Sophie, Sally and the Crippled Civilians

We came to know Sophie as a regular eccentric of Jarvis and King area where we located our first gallery.  She passed by our storefront  every day on the way to the the Society for Crippled Civilians (known in the neighbourhood in those days affectionately as ‘the Cripps’) dragging a cart, empty on the way and full on the way back.  Sophie lived in the building she was born in on the North east corner of King and Market Street across the road from the St. Lawrence Hall.  Her father had run a printing shop out of the building and the family lived in the quarters above.  That was many years earlier.  In 1968, Sophie, already in her senior years, ran a second hand shop (cum antique store) in the storefront.  She was a character.  One could enter her store and look under her watchful eye but only a few were selected by her to take any of her treasures home. Gradually we gained her trust and acceptance as fellow shopkeepers.

Sophie often found her treasures at the Crippled Civilians store (later to be renamed Goodwill Industries) at the North east corner of Jarvis and Adelaide.  That’s where Sophie was headed with her cart to check out their daily arrivals.  In those days you could find some good stuff, including antiques.

Salmagundi Antiques and Aggregation Gallery, about 1969

Lynn Brown opened Salmagundi Antiques next door to us at 75 Jarvis Street in 1969.  With Grumbles coffee house on one side and Salmagundi on the other our location was becoming a destination.  Jarvis Street was still the home of the CBC at the time, with a studio complex several blocks east of us down King,  and many CBC people discovered us on their way to the Saturday St. Lawrence Farmers Market.  Word travelled fast.

Drawer unit with Ian Murray broadcast and a Janice Gurney work on wall, LIST, 1996

Crippled Civilians was also a daily destination for Lynn Brown.  If there was something she could not use but felt we might she would let us know.  On one such occasion she had discovered three very old, large oak drawer units , probably used originally in an architect’s office for plans. David and I headed over, purchased all three for $50, refinished them and are still using them to this day, mostly for storage of unframed work. Occasionally they have become part of exhibitions as seen here adapted with plastic sheets for viewing of books and multiples in the LIST exhibition in 1996. Probably the best $50 we have ever spent.

Drawer unit with display of books and multiples, LIST, 1996

 

Old wooden desk with books and multiples, LIST, 1996

 

Other finds were a desk that was used by David in the back office at our Front Street location from 1972 – 1982.  I used the desk in my small front office at the 80 Spadina Avenue location, 1982 to 2000.  It also was commandeered for the LIST show.

Shortly after Lynn opened her store she adopted her dog, Sally, from the Humane Society.  A few of the older inhabitants of the area were war veterans living in the rooms in nearby buildings.  Sally was a favourite of many.  Out of their small pensions they would bring by treats for her, sit for a while or take Sally for walks.

Sally of Salmagundi Antiques, around 1970

Lynn kept her store open on Sundays.  On sunny warm mornings we would head down from our 69 Jarvis Street rooms to her store with a plate piled high with freshly made fried egg and bacon sandwiches, take over some of her chairs and enjoy a Jarvis Street breakfast with her and Sally.

Jarvis Street in those days was almost deserted, especially in the morning on Sundays.  Occasionally a small parade, always with a band and veterans and cadets from armed forces units would march by going from the Armoury at Queen and Jarvis to  St. James Cathedral, a regimental church for several groups.  Sometimes they would form up on equally deserted Adelaide street, behind St James, then march east to Jarvis, along King to take the Salute in front of the cathedral, and back up to where they had started, having gone full circle of the block. They were used to having few spectators on their Sunday marches, least of all younger people, looking suspiciously like hippies, hanging out of the second and third story windows  or lounging on old chairs in front of Salmagundi, waving them on. It was their parade, of course, but with us the only people on that block, it seemed like our own personal one.

Free Top Soil on Jarvis and Rat Stories

Free Top Soil, 73 Jarvis Street renovation, 1969

Free Top Soil on Jarvis Street.

This is not a sign one would have expected to see on the sidewalk in front of a storefront at Jarvis and Adelaide, even in the late 60’s when the now plush St. Lawrence Market District was not in the foreseeable future.

However the signage seemed pretty obvious to us.  We had just shovelled out large amounts of earth not to mention, ingots, old glass bottles and sundry pieces of metal, large and small, thankful to have not come across any large bones, from the unfinished basement of 73 Jarvis Street, the second location of Aggregation Gallery.  We intended to lower the floor and lay a new concrete surface to provide additional space for our framing service and larger storage for the art inventory.

It was a laborious process shovelling the earth on to a conveyor belt that was angled through the window well out to the sidewalk from where we shovelled the earth on to a pick-up truck.  The truck when full was driven by our landlord to the Leslie Street Spit (just beginning in those days) and, once again shovelled off by hand.  We could not afford a tilt truck.

In between truckloads the piles of very rich black earth remained on the sidewalk.  It wasn’t a far stretch of the imagination to consider a sign – Free Top Soil.  As far as I can remember no one took us up on the offer. But it was a sight for eyes of the old and the new inhabitants of the area.

Basement of 73 Jarvis Street -during excavation and relocation of stairs, 1969

Rat Stories.

Before the landlord laid the new concrete there was a large thick wooden door at the bottom of the stairs to the basement.  It was closed most of the time.  A coffee house, Grumbles, had moved into our first space at 71 Jarvis.  One time, Grumbles asked us to accept an evening bread delivery to keep overnight in our space for them to collect in the morning.  The next day we opened the gallery to pick up the large kraft paper bag sitting on our desk.  It was empty but still upright.  This seemed very odd and suspicious.  Perhaps Grumbles immediate thought was we had had a hearty dinner the night before.

However, after some investigation we found a hole in the bottom of the bag and some crumbs trailing off the desk to the floor in the direction of the stairs to the basement.  We followed the crumbs down to the solid wooden door.  The door now had a small hole gnawed out of the bottom of it and an indent in the earth floor below.  We cautiously opened the door but found no bread and no rodents in sight –still a bit of a mystery.

Not for long however.  For some time after that we had regular visits of large city rats, the culprits we assumed.  Rat traps were placed around the premises.

One evening I came down late in the evening to do some gallery work.  As I entered the street from our upstairs apartment and headed to the front door of the gallery I heard a rustle behind me.  It was dark, I was spooked and hurriedly unlocked the front door and entered.  Much to my dismay there was also rustling of a different kind in the gallery and it didn’t help that the light switch was across the room.  I had a choice –back out and face the rustle on the street or risk whatever was inside the gallery.  I nervously chose the inside route.  I suspected a rat.

Once I had light to see I grabbed the phone and called David to come down and rescue me as I didn’t want to venture alone outside again.

We discovered the rat, much more attractive than rats are often depicted, in a trap, but just, and trying to get free.  After some attempts by us to dislodge the rat, it made its escape and disappeared into the basement.  We didn’t see any rats inside or out after that, thank goodness.

 

The move to 71 Jarvis Street in 1968

In 1968 we moved from 26 Spadina Road, where we had opened the forerunner of Aggregation Gallery, to the then downtrodden bottom of Jarvis Street just south of Adelaide Street .  We were still students at the Ontario College of Art and living off odd and part time jobs as well as our student loans.  We managed to put together $325.00 to renovate the storefront space at 71 Jarvis Street and opened Aggregation Gallery in November, 1968.  We were a cooperative of four people for that first year.  David Tuck and I initiated the cooperative and carried on as partners in Aggregation Gallery after the two others, fellow OCA student, John McDonald and artist, Roman Kowal, left the group.  We lived in rooms with some others of the original 8 person cooperative from Spadina  Road , on the second and third floor rooms above 69 Jarvis in the same building. To help pay the rent, and in return for some construction materials and electrical work, we also worked for our landlords helping renovate some of the other spaces in their Jarvis Street building.

Inside of 71 Jarvis Street under renovation, 1968

With hard manual labour and a lot of ingenuity we managed to build the first space.  Not without a number of adventures along the way.  Shortly after we arrived at Jarvis Street the original Toronto  red brick  buildings across Jarvis Street and east of St. James Cathedral were, unfortunately, under the wrecking hammer.  David was not happy about the demolition and did what he could, writing letters to the papers, one of which was published in the Globe and Mail with a picture regarding the building at the S.E. corner of Church and King Streets.  He felt it was vital to the rest of the block of 19th Century buildings –last time we noticed the lot was still being used for parking, but the rest of the block was eventually restored or infilled.  We hoped to help raise the awareness of some of the architectural losses to the city.

Across the street, MacFeeters Creamery, 1968

However once the buildings were coming down (MacFeeters Creamery and adjacent buildings seen here), we scrounged for materials, old multi-nailed, timbers that could be recycled. Several of the new interior walls at 73 Jarvis, our second location, are the results of these efforts.  We spent more time removing nails than driving them.

Demolition of building next to MacFeeters Creamery, which provided us with used building materials

On one of our trips across the road to gather materials, early one evening, the night watchman recently arrived, stopped me while I was dragging a large beam out of the building.  He was not aware that we had permission from the foreman, nor of our presence, and not pleased at the unexpected meeting.  Neither was I.  After some explanation he let me carry on.  Needless to say we were somewhat rattled and discontinued our foraging for that evening.

The wood front of 73 Jarvis street was recycled wood from Japanese mahogany packing crates that David found in the old Gerard Street Village.  Sculpture stands were found, old industrial barrels, cleaned and painted, and so on.

We were interested in having a space to show our work and that of our peers and did not consider ourselves entrepreneurs at the time.  It was practical, we had a place to live and we met a lot of very unique people – a very exciting time.

We were the lone gallery among such existing long time neighbours as several machine tool outlets, the Toronto General Welding School , some second-hand shops and a very old seed company housed in brick building with a wraparound wooden porch, where the workers sat on their lunch hour with their feet up on the railings.

We felt that with the restoration of the St. Lawrence Hall in 1967 as a centennial project and the old St. Lawrence Market down the street, the area should have a bright future as more people became committed to its restoration.

Introduction

These are my parents, David Tuck and Lynne Wynick, on Jarvis Street in Toronto. It is 1971. In the background is St. James Park and Cathedral. Here they pause during work on renovations to the second location of Wynick/Tuck Gallery, when it was called Aggregation Gallery.

I found this photo while going through the gallery’s large archive of photos and other material, which I am digitizing. This archive covers the full 45 years my parents have run Wynick/Tuck Gallery, from its founding in 1968 to the prominent position in the Canadian contemporary art world it has held for many years.

However, this fall they will be closing their public exhibition space, which has been at 401 Richmond Street West for the last 12 years. The final show, WTG_45 Years (happenstance & continuance), will run from September 22 to October 13, 2012.

Over the next month leading up to this final show, and after, my parents, along with possibly others, will be posting here various reminisences and behind the scenes information, both new and old. Along with this, some of the wealth of their photographic archive will be posted.

Jarvis Street just south of Adelaide, 1968. The vacant used clothing store became the first location of Aggregation Gallery.