Combine Club, located on the north side of the Queensway, near Highway 427, as it appeared in 1958. Photo by James V. Salmon from the Toronto Public Library Digital Collection.
Just before 5 p.m. on a Saturday in November 1940, a loud cheer arose from the 300 gamblers gathered at the Combine Club, the enormous and opulent club Manny Feder had built on The Queensway after shuttering the Brown Derby. It was, one reporter asserted, “Canada’s most perfectly appointed gambling house.”
The crowd’s enthusiasm came as Foster “Buck” Dryden, once dubbed “the best-known voice in Ontario racing,” called a photo finish over the public address system, as Sir Marlboro, a long-shot racehorse owned by Conn Smythe, won in ankle deep mud at Bowie. But just as Sir Marlboro’s jubilant backers moved to the wickets to cash their tickets for a 12 to one payday—including one unfortunate gentleman who stood to collect $1,320—raiding police broke into the club shouting: “Stand where you are! Do not move!”
Getting through Nuit Blanche can be something of a challenge. After all, the event challenges art-thing participants to stay up all night, try to withstand overwhelming crowds, and appreciate some art along the way.
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