Growing up in the Downsview in the late 50s early 60s

I lived on Regent Road in Downsview from 1954 when I was born until I moved away from home in 1973. Regent Road was south of the de Havilland Aircraft company facility and north of Wilson Avenue — between Dufferin Street and the railway tracks. I wanted to write about some of the experiences and landmarks that were memorable to a kid growing up in that time and place.

Our house on Regent was just up the road from Murray Street. Between Murray Street and the tracks were lumber yards and I would jump their fence late at night and gather up a big bag of sawdust to use in my hamster cage. This was before Teskey’s set up their operation. We could bicycle up to de Havilland and ride around the parking lots. There was lots to look at, the big hangars sometimes with Beaver or Caribou planes on the tarmac, the memorial monument and a few plaques. There was one road into the plant area with a sign saying “Do not enter” that I always enjoyed entering. They had an airplane part junkyard at the end where they stored old containers for aircraft engines and such things.

Behind Regent was Wilson Avenue and its shops and apartments. At Murray Street and Wilson was Avon Printing where they printed business cards using hand-placed lead type. A friend of mine lived in the apartment upstairs. Going east from there was an empty lot, the house of Mr. Lewis the lawyer, another lot, and then a small plaza. In the plaza was a fish and chips shop where they wrapped the food in old newspapers and then sold you a grape crush to go along with it. Beside it was a shop selling cigarettes, candies, pop, Archie comics, and some dry goods. I used to collect discarded cigar bands just outside. The plaza also had a small grocery store, a hairdresser, and a barber shop with the red and white barber pole. Behind the plaza was a long rickety wooden shed where they kept old pieces of pipe and other useless stuff that as an exploring kid you found so fascinating. Then there was undeveloped field with a large billboard with a heavy wooden structure we used to climb on. That led to the plaza this side of Garrett Street with its delicious Maestro Pizza and another cigarette store. Past Garret along Wilson was the Dominion store, the dentist (what was his name – he had a cord-driven drill and this big black x-ray machine), the doctor (Dr. Fine?), the Toronto Dominion Bank at Lady York, the rifle store, the vacuum cleaner store, …

At the southwest corner of Wilson and Dufferin was the Diplomat Tavern. A friend of my father used to frequent there. Across the road, on the northwest corner, was an early McDonalds with its golden arches and its millions and millions served. We loved their fries and milkshakes and wouldn’t think much about healthy food until much later. Further up Wilson was the Mr. Donut with its W-shaped roof and the donut-making machine out front where the customers could watch the donuts popping out of the dough-bin and then float down a curved channel of heated oil. Past that was of Bathurst street.with its curious store-fronts of Jewish bookstores, prayer halls, bakeries, and grocery stores

For some photos from this period, see my early Downsview web site at http://www.michaeld.ca/downsview/

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