Throwback Thursday: November 1978

Volunteer Eric Morse goes back to November 1978 courtesy of community paper Seven News.

The November 4, 1978 issue of Seven News hit the street in between the federal by-elections that saw David Crombie and Bob Rae elected to Parliament for the first time, and the November 13, 1978 civic elections (no spoilers but here’s the ad for one mayoral candidate, the former Alderman for Ward Seven).

There was a full-page centrespread on local candidates, For Mayor, John Sewell and the much-reviled (see below) Tony O’Donohue, who seems to have been a somewhat earlier example of Stop The Gravy Train politics and David Smith, a reputed right-winger who nonetheless was running on a platform of safe neighbourhoods and affordable housing (Sewell’s base as well). For Alderman, Janet Howard (an incumbent), novice Gordon Cressey, George Patton, Steve Necheff, and Charlie Rolfe (‘always runs, always gets clobbered’). All male candidates sported considerably shaggier heads than their successors this year, but fewer beards.

In the meantime there was plenty of local news. The headliner was the latest threat to the residents of the Toronto Islands.

Those of us with long memories and/or Wikipedia access will recall that private homes on the Islands were the bone of a 40-year-long battle with Metro Toronto that had its beginnings in 1956, when the newly created Metro Parks Department decided that ‘The construction of the Gardiner Expressway had removed many acres of recreational land along the Toronto waterfront, and the Islands lands were to replace the acreage.” (So there.) A battle began that saw the number of homes on the Islands reduced from 630 (with commercial amenities) to about 250 (without commercial amenities and mainly concentrated on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands). As Elaine Farragher reports:

“The Island residents have been fighting this battle for ten long years, when they grew tired of witnessing hundreds of their neighbours being evicted and their communities razed to the ground. Since then, at tremendous financial cost to the 254 households on the Island, they have lost every court attempt to keep from being evicted in favour of new parkland.”

The nub of the matter was that Metro (as landowner) proposed to evict the residents (as homeowners) without compensation, and the battle – which ran for another 15 years – came to be viewed (in these parts at least) as a war between an old-fashioned, ham-fisted, pigheaded planning bureaucracy and a bunch of spoiled people who led privileged pseudo-bucolic existences on ground that was far too good for them (after all, if they had the money to pay for litigation, they could, presumably, afford to pack up and leave, surely, in the name of the Greater Good.)

Since the lineup of support for the Islanders was deeply concentrated in Downtown Toronto, and most support for demolition was from suburban Metro councillors, the dispute appears to presage the 905/416 split that has existed since amalgamation and has taken on new life since the War on the Car was unofficially declared in 2010. As the paper went to press, the Islanders (who after all had the strategic advantage of living on an island) were preparing to resist harbour-borne invasion by all available (preferably) non-violent means, and tactical exercises were being conducted at potential beachheads.

An op-ed from Ulli Diemer sums it up: ‘The 650 Island residents don’t want to leave, the local ward alderman doesn’t want them to leave, their MPP doesn’t want them to leave, their MP doesn’t want them to leave, Toronto City Council doesn’t want them to leave, and the people of Toronto don’t want them to leave.” Diemer advises Torontonians not to vote for Tony O’Donohue, the only Mayoral candidate who wants the residents out (spoiler: they didn’t).

The Board of Education was locked in battle with local Regent Park parents over its decision to close Duke of York School.

And Canadian boxer John Raftery makes his first international appearance (at least in the pages of Seven News) representing CYC in Europe (he didn’t win, but it was East Germany), while Pat Fennel had better luck in Tampere, winning a gold in a 13-nation tournament.

Finally, the Page One shot: a lovely photo of the polychromatic brickwork spire of All Saints Church at Sherbourne and Dundas, then not as desolate a corner as it has become in the 40 years since. Among other things, as the caption notes, All Saints was the new headquarters of Seven News, which led something of a wandering existence in the fifteen years of its publishing life. The shot is the lead-in to George Rust D’Eye’s current piece on landmarks of Ward 7.

Here are his remarks on Sherbourne Street – we invite readers to compare his account of 40 years ago with the current streetscape, which in the Dundas – Sherbourne block has not changed a great deal. Two of the houses he draws attention to are from the mid-1850s, the third from 1881. It was a grand avenue, now sadly gone to seed.

The full stories introduced above are available at http://www.connexions.org/SevenNews/Docs/7News-Volume09-Number13.pdf . The PDF archive is a remarkable achievement by Connexions, a collective dedicated to preserving social activism, of which 7 News is surely a shining example.

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One Response to Throwback Thursday: November 1978

  1. Veri Deleo says:

    Sad degradation of a beautiful street, indeed. I was once employed near Sherbourne and Front St. Coworkers asked if I walked to work from near Bloor/Danforth. I would have liked to but the assault on my eyes, ears and spirit was too offensive.
    I took the bus and averted my gaze all the way south.

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