I remember Toronto…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Reel World
Tags: , , , , ,

Memory is a funny thing. As time goes by we tend to remember the positive, the happy. Old beaus suddenly don’t seem so unreasonable, accomplishments become iconic, and the past acquires a sort of gossamer glow.

I was born in Toronto and have lived here all my life. This is a great city which I firmly believe is one of the great cities of the world – especially in the summertime. Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick thanks to all the old friends I’m being reacquainted with on Facebook. And as I’ve been remembering old friends my mind has turned to remembering the Toronto I grew up in.

Toronto is a great city but the city we live in today is nothing like the city I grew up in. So much has changed – some for the better and, of course, some for not. We’re a lot bigger, we’re amalgamated and we have become a major global cultural capital. Good for us.

But what of those memories? Was the Toronto of my youth as innocent and carefree as I remember or are my memories being simplified by being viewed through the lens of my childhood? Probably a bit of both.

I was once told that memories are the signposts of our lives – markers that denote the significant occurrences that, together, create our life’s narrative. So, what are signposts that mark the city I remember? Here, in no particular order, are some of things that I remember from the city of my youth. Some are happy, some are not, and some just are. Please feel free to add your own as together, we try to remember the city that we’ve left behind.

I remember…

• having milk and bread delivered to our home by the “Milkman”, the milk all frothy in its glass bottle

• yellow police cars with the single red “cherry” on top

• 10 cent fares on the TTC, 25 for adults

• my father taking me to Yorkville and Rochdale to see the Hippies

• concerts at Maple Leaf Gardens where the best seats sold for the outrageous price of $7.50

• the most exotic food was Pizza or Chinese

• 1 and 2 dollar bills

• smoking everywhere – elevators, movie theatres and airplanes

• super balls!!!

• shoestring liquorice and other candies that sold for a penny a piece

• 1050 Chum and the ubiquitous Chum Chart

• saving my allowance to buy my first 45 rpm record, Space Oddity by David Bowie

• never having enough of those little plastic discs that went in the middle of those 45’s

• the Electric Gallery on Avenue Rd and the Markle brother’s unique take on neon

• payphones that cost 10 cents

• rotary dial phones, busy signals and no voice mail

• typewriters and carbon paper for copies

• Baby Blue Movies

• the most exotic language you would ever hear on the street was French (or maybe Italian in the right neighbourhood)

• the Toronto Telegram, the Globe in the morning and the Star at night

• Stoodleigh’s restaurant, the Bagel King and the Hamburger King

• The Toronto Police’s Morality Squad

• movie censorship

• 1 oz of Colombian Gold that sold for $60

• where the worst thing you could catch from sex could be cured with anti-biotics

• Shopsy’s on Spadina (next door to Victory Burlesque which was always a source of fascination to my 11 year-old mind)

• mostly white faces everywhere you went

• guns were the exclusive domain of police. Period.

• Ryerson was called Rye-high or, grade 14

• grade 13

• television stations that went off the air overnight, closing with our national anthem played over footage of endless mountains, lakes and the Musical Ride

• endless tests of the Emergency Broadcast System

• all the porno theatres at Yonge and Dundas

• the University theatre, the Eglinton and the Uptown – the three biggest screens in town

• the opening of the Imperial Six and spending an entire day moving from one theatre to the next, trying to see all six movies for one admission

• the opening of the first Cineplex theatre in the Eaton Centre where you could see rear-projected movies on a screen no bigger than your TV in a theatre that sat 25 people

I could go on for a while but I think the point has been made. Somewhere along the line we lost our innocence and we changed from a little big city to a big big city. Do we have more amenties now? Absolutely. But have we paid a price for that sophistication? Absolutely. We’ve lost some of our innocence as we’ve taken our place on the world’s stage.

Progress is a double-edged sword. We all want it but when it comes we often spend much time reminiscing over how good we had it. Maybe it falls under the category of “be careful what you wish for, you might get it”. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Toronto of my youth and I still love Toronto today but they are two very different cities. Technology, sprawl and immigration have forever changed the face of this city as progress marches on.

What are your memories of the Toronto you grew up in? Was there an event that, for you, marked the transition to a different kind of city that you remember? Thank you Emanuel Jacques for my epiphany.

This city always surprises me as it’s constantly growing up around me, evolving, sometimes in step with the world and sometimes marching to its own drummer. I was once told that Toronto is a native word for “meeting place”. And today, that has never been more true…


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