Historicist: Sixties Snapshots of North York
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Historicist: Sixties Snapshots of North York

Every Saturday at noon, Historicist looks back at the events, places, and characters—good and bad—that have shaped Toronto into the city we know today.

Finch Avenue East and Woodbine Avenue, 1965 (now the intersection of Finch and Highway 404). City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 70, Item 2.

For North York during the 1960s, the explosion in population and industry that the previous decade had seen showed no signs of stopping. By the end of the sixties, almost two hundred thousand people were added to the citizen roll. Quiet rural intersections saw farms and villages give way to apartment blocks, factories, schools, and shopping plazas. Traffic problems arose and required immediate solutions. The municipality’s status changed from township to the more dignified “borough.”
Change was in the air and photographers were there to capture the evolution of North York. They also preserved a taste of how North Yorkers enjoyed themselves.

Lawrence Avenue East and Bayview Avenue, 1961. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 12, Item 6.

One of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in the township as the decade began was the intersection of Lawrence Avenue East and Bayview Avenue. The establishment of York University on the Glendon Hall property that faced the intersection only added to the chronic traffic jam. Lineups due to left turns bore the blame, which could only worsen as the expansion of the Bayview Bridge over the Don Valley would bring in more traffic.

Construction of new intersection of Lawrence Avenue East and Bayview Avenue, circa 1962. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 12, Item 7.

The solution was a one million dollar interchange built in 1962 that eliminated stops along Bayview. Metro Toronto engineers determined that the low east–west traffic flow allowed them to delay plans to connect the two portions of Lawrence for five years. As time passed, the “temporary” connector route through the Bridle Path neighbourhood became permanent. While the new structure solved traffic problems over most of the day, Bayview still jams up nicely during rush hour.

Jane Street and Finch Avenue West, January 1965. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 100, Item 1.

While York University spent its formative period at Glendon Hall, construction was underway for its main campus in the northwest part of the township. By the dawn of 1965, the road infrastructure was in place to prepare for traffic to the school and a slate of new housing developments. The picture above shows Jane and Finch as it transitioned from being a sleepy rural intersection—notes from the City of Toronto Archives indicate this was taken after road widening and paving was completed.

Bata Headquarters, Don Mills, circa 1965-1969. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 356, Item 023.

While the 1950s saw the north end of Don Mills develop as a residential community, the 1960s saw corporations settle into the neighbourhood’s south end. By mid-decade, the area around Eglinton Avenue and Don Mills Road saw companies like Bata and Imperial Oil build fine examples of mid-century architecture celebrated in recent books like Concrete Toronto.

Left: Beverly Hills Motor Hotel, 1967. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 8, Item 1. Right: Billy Daniels performing at a North York night spot (probably the Hook and Ladder Club), circa 1965-1967. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 260, Item 1.

North York residents looking for a night on the town could find venues within its borders to satisfy their entertainment needs. The Hook and Ladder Club at the Beverly Hills Motor Hotel on Wilson Avenue (now a Days Hotel) attracted a steady flow of lounge acts, including a two-week engagement by Billy Daniels in the early fall of 1967. “Most people could hardly wait for him to sing “That Old Black Magic,” noted Toronto Star reviewer Anita Epstein. “I even found myself wishing he’d get on with his delicacy.” After hearing Daniels sing his signature tune, which had been a huge hit in the late 1940s, Epstein felt that “the longevity of Billy Daniels’ popularity is wrapp[e]d up in the memories his old favo[u]rites bring back to people much older than I in 1946.”
We’re not going to make you wait to hear Billy cast his spell…

Billy Daniels performs his signature tune, “That Old Black Magic.” Date unknown.

From Blaik Kirby’s review in the Globe and Mail:

The intensity of Daniels’ communication creates extreme loyalties. If you chatter as he sings, you risk violence from those who hang on every Daniels syllable. Monday’s opening-night audience was full of such fans, sternly shushing the inattentive, and feeling entitled to call Bill by his first name…He is a gloriously strong and dominating male animal, and the women must find him irresistible…His way with a song is his alone—full of meaning, vocal expertise, personal performing tricks and the human understanding of a man who’s been through it all.

Glendale Theatre, circa 1968. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 217, Series 249, File 77, Item 3.

For widescreen thrills, the Glendale Theatre on Avenue Road north of Lawrence Avenue provided one of the last places in the city to catch a movie in Cinerama. The theatre wound down the decade with a two-year run (the longest anywhere) of the ultrawide version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Built in 1946 as part of the 20th Century cinema chain, the Glendale was demolished in 1975 to make way for a Ford dealership.
Additional material from the September 27, 1967 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the April 25, 1962, September 29, 1967, and March 19, 1975 editions of the Toronto Star.