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Time and Place: Toronto, 1971
Text: appx 6,700 words in 12 sections. Notes: appx 3,500 words / 75 K total

This page: http://www.clga.ca/Material/Records/docs/toronto/tor1971.htm

Time and Place: Toronto, 1971
Rick Bébout, 1995
Revised for online use, December 1996
Updated with links to more info and photos, August 1997 and February 2000

PT

Introduction

This essay is excerpted from what were to have been the initial chapters of a book on the history of The Body Politic. I abandoned that project, but still wanted to make this material available. So now it's here, as part of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives website.

The main text of this piece is divided into 12 sections, with links to each one offered at the end of this Introduction. There are also extensive notes. If you click on a footnote number, you'll get the relevant note. Another link there will take you back to your place in the text. This page is a single file, so you can easily download it to your own computer. You're free to do that, and to print it out. It's certainly easier to read that way.

Other related documents also available here on the Archives website:

As you'll see in the list of links below, five of this document's 12 sections and their related footnotes -- from Church & Wellesley, 1971 to Tract 63: The demographics of gay downtown -- look at what is now Toronto's most visibly gay area. Those demographics show just how gay it was, if much less visibly, even in 1971.

Mark Lehman's The Church-Wellesley Area: Community, Unity and Neighbourhood, a paper published in 1994, was my source for much of this information. It was also my inspiration to dig further -- which, beginning in July 1997, I did. The results:

Occasionally below you'll find names highlighted as links to those photo pages. I did this to give you some idea of what's on offer visually. But I also have some advice: Don't go there! -- at least not often. Given the file size of both those pages and this one, jumping back and forth could be very time- consuming. It's faster to head for the main Photos page once you've seen all you want of this document.

For extended narratives on the development of both The Body Politic and the Church & Wellesley area over many years, see two documents on my own website, launched in January 2000:

I'd appreciate any comments or questions you may have about this piece. My own e-mail address is rick@rbebout.com.

Rick Bébout, August 1997 / February 2000


List of sections

The times
The Seventies of Myth and the real 1970s. 340 words

Hogtown
"Toronto the Good" -- if never quite good enough. 700 words

On the doorstep of empire
Privy -- but not party -- to the American Dream. 250 words

People from everywhere -- even right here
An Iroquoian name; an immigrant population. 640 words

Yankee refugees: Escape from freedom
The influx of draft dodgers and deserters. 530 words

Church & Wellesley, 1971
A walking tour -- when there wasn't much to see. 850 words

Molly Wood and the heirs to his turf
Homos from 1810 to the late 1960s. 320 words

"Ville radieuse" vs real neighbourhoods
Developers rampant -- and reined in. 560 words

You can get a place...
Cheap houses, 4,740 apartments -- and streets still alive. 240 words

Tract 63: The demographics of gay downtown
An enclave of tenants: young, single, and childless. 850 words

But is there a "there" there?
A queer nation unaware. 200 words

Postscript, 1996
Later incarnations of some 1971 themes and sites. 1,000 words

Notes
Thirty one footnotes with lots of goodies. 3,500 words



The times

Whether in concession to media shorthand or out of some deeper human impulse to make things make sense, we like our decades neat. The Fifties, The Sixties -- we think of them as packages: entire, discrete, each with its own preoccupations, language and style. It seems identity politics can be played even with time itself.

History is messier than that, we know, but events do sometimes oblige, bracketing closely enough the arbitrary decades of the calendar into meaningful Decades of Myth.

The Roaring Twenties edged into view on November 11, 1918 with the end of the Great War, tipped into naughtiness in 1920 with US Prohibition [1] and ended almost right on time: Thursday, October 24, 1929. The Crash ushered in The Dirty Thirties; nine years and ten months later Nazi troops ushered it out, storming into Poland. War is good that way: definite in time, if declared, even if its causes and consequences are not.

Historians in the future (in fact even now) looking for the definitive Twentieth Century will choose the short one: foreshadowed only in 1912, when Nineteenth- Century faith in progress went down with the Titanic; truly born on June 28, 1914 in pistol shots at Sarajevo and buried there to mortar fire some 80 years later, the New World Order not quite yet in place.

As a Decade of Myth "The Seventies" is a dud: indefinite, inchoate, vague in memory as anything but a joke. It was, we're told, all bad clothes, bubblegum music and The Brady Bunch. American writer Tom Wolfe tried tagging it The Me Decade, but that finger- wagging verdict didn't survive the true Decade of Greed, The Eighties, when therapeutic self- absorption and unbridled avarice became guilt- free badges of sophistication.

The radical movements that did rise in the real time of the 1970s -- modern feminism and gay liberation -- get cast back in myth to the decade where they seem more fitting, The Sixties. That is when they were born. But it's not when the came of age.


Hogtown

"The most hopeful and healthy city in North America, still unmangled, still with options."

-- Jane Jacobs on Toronto, in Maclean's magazine, March 1971

From the green hook of islands (a dozen or so, but usually called The Island) sheltering its harbour on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto in 1971 looks much as it has for 40 years.

Two of the most distinctive features on its skyline had risen just in time to beat the Crash of 1929: the stretched chateau of the Royal York, biggest hotel in the British Empire; and the 34-storey Canadian (later also Imperial) Bank of Commerce, then the Empire's tallest building. [2]

Get your angle just right and you can see up Bay Street to the campanile of Old City Hall, begun in 1889 as a courthouse -- and now a courthouse again. From here you can't see beside it the clamshell- wrapped flying saucer of New City Hall, opened in September 1965.

But another '60s vision you can't miss: the sleek black monoliths of the Toronto- Dominion Centre, its main tower at 56 floors the tallest building in what is now the Commonwealth. The T-D Centre is the largest work by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, god of Modernism, anywhere in the world.

Toronto has always been a town taken with superlatives. In 1971 it's debating another one: Metro Centre, the world's biggest urban redevelopment, sweeping 187 acres of railway land into an instant vision of the 21st Century -- at least as the 21st Century was seen when plans were drawn in 1968.

The city's great Beaux-Arts Union Station would go (you can see the stretch of its green copper roof from The Island), but we'd get in the bargain a communications tower "twice the height of any existing building in Toronto, with a restaurant and observation level at 1,200 feet." That we would get: the CN Tower will turn out to be the tallest free- standing structure in, of course, the entire world. [3]

Other superlatives Toronto has yet to win. The metropolitan region spreading for miles behind that skyline is home to some 2.6 million people. [4] But it is not Canada's biggest metropolis. That, until the census of 1976 says otherwise, is Montreal.

And Toronto is no one's idea of a great and glorious metropolis anyway. In Canada that too is Montreal -- and Montrealers gaze along the St. Lawrence with chic disdain at this Presbyterian upstart on the lake: clean, safe (such glamorous civic virtues!), a town so conservative it still has streetcars. A Montreal joke of the day offers as a contest's first prize one week in Toronto. Second prize: two weeks.

If you really want to party in Toronto you get on a train, to Montreal, or even on a bus to Buffalo. In keeping with "peace, order, and good government" (Canada's stated national aspirations, somewhat more modest than "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"), Toronto's motto is "Industry, Intelligence, Integrity." As another joke has it, this one from laid- back Vancouver: Toronto is where people say, "Thank God it's Monday."

Maybe that's because, on a Sunday in Toronto in 1971, it's almost impossible to get a drink. [5]

Dumping on Toronto is a national pastime, a fact of Canadian life and history. Upstart and uptight it may be, but it is also the undisputed if much maligned financial powerhouse of the nation.

Of the $6.8 billion in share value traded in all of Canada in 1971, $4.7 billion will pass through the Toronto Stock Exchange -- nearly three times the action in Montreal. [6] Banks, mining companies and retail giants, many headquartered within hailing distance of each other in the canyon of Bay Street, treat vast reaches of the country as their colonial hinterland. Not only for its abattoirs has Toronto been reviled across Canada as "Hogtown."

But the city's industry is less industrial now than commercial and cultural. Its department store, Eaton's, is "Canada's Department Store," tapping the whole country by mail- order catalogue. Its publishers and broadcasters dominate the English Canadian media. Its ballet is the National Ballet and its Globe and Mail bills itself "Canada's National Newspaper." Its integrity is often challenged ("Toronto's National Newspaper," a friend in Halifax later calls The Globe [7]), its vaunted intelligence seen simply as arrogance.


On the doorstep of empire

All an old story. Toronto, most of the time, takes being the butt of national grievance as a normal cost of doing business. The provincials whine; we shrug and turn our gaze -- wary of being provincial ourselves -- to more important places. [8] London, for instance. Though a fading force, Union Jacks still snap aplenty in the Toronto of 1971.

And it is impossible to ignore the United States. Legions of American magazines fill Canadian newsstands, pushing even stalwarts like Maclean's and Saturday Night to the margins. Even without cable (which has arrived), Toronto is the most television- saturated place on the planet, awash in signals from 17 stations, eight of them across the lake in upstate New York.

We can tune in to Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News as easily as The National, with Lloyd Robertson, on the CBC. Of the 20 programs at the top of Canadian ratings in 1971, 15 are made in the USA. [9]

Sitting on the doorstep of empire, privy (if not often party) to the melodrama of American life, Toronto has reacted by becoming the most self-consciously nationalist city in Canada. Yet even if we resist things American -- standing on guard for Canadian culture defined, of course, by Toronto -- when we've done The Globe and Mail we're apt to turn not to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald or the Vancouver Sun, but to a fat Sunday edition of The New York Times.


People from everywhere -- even from here

Even the myth of dour, Anglo "Toronto the Good" is more myth than reality. The city has been a magnet for immigrants since before the turn of the century, when federal interior minister Clifford Sifton's recruitment of "good British stock" and Central European "men in sheepskin coats" (less good, but hardy) to populate the Prairies had also attracted Jews, Greeks, Italians and Slavs. [10]

Many of them were urban people more comfortable with Toronto -- even with the slums of The Ward northwest of Queen and Bay -- than with the prospect of a sod house in some territory yet to become Alberta or Saskatchewan. By 1971 The Ward is gone but its inhabitants, or their descendants, are still here, joined by the massive European migration that began after World War II and lasted through the 1950s.

In the entire metroplitan region in 1971, more than 33 percent of the population is foreign- born. In the City of Toronto proper, with some 713,000 inhabitants, the figure is nearly 44 percent. More than 213,000 proper Torontonians don't speak English at home. The city's second language is Italian, its third probably Cantonese. Ukrainian and Polish rank ahead of French. [11]

In a town once known for anti-Papist Orange Day parades, 40 percent of people are Catholic, outnumbering Anglicans almost three- to- one. As for Presbyterians, dour or otherwise, there are only 38,055.

Descendants of the people who gave the city its name are still here, if often uncounted. More native people live in Ontario than in any other province; Canada's largest reserve is the Six Nations of the Grand River, about 70 miles southwest of the city. Many status Indians live off- reserve, mostly in urban areas. [12]

None of this has yet to make Toronto -- as the United Nations would reportedly declare it some two decades later -- the world's most culturally and linguistically diverse metropolis. [13] But you can see it coming -- even if you're an Anglo simply looking for decent food and drink.

The city had once been as notoriously bad for the former as the latter. (A native Torontonian, one only ten years older than I, remembers his first taste of that great culinary mystery: pizza.) But by 1971 Italians have for some time been sipping espresso on the west- end sidewalks of College Street. The Portuguese are nearby, Azoreans proudly distinct; Greek signs fill the long stretch of The Danforth.

There are Jamaican stores along Bathurst and people from all over the Caribbean, from Africa and Latin America are giving the social referent "Black" a cultural complexity in Toronto that it lacks in the United States.

Dundas Street behind New City Hall has been Chinatown for decades, and even before the later influx from Hong Kong other Chinatowns are taking root up Spadina Avenue from Dundas and, off to the east, at Broadview and Gerrard. West of Spadina, Kensington Market survives from the days of The Ward, but with more merchants Portuguese than Jewish.

Along Bloor Street West, Hungarians fleeing the Russian Army in 1956 have opened restaurants, delicatessens, and their own newspaper, Kanadai Magyarsag (the Italian Courriere Canadese already long-established). A handsome man I know in 1971 is a refugee from the Czech army, escaping the Soviet invasion of 1968. In 1995 I'll meet Russians fleeing post- Soviet Russia -- but that's getting ahead of the story.

The Ugandan Indians, the Ethiopians and Eritreans, the Salvadorans and Guatemalans, Poles again after Poles before, the Lebanese, Iranians, Tamils and Somalis, even the Vietnamese -- these are yet to come in any number. But Canada and especially Toronto is well- known as a refuge, a place to start again, if not always easily -- not even after you've contributed much more than exotic cuisine and cute folklore.


Yankee refugees: Escape from freedom

From the mid-'60s Canada had seen a surge in immigration from a place to which, historically, Canadians themselves had moved: the United States. [14]

Like many immigrants, these Americans are fleeing the effects of war. Draft dodgers and deserters had begun arriving after August 1964, when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution expanded the powers of president Lyndon Johnson to wage war in Vietnam. [15]

Canada is a US ally, though unlike Australia and New Zealand has not sent troops and is visibly chafing at its reins. In a program aired on a U.S. network in 1966, external affairs minister Paul Martin reminded Americans that "No country in the world has in its domestic law any requirement that imposes on it any obligation to enforce the military service laws of another country." In March 1967 prime minister Lester Pearson made it plain: there were no plans to prevent US citizens avoiding the war from coming to Canada.

And come they did, some 40,000 by 1970 and more later. By one estimate three- quarters settle in Toronto, and the city greets them less warily than it has most other immigrants. There is wry satisfaction in this latest twist in relations with the American Empire: a Toronto newspaper cartoon of 1966 showed a U.S. mother fretting, "But I didn't raise my boy to be a Canadian."

Groups to aid American war resisters had started in Vancouver and Montreal in 1966; in the same year Toronto's Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) published and shipped south 5,000 copies of a pamphlet called Escape from Freedom. By late 1967 SUPA had evolved into the Toronto Anti- Draft Programme.

American immigrants have never been exotic in Canada. The first substantial English- speaking populations in New Brunswick and Upper Canada, now Ontario, were United Empire Loyalists seeking the continued protection of the Crown after the War of Independence. Until the War of 1812, Upper Canada was settled mostly by Americans seeking no more from the Crown than free land.

And besides: American immigrants speak the language (unless they choose Quebec); they're North Americans, so they don't look odd. They can -- if they check their imperial impulses well enough -- fit in.

Some didn't try. Immigrants had always found their own corners of Toronto, not ghettos but neighbourhoods: the boundaries vague and porous; the populations still mixed -- but with one group big enough to characterize the locale. In 1971 Baldwin Street, south of the university, is known as American turf.

It too has it own paper, AMEX: The American Expatriate in Canada. [16] Like most immigrant newspapers it's caught up in the politics back home and the practicalities of life here, away from home. One series of articles in AMEX coaches exiles on the finer points of Canadian speech. Americans may think they speak the language -- but "washrooms" and "serviettes" are something new and a "Chesterfield" is not a cigarette.

I was one of those American immigrants, a draft dodger more in spirit than in fact: I had expected to be drafted, but never was. [17] But I didn't hang out on Baldwin Street. Another of Toronto's many neighbourhoods would end up my home -- not always in fact, but very much in spirit.


Church & Wellesley, 1971

Let's take a walk. We'll start on Carlton Street, at Mutual. It's as good a place to start as any and I happen to know it well: in 1970 I lived there, in the first apartment I'd ever rented on my own. Across the street is a big Victorian pile that, in time, men will wander through in towels. But in 1971 the Club Bath Chain has yet to discover Toronto.

Go west. The big box of Maple Leaf Gardens holds the corner of Carlton and Church as it has since 1931. Just past it you can see a great tower marquee with ODEON spelled out from top to bottom in bold deco, beyond that the cooler classicism of Eaton's College Street, at Yonge.

But we're not going that way. With a quick glance south to the corner of Granby (just to catch the sign for a restaurant called Les Cavaliers) we head up Church Street, east side.

At Wood Street we pass the LeBaron Steak House; then a junior public school, vintage 1957, at Alexander. In the block beyond there's the Seagull Restaurant at 457, a rooming house at 467 and, at the corner of Maitland, Bud's Burner Company and a laundry. DeGroot's, butcher of long- standing, is at 481; Pusateri's grocery at 485.

There's Dorothy's Beauty Salon, Lambert's Flowers, Woman's Bakery (a chain), Pam's Variety and Gift, Parkdale Wines, then a four- storey apartment block dated 1926 and honoured by its tenants with the title Cockroach Corners -- and here we are at the corner, at Wellesley.

We'll cross, northbound still, but let's glance along Wellesley first. We can see the tower of University College far to the west; closer, on the north side of Wellesley, is the red- brick Evangelical Church of the Deaf. A plaque there advises those who stop to read that there's a historic house nearby, once lived in by painter Paul Kane. But it's hidden behind the church. Nearer still we can spot signs for Wellesley Hairdressing and Mario's Barbershop.

Scan east: there's a cleaner with a neon "1-hour Martinizing" sign in the window, a Becker's Milk store, Centennial Billiards. On the north corners of Church and Wellesley -- both of them -- there are drug stores: Novack's on the west, McDermott's Discount on the east.

We'll go up past McDermott's, checking across to the other side of Church as we do: there's the Devon ("Chinese and Canadian food since 1949" [18]), Funzy Fashions Ladies Wear beside it, the Speedy Automatic Coin Wash and, set far back behind a parking lot, a Brewers Retail outlet.

On our side there's Dudley Hardware at 511, and at 519 Church Street the 48th Highlanders legion hall. Hard on that, before we get to the Victorian row of Monteith Street, is another parking lot. It fronts a vast but run- down Loblaw's supermarket. It's mostly rooming houses from here on up, so let's jaywalk Church and go back down the west side.

Back at the corner now, right outside Novack's, we look south across Wellesley. There's a narrow, three- storey building, its short front facing Church, tired late- Victorian but painted white and with green signs: a typical corner bank branch, this one a Toronto- Dominion. In a window upstairs we can see a sign for the Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada.

Beyond that: not much. From the little white T-D Bank back down to Maitland, the west side of Church Street is a parking lot. The half- house beyond at 518 Church is Harry's Steak House; 508 is a commercial photo shop with Replica Photostats next door.

That's it, really, not much to see. The neighbourhood has little to suggest that it will someday be worthy of recall (and I must confess, this tour is not entirely from memory [19]). But gay men and lesbians in modern Toronto will know these addresses well, some still housing the same establishments, many more quite transformed.

The street we have just walked will become the heart of a neighbourhood visibly our own.

In 1971 it is not, or not visibly. There are no gay bars (the few that exist aren't on Church Street), no restaurant patios, no gay- friendly bookstores, dentists, doctors or lawyers; no clinics or chiropractors; no tchotcke shops, picture- framers or video stores (in fact, no home VCRs). There is no community centre, no Cawthra Park with its AIDS Memorial (and no AIDS). It's hardly a community at all as we think of one now.

Where we will later gather day and night over coffee from The Second Cup -- on a communal stoop so famous you will need only say "Meet me at The Steps" and you'll be found -- there is nothing but a sea of pavement.

Even the most visionary homosexual in 1971 could hardly imagine that this downtown intersection much like any other will become Church & Wellesley -- turf of legend; our own. [20] But it will, in part because a lot of us have already been here for some time.


Molly Wood and the heirs to his turf

Alexander and Wood Streets (we crossed them on our walk north up Church) are named for Alexander Wood, a prominent merchant, magistrate and bachelor of the Town of York (as Toronto was known from 1793 to 1834) who, in 1810, was disgraced after an incident with another man became the talk of that very small town. [21]

He fled, but later returned and fought for his reputation, securing it and his income sufficiently to afford 25 acres of wilderness northeast of what is now the corner of Yonge and Carlton. Even then it was dubbed "Molly Wood's Bush" -- though later attempts to revive the name will, perhaps understandably, fail.

Gay people in Toronto can't claim historical continuity with Alexander Wood. In 1971 we've never even heard of him. But we have laid substantial claim to his acreage. John Grube [22], born on Isabella Street just off Church in 1930, recalls his mother allowing that many of the men on his childhood streets were "not of the marrying kind."

Clearly, the unconventional has long had its place here. By the '60s it would have even more: lots of places to live.

If we had continued our walk down past the parking lot flanking the west side of Church, we'd have come back to Alexander Street, lined on both sides with highrises. On the south is City Park, three parallel slabs begun in 1954 as downtown Toronto's first big apartment blocks, very good in the style of the day -- and very soon known as "The Queens' Palaces."

On the north is the Village Green, two long, tall boxes and a silo even taller, opened in the mid-'60s. Despite early reluctance by its corporate owners to rent to pairs of single men, the Village Green was almost immediately dubbed Vaseline Towers. [23] (Later, with oil-based lube no longer the done thing, it would be K-Y.)


"Ville radieuse" vs real neighbourhoods

Almost the entire area east of Yonge Street from Bloor on the north to Queen a mile and a quarter south, and over to Parliament Street three- quarters of a mile away -- in modern measure more than two square kilometres in all -- had been zoned in the City of Toronto's 1969 Official Plan to become the Village Green or worse: an endless variation on Le Corbusier's 1922 ville radieuse plan for Paris, the old, messy city levelled and replaced by tall towers in vast parks. [24]

Various 1955 plans for the block bounding the southwest corner of Church and Wellesley (later site of The Steps) had called for the closing of Maitland Street and construction of six or eight highrises, some daringly Y-shaped and all set back in expanses of green. Or grey: plans carefully noted the exact number of cars to be parked. [25]

But it did not come to pass, at least not there. Only the northeast quadrant of the planning area got the full, bulldoze- it- all Brave New World treatment. It's called St. James Town, later the closest thing downtown Toronto would have to a concentrated highrise tenement.

Closer to Church and Wellesley, the Village Green squeezed in just north of Alexander (its tight interstitial park space cruisy from the beginning), Maitland Street was saved, and most towers rose singly, not in block- busting groups, from amidst the existing urban fabric.

In June 1971 Toronto had learned that organized protest could stop even the juggernaut of an expressway, the Spadina, slated to rip into downtown and take out a thousand houses in its path. [26]

In late 1972 the city will surprise itself by electing a mayor and council committed to preserving history and holding rampant development at bay. Metro Centre will be stopped; Union Station will be saved; and while Mies's charcoal boxes will in time be jostled by taller towers of puce granite, white marble, and stainless steel, Toronto will at last honour and protect its most valuable downtown assets: vibrant, diverse and human- scale neighbourhoods.

David Crombie will become the Tiny Perfect Mayor; Toronto the Good will be rechristened People City. When the 48th Highlanders abandon 519 Church Street the city will take it over and, in 1975, turn it into a community centre. A later mayor, Art Eggleton, will ensure that the vacant lot left by demolition of the Loblaw's store next door becomes Cawthra Park. (Perhaps to his chargin: habitual park sunbathers -- it comes to be called Cawthra Beach -- will later scold him for refusing to proclaim Lesbian and Gay Pride Day.)

A 1981 official study will pay special attention to the streetscape. [27] New buildings will be consistent with their older neighbours, pushed right up to the lot line with upper storeys sliced back to let sun shine down on the sidewalks.

And smack on those sidewalks there will be shops and restaurants, not parking lots or barren lawns. You'll even be able to get a drink outdoors -- as long as there's a fence between you and unlicensed pavement. The fences will end up decorated with flowers and Toronto will be a different town.

Thus will modern Church and Wellesley be born. But again, we're getting ahead of our story. This is 1971.


You can get a place...

The story in 1971 is that enough development has happened to create -- and enough has been prevented to preserve -- lots of good, cheap accommodation in a neighbourhood where urban amenity still survives on the street.

You can get a place in the new 27-storey Plaza 100, at Wellesley and Jarvis, for $199 a month. And that's luxe. Bachelor apartments at the Village Green go for $150. The walk- ups that have survived on Maitland, Alexander, Gloucester, Isabella -- all over the area -- are cheaper still (that junior one-bedroom I had on Carlton Street went for $95 a month). Rooms, furnished or unfurnished, are less and there are lots of them. [28]

If all that's beneath you and you want to buy (some do, and do very well: the working- class Victoriana of Don Vale gets snapped up and renovated into trendy Cabbagetown, a name borrowed from the genuinely poor neighbourhood farther south, gone to the late- '40s "urban redevelopment" of Regent Park) -- well, the average price of a house in this part of town is just $23,500.

Even in 1971, with entry- level jobs paying less than $5,000 a year and $15,000 a good professional salary, these rates count as affordable housing. Those who have found it have, in the process, created a neighbourhood distinct even for the middle of a city -- and wildly different from the great suburbanizing sprawl of Toronto's Census Metropolitan Area.


Tract 63: the demographics of gay downtown

The few blocks just around Church and Wellesley , a fifth of a square mile housing 8,500 people in 1971, are designated Census Tract 63. [A map is available.] It's one of the region's most densely populated -- if not as dense as St. James Town, where nearly 12,000 people share half as much land. [29]

But Tract 63's true distinction lies in demographics beyond mere density: those 8,500 people are, more than anywhere else in the entire region, young adults; mobile, single, and childless.

The contrasts are striking. Across the metropolitan region, traditional families make up more than 80 percent of households. In Tract 63, the figure is only 26 percent. Fifty- four percent of dwellings across the region are occupant- owned. In Tract 63, nearly 98 percent of accommodation is rented.

Sixty percent of tenants in the tract's 4,740 apartments have been at their current address for less than two years. There's a lot of moving around in this neighbourhood. But that's not the whole story: nearly 45 percent of the population has moved into the neighbourhood only in the last five years.

Of course, Toronto is renowned for attracting newcomers. But the comparable figure for recent arrivals city- wide is only 26 percent. And most of the region's new residents are immigrants to Canada -- while most of Tract 63's come from somewhere else inside Canada.

Most are not married. They most often find a place of their own, or share one. Seventy- four percent of households in Tract 63 consist of single people living alone or with other single people. In the metropolitan region as a whole, one- person households make up only four percent of the total; paired singles (a menage not allowed in some suburban jurisdictions in 1971) only nine percent.

Most strikingly, Tract 63 is nearly bereft of children. Across the Census Metropolitan Area, more than a quarter of the population is under the age of 15. In the core City of Toronto the proportion is lower, but still more than 21 percent. In Tract 63 it's less than four percent.

Even among the tract's 1,340 "family" households, 1,035 are childless. Of the 8,500 people living within the tight bounds of Yonge, Bloor, Jarvis, and Carlton in 1971, only 320 have yet to reach the age of 15; only another 290 have yet to reach 20.

Otherwise the inhabitants around Church and Wellesley are mostly young, if adult: 56 pecent are in their twenties or thirties -- a percentage almost twice that of the region as a whole. These young people and their older neighbours are mostly well- educated: the proportion of adults in Tract 63 who never got past Grade 9 is three times lower than the regional average; the proportion who have some university education is three times higher.

And they mostly live well enough, if not too well: the average 1971 income is $7,541 for men; $5,088 for women. For the men that's a bit below the regional male average, but higher than in the City immediately around them. For the women, despite the usual gender gap, it's nearly half again as much as women's average wage across the region. It pays to live and work downtown.

You might not even need a car. [30] Only 45 percent of households in Tract 63 keep one; regionally it's 77 percent -- with nearly a third of those having two. Nine percent region- wide own vacation homes (a cottage, if not the Caribbean, is all the thing), but in Tract 63 it's less than half that (if maybe higher in Cabbagetown). Amenity is local, and daily -- and isn't that the point of life?

In time, and increasingly, it will be. Over the next 20 years some of the contrasts between Tract 63 (come to be called "The Village" by its business interests, "The Ghetto" by everyone else) and the rest of the region will sharpen; others will begin to fade.

Single-person households will become more common everywhere: up from four to eight percent across the metropolis (if still nothing to 67 percent in the tract). Childless coupledom will become more widespread, too -- even as the playground population at Church Street Public School (that one at the corner of Alexander) grows and its classrooms become daycare centres on Lesbian and Gay Pride Day.

The burbs of Markham, Ontario and Richmond, B.C. will become the new Chinatowns, while downtown ghettos will increasingly ring to lingo ("Get you, girlfriend!") learned by kids coming in from Kamloops and Kirkland Lake.

All that, of course, is a long way off. But even in 1971 this is a neighbourhood chock- full of young, single people living in rented apartments, either alone or with other ostensibly single people. The census does not ask about sexual orientation (could it? is "gay" or "lesbian" that simple to report? or live?), but with these demographics who needs to ask? Either it's het singles- bar heaven -- and it's not -- or it's us.


But is there a "there" there?

We are there: there concentrated in a neighbourhood we have yet to call our own; there -- as we've been careful to say since -- everywhere else, too, if not in any numbers.

But it doesn't much matter in 1971: in self-conscious claim of our space in the world, most of us are nowhere in particular at all. So it should come as no surprise that the tale of The Body Politic, born in Toronto in 1971, pays little heed to the turf of Church and Wellesley and won't for quite some time.

Geography had very little to do with it then. This story begins in a different kind of space (a headspace, you might say, The Sixties of Myth not really over), a space opening up in the minds of an odd constellation of people who happened to be in the same space, and the same place, at the same time.

It was sometime in September 1971 -- no one seems to remember the exact date -- that Jearld Moldenhauer stood up at The Hall at 19 Huron Street (a countercultural gathering space down near Queen West, now gone to fake Victorian townhouses), and said: Anyone interested in starting a gay newspaper can come to a meeting at my place. [31]


Postscript, 1996

Intended as part of initial chapters of a book, this piece includes a lot of conscious foreshadowing of themes and sites later significant in the history of The Body Politic and the Church & Wellesley neighbourhood. In lieu of further chapters to turn those shadows into substance, here is a guide to some of their later incarnations.

Old City Hall, begun as a courthouse and now a courthouse again: This was the site of The Body Politic's first trial, in Jan 1979, for charges brought after publication of "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" in Issue 39, Dec 1977 / Jan 1978.

On the doorstep of empire: The Body Politic became not only privy but -- in a limited way -- party to the American gay movement. At its peak, a third of the paper's circulation was outside Canada, most of that in the U.S. -- where it was seen, along with a few local publications, to occupy the "radical / intellectual" end of the gay publishing spectrum.

Many noted American activists and scholars also wrote for The Body Politic. It is the only non- U.S. publication paid any attention in Rodger Streitmatter's 1995 study, Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America, where -- as Ed Jackson says in a review available here online -- he treats it "primarily as an American paper that just happened to be published in another country."

Other American commentators, however, did recognize a more distinct perspective. Jeff Weinstein, in a Village Voice review of the 1982 anthology Flaunting It! A Decade of Gay Journalism from The Body Politic, wrote of:

"...the extensive Canadian and worldwide news coverage that makes TBP unique in the gay press. How remarkably instructive it has been to see U.S. news summarized under "The World," our earth- shaking events sandwiched between the gay demo in Sydney and a lesbian conference in Spain. ... In some articles [in the book] we may feel a chop or two at this country's cultural and economic tentacles, but mostly we're ignored -- the unkindest cut of all."

The Globe and Mail as "Toronto's national newspaper": Similar charges were often levelled against The Body Politic, also a Toronto- based paper which came to have an ostensible "national" mandate.

Kensington Market: TBP's second home (1972-73) was a house in the Market, at 4 Kensington Ave.

Kanadai Magyarsag: The parent company of this Hungarian newspaper, Weller Publishing, was occasionally the printer of both The Body Politic and its later offspring, Xtra.

Yankee refugees: While more often university students (or teachers) than draft dodgers, a number of American immigrants played key roles at The Body Politic. Among them: Jearld Moldenhauer; Herb Spiers; James Steakley; Michael Lynch; Jane Rule; Alex Wilson; Leo Casey; Sue Golding; Edna Barker -- and myself.

Eaton's College Street: The department store's second big Toronto edifice, dating from 1928, was vacated by the retailer in 1976 for the new Eaton Centre farther down Yonge St. It became College Park, a mall, office and condo complex, with provincial courtrooms on the second floor. This was the site of two TBP appearances in 1982: the second "Men Loving Boys Loving Men" trial in May, and the Nov 1 trial on charges brought against another article (on the etiquette of fist- fucking), "Lust with a Very Proper Stranger."

Addresses around Church & Wellesley: Les Cavaliers restaurant at Church and Granby later became Jo-Jo's and then The Barn, now one of the city's oldest gay bars. The Seagull at 457 Church went through various incarnations: as Together, a lesbian bar; and as a gay men's haunt under many names -- Tanks, The 457 and The Bulldog among them. It also has an earlier gay history: in the 1960s it was home to The Melody Room, and to Gayboy Publishing (later Kamp Publishing Company), who produced the magazine Two from 1964 to 1966.

Further up the street, 467 is now Woody's, by the early '90s one of the city's busiest gay pubs. There is still a butcher at 481, only in the last few years no longer DeGroot's. Pusateri's is still at 485. Other survivors include Wellesley Hairdressing, Novack's drugstore, the Speedy Automatic Coin Wash, the Devon Restaurant, Dudley Hardware ("Serving Toronto since 1934") and the Brewers' Retail outlet. Mario's Barbershop also remains -- though it's now Ernie's.

Cockroach Corners was renovated, its ground floor turned commercial. For a while it was the site of Splendeurs restaurant, in a space now a video store. One of its current tenants is Bar 501, with big streetside windows opened on some nights for drag shows.

The little T-D bank went, it and the parking lot to the south replaced by the Churwell Centre, opened in 1984. It houses The Second Cup (home of The Steps), and the Spa on Maitland. The half- house further down at 518 is now Pints restaurant (not opened as gay, but its clientele soon made it so); 508 is now Crews, which for a while also hosted a dance club called Ghetto Fag.

The Evangelical Church of the Deaf also went some years ago, its space now a parkette opening a view from Wellesley Street to Paul Kane House. It is now part of a non- profit housing co-op. The parkette becomes a beer garden on Lesbian and Gay Pride Day.

Cawthra Park has been the focus of Pride Day since 1984. The 519 Church Street Community Centre, fronting the park and long a venue for gay events, is festooned for the occasion with a gigantic rainbow flag, running the full width of the building and covering the top two of its three floors. Rainbow banners are also a permanent feature of the neighbourhood, put up by a local business group on lampposts on a long stretch of Church Street. The southernmost is (perhaps to the confusion of hockey crowds) right outside Maple Leaf Gardens.

The AIDS Memorial debuted at Pride Day in 1988, and continued as a temporary installation every year until 1992. The permanent Memorial, a series of plinths with names, set on a gently sloping curved walk, opened in Cawthra Park in Jun 1993. The design had been chosen in a 1990 competition. Michael Lynch -- whose idea it had been -- got to see a model of it only a few days before he died in Jul 1991. The Memorial's landscaping was designed by Alex Wilson, who died in Oct 1993.


Notes
  1. US Prohibition: Gerald Hallowell, "Prohibition" in The Canadian Encylcopedia (Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, 1988).

    While some states had gone dry as early as the 1880s, America's nationwide Prohibition Era was clearly marked in time: the manufacture, sale, or transport of beverage alcohol was banned all over the U.S. -- by constitutional amendment -- from 1920 to 1933. Canada had only local prohibition and no clearly defined era. Prince Edward Island enacted temperance in 1901 and was followed by the other provinces and territories (and the Dominion of Newfoundland, then not part of Canada) during World War I. But it didn't last: Quebec went wet in 1919, as did most provinces by the mid-'20s, Ontario in 1927. PEI held out until 1948.

    Canada never banned the manufacture or export of liquor -- and thus were some great Canadian fortunes made. Cartoons of the American Era "showed leaky maps of Canada with Uncle Sam attempting to stem the alcoholic tide."
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  2. The skyline: Patricia McHugh, Toronto Architecture: A City Guide (McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, second edition, 1989).

    Bank one-upmanship soon put the T-D Centre in the shade: by the end of 1971 I. M. Pei's Commerce Court had surpassed it by two storeys, and by 1975 the Bank of Montreal's First Canadian Place stretched up 72 floors. In Oct 1971 Eaton's announced plans for a 140-storey tower -- tallest in the world, naturally -- but that we were spared.
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  3. Metro Centre: Richard Bébout (editor), The Open Gate: Toronto Union Station (Peter Martin Associates, Toronto, 1972).

    Photographer John Taylor, his then-lover Flavio Belli and I came up with the idea for this book in Oct 1971, as part of a wider effort to save the station. With the help of publishers Peter and Carol Martin it became a much bigger production than we'd expected and, before The Body Politic, my only public contribution to the life of this city. So bear with me.

    The writers were: Anthony Adamson, then head of the provincial arts council (once architectural partner of Eric Arthur, see below; and descendent of the Cawthras for whom Cawthra Park is named); journalist Pierre Berton; poet and fact- collector John Robert Columbo; Toronto historian Mike Filey; columnist Ron Haggert; alderman William Kilbourn; poet Dennis Lee; railway buff Robert McMann; and art-history professor and preservation activist Douglas Richardson. I had tried to involve Jane Jacobs, the noted urbanologist who moved to Toronto in the late '60s; she was sympathetic but too busy with other work.

    For more on Metro Centre, the CN Tower, and what was made of Jane Jacobs's options, see Robert Fulford, Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto (Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, Toronto, 1995).
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  4. Metropolitan region: Three different jurisdictions are in play here: two legal; one statistical -- and much more encompassing.

    References here to the metropolitan "region" or "area" are to the CMA. As defined in the 1991 census, it covered more than 5,500 sq km (2,150 sq mi). By 1996 it was home to well over 4 million people, more than 13 percent of Canada's entire population.

    [In 1997 -- ignoring a referendum that massively rejected the idea -- Ontario's Tory government arbitrarily imposed amalgamation on what had been "Metro", wiping out its six local cities and making it, effective 1 Jan 1998, a single "megacity" of some 2.3 million people. The move was widely seen as an attack on urban bases of political power -- particularly the former City of Toronto, which had actively opposed provincial social service cutbacks. But even in Metro's "suburban" cities, massive majorities voted against amalgamation.

    [The City government had also been an arena of gay power, with an out-of-the-closet councillor (Kyle Rae) and school trustee (John Campey), and a vigously pro- gay mayor, Barbara Hall. Their political survival in "megacity" may be in doubt -- though Rae plans to run for the new city council, and Hall is running for mayor.]
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  5. Impossible to get a drink: Robert E. Popham, Working Papers on the Tavern (Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto, 1976 - 1982). Eric Single, et al, "The Alcohol Policy Debate in Ontario in the Post- War Era" in Alcohol, Society and the State, Vol 2 (Addiction Research Foundation, Toronto, 1981). Richard Skinulis, "The Three- Sided Mickey" in Metropolitan Toronto Business Journal, April 1980. Elizabeth Garel, Policy and Communications Division, Liquor Licence Board of Ontario (interview, Sept 1995).

    (Popham's Working Paper #3, "Notes on the Contemporary Tavern", includes a wonderful section called "Notes on the Gay Bar." An "informant" conducted the author on a tour -- possibly of Letros on King Street -- where, among other sociological tips, he was informed on the fine art of "bitching.")

    As in many places, the regulation of alcohol has significantly shaped the history of gay social life -- indeed all social life -- in Toronto. So get ready for a lot of legislation here.

    The Ontario Liquor Licence Act of 1946-47 provided separate licensing of dining lounges (for beer, wine or spirits served with food), dining rooms (beer and wine only, also with food), lounges (beer, wine or spirits without food), and public houses (draft or bottle beer only, without food). A friend recalls drinking in a place licensed for dining: a stale sandwich made its way from table to table, understood by all not to be eaten.

    The 1946-47 Act carried over earlier prohibitions against patrons of "notoriously bad character" or the use of premises for "improper purposes", but also created public houses with segregated rooms: for men only, or for women with male escorts. As Toronto's best- known gay activist George Hislop recalls, "that played right into our hands."

    Segregated licensing of new premises was abandoned after 1972, but some existing establishments were allowed to continue. The Parkside, Toronto's best- known gay bar for 20 years, ended its days in 1986 still with separate entrances for the "ladies and escorts" section up front and the male- only tap room at the back. Even the ambience of the Parkside's tap room was established in law: there was "not to be any obstruction preventing a full view of the entire room by anyone therein." Very convenient for cruising -- except that no one but a waiter was allowed to stand up or walk around with a drink.

    The Act had prohibiting all alcohol sales on Sundays, but was amended in 1969 to allows Sunday sales only under a Special Occasion Permit and only if accompanied by a meal. A 1971 amendment did allow restaurants to serve alcohol without food, but public houses remained closed on Sundays for some time. Alcohol was banned from streetside patios before 1969 -- and the patios themselves, controlled by city bylaws, were allowed only after June 1968.

    Retail sales are still prohibited on Sundays (with some recent exceptions around summer holidays) and still limited to specific outlets: Brewers Retail stores, run by a consortium of breweries, for beer only; shops set up by Canadian vintners for Canadian wines only; and no place but the government- owned and aptly named Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) for anything stronger.

    Until 1969, no LCBO outlet allowed off-the-shelf self-service. In a hall that looked more like an unemployment office than a liquor store, one checked charts, wrote one's selection on a slip and passed it (until 1962, along with a permit or ration book) over a counter to a clerk who'd go fetch the requested hooch from stocks stashed in the back.
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  6. Share value traded: Figures are from The Corpus Directory and Almanac of Canada (Corpus Publishers Services Limited, Toronto, 1973).
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  7. Toronto's National Newspaper: Robin Metcalfe, longtime Halifax correspondent for The Body Politic, interviewed 27 Aug 1995.
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  8. More important places: A sign of the times, if a bit later, was one hand- lettered outside a gourmet grocery in by-then trendy Cabbagetown: "Fresh croissant. New York Times." And a much later Vancouver joke: "How many Torontonians does it take to change a lightbulb?" "Two: one to climb the ladder; the other to fax New York for the instructions."
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  9. Top-rated TV shows in Canada: The Toronto Star, 21 Apr 1971.
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  10. Immigrants since before the turn of the century: Robert Harney and Harold Troper, Immigrants: A Portrait of the Urban Experience, 1890-1930 (Van Nostrand Reinhold, Toronto, 1975). Alberta and Saskatchewan were carved off from the Northwest Territories as provinces in 1905.
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  11. Its third language probably Cantonese: All figures in this paragraph are from the 1971 Census of Canada, which for Toronto reported on no non- European languages and only one non- European ethnicity: "Asian."

    In the City of Toronto there were 34,030 Asians. The proportion from Southeast Asia or Korea was not large at the time, and though there were significant numbers of Indians and Pakistanis, the Chinese communities were more firmly established. In the reported measure of "Language most often spoken at home" in 1971, Ukrainian ranked third -- but under "Ethnic group" only 22,620 Ukrainians were listed in the City of Toronto.

    In Oct 1995, Maclean's and Toronto Life became the first mass- market glossies in North America to publish editions in a foreign language: Chinese.
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  12. The people who gave the city its name: J. M. S. Careless, "Toronto" and C. E. Heidenreich, "Huron" in The Canadian Encyclopedia (op cit). Eric Arthur, Toronto: No Mean City (University of Toronto Press, 1964).

    "Toronto" is from an Iroquoian language spoken by the Wendat, a confederation of five tribes whom the French called Huron ("ruffian" or "boar's head" -- a comment on their hairstyle). Careless cites "place of meeting" as the most likely translation. Arthur says it's "meeting place of the waters."

    The mouths of rivers now called the Humber, Don and Rouge were settled by Senecas and Mississaugas, but the Wendat would have been frequent visitors, travelling down and probably naming for French explorers the portage they would call "le passage de Toronto". The first European to reach Lake Ontario, Etienne Brulé, on a mission for Samuel de Champlain in Sept 1615, had come down the portage with 12 Wendat.

    Arthur quotes Percy J. Robinson (Toronto during the French Regime, 1933) on the ancient lineage of the site: "The Carrying Place possessed a permanence very different from casual paths through the forest. It was as old as human life in America." Permanent European settlement would not begin until 1793, after the Mississaugas had ceded by treaty some 400 square miles, including the site of the modern city, in exchange for goods worth 1,700.

    The first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, Colonel John Graves Simcoe, had an "abhorrence of Indian names" and rechristened the place York. On incorporation as a city in 1834 local burghers, smarting at the tag "Little York" commonly used to distinguish the town from New York, reclaimed the name Toronto.

    If often uncounted: John Robert Columbo (editor), The Canadian Global Almanac (Macmillan Canada, Toronto, 1994).

    Columbo reports that "Census years previous to 1991 were marked by boycotts by aboriginal people; 1986 excluded approximately 45,000 individuals living on incompletely enumerated native reserves and settlements." My comments on Ontario's indigenous population and the Six Nations reserve are based on 1992 figures, which I assume were proportionally similar in 1971. The Census of 1991 shows more native people living in Metropolitan Toronto than on the Six Nations reserve.
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  13. The world's most diverse metropolis: This claim, ostensibly based on a U.N. report, was widely made in the mid-1990s, even in promotional material produced by the City and Metropolitan governments. It is credible and some U.N. agency may have said it, but efforts to verify it -- even by the Metropolitan Urban Affairs Library contacting the United Nations itself -- have so far failed.
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  14. Surge in immigration from the United States: From at least 1956 (the first year for which the 1994 Canadian Global Almanac shows figures; certainly much earlier) to 1963, and again after 1977, immigration from the U.S. never topped 12,000 entrants in any one year. In the period between the numbers rise, to more than 24,000 in both 1970 and 1971, peaking at 26,541 in 1974.
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  15. Draft dodgers and deserters: Richard Peterak, David Taube and Petrovsky, "Emigrants to Canada" in We Won't Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors, collected by Alice Lynd (Beacon Press, Boston, 1968). Roger Neville Williams, The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada (Liveright, New York, 1971). Jim Christy, The New Refugees: American Voices in Canada (Peter Martin Associates, Toronto, 1972).

    Williams cites 1965 as the first year in which "Canadian emigration [to the U.S.] was offset significantly by American immigration." The estimate of 40,000 resisters in Canada by 1970 is from Williams; that of some 75 percent settling in Toronto is from Christy.

    Williams also notes the involvement in anti-war groups of three men who became (or already were) well- known gay activists: lawyer Doug Sanders with The Vancouver Committee to Aid American War Objectors; draft dodger and social worker Bruce Garside with the Montreal Council to Aid War Resisters; and Max Allen with the Toronto Anti- Draft Programme.

    Sanders was a key figure in Vancouver's Association for Social Knowledge (ASK), Canada's first homophile group, founded in 1964. In the 1990s he was working with the International Lesbian and Gay Association. Bruce Garside was with Montreal's Gay Social Service Project from 1975. Max Allen, a former New Yorker, was later a producer for CBC Radio's Ideas and a tireless anti- censorship activist.

    The Toronto Anti-Draft Programme's Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada, published by House of Anansi in 1968 was, Williams says, "the first entirely Canadian- published best- seller in the United States." I have my own copy and my own review: without it I would never have got to Canada.
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  16. AMEX: Orginally the newsletter of the Union of American Exiles, the paper went bimonthly in Sep 1968 as The American Exile in Canada. In the summer of 1969 it added AMEX and changed Exile to Expatriate (part of an ongoing debate over which side of the border one's mind should be on). Later it became AMEX- Canada.

    The end of U.S. draft induction on 30 Jun 1973 (with an end even to Selective Service registration by 1975) robbed AMEX of its original rationale. Its focus thereafter was on U.S. amnesty for war resisters. President Gerald Ford's 1974 offer of "earned re- entry" was seen as political cover for his unconditional pardon of Richard Nixon after Watergate, and AMEX urged its boycott. Former peanut- farmer Jimmy Carter's first act as president, 21 Jan 1977, was a conditional pardon -- illustrated on the Jul- Aug 1977 cover of the magazine as a handful of peanuts. But many Americans who had come to Canada during the Vietnam War did return to the USA., and the Sep 1977 issue of AMEX, its 47th, was its last.
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  17. I was one of those American immigrants: I came to Canada on 16 Sep 1969. I had a II-S (student) deferment but had quit school and expected an induction notice. Once I got permanent landed- immigrant status I sent my draft board in Groton, Massachusetts a change of address to make sure that that notice would arrive -- to be posted on my wall along with my draft card, torn in half.

    No notice ever came. In the Dec 1969 U.S. Selective Service lottery (the first, based on randomly drawn birthdates for all eligible 19- year- olds) my number was high enough to assure I would never be called up. So much for safe bravado.

    But it never occured to me to go back (but for occasional visits): I had found the right country. In a coincidence too pat for fiction, I became a Canadian citizen on 30 Apr 1975 -- the very day the Vietnam War ended with the final American evacuation of Saigon.
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  18. "Chinese and Canadian food since 1949": This is from the sign still outside the Devon Restaurant, but playwright John Herbert remembers eating there -- in full drag, with friends who called the place "The Café" -- in 1948. I doubt he got the date wrong: one night in 1948 after leaving the Devon he was arrested and charged with gross indecency. His experiences at the Mimico Jail became the basis for his 1967 play, Fortune and Men's Eyes.
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  19. This tour is not entirely from memory: Might's Metropolitan Toronto Directory (Might Directories Limited, Toronto, 1971). City directories for Toronto, listing not only businesses but individuals at every address, date back to 1833. An earlier list of inhabitants covers 1797 to 1823.
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  20. Turf of legend; our own: Well, not really. See: John Kennedy, "Who owns Church Street?", Xtra, 27 Oct 1995.

    By the mid-1980s Church and Wellesley was famous as Toronto's most visibly gay area. But, as in many urban neighbourhoods, its inhabitants don't hold title to its real estate. A mix of private individuals, families and small companies from outside the area (or their bankers) actually own the turf. "The landlords are straight," Xtra tags the story, "but they really, really like us."
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  21. Alexander Wood: James Fraser and Alan Miller, Lesbian and Gay Heritage of Toronto (Canadian Gay Archives Publication No. 5, 1982).

    For about two years, from Aug 1987, Xtra's community listings were headed with a brief description of Alexander Wood's career. The accompanying map was titled "Molly Wood's Bush." But the name didn't catch on. From 22 Oct 1994, Molly Wood, "A Naughty Gothic Romp" by John Wimbs and Christopher Richards, had a successful four- week run at the Bathurst Street Theatre.
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  22. John Grube: Lecture, 9 Oct 1995. Artist, teacher and activist John Grube (along with others including Lionel Collier) was instrumental in Toronto's early 1980s Foolscap Oral History Project.
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  23. Reluctance to rent to pairs of single men: John Alan Lee, Getting Sex (General Publishing, Toronto, 1978).

    John disguised the development as "The Towers" (no lube) and the city as "Metropolis". (Did he know that Joe Shuster, inventor of Superman, had grown up in Toronto?) The City Park Apartments as "The Queens' Palaces" is from George Hislop.
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  24. 1969 Official Plan: John Sewell, The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning (University of Toronto Press, 1993).

    Sewell, first elected to city council in 1969 and mayor of Toronto 1978 - 1980, played a cameo role in the history of The Body Politic (if a much larger and continuing role in the life of the city) and was interviewed in its Feb 1980 issue.
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  25. Various 1955 plans: Mark Lehman, The Church-Wellesley Area: Community, Unity and Neighbourhood (research paper, University of Toronto Urban Sociology SOC205 with Jack Layton, 1994).

    Layton, a city councillor and frequent candidate for other offices, has been one of the city's most gay- positive heterosexual politicians. Lehman's study, one of many done in Latyon's course on Toronto neighbourhoods, is my source for some of the census data shown later, comparing Tract 63 with Metropolitan Toronto.
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  26. The Spadina Expressway: Sewell, The Shape of the City, op cit.

    The four-year battle of the Stop Spadina Save Our City Co-ordinating Committee ended in victory when Ontario's Conservative Premier William Davis, facing an election, cancelled the project. The excavated northern portion (soon dubbed "The Spadina Ditch") was made a highway -- with a subway line running down the middle. But it's the subway, not the expressway, that now continues south from Eglinton Ave. into downtown.
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  27. A 1981 official study: City of Toronto Planning and Development Department, Church Street Study: Issue and Proposals (Report to the City of Toronto Planning Board, Land Use Committee, 16 Apr 1981). Excerpted in Lehman, op cit.
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  28. You can get a place: Rental rates are from newspaper ads of the period. The average house price cited is for the area southeast of Bloor and Yonge, to the Don River and down to the lakefront, as shown on a map in an article in the Toronto Star, 21 Aug 1971. To convert these figures to approximate 1996 dollars, multiply by 4.2.
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  29. Census Tract 63: As noted, some of this information is from Lehman, op cit. All the rest is from the Census of Canada, for 1971 and 1991.
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  30. You might not even need a car: The level of automobile ownership would be even lower among people working on The Body Politic. Few people there drove, though some could (and sometimes had to: distribution was done in rented trucks). Cars were simply not part of daily life.

    TBP's Craig Patterson would later note (in "One of us? The ordinariness of Jeffrey Dahmer," Perversions, #4, 1995): "It is often quite shocking how easily the queer quotidian can become emblamatic of the most appalling derangement." Craig says he originally considered another title for the piece, a portentous quote from a book on Dahmer called Milwaukee Massacre: "He had no car."
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  31. It was sometime in 1971: This was not the birth of the modern gay movement in Toronto or Canada. Jearld Moldenhauer had been a founder, with Ian Young and Charlie Hill, of the University of Toronto Homophile Association in Oct 1969; the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT) had held its first public meeting in Feb 1971. Jearld's Sep 1971 invitation came at a meeting of TGA, Toronto Gay Action, a more radical spin- off from CHAT. And homosexual men and women had already claimed a very significant piece of turf -- at least for a day: Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in the country's first major gay demonstration, on 28 Aug 1971.

    For more, see an article on the history of CHAT; and We Demand, on the Aug 1971 Parliament Hill demo.
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Inventory of the Records of The Body Politic and Pink Triangle Press

The Body Politic and Visions of Community

More on Church & Wellesley

Church & Wellesley: Photos

TBP/PTP Inventory: Addresses and neighbourhoods / List of online documents