History of Beach Metro News: Paper and community enter computer era

It was 1981 and at the newspaper’s annual general meeting, the staff was optimistic. They had produced three back-to-back 20-page papers and circulation was up to 22,000 copies.

The  paper was able to set up its own darkroom in a small room in the Kingston Road YMCA. Kirsten Ring was hired part time as a photographer and reporter, joining Joan Latimer, Brenda Dow and myself.

It was decided to issue t-shirts to all of our carriers, with the paper’s logo and Brenda’s phrase ‘Word Power’ across the front. This was the first of several t-shirts produced by the paper, and sometimes we still see a Word Power on Queen Street.

Some thought the newspaper should buy its own typesetting equipment, and possibly branch out by typesetting other newspapers. However, research showed that those small time operations were a fading technology. The future would be inputting your own copy on an outlet in your office and transporting it electronically between equipment in the same room. This was only 30 years ago, and yet it seemed unbelievable at the time.

However, the computer age was arriving in the Beach. Three teachers opened Computer Tutor, the first business of its kind in Toronto at Queen and Glen Manor. Its 13 micro-processors provided a unique hands-on experienced for preschoolers, children and adults interested in computers. Some schools were beginning to use them as a teaching aid.

We now had a few (unpaid) columnists. They included Pat Doty Reed, a lawyer who wrote on marriage and other contracts, tenancy agreements, and fence disputes.

Bob Mackie, who worked for the city parks’ department, had a gardening column. Veterinarian Louise Tracz was our animal expert. Allan O’Marra interviewed fellow artists. Dr. Eric Letovsky did a health column. Local librarians drummed up business with book reviews, no doubt including Margaret Atwood’s recently published Bodily Harm.

On April 7 editorial cartoonist Bill Suddick joined the team. His first piece was on unleashed dogs on the beach.  Thirty years and 670 cartoons later he is still making us laugh, and dogs at the beach now have their own park where they can run free.

Back in 1981 our advertisers included several small real estate companies.  Now most of them have been amalgamated into larger businesses. Who can remember March, Darrell Kent, Crocker, Hoffmann, Gregory, Cooper, Whomsley, Cimerman or Foster Real Estate?

Queen Street residents were giving the TTC a rough ride. “When the new cars (weighting 51,000 pounds each) go by, cups rattle in my cupboard and the whole building shakes,” said one.  “Those new streetcars are cracking my walls, claimed Nancy Baker of Neville Park Boulevard. Ann Carter found stock shifting on the shelves of her photography store as a result of the vibrations.

The TTC responded by grinding down the wheels on the new cars to cut down on noise.  The tracks on Queen between Neville Park and Woodbine would be replaced in the next couple of years. Windows on the new cars were to be fitted with sliding sections along the bottom to let in fresh air for passengers, and the TTC promised to keep short turns to a minimum (Today’s riders can judge how well that promise was kept).

The Beach Hebrew Institute at 109 Kenilworth celebrated its diamond jubilee in 1981. Special events included publishing a commemorative book with a photo of its president Leo Schacter, and his wife Sarah, president of the sisterhood. For many years the Schacters operated a business in the Queen and Coxwell area.

Kew Gardens Head Gardener Frank Rosenberger, moved out of the Gardener’s Cottage in Kew Gardens when Len Stanley took over the job .

Sue Kaiser, the administrator of Community Centre 55 resigned. Her place was taken by Lin Grist.

For a few years there was a Beaches Bach Festival, orchestrated by Patricia and Philip Moorhead at Bellefair United Church. The 1981 program included a performance of the Brandenburg Concerto.

Further west on Queen, entertainment at the Orchard Park Tavern included female strippers from noon to 7:30 p.m. “We didn’t want to do it,” a spokesman told the newspaper, “but there are so many liquor licences in the Beach now that business is falling off.” “We don’t need the strippers in the evening, as we have a good clientele then,” he added.

A 300 lb. safe containing $1,500 was stolen from Baskin Robbins near Queen and Lee in the early hours of June 21. Thieves left the freezer door open resulting in several thousand dollars worth of ice cream and Father’s Day cakes melting.

The Toronto Dominion Bank at Queen and Kenilworth cashed its last cheque in late summer. The building is now the location of Lion on the Beach.

In February, the new Toronto City Council voted to allow each councillor a budget of $12,000 to hire an assistant for a one year trial period. Local councillors at the time were Pat Shepherd and Dorothy Thomas.

The Toronto School Board’s plan to provide $500 a month for six months to pay for an assistant for each trustee was scrapped. Local trustees Tom Jakobek, David Moll, and Maureen Godsoe (the Separate School rep) voted against paid assistants.

A provincial election was held on March 19. Wayne Cook was the Liberal choice, Paul Christie had the nod from the PCs, Peter Flosznik ran for the Rhinoceros Party, and incumbent Marion Bryden represented the NDP. Bryden was returned, but Christie came within 500 votes of taking the seat.

On Kingston Road 58 parking meters were installed between Beech and Victoria Park. Local merchants hoped this would discourage all-day parkers and free up space for their customers. City officials said it was unlikely that parking meters would make their way south to Queen Street. The idea had been broached a number of times, but the city had always vetoed the idea. How times change!

The Sarah Ashbridge, a 38 foot rescue boat named for the first woman settler in the area, was launched on May 18. The steel-hulled vessel was christened by Dorothy Bullen and Betty Burton, great granddaughters of Sarah Ashbridge, the matriarch of a family that arrived from Philadelphia in 1793. The Ashbridges built a log cabin on a 300 acre landgrant near the lake in the spring of 1794. The former Ashbridge home at 1440 Queen St. E. stands very close to the original cabin site.

Driving regulations were tightened in June. New drivers, regardless of age, would now have to put in two years of safe driving without suspension before being granted a permanent licence.

Larry Binns recalled his summer job in 1913 helping on a coal/oil wagon. He was paid 25 cents a day. The wagon covered a fair chunk of territory, and Binns remembered stopping for lunch in farmhouses east of the city limits (Victoria Park Avenue). Binns and his family arrived in Canada on the first ship that left England following the news of the Titanic sinking in 1912.

News came from the paper’s first editor, Doug White. The previous year had been one of great change for the family. After eight years of farming (strawberries, bees and poultry) on Prince Edward Island, they felt the need to return to an urban setting and chart new goals. They were now living in Halifax where Doug worked as a professional engineer with an oceanographic consulting firm. Sandy had returned part time to university to pursue her education in social work, and 2 1/2-year-old Keltie was thriving.


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