Local history and genealogy are popular passions for many baby boomers (and others), and one often overlooked source are the community newspapers that exist to report on local issues, and to celebrate the activities, schools, sports, businesses and culture in the neighbourhoods of Toronto.
The history of the papers themselves tells some of the social history of the city. While the smaller 19th century Toronto newspapers (and there are many) focused on sectarian political and religious issues, by the 1920s, the development of neighbourhoods within the city, the disruptions of the Great War, and the affluence that followed it caused people to look more closely at their day to day lives, and prompted the publication of more local news.
Hill-Rosedale Topics, September 15, 1923
The earliest community papers at the Toronto Reference Library, Hill Topics and Rosedale Topics, date from 1921. Here you find an interesting mix of stories on local school children, beauty queens and summer brides, juxtaposed with civic boosterism, construction delays and articles on the rapid population growth that was transforming the city. Places we now think of as central or even "downtown", were just achieving municipal status.
Hill-Rosedale Topics, October 13, 1923
Etobicoke, now an "inner suburb" of Toronto, has a long history of community newspapers, dating back to at least the 1940s. It was then the township of Etobicoke, made up of the towns of Mimico, New Toronto, the village of Long Branch and acres of farmland. At least five different papers were published over various periods, with the Etobicoke Guardian still going strong.
The seventies exploded with local community activism and journalism. Some of it was political and engaged with the powers that be, calling directly on the citizens affected to make a difference. Many of these local issues are now the stuff of Toronto legend.
Goose and Duck, July 13, 1971
Toronto’s own version of the underground press debuted in 1970. Guerilla was political, eccentric, and notice the Classifieds. It changed name in 1974 to become the Toronto Free Press, and lasted another few months.
Don’t confuse it with Our Toronto Free Press, a tabloid style of the opposite ideological persuasion, that published through the 1990s and into the new millennium. (Interesting how all political stripes like to co-opt that word “free”.) Note here the strangely familiar headlines.
Guerilla, August 17, 1970
Our Toronto Free Press, December 1995/January 1996
But community newspapers also celebrate the local and the ordinary. Most were and are non-profits, operating on shoe string budgets, produced by dedicated but chronically underpaid professionals and eager volunteers. Some seventies papers lasted only a few years. Others made it through the eighties, but were defeated by the recession of the early nineties. New ones sprang up, and others changed name, or format, or personnel, but continue to the present day.
Beach Metro Community News, June 28, 1988
Regent Park Community News reported on the many activities of residents. Leslieville Community News, established 1988, became ETC (for East Toronto Communities) News in 1993, and covered the communities east of the Don Valley and south of the Danforth until December of 2008.
Cabbagetown-Riverdale News, September 4, 1985
Regent Park Community News, May 1975
ETC...News, April 1993
Out in Scarborough, the Bluffs Monitor (originally Birch Cliff News) grew out of big issues like the proposed Scarborough Expressway, and smaller ones, like the need for community centres, libraries and local business support. As a community voice and advocate, it continues to champion local causes and local successes. Guildwood News & Views concentrated more on neighbourhood activities.
Birch Cliff News, May 20, 1983
Bluffs Monitor, February 1996
Bluffs Monitor, August 1976
Guildwood News & Views, June 1979
Many of the truly independent local voices are disappearing as conglomerates, technology and economics take their toll. Online versions give us some local news for today, but so far, no practical way to save those stories for the future. Still, in most parts of the city, you'll find a neighbourhood paper on a rack in local stores, community centres, or on your doorstep, delivered by armies of dedicated volunteers. Today's news, but preserving the history of your neighbourhood.
Newsprint is notoriously fragile and bulky to store, so most of the papers held in the Toronto Collection, Humanities & Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library are in microfilm format, with a few in bound paper volumes. Read the microfilm on the Scan Pro 2000 readers, where you can zoom in and out, print, or scan to a USB stick.
You'll also find community papers in the Toronto Star Newspaper Room, Toronto Reference Library (Lower Level), and in the local history collections of branch libraries like Beaches, Cedarbrae, S. Walter Stewart, Richview, and at the North York Central Library.
Current Community Newspapers at the Toronto Reference Library:
Selected Historical Community Newspapers at the Toronto Reference Library:
Cabbagetown-Riverdale News (1985-1994)
East End Express (1972-1987)
Etobicoke Life (1984-2002)
Goose & Duck (Toronto Islands) (1971-1974)
Guildwood News & Views (1970-1981)
Hill-Rosedale Topics (1921-1926)
North Toronto Herald (1988-1999
Our Toronto Free Press (1995-2003)
Parkdale Mosaic (1979-1984)
Regent Park Community News (1972-1977)
Toronto Free Press (1974)
Ward Seven News (1970-1974)
Ward 9 News (1972-1988)
West Toronto Weekly (1922-1948)
Weston Mosaic (1979-1984)
York Reporter (1970-1984)
For further assistance contact:
Humanities & Social Science Department, Toronto Reference Library
trlhss @ torontopubliclibrary.ca