A Look Back: February 1966


Bloor and Bathurst looking east.

The brand new subway will open in about one week, and the Bloor streetcar is about to vanish into history.  Much else in this photo would disappear as well.  The buildings are still there, but their use has completely changed.  The TD bank is now a coffee shop, Danforth Radio is no more, and the Midtown cinema is now the Bloor.

Street signs have changed a lot since the 60s.  Toronto outlawed the overhanging signs decades ago, and the few that remain are grandfathered.  Traffic regulations are spelled out rather than shown as graphics.  A demure “TTC Subway” sign with a small arrow directs passengers who might be looking for the Bloor car to the subway station just up Bathurst Street.

The hydro wiring is still in overhead box structures, and the classic Toronto acorn luminaires had yet to be replaced by sodium vapour lighting on higher poles.  There’s a phone booth on the sidewalk and a pre-Astral garbage bin.

23 thoughts on “A Look Back: February 1966

  1. Also, those TV antennae! It’s interesting to look back at a time when most people did not have cable,as we enter a time when people are moving away from cable.


  2. Speaking of archival pictures, here is a 1972 photograph of the Yonge and Finch intersection, facing southwest, showing the cut and cover construction on Yonge of the subway extension to Finch. The only visible buildings in the picture that are still around today are the plaza buildings at the southwest corner.

    Steve: I have published links to the archives from time to time. It’s the sort of site one can get lost in for hours.


  3. Highway 5 sign on Bloor Street. Not that the province paid much of anything into the maintenance then or now.

    Steve: There are many anachronisms in old photos, and I didn’t want to spend time listing all of them but leave them for readers to discover.


  4. Unbelievable. If only I had a time machine, I’d go back, take a trip along the Bloor car for however west and east it went, along with witnessing the opening of the 1st phase of the Bloor-Danforth line!

    Thanks, Steve!


  5. Where’s the recycling bins? Why, when one returned the empty glass bottle of pop for a 5¢ refund (the price of a newspaper was 10¢, which one got from a box without a door).

    Where’s the bike lanes? Most kids walked to school if they didn’t ride their bikes.


  6. That strip of Bloor was way better back then — a real street. Now it looks like something from Logan’s Run — you don’t see anybody on the street over 30. The area is all students.

    Thanks for sharing this picture Steve.


  7. Danforth Radio reminds me of Reid & Campbell which closed earlier this year and was also located on a former streetcar line that was replaced with a subway. They still had a sign in their store pointing to the “Color TV Showroom”. Come to think of it, wasn’t 1966 the year that Colour TV broadcasting was permitted in Canada? Somehow I don’t think many of Danforth Radio’s customers lugged their new color sets home on the streetcar in early 1966.

    Steve: I particularly liked the way the spot with “TV” was clearly added to an older sign just in case people thought they were only a radio store.

    For those who don’t know, Reid & Campbell was on Yonge a few blocks north of Davisville. It is still visible in the Google Street View of Yonge and Glebe Road.


  8. Steve:

    The Bloor Car was “about” to disappear, but for one more year a stub end ran from Keele to Jane until the subway opened to Islington and Warden.

    Steve: Actually, the Bloor West shuttle ran until May 1968 when the extensions to Warden and Islington opened. However, February 66 marked the end of the heart of the line from Keele to Woodbine.

    As an 11 year old I rode that car each weekday. Until that year I had spent my time in Etobicoke — rarely riding on the streetcar. I remember enjoying the experience. While I did not have a rail fan’s appreciation for where all the different PCCs came from or their date of manufacture, I did categorize all the different types by how and how wide the windows opened. (I liked the ones with a crank.) I opened them all — even in the winter. Not all the other passengers appreciated this. While the PCCs lasted several years thereafter on other routes, I never again used one on a daily basis.


  9. The jewelry shop on the south side was owned and operated by Eugene Kash’s brother. Eugene was Maureen Forrester’s husband for many years.


  10. This makes me seriously wonder how various proposed subway extensions (Sheppard, Eglinton, Yonge North, etc.) compare to the existing parts of the subway system before they opened. How does the ridership on the Bloor Street streetcar compare to the Sheppard East bus (maybe also the Finch East bus)? (I know that 401 traffic volumes now must be way way higher than those streetcars on Bloor in the 1960s, but how do the bus volumes compare?) How does it compare to the ridership on the Eglinton East/West buses, or the VIVA bus on Yonge St (when not on strike)?

    Steve: Service on the Bloor-Danforth carlines dwarfs anything we have running today. Between Bedford Loop (now St. George Station) and Coxwell, the AM peak service on the streetcar had 84 cars/hour each way running in 2-car trains. That’s one train every 87 seconds. Using the Service Planning capacity figures, that would be a design capacity of 6,300/hour, but crush capacity would easily reach 8,000.

    However, you also have to take into account that other routes handled transfer traffic from feeder buses that now load into the subway such as the Harbord car (from Pape and Danforth as well as from Lansdowne and Davenport where it connected with the Keele bus. The King and Dundas cars took a fair load of transfer traffic too, and the Bathurst car (which came into downtown via Adelaide) drained off some load from the west. (There are more, but you get the idea.) All things considered, there was well over 10k of demand from each side of Yonge Street feeding into downtown via surface lines before the BD subway opened. That’s considerably more than the capacity operated on the Sheppard subway, let alone the smaller loads handled by the Sheppard bus services.

    North Yonge was very busy and fed frequent bus services into Eglinton (although not on the scale of the BD subway) from the local Yonge trolley coach, the North Yonge bus and the Lawrence bus. Demand was stronger on the Nortown bus (now Avenue Road North and Mt. Pleasant North) than today before North Toronto became more auto-centric.

    Eglinton is lower than North Yonge, but still respectable enough although full undergrounding is a stretch. Metrolinx likes to claim that the faster trip with everything underground (only applicable to the east side) will increase demand and make the financial numbers look better. However, this is achieved by diverting trips from the Danforth subway and it’s not clear how valuable this is in a network context.


  11. @Stu, you might want to see photos of Yorkville from this time period before you spend too much time romanticizing about the lack of hipsters in the downtown core…


  12. Hi Steve:

    Got to love these historical pics you’re posting :).

    I was looking at Google Earth and seeing the two images and noticed a huge difference in the pics. Most of the buildings are under new ownership with a new colourful look.

    Signs on building are long history (due to what I think is safety regulations but I could be wrong). The Superman Cubicle Phone Booth (had to throw that in) has changed. The garbage can on the south side replaced with planters. The TTC subway sign disappeared over the years.

    What is not visible is the TTC streetcar stop replaced by the Blue Night Bus Stop. Utility poles are replaced with metal poles.

    The antennas on top of buildings I wouldn’t be surprised they make a comeback with all the high cable rates :(. Cables of all sorts gone.

    The “NO LEFT TURN SIGN”, street names and streetlights have changed. The Highway 5 sign and parking restrictions gone. Streetcars and tracks on Bloor Street bye-byes.
    The green electrical box for the street lights now white. Correct me if I’m wrong, on the lower left side of the picture, looks like a blue Toronto Paper Box where newspapers were sold for daytime and evening time editions now history.

    The curb with bricks long changed. The back of the sign on the left side I believe is indication either a school or hospital gone. The citizens’ looks and clothing and vehicles they drive have all changed.

    I think I covered it all. If I miss something please feel free to add.

    Steve please add more, I’m sure we readers love to see the pictures of yesterday.

    Thanks 🙂


  13. So Steve when did the stations themselves open? I see the sign saying subway and you mentioned that Bathurst cars went in there prior to the subway itself opening. With that in mind how long before the opening of the subway did the stations open for buses and streetcars to utilize them?

    Steve: I didn’t say anything about Bathurst cars using the loop before the subway opened. As for buses, the Bathurst and Vaughan routes terminated at St. Clair in Vaughan Loop, the north end of the carline. The “subway” signs went up well before opening day, although how anyone could miss something the size of Bathurst Station is a mystery. Places like Chester were a bit more off the beaten path, but the locals would have seen it under construction for ages.


  14. Ben Smith said …

    @Stu, you might want to see photos of Yorkville from this time period before you spend too much time romanticizing about the lack of hipsters in the downtown core…

    They weren’t nearly as annoying as today’s hipsters, but the “greasers” were (think the Fonz, but five years before Happy Days was on). They weren’t all over downtown though — just Yorkville.


  15. I notice there’s still a small “Subway” sign like that, with an arrow, outside of Old Mill subway station. That’s the only one I’ve noticed. Are there any others around, or is that just a holdover from the 60’s?


  16. @Andrew there are a few. Chester has one. Pape still does too I believe. Along the Danforth there is still quite a few of them.

    Steve: They are clearly visible in Google Street View photos. So nice to know that among the many other public information cock-ups, the TTC manages to still tell us where the subway stations are.


  17. There are a couple of overhanging signs on Mt. Pleasant south of Eglinton. The best example would be the Murray Newbigging Funeral Home that has a big old neon sign that hangs over the sidewalk from a pole in front of their building. I haven’t looked but it’s probably visible on Google street view.

    Steve: And it’s been there as long as I can remember — I grew up a few blocks away. Also, it’s an odd exception to the rules as it hangs over the front garden of the funeral home, not over the sidewalk. Therefore, it’s probably immune to the current bylaws.


  18. Hi Steve.

    Thanks for posting those old Toronto pics. The one of the air cars at Danforth and Woodbine is especially interesting as I have never seen any shots of cars being pulled from, or returned to, Danforth after the subway opened.

    The Bloor and Bathurst one reminds me of trips to the doctor. My parents moved to East York in 1955 but my doctor was at Bloor and Windermere. I remember the long cross town rides from Coxwell to Windermere on the Bloor Car. My ever indulgent mother would always let me sit on the back seat of the last car in the MU trains. It was fascinating just watching the sights and see if the car that followed us could keep up with the train we were riding in. I especially loved waiting for a streetcar at Coxwell and Bloor, where you could watch cars entering service. I always thought that Bloor went on forever, little realizing that we were about one stop from the end of the line.

    Steve, have a great 2012. And, thanks for being Toronto’s transit voice of reason and sanity. It’s going to be a long three years.


  19. Ian Folkard says,

    “I especially loved waiting for a streetcar at Coxwell and Bloor, where you could watch cars entering service. I always thought that Bloor went on forever, little realizing that we were about one stop from the end of the line.”

    Ian has mistakenly referred to Coxwell and Danforth as being Coxwell and Bloor. I don’t know which end of the line he’s referred to, but I do know that Coxwell was many stops west of the Bloor car’s eastern terminus at Luttrell and Danforth: in later years, at least, one block (inclusive of the extensive Shopper’s World retail complex) west of Victoria Park Avenue, and wonderfully close to St. Clair Ice Cream’s retail store at Kelvin Avenue and Danforth, by the Luttrell Loop’s west end. In the early 1960’s, St. Clair Ice Cream served, of course among many other flavours of ice cream, an apple-flavoured ice cream that represented my favourite when in the form of a milkshake.


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