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That time when Ontario Place was our place

Posted by Ed Conroy / July 27, 2012

Ontario PlaceJohn Tory's suggested revitalization plan for Ontario Place goes a long way to restore the crestfallen reputation of that once splendid paragon of patriotism, architecture and culture, but notably misses something which united every visitor back in 1971 and kept the good vibrations alive long after they went home — a theme song!

Released in 1971 on a double sided 45 rpm, "Theme From Ontario Place" was written by the mighty Delores Clamen, composer of legendary ode to Ontario "A Place to Stand" and Canada's second national anthem "Hockey Theme," formerly a fixture on Hockey Night in Canada. The A-side featured a poppy version of the song, while the B-side went for easy listening grooves, and many variations, slow and fast, have appeared throughout the years (Delores was a true dub shepherd.)

A variant of the "Theme" appears in this short film, which spotlights the blood, sweat and tears of prep that went into the creation of Ontario Place. You can see the giddy, Expo '67 hangover in full effect here, and get a taste of the original remit - a celebration of the urban waterfront space as conceived by a gang of wildly imaginative (and probably insane) European architects, building something spectacular from a spectacular nothing.

This orangey, sun-soaked short from the 1970s ran as late night filler on many TV stations, when a program under-ran its slot or just before sign-off. The true kindred spirit of Ontario Place shines through here - this is what your parents and grandparents are talking about when they wax nostalgic about how it used to be...

By the 1980s, Ontario Place was struggling to remain relevant in the shadow of US-style mega theme parks like Canada's Wonderland, and the freewheeling notion of "It's All Yours" gave way to the empty spectacle of the Wilderness Adventure Log Ride (For my money, the water park and Children's Village were top drawer and outclassed Wonderland any day of the summer.)

In the 1990s Ontario Place had mostly abandoned TV spots, awareness and a sense of direction, and you'd be forgiven for forgetting OP even existed as it slouched through the 2000s.

Whoever ends up taking over the mantle of regenerating Ontario Place, whether or not they abide by John Tory's middle-of-the-road roadmap, certainly has their work cut out for them. And while it may not be helpful to obsess too much over past glories, they could do worse than find someone to re-mix and re-release "Theme From Ontario Place" when show time arrives (if Delores is cool with it, you know).

Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at



Sadie / July 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm
Thanks for the trip down Ontario Place memory lane! I loved going there as a child. I'm skeptical that the new 'Ontario Place' won't be the same family destination it once was.
Ronnie / July 27, 2012 at 01:36 pm
It's a shame they didn't renovate it some and then used the power of marketing to keep it alive and strong! We're all having great memory trips but now we're losing an important part of Toronto! If they had kept it up to date, we could have had a Wonderland on our hands right down town!
iSkyscraper / July 27, 2012 at 02:51 pm
Loved, loved, loved the little bumper boats you could drive around by the HMCS Haida. My favourite thing growing up. God knows the liability issues if you tried recreating that attraction today (small children, outboard motors, spinning props, what could go wrong?)

Loved the Haida too for that matter... up yours, Hamilton, for stealing it! That ship belongs in Toronto.

Yes, as a child the place was tops for water fun. So sad that it withered and died but I'm now excited for the future. Kudos to those who took the bold decision to close and reinvent it.

Tommy / July 27, 2012 at 02:57 pm
What the hell do families even do in Toronto anymore?
Aaron / July 27, 2012 at 08:00 pm
Looking forward to Condotario Place Village!
Parker / July 27, 2012 at 09:09 pm
I agree, the original Children's Village was way better -- and what's more, it was FREE! Once you paid your admission, that was it. No paying extra for tickets or passes.
Ἀντισθένης replying to a comment from Tommy / July 28, 2012 at 01:36 am
"What the hell do families even do in Toronto anymore?"

Spend most of their money on the mortgage for the house that's going to lose 30% of value by 2017, and the rest on payments for their SUVs, because it is 'too dangerous' to drive a small car as the roads are filled with people like them, then resent any tax money spent on transit even though it would save them the cost of a car or two if you could actually rely on the TTC in the city.
Connor replying to a comment from Ἀντισθένης / November 11, 2012 at 11:14 pm
What happened, blog.I' go down and you decided to troll bolgto?
Elizabeth from Etobicoke / October 16, 2015 at 09:05 pm
I'm looking forward to the reopening of Ontario Place in 2017, which is also the year Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary). It will be home to some new attractions - a forest with hundreds of trees planted on the east side next to the water slide and a new concert venue at the south end (something like the old Forum). Tere will be some new food vendors which include a Subway Sandwiches and maybe a Starbucks Coffee. In fact, a Subway opened on site during the summer of 2011. Will the Wilderness Adventure log flume ride still be there?
I'll be taking the "511 Bathurst" streetcar to get there, stepping off at the Exhibition loop and walking south, across the Exhibition grounds to Ontario Place, when it finally opens.

When I was a child, I went to Ontario Place with my parents and brother - sometimes it was to see Chuck Mangione in concert at the Forum. I will never forget playing in the Childrens' Village and the climbing apparatus. Replacing the Forum is the Molson Amphitheatre.

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