hard rock cafe toronto

Woman says she recognizes herself in iconic 1979 photo of Toronto

A photo of four people walking across Yonge Street with the Hard Rock Cafe in the background has appeared in several places.

Two men are in the front of the photo, one with long hair, and both look directly at the camera. In the background is the Hard Rock Cafe at Yonge and Dundas. Two women are walking a few metres behind.

The photo had one person wondering who the guys were, and he posted it to the Facebook group Friends Who Like Vintage Toronto.

"I have seen this photo about a thousand times," the post reads. "I often wonder if shag guy and friend know they are so often the image of 70s Toronto, and where are they today."

Surprisingly, the post got an answer, but not from the men.

"The women are myself on the left and my brother's gf at the time Mary," Karen Purcell wrote in the comments. "It was 1979 we were under age and dressed up in hopes of being served at the Hard Rock which we were. Remember this pic being taken cause we were worried we might be found out. The guys were just 2 other people that were there having drinks."

Later, Purcell told blogTO she remembered the day well.

"We met at the Eaton Centre and went into the bathroom and changed into the clothes you see in the pic, then put our bags in one of those temporary lockers they had - then headed over to the Hard Rock," she said.

She claims they actually talked to the two men in the bar but didn't know them.

"It was quiet at the Hard Rock because it was a Saturday afternoon, but there were still quite a few people there," Purcell added.

Later, when she was old enough to go there at night, it was a totally different place, she said. 

She has seen the photo several times and says she was happy to see it again.

 "I thought it was pretty cool to see it after all these years."

She also said she recalls speaking with the photographer.

"I remember him telling me it was for an 'archive' series and that it won't be seen for years so I was ok with it," she said.

The woman walking with her in the photo has since died, she added.

To those who have since suggested the two women don't look young enough to be underage in the photo, Purcell, now in her fifties, told blogTO: "The whole point of dressing like that was to appear older," adding that "drinking age was 19."

The photo is in the Toronto Archives as part of a series of Yonge Street photos. It is listed as being taken from between 1978 and 1989.

In Wikimedia Commons, it is dated 1979, Dundas Square.

The Hard Rock Cafe opened the Yonge Street location in 1978, replacing the live music venue Friar's Tavern, which operated between 1963 and 1976.

Sadly, it closed in May of 2017 and now a Shopper's Drug Mart is in its place.

There was a plaque at the Hard Rock that commemorated Friar's Tavern and now the Shoppers Drug Mart has carried on the tradition with a 140-square foot space on the store's upper level that pays tribute to the history of music on Yonge.

Lead photo by

Wikimedia Commons


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