The hero of the Beach in 2004 was Dante, a 4-year-old mixed-breed dog whose friendliness may have stopped a gunman from a shooting spree. On June 23 a man from New Brunswick, newly arrived in Toronto, and carrying a loaded semi-automatic, was at the R.H. Harris Filtration Plant, allegedly preparing to kill as many people as possible. Dante, who was off his leash at the time, approached the man who began playing with him. The man decided that if the dog was so friendly, the people in the neighbourhood couldn’t be so bad, and went to find a police officer and turn himself in. A search of his car revealed two rifles, a revolver, 6,000 rounds of ammunition, a machete, two knives and a camouflage mask, in addition to the gun he was carrying. On Sept. 12, over 200 people paid homage to Dante at the Kew Beach boathouse, at an event sponsored by the Humane Society of Canada.
One of the controversial issues of 2004, pitting neighbour against neighbour, was an attempt to stop the rapid alteration in street scapes due to infill and radical changes to the architecture of existing houses. Some local streets, such as Lyall Avenue, opted to become a Heritage Conservation District, which meant that any modified fronts of houses or new construction had to blend in with the existing street.
The Balmy Beach Residents Association decided, instead of tackling one street at a time, to attempt to have several blocks declared an HCD. These streets included Willow south of Pine, Glenfern, Balmy, Lakefront, Silver Birch south of Pine, Munro Park, Pine Avenue, Cedar, Bracken, Kingswood, Scarborough and Bingham south of Kingston Road.
The Beach Home Owners Association opposed the HCD designation and the limitations it could put on homeowners. Petitions and flyers from both groups were circulated, websites appeared, and raucous public meetings were held at St. Aidan’s Church. The city took the unusual step of requiring two votes for each of the streets. At the end of 2004, a first ballot was mailed to the 600 affected homeowners, asking if they wished to participate in an HCD study on a street-by-street basis. Blocks that went ahead would then vote on whether the majority would want the protection of an HCD, and come up with a formula of what was an acceptable design for their street. When all the votes were tallied in 2005, some streets went ahead with the designation and some bowed out.
At the Beaches Library, staff boxed up 57,128 items as they prepared to close for ten months while the building was renovated and expanded. Architect Phil Carter aimed to preserve as much of the 1916 building as possible while improving arrangements and accessibility. When the library reopened in 2005, a square two-story addition replaced the previous addition on the west side, adding another 1,000 square feet and providing a great view of Kew Gardens. A new walkway was added behind the library. The front door on Queen was restored. New washrooms were added, along with a self service elevator and larger children’s and meeting areas.
Bobby Curtola, heartthrob of the poodle skirt and saddle shoe set, came from Las Vegas to headline the Canada Day celebrations in Kew Gardens. Over 6,000 people attended the concert, and four of them, Helen Brier, Dale Barrett, Bonnie Pound and Sharon Mott won a Beach Metro contest to have supper with Bobby at Peppino’s, where he wore a large ring bequeathed to him by Elvis.
At Ashbridges Bay, Shakespeare Works presented Romeo and Juliet, directed by well-known actor R.H. Thomson, and starring Alan Hawco (nowadays of Republic of Doyle) and Mary Krohnert as the star-crossed lovers. Performances were in a huge tent with an open back facing the lake, so that behind the Montagues and Capulets the audience could see sailboats in the distance.
For one weekend each year, Kew Gardens looked like a medieval fairground with artisans from across Canada selling their wares and musicians strolling through the crowd. 2004 was the last hurrah for Maureen Warland and Gaye Hatchie, the sisters who ran the Beaches Arts and Crafts Show for 20 years. Over time the show grew to 140 tents with a portion of rental fees going to local charities.
On June 1 pubs and bars in Toronto became smoke-free in compliance with a new bylaw. Some, like The Feathers on Kingston Road were happy to comply. “My customers are delighted,” said Ian Innes, “and I don’t have to clean our collection of 300 whiskey bottles as often.” Others, like Murphy’s, a block west on Kingston Road, chose to become private clubs, where lighting up would be permitted.
On Oct. 3 Beachers pitched in to help a sailboat in trouble. The Adhara was heading back to Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club when its crew ran into difficulties as strong waves and winds pushed it on to the beach at Wineva, perilously close to rocks. About 40 people ran from the boardwalk and pulled on a tow line to keep Adhara clear of the rocks. The next morning, with the help of more Beachers, the boat was pushed back into the water.
Among the year’s milestones were Toronto East General Hospital’s 75th anniversary, Monarch Park School’s 40th, and Ted Reeve Arena’s 50th.
The fourth annual Beach Citizen of the Year was Marie Perrotta, the founder of Pegasus, which provides programs for developmentally-challenged people over 21 in four East End locations.
The oldest family business in the area closed after 75 years when Larry and Jack Ryan retired. The brothers took over Ryan’s Hardware at 2252 Queen St. E. from their father. When Jack signed on in 1949, there were 10 hardware stores in the area, several butchers, haberdashers, gas stations, small groceries and women’s dress stores.There were hardly any restaurants or real estate offices and there were no bars on Queen Street east of Woodbine. Hardware fans hosted a farewell party for the Ryans at the Balmy Beach Club.
After working seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (they closed early at 7 p.m. on the weekends) Eva and Antonio Monte closed Monte’s Fine Foods on The Danforth and retired after 45 years.
Among those who passed on in 2004 were Ed Fox, 85, a retired engineer, volunteer on several local boards and a prolific writer to the editor on environmental stewardship; Don ‘Bud’ Seaway, 84, war veteran, sportsman and family man; Donald ‘Rae’ Copeland, 80, city building inspector and Kenilworth Avenue resident for 50 years; Jean Howarth, 87, a Globe & Mail writer whose stories of the fictitious small town Madronna appeared on the editorial page; and Rick Fielding, singer, songwriter and one of the founders of Acoustic Harvest.