Wharf at the foot of Yonge Street, about 1890
I’m honoured to say Mike Filey is my friend.
As a researcher, writer and raconteur, Mike has been chronicling the life and times — past and present —of the beloved city of his birth for four decades. He’s been called “Toronto’s best-known historian” — and deservedly so.
He has written dozens of books about the city, the most recent of which just went on sale.
Since 1975 Mike’s column, The Way We Were, has appeared every week in the Sunday Sun — except for one time when, as Mike tells it, ad space was vastly oversold and he was replaced by a Crisco shortening ad.
He has a wonderful radio show on AM 740 radio every Sunday noon-1 p.m. which combines Mike’s historical commentary about Toronto with music from the period he’s describing.
Mike is also Canada’s — possibly the world’s —greatest repository ( I said re-pository, Mike) of jokes — both good and bad. I think Mike prefers the groaners.
Without further ado — here, ladies and gentlemen, are Five Questions for Mike Filey:
1. PARKER: What’s the short version of how you became the chief chronicler of Toronto’s history?
FILEY: I started collecting pictures and stories about Toronto’s streetcars and the history of city streetcar service from 1861 to the present (and, as the city has recently decided, well into the future).
2. PARKER: What’s a really interesting fact or story about Toronto that most people living here probably don’t know?
FILEY: The American flag flew over our community during a brief period in April 1813 when their troops occupied what was then still called York. It’s unclear whether the price of our gasoline made them go home.
3. PARKER: What’s your best memory of growing up in Toronto?
FILEY: Seeing the Wizard of Oz over and over again at the old Alhambra Theatre located on Bloor Street just around the corner from where the family lived at 758 Bathurst, phone number MElrose 2154. Had to remember the phone number
in case I got lost.
(ED NOTE: I’m told Mike’s dad had to haul the kid out of an Oz screening at the Alhambra for dinner one time).
4. PARKER: You know more jokes than anyone else alive. What’s your favourite current joke (that you can tell in public)?
FILEY: During my walking tours through Mount Pleasant Cemetery I like to tell people two important things:
You can’t be buried in there if you “live” within a mile of the gate … you have to be “dead” first.
The world-renowned pianist and composer Glenn Gould is buried in Mount Pleasant. If you walk by his grave very quietly you can hear him de-composing.
(ED NOTE: I told you he liked groaners.)
5. PARKER: Tell us about your new book. How can we get it?
FILEY: My latest book, titled Toronto, The Way We Were, is a collection of many of my recent Toronto Sunday Sun columns (it was done when I realized not everyone reads the Sunday Sun) and is just now making its way into Toronto and area bookstores. It’s also available through the Toronto Sun News Research Centre (416-947-2258).
Here’s the link to Mike’s current column online at torontosun.com.