Although I have barely started, I am discovering that one of the joys of a photographic blog, is that it gives one the excuse to re- visit one’s photographic past, and in my case that means cameras, jobs, but also travel. My job in a pro lab had just come to an end, my parents were asking what I would like to mark my looming 18th birthday, and so it was I asked for the obvious… a return flight to Canada! Doesn’t everyone ask for that?
In due course I found myself at Stanstead Airport UK, about to board a Lockheed L1011 Tri Star, bound for Toronto. I can pin point the date in history as the 14th G8 Summit was just ending in Toronto, Regan was leaving, so the airport was locked down, my flight was diverted to Montreal. Later continuing on, once the airport was re-opened, so that would have therefore been 21st June 1988!
As a side you might notice I mention the G8 – as it was then, now the G7 as Russia was expelled in 2014 for their annexation of Crimea. I have been lucky to have visited all G7 countries except Japan, something I hope to rectify before I “pop my clogs!”. We have just hosted the 47th Summit in St.Ives UK.
Anyway, back in Toronto, I finally arrived late, picked up a courtesy phone and booked a hotel, the minibus showed up and I found myself checked in at, what I remember being a Howard Johnson’s Hotel near to the Woodbine Racecourse! Another memory I have is being tired and not wanting to be bothered to find food, so dialled for pizza, and when asked what size ect, in European innocence must have just said something like “ohh the largest with everything on except olives!”. I remember a simply massive Pizza arriving, the guy had to tilt it to get it through the door! I ate Pizza for Dinner-Breakfast-Lunch and Dinner again! My other memory of that first night is a terrific thunderstorm – so frequent were the strikes that one could almost read by it! I love thunderstorms.
Next morning I was off into the city centre. I should point out that this is all written almost exactly 33 years later so there might be some inaccuracy here! I do recall though my first stop being the Town Hall in Nathan Phillips Square. For a 17 year old from the UK the architecture, feel, scale and adventure are just off the scale! I saw a hot dog stand, police cars that looked like the ones in the movies, even a Mountie!
Of course my first reaction was to photograph. Out came the Olympus OM10, with the Zukio 50mm f1.8. I had recently acquired this a year earlier, when I swapped a red Renault C4 (?) car for it! Even then I was more interested in cameras than cars! Anyway – click, or rather no end to the click! Anyone who has owned or used any of the OM 10’s 20’s 30’s and I think the 40’s too, will know that they have an electronic shutter, this was news to me as my Zenith 11 and ME Super before only had a battery for the meter. Fearing the worst, I found a camera shop. This was (according to my memory) on the ground floor of the Eaton Shopping Mall. The guy that served me was so helpful and nice, just popped in a couple of KS76’s or equivalent, all was well and off I went. The shopping centre was also another experience – huge – I’d never seen anything like it. I remember the “Flight” sculpture, and a fountain that went off with the force of a canon high into the air. A couple of hours and half a roll of film later, I was back in the square photographing, Mounties, fountains, hot dog stands, police cars, nearly everything.
Sadly as you will see from the photos, this post could have also been called “Cheap film and processing” – many of the negs are now poor with patchy colour shifts, I’m still glad to have them though. The film would have been a mixed bag of whatever I had, cheap C41, and the processing would have been one of those mail in types with the envelope, and no doubt a free film – lesson learned.
I stayed in Toronto for about 10 days, explored the sights, Metro Toronto Zoo, CN Tower, Ontario Place and saw Omnimax for the first time, also full colour projected 3D for the first time, I clearly remember a turtle floating right above the head of the lady sat in front of me! I walked around the Islands, must have got a boat at some stage I guess but that I don’t remember. The OM10 has a timer so I made a photo of me filming (Fuji Single 8 Home Movie) the Toronto sky line – how that’s changed!! Then I was off… Niagara Falls.
Again I got there fairly late, so sorted out the hotel etc, all without actually seeing the falls. I made a conscious decision to save that for the next morning. So excited was I however that I was up before sunrise, could hear the falls from blocks away, and stood in awe as the sun rose from behind the Horseshoe Falls. Of course I went on the maid of the mist, the aerial car over the rapids, the Skylon Tower, and Imax.
Three days later I was on the move again, this time to New York. However, apparently there was a chemical fire somewhere near Buffalo so trains were stopped, so back to Toronto for me! My first attempt to get to New York foiled! The up-side was however that it gave me more time to explore Toronto which I did and fell in love with it and Canada I did. The day before leaving I had decided to look into immigration and staying there – permanently. In the end I didn’t, and who knows what life might have been!! By the end of the year I was working for the first time in photo retail, selling cameras, including second hand OM10’s and putting batteries in for tourists! Strange world isn’t it?