Who’s up for a trip through time?
While an H.G. Wells-style contraption or fourth dimension-smashing telephone box are not available in the consumer market, there are simpler methods of going back through time. All that’s required are a date and the arcane knowledge of knowing how to load a microfilm reader.
Toronto has a rich newspaper history, with no fewer than three dailies at a time battling for the city’s readers. This series of columns will dig through the piles of paper printed since the colonial government’s offical fishwrap, The Upper Canada Gazette, moved its presses here in 1798 to cover milestones in the city’s history as they happened.
Our first trip back in time is 31-years ago this week, when the CN Tower opened its doors to the public on June 26, 1976.
The day’s headlines concerned the grounding of most Canadian air traffic due to a week-long walkout by air traffic controllers, who were joined in sympathy (and fear of unsafe conditions) by pilots. The issue was a federal proposal to extend bilingual air traffic control services in Quebec, especially in Montreal. The Globe and Mail indicated that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau felt the dispute was a threat to national unity—possibly the country’s most serious crisis since conscription during World War II. The walkout ended a few days later, when the feds agreed to, in the Canadian way, hold a commission to study the issue.
As for the tower, the Sun was the least impressed of the three dailies:
At $2.75 a shot just to get to the inside observation deck, you could call the CN Tower, which opened to the public yesterday, the world’s tallest free-standing tourist trap.” They also reported that 10,000-12,000 visitors showed up for the opening, though nobody knew for sure as somebody forgot to reset the automatic counters at the turnstiles.
The Star featured a special insert section about the tower, boasting that “the only place higher man has stood is on the moon.” It also reassured visitors to “relax, it won’t fall down.” No mention about the dangers of snow falling off the tower.
The Globe and Mail sent city alderman (and soon-to-be CityTV reporter) Colin Vaughan to take a look at the tower. He was less than impressed:
Undoubtedly the tower will draw millions of visitors who will come and gawk at the mechanical and electronic bric-a-brac and buy the CN tower-shaped rye bottles as souvenirs. But none will experience the unique sensation, the vertigo and the straight excitement which should accompany a visit to a structure of this scale.
Other local news:
• Sam “The Record Man” Sniderman received the Order of Canada, along with former federal finance minister Walter Gordon.
• The Mariposa Folk Festival enjoyed a successful weekend on the Toronto Islands. Headliners included Taj Mahal and Robert Pete Williams.
• At the movies, the summer season was in full swing, with The Omen, Murder By Death, Ode to Billy Joe and The Man Who Fell to Earth opening at the box office.
• Honest Ed’s special of the week was one pound of imported Austrian gruyere cheese for 47 cents.
Image pieced together from the June 26, 1976 editions of The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.