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November 17, 2011

Of Eatons and Avenues

Last night I finished Rod McQueen’s The Eaton’s: The Rise and Fall of Canada’s Royal Family, which I was reading because Jonathan Bennett had included in his Power & Politics Book List, and then I found a copy in a cardboard box outside a house on Borden Street last summer. And to be reading this book right after Heather Jessup’s The Lightning Field is to be steeped in old Toronto now, to be rumbling up and down its avenues like the old cream coloured streetcars of my childhood. And to be so steeped is to be led down strange avenues online, pursuing the odd history of Dundas Street, or even leaving town to find this fascinating 1958 article in Macleans by Peter C. Newman about Deep River ON: “The Utopian town where our atomic scientists live and play has no crime, no slums, no unemployment and few mothers-in-law. But maybe you wouldn’t like it after all. Here’s why.”

McQueen’s story of the Eaton family was readably rife with scandal and gossip, and good old fashioned story. Art heists, a foiled kidnapping, cuckolds, Fascists, terrorists, Rolls Royces, idiots, feuding siblings, and fallen empires– you wouldn’t know this was Canada. How the Eatons myth was divorced from its reality, and the public was so determined to keep the myth perpetuated. The book ends in 1997, when how far the Eatons would fall was still not entirely clear, and that they only fell further doesn’t undermine the story’s importance. That this book is out of print, however, to be found in curbside cardboard boxes only (though thank heaven for such distribution really) is totally ridiculous.

One thought on “Of Eatons and Avenues”

  1. Erica says:

    My parents met and fell in love in Deep River, ON. Both were lured there from far away and they love to tell stories about their crazy times there. I’ll have to check out the article.

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