FIRST IT WAS A YIDDISH THEATRE, THEN THE VICTORY BURLESQUE, NOW A BANK & SOON A PHARMACY

This yellow brick building on Dundas Street West at Spadina Avenue opened its doors in 1922 as The Standard Theatre. Designed by architect Benjamin Brown, it was home to Yiddish comedy, original Jewish and translated plays, music, and left-wing politics. It went on to become The Strand, a movie house, and from there the Victory Burlesque. These days it’s a bank, and will soon be home to a 7,000 square-foot Rexall Pharmacy Plus.

In 1961, as the Victory, it was one of three burlesque theatres in town, but by the mid-sixties the other two had disappeared. Ryerson and University of Toronto students became its most loyal fans.

Occasionally The Victory doubled as a music venue. The New York Dolls, Kiss, Iggy Pop and Rush all played there. Once TORONTO’s educational television station did a live New Year’s Eve telecast from the theatre.

Now plans are for a pharmacy at street level, and hope is a community-based space of some kind will appear on the upper levels.

THE GLADSTONE, TORONTO’S OLDEST HOTEL, 1214 QUEEN ST. WEST, WAS BUILT IN 1889

<The Gladstone’s tower rises above the railway underpass in ParkdaleCity of Toronto Archives>

The Gladstone was built opposite the long-gone Parkdale Railroad Station. In the early days it was a luxurious hostelry, serving railway passengers and visitors to the nearby Canadian National Exhibition.  The owner, Susanna Robinson, a widow, lived there with her thirteen children.  In later years, the Gladstone became a bit of a flophouse, until it was rescued by the Tippin and Zeidler families about 15 years ago.

The Gladstone is now managed by Christina Zeidler, whose goal has been making the hotel fit into the surrounding community.  To that end, hotel employees found new homes for longterm residents, especially those who were elderly and most at risk.  Then all 37 rooms were re-designed by TORONTO artists, and a year ‘round program of art, special events and music was put into place.  The Gladstone is an important part of our city’s cultural landscape.

TORONTO’S EAST END. ALONG GERRARD ST. E. WAS A ROUGH & TUMBLE NEIIGHBOURHOOD, 1915-1930

<Installing streetcar tracks – Broadview at Gerrard St. East>

<Cleaning out an industrial chimney, East End, 1930>

<Gerrard Street East backyards, 1937>

<Half-a-house on Gerrard – you still see some of these today, 1930’s>

<Looking west down Gerrard Street at Main, 1915 – all PHOTOS from the City of Toronto Archives>

FROM THE CABBAGETOWN/REGENT PARK MUSEUM – TWO LONG-GONE PARLIAMENT STREET CINEMAS

The Eclipse, 389 Parliament Street, made way for apartment buildings in North Regent Park in the mid-1950’s. It was quite normal for Cabbagetown theatres to show out-of-date movies, and The Eclipse was one of them. <PHOTO – The Eclipse, July 27, 1949. City of Toronto Arcives.>

The Bluebell Theatre, later named The Gay, stood next to Frenchie’s Fish & Chips on Parliament at Dundas. After a renovation, it didn’t take long to again become a dump. According to the Museum, the Bluebell’s floor was coated with gallons of spilled soda pop making it very sticky. Saturday matinees could get so rowdy that there was a bouncer on hand to throw troublemakers out.

THE TOLLKEEPER’S COTTAGE – RESCUED & REBUILT BY VOLUNTEERS – IS NOW A HERITAGE MUSEUM

In the 1800’s private companies were contracted to build, improve and maintain roads in (what was then called) Upper Canada.  This was costly, so to pay for upkeep, all users were charged a small toll.  A tollkeeper’s cottage – the oldest survivor anywhere in Canada – was discovered in 1993 attached to a house in the Davenport/Bathurst Street neighbourhood.  <PHOTO ABOVE – cottage when discovered, with original window intact, 1996>

In 1996 the Community History Project rescued the cottage and transported it to a temporary location inside the Toronto Transit Commission’s Wychwood Barns site.  A Tollkeeper’s Fund was setup while volunteers searched for a permanent site.  <PHOTOS ABOVE – Cottage transported to the TTC Wychwood Barns>

<PHOTOS BELOW – volunteers apply replacement clapboard with handmade nails; cedar roof goes on; chimney rebuilt with handmade bricks, 2002/2003>

The Cottage was eventually moved to 750 Davenport Road, where it sits today, surrounded by its very own namesake park.  Additions were made to the rear of the building, providing space for a museum and interpretive centre.  The Cottage is a block or so from the very unique Wychwood Park neighbourhood.  <PHOTO BELOW – Opening Day, July 1, 2008>

For background info and museum opening times: http://www.tollkeeperscottage.ca

A LOOK AT THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CANADIAN TELEVISION IN THE 1950’S

<Pierre Berton, Fred Davis, Betty Kennedy and Gordon Sinclair on CBC’s nationally televised “Front Page Challenge”, on air from 1957-1995 – a record>

The recent death of broadcaster BETTY KENNEDY at the age of 91 inspired me to look back at the earliest days of Canadian television. A broadcasting pioneer, Ms. Kennedy was the only female panelist on CBC television’s “Front Page Challenge”, from 1962-1995.

<Indian Head test pattern.  In the 1950’s programming began around 4pm; signoff was midnight>

The only Canadian networks were the CBC and Radio-Canada. A few local stations had connections to the national nets, but many did not. These small-market stations with many hours to fill, built their own star systems, and waited patiently for a microwave hookup.

<CHEK-tv, Victoria, British Columbia – quite an advanced setup for 1957>

<Marconi television sets, 1950’s, made in Montreal>

<A Dumont studio camera, 1950’s>

<The Dipsy Doodlers, CJON-tv, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1957>

<The Bunkhouse Boys, CKCW-tv, Moncton, New Brunswick, 1950’s>

<“At Home with Mary Ashwell”, CFPL-tv, London, Ontario, 1955>

<Videotape was born – a revolutionary new process for recording and reproducing the sound and picture of television programs on magnetic tape – Ampex Corporation, 1957>

<Swimwear fashion show on CKCW-tv, Moncton, New Brunswick, 1957>

<Channel ID’s often featured a station’s mascot>

<Nople Bircumshaw and the lion cub, CHCT-tv, Calgary, Alberta, 1957>

<In the 1950’s television was taking over.>