An Early November Night’s Walk

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Once upon a time, I wrote a lot about my walks through the city. Whether they were solo strolls or psychogeographic excursions, I snapped many pictures along the way and summarized the trip in old-fashioned blog posts.

Friends have asked over the years if I would ever return to writing about walks. So I am. If nothing else, going for these strolls takes me away from my work desk.

I think I got a look of approval from Toronto’s first mayor from his perch at Queen station (though I swear he also mumbled something about muskets).

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Originally I was going to wander along Danforth through Greektown, peering in at the early Christmas displays, such as this one at Kitchen Stuff Plus. Feeling there was more walking in me, I hopped on the subway at Broadview and headed downtown.

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It was five minutes to closing time when I entered the Queen Street Bay. This cow didn’t seem bothered by the customers scurrying to leave the store. It was also proud to show off their holiday wreath, which at least one cutting board approved of.

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Heading into the Bay Adelaide Centre, I had a feeling that I was being watched…

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…and they weren’t the watcher from the wall.

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Is the use of the word “path” intentional, given this is a busy corridor in the PATH system? Is it the path to financial well-being? Consumer satisfaction? Enlightenment?

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Given the early Christmas decorations I had seen earlier, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” lodged itself in my brain.

As for seeing what they saw, all I could see was a row of closeups of eyes staring at me. Which, for some people, might be unnerving.

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Time to move on to another complex.

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Recent wayfinding installed in the PATH not only directs you to nearby attractions and buildings, but lets you know how long it takes to get to your destination.*

*Not valid during lunchtime, especially during inclement weather.

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First Canadian Place, like much of the PATH after business hours, takes on a quiet character. The hustle and bustle of bankers and lawyers gives way to the occasional wanderer. It’s a great place for reflection while walking.

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Heading into the Toronto-Dominion Centre provides one of the last glimpses of the uniform signage that, until the early 2000s, dominated Mies van der Rohe’s original design for the shopping level of the complex.

From Shawn Micallef’s book Stroll:

The Toronto-Dominion Centre was long an exception to the generic look of much of the PATH. Architect Mies van der Rohe laid out a mausoleum of a mall down there, a place of order, clean lines and polished travertine marble. Even the store signs were uniform: white letters on a black background using a font Mies designed specifically for the TD Centre.

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The remaining black elements give the centre more character than its neighbours, making it one of the most atmospheric to stroll after hours. The loud partying sounds from the Duke of Devon felt out of place.

From Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic’s book Toronto Architecture: A City Guide:

Also, this is where Mies did the city the dubious favour of pioneering the the underground shopping concourse. The Miesian signage and detailing are now gone from underground, but the PATH system continues to grow, turning office-dwellers into moles and emptying the streets.

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One of the most interesting signs points to the King & Bay Chaplaincy, a spiritual retreat whose corridor was under construction. It feels like a necessary amenity for people to cope with the pressure of working in the Financial District.

From the February 2, 2008 Globe and Mail:

Hope comes in the form of a door handily emblazoned HOPE. Inside, Pat Kimeda sits quietly behind the desk of the King-Bay Chaplaincy, an interdenominational Christian chapel tucked below escalators in the TD Tower. Ms. Kimeda says many downtown workers come to deal with relationship issues, others in a daze after being dismissed. “All types of people come, and sometimes the problems are not so different,” she says. “Whether it’s family or work, often people are dealing with stress for one reason or another.”

But is it odd, expecting people to find faith in the heart of the country’s biggest financial district? Ms. Kimeda pauses. “It’s Bay Street. It’s money, money, money,” she says. “[But]not every person walking down here is like that. A lot are very, very deep.”

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Compared to the Toronto-Dominion Centre, walking into Royal Bank Plaza feels like you’ve entered just another office/shopping complex. It doesn’t live up to the promise of the exterior, as described in Toronto Architecture: A City Guide:

Any building in Toronto that makes it look as if the sun is shining on a dreary winter day has a lot going for it. The faceted gold-enriched mirror-glass of Royal Bank’s Late-Modern jewel seems to reflect a warm sunny glow no matter what the weather. This is a very showy building all around.

One of the biggest mistakes: closing off public viewing access to Jesus Raphael Soto’s ceiling sculpture Suspended Virtual Volume, which can sort of be seen through the front windows.

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Also available (for the moment) in Royal Bank Plaza: a vending machine dispensing $8.99 cake slices shipped in from Hoboken.

Given all the great bakeries in the city, I’ll pass.

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Artwork on the wall next to the cake machine. Aww.

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My feet needed to rest, so I headed out of Royal Bank Plaza into a building with more atmosphere…

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…but first, the small shopping centre in the Royal York Hotel.

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At the barber shop, a fine display of after shaves…

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…and shaving products usually spotted at my local Italian grocery store.

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A bank of elevators waiting to whisk guests to their rooms for a night of romance, or people attending functions throughout the hotel.

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From Andrew Hepburn’s The Toronto Guide 1966-67:

The hotel, one of the the most celebrated hotels in the world and the largest in the British Commonwealth, has 1,600 guest rooms and suites and some of the most interesting public rooms in Canada, particularly a series of private dining rooms, each one decorated to suggest the character and history of a Canadian province.

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The Royal York’s lobby is one of my favourite places to rest in the city. Easing into one of the comfortable chairs sends you into a state of relaxation, along with the classic decor. I’ll sit for 15-20 minutes to collect my thoughts, typing into my phone or writing in a notebook ideas to be saved for later.

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The constant stream of activity makes it a great people-watching spot. On this night, there were attendees of a black-tie function roaming around, along with young tourism, couples out for a drink, and happy Leafs fans savouring a victory over Vegas.

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Musically, a live pianist in Reign restaurant blended with dance music blaring from a speaker somewhere behind my chair.

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An abandoned issue of O waiting for the next guests to flip through it.

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Feeling recharged, it was time to head across the street…

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…into Union Station.

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First stop was Luis Jacob’s Toronto Biennial of Art exhibit The View from Here. According to the artist statement, the exhibit pairs Jacob’s photos with selections from his rare map collection, “representing different yet overlapping narratives of the same places. The tension between these views invites a reconsideration of Toronto’s identity and presumed cohesion as a city.”

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I thought the reflected glow of a nearby TD logo added something to this picture taken in The Junction.

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Another TD offering nearby: seating.

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I headed into the new York Concourse, but it was packed with Leafs fans waiting for their GO trains home. Back into the Great Hall…

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Who wants VIA merchandise?

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While waiting for the Leafs fans to disperse, I wandered into Brookfield Place. While Royal Bank Plaza hid its sculpture to add more office space, Brookfield embraces Santiago Calatrava’s work in the Allen Lambert Galleria.

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From Toronto Architecture: A City Guide:

Inside is a real architectural gift to the city: a galleria and “heritage square” by the Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava. Built to satisfy the city’s public art requirement, this bravura arcade of white steel evokes by turns whale bones, an ancient forest, and Victorian engineering feats such as the Eiffel Tower.

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Looking down at the food court.

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The steel fountain at the centre of Sam Pollock Square.

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Near the entrance to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a corner of pucks spanning all levels of hockey…

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…including franchises that never played a game, such as the WHA’s Miami Screaming Eagles.

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The night’s final image: a display of fall gourds on the Yonge Street side of Marché Mövenpick.

East Lynn Pumpkin Parade, 2019

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November 1. Halloween is over, and the city is filled with leftover pumpkins galore. Before heading off to the afterpatch, they enjoy one last shot of glory at the numerous community pumpkin parades held across Toronto.

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East Lynn Park served as the display area in my neighbourhood.

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There were many variations on the classic jack o’ lantern design, including this one that could be a fall version of a snowman.

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A pair of his and hers pumpkins with retro flair.

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People passing this pumpkin couldn’t resist humming the Super Mario Brothers theme.

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Some classic Halloween icongraphy in this cluster.

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But the change in commercial seasons was already apparent in nearby stores. Stacks of fruitcake which may not be enjoyed for nearly two months greet shoppers heading into the Valumart next to Woodbine station…

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…while Dollarama is filled with Christmas supplies.

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So let’s enjoy a few final moments with the pumpkins of Halloween 2019.

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Bonus Features: Peace Day, 1919 (Post #500!)

Before diving into this post, read my article for TVO about the celebrations and controversies surrounding Peace Day in July 1919. This also marks the 500th post on Tales of Toronto (though this entry isn’t strictly a Toronto story…).

The Treaty of Versailles

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Souvenir, signing of peace, Versailles, 1919. Canada. Dept. of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment. Toronto Public Library.

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Hamilton Herald, June 28, 1919. Click on image for larger version.

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Eaton’s ad inspired by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Toronto Times, June 28, 1919.

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 The Globe, June 30, 1919. Click on image for larger version.

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The Globe, June 30, 1919.

To Celebrate Peace Day or Not?

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Front page editorial, Peterborough Evening Examiner, July 17, 1919.

In several communities across the province, the question was whether to devote their full efforts towards peace celebrations planned for the August civic holiday weekend, or quickly come up with festivities to placate veterans groups and die-hard imperialists.

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Editorial, Peterborough Evening Examiner, July 18, 1919.

In Peterborough, the front page of the July 18, 1919 Evening Examiner was filled with notices from retailers who would close. The decision to honour the holiday didn’t come until a meeting of local merchants wrapped up late that afternoon. “The only exception,” the paper reported, “will be the butchers who will close at noon owing to the hot weather and the necessity of supplying the public with a fresh supply of meat.” Peterborough’s factories also agreed to close on Peace Day.

As merchant Dickson Hall put it, “it is a scandal to remain open, contrary to the wishes of the King and the people.”

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Peterborough Evening Examiner, July 18, 1919.

Peace Day preparations were a mess in Windsor and the surrounding “Border Cities” (which included Ford City, Riverside, Sandwich, and Walkerville). “The attitude adopted by the Great War Veterans to have a parade and celebration has somewhat upset the calculations of those who expected to see the day pass quietly and unobserved,” the Border Cities Star reported on July 18. “The fact that organized labour also has decided to ‘take a holiday’ has added to the general confusion.” The Star believed that talk of punishing merchants who stayed open would “simmer out.” Merchants decided to take a half-holiday, shutting their doors at 1 p.m.

In the end, Windsorites preferred a quiet day. Many relaxed along the Detroit River or headed to Bob-Lo Island amusement park. Anyone who wanted to party could have travelled to large celebrations in Leamington and Tilbury. A veterans parade fizzled out, prompting at least one GWVA member to warn that Windsor’s lukewarm embrace of the GWVA’s vision of Peace Day would cause the Border Cities to lose out on future veteran conventions.

Meanwhile, In Hamilton…

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Hamilton Herald, July 17, 1919.

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A rebuttal to the Herald‘s claims from the front page of the July 18, 1919 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

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Hamilton Spectator, July 18, 1919.

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Hamilton Herald, July 21, 1919.

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If the festivities planned for Hamilton weren’t enticing, one could have taken advantage of Toronto’s celebrations, as shown in this July 17, 1919 ad from the Spectator.

Peace Day along The Danforth

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Evening Telegram, July 21, 1919. Click on image for larger version.

In Toronto’s east end, the main Peace Day celebrations took place along Danforth Avenue. A parade was held between Broadview Avenue and Withrow Park, where around 70,000 people enjoyed the festivities.

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Toronto Star, July 21, 1919.

Members of the Todmorden lodge of the Sons of England volunteered to provide refreshments in the park. Numbers published in the Toronto World indicated that the lodge sold over 7,200 soft drinks and 250 gallons of ice cream, bringing in over $1,000.

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Toronto World, July 21, 1919.

Peace Day in Earlscourt

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Evening Telegram, July 21, 1919. Click on image for larger version.

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Toronto World, July 21, 1919.

For more on events in Earlscourt, check out this post on McRoberts Avenue.

Peace Day in Queen’s Park

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Toronto World, July 21, 1919.

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Evening Telegram, July 21, 1919.

During the singalong, Mayor Church announced that there would be no speeches. “The reports in the Toronto papers of Toronto’s peace celebration all agree that it was an unqualified success,” observed the editorial page of the July 21 edition of the Hamilton Herald, “but anything where there are no speeches is a reporter’s idea of an unqualified success.”

Not-So-Peaceful Actions

Piecing together the accounts of the rowdyism and violence which occurred in Toronto was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, with each paper having its own set of details. Here are the full stories.

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The Globe, July 21, 1919.

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Mail and Empire, July 21, 1919.

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Evening Telegram, July 21, 1919.

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Toronto Times, July 21, 1919.

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Toronto World, July 21, 1919.

More Power To Your East End Food Dollar

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on November 29, 2008.

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Power Supermarket, 1953. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 496.

November 12, 1953: shoppers descended on Danforth Avenue a few doors west of Woodbine to await the grand opening of the eighth store in the budget-conscious Power supermarket chain. Care to join the crowd and check out the offers in aisle three?

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Advertisement, Toronto Star, November 11, 1953.

The Power chain’s origins dated to 1904, when Samuel and Sarah Weinstein opened a grocery store named after themselves near present-day Bay and Dundas. The family’s first store under the low-cost Power banner opened at Coxwell and Danforth in 1933 with the slogan “Why Pay for Fixtures?” The same year that 2055 Danforth Avenue opened, Power was purchased by Loblaw Groceterias but maintained a distinct identity and independent marketing policies. Samuel and Sarah’s son Leon ran the company by this point and eventually served as president of Loblaws from 1968 to 1970.

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Power Supermarket, 1953. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 498.

The grand opening ad was posted by the front door. Staff and dignitaries were photographed as they pondered how to cut the ribbon before letting shoppers in. Scissors? Knife? A quick chop with the flower bouquet?

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Power Supermarket, 1953. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 499.

These bag boys were primed to start packing away purchases. Current city officials would be proud of the paper bags on display.

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Power Supermarket, 1953. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1257, series 1057, item 500.

The Power name faded away during reorganizations of Loblaws store banners in the 1970s. The company still operates at least two of the locations listed in the grand opening ad as No Frills stores (Parliament Street and Eglinton Avenue West), while the Sunnybrook Plaza store now operates as a Pharma Plus. As for 2055 Danforth…

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…it sits vacant, surrounded by a fence bearing “no trespassing” signs.

Additional material from the June 18, 1968 edition of the Globe and Mail.

UPDATE

The site was eventually filled in and, as of winter 2019, is occupied at street level by a Firkin pub.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

star 1960-11-25 sam weinstein profile Toronto Star, November 25, 1960.

A profile of the Weinstein family. The date given for the launch of Loblaws is a little off – it was 1919, not 1921.

Beyond the grocery business, Leon Weinstein was urged to run for the Liberals as a Toronto mayoral candidate in 1969, as I recounted in this excerpt from a Historicist column on that campaign:

The Liberals were eager to enter the municipal ring, figuring that their dominance of the city’s federal seats could translate into votes at City Hall. The party’s efforts at securing a potential mayoral candidate were headed by Davey, who spent most of the year (unsuccessfully) on the prowl. Longstanding councillors with ties to the party resisted and vowed to remain independent candidates to earn as many votes as possible—as former controller and mayor Allan Lamport put it, “why should I put on a party label and alienate the other fellows?” Splits among federal and provincial party officials about the wisdom of entering municipal politics did not help the process. The process of choosing a mayoral candidate turned the party’s convention at St. Lawrence Hall on September 23 into a fiasco. Early in the evening, three people were nominated, including a thirty-one year-old political scientist named Stephen Clarkson. Among those in the crowd was Loblaws Groceterias president Leon Weinstein, who was whisked away into a separate room and urged to run. Through a series of misunderstandings, Weinstein agreed on the condition that he would be the only candidate to be nominated, which wasn’t the case. After much confusion, during which Weinstein’s was submitted for the ballot minutes before nominations closed and Davey attempted to convince Clarkson to drop out, Weinstein took the podium. He announced that he wasn’t interested in the job then left the room, reportedly in tears—Globe and Mail reporter Michael Enright summed up Weinstein’s night as “a walking study in political innocence.” Clarkson fell short of a majority by two votes on the first ballot, but his remaining challengers decided to throw in the towel and back him. Clarkson’s victory drew a tepid reaction and many of the attendees felt disillusioned with party brass.

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Globe and Mail, December 9, 1966, Click on image for larger version.

Can you find where Power fit in the giant flow chart of companies partly or fully by Loblaws and the Weston family in the mid-1960s?

Halloween in Toronto, 1918

Halloween was a low-key affair in Toronto in 1918. Between the Spanish Flu pandemic which struck the city that month and the winding down of the First World War, it’s not surprising that there were reduced celebrations that year. The public was asked to direct any extra money to the Victory Loan bond drive. Real life horrors may have squelched any desire to indulge in imaginary ones.

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The Globe, October 24, 1918.

The major department stores barely acknowledged Halloween in their ads—this sampling of décor items from Eaton’s was one of the few I found.

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The Globe, October 30, 1918.

The Globe offered sugarless snack suggestions, as sugar was considered a high demand item not to be wasted on frivolous treats.

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The Globe, November 1, 1918.

This account of Halloween night notes that some people were still in a mischievous, gender-bending mood. It also reflects fears about Bolshevism rising in the wake of the Russian Revolution and homegrown socialism, and the fire department’s eternal annoyance at Halloween false alarms.

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Toronto Star, November 1, 1918.

It was a tragic evening on the Danforth, due to a pedestrian fatality.

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Toronto World, October 31, 1918.

For several nights that week, as part of the Victory Loan drive, films were shown outside the Allen Theatre at Richmond and Victoria. Later known as the Tivoli, it operated until 1964. Many of the stars listed, especially Pickford and Fairbanks, had undertaken personal appearance tours for wartime bond drives in the United States.

An Afternoon Stroll Along Danforth Avenue, July 2018

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Two nights ago, just west of where I live, a mass shooting occurred. Moments after I learned about it, a friend texted to ensure my wife and I were OK. While we had spent a quiet night in, the possibility of either of us being in that area at that time was not inconceivable as I often stroll over to Greektown for evening stretches.

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This afternoon I walked over to see how things were. Activity appeared normal for a Tuesday afternoon, with plenty of locals doing their errands. Many businesses put messages of community strength on their sidewalk sides, with hashtags #danforthstrong and #torontostrong.

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The boards covering up the renovations at Ouzeri were covered with messages of love and requests to remain strong.

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There was a time I thought such behaviour was excessive. When Jack Layton died in 2011 and my partner at the time wanted to pay respects at his home, I resisted. Based on personal experience with death, I felt that maybe the family wanted to be left alone. She pointed out how much was left outside their door, that it hadn’t been removed, and that it was probably appreciated both by the family and those wishing to honour his memory. She was right. Unless explicitly told not to by relevant parties, some people need to work out their grief after a tragedy or a major passing in public ways. Ideally these displays demonstrate how communities come together.

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The public worked out their feelings, for better or worse, on the boards and the sidewalk. The occasional reference to terrorism crept in, along with complaints about psychiatric drug makers. Most avoided the hatemongering pursued by certain elements and Toronto’s daily tabloid newspaper.

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Flowers filled the plaza at Danforth and Logan, left by the community and local politicians. It was also filled with cameras waiting for something, though I didn’t stick around to find out why. I suspect it was an announcement of a vigil for the victims, as I later saw flyers about the vigil distributed by the BIA to stores.

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At least one person promised to attend Taste of the Danforth.

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Churches offered space for quiet grieving, reflection, and coping.

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It was refreshing to see regular customers check in with businesses to see how the employees were holding up. Watching a couple shake hands with a man outside a convenience store. General demonstrations of caring and concern. Relief from the endless daily stream of cynicism, populist hate, and selfishness.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Danforth Rising

Originally published on Torontoist on November 27, 2007.

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Toronto World, March 11, 1921.

As the 20th Century dawned, Danforth Avenue was a muddy road that served as the northern boundary for the eastern portions of the city of Toronto. Between 1909, when the city made its first major annexation on the north side of Danforth, and the appearance of today’s ads in 1921, the area we now know as “The Danforth” rapidly changed from a semi-isolated mix of farmland, villages and church reserves to a series of residential neighbourhoods well connected to the rest of Toronto.

Two key factors that spurred growth were the implementation of streetcar service along a newly paved Danforth in 1913 and the opening of the Prince Edward Viaduct five years later. Market gardens that had filled the area were quickly replaced with homes, while businessmen such as Joe Barnes set up shop along Danforth (though we have no record of how many young men and their fathers were happy to shop for suits together). Names of landowners, such as the Playter family, lived on in streets and neighbourhoods.

Today’s advertisers were among the businesses and real estate companies featured in a special advertising section spotlighting the neighbourhood in the long-defunct Toronto World. With slight modifications, the following introduction could easily apply to condo or subdivision projects 85 years on:

Toronto’s growth in the last twelve years could not be more strikingly illustrated than by the phenomenal development of the Danforth district. Twelve years ago one or two stores only stood isolated along the Danforth highway; today the same highway is a bustling business street fully two miles in length, with the reputation of being one of the best shopping districts in the city, a claim well substantiated by a large and continuous patronage from outside points. Danforth is a residential district and promises to maintain that distinction. Sub-divisions offering the most attractive home-sites in the city are now being put on the market and these will prove highly remunerative investments, either for homes or for speculative purposes, for Danforth is the vanguard of Toronto’s progress. Last week $40,000 in home-sites was the turnover of one land agency on Danforth Avenue. People are seeking to establish homes where land values are now reasonable and where they have the advantages of such a convenient shopping district as Danforth Avenue.