toronto 1980s

30 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980s

Congratulations to anyone who grew up in Toronto in the 1980s — you had it all! The city was big but still had a small town vibe. It felt safe, clean and seemed to provide endless exciting opportunities.

It was multicultural, innocent and free-wheeling. The contemporary pop-culture was exhilarating: movies were events, TV was chock full of good stuff for kids and music was still something very special. Cynicism was a word you could not spell.

Everyone who grew up in Toronto in the 1980s will remember it slightly differently, but these are some of the retro ties which universally bind us.

Behold, 30 signs you grew up in Toronto in the '80s.

toronto 1980s

Sign #1

If you were really lucky, your friend's birthday party would be at Tour of the Universe: a Space Shuttle simulator located beneath the CN Tower that flew you to Jupiter and back.

Sign #2

You rented VHS or Beta tapes at the Video Station, Video Barn, Major Video, Videoflicks, Jumbo Video, National Video, Bandito Video, 7-11, Eatons, Sam the Video Man or Canadian Tire.

Sign #3

You learned a lot of about Leslieville geography from watching episodes of The Kids of Degrassi Street, usually shown in classrooms on 16mm film projectors.

99 queen east

Sign #4

You thought 99 Queen Street East was a very special place - the cultural centre of Toronto's entertainment scene in fact, because Citytv lived there. They moved to 299 Queen West in 1987, but 99 Queen was the *real* everywhere.

University Theatre

Sign #5

You saw Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi at the University movie theatre.

Hana Barbera land

Sign #6

Even though you went there to meet girls/ride the Dragon Fyre, no visit to Canada's Wonderland felt right without a stroll through Hanna-Barberaland.

Sign #7

Beckers was your go-to for all snackables - Banana Popsicles, Jungle Juice, Hostess potato chips, and during Christmas time their heavenly Eggnog.

Polka Dot Door

Sign #8

Your parents took you to see Polka Dot Door Live at a Mall, or the CNE. You feigned indifference, until Polkaroo showed up...

Sign #9

You observed that all the cool kids did their back-to-school clothes shopping at Stitches.

Sign #10

You hurt yourself playing outside, at playgrounds and if you were lucky at Children's Village at Ontario Place. AND EVERYTHING WAS OKAY.

Blinky Toronto

Sign #11

You were secretly terrified of Blinky the talking Police Car, whose slowly moving eyes haunted your dreams whether he was at the Santa Claus Parade, your school, or the CNE.

Sign #12

You often went to see Blue Jays games at Exhibition Stadium for $5, but were always on the look-out for errant seagull shit bombs.

Sign #13

 The SkyDome, when it finally arrived, seemed like the coolest thing ever built in the history of Toronto

monorail toronto

Sign #14

When visiting the Metro Toronto Zoo, you rode the Monorail and thought the McDonalds there had the best fries (but no straws).

consumers distributing

Sign #15

 When the Consumer's Distributing catalogue arrived in the mail, the toy section was lusted over for weeks.

scotts chicken

Sign #16

 You looked forward to eating KFC because it was actually good, and called Scott's Chicken Villa.

polar express toronto

Sign #17

When at the CNE, the Polar Express intimidated you because they only played heavy metal, as did the Conklin Shows carnies that all had scary tattoos and kept their packs of Players no filter rolled up in their left arm sleeve.

Sign #18

You first got your first taste of the exciting world of Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod.

Sign #19

Night Ride/Night Walk/Night Moves was a very strange and ethereal thing which if you stumbled upon on TV you knew it was way past your bedtime.

toronto parking lots

Sign #20

Your parents didn't mind taking you downtown because they could park pretty much anywhere.

sams toronto

Sign #21

You bought your music at Sams, A&A;, Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum or Sunrise.

Sign #22

If you were lucky and your parents were rich you had Pay-TV and access to First Choice/Superchannel, but more importantly MuchMusic.

Sign #23

If you didn't have Pay-TV, MTV was your prime destination for watching music videos (Multicultural Television, Channel 47 Cable 4, that is!) with shows like Metro Music, Video Singles, Flipside and Something Else.

Gloucester subway toronto

Sign #24

You didn't think it was big deal to experience lights going out between stops on the Glouster subway trains.

simpsons christmas

Sign #25

The Christmas toy display at Simpsons next to the Eaton Centre was the stuff that dreams were made of.

funland arcade toronto

Sign #26

You saved up all your quarters to blow at Funland Arcade at Yonge & Dundas.

organ grinder

Sign #27

When you were invited to a birthday party, you really hoped it would be at the Organ Grinder, a magical Pizzeria viz sonic madhouse on the Esplanade. Usually it ended up being at Chuck-E-Cheese.

20 Minute Workout Toronto

Sign #28

You vividly remember the 20 Minute Workout, starring the lovely Bess Mota, and it's ignition of a sweaty citywide (worldwide) exercise craze. Perhaps you lasted until the end credits you noticed it was also shot in Toronto, and produced by Canadian animation powerhouse Nelvana.

mad hatter toronto

Sign #29

If you were really, really, lucky your friend's birthday party would be at the Mad Hatter, an underground, almost Fight Club style Birthday party cult that remains the stuff of solid gold legend.

condo toronto

Sign #30

The word "Condo" meant nothing to you.

Ed Conroy's 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

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives

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