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Toronto in the 1940s: What Toronto looked like During and after the World War II

The 1940s was a significant decade for Toronto, as it was for many cities around the world. During this time, the city was heavily involved in the Second World War, with many residents serving in the military or working in war-related industries. Many factories in the city produced goods for the military, including vehicles and aircraft. The city was also home to several military training facilities, including the Toronto Armories and Camp X, which was a secret training facility for spies. The war also significantly impacted Toronto’s economy and population, as many people moved to the city to work in the war industries. Many new buildings and infrastructure were built, including the first stretch of the Toronto subway system.

The economy was strong, and the population was multiplying, with many new immigrants arriving in the city. In 1943, Toronto hosted the first-ever meeting of the United Nations, which was a significant event for the city. Despite the challenges of the war, the 1940s was also a time of significant cultural and artistic growth in Toronto, with the establishment of several important cultural institutions and the emergence of a vibrant arts scene.

The decade was also marked by unspeakable tragedy when SS Noronic, a lake steamer, caught fire and 118 people lost their lives in 1949. The ship caught fire while it was docked at the Toronto waterfront, and over 100 people died as a result. The exact cause of the fire is not known, but it is believed to have been caused by a cigarette or match that was improperly discarded. The disaster was one of the worst maritime accidents in Canadian history, and it led to significant changes in safety regulations for passenger ships.

Here are some stunning photos that show Toronto in the 1940s.

#1 Kids sleeping on cots at the Wilkinson Open Air School. Outdoor educational facilities were established to help combat tuberculosis on the assumption fresh air and good ventilation would be beneficial to health, 1940s

#3 The Toronto snowstorm of December 11, 1944 is a contender for the worst of all time.

#4 A snow-covered parking lot during the storm of 1944.

#5 Crews armed with shovels attempt to dig out a clear path on Bay Street, 1940s

#6 Food packages being wrapped for shipment to the UK, 1940s

#7 Contestants in the Miss War Worker beauty contest, 1940s

#9 Returning soldier embraces children at Union Station, 1940s

#10 Soldier locked in a passionate embrace on return to Toronto, 1940s

#11 All smiles as a soldier returns from the second world war, 1940s

#12 Miss Toronto 1947 poses for photos at Union Station, 1940s

#13 City of Toronto tug “Ned Hanlan” in dry dock, 1940s

#14 A machine prepares to break ground for construction of the Yonge subway in 1949.

#15 Subway construction workers begin digging down on Yonge St.

#16 The excavated ground beneath Yonge St. in the late 1940s.

#19 Toronto Street scene, 1940s. The building on the near side of the theatre has “The Book Room” cast right into the facade.

#21 Fruit store, “Pace Brothers”, on Lakeshore Blvd in Toronto (Mimico). Old address was 855 Lakeshore Road, 1940s

#22 Group of women TTC drivers and operators in front of streetcar. This picture was taken shortly before their employment with the TTC ended due to the men coming back from W.W. II – April 1946

#24 Robert Anderson played for Notre Dame football club, 1945

#25 Two women walking on the street downtown Toronto early 1940s

#28 Hotel Sagamore, Lake Shore Road (Lake Shore Boulevard West), north side, between Mimico Avenue and Allen Avenue – 1948

#30 Hap Miller – Birks Engraver and Ernie Catling – MC Charters Engraver walking on Yonge below Richmond near Owens and Elmes shoe store, 1942

#31 Earl Haig Public School 1947 – Miss Farr’s grade 1 class.

#32 Mockup of TTC subway collectors booth, 1949. This booth was located on the upper floor of TTC Sherbourne st garage with a mockup subway station.

#33 A woman in her kitchen on Toronto Island around the 1940

#34 553-555 Yonge Street, south-east corner of Wellesley; torn down 1948

#36 Two women at 77 Wellesley St. E., near Church St., 1945

#37 Bill Needham, my Dad, worked downtown at Eaton’s (Women’s High-Grade Shoe Dept.) at the Queen & Yonge location, 1940

#38 TTC Streetcar 2768 at the Bicknell Loop on the 2nd of July, 1948.

#39 TTC Streetcar No. 2208 on Church St. near Carlton St., Dec. 12, 1944.

#40 Al Laceby’s Garage – 1949 Main Street North (Weston Road) across from Humber Street

#41 Streetcar 2888 at Church and Carlton on the 12th of December 1944.

#75 A TTC bus parked on the south side of Bloor St. E., view looking northwest to Sherbourne St., 1945.

#76 This is Osbourne Shell at the corner of Queen & Glenmanor in Toronto, 1940s

#77 Front porch on St. Clair Gardens, in the late 1940s.

Front porch on St. Clair Gardens, in the late 1940s.

A block away from Dufferin and St. Clair Ave. I'd be 6 or 7. A cold day, as the horse is wearing its winter overcoat. Fresh bread every day. Along with milk, coal, and ice. All horse drawn.

#78 Looking north on Euclid Ave. from just above College St., 1940s.

#79 College and Euclid during a snowstorm, around 1940. If

#82 Church where Lester B. Pearson’s father served, and the Algonquin Hotel, 1947

#83 MacCharles garage, used cars sales, and auto repairs and parts. Station opened in December, 1929. Located at 1901 Danforth. Note used cars for sale in lot, 1945

#84 Imperial Oil Esso service station – Watson Motors. Station opened in 1932. Located at 2678. Danforth Avenue, north side between Main & Dawes, 1946

#85 University Theatre – Lobby – 100 Bloor Street West, 1949

#86 University Theatre – Waiting Area – 100 Bloor Street West, 1949

#87 University Theatre – Interior – 100 Bloor Street West, 1949

#88 View looking southeast on Weston Rd. to King Street, 1948.

#89 TTC Streetcar 2154 turning north from the old Keele Terminal just north of Dundas St. W., on the east side of Keele Street, 1948.

#90 TTC Streetcar 2134 heading south on Dundas St. W. at Bloor Street, 1948.

#92 Trans Canada Airlines DC-3 passenger plane revs its engines at Malton Airport, Sept, 1946.

#95 Queen Street West, looking east towards Bathurst – 1959. The Paddock Tavern dates back to 1946,

#96 No. 2 Ordnance Department Company and Attached Units, Toronto, May 1943.

#97 Acme Farmers Dairy factory, northeast corner of Walmer Rd. & Macpherson Ave., 1940s

Acme Farmers Dairy factory, northeast corner of Walmer Rd. & Macpherson Ave., 1940s

Shortly after Acme Dairy and Farmers Dairy were merged in 1929. This company was in operation from 1922-1966. Telephone: Midway 3541.

#98 Store in New Toronto on the Lakeshore between 7th And 8th street, 1940s

#99 Kennedy Rd., looking south from north of Raleigh Ave., to C.N.R., 1940s

#100 Honest Ed’s, corner of Bloor & Markham Streets – Credit Howard Hoffman‎, 1948

#101 Sunoco service station at Kingston Road and Silver Birch, 1946

#103 House on Carmichael in what was North York, now Toronto, 1940s

#105 Malton(Pearson) Being built, as 1st finished with one grass runway, see the little National Steel Car plant, 1948

#107 TTC streetcar going into wartime Small arms loop, 1945

#109 Cafeteria, Building 9, ‘Kodak Heights’ facility, 1948.

#110 Northeast from the old Bank of Montreal building at the corner of King and Bay, demolished for First Canadian Place, 1940s

#111 Store selling bankrupt stock at Dundas and Bay carrying an ad for Clayton’s department store, 1940s

#112 A Joy Oil gas station earmarked for demolition at Dundas and Parliament prior to construction of Regent Park, 1940s

#113 Peggy’s Cigar Store and Gold Seal Pharmacy on Dundas St. E. in Regent Park, 1940s

#115 A muddy laneway that had drawn the attention of the Department of Street Cleaning, 1940s

#116 South side of Queen Street W. at York. Now the site of the Sheraton Hotel, 1940s

#122 The old Toronto Star Building on King Street W. near Bay, 1940s

#124 The Maple Leaf stockyards in the Junction, 1940s

#125 Sweet Caporal cigarettes for sale at University and Dundas, 1940s

#126 Collection of trailers being used as homes near Centre and Gerrard streets, 1940s

#127 Street cleaning team inspects a pile of garbage, 1940s

#129 The historic Walker House hotel at Front and York streets, 1940s

#130 Construction of the Bank of Nova Scotia building on the northeast corner of King and Bay, 1940s

#136 Toronto police show off their new uniforms, 1940s

#139 Dentist prepares to examine a girl at a high school clinic, 1940s

#140 Doctor performs a routine health examination at a Toronto school, 1940s

#142 Toronto Island milkman makes deliveries using a sled, 1940s

#143 Toronto’s Department of Street Cleaning’s baseball team, 1940s

#144 The baseball Toronto Maple Leafs take to the field, 1940s

#145 Ticket lineup at Maple Leaf Stadium at Bathurst and Lake Shore, 1940s

#146 Dutch immigrants at Union Station puzzle over a 1947 Ontario road map.

#147 The typing pool at in unidentified office building, 1940s

#148 Wartime “Food for the People of Britain” drive by the city’s Department of Street Cleaning, 1940s

#149 The Royal York hotel and skyline from the gutted upper deck of the SS Noronic, 1940s

#150 The side of the burned out SS Noronic. In the aftermath of the fire, an investigation found the design of the ship was partly to blame for the high death toll.

#151 Dignitaries pose for ceremonial groundbreaking photos in the cab of a digger.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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