History of Beach Metro News: 1989

As New Year 1989 began, the newspaper staff was still settling into new offices at 2196 Gerrard St. E.  It had recently moved after 17 years at the YMCA on Kingston Road.  Ten months earlier the paper’s name had changed from Ward 9 News to Beach Metro Community News.

The staff was frustrated with the new desktop publishing system the paper had recently purchased.  “It’s confusing and time-consuming,” the employees told the Board, which  then voted to buy whatever was necessary  to make the paper run more easily to publish a 24 to 28 page paper. (Now with seven employees, it is hard to imagine how we could  ever produce 36 to 40 pages every two weeks without computers.)

The five employees were editor Joan Latimer, ad manager Brenda Dow, office co-coordinator Dianne Marquardt, photographer/editorial assistant Benn Guinn, and myself the business manager. During 1989 Benn left to start his own photography business, and is now living in Victoria, B.C.  Michele Comer, soon to be Michele McLean, replaced him.

At the June AGM, Kelvin Francis became president, and Don Snider joined the Board as treasurer.  Judy Campbell began a second term as vice-president, and Bobbie Ermel remained as secretary. Barbara Phillips became past president – and you can read her memories of those days here.

Jan. 1, 1989 began with bitter winds, snow and hail, but this did not  deter 74 hardy souls from participating in the Hair of the Dog run/power walk along the boardwalk and Leslie Street Spit, and back to the Balmy Beach Club.

Over 900 people lined up to join the New Year’s fitness classes at the Beaches Rec. Centre.

The cost of parking at the municipal lot at Queen and Lee increased from a dime to 30 cents an hour. The daily maximum went up to $2.

In  January, The Beach in Pictures 1793-1932, launched two months  earlier,  had sold out its first run of 3,000 copies and was ready for reprinting. ( It normally takes eight years before a history book published by the Toronto Public Library clears the shelves.)  Authors Mary Campbell and Barbara Myrvold had spent five years on research, and the book has much more than pictures to offer local Beach buffs.  (Even if you missed purchasing this definitive book on local history, you can still borrow one of the 46 copies on loan at the TPL.)

In February the newest branch of the TPL, Danforth-Coxwell, opened with a collection of 30,000 books, plus videos, records, tapes and adult literacy material. Readers in 1989 certainly knew who Margaret Atwood was.  Her Cat’s Eye was the third most borrowed book in the system. (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving was first, and Stephen Hawking’s   A Brief History of Time was second.)

Local landlords with property on Waverley, Williamson and Wineva were among several in the city duped by a smooth talker who came to be known as The Tenant from Hell.  He managed to move into a rental property before the owner realized that the first and last cheques would bounce. Well-dressed, articulate and charming – at first glance every landlord’s dream – he persuaded the home owner to hand over the key early, and had a furniture  truck waiting around the corner. The Waverley landlord was out $15,000 but felt he was lucky. It only took him four months to have the tenant evicted while for others it took a year.

The Fox Cinema was designated a historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act, following rumours that it would be sold and torn down. It opened in 1913 as the Prince Edward Theatre and was built in conjunction with the apartment of the same name on Beech Avenue. The designation protects The Fox from major changes to its façade.

The same designation did not help the Joy Gas Station at Queen and Coxwell.  The mini castle with its distinctive red tile roof was the last of the chain, and should have been protected, but word did not get to city officials until after the owner, who had a demolition permit, had razed the building.

In June people placed flowers on the steps of Kingston Road United Church in front of a huge painting depicting a Chinese student being crushed by a tank. The work by Rev. Ted Davey expressed  sympathy for those recently killed in Tiananmen Square.

Neva Theed threw herself a 70th birthday party at the Balmy Beach Club and invited 150 guests. The late Ms Theed was well known locally as a psychic reader and for organizing the Bloomer Bustlers, a lavishly-costumed group that was a highlight of Easter Parades for over 25 years.

Several local institutions had significant anniversaries. The Calvary Men’s Bible Class had its 60th birthday, and Bill Sewell (father of Toronto mayor John Sewell) celebrated 50 years as its leader. Toronto East General Hospital was 60 years old, and invited anyone who was born there (it once had one of the busiest maternity wards in the country) to come to the party. The hospital opened its new $32 million emergency and critical care centre.

The Kew Beach Couples Club and its 400 members had a 50th anniversary. Now renamed Beach Couples Club, it meets monthly for theme nights and fellowship at St. Nicholas Church. Call 416-690-7100 for info.

Williamson Road School was 75.  Kew Beach School had its centennial. Back in 1889, Miss A.E. Wray persuaded the chair of the local school board to drive her in his buckboard around the Beach district to find a suitable school site. Told that if she could gather 20 local pupils, she could start a school, Miss Wray lost no time in rounding up the required number.  The school had a humble beginning in the back room of the Methodist Church at Queen and Wineva.  In those days students who annoyed fellow classmates received four slaps. Playing in class, disobedience or leaving without permission incurred eight slaps.

In June the Archeological Resource Centre of the Toronto Board of Education conducted a dig in Leslieville, the village that grew up in the 1850s around the Leslie Brothers’ nursery gardens, which were the largest in Canada. The summer excavations concentrated on unearthing the remains of two early homes, and the dig provided information about the lifestyle of Irish immigrant families in the 19th century.  An article on the venture was written by archeologist Dr. Carole Stimmell, five years before she became editor of Beach Metro News.

On Aug. 31 the largest municipal public meeting since Second World War was held at city hall. Virtually all 3,000 attendees were opposed to the proposed Market Value Assessment.

On Oct. 4 a public meeting of the Provincial Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee at Blantyre School drew concerned residents from Scarborough and Toronto to discuss a proposal by Runnymede Development Corporation to construct four 23-27 storey apartment buildings on the north side of Gerrard between Victoria Park and Clonmore. The 1,500 units would be on land previously used as a waste disposal site, and residents suspected toxic materials were buried there. During construction of the shopping plaza just west of Victoria Park and Gerrard, bulldozers had unearthed several drums of chemicals of unknown origin.  In addition to health issues, there were concerns about a traffic nightmare on Gerrard with another 3000-4000 residents. More than 20 years later home owners are fighting the same spectre of four high-rises on the same site, now known as the Quarry lands.

Approval was given for construction of an underground holding tank at the lakefront between Woodbine and Kew Beach Tennis Club for completion in April 1990. The tank was part of a two-step project to cut down on the amount of raw sewage dumped in the lake during rain storms. It would hold the run-off for later processing at the Ashbridge Bay Sewage Treatment Plant. The province paid $1.6 million towards phase one, and the Toronto taxpayers would foot the rest of the $4 million construction cost. The tank would operate for a year before construction was to begin on a second tank to be located in the park around Lee Ave. The total cost of the project would be $13.2 million.

In the spring construction of the Boardwalk Bistro at Woodbine Beach was completed, and the owner applied for a wine and beer licence. During the year four ratepayers’ groups and MPP Marion Bryden appeared at various committees at city hall and the LLBO to oppose the licence. Local Councillor Tom Jakobek supported the application. By year end permission had been given by the LLBO, and the citizens’ groups vowed to fight on.

Questions for the paper’s 1989 on- the- street interviews included such topics of the day as: Should the Young Offenders Act be changed? Do condom dispensers belong in highschool washrooms? Should free needles be given to drug users? Will inflation force you out of the area?

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