«RETURN TO 501 Queen Streetcar

At Roncesvalles: The corner



Jennifer Wells Feature Writer

A pentimento moment.

A gentleman stands on the curb, staring at you, wearing a fedora and a swell double-breasted coat, like it’s 1936 and there’s someplace important he’s gotta be.

Let’s imagine he just exited the B & G coffee shop and milk bar. Or let’s say he’s freshly arrived in town, having travelled the King’s Highway by Gray Coach, stepping out onto the bone-dry pavement at the intersection, his brogues snapping to the corner where Queen St. meets King St. and they both meet Roncesvalles.

The Gray Coach could take you places. Tickets available for all North American Routes! Buffalo. Washington. Chicago. What’s your fancy?

The bus depot fades into history. The outline of the late art deco terminal emerges in bas relief, now in the guise of a McDonald’s, where a young woman in black Nike high tops is 40 cents short for a large apple juice and where dads speed through with their hungry soccer-playing kids and where Lynn, a pixieish 50-something, circles the air with an unlit cigarette as she spills a long tale of grievance before ordering a cheeseburger and offering the name of her psychiatrist and her mental health nurse, should anyone have any questions about today’s troubles. There’s a cavalcade of characters, let me tell you, at this nexus of Parkdale and High Park.

A crazy cat’s cradle of transit wires still threads the sky. The intersection used to be a five-way, explains Ted Wickson, the erstwhile TTC archivist. Last March, Wickson presented a historical retrospective on the 501 car, end to end, to the Toronto Transportation Society.

Back in the day, the Sunnyside Bridge carried traffic down to Lakeshore Road. Contemporary area residents who have serially suffered from transit construction may be interested to learn that on a single day in 1923, the entire quilt of tram rails was ripped up and replaced. In nine hours. That is a fact. Wickson knows everything about the granite used to pave the intersection. It was quarried in Quebec. It lasts forever. Or would have.

The Laura Secord candy shop is long gone. The handsome striped awnings that unfurled to the street from Tamblyn Drugs and United Cigar Stores have disappeared, those stores eventually replaced by a donut shop, which is gone now too.

If you look south, instead of down at your shoes all the time, you can see the lake and, sometimes, a late season sailboat.

Who’s got time for sightseeing? Transit riders bolt off the Queen car and sprint around the corner to catch the King car headed north to Dundas West station.

The Long Branch riders? They wait in stopped time. There was a day when Long Branch riders had their own streetcar, which looped through the Sunnyside car yard. No longer.

It’s coming on winter.

The lights in the shops are being lit earlier.

James Dy, elfin and friendly, is up on a ladder at his antique shop, polishing the crystals on one of his beloved chandeliers, which cram the ceiling. He estimates that the French extravaganza in the window weighs upwards of 70 kilograms. He laments that the character of the street is changing, that there are fewer antique stores than there used to be. Still, the street car stops right outside and that’s been good for business.

He flicks a switch on a design of his own creation, and a magnificence of cascading amethyst comes to life in the twilight.

Steps away, at Bar Salumi, Fabio Bondi looks up from a glass of red wine. The bar was designed as a holding tank for the overflow from Bondi’s adjacent restaurant, The Local Kitchen. There’s a warm focaccia in the window, its yeasty aroma beckoning. The Queen car rattles past and Bondi readies himself for that moment, when the gloaming sinks to nightfall.

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From bus depot to McDonald's, from fall to winter, from day to evening--all is flux at the nexus of Parkdale and High Park.

TORONTO STAR

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Chef Fabio Bondi co-owns Bar Salumi, designed as a holding tank for the overflow from Bondi's adjacent restaurant, The Local Kitchen.

STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR

 

Comments

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Actually, you could also grab the train at the corners. It used to be a scheduled stop on the way to Sarnia, Ontario. If you look between the monument and the bridge to Sunnyside you might still be able to see the stairs going down to the train tracks. It was still being used in the 60's.

My mother grew up at Roncy and Queen, I'm 54 years old and still ride the 501 from Windermere to Church Street; daily. My parents met on the Queen streetcar. I wonder whatever happend to the "Edgwater Hotel" sign? It has only been removed in the last couple of years. I hope someone from the 'hood has it.

As a frequent traveler to Toronto the 501 is an ideal way during non-rush hours to relax and get from West to East and vice Versa instead of the rush rush of taking the Subway and transferring South from Kipling Station to get to Queen St.

501 and the Toronto Street Car system is unique since it passes by City Hall and like a feeder system to where you can go to so many points of the 501

Oh it would be nice if there was still a train station and a bus station at this great corner with its splendid view of the lake and its myriad of antique shops. What was once a great transit hub is now a corner admired for its history. Will it one day be another crossroads for trains, buses and streetcars? It would be so great if one could hop on the train here to get to Niagara, go on holiday from here. What a shame that a city would dismantle that infrastructure and make its citizens commute slowly and painfully. Maybe one day. Maybe one day this corner will be more than a great view again.

I remember so well the ride from Long Branch to Queen and Yonge to see Simpsons' and Eatons'

windows at Christmas time. The corner where Queen, King and Roncesvalles stand out clearly in my memory. I remember a dress shop at the south-east corner. My dad always pointed out a house with a turret just past the corner where he lived as a child.It was all very magical to a young kid.

to Teresa; the dress store on the curve was Ruth Frocks'. It was so elegant and very old Parkdale. Thanks for the memory.

It is wonderful to get these perspectives from people on this truly distinctive area of Toronto and its historical characteristics. Sadly, it does no justice to the dynamics of this unique neighbourhood that it gets relegated to such a dry, dismissive and empty description as "Wickson knows everything about the granite used to pave the intersection". Surely, there are far better people that could have been asked to give commentary on this absolutely fabulous enclave of West Toronto than a person talking about the concrete. I do love the photograph of Chef Fabio.

The 501 is now very painful for us commuters - try catching one between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. - it's a can of sardines. For this most populous of routes, there should be way more service than there is, and with the current administration, I fear things will only get worse. Yet there's no other way to get from east to west. Queen Street is a major artery and deserves far more TTC service than it currently gets. When are the other commuters going to speak out?

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