Only two shopping strips in my old days

Did you see the 100-year anniversary exhibit called the Layers of Leaside? For those who, like me, grew up here it brought back a lot of memories, especially when I read the Leaside Business Directory of 1943-1944.

At that time there were two Leaside shopping districts: Bayview Ave. from Millwood to Fleming and Millwood Rd. from Rumsey to Airdrie.

In those days as I walked up Bayview before getting to the actual shopping district I could stop, if I had the necessary nickel, at Kerr’s Drug Store on the corner of McRae and Bayview (now Royal LePage Real Estate) for an ice cream cone. 

Unlike at Baskin Robbins today, there were only three flavours, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The ice cream wasn’t scooped out of a freezer at that time. It came wrapped in a paper cylinder called a mellow roll. If you weren’t careful when you were unwrapping it before you pressed it into your cone the ice cream would fall on the floor. Then both your ice cream and your nickel would be gone.

On the four corners of Bayview and Millwood where the shopping district actually began, there were three gas stations and a drug store. Jackson’s Imperial Oil was located where the TD Canada Trust is today, with a Cities Service and a White Rose station ( later Shell ) on the Toronto side of the street.

At the north-east corner there was a Tamblyn Drugs store (now Write Impressions). Later that drug store was owned by Murray Simon. According to Murray, Father Caulfield from St. Anselm, Canon Lamb from St. Cuthbert’s and the Rev. Mr. Mellow from Leaside United would all meet at his soda bar every Monday morning to compare notes.

Walking north on our side of Bayview I would come to the ever enticing Kresge’s 5 and 10 cent store (now Dollarama) where I used to do my Christmas shopping for my Mom and Dad.

Then there was Gord Davies Hardware (now Cobs Bread) where Gord stored the screws and nails in bins so you could buy exactly the number you needed rather than having to buy a great quantity in a plastic bag as we do today whether you need them or not.

I went to school with Gord’s son Ken, who became a Toronto town planner. In his school days Ken would practise his bagpipe lessons on the cliffs overlooking the Don Valley out of ear shot so as not to disturb those who didn’t share his love for that instrument.

Next came Leaside’s original Loblaws store (now divided into three: Sport Swap, State of the Art Gallery and Fiorio Salon & Spa). It was a much smaller store than the Loblaws we have today,  the same as its competition, the Dominion store (now called  Metro) then located on the north side of Millwood between Rumsey and Airdrie.

After that there was Pollock Shoes (a part of what is now Scotia bank) where my mother would buy me scampers for the summer and high cuts for the winter. Of course there was Badali’s Fruit Market, a fixture on Bayview since 1938 and still there.

Rumour had it that the senior Mrs. Badali kept all the money in an apron hidden under her long skirt.

Rasmusson’s Danish Pastry Kitchen, by appointment to the King of Denmark, was on Bayview as well. Fortunately for my classmate Raymond Rasmusson and his family they were in Canada, because at that time the King of Denmark was the unwilling guest of the German army of occupation.

Rasmusson’s is still in business but now on Pape Ave. south of Cosburn and is known as The Danish Pastry Shop.

On Saturday afternoons my friends and I would go to the matinee at the “Show” otherwise known as the Bayview Theatre (now Shoppers Drug Mart). There a young Mel Lastman, the future mayor of Toronto, would frequently be on the stage during intermission preforming yoyo tricks. Of course Mel was the front man for the yoyo salesman who was waiting to nail you as you left the theatre.

Badali’s competition, Sam Hing’s market, was located just north of the theatre where True Value Hardware is today. Ted Machin & Sons Shoe Rebuilder (recently The Sentry Models & Hobbies but now vacant and for rent), Art Hopkins Meat Market (now Pagnello’s Antiques) and Frey’s Drug Store (now Bayview Jug Milk) were also all north of the theatre.

Ernie Frey served on both the Leaside Board of Education and the council at one time or other. Ernie never called himself a druggist or a pharmacist, he was always an apothecary.

Ted Machin, Art Hopkins and Ernie Frey were all long- time members of the Leaside Lions Club as were three other Bayview fixtures at that time whose businesses were on the city side of the street: Wilf Hogan, the barber (now Cumbrae’s), Art Stemp, the optometrist (now vacant but according to the notice on the window soon to be Tori & Cate’s Cupcakes) and Art Frost, the florist (now The Flower Nook).

Not to be forgotten, the Millwood shopping district was home not only to the Dominion store but also to Anderson’s Drug Store (now Dancexperts and Silva’s Alterations). My mother would always consult with Andy Anderson for any family ailment rather than paying a visit to our neighbour and my father’s classmate at Riverdale Collegiate, Dr. J. Pliny Fleming, whose office was in the basement of his home only three doors away from our house. Of course what I didn’t understand at the time was that there was no OHIP and the pharmacist’s advice was for free.

When I did visit Dr. Fleming for a vaccination he always had a cigarette dangling from his lip with a long ash perched precariously on its end. How times have changed!

As the old song goes: “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.”

About Alan Redway 30 Articles
Alan Redway is a retired lawyer, born in Toronto, with a degree in Commerce and Finance from the University of Toronto and a law degree from Osgoode Hall law School. Mr. Redway served for ten years on the council of the Borough of East York, six of those years as the Mayor of East York and a member of Metropolitan Toronto Council and Executive Committee. Later he was elected to the parliament of Canada where he served for almost ten years as a Progressive Conservative member of the House of Commons and as Minister of State (Housing). He has written for Leaside Life and the East York Chronicle. In 2014 he published his first book, "Governing Toronto: Bringing back the city that worked."