Pop Culture

Gordon Lightfoot with Bob Dylan and Dylan's son Jesse (center) at the Mariposa Folk Festival

Public hangings that offer the first entertainment fot the citizens of early York - one of the few diversions working people can afford. Popular culture by definition starts with a growing and more monied population. The flood of immigrants and the industrial age provides that. The heroic exploits of Ned Hanlan's oarsmanship and the arrival of the Canadian Industrial Exhibition in 1879, precursor to the CNE, are the beginnings of Toronto pop culture. Here finally are big, cheap events that ordinary people can afford to attend.

Joni Mitchell

Music halls, beer halls and sporting events are the arenas for working class pleasure, but it's motion pictures that claim their most devout attention. In 1914 Loews builds the Winter Gardens, which talkies kill by 1929. Another amusement is the Stork Contest of 1926 with a million dollar purse. Mothers compete frantically with each other over who can give birth to the most babies in ten years. There's also the burlesque theatres and vaudeville - by 1927 the Star and Gaiety are operating. Radio is another modern miracle - in 1927 CFRB begins broadcasting in Toronto.

The War Years have us glued to our radios and in 1941 the comedy team of Wayne and Shuster make their debut. In the 1950s television holds our interest with "Our Pet, Juliette". Pop culture takes off in the 1960s - Gordon Lightfoot is singing; Ian and Sylvia and Joni Mitchell are in Yorkville. By the 1970s Mark Breslin begins his Yuk Yuks comedy chain and Second City is launching local careers into the American comedy market.


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