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2008 04 18

Back when I first moved to the Junction -- 20 years ago -- no one ever called it that. None had heard of any Junction. And even if they had, residents would never have called it that. Not for love nor for money.

Back then, reference had to be roundabout. Indirect. Oblique. This was Bloor-West -- North. Or High-Park -- West. In events of direst emergency, it became Annette Village. Dire emergencies as when clients confronted real-estate agents with: “You mean it’s (gasp) north of Annette?”

Like some geographic sore spot or socio-economic canker, it was way too unmentionable to rate its own designation. Blemishes seldom get personalized nameplates.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. Everything that mattered. First, the City finally repealed its prohibition against alcohol in the Junction. The economically devastating prohibition lingering in the Junction until 1997. Which meant that instead of lurching along Dundas West, guzzling from paper bags, I could actually sit myself down at excellent neighbourhood pubs. Like Axis, for instance -- where nobody knows my name but they’re damn friendly anyway.

Axis: among first and best post-prohibition Junction watering-holes.

Second thing that really changed in the Junction was when the City installed spectacular-looking, historically relevant light posts all along Dundas West. All the way from Keele to Runnymede. Reminding everyone how great the Junction used to be -- late in the 19th century.

One light to remember the Junction’s better days by.

Now, the Junction has become almost idyllic. People boast living here -- despite what traces of old economic sores remain. Despite how, in the Junction, all sides used to be wrong of the tracks.

Tough either quantifying or qualifying such transformation. Once, Dundas West was considered fraught and hazardous. Now, biking back from downtown during rush-hour, one feels nothing but relieved crossing Keele. Motor vehicles make some room. Instead of swerving around parked-car doors opening in one’s face, smiles are exchanged with motorists waiting until one’s safely passed by. And it’s been quite a while since I’ve heard the fear of walking Dundas West after sundown expressed. Day or night, people seem to flock this way.

That’s what really struck me a couple days back. How flocking to Dundas West might be getting a bit ridiculous. See, this building got knocked down between Keele and Pacific. Then, instead of new building, there was this sort-of stage erected on that lot.

Some sort of stage.

The other day, on this sort-of stage, there were people in top-hats and bonnets. Also, a crowd gathered round watching. A rather large crowd. So large that I roller-bladed the periphery of it spilling into the street.

Spilling in the streets.

Turned out to be guided-tourism. No doubt by the Junction Historical Society. Got me curious enough to rush home, dump roller-blades, grab camera, hop on bicycle and rush back. What I wanted to know was this: would tourism-guides point out sores and cankers remaining from the Junction’s bad old days? Or would focus get restricted to the Junction’s more ancient, spectacular history -- and the new, so much improved look?

There are plenty sore spots remaining. Architectural restoration and improvements along Dundas West of Keele shoulder tight against a century’s dilapidated neglect and dereliction. Certainly some business survives -- even prospers. Yet, despite famously cheap rents, there linger legacies of the ghost-town this used to be. Commercial activity still fails so predictably and repeatedly here -- storefronts get boarded up and papered over just about more often than not.

Listening in best I could -- nothing said about the bad old days. How residue from those days still lingers. Ancient history? Heaps. Everything new and improved? Loads. The days in between and reasons how bad those were? Nothing I could hear.

As if the ghost of McBride Cycles weren't looming right there.

Strenuously ignoring commercial ghost across from McBride's.

There's so much remaining to ignore in the Junction. Historic tourist-guiding must demand real careful stepping. Almost like around open graves in otherwise splendid grave-yards.

Spectres of a former Handyman's..

Of a former Upholsterer's..

Even the long-abandoned corpse of an overly Hasty Market.

That’s why I’m so not into history. Including the Junction’s. Because how often history seems to mean the mistakes we’re bound to repeat.
[email this story] Posted by Peter Fruchter on 04/18 at 07:42 AM

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