Leaside’s party to remember: Coronation Day – 1953

Sunset at Talbot Park.
Sunset at Talbot Park. Staff photo.

With the recent coronation of King Charles III still fresh in people’s minds, many Leasiders might wonder how the community reacted when Charles’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was crowned 70 years ago. By all accounts, the response was heartfelt, enthusiastic – and lavish.

Activities began well before the official coronation day of June 2, 1953.

In early May, the Leaside Girl Guides organized a special “coronation tribute,” involving a variety show in which more than 350 Girl Guides and Brownies participated. Half the proceeds went to buy a wheelchair for Leaside’s disabled Girl Guides; the other half was earmarked for equipment for Girl Guides in England and Holland.

Local retailers also got into the act – offering special sales on TVs and radios. One appliance dealer on Bayview Ave. – Ernie Swan Television – ran ads in the Toronto Star assuring customers “There’s Still Time” to install GE TVs “Before the Coronation.” 

Meanwhile, at the municipal level, Mayor Howard Burrell and other civic officials worked with organizations such as the Leaside Lions Club, Boy Scouts and Talbot Park officials to create an impressive slate of celebratory events. By the end of the month, the town had finalized preparations, and on June 1 published a timetable/itinerary in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

The following day – Coronation Day – saw what was one of the biggest celebrations in Leaside history.

Howard T. Burrell. GLOBE AND MAIL, DEC. 4, 1950.
Howard T. Burrell. GLOBE AND MAIL, DEC. 4, 1950.

It began at noon with a parade that started at Millwood Park (now Trace Manes Park) and travelled north on Bayview Ave. to Talbot Park. Upon arrival, the participants – who included the Leaside Lions junior and senior bands and the Leaside Lions majorettes – were greeted by Mayor Burrell, who then proceeded to open officially the town’s baseball season. This was followed by two baseball games – after which, in honour of the Queen the mayor planted a commemorative English oak tree flown in from England especially for the occasion. The Leaside Lions Club also paid tribute to the Queen by providing a special plaque recording the event.

As evening approached, the celebration intensified. Mayor Burrell reviewed the parade participants in a “march-past,” a concert was held, and prayers and speeches made. Nearly 20,000 people came to Talbot Park that day, more than the entire population of Leaside at the time. They heard musical performances from local school choirs and the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps trumpet and brass bands. Later, they listened intently as the mayor spoke to them of the Queen’s “abiding affection for her people” and pledged on their behalf “our loyalty and affection to Her Majesty.”

Fireworks for the coronation. GLOBE AND MAIL, JUNE 3, 1953.
Fireworks for the coronation. GLOBE AND MAIL, JUNE 3, 1953.

At nightfall, the crowd saw two separate fireworks displays – one involving rockets carrying Union Jack flags which parachuted to the ground. The festivities culminated in a huge street dance at the Sunnybrook Shopping Centre.

Earlier that day, in her coronation speech, the Queen observed that “I have been aware all the time that my peoples, spread far and wide throughout every continent and ocean in the world, were united to support me in the task to which I have now been dedicated with such solemnity.”

Based on events 70 years ago in this community, none of Elizabeth’s subjects were more “united” in their “support” than the people of Leaside.

About Ted DeWelles 40 Articles
Ted DeWelles is a retired public relations professional and community college professor. A Leaside resident for more than 20 years, Ted currently serves on the board of the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society. He loves reading, cycling and researching and writing about Leaside’s history.