mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Ganked from deepfryerfire: Geographica in Memoriam. You all know how I feel about places (hint: more real than people.) Herewith a list of places now gone; almost inevitably, this will mean nothing to anyone but me.

1. The Ursuline Junior Convent School. Once the residence of the Lieutenant-governor of Ontario some time in the 19th century, was bought by the Ursuline Sisters back when nunnish orders had money and, well, members. Sweeping drive led to porticoed front door led to large foyer in dark wood (where later our ballet classes were held) led to broad wooden stairs up to a broad landing, which then split into two sweeping staircases to the second floor. Original bathrooms in black and white tile remained as adjuncts to the three classrooms, one of which was just a partitioned area off the main second floor drawing room. Had a tiny conservatory with terracotta tiling where we had our piano lessons. It led out to the terrace which overlooked a broad stretch of lawn that overlooked the ravine in back. Torn down in the 70s, unbelievably, to make way for an apartment building. I left it when I was eleven or so and my memories of it are all with a child's sense of proportion. I thought it huge, but I thought the playground was huge: and the playground was once the tennis court.

2. The Paternoster Bookshop, somewhere on the block between Avenue Rd and Bay. My first book store, a narrow little place that had books from England. This was where I, all a-twitter at the adult responsibility, went and ordered a book when I was thirteen or so. It was Autumn Term because my mother had given me End of Term for Christmas and I loved it. Disappeared who knows when; money came to TO all through the 60's (and 70's and 80's and 90's) and the three long blocks on the north side of Bloor between Bedford and Yonge have changed out of recognition through the last 40 years.

3. Britnell's Bookstore on Yonge north of Bloor. A Toronto institution, staffed by tweedy ladies of good family. Where, a blasé fifteen year old by then, I went to shop for coffee table books about Nureyev and ordered the Molesworth omnibus for my best friend. Britnell books (always hardcover in those days) came in sturdy but decorative boxes, swathed in tissue paper; I still have a couple of them, full of teen memorabilia. That's where I also had my first job, up in the ordering department with a cheerful woman called Lil who was a nudist on her own time. The business went online and the store itself became a Starbuck's.

4. The Book Cellar on Bay south of Bloor. Cramped two-storey house painted yellow, narrow aisles between stuffed bookshelves; where I bought my English ballet magazines and oddities like The Book of the Damned that harrowed my fourteen year old soul. In the lush late 60s the Book Cellar moved to tony Yorkville where it remained for decades before disappearing some time while I was in Japan. As for Bay St, once lined with imposing Victorian mansions... well, you know what happens to Victorian mansions in this town. Bay St is now a long corridor of condos and office buildings of what someone called the hemorrhoid school of architecture: pile on bleeding pile.

5. Convenience store, name never noted, on Harbord west of St. George in the heart of the university. Briefly, my first year of university, I used to stop there and buy Red Delicious apples (a variety unknown to me at home) and what I recall as Sweet Marie chocolate bars, which had peanuts and caramel. Store sat in the middle of a stretch of small two storey houses, a class or two below the huge Victorian mansions on the other three sides of the block. All of which were torn down a year or two later to make room for Fort Book, the Robots Library at UofT. Remember in a slightly hallucinatory way seeing a rabbit in the small front yard of the house next to it, one winter evening after class.

6. Our old daycare off Devonshire. Renovated in the early 80s with a government grant by people from the daycare community: man, those were the days. (Work crews quarrelled incessantly and the two main guys involved-- a parent and the ex of one of the staff- got macho in each other's faces. Even in a matriarchy...) We moved in before the renovations were complete, and no one blinked an eyelash. Man, those were the days. No suits coming in and telling us what to do and threatening to revoke licences. Became dilapidated within twenty years but was home sweet home. We had space and we had a huge yard with trees and sky-blue rug in the baby section. (Baby sections are not allowed to have carpets any more.) Torn down in 2002 so the university could get at the corner of Bloor and St George to build a student residence (which involved tearing down the classic St George Apartments where my grandmother once lived.) Is now a vacant lot not even used for parking. The university hereabouts is a bad landlord, a bad citizen, and not that hot as a university even.

7. Mariko's on Brunswick. One of the first Annex Japanese restaurants, long before the area became glutted with them. Run by Japanese, unlike the ones twenty years' later. Just up the block from me the happy year I lived on Brunswick. Days of '86, in a nutshell. She moved out the Danforth and the place is now a bar after being a hair salon, and you can't get decent koroke anywhere else.

8. Swiss Chalet on Bloor east of Bedford. OK, a Swiss Chalet, big deal. But it had, in its heyday, a bunch of motherly middle-aged middle-European wait staff who treated you like old friends or family. It was where I used to take kids for dinner whom I was looking after for the hour or two post-daycare while their parents had classes or meetings. Also read my first Saiyuki manga there. This was late 90's and I dined on a regular basis with several quite charming young ladies there. Closed last year and torn down to build condominiums 'from 500,000 to 2 million' for, as they like to think, 'curators, artists, intellectuals.' Not likely.

9. Tasty's at Clinton and Bloor. Greek restaurant with Sri Lankan chef. Great breakfasts, great souvlaki, great place to sit and read. Owner sold it to Koreans some four or five years back, who sold it to some other Koreans who turned it into a soul food restaurant with high prices. That didn't last long; it became a Korean restaurant and still looks pretty empty most of the time. And I miss my old local where I read BL and Marginal and Point of Dreams and reread Lord of the Rings.

10. There's many many more, so I'll list: Palmer's restaurant and drugstore, again on Bloor, where I first bought Tobler chocolate bars and first had ice cream sodas; the Gift and Toy shop that supplied all my delicate hand-made dollhouse furniture when I was twelve (saved up my allowance month by month to buy a new piece); Flo's Diner in Yorkville with the battered leatherette banquettes, that relocated somewhere, but not the same; Zero restaurant, also in Yorkville, that predated Mariko's and was possibly even better; the Florentine Shop in the Colonnade that probably sold kitsch, but which fired our teenaged imaginations with Giotto angels and gilt-edged note paper; The Danish Food Centre that served lovely sandwiches; and a place whose name I can't recall, an architectural innovation in the 60's, that was a courtyard ringed by shops on two levels, backing onto Cumberland and reached by a passageway off Bloor St. I remember the enclosed feeling of the place, hidden away from the busy street.
Tags: place, rl

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