History of Beach Metro News: In 1980 Ward 9 News reports on local controversies

By 1980 this newspaper’s editor, Joan Latimer, announced at the annual general meeting that she had gotten over her pessimism and was convinced that the paper, now in its eighth year, would survive. The only problem, she said, was keeping it down to a reasonable size! We were at that time putting out 20 page issues.

I have pondered that old math question: If it took three people 10 working days to prepare 20 pages, are 7 1/2 people working 10 days to prepare 40 pages as productive?  The staff has convinced me I am trying to compare apples and oranges as the work is so different and more technically complex than in those early days.

In 1980 the paper began sponsoring sports teams in local leagues. We always pick children’s teams and have a baseball, hockey, and lacrosse and soccer team. Until recently they were all called the Beach Metro News Hounds. This year they became the Beach Metro Headliners.

A new feature got underway by 1980 – restaurant reviews by El Muncho. The newspaper’s visits to the eateries, then as now, were unannounced and the paper has always paid for the meals. El Muncho was actually a team of dedicated foodaholics who wrote under the one byline.  Some El Munchos went back several times at their own expense.  Once we published their picture, all lined up holding knives and forks but with brown paper bags over their heads.  El Muncho was accused of causing havoc in local restaurants which were swamped with customers after a good review.
A sketch of the restaurant by John Izod accompanied the review.

There were two shocking local events in 1980.

In April, Barbra Schlifer, 33, celebrated her graduation and admittance to the Bar of Ontario with parents and friends. She got off the 1:20 a.m. Queen streetcar and went to her Leuty Avenue apartment. Her body was later found in the stairwell. She had died from knife wounds.  Her senseless death sent shock waves through Toronto and across the country.  About 600 women marched along Queen Street demanding safer streets for women. The Toronto Police offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to her killer.  A youth was eventually convicted.

Friends of Barbra decided to commemorate her life and make the difference she had hoped to make as a lawyer. In 1985 they opened the Barbra Schlifer Memorial Clinic which provides legal and counselling services to women who have experienced violence or sexual abuse, as well as public education and advocacy.

In March 1980 the Toronto Star broke the story surrounding the death on of 80-year-old Lillian Hess of 21 Lee Ave.  She died on Dec. 22, 1979, six weeks after being admitted to the Toronto General Hospital with what one doctor described as the worse case of malnutrition, dehydration and neglect that he had ever seen. At the time of  her admittance the 4’10” retired school secretary weighed 54 lbs.

She had $118,000 in bank certificates and stocks at the Toronto Dominion Bank at Queen and Lee, when she died, but was unable to access her safety deposit box without the presence of her lawyer and executor, a local councillor. Miss Hess’s situation was complicated by a man who, with his four dogs, had moved into her house, and intimidated friends, neighbours, public health officials and her lawyer from entering the house.

Questions were asked about the death in the Ontario Legislature, and a coroner’s inquest lasted more than five weeks, one of the longest on record, and heard contradictory evidence from 36 witnesses. The jury found a number of factors contributed to Lillian Hess’s death and listed nine pages of recommendations to make sure no other senior citizens die under the “deplorable conditions” she did. For the newspaper it was one of the most controversial issues in its history with the councillor, his supporters, officials who dropped the ball, and appalled citizens weighing in.

Metro Toronto and the Beach got its first parking officer, Pamela Gregorack. Earlier in the year officials looked into the credible job women were doing as police officers, and figured it was time to integrate them into the Parking Control operations.

A few years earlier the musical Once A Beacher Always a Beacher (a cabaret of life in the Beach past and present) opened at Kew Beach United Church. Now there was a seven-day reprise of the earlier Robert Occhipinti production, called One More Time, at the Balmy Beach Club.

The Adam Beck Community Centre opened on May 24, offering much-needed recreation facilities north of Kingston Road.

The director of Community Centre 55 was fired by the board. Following a public outcry and petition from indignant residents who felt she had been unjustly treated, the director was reinstated with full pay. Her assistant, who had resigned in sympathy, was also persuaded to come back.

Three hundred people showed up at a meeting in Kew Beach School to discuss increased rowdiness, drinking and public mischief at the beach. It was reported that one woman had found a nude man by her clothes dryer. She fainted and by the time the police were summoned, the man and his laundry had vanished.

A woman was ejected from Karas Restaurant on Queen Street for nursing her baby in public.

A new building wave hit the Beach. Old apartment buildings were being revamped and reborn as luxury apartments. In the process reasonably-priced accommodation was lost. The city was concerned by a renovation epidemic across the city and in the Beach. On Sept. 29, 1980 a bylaw was passed preventing apartments with more than 12 units from being renovated as luxury suites or demolished so that new accommodation could be constructed.

While thousands of racing fans were overjoyed that thoroughbreds were now running two nights a week at the Greenwood Racetrack, nearby residents complained that the horrendous parking situation was getting worse. “They block driveways, park at corners and in front of hydrants, and don’t care if they get a ticket.  They  get out of their cars and run to the track,” said  Pat Erlendsen.  Many hoped the racetrack would move.

“That is an impossible dream,” said Alderman Patrick Sheppard. Little did he know!

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