Filey recounts in vivid detail the devastation of city disasters such as Hurricane Hazel and the Great Fire of 1904 and spins yarns about doughnut shops old and new, milk deliveries by horse, swimming at Lake Ontario’s beaches, Sunday blue laws and how both World Wars affected Torontonians.
Mike Filey had a column in the Toronto Sun for about 30 years and I read it for many years (I like learning about the history of Toronto) ... this book is a compilation of some of his columns.
It is divided into sections ... there are lots of stories and pictures:
- Toronto's passing scene - the CNE, water tanks, police, car phones and more
- Toronto's war years - William Winer Cooke (Colonel Custer's second-in-command was a Canadian), celebrating the end of the wars and remembering those who never came home, and more
- Toronto's pleasure palaces - the dance halls, Palais Royale, the theatres, and more
- Toronto at work - the birth of Canadian Tire, the origins of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the history of Henry's, and more
- Toronto and disaster - the Great Toronto Fire of 1904, the fire on the Noronic, the Torontonians who died on the Empress of Ireland, Hurricane Hazel, and more
- Toronto landmarks - the Flatiron Building, the Roundhouse, the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and more
- Toronto then and now - One Bloor Street E, Spadina Hotel, Campbell House, and more
- Toronto on the move - ferries to Toronto Island, the Toronto-Rochester ferry (alas, I never go to go on it), airports, TTC, and more
- Toronto at play - hockey, the CNE, bathing cars, and more
- Toronto streetscapes
- Toronto neighbourhoods
- Toronto waterfront
- Toronto's famous and celebrated - Marilyn Bell, Glenn Miller, Mary Pickford, and more
For example, we learn about Palace Pier, which was an amusement pier and the development was proclaimed as one of the biggest landmarks to ever be built on the Toronto waterfront and would be similar to the many amusement piers found along the coast in England. The proposed pier would include a 30,000 sq ft ballroom that would accommodate 3,000 couples, a roller rink (converted for ice skating in the winter months), 1,400-seat theatre, an outdoor Band Pavilion seating 1,500, and several restaurants and souvenir stores. The pier would also allow for steamer ships to dock alongside the structure, easing congestion for the 50,000 people a day the prospectus claimed would attend the amusement facility.
|What Palace Pier was supposed to look like|
Only the first phase of the redesigned amusement pier, 90 metres long, was opened on June 10, 1941, and it became popular as a major dance hall of the big band era during World War II and the postwar years. Hollywood celebrity Bob Hope, who was in town promoting his latest film, officially opened the new Palace Pier by doing a few laps around the roller rink in front of fans.
|What it ended up looking like|
As big band music faded away, boxing and wrestling matches, religious revival meetings, country and western concerts, and high school proms became the major events to frequent the Palace Pier.
The pier was destroyed by fire in 1963 and the site later redeveloped into condos and a public park (Sheldon Lookout).
If you live in Toronto or are from Toronto, you will find this book interesting.