Posted by James Watson | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 18-04-2013
Torontonians have learned to expect the unexpected from their irrepressible Scot. Hardly an eyebrow raised when, at 73, Sinclair posed for a magazine cover wearing only shoes, socks, and a modesty-saving sporran.
This puckish, award-winning newscaster remembers the city before minorities became the majority—and likes it better now. Hoisting his feet to his desktop, he tilted his chair and told it as it was.
“Believe me, those good old days were a bore. There wasn’t a decent restaurant in town and almost no public entertainment. Anglo-Saxonism prevailed: We lived by the Puritan ethic that assumed anything fun must be sinful.
“Everyday life was dreary enough, but Sundays were murder. Everything but the churches shut down tight. Eaton’s even drew its curtains to prevent the small enjoyment of window-shopping on the Sabbath.”
Staunch Methodist Timothy Eaton, who in 1869 launched Canada’s largest department store dynasty from the corner of Yonge and Queen Streets, would shudder at the change. For a lot more than show windows are now undraped along Yonge, Toronto’s liveliest thoroughfare.
A few blocks north of its gilt-edged financial district, loudspeakers hawk strip joints,
X-rated movies, and massage parlors. Anytime is carnival time on this midway of novelty shops, kinky boutiques, pubs, sidewalk hucksters—and Sam the Record Man.
His three-floor fiefdom just north of Dundas Street offers cut-rate prices, boasts the continent’s largest stock of titles, and proclaims: Sam has everything-all he has to do it find it. With more than 100,000 different records and tapes, what owner Sam Sniderman has the most of is personality.
One war has ended but another lies ahead for Philadelphian Charles Campbell, who fled to Toronto six years ago to avoid Vietnam. His new foe: limited job opportunities, caused by growing unemployment in Canada. Qualified to teach, Campbell had to take a job as a shipping clerk. Maryanne Campbell, here with their Canadian-born son, works for Antex-Canada, a magazine for Americans in exile. Canada’s expatriate community, once estimated at 70,000, has dwindled to perhaps 30,000. “There’s still quite a clan in Toronto,” says Ms. Campbell.
I found “Canada’s king of canned music” midstage in his marketplace, thriving on personal contact and the steady ring of cash registers. “Hey, Tony, fill up the racks; we’re not selling empty wall space.”
Toronto and Sam have been good to each other. His store has spawned nationwide franchises that gross millions, which obliged him to give annual credit report. By way of thanks, he and his attractive wife, Eleanor who operates a recording company for Canadian talent—launched and then helped build the University of Toronto’s present classical-record library into one of North America’s finest. Sam receives many requests to serve his beloved city—and turns down few.
- University of Toronto
One customer, unable to recall a title, hummed a snatch of song in Sam’s ear. “Sure, sure, sweetheart! I’ve Got A Crush on You.” The lady looked startled. “Try Gertrude Lawrence upstairs or Sinatra two aisles down.”
As I left, he pointed to a yards-long banner overhead: when you came to Sam’s don’t forget to see the rest of Toronto. I promised him I’d do my best to oblige.