarvis, and Sherbourne, the lengthening of Church Street from Bloor Street to Davenport Road at Yonge Street was the first built.

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The pre–Church Street extension street grid. Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan, 1924.

The extension received its initial approval during a fiery meeting of the City’s works committee on October 7, 1929, where the $1.1-million plan passed by a 14-13 vote. Alderman Andrew Carrick walked out of the meeting when Mayor Samuel McBride  moved to take the vote without any discussion of the issue—newspapers reported that negative comments he made on his way out of the chamber were drowned out by remarks from other aldermen. Fellow alderman John R. Beamish was one of the loudest opponents of the plan; he believed that other extension projects like the connection of Sherbourne Street to St. Clair Avenue (a plan that eventually evolved into the Mount Pleasant Road extension) were worthier of funding. “This Church Street extension would be a waste of money as at best it would provide merely a temporary relief of traffic,” he told his colleagues. The pro-extension side was best summed up by Controller A.E. Hacker, who noted “there is a lot of traffic congestion east of Yonge Street, and if any improvement is made it has to be started soon. Traffic in this city has got to move regardless of expense.”

The next obstacle was funding. The City assessed property owners along Church from King to Bloor and those 600 feet of either side of that stretch to pay for 75 per cent of the project (the City would fund the remainder). Reaction was mixed among the affected landlords: some at the south end of the street felt the new flow of traffic would make their stretch more attractive and raise property values, while others saw no benefit and wondered why landowners south of King didn’t have to contribute. Among those in favour of the assessments was H.B. MacDonald, who owned 120 Church Street. “Any through street is a help,” he told the Star in February 1930. “It is a benefit to the street and to Toronto. Give a street access to the outlying parts and it will be livened up. From Yonge Street to the Don below Bloor is dead now and I think that this will improve it.”

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40-42 Collier Street, one of the properties in the way of the Church Street Extension, September 18, 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 3, Item 896.

The project was jeopardized when a petition presented to City Hall at the end of March 1930 showed that 692 out of the 1,081 affected property owners were against the extension due to the funding scheme. The extension was declared dead for a few weeks until it was revived by a Board of Control vote on April 16, 1930, to reverse the funding formula to 75 per cent city, 25 per cent property assessments. Disgruntled property owners remained, such as one who submitted a letter to theStar under the nom de plume of 14th-century English revolt leader Wat Tyler:

The proposed “so-called” Church St. Extension which was petitioned against by a large majority of taxpayers in vicinity is not a real extension, and is not wanted by them. The plan of the route is a miserable one; the cost enormous; the policy destructive, taking into consideration the good houses to be destroyed, the creation of islands of some properties and depreciation of adjacent properties. Church St. owners should not be compelled to finance a motor or transportation road for the benefit of the whole city.

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Lennox Hotel, No. 831 Yonge Street, September 18, 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1109

By October 1930, preparation began to demolish properties along both the extension and the simultaneous widening project along Davenport Road from Yonge Street to Dupont Street. Among the most notable buildings to disappear from the cityscape was the Lennox Hotel at 831 Yonge Street. Built in 1892 by Richard Lennox, it was considered a regular stop for businessmen, farmers, and stagecoach drivers during its early days. Owners who had their properties expropriated seem to have been paid well; a list published in the Star on January 31, 1931, articled 15 properties, mostly along Davenport, for which the owners received anywhere from $1,200 (for part of a township lot) to $10,000 (for 35-37 Davenport Road).

In a timeframe unheard of these days, the TTC quickly constructed a new streetcar loop at Church and Asquith Avenue during late March and early April 1931. According to the June 1931 issue of The Coupler, “it wasn’t a very promising looking site from a beauty viewpoint, and yet we had good hopes that when the loop was completed and the landscape work finished, the Commission would have no reason to be ashamed of its handiwork.” Two houses were demolished to make way for the loop, which allowed the TTC to extend its Church streetcar line (which ran down to Front Street) a few blocks north and not tie up loops elsewhere.

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Asquith Loop, June 13, 1931. Photo by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 8630.

Passengers passing through the Asquith loop would have disembarked in a neighbourhood that remained primarily composed of family residences, thanks to a bylaw passed by city council on April 7, 1931, that forbade the construction of businesses and apartment houses along the Church Street extension. The bylaw may have been spurred by complaints from nearby institutions like Park Road Baptist Church, whose initial request to have the road be residential was turned down due to the financial opportunities for the City in selling off expropriated land that turned out to be surplus. Several councillors, including future mayor William Robbins, opposed the bylaw on the grounds that a widened street and public transit service made it ideal for apartments.

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One of the storefronts that vanished when Church Street was connected to Davenport Road was Britnell’s Art Galleries at 880 Yonge Street, which was owned by the same family as the Albert Britnell bookstore further south on Yonge. September 29, 1930. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 3, Item 941

The extension was officially opened in a ceremony along Yonge Street on July 16, 1931. Red, white, and blue ribbons were strung across both Church and Davenport. Mayor William J. Stewart began the string of speeches from City officials by praising the extension as “an asset not only to the district immediately affected, but to the city at large and will be an aid to transportation and business.” He was followed by Controller J. George Ramsden (for whom Ramsden Park was named), who reminisced about the state of the neighbourhood when he lived there in the mid-1880s and boasted about his advocacy of the project. Both men were handed, in the words of the Globe, “a pair of gold-handled scissors taken from a blue case” and proceeded to cut the ribbons—Ramsden took care of Church Street, while the mayor freed up Davenport Road. Following an official motorcade, regular traffic began flowing down the new street.

Though Church Street has not been extended further north since that time, a plan presented to city council by works commissioner R.C. Harris in May 1930 proposed just that. Had that plan gone through, Church would have continued northwest along present-day Davenport Road to the Nordheimer Estate (which met the road at present-day Glen Edyth Drive), then followed the Nordheimer Ravine until the road ended at the intersection of St. Clair Avenue and Spadina Road. Like other ravine-based roadways proposed over time for that area, this plan never came to pass.

Sources: the March 1931 and June 1931 editions of The Coupler; the April 17, 1930, and July 17, 1931, editions of the Globe and Mail; the July 17, 1931, edition of the Mail and Empire; the July 17, 1931, edition of the Telegram; and the October 8, 1929, February 15, 1930, March 29, 1930, April 24, 1930, May 15, 1930, October 10, 1930, January 31, 1931, February 12, 1931, and April 8, 1931, editions of the Toronto Star. In addition, an undated clipping from the Telegram (probably from October 1930) residing in the City of Toronto Archives was consulted. Portions of this post originally appeared on Heritage Toronto’s website.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, November 5, 1930.

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Mail and Empire, July 17, 1931.

Toronto for Tourists, 1950

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on December 13, 2008.

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Looking north from the top of the Bank of Commerce Building, 1957. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1567, series 648, file 7.

The best way to get a comprehensive view of the city of Toronto as a whole is to go to the Canadian Bank of Commerce, at 25 King Street West, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and take the elevator to the 31st floor. Choose, if you can, a reasonably clear day. From the observation gallery, 426 feet above the street, you will have a superb view of the city and the surrounding country. On a bright day, when there is a north wind, the guide assures us that he can see the spray from the falls of Niagara, at the other side of the lake. When we were up there, there was a mist over everything, but it was beautiful. It seemed to us that we were looking down on the past, present and future of Toronto, almost as if we were pagan gods in a synthetic Olympus.

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The mid-century equivalent of a trip up the CN Tower is one of the many ideas for tourists that John and Marjorie Mackenzie provide in their 1950 guidebook to our province, Ontario In Your Car. For 26 of the book’s 291 pages, the Mackenzies provide visitors with descriptions of local landmarks, historical quotes, and a sneaking suspicion that they prefer exploring the northern wilderness.

Many of the tidbits of information are directed towards Americans, whether it is noting the monument to Zebulon Pike (of Pike’s Peak fame) in Exhibition Place or that “America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford was born on University Avenue. Also clarified for southern visitors: what’s the deal with Avenue Road?

Avenue Road is a continuation of University Avenue, and that really is its name. It always seems to strike our American friends as being an utterly incongruous name, but if one remembers that it was far outside the town when Toronto first became a city, and that it was a mere trail which led to the Avenue, it does seem to make more sense. Try to remember this street and how to get to it, for it is probably the one you will take when you leave Toronto for the fishing camps and resorts of the north.

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The Old Mill Hotel, c. 1945. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 532.

The city’s nightlife rates favourably, with the Mackenzies shooting down the notion that evening amusement did not exist. The Old Mill ranked highly (“dancing every night in a quaint and delightful setting”), while the red and blue colour scheme of the Imperial Room in the Royal York Hotel was headache inducing. Late-night revellers were advised to grab a bite at the original location of the Lichee Garden on Elizabeth Street, which stayed open until 5 a.m. The fun did not extend into Sunday, when blue laws left tourists scratching their heads.

The Lord’s Day Alliance has left a strong indelible mark on the city, for better or worse, and many visitors arriving on the Sabbath, look in dismay at the closed theatres and deserted streets, and they ask: “Where is everybody? What do people do with themselves on Sunday?” The answer is “They are out playing golf.”

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Lou Turofsky at 1950 Grey Cup game, Varsity Stadium. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 9451.

Golf courses feature significantly in the guide’s breakdown of recreational activities by season. Autumn is regarded as the nicest time of the year, filled with colourful trees, society balls, Broadway try-outs, and the start of hockey season. Football at Varsity Stadium earns a nod, more for university action than professional play, even though Varsity was the site of the 1950 Grey Cup, a.k.a. “the mud bowl.” Winter earns less praise, though this has less to do with available activities than the authors’ preferences. “Not being too keen about skating and skiing, we rather tend to a lukewarm attitude on the virtues of Ontario as a winter resort, but there are many who love it, and who wait impatiently for the snow to fall so that they really begin to live.”

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Views of the construction on Yonge Street at King Street, March 16, 1950. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1128, series 381, file 31.

One major attraction not mentioned but that would have been noticed by tourists is the construction of the Yonge subway. Construction began in September 1949, with onlookers able to gaze down into open trenches from the sidewalk or temporary decks like the one shown above. Visitors had to wait four years before they had a chance to ride the line.

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Mayor Hiram E. McCallum and Ice Follies performers drink milk at civic reception, Old City Hall, between 1948 and 1951. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 6678.

The guide also neglects to mention that you could venture into City Hall and enjoy a glass of milk with mayor Hiram (Buck) McCallum.

The Mackenzies’ final verdict on our city?

Toronto may be the capital of Ontario and the centre of population, but it is by no means the whole Province. There are those among you, we are sure, who are looking forward with anticipation to the lakes and streams of the northland, where the bass and trout are waiting for you, where you can hunt wild life with a camera or a gun, and where Nature has not yet been moulded to suit the whims of man.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Statue which commemorated the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Way, beside Seaway Hotel

Queen Elizabeth Way, circa 1950. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 64. More on the history of the QEW Monument

A few words about the QEW, from a chapter dedicated to the decade-old highway:

Some people are always in a hurry. It may be because of a restless temperament, or it may be because they have only a very limited time in which to cover everything they want to see. In either case, if time is the essence, the Queen Elizabeth Way is your road.

This is Ontario’s super highway. It is laid out in the modern manner, with divided roadways, clover leafs and circles for merging traffic, and cross-over bridges for the side roads. It is named to commemorate the visit to Canada and the United States of King George and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. The speed limit is 50 miles an hour.

As a rule, we don’t go in much for fast driving, but we have often travelled from Niagara Falls to Toronto, via the Elizabeth Way, in less than two hours.

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Park Plaza Hotel, looking north along Avenue Road, 1936. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1034, Item 173. 

We think the Park Plaza is one of Toronto’s best hotels. It has a small lobby, and practically no public rooms, but the well-furnished bedrooms are unusually comfortable. The cocktail lounges, and the small dining room on the top floor are among the best in town.

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Guild Inn, 1944. Photo by H. James. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0108031f.

There is another place which we like very much, especially for a golfing holiday. This is called the Guild Inn, and it is about five miles from the eastern city limits, south of Highway 2, at Scarborough overlooking Lake Ontario. It is a delightful inn of the luxury type, with beautifully furnished rooms and lovely grounds stretching for a mile along the famous Scarborough Bluffs. The management will introduce you, if you wish, at four Golf Clubs nearby, two of which are private championship courses. The Guild Inn is unique. It allows you to live in the country and still be near enough to Toronto to enjoy the theatres, the shops and the sights.

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Eaton’s College Street, 1950 (guessing on a Sunday, based on the curtained display windows). City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 574, File 16, Item 49357.

If you have any shopping to do, both Eaton’s and Simpson’s are well worth a visit, and if it should be lunch or tea time, we know you will enjoy the pleasant surroundings and good food in the “Georgian Room” at Eaton’s, or the “Arcadian Court” at Simpson’s. Eaton’s College Street store also has an excellent restaurant, the “Round Room,” if you should be in that part of town.

Other brief tidbits:

  • Casa Loma “has no history and no tradition, but it is enormous.”
  • Autumn is the nicest time of the year in Toronto.
  • Of (Old) City Hall, “we predict that, 50 years from now, it will be pointed out as a fine example of late Victorian architecture.”

The book appears to have been designed for golfers, as local courses are discussed in many of the entries, especially around suburban Toronto. Thornhill’s entry is almost entirely about golf, while a trip to the links was the main reason to stop in Aurora. A good chunk of Newmarket’s description is taken up by discussing the Briars Country Club at Jackson’s Point. And so on.

My hometown, Amherstburg, is briefly mentioned in the Windsor section. It focuses solely on Fort Malden and writer Anna Brownell Jameson’s unflattering description of the “wretched little useless fort” during the 1830s. Sadly, Amherstburg lacked a golf course, unlike Windsor, Kingsville, or Leamington (whose links were “flat, but attractive”).

Butterfly With Chocolate Wings

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on June 12, 2010.

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Goblin, January 1924.
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Goblin, February 1924.
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Goblin, March 1924.
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Goblin, April 1924.
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Goblin, May 1924.
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Goblin, June 1924.
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Goblin, July 1924.
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Goblin, August 1924.
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Goblin, September 1924.
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Goblin, October 1924.
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Goblin, November 1924.
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Goblin, December 1924.

For your perusal: a tasty sampler of stylishly illustrated ads for the Patterson Candy Company published in the Toronto-based humour magazine Goblin throughout 1924 and 1925. Perhaps it was an attempt to appeal to the 1920s version of the collegiate hipster that prompted the maker of chocolate bars and gift boxes to switch from their previously wordy ads to this series of humourous scenes, high society figures, and seasonal motifs.

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Goblin, January 1925.
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Goblin, February 1925.
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Goblin, March-April 1925.
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Goblin, May 1925.
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Goblin, June 1925.
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Goblin, July 1925.
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Goblin, August 1925.
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Goblin, September 1925.
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Goblin, October 1925.
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Goblin, November 1925.

John Patterson and Robert Wilson launched the Boston Candy Company as a retail store on Yonge Street in 1888. Soon after Wilson’s retirement in 1891, Patterson bestowed his name on the company and expanded into manufacturing with a successive series of plants along Queen Street West. Among the company’s claims was the opening of Canada’s largest soda fountain on Yonge Street in 1911, which promised patrons “the most delightful cooling drinks you’ve ever tasted.”

After Patterson’s death in 1921, his sons William and Christopher took full control of the company. They sold the business to Jenny Lind Candy Shops owner Ernest Robinson in 1947, who maintained the Patterson brand for at least another decade. At the time of Robinson’s purchase, it was noted that many of the employees had long tenures with the company, possibly due to benefits like a cafeteria, music during working working hours (not specified if it was live or piped in), paid holidays, and a generous health plan. Judging by the number of Patterson-sponsored athletic teams mentioned in the sports sections of local newspapers, and sizable donations given to the YMCA, it appears that the company was very interested in the physical health of their employees or wanted to prevent them from suffering the ill-effects of overindulgence on the production line.

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Patterson Candy plant on Queen Street West, later the Chocolate Company Lofts, 2010.

The most enduring legacy of Patterson Candy is the plant it built at the southwest corner of Queen Street West and Massey Street in 1912. After an expansion in 1928, the five-storey plant included a printing plant and paper box manufacturing equipment amid its 60,000 square feet of air-conditioned work space. Full O’ Cream and Wildfire bars may be long gone, but you can live sweetly in the old Patterson premises in its current incarnation as the Chocolate Company Lofts.

Sources: the June 2, 1911 and August 16, 1947 editions of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, June 23, 1905.

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Evening Telegram, June 2, 1911.

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Globe and Mail, August 16, 1947.

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Goblin, September 1922.

The earliest Patterson ad from Goblin in my files. Definitely not as stylish at what was to come, perhaps matching the magazine’s evolution.

Most issues of Goblin, which was part of a wave of 1920s humour magazines that included The New Yorker, are available on the Internet Archive courtesy of the University of Toronto Archives.

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Goblin, October 1922. 

The Kewpie-like Patterkrisp Kid did not become an enduring Canadian retail icon, but we can appreciate his love of autumn.

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Goblin, April 1923.

The first hint of the ads to come. But there are specific products to take care of first…

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Goblin, September 1923.

…such as this bar which may have fulfilled a biblical prophecy.

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Goblin, October 1923.

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Goblin, December 1925.

Starting with the December 1925 issue, Patterson focused its Goblin ads on its Wildfire chocolate bar.

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Goblin, January 1926.

Labour Day ’29

Originally published as a Historicist column on Torontoist on September 5, 2009.

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Princes’ Gates, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, (Commercial Department), photographed by Alfred Pearson, August 12, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7108.

What were the ingredients needed to produce a Labour Day weekend in Toronto eighty years ago? A visit to the CNE? Check. Tourists crowding local highways? Check. A day at a beach? Check. Union members proudly marching in a parade wearing white suits and straw hats? Check. Controversy in the sporting world? Check. Rumours of a provincial election in the offing? Check. Economic worries? Not yet (wait a few weeks). Thieves with a penchant for stealing trousers? Check…?!?

A flip through the local newspapers during the last long summer weekend of 1929 provides almost no hint of the economic darkness to come. From all appearances, the 1920s were still roaring and Torontonians could sit back, relax, and enjoy the holiday with few cares.

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Ernst Vierkoetter (left) and Eddie Keating (right) settle their differences with the help of Mayor Samuel McBride. The Mail and Empire, September 2, 1929.

Headlines early in the weekend screamed in shocked tones over the poor sportsmanship shown by American swimmer Eddie Keating after his victory in the Wrigley swim marathon over German-Canadian Ernst Vierkoetter on Friday night. The trouble began when Keating was brought to the winner’s podium to speak to the crowd and a radio audience after the eight-hour, fifteen-mile race wrapped up. According to the Star:

He rather astonished those on the finish float by the bitterness of his animosity. You might have thought that a man, having won the world’s swimming championship and more money in eight hours than the premier of Ontario earns in a year, would be rather benign. But not Keating. It stuck in his memory that there had been an allegation that he was towed when he won the Lake George marathon a couple of years ago and he vented it on Vierkoetter. Keating finished first out of the 237 swimmers…he finished strongly, evidently urged on to the very last stroke by his venom. True his eyes were raw and his flesh was blue when he came out. But so was his mood. He managed to put up with Mayor [Samuel] McBride’s friendly advances, but when he advanced to the microphone to tell the waiting world how he had done it, all he said was ‘I hope Vierkoetter will now apologize for what he said at Lake George.

A stunned radio announcer told listeners that “had we known he was going to say that we would not have asked him to speak.”

Keating had nursed a grudge for two years after allegations made by Vierkoetter’s then-manager, which Keating had interpreted to have come from the swimmer himself. Vierkoetter attempted to offer congratulations, but Keating refused to talk to him. The irritated winner told a reporter, “If they want to be bum sports, I don’t want to shake hands with them.” All of the Toronto papers defended the sportsmanship of Vierkoetter, who had recently become a Canadian citizen, and condemned Keating with all the venom they had possible—it was pointed out he gruffly tossed away a tomato sandwich Mayor McBride gave him (the cad!). With all of the bad press, Keating apologized and posed for a photo op with McBride and Vierkoetter on Saturday in a ceremony at the CNE Grandstand. The mayor chalked up Keating’s reaction to the strain of the race:

People will say things when they are not in the condition in which they would like to be. He is sorry to-day for what he said yesterday. I am sure everyone is glad to know that the misapprehension has been cleared away and that Keating has been sportsman enough to admit that he made a mistake. Eddie and Ernst are friends now.

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The new Automotive Building waits for its first visitors at the Canadian National Exhibition. The Telegram, August 22, 1929.

Tourism officials had many reasons to be happy that weekend. The Toronto Tourist and Convention Association estimated that more than one hundred thousand people visited the city on Labour Day, a 25% increase over 1928. Package tours to Toronto filled hotels, with the largest being a group of three thousand who had paid ten dollars each for an excursion from Philadelphia packaged by the Reading Railroad and Canada Steamship Lines.

More than 240,000 people went to the Canadian National Exhibition on Labour Day, a slight decrease from the record set a year earlier that barely bothered fair officials. The Mail and Empire noted that on Labour Day “there were crowds everywhere, carefree crowds. Not a crowd that laughed heartily or chatted briskly—but a complacent group which made the most of Labour Day, without labour…a happy-go-lucky lot. No one made haste. No one seemed to have a destination in view. They simply glimpsed what could be seen without effort.” Nearby homeowners were happy to see relaxed crowds, partly due to the added income they brought into the neighbourhood. The Telegram reported that many homes in lower Parkdale sported cards advertising parking space. “In the area comprised within the bounds of Dunn and King Streets and Springhurst Avenue were about 3,000 cars parked on front lawns, generally not more than three each.” Some of those car owners may have made their way to the new Automotive Building, where a wide variety of 1930 models from North American car makers was on display.

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Were any of these students heading back to school among those who spent time at the Lost Children Building at the CNE? The Telegram, September 3, 1929.

One area of the CNE that saw steady business was the Lost Children Building, where more than five hundred children passed time while waiting for a reunion with their parents. The Star observed the activity there:

“Don’t cry, mother,” said one little fellow cheerfully when his weeping parent arrived to look for him. She was in tears, but he was perfectly happy getting around the outside of a generous ice cream cone…A few parents…were mean enough to leave their children, to remain there all day. Two little boys named Desmond and Roy were on hand for several hours, but they put the time in profitably by cheering up their mates who weren’t as philosophic about their detention as they were.

Officials dealt with children left at the end of the day by sending them home in cars or calling their parents, some of who resented being forced to pick up their kids.

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Cartoons from the Mail and Empire, September 2, 1929 (left), and the Telegram, August 31, 1929 (right).

The CNE grounds marked the end point for the annual Labour Day parade. Though organizers had hoped more than fourteen thousand union members would march in the procession, the number was closer to five thousand. One group not made welcome by parade officials were local Communists and their affiliated political groups, who had asked to carry banners championing free speech in the wake of police actions against them. Only accredited unions were allowed to participate in the procession and the athletic events that followed. For their part, Communist Party officials weren’t bothered—as one representative told the Star, “Labour Day doesn’t represent anything vital to us.”

The parade route started at Queen’s Park, then headed south on University to Queen. The procession moved westward to Dufferin, then south until it reached the Dufferin Gate. Marchers dressed in a variety of neat suits and snazzy headwear. For the first time, female union members joined the procession, as six women belonging to the bookbinders’ union strode along with parasols in hand. The only incident during the parade happened when a boy pressing towards the front of the crowd went home with two broken toes accidentally crushed by a police horse. An editorial in the Globe found that the parade “was remarkable for the number of advertising floats prepared by manufacturing concerns, in co-operation with their employees. It attests mutual confidence.” The next few years wouldn’t do wonders for that “confidence.”
And now, a few words from our sponsors:

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Left: Gray Coach advertisement from the Globe, August 31, 1929. Right: Eaton’s advertisement from the Globe, September 2, 1929.

Crime knows no holiday, and Labour Day weekend was no exception, as the police blotter filled up with indiscretions and misdeeds. Some seem laughable now, if tinged with potential for discrimination, as in the case of six Polish immigrants who were arrested on Sunday at a home on Walton Street for the heinous act of “gambling on the Lord’s Day.” Alcohol-related offences provided the majority of cases, including that of nineteen-year-old Clifford Ruth, who was charged with stealing a car and drunkenness after having received three bottles of wine from a winery at Queen and Sackville. Ruth was given a year’s probation and told that anyone who plied him with booze during that time was subject to a thirty-day vacation in jail. One case saw seven men from England charged with vagrancy. When one man was asked why he had left a farm job, he replied “the food wasn’t right.” Food was also at the heart of the ten-dollar fine Henry Dunn received for an altercation with a waiter at a restaurant at 370 College Street. The waiter testified that Dunn asked “What kind of a place is this that you serve stale rolls?” before the surly customer punched him in the nose. Dunn claimed self-defence after the waiter told him to leave, to which the judge replied “then you had your chance to get out and you didn’t take it.”

The most colourful crime happened at 44 D’Arcy Street during Labour Day, where Hymie Grader found himself the victim of, in the words of the Telegram, “a pants burglar.”

According to reports in the hands of the police…[the burglar] stole a pair of real good trousers from near the head of the bed where the owner slept, and decamped with the garments and $550 which was in the pockets…A roomer in the house, who grinned when he saw the trouserless victim groping around for trace of an intruder, lost his hilarity when he discovered $15 missing from his own trousers pocket. Police learned from several people who had been sitting on a verandah several doors away that a man had been seen to change his boots, enter the house and then decamp. An intensive police search was started, but neither pants nor burglar have been found.

The Star added that Grader also lost a gold watch in the incident. His losses in the long might have been far less than what other Torontonians would soon experience.

Additional material from the August 31, 1929 and September 2, 1929 editions of the Globe; the August 31, 1929, September 2, 1929, and September 3, 1929 editions of the Mail and Empire; the August 31, 1929 and September 3, 1929 editions of the Toronto Star; and the August 22, 1929, August 31, 1929, and September 3, 1929 editions of the Telegram.

Lord Simcoe’s Folly

Originally published as a Historicist column on Torontoist on August 20, 2011.

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The Telegram, May 14, 1957.

When the Lord Simcoe Hotel permanently closed its doors in October 1979, a carpenter on the crew hired to dismantle the building reflected on why it had failed after operating for just 22 years: “No one thought ahead for the future when it was built.” While its original owners prided themselves on going from sod-turning to ribbon-cutting within 17 months, they might have thought more carefully about how the business would survive in the long term. Mistakes like overpricing its luxurious eateries and not including amenities expected of modern hotels like central air, combined with increasing competition and land worth more than the building atop it, shortened the life of a hotel that promised to provide its first guests modern accommodations with old-world charm.

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Globe and Mail, September 23, 1955.

 

The inspiration to build a hotel at 150 King Street West came to future Lord Simcoe Vice-President W. Harry Weale during Mayor Nathan Phillips’ inaugural address in January 1955, when the city’s new chief executive noted that Toronto lacked the hotel space required to become competitive on the global convention circuit. A consortium of investors led by National Management was assembled and by that December Ontario Premier Leslie Frost turned the sod. The new hotel was named in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. Simcoe was never elevated to a peerage but management decided to bestow one upon him so that the hotel’s name would match those of their other lordly properties (the Lord Elgin in Ottawa and the Lord Beaverbrook in Fredericton). Simcoe was also honoured in the decision to use the colours of the Queen’s York Rangers, the military unit he commanded, as the decorating scheme for the Sentry Box lounge.

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One chef in the kitchen, one surveying the menu. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1653, Series 975, File 2439, Item 34565-1 (left), City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1653, Series 975, File 2439, Item 34565-2 (right).

 

The key entertainment space in the hotel was the Pump Room, which was inspired by both the 19th-century eatery in Bath, England, and the restaurant that the Lord Simcoe’s ownership group ran at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago. An introductory ad boasted that “meals are prepared to meet the demanding taste of the gourmet: exotic meats, game and fish are served on flaming swords or by wagon.” Waiters were dressed in ostrich feather–topped turbans to “add to the old-world atmosphere” (other dining venues in the hotel forced staff to dress in naval costumes or other 18th century style clothing). As head porter Roy McIntosh later remembered, “All the posh weddings and bar mitzvahs were held there and I remember some weddings came down just to have their pictures taken, then leave. It was that kind of place, the best.”

20110820craneadGlobe and Mail, May 15, 1957.

When opening day arrived on May 15, 1957, half of the $10 million hotel’s 20 floors were ready for use. The press weren’t able to preview any of the Lord Simcoe’s 900 rooms, but as Telegram columnist Alex Barris noted, “It’s questionable whether any visitor is likely to get past the street floor, unless he’s just plain sleepy.” Had the media been able to check them out, they would have found rooms decorated in “three basic and interchangeable colours—gold, blue and sandalwood.” Among the in-room amenities were television sets and desks supplied by Eaton’s that included built-in radio controls. Management was upbeat about having booked every room in the hotel for the upcoming Grey Cup game in November.

But it wasn’t long before the hotel ran into financial trouble. The opening of the Westbury Hotel (now the Courtyard Marriott on Yonge Street) and a 400 room addition to the Royal York cut into business. As Star columnist Ron Haggart discovered in the spring of 1960, the Lord Simcoe had become Toronto’s most delinquent taxpayer. As of April 25 of that year, the hotel owed $424,000, which was 10 per cent of all overdue taxes the city awaited. What surprised Haggart was that unlike Toronto’s second-worst tax offender, commercial developer Principal Investments, a bailiff had not been sent after the hotel. The reason why soon became public: Mayor Phillips interceded on behalf of the Lord Simcoe’s investors to convince the city treasurer to defer the hotel’s tax bill until new financial arrangements were made. “They informed me they were arranging for new financing and merely asked the city not to embarrass them during a trying period. I did what I would do for any taxpayer,” Phillips told the Star. “I explained the situation to the city treasurer and, without loss to the city and any embarrassment to anyone, they made a satisfactory arrangement for the payment of arrears with interest.” On May 26, 1960, the city received a cheque for the entire amount owed.

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Toronto Star, January 28, 1963.

 

Once the tax troubles were cleared up, other business problems came to the fore. As losses mounted, there were many rumours about the building’s future. Conrad Hilton was said to be interested in the hotel, the site was to be converted into a hospital, and so on. Several founding members of the management team passed away. Dining and lounge facilities designed to cater to “Toronto’s palate in ultra-deluxe fashion” proved too expensive for local tastes. By the time Globe and Mail owner R. Howard Webster’s Imperial Trust gained primary control of the Lord Simcoe in 1963, three floors were available as office rentals. The swanky Pump Room became the less swanky Flaming Grill, which flamed out within two years.

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Parking lot, University Avenue, east side, at Adelaide Street West, with Lord Simcoe Hotel in the background, early 1960s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 5668.

 

By the end of the 1970s, the lack of both central air and a proper convention-sized meeting space made it difficult for the Lord Simcoe to compete with other downtown hotels. Webster and the other shareholders were ready to stop the never-ending losses and sold the property to National Trust in June 1979. The new owners immediately announced their intention to close the hotel, which saw its final guests (a group of Swedish tourists) check out on October 28, 1979. After their departure, the hotel’s assets were prepared for a liquidation sale that occurred in February 1980. Former head porter Roy McIntosh found himself back at the hotel working for demolition firm Teperman and Sons and felt sadness as the hotel disappeared one piece at a time. “I look at it now,” McIntosh told the Star, “and some guy’s ripping out something and I want to say, ‘Hey, don’t do that!’ But I’ve got to stop feeling personal about it.” Wrecker Marvin Teperman kept some mementos from the site—a red leather couch and chairs from the hotel’s lobby wound up in his office. Less sentimental was Star columnist Joey Slinger, who declared in his Leap Day column that the building was a grey architectural eyesore that couldn’t disappear fast enough. Slinger declared that “The Lord Simcoe was disposable… It was no more meant to endure than a used Styrofoam coffee cup.”

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The Lord Simcoe Hotel awaits demolition, circa 1980. Photo by Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 3, Item 74.

 

There was suspicion after the sale that National Trust stood in for another party, suspicion that was fuelled when the soil conditions were tested. It turned out a developer was assembling a valuable land parcel surrounding the Lord Simcoe for a new office tower that was ultimately filled by Sun Life. Teperman hoarding went up in 1980 and the northeast corner of King and University remained a construction site until the east tower of what is now the Sun Life Centre opened in 1984.
Additional material from the May 15, 1957, and October 29, 1979, editions of the Globe and Mail; the May 18, 1960, May 30, 1960, February 24, 1962, July 11, 1963, June 29, 1979, February 28, 1980, and February 29, 1980, editions of the Toronto Star; and the May 15, 1957, edition of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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King Street West, looking west. Construction of the Lord Simcoe Hotel, is visible at northwest corner of York St & King St. W., Toronto, Ont. Photo by Ted Chirnside, 1956. Toronto Public Library, 2001-2-366.

A shot of the Lord Simcoe under construction. Note the old Globe and Mail building on the right.

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Globe and Mail, May 14, 1957.

To mark the hotel’s opening, the Globe and Mail published six pages of advertorials on May 15, 1957 highlighting the construction process, the companies involved in construction, decoration, and financing, and the artists who produced the decor. Hotel officials declared that the Lord Simcoe was “as Canadian as maple syrup.”

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Globe and Mail, May 15, 1957.

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Globe and Mail, May 15, 1957

Among the statistics noted in the Globe and Mail‘s preview:

  • Housekeeping tallied 4,664 pillows, 10,200 single bed sheets, 1,500 double bed sheets, 7,200 pillow slips, 2,650 blankets, 10,000 bath towels, and 3,000 bath mats
  • 5,000 tablecloths with the hotel crest were produced for the dining areas, which were also supplied with over 20,000 pieces of flatware and over 60,000 pieces of china
  • Artist Maxwell Moffett designed over 300 snowflakes for the a series of seven decorative panels
  • 850 bibles were handed over by the Gideon Society “in a simple but dedicated ceremony”

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“Mr. Ambassador for Metro’s Welcome a Visitor Week, Eddie James Grogan, doorman at the Lord Simcoe Hotel, is congratulated by James Auld, Ontario minister of tourism and information, who pinned a silver medal on his chest for the style he uses in making visitors feel right at home.” Photo by Jeff Goode, originally appeared in the June 16, 1970 edition of the Toronto Star. Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive, tspa_0127985f.

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Toronto Star, June 16, 1970.

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Photo by Boris Spremo. Toronto Star, February 28, 1980.

What stands out in several of the post-mortems of the Lord Simcoe was its shoddy construction. “The trouble with the Lord Simcoe wasn’t that you could hear the people in the next room. It was that you could hear people five rooms away,” recalled Gordon Pimm, whose father-in-law was one of the hotel’s main financial backers. When demolition began in 1980, vibrations from the wrecking equipment caused chunks of stone to fall from the building. Special overhangs were erected to prevent stone from falling onto King Street.

Trash Talk

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on June 27, 2009.

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Island garbage collection hand trucks, September 16, 1929. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 70, Item 315.

As the current municipal strike nears the end of its first week, garbage remains the talk of the town. As Torontonians break through the plastic wrap placed around bins and protest sites chosen as temporary trash depots, letter pages and website comment sections fill with gripes and suggestions on how to handle those responsible for ensuring our garbage is taken care of. Since the first container of local refuse was carted away, city residents have publicly aired in the press their praise and scorn for those collecting our trash.

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Horse-drawn garbage wagon, April 23, 1937. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 70, Item 518.

A letter from “Consulting Sanitary Engineer” Edwin Newsome that appeared in the April 25, 1928 edition of the Star provided suggestions on how to improve garbage pickup for residents and workers. We suspect that Mr. Newsome would burst with pride if he saw how some of his ideas came to fruition:

Our collection of garbage is about as filthy a method as could be humanly conceived. The filthy fluids, rotten vegetable matter, dirty paper is seen along our streets after the garbage man has been round is simply disgusting, as well as being the very reverse to healthful. A householder puts out cans of garbage well wrapped up. Cans with covers on. Dogs come round, upset the cans, and the garbage man does the best he can to clean up. But he has too much ground to cover. The wagons or carts used are a joke. They are no more fit for the purpose than is a kiddy’s car with a perforated bottom in it…What we in Toronto need is first a new garbage collection system including incineration, reclamation and by-production plants. We need standard garbage cans, these to be made by the city and delivered in numbers necessary to each householder’s requirement, each householder being charged the cost of cans left in the first place…I consider [garbage men] nothing less than public benefactors. It makes me ill when I think of those fellows lifting all kinds of receptacles up over shoulder height and dumping the filthy garbage into carts. What about a few ratepayers getting busy and starting something, not always leaving everything to our city fathers.

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CNE garbage collection, c. 1951. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 100, Item 563.

From the April 27, 1950 edition of the Star, praise for those hauling the loads away from the east end of the city:

Sir: After reading complaints about garbage men I would just like to give the men who pick up the garbage on Condor Ave. a well-merited word of praise. They are always pleasant and as I had occasion to put out the usual winter accumulation of cellar junk today I would just like to say I found all of it collected and my cans left neatly covered. I think perhaps if we take a little time to give credit when deserved the men might feel their efforts a little more worthwhile. HOUSEWIFE

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Garbage collection, 1945. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 1359.

Any bets as to how many angry comments, shows of support or unfinished rants due to a rage-fuelled heart attack would be spurred nowadays by this letter from the December 17, 1954 “Voice of the People” page of the Star?

Sir: I hope you can find space to print this complaint and I am sure all garbage men will agree with me. To the public we are only classed as garbage men. But if it weren’t for us, what condition would our municipality get into? What would it look like? How many men are there that will handle garbage and work outside in every kind of weather—snow, slush, mud, wind, rain and all that goes with it. And what thanks do we get for it? We have to climb stairs and fight our way into the middle of lawns through snowbanks to get the garbage cans. Yet who is forgotten at Christmas? The garbage man, of course, the man that walks all day. If people would only realize that the garbage man is very important, then they would make things easier for us to work with. GARBAGE MAN

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Garbage cans, circa 1958. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 200, Series 72, Subseries 100, Item 705 (left), Item 704 (right).

“Garbage Man” provoked one response with a slight tinge of jealousy from a writer who also identified themself solely by their occupation, which was published on Christmas Eve:

Sir: I am answering the letter of Garbage Man, He complains of working in all kinds of weather and that his is a thankless job. Yet he works only 40 hours a week and is well paid for it. Just think of the poor gasoline service station attendant who works a lot more than 40 hours a week in mud, slush, rain and snow, and is not as well paid for it. His gratuities are less than those of garbage men. Well-to-do customers, and garbage men too, come in for $2 worth of gas and they want their oil, battery, radiator and tires checked free. On top of that they want their windshields wiped off. I don’t think the garbage man is so badly off. ATTENDANT

Further responses from the likes of short-order cooks, parking-lot cashiers, grocery baggers, and bowling-alley pin boys failed to materialize.

UPDATE

The strike ended on July 27. Leaving a deep well of resentment among the public, its impact would have made it difficult for David Miller to be re-elected had he not dropped out of the 2010 mayoral race. In 2011, garbage collection west of Yonge Street was contracted out to GFL. Talk of privatizing the remainder of the city’s pickups has been a recurring topic over the past decade.

That Sophomore Season

Originally posted as a Historicist column on Torontoist on June 14, 2008. Due to the low quality of images that were used in the original post, as well as relevant material I’ve gathered over the past decade, new ones have been substituted.

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’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

Stories about the early days of the Toronto Blue Jays tend to focus on their debut in 1977, highlighted by a snowy opening day. Despite a mixture of cast-offs, free agents, and untested rookies that landed the team in the basement, the Jays quickly generated a fan base and set an expansion record of 1.7 million attendees at Exhibition Stadium. The Toronto Star‘s Jim Proudfoot summed up their maiden voyage:

Nothing was allowed to spoil the blissful excitement of Toronto’s first season in the American League. Criticizing our beloved Blue Jays simply wasn’t permitted. Their laughable blunders and glaring deficiencies were forgiven as cute idiosyncracies, inevitable and easy to accept with an expansion team in its infancy. This was a genuine romance; those in love perceived no flaws in the object of their adoration. A first baseman would drop a routine toss from shortstop and the spectators would chuckle indulgently. They bought the Jays’ message totally, even after it began to sound like a cracked record: you can’t expect too much from us, so be patient.

But what about the Jays’ second act?

None of the local papers predicted great things for the Jays in 1978 as all of the papers envisioned another last place finish. Ken Becker of The Toronto Sun felt that “the bottom half of their batting order still looks anemic.” Allen Abel of The Globe and Mail was the most succinct: “Sigh.”

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More shots from spring training. ’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

Over the course of spring training, the team added home run power with the acquisition of designated hitter Rico Carty from the Cleveland Indians and first baseman John Mayberry from the Kansas City Royals. Another addition was a $2.5 million scoreboard, the most expensive to date in baseball. Requiring a crew of six to operate it, the 23-foot by 38-foot board was able to produce 16 shades of colour and display photos generated from 35mm slides and 16mm film. The cost was covered through 15-second ads, with the initial clients including Pepsi, Benson and Hedges, Hiram Walker and team investor Labatt’s Brewery.

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Don’t even think of drinking a stubby at the old ball game. ’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

The scoreboard was the only place fans could legally gaze at alcohol during games, as the team waged a battle with the provincial government over selling beer in the stadium. Tracking the issue over the season revealed much hesitancy from Queen’s Park, especially from Minister of Consumer and Commercial Affairs Larry Grossman, who was personally opposed to the matter and worried about the bad behaviour of rowdy fans. Hearings were held in April after a concessionaire proposed setting up a segregated area to serve alcohol. Opponents ranged from temperance groups to cab drivers, the latter worried about running into drunk drivers roaming the streets of Parkdale. The Star noted the testimony of cabbie Bill Zock, who felt that “Parkdale in general already has a drinking problem…there is an overabundance of licensed drinking establishments and an overabundance of people with chronic drinking problems.” A cabinet shuffle in October saw Frank Drea take over Grossman’s portfolio, with a firm vow that beer would never be sold at games. Not until July 1982 did Premier Bill Davis step in and allow beer sales, though Grossman (by then Minister of Health) still frettied about other fans vomiting on his children.

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’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

On the other hand, potentially tipsy fans (or the large number that smuggled in their liquid requirement) could have relied on public transit to head home. When ridership numbers from opening day were released, TTC Commissioner Michael Warren was proud that the target of 50% of fans arriving at the ballpark via TTC or GO was reached. A plan was devised for certain high attendance games so that 83 extra vehicles would be placed in service for fans, while police rerouted traffic in the vicinity of Exhibition Place, forbidding left turns off major routes like Bathurst Street.

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Toronto Star, April 10, 1978.

The season opener in Detroit was delayed by rain. This might have been an omen as the Jays lost to the Tigers, the first of 102 defeats. Starter Dave Lemanczyk, predicted to be the staff ace, lost his first seven decisions and wound up with a 4-14 record. The home opener was a happier affair, a 10-8 victory over Detroit on April 14. No snow was sighted in the stands.

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Pierre and Sacha Trudeau visit the umpires and (Blue Jays coach Bobby Doerr?), April 22, 1978. Photo by Dick Loek. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0085644f.

Despite the team’s poor on-field performance, most of the booing from the stands was directed at political figures and anthem singers. When Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, accompanied by his sons, threw the first pitch on April 22, he was greeted with jeers, perhaps an early sign the next federal election campaign would not go his way. Exactly a month later, singer Ruth Ann Wallace was loudly booed when she sang a bilingual rendition of “O Canada” two days in a row. The incident provoked much handwringing among editorial writers and politicians. Visiting Toronto the day after, Quebec Premier Rene Levesque said “I honestly think it’s too bad, but you have people on both sides you know that more or less represent the two solitudes.” Asked if he considered the booing crowd bigots, Levesque said “yeah, that would be a good word for it.” Trudeau feared the incident played into the hands of separatists, indicating that “this is a sad commentary but there’s nothing more I can do about it than to help people slowly attune their ears to the reality of two languages in Canada and two main linguistic groups.”

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’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

The year’s most controversial trade occurred on August 15 when fan-favourite Carty, who led the team in most offensive categories, was traded to the Oakland A’s for designated hitter Willie Horton and pitcher Phil Huffman. Horton had a short, star-crossed stay in Toronto, hitting .205 over the remainder of the season. One reason for his low productivity was an incident on September 4 when Horton, his wife and two children were charged with causing a public disturbance after a fight broke out with three bystanders in the stadium parking who, according to an interview with Horton in The Globe and Mail, “gave them dirty looks.” During the melee Horton was knocked out by riding crop of a police officer on horseback. The trade was effectively nullified in the off-season when Carty rejoined the Blue Jays, while Horton signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners.

(Carty was also the first native of the Dominican Republic city of San Pedro de Macoris to play for the Blue Jays, paving the way for the likes of George Bell and Tony Fernandez.)

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’78 Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 2, Number 4.

The Horton incident one of many things that went wrong for the team during the final month of the season. Globe and Mail reporter Neil Campbell saw his press credentials revoked after he picked up sensitive team documents accidentally left in the press box by club president Peter Bavasi. A draw for a free car on September 22 ended with two cars being handed out to fans after the initial winning ticket holder showed up just as the holder of a second drawn ticket made their way to the field (the first ticket holder was walking out of the stadium when the draw was announced). The team tried to palm off free tickets as compensation to the second winner, but the threat of a lawsuit suddenly made a second car appear.

The team ended the season with an eight-game losing streak. These matches, all against the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, played a key role in shaping one of the most dramatic pennant races in baseball history and one of the most vivid examples of the “curse of the Bambino” that plagued the Red Sox for most of the 20th century (the Red Sox led the Yankees by 14-1/2 games in July, ended the season tied and lost in a special one-game playoff thanks to a home run by Yankee Bucky Dent.

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“Jim Clancy says he used the best slider he ever had to handcuff the Chicago White Sox as Blue Jays won 4-2 before 44,327 fans and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at Exhibition Stadium,” April 22, 1978. Photo by Dick Loek. Toronto Star Photo Archives, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0038299f. Originally published in the April 23, 1978 edition of the Toronto Star.

There were signs of optimism for the future. The team had won five more games than in 1977 (59 versus 54). Players who would take part in the team’s first championship drive in 1985 debuted in the low minors—the amateur draft netted Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb. Fans would sit through four more losing seasons before general manager Pat Gillick’s assembly skills paid dividends and the team’s early blunders were remembered with a certain charm.