History of Beach Metro News: 1977 was a very good year

By the beginning of 1977 the newspaper was settling down.  There were no crises on the horizon. It had a paid (albeit modestly!) staff of three – editor Joan Latimer, ad manager and editorial assistant Amy Vanderwal, and myself looking after the business and circulation.  We were putting out 12-page papers and acquiring what our treasurer called “a small amount of retained earnings” which meant we were moving slowly from a hand-to-mouth existence.

Most people don’t realize that the paper was originally published on Wednesdays. We were able to get a spot on the Web Offset presses on Mondays at midnight, so that we could move publishing days to Tuesdays and give our readers longer to find out what was happening at the weekends.

We also switched from a five column page to six columns. This was the brainchild of our president, adverting mogul Geoff Jarvis, who came up with a way of increasing much need revenue. A page would still be the same size, but by switching from a five column to a six column page, we could fit in more ads. Our clients could still buy a two column ad, but the columns were a little narrower.

Among those advertisers in the 70s are stores that no longer exist.  How many do you remember on Queen Street? Hobbit Town Children’s Boutique, The Brass Rubbing Centre, Beaches Plumbing Mart, Enid’s Underworld, Miracles, The Great Escape Restaurant, Nova Fish n’ Chips, Morfidis Furs, J’s Place, Ray the Barber, or Edison Fish n’ Chips.

Joan came up with an idea which turned out to be one of our most popular features – the What Is it picture.  Andrew Blinoff took close-up photos of everyday objects – the bristles on a toothbrush, the business end of a Robertson screwdriver, a broccoli floret, a diamond ring setting etc. Then Joan, queen of the word play, provided a clue, which would aid identification, if you only figured it out.  There was a small prize and we would get about fifty answers each issue – and some were correct.  Andrew’s greatest fans were school children who drew pictures and carefully printed out their answers and sent him messages. These packages were brought in by their teachers, who said it increased a child’s self esteem if they were chosen as the winner. At the same time we received phone calls from people in downtown offices who were arguing over the answer and just had to settle a bet.

Our vice-president at the time, Jan Goodman, suggested an annual Malvern award to be given to a grade 12 student, who in the opinion of the English Department, showed the most skill, imagination and delight in the use of the England language in written work. What began as a $100 award in 1977 are now two $300 cheques. The most recent winners in Dec. 2010 were Rusaro Nyinawumwami and Anika Roberts-Stahlbrand.

In Sept. 1977 my younger son Alan started junior kindergarten at Balmy Beach School. I was able to close down the home office and return full time to being at the centre of the universe, operating out of the newspaper office at the YMCA on Kingston Road. As a working parent I had one of the best job situations with children and home just two blocks away.  With a 12-page paper we were able to cover more local events.

Balsam Avenue resident and writer Larry Zolf intensified his one-man campaign for an appointment to the Upper House of Parliament, and erected signs on Yonge Street proclaiming ‘Zolf for Senator’. It never happened.

Even then, riders were complaining about eastbound Queen Street cars being short turned at Coxwell. Alderman Pat Sheppard said he was prepared to lead a sit in to demand improved service. There is no record of him sitting on the tracks.
In the spring the Kew Beach Bible Club held a reunion. During the 40s and 50s hundreds of young people attended Sunday services followed by socials, ski trips, dances and other events organized by Kew Beach United Church.  In the days before Lava Life and E-Harmony, it was the place to meet potential dates. There are still many local couples who met at the Bible Class and had more than religion on their minds.

One January evening the lights in the Eastern Library at 137 Main St. were ablaze long after closing time. A banquet was held for Helen Cram who retired as chief librarian. I, for one, would miss her.  Helen, a supporter of young mothers, would offer to look after my children while I selected books, and would smile at them benevolently as she rocked the baby carriage beside her desk. After retirement she served on the newspaper’s board as secretary for a while. (She died in 2005 shortly after her 100th birthday.)

The library at 137 Main underwent major renovations, far beyond changing its name from Eastern to the Main Street Library. Local bookworms (Miss Cram recruited me) were invited to join a Citizens’ Advisory Committee to interview and hire from the pool of architects provided by the Toronto Public Library.  We chose Ken Greenberg and Phil Carter who had redesigned many of the properties that became the Main Gerard Housing Co-op.

We had to come up with three designs to increase library use. We competed with four other East End libraries (not Beaches) for limited funds, and had to plead our case before a huge gathering  downtown of the Toronto Library board and citizens from the other libraries. We were first out of  the gate with our proposal and an enthusiastic team including Rod Travers-Griffin, Ann Doherty,  Marta Coutts, Donald Durst, Ann Wright, Joanne Graham, and of course Helen Cram. There was only enough money at the time for one branch to get $200,000 and the prize went to Main Street. Our design added the conservatory to the front of the building, and a two-storey extension with a basement on the north side.

At the same time the library board policy was changing to encourage more users with the introduction of whatever people wanted to read – paper-back romances, motorcycle magazines, comics etc.  This was a different philosophy from Miss Cram’s generation of librarians who hoped to share their love of literature with the public. The final straw was when we cut up the front lawn where she held her annual International Festival on the Lawn into paths with benches and flower beds to make it more inviting to potential users. We achieved our goal of bringing more users into this building. (If you go into any Toronto library today, you will find it teeming with people of all ages. Let’s hope the busiest library system in North America is not part of the gravy train cuts.)

When the Eaton Centre opened on Feb.10, 1977, the Malvern band, resplendent in scarlet jackets and kilts provided the music.  This was the only band chosen for the ceremony, and showed how highly regarded the Malvern musicians were around the city.

The University of Toronto was experimenting with off-campus courses. For a couple of years one could earn a credit by going to evening classes  at Balmy Beach School, which was a lot more convenient than going downtown. I took urban politics. There was also an English literature class and a pre-university course. Too bad it ended.

And so must I for this issue. More next time.

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