My Father’s Toronto

                               Toronto’s new City Hall 1965. Photo by Antonio de Melo


My father came to Canada from the Azores, an archipelago of nine small islands in the North Atlantic, when I was just six years old. It wasn’t until three years later that I saw him again when my mother and I joined him in Toronto. During the years of his absence, my father wrote every week.

Along with his letters, he sent black and white photographs of Toronto landmarks: Lake Ontario; Exhibition Place; University Avenue; the Toronto Dominion Towers. My father documented everything he saw through the lens of his small Kodak pocket camera, and wrote meticulous handwritten explanations on the back of each photograph so that I would become familiar with the city.

The photograph that filled me with awe was one that showed what looked like a flying saucer with two towers on either side. My father wrote that this was the recently completed Toronto City Hall. It was considered an innovative structure at the time and had won international acclaim.

It is amusing to note that what impressed my father most about this amazing building, were the three levels of underground parking! But then my father loved cars. So the subterranean car park proved to be more interesting to him than the actual award-winning building.

Still, I felt scared and worried for my father’s safety. I truly believed that he was going to be abducted by space monsters who would take him away on their flying saucer, and I prayed every night that he might return home unharmed from this futurist alien city.

When I finally arrived in Toronto, my father showed me the places I recognized from his photographs. The two dimensional black and white images were now fully real as I gazed in wonder at the tall buildings in front of me. And the flying saucer was really there for all citizens to climb on board and fly away; concrete magic that still scared me as I held my father’s hand the day he took me on a tour of City Hall.

As I look back across the decades, I am grateful that my father had found a way to remain connected to me. Through these photographs, he brought the city of Toronto in 1965, to my small insular island world. In doing so, my father was showing me the rich, new life he was preparing for me in my new home, Toronto.

Originally entered in the CBC contest, Your Bloodlines: Stories from the Public, 2013

March 6, 1834, Toronto is incorporated as a city. Today is Toronto’s 182nd Birthday!


About thetorzorean

The musings of a torontonian azorean on identity and belonging. You can find me at
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2 Responses to My Father’s Toronto

  1. Stephen Dow says:

    My Grandfather loved Toronto and he shared many stories about Toronto in the 1930s from his experience as a courier. The biggest thrill for him as a young man was to deliver a package to the 35th floor of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Building. At the time, this Art Deco structure, was the tallest building in the British Empire. New City Hall which opened in 1965, was an innovative and ground-breaking architectural marvel for our sleepy, Methodist, colonial city. The marriage of my 1860s British immigrant family to a 1960s Portuguese immigrant family is a testament to what makes our diverse city so wonderful!


  2. Rita Botelho says:

    Love this story Emanuel, thank you for writing it.


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