Toronto News ~ Toronto Focus

The Lucky Lion

My youngest son has taken a shine to a statue of a lion situated by the off-lease dog park just west of Windermere by the Waterfront Trail. Yesterday, I snapped a pic of him and his lion friend.

Jarvis and the Lion

You're forgiven if you didn't know about this lion. I have probably biked or walked the Waterfront Trail in this area over 500 times over the past three years and didn't know it existed. It's tucked away out of sight in an area you'd only visit if you were taking a dog to the dog park.

As soon as I shared the above picture, I was told by a commenter it was the Lucky Lion. Here's a good history lesson on the Lucky Lion.

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It was one of Toronto's most famous early monuments — so well-known to locals that many simply called it the Monument. It was erected in 1939, in the opening days of the Second World War, to celebrate the city's newest highway. The beautiful Queen Elizabeth Way would stretch from the Humber River around the bend of Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother herself came to open it that summer, on tour with her husband, the stuttering King George VI. (She was the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, better remembered these days as the Queen Mum.) It was the first time a reigning monarch had ever visited Canada — or any Dominion for that matter — a way of rallying the Empire as war with the Nazis loomed.

And so, the new monument would not only celebrate the new road, but also commemorate the royal visit and Canada's role in the Second World War. A tall column would stand at the entrance to the QEW by the mouth of the Humber River, topped by a crown. A relief would portray King George and the Queen. And at the base of the column, there would be a lion sculpted by one of Toronto's most famous and respected sculptors: Frances Loring.

In 1974, when the QEW was widened to twelve lanes, the lion monument was going to be demolished until an outpouring of support resulted in the lion being moved to where you'll find it today.

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The Kennedys After Camelot Set in Marie Curtis Park

Entertainment Tonight Canada is all atwitter about Katie Holmes and Matthew Perry filming The Kennedys After Camelot here in the GTA. They're reporting the mini-series is filming in Toronto, but as someone who watched the set being built from his bike seat, a great deal is actually being filmed on the Mississauga side of Marie Curtis Park.

On May 24, I took this pic of a wooden floor being built on the grass.

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By May 31, the structure was taking shape. What was it going to be? A store? Washrooms?

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Soon enough, they were using the set to film After Camelot. Pretty cool.

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Whimbrels Spotted in Sam Smith Park

I've written about Whimbrel Point before, a spot in Samuel Smith Park where whimbrels rest for a day or two every May. This morning, I finally spotted these whimbrels.

Apparently, they had just arrived from an overnight flight from Virginia. They're just resting on their way to the arctic. I couldn't get too close as to not disturb them, but here's my pic of the elusive whimbrels.

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Let's zoom in a little...

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See them? Let's zoom in a little more...

whimbrels

Four whimbrels on a rock at appropriately named Whimbrel Point.

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Billy Van Singers + Laurie Bower Singers = Spiderman Theme

If you caught episode 167 of my podcast, you heard Retrontario talking about the Laurie Bower Singers. We played "Season of the Yonge" by the Laurie Bower Singers, a song about our very own Yonge Street.

"Season of the Yonge" is so obscure, I couldn't find it on YouTube, but here's the MP3 if you've never heard it before.

Today, I received this tweet from Laurie Bower's daughter.

My mind was blown. The Spider-Man theme song from the 60s we all know and love featured members of the Billy Van Singers and Laurie Bower Singers groups. Billy Van of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein had a vocal group? Was there anything he couldn't do?

So next time you hear this theme song, know its Toronto connection.

Bonus fun fact: Laurie Bower provided background vocals for a song Jays fans still know and love.

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TNT Surplus

I just read that Queen Video is closing its historic Queen Street location. Danier Leather is also winding down, and will shutter all locations before you know it. The more things change...

One southwest Toronto store seems to defy the laws of economics and still stands at the corner of Lake Shore Blvd W. and Islington Ave. TNT Surplus has been there selling military surplus, camping and safety workwear since 1957, when Islington at Lake Shore was still known as Seventh Street.

TNT

I remember biking to TNT with my buddy Ed back in 1990 so he could pick up a pair of boots. He loved army surplus stores, and TNT was one of his favourites. It's amazing it still stands today. If I had placed a bet at an online casino canada, I'd have lost.

TNT

Recently, the city painted a new mural on the side of TNT to celebrate the flag of Canada's 50th birthday. The old mural was just "TNT" but this new one is a wonderful honkin' slice of Canadiana. I see it every day and dig it the most.

Nice new mural on the TNT building

I don't know how TNT stays open, but I'm glad it does. Sometimes I take the kids in there just to look around. It's like a museum, defying all odds, frozen in time.

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One Warm Christmas Eve in Toronto

I distinctly remember last Christmas Eve we had unseasonably warm weather, but it was nothing like this. The temperature in Toronto right now is 17°C.

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Since we're on the topic, my preferred source for our weather is the Government of Canada where I get all of the fact without editorialized hyperbole. I find their 24 Hour Forecast is pretty accurate.

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Ranking the Popularity of Toronto's Pro Sports Teams

During the Grey Cup, I wondered aloud on Twitter how many Torontonians under the age of 40 were tuned in. There was a Raptors game on, which I was watching, and if my Twitter feed was any indication, the only tweets about the Grey Cup were from those paid to cover it.

A woman with the handle @cfllady wrote me suggesting the Argos are more popular than the Raptors in Toronto. When pressed for evidence, she could only point to television ratings.

Soon thereafter, my pal Freddie P chimed in to suggest the same. Again, his evidence is television ratings. Without a doubt, the national CFL ratings are higher than Raptor ratings.

I asked Arash Madani about his during our recent chat. After all, he covers the CFL for a living, and if anyone can gauge the popularity of the Argos in Toronto, it's him. Arash agreed with me that there's very little interest in the Argos in Toronto. He laughed when I told him some have suggested the Argos are more popular than the Raptors.

As I see it, the Leafs are far and away the most popular team in this city. If you had asked me a year ago, I'd put the Raptors at #2. The 2015 Blue Jays were so popular in this city, they might be the new #2. If that's the case, the Raptors are a very strong #3. After that, I think TFC is #4, the Argos are #5, the Marlies are #6 and the Rock are #7. I recently charted this here.

  1. Maple Leafs
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Raptors
  4. Toronto FC
  5. Argonauts
  6. Marlies
  7. Rock

Still, Fred persists. I don't understand how he can think it's even close. Remember, we're talking about the GTA, where most people wouldn't recognize a Toronto Argonaut if he was standing two feet away.

How would you rank Toronto's top 7 professional sports teams in the GTA?

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Toronto Bingo

If you're on Instagram, I recommend you follow https://www.instagram.com/torontobingo/.

The comics are typically spot on and always good for a smile.

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CN Tower Documentary

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Final Thoughts on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games

During the first twenty minutes of episode 130 of my podcast, me and my friend Elvis discuss the 2015 Pan Am Games. Spoiler alert: we completely disagree. It all happens here if you've yet to listen.

As recently as early June, I was all set to hate these games. The term I used at the time was "underwhelmed". After all, the Pan Am Games aren't the Olympics, and at the time, I was stuck on that particular fact.

Then, I attended a torch relay. I had a great time, and when we were all cheering Natalie Spooner on as she ran in and lit the cauldron, I suddenly didn't care that these weren't the Olympics. I finally felt something beyond apathy, and it felt good.

I biked over to another torch relay the afternoon of the opening ceremony, and sat down with the family that night to watch Donovan Bailey base jump from the CN Tower onto the dome. By the time Steve Nash officially kicked things off, I was hooked.

It helped that my two older kids attended an early diving event at the new Aquatics Centre and Field House and raved about both the facility and the ambience. That's when I visited the schedule of events and made it a point to stream them live. That's right, I often had to stream, as many of my targeted events weren't televised live. That's another entry for another time, but streaming the events and Chromecasting them to my big screen was effortless and meant no ads, so I was happy.

Here's a taste of what I watched live:

I ended up watching much more than that, particularly in the athletics, but that was my "appointment viewing list". For the most part, it was thrilling, even with the disappointing disqualification in the 4x100m relay final.

Now that the Pan Am Games are over, I can sincerely admit that I'll miss them. It didn't matter to me that they weren't the Olympics. It was entertaining sport, the energy in this city was palpable, visits to Nathan Phillips Square and Pan Am Park were inspiring, and the thousands and thousands of volunteers filled me with pride.

What an amazing 16 days. Well done, Toronto.

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