The original ‘Hugh’s Room’ was established in Toronto’s West End Rochesvalles neighbourhood in 2001. It was a mixture of supper club and music room hosted by Odetta, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Richie Havens and Loudon Wainwright III, among many others. Then it began losing money in 2017 as it was turned into non-profit ‘Hugh’s Room Live’. Three years later reality struck and Hugh’s left its home because the lease was beyond reach. The plan then became searching for space to purchase, and they thought they’d found one on Broadview Avenue, just south of Gerrard Street in the East End. One difficulty was dealing with property taxes, reduced 50% by the City for being a music venue for owners and operators. Hugh’s’ had to face this until he had occupied the new building for one year. Raising $2-million would be a challenge for anyone these days, and surviving on arts music organizations that meant planning to do something innovative. If all works well a retired carpenter, Andrew Smith, devoted himself to live music, and was making miniature city music venues. He named one of them the old Hugh’s Room and some other silent venues with the name ‘Toronto, Lost Music City’. Will Broadview’s old church be a success? This may well be a triumph! There’s been good luck before for Hugh’s and there might be plenty more coming.
The Robarts Commons are named after John Robarts, the 17th Premier of Ontario from 1961. He served there until 1971. The libraries contain more than 4.5 million book items, 4.1 million microform items, 740,000 other ones which kept on growing. He was an advocate of freedoms, and promoted rights of the provinces against initiatives of the federal government. Mr. Robarts is remembered for improving education, being Chancellor of York University, the Ontario Science Centre and Ontario Place – plus the GO Transit railway system, and he introducing nuclear power to Ontario’s electricity grid. Unfortunately his son, Timothy, died of suicide in 1977. John also died of suicide on October 18, 1982. He is buried in Toronto’s St. James Cemetery. Universities and research centres carrying Mr. Robart’s name are impressive. York University, was founded in 1963. Mr. Robarts was Chancellor from 1977-1982. The Robarts Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario opened in 1986 in London. There are also Robarts School for the Deaf and the John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto.
Now we come to the magnificent John P. Robarts Research Library, commonly referred to as ‘Fort Book’ at 130 St. George Street, a branch of the University of Toronto Libraries. The new Robarts Commons, a five storey glassed-in addition to the U.of T’s Robarts Library isn’t completely finished, but with the pandemic restrictions it will soon happen. The project is part of a multi year refit to prepare for the future as most libraries are progressing technologically. The University of Toronto’s collections are spread over 42 heavily-used libraries, popular with students. About 20,000 people pass through on a busy day, and some students work at their desks late into the night. The original plans for the Robarts Library, drawn up in the 1960s, called for a pavilion on the west side. Now, almost 50 years since the library was built, the western pavilion is finally being realized. Gary McCluskie of Architects’ Diamond Schmitt says on their website: “When the new Robarts Common opens in the 2021-2022 academic year, the library’s 18,000 daily users will quickly see and feel that the million square feet of the entire library complex are more social, collaborative and human,”
A new book, “The Art of Wandering the Streets of Paris” by Federico Castigliano trails my own Paris wanderings in the 1980’s as a student at The Eurocentre de Paris. The courses focused on the French language, and we spoke and read as much as we could every day. We dealt with daily newspapers, music, expeditions, haircuts, cinemas, theatres, city bus routes, searching for antique photographs, visiting museums, Metro transit, exchanging ideas, spelling en français etc. Most important for me was exploring the City of Paris, and the book is perfect. Federico Castigliano followed the same routes I followed in person almost every day. Indeed I became a Flâneur myself and best of all I got to live in the Hotel Parisiana for three months, near the Gare de l’Est with hot water running (rare for many students) and the Eurocentre was within walking distance, not far from Pont Neuf. A few months later I returned to Paris and was living with a friend of a friend in a small room. Not quite the same but a fine neighbourhood – Montparnasse – and I exchanged ideas with the German lady who rented the room and gave me some instructions on what to see in the city. She handed me a detailed city bus book. Some of those routes revealed Paris’ outstanding features without any cost. <Below – the cover of ‘Flaneur’, which I can tell you now is well-worth reading. I read it every day until it was finished. You only have to find it.>
I’d known Brian for many years at TVOntario,and since both of our retirements we’ve re-shaped and enjoyed our new lives. Brian always wanted to be remembered as a lover of family, dogs, and his homestead. As for me, I’ve assembled a 12-year-old Blog, along with our Cabbagetown house, garden and photography selling business. Brian is survived by his wife Suzanne (neé Womersley), sons Matthew (Kathleen), Peter (Tessa), and daughter Sarah (Scott); grandsons Parker and baby James, and four-legged friends Layla and Zoë. His parents C. John (Jack) Elston and Elsie (neé Oke). With the help of his Dad Jack, he built a one-tube radio as a child. And spent endless hours in his room on Concession Street listening to legendary Wolfman Jack as he howled throughout the night. Whereas my late nights were spent listening to a.m. radio stations from The US and Canada. Today I’m a fan of The Radio Garden.Brian’s happiest times were spent at home. If he wasn’t cutting the grass, tilling the garden, or fussing with some technology or other, he was walking the dogs or floating in the pool, weather permitting. At day’s end, he liked nothing better than sharing a drink with Suzanne on the deck, his retrievers on either side of him, and he’d watch the sun go down over the fields that once were farmed by his grandfather. He told his beloved wife Suzanne, the day before he died as they walked the snowy field around their home, that his life was perfect. Brian, you couldn’t do better than that. I’ll always remember you at TVOntario, and the time you were interested in my grandmother’s 1946 radio, which I happened to have partly on my Blog. “Bless you, Brian.”