A Pandemic Night’s Wanderings: The Beaches, AGO, Grange Park

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All photos in this post taken on May 11, 2020 and copyright Jamie Bradburn. 

A crisp night with few people out and about: the perfect time for my wife and I to wander around the city.

We began our journey on Queen Street in the east end of The Beaches. So far we haven’t relied on wine to get us through the crisis, but, judging from the regular lineups we’ve seen outside of LCBO stores, plenty of others are. Perhaps this is a good time to branch out and try different brands and styles, or conduct experiments in home vintages.

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Outside a pet supply store, spaces were marked out for socially distanced pickup. Or was it a tribute to those unfortunate souls who earn three strikes on Family Feud?

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At Beech Avenue, a quartet of Muskoka chairs for a socially distanced rest.

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Films on extended run at the Fox Theatre.

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A message similar to those on marquees across the city, with a touch of Bogey.

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A quiet night at the laundromat, with baskets lined up neatly in a row.

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With the speed that businesses were forced to close, there are still a few St. Patrick’s Day displays kicking around. Later on, we reflected on how many window displays in the city have frozen a moment in time, and wondered if that’s incredible or unsettling.

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A note of thanks painted on Valumart’s window.

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We walked down to the lake, where warnings about ongoing work by the TRCA and COVID greeted us at the bottom of Silver Birch Avenue.

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All along the boardwalk, there were signs that chairs and benches had once been covered with police tape, but the public had other ideas regarding their use. Other wanderers were seen admiring the clear night sky from Muskoka chairs along the beach.

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After weaving our way along side streets back to the car, we headed into downtown. I’ve barely visited the core since the crisis began, and the few experiences haven’t been entirely pleasant. One night I drove along Yonge Street and played dodge ball with panhandlers driven by the lack of foot traffic into more desperate behaviour towards motorists. I feared for their safety (wandering in and out of traffic in a way that could have been fatal had they encountered road racers) and mine (blocking my path as I tried to turn, aggressively knocking on the window).  It was an uncomfortable experience for many reasons, ranging from practical (don’t accidentally injure or kill somebody!) to societal (was I nervous because these were desperate people coping with poverty and mental illness?).

We parked along McCaul across from OCAD. Few people were around, and the silence was broken by the occasional diverted streetcar passing by. The school was well lit.

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At the AGO, a reminder of exhibitions I’ll never get to see. We talked about how museums might reopen, figuring those with large, roomy exhibition spaces where social distancing occur easily might return first, perhaps with reduced capacity or a reservation system for viewing time. Special exhibitions may have to have less “wow” factor to keep crowds away.

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So, so quiet.

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On the backside of the AGO, the garbage and recycling containers in Grange Park were taped off.

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Henry Moore’s Two Large Forms seems to have found a good home in the revitalized park since moving from the other side of the gallery in 2017. Google Maps currently describes the park as a “city oasis with a Henry Moore sculpture.”

Won’t deny that…

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Like several other downtown landmarks, OCAD was bathed in a purple glow to honour those working in the hospitality industry.

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Its doors may be closed due to COVID, but the University Settlement Community Centre still shines its lights on Grange Road.

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Among the other buildings lit in purple: Casa Loma, which we drove by on our way home.

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 4: Suggestions for St. Patrick’s Day

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

I’m going to guess that, much as now, much of the “gay doings” Ann Adam expects around St. Patrick’s Day involved consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. This may partly explain why the Mail and Empire‘s morning competition, the Globe, barely mentioned the occasion at all. The Globe‘s owner, William Gladstone Jaffray, refused to run ads for alcohol even after prohibition ended in Ontario in the mid-1920s, and I can’t imagine him endorsing any articles remotely celebrating drinking.

Since this article encourages readers to tint their party pleasing foods green, I checked if green beer was a thing in 1933. According to Smithsonian magazine, the practice dates back to the early 20th century, but didn’t catch on widely until the 1950s.

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

And now a word from our sponsor…

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Mail and Empire, March 16, 1933.

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

In Search of Ireland (1930) was among the numerous travel books written by English journalist Henry Vollam Morton (1892-1979). Here’s how Kitty Hauser described one of Morton’s most popular works, In Search of England (1927), for the London Review of Books in 2005:

In Search of England came out of a series Morton wrote for the Daily Express in 1926. It is an account of a journey around England in a Bullnose Morris, written ‘without deliberation by the roadside, on farmyard walls, in cathedrals, in little churchyards, on the washstands of country inns’. Its tone is jaunty, as the narrator leaves London and reels at whim in his two-seater down country lanes and past historic sites in search of an essential and timeless England. It is a quest to find in reality the England that existed as myth for a war-ravaged generation; the village at dusk, smelling of woodsmoke, surrounded by green fields; the thatched cottages and rambling gardens; the time-worn historical monuments. This was the land ‘worth fighting for’ in the propaganda of both world wars. That Morton apparently found it, many times over, in the course of his travels (reaffirming it in every new edition), reassured readers that it really was out there, even if it might not be visible to those living in cities or their ever-expanding suburbs. What Morton demonstrated to his predominantly urban readers, with a deceptively casual air, was that this England – the ‘real’ England – was just a car journey away, down an inviting and empty country road.

Morton moved to South Africa in 1948, just as apartheid was being implemented in that country, a political direction that didn’t seem to bother him.

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Toronto Star, March 17, 1933.

As for what the other Toronto papers had to offer for St. Patrick’s celebrations, the Star published recipes for Shamrock Cake and Mint Jelly.

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Toronto Star, March 17, 1933.

The Star also published a photo of an unidentified baby wearing a St. Patrick’s Day hat.

I couldn’t find any references to a St. Patrick’s Day parade happening in the city. More digging reveals that processions that day ended in 1877, and did not resume until 1988. Public processionals of Irish identity — or at least Irish Protestant anti-Catholic identity — were reserved for the Orange Parade on July 12. According to the July 13, 1933 edition of the Globe, 50,000 people marched across municipalities throughout Ontario to mark the 243rd anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Dignitaries and Orange Lodge officials addressing these gatherings declared their allegiance to the British Empire and denounced atheism, bilingualism, and Communism.  In Toronto, where 10,000 people marched, the parade went from Queen’s Park to a rally at Exhibition Park. In front of attendees such as Mayor William J. Stewart and Premier George Henry, participants denounced what they believed was an “organized effort to make Canada a bilingual country” by criticizing French language instruction in schools and radio programming.