This hasn’t been a good month for Canadian cultural icons. About two weeks ago, it was announced that Honest Ed’s, a Toronto landmark for at least 50 years is for sale.
Honest Ed’s is perhaps the granddaddy of discount stores. It was founded by Ed Mirvish, who later in life branched into restaurants and theatres in downtown Toronto. Among his best-known purchases was the Old Vic Theatre in London. Honest Ed’s was possibly best known for his turkey giveaways every year at Christmas. I remember being taken to the store many more years ago than I care to count. Yes, it was crowded, both with people and merchandise, but the prices were good. And that is what kept people coming back – the savings.
Earlier this week it was announced another icon was on the block. The Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa is also for sale. This hotel, which at one time was owned by Canadian Pacific, was host to many international heads of state when visiting Canada.
And finally, yesterday the news programmes and channels carried the story of yet another icon gone, this time to a storm. Years ago, when the federal government of the day decided Canada should have an official national anthem, “O Canada” was not the only choice. The unofficial anthem had been a piece called “The Maple Leaf Forever” and it too made the short list. “The Maple Leaf Forever” was written by a Toronto school principal named Alexander Muir, supposedly inspired by a maple leaf that had fallen from the tree and clung to his coat. The tree was on Laing Avenue, just east of downtown Toronto. I remember one day taking my sons along Laing, just to show them the tree and explain its significance in Canadian history. I’m glad I did. Last night, that silver maple was blown down during a series of thunderstorms that hit the city. (That was also the day we drove the length of De Grassi Street just to show the boys there was no school at all on the street despite what the television show said.)
So, there we are – two commercial icons that may end up under foreign ownership; and one icon that may be destined for the woodchipper.
Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and icons) too.