During the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Toronto’s Yorkville Avenue and its surrounding streets were a magnet for young people who were drawn to the area’s clubs and coffeehouses, which featured live entertainment almost every night.
Two years earlier, in 1965, before masses of young people streamed into “the village,” Linda R. Goldman, who lived in the borough of North York, discovered the city’s cultural hotspot – one that brought visual artists, poets and musicians together.
Goldman was 14 and a student at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate when friends took her to see a folk group, the Allen-Ward Trio, at the New Gate of Cleve coffeehouse. Goldman, an artist, felt at home immediately. “I decided I liked this kind of bohemian lifestyle,” she said.
By 1966, Goldman and her friend, Linda Sabo, were hitchhiking to the village regularly on Friday and Saturday nights. “We would walk over to Bathurst and Sheppard, put out our thumbs, a car would stop. And going home was the same thing. We would just stand at the corner of Yorkville and Avenue Road and put out our thumbs,” Goldman said.
With the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love approaching, Goldman has mounted an exhibit of photographs, posters and handbills from the era, as well as some of her original artwork. Appropriately, the show is being held at the Yorkville branch of the Toronto Public Library.
The exhibit includes a vibrant self-portrait that Goldman painted in a psychedelic style for her 60th birthday, from a photograph taken in 1968. Among the posters in the show are several from the Riverboat Coffeehouse, promoting James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and other artists. A photograph of Goldman and Sabo standing in front of the Four Seasons Motor Hotel on Jarvis Street with Doors’ singer Jim Morrison is also on display.
In the village, Goldman and Sabo used to go to Boris’ coffeehouse on Avenue Road to see the blues rockers Luke and the Apostles, or they’d head upstairs to the Red Gas Club to catch the folk-rock band Kensington Market. The two girls drank coffee and lemonade at the Upper Crust and the Penny Farthing coffee houses, and sometimes they just walked back and forth on Yorkville, meeting up with friends and hanging out.
It was an innocent time for them. Apart from the occasional toke, Goldman stayed away from drugs, she said. “My parents were pretty cool with everything. I did not want to do anything that would hurt my family. They trusted me and I was a pretty good kid.”
In the village, Goldman introduced her late mother, Annette, to some of her pals. “My mother was a Holocaust survivor. She lost quite a bit of her teenage years and she loved Yorkville,” Goldman recalled.
Goldman had one close call in Yorkville. On Friday and Saturday nights, the street was jammed with cars full of people who wanted to catch a glimpse of hippie culture. In August 1967, a village activist organized a sit-in to close the street to traffic. The result was some 50 arrests. “My friend Linda and I sat down on the street and all of a sudden these paddy wagons show up. There was a girl who went to my high school and I saw her getting grabbed and put into a paddy wagon. Linda and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ I was very proud of myself. I loved Yorkville, but I wasn’t going to get a criminal record for it,” Goldman said.
The village scene began to fade at the end of the ’60s, when the area began to gentrify. “Everything ends,” Goldman said philosophically. “How long could Yorkville exist?”
Celebrating the music and the vibes of 1967, Goldman is presenting The Summer of Love is 50: A Tribute to 1967 on June 17 at the Black Swan Tavern, 154 Danforth Ave., Toronto. The event features some of the musicians who performed in Yorkville in the late ’60s, including Richard Fruchtman, who played in A Passing Fancy, Keith Mckie, the lead singer of Kensington Market and many others. Doors opens at 7 p.m. and admission is $10. The exhibit The Summer of Love is 50 can be viewed Monday to Saturdays at the Yorkville branch of the Toronto Public Library, 22 Yorkville Ave., until May 31. For more information, email Goldman at [email protected].