2001 a year of changes in the Beach and the world

The eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway was demolished in 2001.

In 2001 this newspaper started its 30th year. In January razing the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway began. On April 12 city councillors, project managers and the media gathered to observe the end of the road at the corner of Leslie and Lakeshore as workers pounded at the last elevated portion.

On September 11 at 9 a.m. volunteers and staff were joking as they prepared to unload the new edition off the truck. Then one of the carriers came in and told us a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre building in New York. Within a few minutes we heard that another plane had hit the second tower, and the world changed. It was a subdued day as family and readers phoned to see if we had heard the latest news or knew of updates. A couple of area captains called in that they had spouses on planes in the States and would not be picking up their papers that day. Queen Street was practically deserted with hardly any traffic or pedestrians. It was eerie.

On Sept.14, the National Day of Mourning, a service was held at Woodbine Park.The ‘Stars and Stripes’ was draped over the park’s memorial stone, and Marie Perrotta of Pegasus sang the American anthem. Condolence books were set up for signing in the Beaches Recreation Centre and Community Centre 55, and were later sent to the American Consulate.

The Estonian buildings at 2368 and 2378 Queen St. E. (on the north side just west of Victoria Park) celebrated their 50th anniversary. Back in 1951 an enterprising group of immigrants sought affordable and modern accommodation. The  concept of condominium and apartment cooperatives was unheard of in Canada, and the group was initially refused a mortgage by CHMC on the grounds that this was a communist project. CHMC changed its mind when two of the Estonians travelled to Ottawa to explain that they had fled from Communism.  The two buildings were the first in Toronto, possibly in Ontario, to feature cantilevered balconies and extra large square windows on hinges that could be opened fully to let in light and air. By 2001 many of those early residents were in their 80s and 90s. Doctors partially attributed their longevity to the regular and rigorous exercise of climbing several flights of stairs, as the buildings have no elevators.

After 40 years of wearing the same uniforms, the Malvern band was halfway into a six-year project to replace tattered braid, torn linings and faded fabric. The 60 kilts and red jackets had been purchased in 1961 at a cost of $400 each, while retiring the drab blue uniforms, relics of wartime austerity, worn during the 1940s and 1950s.

The sales office of Tribute Homes (builders in the Woodbine development) was transported from the southwest corner of Queen and Woodbine to the new Woodbine Park. It was intended to become an offsite branch of Community Centre 55. However the office did not have the necessary infrastructure and it was too expensive to upgrade, so the idea was later abandoned.

2001 was the International Year of the Volunteer. The federal government recognized their  important contribution in making communities and country a better place. It presented a number of medals for each riding. Beach Metro volunteers who had been part of the delivery team for over 20 years received their medals at a small party at Community Centre 55. They included Gladys Kadry, Bob and Irene Smalley, Dianne Dowling, Diane Drake, Melanie Blochlinger, Mary June Lenouvel, Karen Luedecke, Dianne Phillips, Doug Phillips, Margaret and Laurie Delafranier, Carlos and Lynda Rajkumar, Linda Livingstone, Kelvin Francis, Fred Ashby and Don Smith.

Centre 55, the Beaches Lions Club and Beach Metro News came up with a way to recognize outstanding volunteers by selecting one person to be Beach Citizen of the Year from nominations sent in by the public. The Citizen would represent the area at public events such as the Easter Parade, and be immortalized on a plaque in the Millennium Garden at Woodbine Park. In 2001 the first Beach Citizen of the Year was Gene Domagala.  (Thomas Neal, the 12th and newest Citizen of the Year, is featured in this issue).

Parking meters on Queen Street were a hot topic at several public meetings. Our section of Queen Street was the only retail strip in Toronto where they had not been installed.

A study showed that vehicles remained parked on Queen Street for 70 minutes compared to a 40-minute average on comparable metered areas such as the Danforth and Bloor West.  The slow turnover rate was considered bad for Beach businesses that needed to provide space for customers. On Nov. 23 the meters were unveiled. Those loonies and toonies were expected to bring in revenue for the city of $500,000 to $600,000 annually.

At Toronto East General Hospital, provincial health minister Tony Clements opened new facilities which included several state of the art surgical suites. The outgoing CEO told Clements that the hospital now needed money to staff the new facilities or they would remain empty.

MPP Frances Lankin retired to head up the United Way, and was replaced by Michael Prue, who received almost 50 per cent of the vote.

Chris the barber hung up his scissors after 30 years of cutting hair on Queen Street.

A popular watering hole for 16 years, Lido’s, closed its doors for good when rent at the Beaches Mall was increased considerably.

The Bank of Montreal moved from the corner of Queen and Beech to Queen and Woodbine.

The first Canadian woman in space, Roberta Bondar, visited Loblaw’s where she signed posters from her new collection of photographs of the Canadian wilderness.

A $300,000 blaze in the Queen/Balsam/ Hazel area in the early hours of May 21 led to the evacuation of residents, and loss of hydro, phone and cable services for most of the day. Several homes, fences and a brand new BMW were damaged.

Among those who passed on in 2001 were teacher and marathoner Michael Meredith;  local history resource Mary Denoon who grew up at Inglenook Cottage on Waverly Road;  Ed Elliott, who was one of the most active volunteers in the East End and was Santa Claus at the annual Christmas tree lighting in Kew Gardens;  Betty Willson, caregiver to many local children and a newspaper deliverer for 29 years;  artist Helen Sewell; sportsman Larry Hayes who organized hot tub fundraisers for the charity; and Evelyn Fox and Mary Lou Hicks who were both active in local causes.

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