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City

Toronto of the 1980s

Posted by Derek Flack / October 11, 2010

1980s TorontoToronto of the 1980s is a place that I thought I remembered well. After putting together photo posts on Toronto of the 1960s and 1970s, however, I was surprised to find that images from the 80s seem almost as distant to me as those from decades I didn't live through.

Well, sort of. It's actually a bit more complicated than that. Given that my formative years were spread over this period, photos like the ones below offer certain things that are easy enough to recognize. The buses, the cop cars, the relative lack of density all comes back even at just a quick glance, but it's difficult to place the scenes in a wider context. I don't, for instance, remember walking down Yonge St. during this period, though I would have done it countless times. Ditto for the skyline. Aside from the ubiquity of the CN Tower, I can't recall taking note of any of the other buildings or the rise of Scotia Plaza in 1988. Of course I knew they were there, but at the time I referred to that entire area as "downtown."

So needless to say, this little trip down memory lane has been more introspective than the last two. I find myself questioning the nature of my memories and wondering about the raw materials upon which they're based. Far less mobile as a child, I suspect that a good bit of the city that I remember must have come to me via images in newspapers and magazines. And yet, despite that, it's unquestionable that there's a certain 80s "feel" to certain images that immediately sparks an emotional response. Tough to pin down, it's probably the closest I get to the experience of "authentic" nostalgia, which technically speaking, isn't authentic at all.

Finding specific dates has proved a challenge, so I've only included those that I know. If you can place one of the photos or if the the decade is incorrect, feel free to let me know in the comment thread.

Trolley Bus at Dupont/Annette and Dundas
1980s TTC

The monorail!
1980s monorail toronto

Ontario Place from the CN Tower
1980s Ontario Place

Coming into Union Station
1980s trains toronto

Yonge Street
1980s Yonge Street

1050 Chum (Card likely pre-dates the 80s, but not the host)
1980s Chum FM

Bloor Street near Bay
1980s Toronto

The Flatiron building with Derek Michael Besant's mural looking quite fresh
1980s Toronto

Bellair Street
1980s Toronto

Skyline 1986 (labeled by the source as 1988)
1980s Toronto

Exhibition Stadium
1980s Toronto

Not taken in the 1980s, but the car fits the bill!
Toronto 1980s

For more images of 1980s Toronto, please see this previous post (no repeats) or check out Urban Toronto's thread 1980s Toronto (very few repeats).

Image credits: Those photos sourced from the Toronto Archives have series and fond information at the bottom. The majority of the other images come from the Wikimedia Commons with the exception of: Yellow Police Car (unknown/google), Exhibition Stadium postcard (auction screen cap) and the 1050 Chum Poster (unknown/google) and the TTC Bus (barp.ca).

Discussion

69 Comments

Nunavuter / October 11, 2010 at 04:22 pm
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Two observations to date the images:

The Nathan Phillips Square photo dates from about 1977, as One Dundas West is still under construction in the background. Several old Eaton's properties along the East side of Bay are also still standing, and these were demolished for redevelopment by 1979 as the second phase of the Eaton Centre was completed.

The skyline shot includes what is now called the TD Waterhouse Tower (the fourth tower at TD Centre) which was completed in 1985. However, there is no sign of Scotia Plaza in some stage of construction. By 1987, it would be a tallish concrete skeleton. So I'd place the image to 1986.
chumbug / October 11, 2010 at 04:28 pm
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Printed CHUM charts were discontinued by the mid-1970s (although Mike Cleaver was around in the '80s too)
rick mcginnis / October 11, 2010 at 05:01 pm
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I always feel bitter looking at pix of Holt Renfrew in the '80s, because its construction closed down Round Records, my first ever favorite record store. (Anyone remember Round Records?) Lots of imports, tons of prog (which I was way into) and early punk (which I got into afterwards and tossed all my prog records - a decision I came to regret.)

Have a lot of memories tied up in the intersection of Bay & Bloor - got spat on crossing there at the turn of the '80s for dressing "punk;" later spent some time at Bemelmans (which I reminisced about in a post here.) My college at U of T was also nearby.

It's funny, but my memories of the '80s (which are obviously a bit more detailed than yours, Derek) don't really take place in a city that looks THAT much different, but looking at these pictures I can't help but be struck by how much the city has changed. Sure the brutalist cliff of the Manulife Centre still looms above Bay & Bloor, but the street level is considerably different, and the city around it has been transformed. Still miss the University Theatre, though - I'll always grumble whenever I pass the Pottery Barn that's taken its place.
Undercook / October 11, 2010 at 05:29 pm
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Brings back a lot of awesome memories. Thanks for the post.
Derek / October 11, 2010 at 05:37 pm
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Warren -- I have unpublished your comment because it was inane and unrelated to this post.
Warren replying to a comment from Derek / October 11, 2010 at 06:56 pm
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True. But it was hilarious.
nippleholic / October 11, 2010 at 07:56 pm
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damn, that Burger King on Yonge Street is still there today.
esae / October 11, 2010 at 08:16 pm
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Is that Bellair Street diner still there?
lights / October 11, 2010 at 08:17 pm
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Yonge Street needs it's neon signs back! Even Vancouver is encouraging lights on Robson! (they have a new by-law that gives rebates for them, I think).
1weasel / October 11, 2010 at 08:34 pm
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The Bellair is now parkland. There was a big fuss over how much it cost to ship a large rock in that was park of the park's design.
Lee replying to a comment from esae / October 11, 2010 at 09:57 pm
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The building is gone, but Flo's Diner is still in business; they're on Yorkville at Bellair, just north of where this was. They have booths and some signage that were saved from the original building.
Ian milne / October 12, 2010 at 12:54 am
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Great post. I'm loving this series, please keep it up.
Chizwick replying to a comment from rick mcginnis / October 12, 2010 at 04:13 am
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how often do you look at pics of holt renfrew from the 80's?
rick mcginnis replying to a comment from Chizwick / October 12, 2010 at 07:49 am
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A lot if you spend time on the Urban Toronto forums, to be honest. The area was absurdly documented.
Roland Butta / October 12, 2010 at 08:37 am
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One *very* minor detail struck me: the first picture of the Annette trolley bus. Note the light pole right behind it, and how shiny and silver it is. Sometime in the early 1990s Toronto Hydro stopped regularly painting its metal light standards, and the result is that along Dupont and other streets there are now literally thousands of light poles slowly decomposing due to rust and corrosion (and looking worse by the year). Note as well the lack of graffiti on the underpass. I remember this era well, and I think it's probably the last decade where the public realm in this city was actually maintained to a higher standard and not blemished by vandalism.
anderson / October 12, 2010 at 09:49 am
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very good article
Damon / October 12, 2010 at 10:13 am
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I remember moving here in 1983, walking down Yonge Street listening to the radio on my Walkman and hearing "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC on both CHUM-FM and Q107 at the exact same time. I was thinking that radio in this city kinda blows. Plus ça change... Rick, I did find and enjoy The Record Peddler on Queen East which had the city's best selection of punk records at the time. I'm afraid I was too late for Round Records which sounds like it would have been much more fun than Holt Renfrew!

Later in the decade, I worked as a bike courier and so was intimately familiar with almost every office building in the city. For me the downtown still is the 1980s in a sense, because I've never known it quite as well since then.
wb / October 12, 2010 at 11:23 am
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Aw, that pic of Flo's Diner tugs at the heartstrings. I remember going there back when the city was new to me and there was so much to explore.
M-PC / October 12, 2010 at 11:50 am
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I wish I could remember what song it was for, but I remember doing karaoke at Echo in Chinatown a few years back, and the video was of a drive up Yonge street in what was probably the late '80s/early '90s. There used to be a Coles at Yonge and Charles!
David L / October 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm
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I like the ad for 1050 Chum. I grew up in the same townhouse complex where Terry Steele lived. I remember when they moved from Top 40 to Oldies and he was laid off. It was a pretty sad time in the communal backyard.

In other more amusing Terry Steele news, he was the first one to ever give me booze. It was in the late 70s, so not related to the pictures, but with the consent of my parents, he gave me a few dixie cups of beer. Hilarity ensued seeing as I was around three.
jennifer / October 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm
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We had a monorail??? Where was it?

I miss the old Flo's building. It was so lovely!
rick mcginnis replying to a comment from jennifer / October 12, 2010 at 01:22 pm
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It was at the Metro Toronto Zoo - it was called the Canadian Domain Ride. It was plagued by accidents and closed in 1994. This is what it looks like now: http://www.blogto.com/city/2008/11/rediscovering_torontos_monorail/
Talbert / October 13, 2010 at 09:55 pm
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For more images of 1980s Toronto, there's always the Kids in the Hall intro!
Paula / October 19, 2010 at 03:25 pm
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Thank you for posting this. We moved to Toronto in 1977 from England and my best & favorite memories of Toronto are from the late 70's mid 80's era. These pics brought back a lot of great memories of time past.
eagle3 replying to a comment from esae / December 14, 2010 at 09:35 pm
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No its gone..
Cindy / December 15, 2010 at 06:44 pm
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Great series, Derek. Thanks!
Alex / December 19, 2010 at 05:46 pm
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Derek or anyone
In the early 80s there was a healthfood store/restaurant just west of Yonge and not too far south of Bloor. It was on a very narrow street or perhaps even an alley. I can't for the life of me remember the name of that place. It always seemed ironic to me that it wasn't far from the legendary Fenton's. I want to say the name had some variation of "berry" in it, but I could be wrong.
It's not really important, but if you can help me think of it that would allow me to obsess about some other trivial subject for a change.
Best of the season
Alex
nadia szilvassy / December 19, 2010 at 08:19 pm
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Alex it was Goldberry's on St. Nicholas Street. sigh.
Don/New Toronto / January 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm
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I was raised in TO from the late 50s to the late 70s,and a little of the 80s.I left Canada on a quest to find where I came from bad idea I found what I didn't want.
I wish I had never done that.I then jioned the U.S.Navy to see
the World,what I found was a longing to go home to a friendly
warm and giving place the big TO , I will miss Younge st.&
Queen back in the 60s and 70s at Christmas time the roasted chestnuts warm loving people I was 12 years old looking at the
windows of Eatons & Simpsons they were the most beautifull
things I remember from my life with TO,,If only I could come home to TO one last time before I pass I would be able to say
I have seen and lived in the most wonderous and beautifull
place available,I have traveled to many places with the U.S.Navy but TO is the place to live breath and I would wish to pass from TO to Heaven. Alas good bye my love TO.
lou mazza / January 6, 2011 at 04:09 am
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the last picture of the yellow police cruiser is reminiscent for me, whenever i saw one in my rear view mirror it gave me yellow fever. It is also the vehicle that Joni Mitchell sings about when she says, "the big yellow taxi came and took away my old man."
Lynda Willson Norman / January 15, 2011 at 07:45 pm
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What a wonderful walk down memory lane...thanks !! I was born and raised in Toronto. Worked downtown, went to school and lived in East York. So many happy memories of the 50's and 60's in East York. Went to William Burgess School, Cosburn Jr. High and East York Collegiate. Too bad we can't turn back time to those wonderful days in Toronto.
Carol / January 17, 2011 at 05:37 pm
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Lived at 328 Manning Avenue (off College St. near CHIN Radio Station/Johnny Lombardi; had fabulous time growing up here; memories galore; married and moved to Connecticut in 1988 when I was 26, but recently walked around old neighborhood, as well as Yonge Street, King Street, The Esplanade, the area that used to be known as "the docks" not far from Kensington Market where my dad took us as kids to see the ships; great to see pictures of things I still remember after 23 years!
Carol / January 17, 2011 at 05:41 pm
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One more thing: I specifically remember going on a school field trip where I signed my name on one of the last sections of the CN Tower before it was transported to the top!!
Roseann / January 18, 2011 at 11:45 am
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I see that there are no pictures of the Toronto Island during these decades? How come. Going to the island was a family favourite back then because it only cost 25 cents to board the boat and it was a great place for a family picnic. I am going to see if I have any pictures of the island taken during the 60's 70's and 80's - can I send them to you via email?
b klunder / January 19, 2011 at 10:07 am
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In the 1980's
Where's Queen West...the BamBoo, the Rivoli, the Cameron House, Peter Pan ?????
Thats' when Queen West opened up. A very big time in Toronto history.

Get with it.





MalcolmO replying to a comment from rick mcginnis / January 24, 2011 at 09:39 pm
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I remember Round Records! Larry who ran it was a Deadhead too. I used to buy all my records there. Larry actually went to confer with the Dead when they started up _their_ Round Records. I bought 2 or 3 bootleg Dead records there AND I bought tickets to the world's largest rock festival there. Watkins Glen: one day, 3 bands, and 670,000 people.
sherry / January 27, 2011 at 08:28 pm
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Anyone remember the name of the hotel and bar restaurant on the north side of Charles Street just east of Church? It used to be a great placed to drink after work in the 70's and early 80's then it became a drug den. The boat people of Viet Nam were housed there for a short time until it was eventually demolished and replaced by a highrise.
MalcolmO replying to a comment from sherry / January 29, 2011 at 12:07 am
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Sherry, I think the place you're referencing is the Hotel Isabella. Ring any bells?
Kennedy replying to a comment from rick mcginnis / April 27, 2011 at 05:34 pm
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Hey Rick, do you remember working at Simpson's (before The Bay bought them out) toy department around 1985? I still have a couple tapes you made for me!
Adriana Firpo Vives / August 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm
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Well, what a memory I have!!!!!!. I was living there in Toronto, since 1985 ´till 2009 that was the date that I came back to my home country. I love Toronto as it is, and as it was. Is lovely and comfortable in there. The people are very friendly. I loved the snow!!!. I remember when I was saying that I loved the snow, a woman asked me if I loved it!, yes I said, I love it. The only moment when I don´t like the winter is when is windy but beside that, I love it. An when is sunny. The winter itself is lovely.
Paul replying to a comment from Don/New Toronto / September 27, 2011 at 03:10 pm
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People are attached to their formative years. for me its
young st. & Queens st west of the 80's

It sure has change a lot. 40 floor condos, ...condos everywhere.

Bitchy cold people, who look who purposely stare at their at their mobile devise/computer glue into their hand as you pass them, for fear of any eye contact.

Tons of young kids from surrounding small towns, and from across Canada who come to it as if there is are no other large cities, with the same antisocial behaviour, which you think would be different.
George Coleiro / October 6, 2011 at 07:15 am
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Thank you i landed in Toronto November 1951
and it gave me lots of memories again
thank you
George
George Coleiro / October 6, 2011 at 07:18 am
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Thank you very much as i came to Toronto in November 1950
this gave a lot of memories Again
Thank You
George
Ron / December 11, 2011 at 10:21 am
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Where is the mono rail in Toronto....?
Tara replying to a comment from Ron / February 13, 2012 at 09:16 am
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The monorail was at the zoo.
Lynda Wills replying to a comment from Don/New Toronto / February 24, 2012 at 01:10 pm
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So beautifully said....I am drawn to take in the Toronto sites on my mecca to the St. Lawrence Market via GO Train....smiles come to me as I peer into back yards on the route to Union Station. My camera in tow...I walk and wander and take in the sights of the architectur...of gargoyles, griffins, angels, gods and goddesses, animals and historical personages beautifully carved in stone to overlook another era.
Lynda Wills replying to a comment from Lynda Wills / February 24, 2012 at 01:13 pm
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* my comment was in reply to Don/New Toronto / January 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm
Lynda Wills / February 24, 2012 at 02:37 pm
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must-reads: Faces on Places by Terry Murray and Toronto - No Mean City by Eric Arthur....among many others :)
RDK / March 6, 2012 at 10:05 pm
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I love taking a memory stroll through the 80's. Things also looked similar into the early 90's (esp. Yonge street, and the seedier shops).

You can also tell by the general design of the cars. The ones with the fatter, more angled designed grills are older (so mid to earlier 80's). They actually started looking more streamlined although still boxy in the later part of the 80s (The bus picture, that car is definitely earlier 80's, and the one on Yonge St. is likely mid).

But definitely true, when you live through it as a kid, there's certain things that seemed normal, just like when we look around today, but will likely think otherwise if we see a picture of it 20 yrs later.

I remember Sundays, everything used to be closed, so it was a sleepy, very relaxing (often boring) day.

I wish there were more pictures of all the Arcades that used to be scattered all around Toronto. Great times.
Jenny replying to a comment from esae / May 29, 2012 at 01:08 pm
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Sadly, no. It is a "yuppie" kind of place. It is now an area that is some kind of weird pine tree space garden. It is now full of condos :(. My childhood was the 1980s and I remember that place well. I think it closed sometime in the late 90s :(
Christina / July 5, 2012 at 11:16 pm
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Hey, does anyone remember and/or have pictures of a night club called The Blitz(or maybe just Blitz) It was on the east side of Yonge street, just south of Dundas. I was in there in the late 80's/early 90's. The entrance was a door in between other businesses (near the Jewellery Exchange?) and you went straight downstairs if I recall correctly. It was very dark and had black lights along the walls.
Dan / July 18, 2012 at 08:09 am
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Does anyone know anything about a bar called the Forge or the Bellows in Toronto in the 80's
Michael / July 23, 2012 at 11:23 pm
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Hi, does anyone remember the nightclub that use to be under hotel plaza II ?, ( Marriott now )I believe it was called Heaven nightclub or just Heaven
Nadia replying to a comment from Michael / November 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm
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Yes, I have a drink chip $2.00 still - from that place!! haha
Robin / November 23, 2012 at 02:42 pm
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Rock and Roll Heaven!!! Saw the Blushing Brides there in the 80's
Dee / February 11, 2013 at 06:54 pm
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Use to go to Heaven nightclub almost every weekend came in second place in a lip sync contest they had.Miss the 80's
Dee / February 11, 2013 at 06:56 pm
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I use to go to Heaven nightclub almost every weekend, came in second place in a lip sync contest they had there...miss the 80's
Alexandra / March 5, 2013 at 01:04 am
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I remember Mike from CFTO. He had pepperoni problems. I also remember going up to CHUM and I got my sun sign star on a button.
Alexandra replying to a comment from Dee / March 5, 2013 at 01:05 am
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ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Darlene / April 19, 2013 at 04:57 pm
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Does anyone know how I can find my husbands dads portuguese band that played on tv back in the late 1970's early 1980's? I would love to surprise him but he doesn't remember what channel he saw it on as he was a small boy..his dads name was Danny Carvalho and the bands name was Os Sombras Thanks
Em / April 24, 2013 at 07:39 pm
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I am trying to remember the name of a really popular nightclub that was off the Danforth in the Greenwood / Coxwell area. It was a 2 storey club and had bright neon lights on the outside that were reused even when the club changed owners and names. Does anyone remember the name??
Kevin / June 2, 2013 at 02:35 am
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Yes, I worked at Heaven from the day it opened. I was a busboy,then a barboy, and then I did lights and eventually was one of several regular DJs there. The early days at Heaven were unbelievable. I'll never forget working at Heaven.
pm / September 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm
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Toronto is the best city anywhere I wish I still lived there and i cry every day that I dont.
I have been depressed since the day I left Toronto and Canada for that matter.
There is no heaven on earth but Canada is the closest thing. I want to come home someday but I dont think I will be alive when I do
Chris PARFITT / October 1, 2013 at 04:59 pm
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Ah yes ,I remember R&R Heaven....I was working at Q107 at the time...did so for 15 years....we used to have regular Q Thursday nights there....Gareth Brown was the manager...& always hired gorgeous female staff....I remember helping carry Biily Idol down the stairs to the club before his show....totally blasted ( on whatever! ) ...anybody remenber BJ Cuddles??
Brian / November 11, 2013 at 09:15 pm
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I was born in 1985, I never really got the chance to explore much of the city, but it was quite awesome to look back. :D I also got the chance to see the parts of the 1900's up to this post. Quite gratifying to say the least and I learned allot too! Wish there was a damn time machine so I could capture so much... I wish toronto kept it's streetcars, because look what a mistake they made... Same for the trolley buses.
Stephanie / January 23, 2014 at 03:47 pm
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I lived in Toronto during the 80's and part of the 90's. I am trying to find the name of a transient male that used to hang out in front of Alan Cherry's furs on Yonge ST. He would self publish these small books/story about his "ideas". His ideas were out there. He had a strong dislike for Alan Cherry. I remember buying one of his books but can't find it now. He was a unique character like many i have encountered. If anyone has any information, let me know.
robbie / May 13, 2014 at 06:30 pm
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Great post and comments.
I am looking to chat with people about the rock scene in Toronto in the 80's. Would love to hear from you if you want to chat about it.

Veruca Salt replying to a comment from nadia szilvassy / July 14, 2014 at 04:48 am
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Oh wow! So, I didn't imagine a warehouse-like health food store off St. Nichlas? I went there as a teen and for some reason never found it again. I don't think I knew the name, but I am relieved (for some odd reason) that I didn't dream this place into existence. lol. Thanks!
Veruca Salt replying to a comment from b klunder / July 14, 2014 at 04:56 am
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You are absolutely correct! Who cares about Holt Renfrew?? Queen street west was incredible in the 80's & 90's, but big business killed it all. Pretty amazing that all the places you listed are still thriving. Peter Pan is the best, and The Bamboo was a big loss for Torontonians. What a beautiful and unique venue that was.. and great food to boot! The Twilight Zone wasn't too far down the road either... good times we had.

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