North Toronto

10 signs that you grew up in North Toronto

Growing up in North Toronto often felt like a world away from downtown, which conjured up images of grimy Yonge St. arcades and kids with considerably more street smarts than those who got off the subway at Eglinton or Lawrence stations. Looking back now at a neighbourhood in which nothing much seemed to happen at the time, it's remarkable just how much it has changed over the last 20 years.

The old North Toronto Collegiate is a fancy condo-school hybrid now, development pressure has the days numbered for the strip of stores on the east side of Yonge north of Eglinton, and so many independent businesses have shuttered or changed hands. Given this transformation (one of which is very much still underway), let's get nostalgic for the place that once was.

Here are 10 signs you grew up in North Toronto.

1. There's a polaroid of you on the wall at Bellybusters, where you went regularly late into the night to gorge on turkey bacon subs to fight off a looming hangover or because you were young enough that you had nothing better to do.

2. You celebrated a birthday at the sprawling, retro-styled Lime Rickey's just east of Yonge and Eglinton. The food was terrible, but you probably didn't care because the place actually seemed fun at the time (or at least much more fun than the Spring Rolls location that's there now).

3. Despite the arrival of the SilverCity cinemas at Yonge and Eglinton, you still go to Canada Square for the 1985-era cinema decor, and remember hitting up Mr. Grumps for dinner downstairs before taking in a flick. You also still remember what it was like to catch a film at the Eglinton Theatre, which closed in 2002. The new theatres might have bigger screens and better concessions, but there's just so little character.

4. You navigated the way-too-small parking lot at Sporting Life on a weekend for the privilege of buying running shoes, a tennis racquet, or skis that you knew were overpriced but you didn't want to travel elsewhere to buy.

5. Northern Secondary kids loved the Homeway diner, probably as it was so close, the owners were happy to take their money, and turned a blind eye to the fact that loads of them were stoned and skipping classes. The place has since been renovated (2006), but its greasy spoon character lives in our hearts.

6. You bought tapes at Vortex, beads and other worthless crap at Inti Crafts, books at Lichtmans, illegal cigarettes at Midtown coffee shop, and wandered aimlessly through the Yonge-Eglinton Centre before the Indigo and HMV arrived.

7. Berlin Nightclub was a place that you knew existed, even as you never actually went. Underage drinking was done either outside of the neighbourhood, at the crappy sports bar Cheers, or at the Rose & Crown (but only if you had bang-up ID).

8. You've dashed for a bus at the old terminal at Eglinton Station because the light above the bay was flashing and you thought you might make it -- but were inevitably greeted with a mouthful of exhaust from an old fishbowl pulling out just as you hit the top of the stairs.

9. Chances are that you loitered at the shitty Coffee Time at Yonge & Lawrence before it became a Starbucks. There's a library across the street, but all the high school students congregated at the coffee shop and tried to avoid spending any money on coffee or doughnuts.

10. You remember eating at the St. Hubert at Avenue and Lawrence, back when Toronto actually had a few locations of the Quebec-based rival to Swiss Chalet. The all you can eat coleslaw is worth some nostalgia, but the decor was incredibly stale. A huge Shopper's Drug Mart sits there now.

BONUS

11. Consumer's Distributing was a storehouse of retails dreams for you, even as the unassuming location at Avenue and St. Germain always seemed so depressing in person, especially when the item you came for wasn't in stock. Things improved when the location became an LCBO, though that, too, has come and gone (there's a fancier version up the street now).

What signs did I miss? Add your suggestions to the comments.


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