We estimate that it has been eight years since we last saw Toronto. We have – rather, until recently we had – two friends (one of whom just died) who in particular drew us to Toronto (that is, when we didn’t go with them instead to cottages in Muskoka or Prince Edward County). Now we’re planning a return visit to Toronto for the memorial gathering for our late friend. As common as it sounds, the memorial reminds me not only of our dear late friend but also of Toronto (which I know he too loved).
Toronto was by small measure a hang-out of mine for about 4 years – basically covering undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall on Bayview Avenue and the Bar Admission course at Osgoode Hall off University Avenue. Since then we’ve become more acquainted with the lakefront area since we routinely stay at the Royal York Hotel on Front St W.
My poison when I was at Osgoode Hall was a cake donut from a bakery in the “basement” of the T. Eaton Company on College St at Yonge St. The donut was slathered with maple butter.
The success of Eaton’s helped revolutionize department store retailing in North America. American retailers flocked to view the stores on Yonge Street and Portage Avenue, anxious to replicate Timothy Eaton’s methods south of the border. Until the 1950s, Eaton’s promoted itself as the “largest retail organization in the British Empire”.
Yorkville Avenue in 1968 was considered a hippie hang-out. There was a succession of coffee houses. At the eastern extremity was a sanatorium encircled by a high wrought iron fence against which young people leaned. Coincidentally the last time we were on Yorkville Avenue was years later in a restaurant having lunch with our late friend and his partner. We were en route to Puerto Vallarta that evening.
It was from a two-storey penthouse on St. Clair Ave E that I saw the first man land on the moon. The event had begun as a college get-to-gether and, for those of us still awake, later translated into that singularly memorable occasion.
When I was at prep school the entire school conducted its annual cadet parade from Rosedale to St. Paul’s Cathedral on Bloor St E.
My first time at the Royal York Hotel was at a so-called ” breakfast party” following the annual cadet ball.
About 20 years ago i stayed at the Royal York Hotel and met with a client who lived in Toronto. I arranged with the front desk for the use of a private business room adjoining the Fairmont Gold lounge.
While attending Osgoode Hall I was a Don at Devonshire House, University of Toronto. I loved the walk from Devonshire House to Osgoode Hall along University Avenue past the granite monuments to banking and industry.
A wayward schoolmate of mine gave me a ride on the back of his motorcycle along Bayview Avenue from Glendon Hall to York Mills Road (past E. P. Taylor’s spread). My friend enjoyed stopping his motorcycle next to the superstitious drivers in their Cadillacs. Later I ended driving his mother’s Cadillac Eldorado to pick up my “Little Brother” and do something together.
It wasn’t often we spent time at the nearby homes of fellow students but when we did it was always memorable. Tommy S lived on Park Lane Circle where his father had a sprawling home and a 6-car garage each space of which housed a Cadillac except Tommy’s at the end. His had a Mini Minor because Tommy didn’t have a perfect academic record. His father was president of an advertising company and a graduate of Harvard.
Another home I frequented was with a girl whose brother had been in school with me. The brother had died in a boating accident off the coast of Maine. Their mother liked to drive around Forest Hill (where they lived) in the Christmas season to see who did or did not have decorative lights.
Another place I visited had broadloom as thick as your fist. It was the beginning of the broadloom-everywhere passion which has since been replaced by hardwood-everywhere passion. Throughout the household were opened packs of Black Cat cigarettes.
On the morning after a rather torrid evening during my undergraduate days we breakfasted upon rose petals and toast with a cup of clear tea. It was a rainy morning in Rosedale. The lawn was cobalt coloured. Everything was humid.
On an occasion spirited by our erstwhile friend I spent a dangerously long time at Tiffany’s on Bloor St W. It was all his idea. But I confess the sin was sweet. Sinful commonality is forever a source of toxic alliance.
Though for years I haven’t had occasion to use the subway in Toronto my most recent recollection is that it was a safe and clean experience quite unlike the popular rendition of New York City for example.
Having cast my mind back upon the past also succeeds to remind me that things change, that nothing stays the same, that the best venture to Toronto will be a new one with different adventures. And ultimately it will no doubt remind me why I moved to the country almost half a century ago.