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Making the Scene

Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Making the Scene
    Book Description:

    Making the Sceneis a history of 1960s Yorkville, Toronto's countercultural mecca.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8710-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PART ONE Setting the Scene, to 1963

    • 1 Remaking the Scene
      (pp. 3-30)

      There was a time when I thought that ‘hippies’ were the coolest people on earth, and I fully intended to become one when I grew up.²

      I was, let’s say, eight years old. I had been, ever since I was in the cradle, exposed to the music of my parents’ generation, the 1960s rock‘n’roll that had redefined what teenage life could sound like, had opened up new dimensions of sound and fury, had played soundtrack to countless back-seat fumblings, had fuelled the dreams and desires of a generation. Bored, even at that age, by the overwhelmingly synthetic music that poured...

    • 2 Getting to Yorkville
      (pp. 31-72)

      The story of how Yorkville came to be a youth centre is bound up with the story of an emerging cosmopolitan city. Toronto, even as late as 1965, had rarely been accused of being an exciting place. In fact, ‘Toronto the Good’ was much more often criticized for its sober, sleepy character than for any dangerous, subversive underbelly. Big-city issues such as crime, unemployment, homelessness, narcotics dealing, addiction, and prostitution all played roles in the Toronto of the day, but they held nowhere near the same mythic associations with Toronto’s reputation as they did in Chicago, New York, or even...

  6. PART TWO Performing Yorkville, 1964–6

    • 3 Riots, Religion, and Rock‘n’Roll
      (pp. 75-108)

      ‘I wish to denounce my Canadian citizenship,’ bellowed a red-faced Andrew Mikolasch at an unmoved, ‘unperturbed’ magistrate upon being found guilty of disturbing the peace. Mikolasch, a thirty-one-year-old Hungarian-born artist – and editor of theYorkville Yawnunderground paper – who had been living in Canada for nearly sixteen years, then pulled out his citizenship card and tore it up, letting the pieces fall to the floor of the courtroom. Storming out of the building, Mikolasch was heard to holler ‘God save the Queen from her representatives!’

      Histrionics notwithstanding, it isn’t difficult to sympathize with Mikolasch’s position. He had just been handed...

    • 4 Are You Here to Watch Me Perform?
      (pp. 109-142)

      In the spring of 1964, theGlobe and Mailreported on a beard-growing contest which, while emphasizing the spectacle of hairy young men, was designed as a bit of levity, not an overt criticism of bohemia.² But theGlobewas deliberate about locating this contest in Yorkville, as though it would have made no sense elsewhere. The hip aesthetic, variously re-defined throughout the period as fashion developed and mutated, was most often represented prior to the advent of long hair by a man’s beard. In this, as with most things hip in the 1960s, the masculine performance was repeatedly taken...

  7. PART THREE Under Yorkville’s Spell, 1967

    • 5 Village Politics and the Summer of Love
      (pp. 145-171)

      By mid-summer 1967, Yorkville was a tumultuous, contradictory, and exciting place. Spared no respite from the glare of media, authorities, and young people alike, Yorkville was decidedly a spot worth discussing, exploring, decrying. All of the practices, activities, and behaviours that were said to have characterized the youth scene in the first half of the 1960s (namely, sex, drugs, and rock‘n’roll, not to mention violence) now seemed to proliferate with every passing day. By year’s end, a humanitarian crisis was in the works, exacerbated by widespread amphetamine use and perpetuated by the continued (if inadvertent) glamorization of the district by...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 6 Authenticity among the Fleurs du Mal
      (pp. 172-208)

      In early September 1967, the popular CBC programNewsmagazinesent host Knowlton Nash into Yorkville to make a fifteen-minute documentary on the Village. The result, a captivating glimpse into the district as framed by the nation’s public broadcaster, featured a lengthy conversation with a young man named Bill, a soft-spoken, aspiring writer. He was, according to Nash’s narration, ‘arealhippie.’

      This notion of the ‘real hippie,’ or the ‘true Villager,’ had begun to matter a great deal. While down in San Francisco the Diggers were preparing to hold a funeral for their co-opted community following the hypefest that was...

  8. PART FOUR Hold It, It’s Gone, 1968–70

    • 7 Social Missions in the Teenage Jungle
      (pp. 211-241)

      In the late summer of 1968,Canadian Welfaremagazine published the substance of June Callwood’s recent speech to the Women’s Canadian Club. Discouraged in tone, Callwood’s speech unleashed upon her audience of upper-middle-class, largely white, and Christian women a hail of horrific and damning revelations. Opening with a reminder that she had spent the past months playing landlady to Digger House, a shelter designed to house the kind of young people who ‘disgust’ her audience, Callwood criticized the erroneous belief – which she evidently thought her audience held – that troubled Villagers were responsible for their lot. Not so, explained Callwood: these...

    • 8 Toronto’s Hippie Disease
      (pp. 242-270)

      As the Church Drop-In Centre began to wind down (both as a result of mounting criticism and of the belief that it was no longer serving a positive purpose in the scene), the Reverend James Smith began to withdraw, his role filled by a Catholic layman named John Reid. Described by Smith as someone who ‘wrestled with the deep despair of man’ and who understood ‘the depths of [Villagers’] agony,’ Reid had a tough time with what he saw in these young people, what he learned from them, and what he saw in their future.² Wrestling with the daily turmoil,...

  9. Conclusion: An Immense Accumulation of Spectacles
    (pp. 271-274)

    ‘In societies dominated by modern conditions of production,’ argued Guy Debord in a landmark 1967 text, ‘life is presented as an immense accumulation ofspectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into representation.’¹ Debord’s famous criticism of the insubstantiality of modern life, of its repetitious, practised expressions, offers something of a frame through which we can view Yorkville in the 1960s.² Yorkville was the stage on which the Canadian counterculture gave its most celebrated, studied, and complex performance; and it was also a performance (often visually) consumed by millions as it was repeatedly represented in near-saturation coverage in...

  10. Epilogue: Where They Landed
    (pp. 275-278)

    Gopala Alampur, today an insurance agent with Sun Life Financial, is the author ofDie Broke and Wealthy(Toronto: Chestnut Publishing 2003).

    Marilyn Brooks is one of Canada’s most renowned fashion designers. Her achievements include the Order of Ontario and the Toronto’s Designer Achievement Award. The mayor of Toronto declared 3 February 1988 to be ‘Marilyn Brooks Day’ in recognition of her contributions to the Canadian fashion industry. She retired from the spotlight in 2003 to focus attention on her painting.

    June Callwood was among the best-loved and most active journalists of her generation, producing countless articles and books over...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 279-344)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 345-362)
  13. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 363-364)
  14. Index
    (pp. 365-384)