Monthly Archives: September 2011


This is my first post about the second book in the “Toronto Trilogy” – The Reluctant Virgin.” It is not yet available in print or in e-books, but should be released before Christmas.

It is a murder mystery. A cold-blooded serial killer is murdering victims in Toronto in the 1950s. The characters who were of elementary school age in the first book in the trilogy, “Arse Over Teakettle,” are now teenagers. On the Labour Day weekend of 1952, the killer stalks a young woman walking on a dark secluded path in the Humber Valley. The brutality of the murder shocks even the police. There is almost no blood at the death scene, which baffles the two detectives who must solve the crime.

The killer commits further murders in the months and years ahead, selecting various places within the city for the crimes – the Rosedale Ravine, a parking lot behind a pub on the Danforth, a sleazy downtown hotel, a pathway beside Grenadier  Pond in High Park, and an outer beach on Centre Island. Because the murder methods and locals appear unrelated, the police are unaware that they are dealing with a serial killer.

In the section below, one of the detectives, Jim Peersen, who is attempting to solve the murders, takes a week’s holiday  away from the case to restore his energies. He is dating an attractive young woman, Samantha, who earns her living in the sex trade. To say that his life is complicated is an under-statement. He decides to drive to Stratford to attend the Shakespearean Festival.

This section from the book provides a pleasant diversion from the tension created by the on-going murders. For Toronto residents, it gives insight into the history of a theatrical institution that is well known and loved.

On Saturday 9 July, they set off early in the morning to attend the Stratford Festival of Canada. The Shakespearean festival had commenced two years earlier, held in an enormous tent beside the Avon River in Stratford, a two-hour drive west of Toronto. In its opening season, in 1953, the big attraction had been Alec Guiness in Richard III. The following year, James Mason had captivated the audiences in Oedipus Rex. In this year of 1955, the festival was featuring Julius Caesar, Merchant of Venice, and for the second year, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.

Following their arrival in Stratford, Jim and Samantha enjoyed lunch, and strolled arm in arm toward the theatre tent, which the festival had purchased in Chicago. Jim had acquired tickets for an afternoon performance of Julius Caesar. Robert Christie was playing Caesar, Lorne Greene, a well-known radio announcer and actor, they had cast in the role of Marcus Brutus, Douglas Campbell was Casca, and William Shatner was Lucius.

They had erected the tent on the site of today’s Festival Theatre, on the hill overlooking the Avon River. Near the tent was the Stratford Teachers’ College, the building today owned by the festival. When Samantha entered the tent, she was amazed at its enormous size. Its roof soared high above the seemingly endless rows of seats. The stage was surrounded on three sides by the tiered seats, thrust forward into the space normally occupied by the audience. It was the first thrust stage in North America.

Trumpets sounded as Jim and Samantha took their seats. The lights dimmed and darkness fell across the hushed throngs. Then, as the stage-lights slowly rose in a visual crescendo, the actors magically appeared. Flavius Marcullus and several actors dressed as tradesmen faced an audience hushed with anticipation.

Samantha was fascinated from the moment the voice of Flavius echoed across the vast tent. The words painted an image, as if they were alive on the surface of an artist’s canvas—each syllable like a brush stoke, clear and distinct.

“Hence! Home you idle creatures, get you home! Is this a holiday? What, you

know not, being mechanical, you ought not walk upon a labouring day without

the sign of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?”

The words had hidden meaning for Samantha. “What trade art thou?” The reply on stage had been “carpenter,” but she felt as if Flavius had delivered the line to her, and knew that her reply would be something quite different. She gazed at Jim, but he was absorbed in the production, and had not sensed her personal interpretation of the words. The voice of the blonde at the dance remained in her brain—What trade are you? Slut?…Prostitute?

During the intermission, among the crowds outside the tent, they saw Sam Millford, YCI’s teacher of boys’ P.T., standing on the far side of the lawn. He was accompanied by a young man, perhaps eighteen or twenty years of age, with a handsome face and an athletic build. Before Jim and Samantha were able to approach him, a trumpet fanfare sounded to summon people inside the tent to resume the performance. After another fifty minutes of glorious drama, the play ended with the ringing words of Octavius:

“So call the field to rest, and let’s away, to part the glories of this happy day.”

These words also contained a double meaning for Samantha. After the performance, Jim gazed around at the departing crowds, but did not see Sam Millford and his companion. On the drive home, Jim was relaxed. Samantha wondered if perhaps he was relieved to have witnessed a murder that he was not required to solve. Despite her momentary brooding thoughts, it had indeed been a happy day for her as well.

She thought, All’s well that ends well. A truly Shakespearean sentiment.


The tent at Stratford, first erected in 1953. Photo is from the Stratford archives.


Interior of the tent at Stratford, with the thrust stage surrounded by the seats for the audience. Photo from the Stratford archives.


                                       The Stratford Festival Theatre today.

Link for information about “Arse Over Teakettle,” Book One – The Toronto Trilogy

Link to other books and novels about Toronto.

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Toronto



The historic buildings on King Street, most of them built in during the early decades of the 20th, today house trendy restaurants, health clubs, fashionable clothing stores, and wine bars. Some contain offices of companies involved in the film industry. One of the buildings that is particularly impressive is 511 King Street West, near Brant Street.



                                           511 King Street West

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                     The facade of the building has rich classical detailing.


Constructed in the days prior to elevators, the stairwell is impressive with its rich mahogany and imported marble. 

The information below is from the book “The Villages Within,” which includes a tour with detailed information on many of the buildings on King St. West.

511 King Street West, south side, slightly west of Brant Street

(The address is visible above the door on the east side)

This Richardsonian Romanesque structure, built in 1893, is a solid, fortress-like building. It was originally the American Watch Case Company, owned by George W. Guinlock. Today, gazing at its impressive façade it is possible to catch a glimpse of the “ideal” attributes of industrial architecture of the early decades of the previous century—strength, power, discipline, and respect for the classical traditions. These sentiments were the hallmark of the British Empire, which was at its height when this building was constructed. Torontonians were fiercely loyal to the sentiments of Empire, and the owners of the American Watch Case Company believed that their premises would inspire customers to patronize their establishment.

The framework of the building is cast iron, with black cast-iron pilasters (fake columns) on the first level, and large blocks of Credit Valley limestone pilasters at either end of the building. The maroon-coloured wooden trim above the first floor has dentils (teeth-like patterns), as well as the Greek “egg and dart” pattern. The windows become progressively smaller with each floor, an attempt to create the appearance of extra height. The second-floor windows have large blocks of stones inserted above the lintels (top of the windows), similar to some of the windows at Toronto’s old city hall. The third-floor windows are topped with Roman arches, whereas the fourth floor windows are small and rectangular. Inside the entranceway are marble stairs, and the stairwell has solid mahogany trim.

It is one of the finest examples of commercial Richardsonian Romanesque architecture in the city. Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1896) studied at Harvard and in Paris. He became fascinated by ancient Roman architecture with its massive walls, large interior spaces, and graceful rounded arches. His adaptation of this style became known as Richardsonian Romanesque, and he influenced many architects during the years ahead.

The old Toronto city hall, designed by E. J. Lennox, is the city’s best example of Richardson’s ideas. Another is the Gooderham Building, built between the years 1891-1892, at 49 Wellington Street (Front and Wellington Streets).

A link to more information on the buildings of King Street West:

A link to other books about Toronto:

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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Toronto



                           f1244_it0278[1] (2)

                               City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1983

In decades past, it was traditional to say to those whom you wished to connect with in the CNE grounds, “Meet me at the Fountain.” The fountain they were referring to was the Gooderham Fountain, constructed in 1907. It was a replica of one of the fountains in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The above photograph was taken in 1913.


                                         City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item1469

The Gooderham Fountain remained a popular landmark at the CNE for many years. This photo from the Toronto Archives was taken in the 1920s.


                 This photo of the fountain was taken in 1956.


In 1958, the Gooderham Fountain was demolished. On the same site they erected the present-day Princess Margaret Fountain. HRH Princess Margaret officially opened the fountain in that year, on her visit to Canada. This photo was taken in 2011.

Links to other posts about the CNE:

A link to novels about Toronto and posts about its historic buildings.

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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Toronto


Ten suggestions to create a great CNE

I am well aware that at the CNE, many attractions have departed the scene. The midway and the endless variety of food now seem to be the main attractions. However, I am also aware that young people today enjoy it as much as ever. The “stripped-down” version attracts over a million visitors in two weeks, which means it  remains highly popular. However, it has the potential to be great.

I would like to offer a few suggestions that might possibly restore the CNE to the days when it was the city’s greatest event of late summer, when it was billed as the “Largest Annual Exhibition in the World,” and in our minds, the greatest.

The pictures below were taken in 1956, when the Ex was at the heights of its popularity.

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The old Dufferin Gates (demolished)    The Gooderham Fountain and Manufacturers’ Building (both now demolished)

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The display portraying Paul Bunyon and his ox “Babe” in the Ontario Government Building

             The two pictures below are from the 1970s

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The Gondola ride and Food Building   –   The Shell Tower, rollercoaster in the background

Apart from the ten suggestions, there are four things that might be considered for restoration at the Ex

I. The Gondola ride that allowed visitors to cross over the grounds was a great experience and offered an impressive view.  Because it passed overhead, it dominated the air space above the Ex, creating the atmosphere of a fairground. Bring it back! The Sky Ride is a poor substitute.

2. Build some sort of tower to give people a bird’s-eye view of the grounds. Any type of modern tower would suffice, although reconstructing a tower to resemble the now demolished Shell Tower would link the Ex with its past.

3. People love the midway, but a rollercoaster is needed. Trying to compete with Canada’s Wonderland for the biggest and fastest, is not possible. The Ex should aim for a different ride, making it unusual. Perhaps part of the rollercoaster might be covered – a tunnel effect – or have it swoop out over the lake. Imagination is required to create a unique experience. “Unique” is the key word, not “biggest” or “fastest.”

4. Restore the fireworks display. It should be shortly after sunset, not at ten thirty as was traditional. The days are gone when the fireworks could be seen from afar, as many high-rise towers have been built surrounding the Ex. The fireworks should be designed for maximum effect when viewed from within the grounds.

Premise for the 10 Suggestions Listed Below

Toronto is the cultural centre of Canada, and the third largest theatre city in the English-speaking world. It is also one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities. However, little of this is reflected in the CNE of today. It began as an industrial and agricultural fair, but these roots have long since disappeared. It seems to be in no man’s land. It might be better received it if were a “cultural exposition,” showcasing Toronto’s ethnicity and cultural attractions. It would then become similar to Luminato or Nuit Blanche, and attract visitors worldwide.

The ideas below require funding, and in today’s tough economic times, this is difficult. However, when money is “spent” on culture, it is an “investment.”  Money properly spent on culture, returns three-times the revenue to the tax-payers.

Ten Suggestions to Improve the CNE

1. The BMO Stadium was built in the wrong place. It should have been located on the site where the grandstand once stood. However, as it is where it is, it should be put to use when the Ex is open. It now sits in the centre of the grounds and is empty. Some sort of show should be presented in this space, perhaps closing off one end and constructing a temporary stage. Enlist the expertise of Aubrey Dan, Darth Drabinsky or David Mirvish. One of them might be interested in produving a show or a revue incorporating scenes from the shows that were in their theatres in the past or those that are presently playing. Great publicity for them. These men are highly creative. Give then room to produce something exciting. Involve the Toronto Symphony and have them perform a couple of concerts. The Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet should also be involved. As well, a big-name performer and various bands that appeals to the younger demographics should be included. The important thing is to reincorporate the BMO Stadium back into the Ex.

2. The Horticultural Building is no longer open to the public during the run of the CNE. Whoever is renting it, negotiate with them to allow it to be returned to the CNE for two weeks in August. Give the space over to the Toronto Botanical Gardens or Canada Blooms to produce floral displays. It would be great advertising for these institutions and restore a beautiful building to its proper use. Many Torontonians do not even know where the Botanical Gardens are located.

3. The Arts and Crafts Building is no longer a part of the CNE as it is rented to the company operating Mediaeval Times. Incorporate the building back into the Ex. Mediaeval Times could offer their show at a special Exhibition price. The building is so large that the Royal Ontario Museum could place a display with real armour and real mediaeval weapons in the building. Get the ROM involved, it might make the Mediaeval Times less commercial and more authentic. The ROM has a vast collection that the public never sees.

4. The old Transportation Building is now employed for various purposes, including fashion shows. Wrong place. Give the building over to the Art Gallery of Ontario or the McMichael Art Collection. Both institutions have art in storage that has not been exhibited in years.  Allow them to choose paintings by famous artists, and publicize then in advance so that they are familiar to the public. It would be great publicity for these galleries. Or, invite other galleries to participate – the Art Gallery of Hamilton, The National Gallery, the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. The possibilities are endless. But first, showcase the galleries of Toronto. Involve the galleries of Queen Street West that display contemporary art. Have a temporary graffiti wall. Allow local artists to display their art on the walls surrounding the building.

5. Food is a big attraction at the Ex, so increase its importance. The old Ontario Government Building is also no longer a part of the Ex as it is rented to Liberty Grand. For two weeks of the year, open it to some of Toronto’s finest restaurant and allow them to create unique spaces. Include singers and shows. Get Toronto’s comedy clubs involved.  If a person dines at the restaurants in the evening, refund their admission price to the grounds. Encourage people to dine at one restaurant for an appetizer, another for the main course, and a third for dessert. Involve the Ontario wineries. It would be great publicity for the restaurants and wineries alike. It would allow the Liberty Grand to advertise their services and facilities. It must be classy, not a glorified food court.

6. The Food Building is great and very popular. However, much of the space is empty. To supplement the fast-food stands, entice food companies to return to the Ex. Companies advertising juices, soda pop, soups, biscuits, pizza, ice cream, power drinks, frozen foods, etc. create a different experience to fast-food stands. As in previous decades, the companies could offer deals, discount prices, or free samples. It’s great publicity for them. Grocery chains might also be interested. The space around the outside of the Food Building should be open-air cafes or dining patios where people can enjoy their food. And for heavens sake, get a alcohol licence for some the outdoor cafes.

7. Built a circular streetcar line through the Ex and have several open-sided streetcars (c. 1900) operating on them. An authentic one can be seen at the Halton Railway Museum. Allow these old fashioned Toronto streetcars to amble through the grounds similar to the motorized trains in the grounds today. The old streetcars would add atmosphere and allow people to get around the grounds. If the streetcars move slowly, they need not be on their own right-of-way.

8. Bring back the auto show. Perhaps car dealerships should be invited. People still enjoy looking at new cars. An alternative would be an antique auto show. These are held each year in various cities across North America. Invite one to coincide with the dates of the Ex.

9. New technological advancements were once high-lighted at the Ex. We live in an age of ever-changing technology, yet it is missing from the Ex. Get these companies back into the fair grounds. Young people love the latest communication gadgets, and older people need to see them, understand them, and perhaps give them a try. The latest entertainment centres, TVs, and computers need to be on display.

10. Reopen the Coliseum and the Horse Palace. Could the RCMP Musical Ride or some other riding group be invited? For the display spaces in the Coliseum, involve our many multi-ethnic communities? The ideas of the “Caravan” of 1970s Toronto might be a possibility, although today they might be considered passé. Consult the ethnic groups and see what they would suggest to showcase their cultures. There are many foreign consulates in Toronto. Involve them. Foreign films should be included. And by the way, TIFF should be invited to show films in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to advertise their film festival. Summer Works Theatre Festival or the Fringe might perform one of their most popular plays from the summer season.  


Explore more ideas about the Ex on these links:

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It also relates anecdotes and stories from those who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


                 To place an order for this book: .

         Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), thePhotodome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in entertainment Toronto, Toronto


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This photo of the CNE Grandstand was taken in 1956 from the heights of a Ferris Wheel, with a Kodak 35mm Pony Camera. A section of the midway is visible in the foreground.


This photo is from the CNE Archives, and shows the stage sets in front of the grandstand, ready for an evening performance. This grandstand was completed in 1948, the year that Prime Minister Mackenzie King officiated at the opening of the Ex.


This picture of the stage at the during the CNE’s 1956 grandstand performance. It was taken with the same camera as the first photograph.

Novels about Toronto

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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Toronto