History of Beach Metro News: 1993

The year 1993 was one of change for some local institutions and of efforts to preserve for others.

At this newspaper the classified ads were the last holdout of an earlier technology. As the year started they were typeset then pasted in strips onto layout pages. By mid-year the roller and hot wax were abandoned, and staff were doing virtual paste-ups on a computer, saving one production day an issue.

A decision having great consequence locally was made in 1993 by the Ontario Jockey Club. It decided to close the Greenwood Racetrack and move horse racing to its upgraded facilities at the Woodbine track in Rexdale. There had been a racetrack for over 100 years on the site between Queen and Lakeshore, west of Woodbine Ave. It opened in 1875 as the Woodbine Riding and Driving Club. Six years later the OJC rented the course, and in 1907 purchased the property. Over the years greyhound racing, polo matches, horse auctions and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (1885) were held there.  In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended the 80th running of the King’s Plate.

The relationship between the racetrack and its neighbours was a troubled one, as residents tried to cut down on the number of racing days, including Sundays. Joseph Stables, in a letter to this paper, summed up the feelings of many: “Here we have the biggest blight of its kind in any North American urban community…years of concentrated effort by countless residents to close down this commercial albatross. It is the source of almost year-round neighbourhood  annoyance – noise, glaring lights, debris, parking problems and, not to mention, people emerging to or from the hotel or liquor store…Give us a break!”

For many East Enders, the only contact with the track  was driving along the Lakeshore and seeing the horses taking their morning canter. Councillor Tom Jakobek described the area behind the 30-foot-high wall running along the south side of Queen between Woodine and Coxwell: “Almost 90 per cent of the site is open space, providing 10,000 parking spots for racetrack patrons, Beach merchants, visitors and residents. The interior of the track contains a phenomenal green space and a lake which surpasses our own parks and ravines. It is said fish can be found in the 1.5 acre water course. The track provides employment for hundreds of people, many of whom live in the East End. While some residents think we will be better off without a track, City Planning has done some preliminary estimates on what might take its place,” he wrote. Those estimates included a housing development that would increase the population by 10,000-15,000 new residents.

The thought of all those additional people and their impact on the area was a shocker. Groups formed to work with the OJC and the city and have some influence on the future development.

In spring the boardwalk needed a quick fix after a brutally destructive winter. “I don’t remember a year when there has been this much damage from weather and high water,” said Herb Pirk, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. The boardwalk just west of the Balmy Beach Club was damaged from water running over and under it.  At various spots around the club the planks were covered with frozen sand.

The Save Our Station was struck in 1993 to help raise funds to rehabilitate the Leuty Lifeguard Station. Many of those on the committee remain active in volunteering their time to make the Beach the place it is today

The Leuty Lifeguard Station had also taken a beating and was close to collapse. Led by former lifeguard Chris Layton, a committee formed to repair and maintain the Leuty. It included Gene Domagala, Glenn Cochrane, Mary Campbell, Bill Suddick, Howard Fines, and another former lifeguard, Tom Jakobek. Fundraising included selling S.O.S. (Save Our Station) t-shirts  and coffee mugs which featured a Bill Suddick  drawing of the building, and  raised $15,000 towards the $60,000 costs.

Former lifeguards were rounded up for a publicity shot. These included Gord Lowry, who was often posted there from 1930 to 1935.  He recalled earning $25 a week with 13-hour shifts from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., without a lunch or dinner break, for six days a week.  A neighbour delivered roast beef dinners in a basket to the guards for 75 cents. Another former lifeguard was Jeff Wincott, a star of the Night Heat series.

At the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant,   the Toronto Works Department held back an invasion of zebra mussels by laying pipe from the plant about three quarters of a mile into the lake to meet with the intake pipe. A small amount of chlorine, which kills zebra mussels, was injected into the intake pipe to prevent the mussels from attaching themselves to the walls. “We haven’t had any zebra mussel problems yet, but we know they are coming so we had to install a system,” said Works Commissioner Bob Fergus of the  $2.5 million project.

A plaque was installed by the boardwalk south of Scarboro Beach Boulevard, commemorating the site of the Scarboro Beach Amusement Park.  From 1907 to 1925 the park offered summer entertainment to locals and visitors who came for the fun houses, shows, concerts, sports and rides. Favourites included the Shoot the Chute flume, the Tunnel of Love, the aerial swings, the miniature steam train, and the only free ride, the Bump the Bumps slide.

For anyone who wonders why no one runs a profitable little business renting out deckchairs at the beach, a story in 1993 had the answer. The previous summer a young entrepreneur set up Calypso Chairs at Woodbine Beach, charging $3 from noon to 3 p.m. and $5 for the whole day. But city hall red tape, poor weather, lack of storage facilities and the proximity to the racetrack led him to fold up shop.  His best day was on a Sunday when he took in $80.

The 1993 federal election called by Prime Minister Kim Campbell resulted in the Progressive Conservatives suffering one of the worse defeats in the western world.  Liberals led by Jean Chretien swept into power. There were 14 parties vying for power, and many ran  candidates in Beaches-Woodbine. Incumbent Neil Young of the NDP was challenged by the Liberals, PCs, Reform Party, National Party, Natural Law Party, Green Party, International Workers Party and an independent.   After a hard-fought battle, Liberal Maria Minna was elected with twice the votes received by  Neil Young, who had represented the riding since 1980. This was the first time a Liberal had ever been elected in the Beaches-Woodbine riding.  Minna held the riding until the election in 2011 of the NDP’s Matthew Kellway.

In Scarborough West, Liberal Ted Wappel was returned for a second time with 21,326 votes, ahead of the Reform candidate with 8,377.

In May, the City of Scarborough, furious over the failure to adopt Market Value Assessment, was appealing the tax assessment on 1,000 Toronto properties on the grounds that existing taxes were too low. Toronto retaliated by appealing the taxes on 5,000 Scarborough residences. The Toronto properties belonging to local politicians who campaigned against MVA, including Paul Christie and Frances Lankin, were among those challenged by Scarborough.

In 1993 Scouts Canada opened its door to let girls join the pack. The co-ed edict let each troop decide whether they accepted girl scouts.

The Girl Guides decided to stick to tradition. “Guiding is going to stay single-sex,” said Cathy Traicus, the Woodbine Division Commissioner. “Girls in Guilding get to see women in leadership roles.  Guilding will continue to attract those girls who believe in the value of a female organization with fun, friendship camaraderie and team spirit.”

The Fox Theatre marked its 80th birthday showing a film from the early days of movies and a special preview of A Perfect World.  At a gala evening on Nov. 22, guests included a former usher, a woman who had a set of dishes she had collected on dish night, a man whose father-in-law played the Fox piano for silent movies, and anyone with the surname Fox. A commemorative book by local historians Barbara Myrvold and Mary Campbell was unveiled. It told how in 1912-13 Arthur Brooks Webster built a three-storey complex complete with a theatre, store and apartment. It opened in 1914.  Over 2,000 people entered a contest to name the theatre. It started off as Pastime, and then was changed to the Prince Edward, to honour the Prince of Wales. When he fell from grace by abdicating and marrying Wallis Simpson in 1936, the name was changed to The Fox, after the fabulous Fox Theatres in the U.S.

Three more local names were added to the Beach Roll of Honour at Community Centre 55 – pianist, composer and teacher Marion Garadeff; the scientist who solved the mystery of monarch butterfly migration, Dr. Fred Urquhart; and hockey player Nels Stewart. The Ted Reeve award for outstanding community service was given posthumously to Alex Christie.

Two teachers from Kew Beach School, Joan Annette and Trudy Duff, shared the Roberta Bondar Science and Technology Award, presented by the astronaut along with Premier Bob Rae at the Ontario Science Centre. The teachers developed a dinosaur kit which was being used in schools across the province. “It’s very easy to get kids enthusiastic about science if you use a hands-on approach,” said Duff.

A round-the-clock Bible reading, possibly the first in Canada, was held at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church. Volunteers began reading aloud in one-hour stints starting on Palm Sunday. The last of the 1080 pages was turned on the following Wednesday. “We wanted to read every word of the Bible in church,” explained the Rev. Al Gearing.

James Hamly reached his 100th birthday. He still lived in the house he bought in 1929.  Skating was a big part of his life. As a teenager he skated competitively.  Later he taught his children and grandchildren to skate at Norwood Park, and until his mid-80s still zipped around on racing skates. He had no secrets to longevity except drinking milk every day.

Local school trustee Sandra Bussin saved the life of a drowning man in Lake Ontario, after he was knocked unconscious trying to dock a boat. Bussin dived into the lake, located him and brought him to the surface. He spent four months in hospital convalescing.

Scott Sumner, a Hunt Club resident, received one of the highest honours the Royal Lifesaving Society can offer, the M. Griffiths award. He saved a friend who struck his head and injured his spinal cord in a surfing accident in Australia. “I have no doubt that I would either be a quadriplegic or dead now, if it hadn’t been for Scott and his decisive action. I owe him my life,” said the victim.

The building known as St. John the Baptist Norway Anglican Church held its centennial, although the parish was much older. There had been a church on the site at Woodbine and Kingston Road for 140 years. In 1993 celebrations included a strawberry lunch followed by a tour of the historic cemetery led by Gene Domagala. The cemetery is the last resting place of many well-known East End families including the Ashbridges.

Not all house prices had reached the stratosphere in 1993. A bungalow south of Kingston Road was offered at $195,000; a three-storey Neville Park townhouse was $209,900; a two-storey detached on Willow north of Queen was $225,000:  a 3 bedroom on Hannaford was $149,900: a Hunt Club bungalow was $229,500, and one  on Blantyre cost $189,500.  Out of most people’s reach was the mansion at 1 Fallingbrook Road situated on an acre of property and listed at $1,980,000.

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