Communal events were always popular in Leaside, but never more so than 60 to 80 years ago. Here’s how Leasiders back in the day liked to party on:
Parades: From approximately 1940-1960, Leaside held a parade every June. Sponsored by the Leaside Lions Club, it attracted thousands of residents who turned out to watch and participate. There were floats, marching bands, pipers, baton twirlers, majorettes, clowns, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Brownies, animals, and more. The 1947 parade had 10 bands and 30 floats. The parades normally started north on Laird near Vanderhoof, proceeded west on Eglinton to Bayview, then went south on Bayview to McRae, ending at Trace Manes Park.
Not to be outdone, the Leaside Fire Department held an annual fall parade in the 1950s to mark Fire Prevention Week. It too involved floats, majorettes and Scouts and attracted numerous spectators.
Parades were also the norm in the 1930s. Marching bands and pipers marked the opening of Leaside Park in 1932. And in 1938, the newly formed Bayview Businessmen’s Association celebrated the town’s 25th anniversary by sponsoring a huge parade and street festival that drew more than 4,000 people.
Festivals: Parades often culminated in carnivals and festivals, held in public spaces like Millwood Park (now Trace Manes). This was the scene for the Lions Club’s annual carnivals, vividly described in Jane Pitfield’s Leaside. The multi-day carnivals focused initially on children’s activities like bike races, sports events, amusement park rides and prizes for best costumes. Gradually these activities expanded to include more “grown-up” interests such as industrial displays, concerts, midway attractions and dancing.
In winter, Leasiders flocked to the annual ice carnival organized by the Leaside Skating Club. Held at first outdoors in Millwood Park, the event moved inside in the 1950s with the opening of Leaside Memorial Gardens. Famous ice-skaters and residents alike were among the performers.
Contests: Equally popular were contests – from house raffles…to beauty contests…to costume competitions. Among the most popular were those held every summer in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the Big Splash event at Millwood Park. Prizes were awarded to youngsters in various categories. Girls competed for titles like Miss Blue Eyes, Miss Freckles and Miss Wading Pool. Meanwhile, boys vied for awards with names like Mr. Muscles Jr., Mr. Suntan and Mr. Crew Cut. How things have changed!
But make no mistake – Leaside liked to party back in the day.
This article was guest contributed by Ted DeWelles, Leaside Heritage Preservation Society.