Going with the FLOW/93.5 . . . billboard on wheels


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Toronto, Chicago, Al Capone, Billie Holiday, Prohibition & the Winchester Kitchen

Chicago mobster Al Capone made himself at home here.  Billie Holiday sang from the stage.  Hooks in the ceiling supported a trapeze used in burlesque acts, and some of the biggest entertainers of the 1920’s and 30’s played for the locals.

Once occupying the second floor of the Winchester Hotel in Victorian Cabbagetown, the Winchester Kitchen and Bar recently closed.  Its deco ambiance – patterned after Old Chicago – was rare in TORONTO bistrots, but the unoccupied space is now for rent.

While MONTREAL was entertaining gangsters in its nightclubs and bars, staid TORONTO was busy making rye whisky at the huge (47 buildings) Gooderham and Worts distillery a mile or so down Parliament Street.  It was a natural fit for Al Capone and the mob.  Buy the booze in Ontario, transport it to Windsor, then through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, or on an intercity ferryboat, and onward to thirsty Detroiters and Chicagoans.

At its peak, in 1928, Windsor-Detroit had anywhere from 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies, blind pigs, clubs and joints.  The patrons were drinking booze made 250 miles east in conservative, church-going, teatotaling TORONTO.  The waterways separating Windsor and Detroit saw a huge part (one estimate: 75%) of the alcohol consumed in the United States during Prohibition.

Customs officers couldn’t handle the smuggling, there was so much of it.  And good old Canada was reluctant to close distilleries and breweries because the tax revenues were so great and thousands of jobs hung in the balance.

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4-D TORONTO jigsaw puzzle glows in the dark . . . like the city itself

4-D jigsaw puzzle designed by TORONTO entrepreneur Shaun Sakdinan – scale replicas of TO and other cities around the world.  Says Shaun: “When you get the puzzle complete, it teaches you the history of the city.  You’re recreating time.  If you want to take a rest you can leave it at the skyline in 1970, and experience how it was at that moment in time.”

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Biking or hiking – where Dundas West meets the Angus Empyr . . .

Inner city TORONTO has few industrial parks remaining.  Most of the old warehouses have either been demolished or turned into lofts and galleries.  One of the parks (still kind of standing) is located near the intersection of the Dundas West (#505) and College (#506) streetcar lines.  That’s a good place to start a neighbourhood tour.

There’s a variety of things to see and do here, which makes this area worth biking or hiking around.  It combines touristy stuff with plain old industrial grit.   Within 10 or 20 minutes you can be in the Roncesvalles Polish Village (home of the Revue Cinema) or Little Italy with its restaurants, bars and coffee shops; expansive High Park; some of the city’s finest art galleries (Olga Korper, Christopher Cutts, Pace); and on streets of beautiful brick mansions.

Crossing the railroad bridge, you arrive at Sterling Road. Down there is the Nestle chocolate plant – home of Smarties, Kit Kat and Aero bars.  Smell cooking chocolate while perusing the decay and demolition of what used to be a significant part of our city’s industrial backbone.  From there, it’s 5 minutes to Morrow Avenue and the yellow brick gallery complex.  Then, west to Roncesvailles and High Park, or east to Little Italy.

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