A GRAIN OF SAND ON A ONCE DIRT ROAD, ENDS UP IN LEASIDE:

There’s more to see than just the road, along Bayview Avenue from Moore to McRae. Walk, don’t run, you’ll be glad you did. 

by Jacinta Cooper

SELF-GUIDED WALK

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DETAILS

Language: English

Area: Downtown

Theme: Arts & Architecture, Music List While Walking, History & Culture

Accessibility: Family - Friendly

WALK DETAILS:

Dare to bring your imagination, sense of humour, dance shoes, music & earbuds. What the heck, it’s not like you can bring much else, maybe one friend, spaced at a distance of six feet. For along this otherwise mundane stretch of Bayview Avenue, there exists more to the eye than can be seen. 

“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” William Blake

 

Okay so it might take an hour. But typically, a quick grocery errand from the Loblaw’s on the corner of Moore Ave, up to the corner of McRae, could take 10 minutes. Yet, on this occasion it may be told that, the effect of a nostalgic Walk, took you to a different era, where time stood still. 

The origins of Leaside, in midtown Toronto is steeped in history, and the story of how it has been shaped, literally and figuratively, is still a going concern (and we haven’t even had breakfast yet…). 

I’m no historian, nor claim any expertise, (merely a ‘citizen-J’), but, in a nutshell, immigrant farmer, John Lea, bought land Lot 19 in the 3rd Concession, in an area now known as North Toronto. His son, William, bought land south of his fathers’ farm, Lot 13, in the 3rd Concession, and called it Leaside. 

Serendipitously, ‘twas on the 113th day of the year in 1913, (aka. Wednesday April 23rd), that Leaside became incorporated as a town, yet it would be two weeks later, (Thursday May 8th), during the phase of a waxing crescent moon in Gemini, under the constellation of Taurus, when several businessman of the Canadian Northern Railway, were elected as the first town council, with McRae at the helm - Mayor.

 

The highlights of this Walk, are fashioned around social, philosophical, cultural ideas and global events, which became inter-twined, and ultimately shaped the community forever. 

STOP 1 

Standing on the North East corner, at the intersection of Bayview Ave & Moore Ave, looking West towards the road, gas station on the right. We start on the East side then cross the street to the West side, before walking North on Bayview Avenue. 

This intersection connects Leaside to downtown Toronto, via the road from the “bay,” now the “Bayview Extension,” and, via Moore Avenue on the south side of the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, to Mt. Pleasant Road - a road that was named after the cemetery due to it being constructed through the property, (which, if you know anything about Jane Jacobs, may cause a trigger, but if you are unfamiliar as of yet, no worries, feel free to dig up some dirt, so-to-speak, on Jane’s ability to stop plans for building major expressways or roads through communities. This isn’t that, exactly).

 

These remained as dirt roads for several years before construction eventually resumed following WWII. Behind us, to the East, Moore turns into “Southvale,” just past the top of “Pottery Road.” Southvale leads to Laird Drive (runs north/south), the main road which separates the residential area from the industrial and rail lands. Enough said, let’s get walking.

 

Notice the size of the trees that line Moore Avenue and the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery as you cross the road to the North East side (where there’s a gas station, and um, a Moose - okay, that’s another story about a different Mayor, and another town, well, until all the towns became one big one). Most of these trees (see photos), are still there today, only much taller! The Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, an arboretum, is full of a wide variety of trees, the oldest ones on average are 150 years. It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2000. The Cherry Blossom trees are an amazing sight and a huge attraction each spring. 

Let’s continue walking forward, in the spirit of 1950’s optimism as we go back to 1955, the post WWII era, when a new economy was emerging. You could fill up the Chevy tank at $0.29 cents/ litre, and, with glide-ride front suspension, who needs paved roads? But hey we’re walking, unless you feel like dancing. That’s right, because the most popular song of that particular spring, is very aptly, “Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White,” (Perez Prado), which is a Mambo! Go ahead and listen, as we step. Step, step, step.

 

As you go, notice the individual, low-rise apartments that line the East side of the street. Many baby-boomers who lived in Leaside can recount how their parents had lived an apartment first, before they moved into a house, and that’s the house they grew up in. This was part of the plan, eh? Low-rise apartments were coined, “apartment houses,” and were an aspect of urban design planning, the fabric of a community, and its’ economic growth. There was a natural process of earning a living, putting away savings, building a family and purchasing a home. There was a new economy, and, the population of Ontario was increasing by 10,000 /month. 

That’s a lot to ponder isn’t it? I mean, how many times have you walked up the street to simply pick up milk or something, and ever thought, someone else stood by that tree 100 years ago. Here is the East entrance to the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, and, we’ll stop, just before the T-intersection at Airdrie Road. 

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 1. c.1955, Moore Ave., looking W. across Bayview Ave., by James Victor Salmon, Toronto Public Library Digital Archives. 

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2. c.2021, Moore Ave., looking W. across Bayview, (trees and Moose), my own photo, J Cooper. 

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3. c.2021, Moore Ave., looking W. across Bayview, (bike-lane, right turn arrow on road), my own photo, J Cooper. (photo 3 shows bike lane – that’s cool). 

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4. c. 2021, Walking North on Bayview Ave from Moore Ave, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on left with beautiful spring foliage. My own photo, J Cooper. 

STOP 2 approx. 60 Mambo step. Step, steps, further north of Stop #1  

Standing on the East side of Bayview Ave (cemetery side), looking across the street at the North East corner of Airdrie Road: the “Strathavon” apartment building. 

This building is one of three apartment projects on this section of Bayview, developed by Mayor, H.H. Talbot in the late 30’s. We’re standing slightly south of the building, on the opposite side of the street, in the approximate spot, where the photographer (James Victor Salmon), stood, that day in July, 1939, (see the photos, c.1939 & c.2021). Less than two months after that moment, the world would go to war. 

If you look closely at the bricks in the middle section, approximately half way up, you’ll see where the “Strathavon” sign used to be, and has left an impression. Okay - so I’ve studied Gaphic Design, and I’m really into “Fonts,” and that one is a classic! And, check out that Chevy, parked in the wrong direction, (not that it mattered much then, like it would today!). My guess is that the car belonged to the photographer, whom I discovered, worked for the Hydro company, and took pictures as a hobby. 

Because the photo evoked a certain nostalgia for the era, I became curious to know who might have lived here, in this apartment block, back then. 

Let’s take it back to the 1930’s… 

But first, while we’re standing here, we can dance, if you’re “In The Mood” (Glen Miller), or, we can “Sing, Sing, Sing” (Benny Goodman, 1937) but, if you can’t sing it “You’ll Have to Swing It” (Chick Webb-Ella Fitzgerald 1936).

 

Here’s how it goes: 

Leading up to 1939: Ontario, (especially Leaside), was less affected than the western provinces during the Great Depression (1929-33), because of the diversified industry that came here. There was also a recession in 1937-38, followed by the announcement of war, September 1939. 

Sadly, ironically, war also brought economic recovery, and, in Leaside, by the onset of WWll, a total of 52 companies had located to the Industrial area. Canada Wire and Cable continued to employ people, and provide housing. In 1940, a Crown Corporation, Research Enterprises Inc. (REL), joined the war effort, producing optical equipment and radar sets for the military. That company became the largest single employer in Leaside’s history, at its peak employing 7,500 people, half of them were women. 

I bet you know someone or have a neighbour, who’s mother, or grandmother, could tell you a few stories about shifts spent working during the war years. By 1942, women were entering the labour force in unprecedented numbers. And let’s not forget those who joined the armed forces - mostly men, veterans still amongst us. Through a Depression, Recession, and World War, its why they’re called, The Greatest Generation. What if, some of those people lived here? 

The buildings were being constructed, at the end of the Recession, and the beginning of WWll. There are a few notable names I discovered, listed at these buildings during the War years, beginning from the earliest records, 1939 until 1947 a few years after WWll ended. 

In the building facing us, there is one particular apartment that drew my attention. It wasn’t rented until 1941, and rented for two years to one: “Talbot Thos A.” Yet, from 1943 to 1947, it is the only vacant or unlisted apartment in the building. Were they a relation to Howard Henry Talbot, Mayor, 1938 to 1947? 

In the building facing Airdrie, there is an interesting listing, beginning in 1941 to 1947, one: “G. Trace Manes,” who, was one of the founders of the Leaside Baseball Association (1946), then held the office of Mayor, from 1948 to 1950. Manes worked at Massey-Harris for 38 years, and, after serving as Mayor, he became a member of the Metro Planning Board. I don’t know about you but, the man worked for a company that had the means to clear fields. Do you think he ever envisioned a baseball diamond in his field of dreams? 

In the world: Mahatma Gandhi began his fast in Mumbai (Bombay), India; Pope Pius Xll was crowned in a ceremony at the Vatican; the Daily newspaper Strip, “Superman,” debuts; Filming begins on, “Gone With the Wind;” the Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafe, 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, held in Boston MA; “Batman” (The Amazing & Unique Adventures of Batman), first appears in “Detective Comics” #27, for .10 cents; The first televised baseball game is broadcast on NBC (Princeton beat Columbia 2-1); the Baseball Hall of Fame is Dedicated in Cooperstown, NY; the CFL Grey cup, is held at Landsdowne Park Ottawa: Winnipeg Blue Bombers claim 2nd Title defeating Ottawa Rough Riders, 8-7; and, the premiere of “The Wizard of Oz.”

 

All this, because of that photo. There is so much that might have influenced this generation, in literature, music, arts, cinema, sports, dance… all of which set the stage, for the manifestation, and belief, that anything is possible. The world was experiencing so much loss, and yet out of that, found so much joy as well. 

“When all the world is a hopeless jumble…” (The Wizard of Oz). Seventy-eight years later, on March 2017, “Over the Rainbow,” sung by Judy Garland, was entered in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress (USA), as music that is “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.” 

There really is no place like home. And on that note, let’s take a walk, over to “memory lane.” … STOP #3 

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1. Photo: c.1939, Strathavon Apartments, Bayview Ave, N.E. corner of Airdrie Road, by James Victor Salmon, Toronto Public Library Digital Archives. This photo shows the original signage on the building façade. 

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2. Photo: c.2021, Strathavon Apartments, (Bayview Ave, N.E. corner of Airdrie Road) my own photo, J Cooper. 

STOP 3 approx. 20 Mambo step. Step, steps, further north of Stop #2 

Standing on the East side of Bayview Ave, looking West across the street at the laneway entrance & street sign: “Edna Beange Ln” 

On the 133rd day of the year in 1920, (May 12), J. Edna Beange was born. ‘Twas the phase of a waning crescent moon in Pisces, under the constellation of Taurus. In her later years, Edna Beange moved to an apartment at a seniors building, which had a room with a view, overlooking this laneway, which winds through the Talbot apartment buildings, and ends just before McRae Drive. Then after a life of community service, until 98 years young, a street sign was erected at this corner in her honour. The ceremony was attended by family members, friends, public passers-by, including the “honk-honk” from a TTC Bus as it waited in traffic; local Ward 15 Councilor, Jaye Robinson, Don Valley West MP, Rob Oliphant, and, community news media reporters. 

An article in Streeter Community News, emphasizes Edna’s tireless activism for improving life in Leaside, including a suggestion that Edna might make, to keep the newly branded Lane “clean,” which ironically, happens to be lined with garbage bins. “Because, Edna is watching,” they said. (She can still see us, even though we are standing across the street: please don’t j-walk. Keep on step. Step. Stepping-on). The purpose of walking on the opposite side of the street, is meant to inspire the eyes to see differently. (Ref: https://streeter.ca/leaside/news/lane-naming-reflects-edna-beanges-life-of-activism/

 

The “first woman” on several Boards, and at government levels, she was a role-model, and an advocate of change, for youth, and for seniors alike. A former East York councilor, chairperson of the former municipal board of health and, involved with the East York Symphony Orchestra, Leaside United Church, Leaside Garden Club, meals On Wheels and Community Care East York. According to an article in the Toronto Star at the time, the only thing she hadn’t done over the previous decades, was stay at home!

At the very least, her contribution to society is deserving of this commemorative lane way street sign. And, what do you think - wouldn’t this Lane, the heritage Talbot buildings, be more appealing to the eye, if it was lined with some pretty flower boxes? Just sayin’...

Wow, I’m tired just thinking of all that. We’ve moved a short distance, yet covered a lot of territory. This calls for a change in pace: “Begin the Beguine,” (Artie Shaw), quick, quick, slow. quick, quick, slow.

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1. Photo: c.2021, “Edna Beange” street sign at the laneway of the Talbot apartments; my own photo, J Cooper. (the clarity of the street sign isn’t the best, so I’ll find another photo and add it) 

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2. Photo: c. June 2019, Street sign “Edna Beange Ln;” by Alexei Malakhov, Streeter Community News 

STOP 4 approx. 20 quick, quick, slow. steps further north of Stop #3

  

Standing on the East side of Bayview Ave, looking West across the street at the Talbot Apartments.

 

Let’s travel back to the 133rd day of the year, in 1938: Friday the 13th. ‘Twas the phase of a waxing gibbous moon in Scorpio, under the constellation of Taurus. In 2022, the calendar year will be exactly the same as 1938. But who’s counting. Shall we dance? “Music Maestro, please.” (Tommy Dorsey)

 

On this day in 1938, the Mayor of Leaside, H.H. Talbot, announced a $100,000 apartment court project to be designed by Architect, Clare P. Thompson, in the modern Georgian manner, erected on the East side of Bayview Avenue, commencing “immediately.” This apartment house would be the first of three planned buildings, and on completion the program would total $500,000. Insulation, venetian blinds, electric stoves and refrigerators, community recreation rooms and tiled bathrooms were features of the building. Separate garage accommodations would be located at the rear of the building, aimed to completely eliminate any noise to the apartments. Rentals would be in the range of $40. to $50. a month. (Ref: Toronto Public Library; Toronto Star May 13, 1938; Lead info provided by Leaside Heritage Preservation Society, https://www.facebook.com/leasideheritage

Did you know that, Clare P. Thompson, Architect, in collaboration with J. B. Sutton, was a prize recipient in the 1930 Architectural Competition for an “Ideal Ontario Home,” promoted by the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. The model home was to be erected inside the new College Street store building, for the purpose of displaying furniture. The objective of the competition was to find an outstanding design which could be called typically “Ontario.” Alas that wasn’t achieved, because many competitors forgot the house had to be built within the College Street building. But it did create a stir amongst the architectural profession, resulting in a value for finer and more typically Canadian design. (Ref: R.A.I.C. Journal, April 1930) 

 

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, March 18th, 1930, the T. Eaton Company Ltd., held a luncheon for the winning contestants, during which Mr. R. Y. Eaton, President of The T. Eaton Co., presented the prizes. 

Like, seriously who knew? More to the point, why should we care? In 2007 these buildings were rumoured to be demolished. It remains a landmark on Bayview Avenue today, due to the efforts of the heart-and-soul of concerned citizens, (Ratepayers group, Leaside Property Owners Association LPOA - recently re-named the Leaside Residents Association LRA -and a Tenant Group), who united, to stand up for its’ historic significance. They won the case for Heritage Designation. (Totally a Citizen Jane thing).

 

Okay so, don’t all stand there and gawk. At least wave or something.

 

Shall we dance-onwards with a Mambo, to STOP #5? (like we didn’t see that coming: “Mambo No. 5” Perez Prado 1950).

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1. Newspaper clipping: c.1938, Toronto Star Friday May 13; “$100,000 apartment House Unit For Leaside,” Toronto Public Library; Leaside Heritage Preservation Society provided the lead for this item. 

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2. Photo: c.2021, Kelvingrove Apartments, (current photo that matches the 1938 Tor Star Ad), my own photo, J Cooper. 

STOP 5 approx. 20 Mambo No. 5 step. Step, steps, further north of Stop #4

 

Standing on the North West corner of the intersection of Bayview Ave & McRae Road, looking South East towards the S.A.H.I.L. building, (where Edna Beange resided). 

If you look across the road, (kitty-corner), you will see the SAHIL building - Stay At Home In Leaside. The building is neither a seniors home, nor typical condominium, or apartments. Each unit is owned on the contract of a “Life Lease,”- a legal agreement which wasn’t new, yet the concept was not well-known. The land and building is owned by the sponsoring group - SAHIL - even after the life leases are sold. Edna Beange, (whom the Lane way is named after) and a group of concerned, passionate, senior citizen- activists, created a better housing option. Leaside has one of the oldest age profiles in the city.

The streets in Leaside are named after people who made a difference in the lives of the community, such as Edna Beange, who quite literally, took-it-to-the-streets! Do you know someone you would nominate to have a Laneway commemorated in their name?

 

This street is named after Randolph McRae, first Mayor of Leaside, and an official of the Canadian Northern Railway, but there is also a street called, “Randolph.” So what’s with that? Another “Jane,” Jane Pitfield, author of a book about Leaside, called “Leaside,” does speculate whether the street was named after another guy, Prairies land tycoon, Alexander D. McRae. But it seems that, Frederick Todd, the landscape architect hired by CNR, had already penned the new Mayors name on the town plan, at the time of incorporation. Of note: Fredrick Gage Todd was designated as a “Person of National Historic Significance,” by the Government of Canada, in October 2020.

This boulevard curves through the residential area, in a way that (intentionally or not), forms little “x-shaped,” intersections, like this one, (standing at Bayview & McRae). The last intersection ends just before the industrial area begins, at Laird Drive. Essentially, “X” marks the spot, at “Randolph - McRae.” 

Coincidentally, that’s also the location of the former town hall, (Hanks & Irwin Architects), which was built 36 years after the town was incorporated. Planning commenced by his Mayorship, H.H. Talbot, in 1942, and the building completion in 1949, under the helm of Mayor, G. Trace Manes. 

So, if you feel inclined to keep walking (or dancing), may I suggest you take this road, and head East. You can simply, “ease on down the road,” and check that out. (jazz hands, a little step-groove… c’mon, you know you wanna. The Wiz, 1975). 

Thank you for joining along on this adventure - Jane’s Walk 2021 

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MUSIC LIST: IN ORDER OF WALK STOPS 

Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White, Perez Prado, 1955 

In The Mood, Glen Miller, 1938/39 

Sing, Sing, Sing, Benny Goodman, 1937 

You’ll Have to Swing It, Chick Webb-Ella Fitzgerald, 1936 

Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland, 1939 

Begin the Beguine, Artie Shaw, 1938 

Music Maestro, please, Tommy Dorsey, 1938 

Mambo No. 5, Perez Prado, 1950 

Ease On Down the Road, The Wiz, 1975