History of Beach Metro News: 1979 reflects changing social norms

Brenda Dow joined the Ward 9 News team in 1979 as advertising manager, and never left. After retiring in 1994, she still volunteers every other Tuesday, helping to get bundles ready for our volunteers. The newspaper’s office was not exactly cutting edge in 1979. Note the manual typewriter and dial telephone.

In 1979 the newspaper made its third and final move inside the YMCA at 907 Kingston Rd. taking over one of the large rooms vacated by the Beaches Alternative School.

This was convenient for unloading newspaper as we now had an outside door leading to the parking lot. We also acquired a closet where our photos were developed and printed. As we were now working in the coldest room in the building with ice forming inside the windows, the board decided to blow the budget on a set of drapes. (The Y has since been updated.)

To celebrate its new tenure, the newspaper commissioned a sign using the logo at that time for outside the building. It was a couple of years before anyone noticed that it read ‘Commumity News’.

There was a changeover in staff. Amy Vanderwal took on motherhood and Brenda Dow became the Advertising Manager, a post that she held for the next 16 years. Brenda still comes back to get her newspaper fix and helps on distribution day unloading our conveyor belt and counting and tying papers.

As a service to our advertisers, we began staying open until 8 p.m. on the Monday of deadline day. Sometimes we wonder if people hide around the corner until 7.55 p.m. and then appear.

In June, 1979, we heard from Doug White, the paper’s founder, who was living in PEI. He and Sandi had a thriving contented child, Keltie Ann. They were tending 19 acres of strawberries, one acre of raspberries and 50 hives. They gathered eggs from 4,500 hens, and offered two students from the Beach the chance to work on the farm for the summer.

Stories published in 1979 were often concerned with a changing world and the changing role of women. We published articles and letters to the editor on whether a woman’s place was in the home, in the workforce, or wherever she wanted it to be.

Some  residents were surprised to see Margot Morrison on their doorstep, equipped with safety boots, a drill and a heavy-duty tool belt. Margot was hired for the summer blitz of installing telephone jacks in the neighbourhood. “Things are changing,” she said. “People are coming to accept women in different roles.” She intended using her $185 weekly pay towards her university tuition, and hoped to eventually study law.

Kim McGuire, 25, was twice refused service in the Men’s Room of the Orchard Park Tavern, and filed a complaint of sex discrimination with the Human Rights Commission.  The tavern manager, Terry Chemij, told the commission that the room was grubby, bawdy and even dangerous. Patrons were often rowdy, and a man had been shot and killed there a few years earlier.  The Attorney General’s office asked that $500 be awarded to the plaintiff for feelings of inferiority and frustration. I wish I could tell you how this ended but the case was held over pending a decision.

Maureen McTeer visited the riding in May and spoke to a standing room-only crowd at Kew Beach United Church.  She won the hearts of the predominantly female audience when she said she hoped to make a contribution on women’s issues.

Her husband, Joe Clark, followed in the footsteps of at least 15 other prime ministers. He walked along the boardwalk campaigning for Robin Richardson who became the MP for the riding. Richardson ended a long NDP reign by Neil Young and Andrew Brewin.

Local councillors (there were two for each ward back then) were on opposite sides of the debate to grant liquor licences on Queen Street between Woodbine and Victoria Park. Until recent years, the area had been dry and there was heated rhetoric before the first license was granted to The Chalet on the northwest corner of Queen and Beech. Other applicants quickly followed. In November 1978, the city had asked the LCBO to place a moratorium on Queen Street licences. Now city council voted 9-7 for an exception to be made and a liquor license granted to Griffiths Restaurant whose application had been pending since spring. Alderman Patrick Sheppard voted for the amendment, Alderman Thomas Wardle Jr. voted against it “concerned that council’s decision could lead to more liquor outlets in the Beach.”

In the letters to the editor section, readers weighted in on dropping the Lord’s Prayer in the public school system. Local trustee Sheila Meagher said that she and her colleagues were astonished the intense public reaction to the board’s decision to seek an alternative for opening ceremonies in Toronto schools.  She told the paper that prayers had fallen into disuse in schools some years earlier and had not been part of the board’s policy since the 1960s. The board was trying to devise a more universal prayer in keeping with the ethnic mix. It had recently decided that a minute of meditation or a meaningful reading would be an acceptable way to open the school day.

The Beaches Library was closed for eight months of renovations. A temporary library opened at St. Denis School on Balsam Avenue to where the most popular fare was transported – mysteries, science fiction, westerns, large print, half of the hardcover fiction, children’s books, cassettes and records, as well as a photocopier.  Readers were polled on whether the new entrance for the library should be on Queen Street or in Kew Gardens.

Quilters were invited to work on a large wall hanging for the library. Architect Jeff Stinson made a huge map of the area from Queen Street to the lake and from Lee Avenue to Waverley. Paths, the boardwalk, the gardener’s cottage, baseball diamond etc. were sketched in, and then the blueprint was cut into one foot squares and distributed to the stitchers.  As long as the structures were in the right places and all the paths joined up, there was freedom to be creative. I had three dogs running across a path, and another square with a man reading a copy of Ward 9 News halfway up the right-hand side. When the new library was opened and the wall hanging was unveiled by Lieutenant Governor John Black Aird, he mentioned that a guest at his cottage that summer had made one of the squares. This wall hanging was suspended over the fireplace in Beaches Library for many years, and is now hanging in a corner upstairs.


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