Toronto Then & Now


128 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88902-950-4




Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


One area in which there’s an almost certain market is nostalgia. Readers are always interested in tales of bygone eras, of different and quaint practices, of greener pastures, of easier and simpler times. If, in addition, these accounts are presented by someone who’s still living, who is in effect our link to those days, the readers get a double bonus.

Mr. Duff has done this. He’s attempted the difficult marriage of personal reminiscences and changing patterns in social and economic history in Toronto, and he has to quite an extent succeeded (curiously, the book never tells us what Sarah Yates’s contribution has been).

Born in 1893, Mr. Duff has seen enormous changes in the city he obviously loves so much. His pen-and-ink sketches — of which 48 or so are presented throughout the book — show us how vastly Toronto has changed. He gives us his boyhood memories: as a child of seven delivering papers such as the Globe, the Morning World, and the Mail and Empire; his travels on the open streetcars and on Toronto’s first motorized ambulance; his play at the beaches and at Muskoka. These are the kinds of things that will make this a book to be enjoyed not just by the individual readers but also by families who want to experience the various changing episodes in the life of Toronto as recollected by a man who has himself enjoyed a very full life in it.


Duff, J. Clarence, with Sarah Yates, “Toronto Then & Now,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024,