Toronto Sketches 7: "The Way We Were" Columns from the Toronto Sunday Sun


227 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
ISBN 1-55002-448-5
DDC 971.3'541






Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Mike Filey, author of The TTC Story, Discover and Explore Toronto’s
Waterfront, and I Remember Sunnyside, writes a regular column, “The
Way We Were,” for the Toronto Sunday Sun. This latest volume in
Dundurn Press’s Toronto Sketches series is a collection of “The Way
We Were” columns that originally appeared in 1999 and 2000.

Filey is a genial guide to Toronto’s past, a narrator given to
peppering his text with folksy asides like “What the heck am I talking
about, you ask?” His topic choices are eclectic. He navigates us
through the intricacies of the city’s transportation history; revisits
catastrophes (including the Great Toronto Fire of 1904, Hurricane Hazel,
the burning of the S.S. Noronic, and the 1918 flu pandemic, which
claimed more than 1400 lives); offers lively portraits of Toronto
notables (from architect John Gemmell to shunned Titanic survivor Major
Arthur Peuchen); and explores the origins of such landmarks as New City
Hall, High Park, and Captain John’s Floating Restaurant.

Torontonians on both sides of the debate over expansion of the island
airport will be intrigued by Filey’s discussion of a 1960s scheme to
build a floating airport atop Lake Ontario. Another boneheaded—and
thankfully doomed—plan was the Metropolitan Centre project, which
“would have seen the destruction of Union Station and virtually every
square inch of real estate between Front Street and the Gardiner from
Yonge to Bathurst covered with buildings of every shape and size.”
Columns on Toronto’s garbage woes and the contamination of its
swimming beaches, together with photos of the city’s aesthetically
challenged waterfront, evoke a depressing sense of déjа vu.

The book is generously illustrated, with a number of paired photographs
depicting the same streetscape through the contrasting lens of past and
present. Toronto Sketches 7, like its predecessors, is a must-have for
local history buffs.


Filey, Mike., “Toronto Sketches 7: "The Way We Were" Columns from the Toronto Sunday Sun,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,