Today I begin taking us back, in the hope that I can get you jazzed up about an era long gone by – Toronto of the 1970s.
First stop, municipal politics. And in particular the man who came to be known as “the tiny, perfect mayor,” David Crombie.
“Crombie was elected to Toronto’s city council in 1970, and became Mayor of Toronto in 1972, ushering in an era of socially responsible urban development inspired by thinkers such as Jane Jacobs. Crombie was the first mayor who represented the reform movement of Toronto politics, and his policies differed sharply from those of the Old Guard who preceded him.
Much of Crombie’s time as mayor was spent trying to rein in the development industry. He initially imposed a 45 foot limit on all new constructions, but this was overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board. Crombie then put forward a new official plan that imposed varying height restrictions across the city, and this was upheld by the board.
(A very different story from today when it seems that the city can’t sell our sky space fast enough. Okay back to days of yore)
The Spadina Expressway had been halted by premier Bill Davis in 1971, but Davis continued to support the construction of the Allen Expressway in the north. Crombie attempted but failed to have it halted. He was more successful in countering plans for the Scarborough Expressway; all work was halted during Crombie’s term, leading to its eventual cancellation.
Crombie also opposed the traditional pattern of demolishing poorer neighbourhoods and replacing them by housing projects. The plans to redevelop areas such as Trefann Court, Kensington Market, and Cabbagetown ended under Crombie. Instead, he oversaw the creation of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, an area of mid-rise, mixed-use, mixed-income buildings that followed Jane Jacobs vision of urban planning.
Crombie was enormously popular as mayor, being re-elected in 1974 and 1976 with large majorities.
Oh boy, thing have sure changed since then….
Back then the Prime Minister’s wife went clubbing at the El Mocambo with the Rolling Stones.
There was an experiment in alternative living for university students called Rochdale. Okay, so it did end up as likely the biggest party house in the world, run by bikers where you could buy any kind of dope your little heart desired. Maybe it failed on one level, but on another, it represented a time and a city where anything went and quite frequently did.
That my friends is the world of Night Town. Over the next month, I’ll dig into fashion, the music, the movies, and upload samples so you can really get an idea as to the sound and feel of Toronto 1970s style.
Got any memories of your own? Care to share? This is the place to do it. Who knows, one of your memories might find their way into the book as a bit of contextual detailing.
Oh, and more thing, uber thanks to wikipedia for the great slice of David Crombie history that you so kindly allowed me to cut and paste. :-)
Have a good week…..C