Then, as now, Scarborough didn’t know what to do about its teenagers.
Not that its adults didn’t have other things to chew over in 1962, the year people in the township suburb of Toronto voted to permit flouride in the water supply and movies on Sunday.
Scarborough - most people spelled it Scarboro then - was jostling with its neighbour North York to claim the title of Fastest-Growing Municipality in Canada.
Its reeve, Albert Campbell, back from a convention of mayors, declared Scarborough was known throughout the country. Developments like the Golden Mile of Industry, a stretch of factories on what is now an Eglinton Avenue shopping district, “have put us on the map,” he said.
That was also the year the Scarboro Mirror was born.
It started as an edition of the five-year-old Don Mills Mirror co-founded by Russ Eastcott and Ken Larone.
“The Mirror is different! It’s a unique form of newspaper, especially designed to meet the particular needs of suburban communities,” the paper’s management said in May, adding its high Don Mills readership was “achieved by strict devotion to reporting the local scene as energetically and skillfully as the big papers and magazines attempt to report the broader scene.”
The first editorial of the Scarborough weekly pledged to handle news “fairly and without bias” and said its opinions would not be influenced by pressure or self-interest.
“We may occasionally step on some toes. When we do, they will be toes we feel need to be stepped on.”
Even its printing process was new: “By using a rotary-offset press, the use of lead has been eliminated. All typesetting is done photographically.”
The Mirror (which offered $5 for a “news tip of the week”) was set against Scarborough’s amalgamation into the city, which it told its readers Toronto Council and “the big dailies” were pushing “for all they are worth.”
“Under amalgamation they show a big happy family enjoying all the goodies” at no cost to taxpayers, but though combining Metropolitan Toronto’s 13 municipalities “would make (Toronto’s) Nathan Phillips mayor of all the people,” a Mirror editorial said, “the deal has nothing to offer to the suburbs - except loss of representation, decline in public services, and higher operational costs.”
Concerned “over increasing complaints about troublesome youngsters,” township officials launched “young adult” programs to keep them busy - slow-pitch, tennis, journalism and photography groups - then expressed dismay after registering just 600 of the 14,000 in the 16 to 20 age group.
“The other teenagers with spare-time problems are still hanging around shopping plazas causing disturbances or getting into minor difficulties with the police,” the newspaper said.
“Besides vandalism and drinking, many teenagers annoy the public with rude manners. A Scarboro Mirror writer recently had to shove a teenager out of his way to walk on the sidewalk.”
Later, the Mirror announced a dozen programs for teens had been killed by apathy. “Teenagers are always complaining they have nothing to do,” said Recreation Director J.J. Keay. “But it seems all they want is a place to hang around and dance.”
More dangerous than its teens were the township’s roads, strung with what the paper called a “jungle” of overhead wires.
There were 28 traffic fatalities in Scarborough in 1961 (compare that to 35 across all Toronto in 2011), up 50 per cent from the previous year, and safety officials who reviewed reports said they could do little or nothing, since “in more than 75 per cent of the cases, it is pure recklessness, carelessness, inattention and alcoholic influence that is responsible.”
The Mirror, though, had a suggestion: “Roads in the community become the summer playground of thousands of children out of school on holidays,” and the residential speed limit of 30 miles an hour is “too fast to give children or motorists a chance,” an editorial said, arguing it would be wise to reduce that speed “at least in the summer months.”
Scarborough in 1962 struggled with changing attitudes.
Township regulations forbid organized sports before 1:30 p.m. on Sundays, but the Scarboro Ministerial Council said local clergy “have noted with regret that some practice games are being arranged for morning hours on Sundays when church schools and worship services are being held.”
Scarboro Council also gave approval for four billiard halls to open on Sundays.
Councillor Karl Mallette, however, accused service clubs and other groups which sponsored summer carnivals with games of chance to raise charity money of “sinking to a new low,” accusing them of “teaching children to gamble and perverting the morals of the township.”
Dutch Elm disease, spread by beetles, was killing off whole populations of Scarborough’s trees - as the emerald ash borer is today - with the Mirror reporting the deadly fungus “has marked hundreds of magnificent shade trees in the township for the axe.”
A survey showed Scaborough had 42,000 elms, most in parks and older parts of the township. When it came to removing infested trees, said parks director W.H. Browne, “We can’t begin to keep up.”
At the newly expanded municipal offices on Eglinton Avenue (now home of Toronto Police’s 41 Division), Reeve Campbell pronounced the back of shopping centres he saw were an “utter disgrace,” strewn with garbage and debris. “If there are not rats there now, it will attract them,” he said.
Councillor Karl Mallette said the township’s small neighbourhood plazas might be doomed, and put some blame on an “influx of large discount outlets” to Toronto’s suburbs. “We may be legislating into our zoning little centres which won’t be able to make a living,” he warned.
Vic Kirby, a realtor, criticized council for “going berserk” on government controlled low rental apartments he claimed were poorly built and drawing tenants away from private developments. “We’re going to get slums in Scarboro,” he said.
In that same year, council asked the province to create Metro’s third university in Malvern, where governments held 1,800 acres “intended for a low-rent housing project,” though one councillor, George Barker, said the land could be a “health and recreation centre” usable for Olympic games and Canada’s centennial celebrations.
In that Scarborough of a half-century ago, Tip Top was selling men’s all-wool suits for $54 at the Cedarbrae and Parkway Plaza, Volkswagen was offered its famous Beetle for $1760 at its Golden Mile Showrooms, and Jim Davidson Motors on Kingston Road was selling the 1962 Dodge Dart for $2145.
Mirror ads show the Don Mills Centre Kresge’s record bar was selling pop hits (45 RPM) for 87 cents a piece, while the Zellers there sold a children’s quilt-lined nylon snow suit for $4.87. Lauries Hairstyling at Eglinton and Midland, meanwhile, advertised the Creme Cold Wave, an “adorable new Spring hairstyle” for a “younger than Springtime look” at $12.50.