At Roncesvalles: The corner
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.
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.
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
The comments to this entry are closed.