What could have been a knock-out blow became a wake up call. By early March 1974, the newspaper learned it had been turned down for another federal LIP (Local Initiatives Program) grant. Advertising revenue was barely paying the printing bills. Fortunately, free office space was provided in the YMCA at 907 Kingston Rd and the paper’s staff had worked without pay for almost six months.
One of the suggestions for picking up the slack was a Streak-a-thon for Shekels. “A flash of flesh will reveal the naked truth that Beachers are a generous and appreciative people,” said the instigator.
Instead, the executive (Bruce Budd, George Wheeler, Francine Marston, Bill Peters and Tom Hewlett) chose Plan B – a fundraising drive. The volunteer carriers were asked to go door-to-door on their routes, requesting a $2 donation from each household. Carol Howlett headed up the campaign.
A favorite tale from that time is of a gregarious distributor, a pillar of his church, setting off down one of the Beach Street on a Saturday, receipt book in hand. He diligently stopped off at every house to chat with neighbors, who kept inviting him in for a drink. By the time he reached the foot of the street, his receipts were illegible and he was in no condition to canvass the other side.
Thanks to the efforts of legions of volunteers, $7,000 was raised. Editor Joan Latimer was now back on the payroll, and so was I. I took on two jobs for the price of one (business manager and circulation manager) on condition that I could continue working from home, making a daily visit to the office with my two toddlers in a baby carriage. It seemed I had the best of both worlds. Gladys and Tim Kadry were hired for publishing day to drop off papers to carriers.
Advertising was the weak link. The paper tried hiring various people on a commission/part salary basis but it was still a hard way to make a living wage. To make ends meet, the paper needed enough advertising to regularly publish a 12 or 16 page paper.
The Wednesday night editorial meetings where the public came to decide which articles could be published and on what page, had been phased out. This was now in the hands of the staff, who were aware of the guideline that anything published had to have a local connection.
The Sunday night layout evenings continued long into the night. Staff and volunteers using dummy pages, arranged the stories, headlines, pictures and advertising. Reg Haney joined these evenings and gave seminars on how to better arrange pages and design ads from a graphics point of view.
This was of course eons before desktop publishing. We sent out typed or handwritten copy to be typeset, when the pages came back we proofed them, and then sent them for printing. We often had hassles with the various small companies we used, chosen for their low cost. (With one edition the typeset pages came back very late in the cycle with a note “I am sick. I cannot set any more classifieds.” With a couple of hours before the pages were due on the press, we hand-wrote the classifieds that time.)
We could not continue this way, and at Reg Haney’s suggestion, we switched to Web Offset where he worked. (People often ask us where the paper is printed. It’s at Ironstone Media (formerly Web Offset) in Pickering, where we are one of the oldest clients. The paper goes on the press around midnight on a Monday evening and 30,000 copies are delivered to our office on the Tuesday morning.)
Stories in 1974 included an interview with Balsam Avenue artist William Kurelek. His children’s book A Prairie Boy’s Winter was on the bestseller list.
The record collection at the Beaches Library had increased to 550 discs, with emphasis on classical music, opera, and the spoken word (drama, poetry and languages). Seventy-five per cent of the records were circulating at any time.
During that summer, the Grover (69) Telephone Exchange on Main Street was the first in Toronto to be converted completely to electronic switching, at a cost of $6,713,000. The Grover served 26,000 customers. (Back in 1924 when Groverites got the first dial exchange in Toronto, many of its customers had trouble getting used to do-it-yourself dialing and waited endless minutes for the phased-out operators to do it for them.)
Gordon McRae, Malvern’s music man was celebrating 25 years at the school. He took the Dance Band to a gig at the Balmy Beach Club, where he found 400 Malvern grads had organized a surprise party for him.
Peggy White retired after 36 years of teaching at Williamson Road School and 43 years in the profession. Over 200 friends and former students held a tea party for her.
Ruth Thorne was in her 27th year as Brown Owl of the 25th Brownie Pack at Williamson Road School. “The secret of running a disciplined group is to have something for every Brownie to do every minute,” revealed Brown Owl. (After 40 years Ruth retired as leader of the pack. In her 80s, she was one of our volunteers who count and label bundles for the carriers. She died at 96 last year.)
Three houses on Edgewood Avenue sold for $316,000 in August 1973. Six months later the 1.35 acre property sold for $1,943,000 to a builder who planned to put 37 townhouses on the site.
Thanks to the efforts of seven local women, the Toronto Harbour Commission and the Department of Parks and Rec, a two-acre puddle at the foot of Leslie Street had been drained, filled, graded, manured, top soiled, rolled and kneaded into 194 allotment gardens. At the end of the first season, Selma Shearer and her father Karl Flubacher harvested 200 tomatoes, 10 lbs. beans, lettuce, beets, peas, carrots and cucumbers from their plot.
A 300 lb. man had his teeth wired shut, under medical supervision, in order to lose weight after all else failed. One side tooth was removed so that he could slip through a straw. His 400 daily calories included skim milk, grapefruit juice and vitamins.
The 77-year-old Main Street School (on the east end of the current Kimberley Road School playground) closed. For 12 years it had been a reception site for new Canadian high school students, providing an environment where they could adapt to a new culture and language at their own rate. Because of budget cuts the program was discontinued.
A motorist died when he missed the turn at Victoria Park and Bracken, and plunged 200 feet into the Neville Park Ravine.
Police noticed a man modeling a leather coat in Joe’s Men’s Store on Queen Street after hours. When the model, a 19-year-old Violet Avenue man, became aware that police were watching him, he fainted. He was charged with break and entering.
On Nov. 30, 1974 Community Centre 55 was officially opened. The ribbon was cut by Michael Neuland of Balsam Avenue. Michael was chosen because he was born on one of the tables in the old police station 13 years earlier, when his mother Jutta realized she would not get to the hospital in time.
Thanks to all those volunteers who canvassed for the fundraiser, the newspaper now had breathing space. This was the start of moving beyond the hand-to-mouth existence, but new challenges were ahead.