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City

What rush hour used to look like on the TTC

Posted by Chris Bateman / October 21, 2013

toronto subway rush hourFor 47 years, Bloor-Yonge has been Toronto's busiest subway station. It's where more than 410,000 people every day race, squeeze, and cram for trains to take them to work then repeat the exercise in reverse in the evening. It's also where a 1960s photographer, armed with a camera and monochrome film stock, captured candid portraits of hundreds of commuters at the end of a busy day.

The black and white 35mm photos were taken during the summer of 1966 by renowned photographer Eric Trussler. In the 1950s, Trussler recorded construction of the Yonge subway line for the TTC on assignment from Canada Pictures Ltd., a photo agency that provided documentary and wire services. He would head back underground for this assignment after forming his own company in 1957.

Though they were intended to record platform crowding, almost 50 years later the photos capture wonderful candid scenes and fashion styles from booming post-war Toronto. These years marked the largest era of mass transit expansion in the city's history, and these riders were reaping the benefits.

Look closely: one man in a loud shirt scoffs dry Corn Flakes as he boards a train; in another, a woman smokes a crafty cigarette with her friends. Two women in separate pictures have the same handbag. Almost everyone reads the Globe, the Star or the Telegram.

Trussler's skill made the mundane beautiful and provides us with a window into a lost world. Here are his pictures from Bloor-Yonge and St. George stations. Let it be noted that they look pretty darn busy even back then, which is, well, kind of scary.

FURTHER READING

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Images: City of Toronto Archives.

Discussion

54 Comments

Jamaal / October 21, 2013 at 10:34 am
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Doesn't look that different than today, except of course when the trains start getting delayed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamaalism/5569090381/in/set-72157624003665581
Dylan / October 21, 2013 at 10:36 am
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Wonderful! I love the clothes and the style. It's fascinating seeing culture evolve to where it is today--for better or not!

Nicholas / October 21, 2013 at 10:40 am
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jeez, so many white people!
Todd Toronto replying to a comment from Nicholas / October 21, 2013 at 11:01 am
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That's the first thing I noticed too. One person of colour in all the photos. And only one man wearing a shirt without a collar.

Different (arguably worse) city back then.
c1982 / October 21, 2013 at 11:05 am
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No one looking down at a cell phone.
Keith replying to a comment from Jamaal / October 21, 2013 at 11:09 am
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The major difference in your rush hour photos (great one BTW) and these oldies are that the platform has been widened.

I'm sure there were train delays back in the 60's. It's just that those people who whined about it then are probably too old (or dead) to take the TTC anymore. :)
André replying to a comment from c1982 / October 21, 2013 at 11:14 am
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Wonderful quote!
Michael replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 21, 2013 at 11:20 am
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It was just different, not better or worse.
Audio Blood / October 21, 2013 at 11:21 am
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These are fantastic photos! Great to see toronto culture!
stopitman replying to a comment from Nicholas / October 21, 2013 at 11:26 am
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Er, yes, Toronto was very white until the 1990s. High immigration numbers from non-European places to Toronto is very recent...

Two things I noticed: Even back then people didn't stand back from the doors before people got out. And anyone notice the hand coming through the closed door in the 9th picture?
miccchael / October 21, 2013 at 11:29 am
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no backpacks or crazy carts.
Deli / October 21, 2013 at 11:39 am
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love these photos!!!
Steve / October 21, 2013 at 11:47 am
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50 years later, subway coverage in the downtown core hasn't improved or expanded at all.

Embarrassing.
Sydney replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm
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Did you just say the city was 'arguably worse' when it was mostly white people? WOW. That's the most racist thing i've heard in a while.

Aside from that, these pictures are fantastic. It's amazing how well everyone was dressed back then. Thanks to blog TO for sharing these great pieces of history. Cheers.
Tiffany replying to a comment from Sydney / October 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm
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I think he meant it was arguably worse because the city was less diverse. Toronto is better today because we've welcomed more people from different cultures, which has added to the city's depth. I don't think that's racist....
TTC enthusiast / October 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm
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Anyone else notice the yellow streetcar in the header of this site? What?? Where is that? I've never seen one.
j replying to a comment from TorontoIsSoGreat / October 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm
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Greatest thing I have read all day
Chris Bateman replying to a comment from TTC enthusiast / October 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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This? http://transit.toronto.on.ca/photos/images/subway-5510-06.jpg

Two converted PCC streetcars used for rail grinding on the subway, now scrapped.
W. K. Lis / October 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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We need to require all city hall politicians to use public transit to get to their offices and council meetings.
DL replying to a comment from TorontoIsSoGreat / October 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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Well done.
Jonsey / October 21, 2013 at 01:14 pm
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No fat people!
Rafa replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 21, 2013 at 02:02 pm
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Oh yea, things were way worse back then...glad to see our city has had a steady decline in, amongst other things, gang gunfire in densely populated public spaces, and terrorist plots since those evil whites were pushed out.
Skye / October 21, 2013 at 02:08 pm
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People always look back on things with rose-coloured glasses. If you were to take a picture of Bloor Station at 5PM this evening, and wait till you got home to look at it, you'd notice everyone is, in fact, dressed smartly for work.

And make no mistake: people swore a lot back then, too. They just used words that the average person no longer finds offensive. A "bad swear word" of the 1960s would be something like "Jesus Christ" or "Christ Almighty"...it was considered very low-class to use such slang.
John Labatt / October 21, 2013 at 02:09 pm
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One Black and One Chinese so the city was multi cultural back then too.
Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) / October 21, 2013 at 02:17 pm
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Folks used to dress better.
gayguy69 / October 21, 2013 at 02:28 pm
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It's sad how it still looks like that. 50 years later, tiles still the same. Signs still the same.
Black Label replying to a comment from John Labatt / October 21, 2013 at 03:03 pm
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That chinese guy probably built the subway railroad.
Theo / October 21, 2013 at 04:19 pm
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they all look very neat and dressed up.
Robert replying to a comment from Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) / October 21, 2013 at 04:35 pm
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No they didn't, no different then today, just the fashions styles are different.
W. K. Lis / October 21, 2013 at 04:39 pm
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Men wore suits to go to the CNE still in the 1950's.
Todd Toronto replying to a comment from Tiffany / October 21, 2013 at 05:00 pm
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Exactly. Thank you.
hop replying to a comment from Skye / October 21, 2013 at 05:05 pm
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Men were probably pretty grabby too.
zkpxo / October 21, 2013 at 06:49 pm
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Everyone was so... white..... yet fashionable
Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) replying to a comment from Robert / October 21, 2013 at 08:04 pm
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As long as people confuse pyjamas and workout wear with clothes you wear on planes and to funerals, I'll say that they used to dress better.
Adam Sobolak / October 21, 2013 at 09:08 pm
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A reminder of that brief interval of "interlining": Gloucester cars on the Bloor-Danforth line...
Amy replying to a comment from Rick McGinnis (@rickmcginnis) / October 21, 2013 at 09:09 pm
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!00% agree! Everybody back then put so much effort in their presentation. I kinda wish everybody would do that now too...
John Labatt replying to a comment from Black Label / October 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm
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Thats kinda racist not all Chinese work.
stopitman replying to a comment from Tiffany / October 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm
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It's all relevant... the Irish, Italians, Portuguese, Germans, etc. did bring a lot to this city in terms of culture and language, amongst other things, that are so common today that we don't think about it. If the WASPs hated all of them back then, they must've been different enough. :) Today is just a continuation of the 1900s W. EU immigration, just from a different place with different customs. It sounds kinda bad because it makes it sound like you're discounting people's cultural baggage just because they're Caucasian... Not trying to start an argument, but that's the jive I'm getting.
TorontoIsSoGreat replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 22, 2013 at 12:31 am
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Don't worry. Mass immigration has killed the unique culture Toronto used to have.

The TTC is quickly becoming a disgusting mess, just like the transit systems in America. Every second word out of people's mouth is now "fuck" or "shit", just like the youth of America.

We are truly now a world class city. The evil white monopoly has been broken, and it has only taken 30 years of mass immigration.

Kids can now walk around with their ass hanging out of their pants. Brown people in Mississauga can now openly call for their children to only be taught by other brown people. White people can now be refused employment by the city because of the colour of their skin. It's not degeneracy, it's not tribalism, it's not racism, it's equality and progress!

And even if you were a racist and could somehow see anything wrong with any of all that: those are but drops in a pond, compared to the massive cultural and economic improvements that Toronto has seen because of it's glorious diversity. I mean, you can buy authentic shawarma and pad-thai in any of the increasingly segregated neighbourhoods.

Not to mention the return (with a vengeance) of homophobia as seen in the Jamacian culture. We now have a parade every year where tens of thousands of people from the islands come together to celebrate Elephant Man talking about murdering gays! Take that batty-men!

That's the beautiful tapestry of multiculturalism! Don't talk about the crime during Caribana, just tune in to CP24 to hear about how this is the place you should bring your children! (Except if you're a gay couple with adopted kids, but we don't like to talk about that.)

Nothing about how Toronto used to be when it was primarily composed of ethnic Canadians (as opposed to the current proudly hyphenated-Canadian majority), and in particular when it was primarily composed by people with light skin, can ever be seen as superior to current conditions.

We must all make sure we never say anything that could be painfully misconstrued as being critical of non-white immigrants. This is paramount. Fear of being labelled a racist must be everyone's primary overriding concern. (At least if you're a white Canadian).

So, when you are sitting on the TTC, with some idiot's ass in your face because their culture doesn't believe in belts, just remember that this is what makes Toronto great. Diversity! This diversity! All diversity!

Never saying anything critical of the changes in the city, and pathologically rejecting every positive thing that distinguishes the last 200 years of culture in this city from the last 30, is part of the necessary dialog that we as a city have been trying not to have for the last 30 years.
John replying to a comment from Nicholas / October 22, 2013 at 03:42 am
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I know.... those were the days eh.... *sigh*
lxpatterson / October 22, 2013 at 03:57 am
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it looks like just a slice-of-life, a regular lively street scene, except almost all those people are dead now.
Jeremy / October 22, 2013 at 07:44 am
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Only on blogto could THIS turn into a "debate" on racism and immigration.

Great photos, thanks for posting.
John / October 22, 2013 at 08:16 am
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Great photos! Weird not seeing anyone with earbuds on.
Charmspill / October 22, 2013 at 08:16 am
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The pics are great. Love them. The racist rants and the longings for a white hegemony are to be expected from those who are miserable and belong in some other city. We ALL belong in Toronto for as long as we care to be. Just remember, you didn't even know Toronto when it was suppose to be called "New York". There is a long history of Aboriginal occupation which was built over so that we can have the Toronto of today. Love the diversity, or leave it and move.
oh look, namehijacked is back replying to a comment from TorontoIsSoGreat / October 22, 2013 at 09:03 am
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Hi, Chris!
Max / October 22, 2013 at 11:31 am
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Amazing how today, the majority of bloor line passengers are visible minorities.
I also noticed the female ratio back then was very high. Today most females are scared and avoid the subways due to gropers and creepers.
Zoran P / October 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm
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I'm amazed at the people who throw around the term "WASP" as if it just refers to Caucasians. For your information it refers to White Anglo Saxon Protestants, and in the context it is normally used is in itself a racist pejorative term.
Sylvia / October 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm
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The one woman sporting a mean side-eye in the second picture is fierce. She's all business with her folded arms and seriousness. Also, all of the women are in skirts or dresses!
Alex / October 22, 2013 at 01:51 pm
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Wow, 50 years and everything looks basically the same. The subway doors look a little smaller though, I'm glad they widened them to get people on and off faster.
the lemur replying to a comment from Zoran P / October 22, 2013 at 03:37 pm
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'Caucasian' itself is a problematic term since it is based in poorly defined and misguided 19th-century pseudoscience. Most white people have nothing to do with the Caucasus.

WASP is not inherently pejorative to WASPs themselves as it was coined by white North Americans of UK/English-speaking descent as a way of excluding mainland Europeans, Irish Catholics, etc., from the club of whiteness.
Jay replying to a comment from Todd Toronto / October 22, 2013 at 07:56 pm
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whats the difference about what colour people are and why does just having white people make it a "worse" city? Thats pretty racist.
John / October 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm
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I'm brown and I have to say that it's nice seeing Toronto as all white. I wish I was white! No crime, guns, everyone is nice. Not like in those non-european countries where there is tons of poverty, crime, uncleanliness. I wish us browns, asians, blacks, would look at this and see how clean and nice people were. I'm actually not joking - I'm being serious. All the good neighbourhoods are all the white neighbourhoods.
Jamaal / October 30, 2013 at 10:54 am
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Here's an updated panorama of today's rush hour:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamaalism/10471025996/
Jamaal / October 8, 2014 at 03:51 pm
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Here's another shot of an almost overflowing crowd at Dundas Station / October 7, 2014:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamaalism/15288002039/

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