The changing face of Toronto

A walk in the west end and how Toronto has changed. Roxton Rd…at the corner of Harbord, Max Brown‘s dad had a schneider shop—Yiddish for tailor. Maxie like many smart Ashkenazi jews fulfilled his father’s dream by becoming a lawyer. We knew him as the trainor who took over from Bob Abate at Lizzies(Central Tech in 1953).20 years later we found Max and thanked him.
Up Roxton toward College St where Frankie Busseri lived—he of the 4 Lads fame, a grad of St.Mike’s choir school in 1950 and still singing. At the corner of Dundas and Shaw, maybe at the site of this flower shop Mr. Freisner’s store. The owner came out one day in the 40s and handed Carmen Bush some free groceries, “Thank you for taking my boy on your ball team. Carmen told me that “That was the thanks I got from men like Mr Freisner.I didn’t care if the kid was Jewfish, he needed a place to play ball. Long live the memory of our hero Carmen.

Hey, some thought Columbus Boy’s Club  121 Bellwoods was only for Catholics! A narrow group of Micks went to Cardinal McGuigan trying to get Carmen fired for taking non RCs on his sports’ teams. Jimmy McGuigan was too shrewd; he knew CB was “the man”.
Walking along Dundas and we come to 962 where that creep James Earl Ray who shot my hero Martin Luther King Jr. took a room in April of 1968. It was a boarding house and he checked in under the name Ramon Sneyd.

Just south of Dundas on Shaw is the Slovak Catholic church,the Byzantine Catholic Slovak Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God at 257 Shaw Street. Just look at it and you knew it used to be a synagogue (known as “the Shaw Street synagogue) left behind in the 60s as the Jews headed north( all the way to Eglinton!) on another exodus from the downtown.
Up Shaw near Queen this picture. a hymn to inclusivity. People would have gagged in 1954 when we walked these streets to play ball at Fred Hamilton and C.G. Fraser on Manning Ave near Dundas. The Presbyterian morality police would never have tolerated this…nor baseball on Sunday!


O tempora, o mores said Cicero.”O, the times o, the customs.”

The changing face of my Toronto.

As for Shaw street,,,named after Aeneas Shaw, a Scotsman pal of Simcoe’s who came to toronto in 1793 to developthe new site. Aeneas…who names their kid Aeneas? Only those who had a classical background as in Virgil’s Aeneid




  1. 1
    mushafta Says:

    That was the Toronto I knew. But not much has changed. Whatever happened to the leadership among the Christian churches with regard to ecumenism? I never saw much of that nor do I see much optimism for it in days to come.

  2. 2

    Whatever happened to the leadership with regard to ecumenism? It was never there in the first place. Everyone thinks he’s right and that those who see things differently are stupid fools. We see the same one sided/one issue/self-righteousness on this blog, a perfect illustration of the inability to step out and consider another perspective–that would be messy, and it would be a tiring prospect. Easier to stay in my own comfort zone.

    In terms of the future of ecumenism, there is hope. The non-Catholic Churches are dying. I was talking to an Anglican priest the other day, one who became Catholic and brought his entire congregation with him, and he says the Anglican Church will be non-existent in time. They have caved in to the pressures of the Sexual Revolution and modernism so much that the Churches are empty, virtually empty. After all, why go to Church to hear a message that I can hear by turning on the radio or CBC News. The gospel is everywhere in Canada, except the Catholic Church, of course. And the United Church is slowly dying the same death, and people are returning to the Catholic Church, slowly but surely. The priests and bishops of the 70s, the Winnipeg Statement types who like to preach innocuous pablum and who reduce to the gospel to social justice, are retiring, and the new breed of priests have discovered the incredible food that is in the Catholic fridge that has been hidden from them for decades–people could have been fed steak and lobster all these years; instead, they got pickles and a few slices of processed cheese.

    There’s hope, Mufa.

  3. 3
    mushafta Says:

    So good to see you back Francesco 49! Busy man! I’ve missed you.
    Always like reading your point of view.

    Say, what you think of Francis’ declaration today that women who commit abortion have been pardoned? Just heard it on the radio.
    Can’t wait to get your take on that.
    What will all those conservative bishops think now of their pope?

  4. 4

    You are getting a little sloppy today, Mufa. Kind of like the media, when it reports on Pope Francis. You should have realized by now that when the media, ie radio, or Toronto Star, CBC, New York Times, CNN, etc., report on Pope Francis, we ought to stop, proceed no further, and check the original source. What you find is something entirely different. Even Pope Francis himself has expressed dismay at the media spin on everything he says.

    He did not say that women who have had abortions are pardoned. That’s ridiculous. The only way to receive pardon is to ask for it, seek it out in a spirit of contrition, and then you receive pardon. Abortion was, in the past, a sin that incurs excommunication, which can be lifted by a bishop. But years ago, bishops authorized priests do absolve women of the sin of aborrtion–no need to see a bishop. But not all bishops have done that. Pope Francis has made this practice universal. Now priests have the authority to absolve others of the sin of abortion.

    That’s a bit different than “Women who have had abortions are pardoned”, comparable to the Presidential pardon.

    Moreover, what this move suggests is that there are many women who have had abortions and who are returning to the Church, and it also suggests that abortion is a sin. No kidding? A sin. Directly destroying a viable fetus, a developing human life that has a whole life ahead of him/her. Isn’t it astounding how morally dull we have become, that such a thing, funded in Ontario by OHIP (thanks to Bob Rae), is as routine as removing tonsils or an appendix? No wonder people are indifferent about other sins against life, such as the brutality of ISIS, euthanasia, poverty and the millions who die of hunger every day.

  5. 5
    mushafta Says:

    You’re a clever man Francesco! Very gifted and articulate.
    I just wish you would realize that we are not likely to change abortion legislation through an election. Not going to happen. At the end of the day you cannot step between a doctor and a pregnant woman whose body contains a living fetus. Do you propose to send her to jail? This is such a polarized issue and neither side willing to give an inch. Ergo- what does a legislator do? You tell me. Spend more taxpayers money sending a contentious issue back to the Supreme Court only to get the same result? What is your solution Francesco?

    You say nothing of the bombing of innocents whether it is in Iraq or Syria trying to contain Isis or the war last year with Israel and Palestine. Do you not see injustice against the Palestinians? You seldom make any comments on this moral crisis. And yet so quick to pick up paper and pen to condemn abortion. Why the inconsistency?

  6. 6

    I was just about to say that if you can kill a baby in the womb on a daily basis, you can shoot a Palestinian in the head (re: previous post). As Mother Theresa said on Capital Hill, there will be no peace in the world as long as there is abortion.

    So if you despair that we will ever see justice for the unborn, you might be right, but then be sure to despair that we will ever see reverence for Palestinian life. As for sending a woman to jail, that’s not what anyone I know proposes. The first thing we propose is to make it illegal, as it once was. In a democracy, that’s going to have to come from the people. The law is a great teacher. When abortion was removed from the criminal code in 1988, the phones were ringing off the hook the next day–phones in the abortion clinics. For most people, the law is their indicator of what is truly right and wrong, as Kolberg shows. That’s first. That’s not going to happen in the near future, at least I don’t think.

    Of course it is a polarized issue, as is every issue. the solution is education. One solution is consistency. People like Ted are inconsistent. They speak on behalf of Palestinian life, and yet he puts down those who speak on behalf of the unborn. The western world is indifferent to human suffering around the world. Pleasure is first and foremost. Sexual pleasure, entertainment, dining out, food, sports, enjoyment. As long as we got this, who cares what’s happening in the West Bank or elsewhere. How did we get like that? These are the long term repercussions of the sexual revolution. It’s easy to get people to agree with an abstract issue, or an issue that is thousands of miles removed from us. But to get them to actually do something, to make sacrifices for the sake of the common good, that’s a matter of habit, or virtue, and habits are difficult to acquire and bad habits are hard to break. What are these bad habits? The personal selfishness of our North American lifestyle. If that does not get challenged, the personal selfishness remains. You cannot separate personal morality from social morality, because man is a social animal. The human person is a social entity. The word ‘person’ implies relation. But people like Ted separate the personal from the social. As if you can have social justice when you have personally unjust individuals.

    I can stand before a group of people and get them all pumped up about the West Bank, Palestinian suffering, Israel, etc., but if I were to speak about abortion and sexual immorality, pornography and adultery, I will get a cool reception. People don’t like to be challeneged personally; they’d rather see you and me challenge others across the globe, but not them personally. That is why priests who are not very courageous avoid those issues and preach innocuous sacred platitudes. They don’t want to upset anyone, thus threatening their revenues.

    The reason I seldom comment on the mid east crisis is that it is so damn complex. It’s not so simple. Shooting Palestinians in the head and bulldozing houses is simple, and that is obviously immoral and unjustifiable. That’s a no brainer. That is outrageous. As for solving the mid east conflict, that is extremely complex. Black and while perspectives and solutions overlook so much. But abortion, pornography, sexual morality, marriage issues, are not nearly as complex, and yet they are at the root of so much that is wrong with contemporary popular culture. So many f***ed up young men today, all because their parents, the stupid decisions they made, selfish decisions, totally ignoring the wisdom of Catholicism, so unwilling to make sacrifices, so willing to plunge headlong into marriage without preparation or without the moral and psychological conditions, so unwilling to listen to anyone, and raising kids who need psychologically stable parents, but who instead are raised in broken households, raised by parents who are psychologically adolescents, etc. And so the kids are screwed up, angry, turning to substance abuse to relieve the anger and lonliness, which leads to other prolems, and further problems, etc. When such parents finally come to their senses, the devestation behind them is astounding. But at least they (these parents, now divorced) want to get their lives straightened out. However, the mess remains. And yet today we are not really challenging them. We are silent on issues of personal morality. It’s very complex, very difficult, but it is much easier to take up issues that are thousands of miles removed from us.

  7. 7
    mushafta Says:

    Well thank you Francesco. I think we need to get you into the House of Commons! Gotta run .

  8. 8
    mushafta Says:

    You present some good arguments Francesco.
    But to remain silent on the Palestinian issue of horrific suffering without offering a word of condemnation against Israel sure beats me. You say it is too complex an issue. Polarized?this is an atrocity of horrific proportions. Come on Francesco… You seem like a fair minded morally upright man. The Killing of so many innocents and the destruction of so much of their property demands a better response than saying this issue is too complex to comment on. You are articulate and morally well informed. I look forward to a more clear position.

  9. 9

    Mufa: You need to read more carefully. I didn’t say that the issue of horrific suffering is too complex; I said it was a “no brainer”. Bulldozing houses and shooting Palestinians in the head, etc., is a no brainer. But so too is launching rockets into Israel a no brainer. The one sided condemnation of Israel is a no brainer. The fact that the Palestinians have rejected peace offer after peace offer after peace offer, in favor of driving Isreal into the sea, is a no brainer.

    the Mideast conflict is too complex, not the bulldozing and the shootings and the murders. No one who really understands the historical complexity of the issue can come out squarely on one side with something like “Isreal bad, Palestinians good”.

    Most of these issues of mideast violence are pretty easy, from a moral point of view. What is a bit more complex, but not too complex, are the moral issues that we are having to face here. The Supreme Court of Judicial activists, our unelected oligarchy (now the most dangerous branch), have decicded for Canadians what they can and cannot do and have opened the floodgates of death. Now we have to contend with policies that offer a suicide option in psychiatric institutions, because most people today, most professionals, are morally illiterate. That’s the legacy of the 70s. That generation settled for the relatively simple issues of social justice and neglected the finer points of personal ethics. We’ve sowed the seeds of dissent, and we are reaping the fruits of imprudent “farming”.

  10. 10
    mushafta Says:

    Well many thanks once again Francesco for enlightening me on this all important topic. I truly appreciate your perspective.

    I just don’t have time to devote myself to a massive reading project on all the issues of social injustice. But at the same time you don’t need a doctorate in ethics to know that a bully is wreaking havoc in a neighbourhood.

    Are you telling me that the West Bank for 12 centuries prior to the settlement back in ’48 or so did not belong to the Arabs? That it was a fair distribution ? So in your view where lies the problem in Palestine? Why does Israel treat them like dirt? I meet Palestinians every day who tell me why they left and how unjust they were treated. Why are they an occupied country? Why is Netanyahu such a liar and a racist bigot? Why such a disproportion of weapon power? Why the world refuses to condemn the atrocities of Israel when we all know they are playing with a stacked deck?

    You’re an exceptionally bright man Francesco with faith in God and a genuine career in ethical morality. Why would you not petition Harper and the Canadian Jewish community to look more compassionately on the Pakestinian situation. Are you telling me that Jimmy Carter who is on death’s door with brain cancer is dead wrong? Desmond Tutu dead wrong?

    Are we to watch again and again these wars between them and turn a blind eye of indifference saying it’s all the Palestinians’ fault? Netanyahu’s a great guy?

    I need your guidance Francesco.

  11. 11

    Mufa: You are inviting me into a very windy forest. My position on Carter?

    One of the most balanced men in America.

  12. Shaw St. Shule – childhood memories of being allowed to sit with my father on the High Holidays

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