Back in 1973 …

As MCC Toronto celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2023, we have launched a new weekly column looking back at the year 1973 to identify the news, happenings and trends that defined the year of MCC Toronto’s founding. 

Flow Gibbson (column posted July 14)

Picture of Flo holding her dog

Long-time congregant and member Flo Gibbons, wears her young of heart age of 92 like a badge of honour. And she deserves to! As a congregant who I met shortly after my arrival at MCC Toronto in 2018, Flo has always been an incredible source of joy for me. She is quick with a joke, has a beautiful and melodic laugh, and continues to live her best life EVERY DAY. She is an inspiration, and a much-loved member of the MCC Toronto Family.

And when we speak of “lived experience”, Flo’s got plenty of it!

For the past 15 weeks, we have featured Back in 1973 columns about Canada and the world, and about the happenings that defined life back in 1973. I thought for this column, I would chat with Flo about what life was like for her back in 1973 when she was a spry and no-less energetic-than-she-is-today 42-year-old!

In 1973, Flo and her partner Bobbie Sherwin had already been together for 16 years. Flo tells me that they met at a Women’s Club back in 1957 at a “dirty little place” since gay women at the time would not have the same resources as gay men. They lived in the Islington Ave/Dixon Road area and had a bird’s eye view of the Toronto Airport. While Flo was close to her various siblings, there was never much discussion about the nature of her relationship with Bobbie. (Sidenote: Much like a great Aunt of mine who was in a 50+ year relationship with her “roommate”, which somehow was never talked about by my family). Like so many before and after 1973, Flo and Bobbie’s social life was spent at dinner and/or dance parties in the homes of chosen family members. Flo does admit that her and Bobbie would occasionally skip out to the “Jay” Bar for dancing!

In 1973, Flo worked for the City of Toronto’s Public Health department while Bobbie was a “Bell girl”. And while both were women of faith, there were no church options available to them. Flo doesn’t precisely remember when they discovered MCC Toronto though she believes it would have been around 1985 when our Church was located in the Gerrard Street East/Woodbine Avenue area. To both of them, it was a revelation! Their connection to the Church, and the friends they made inside its doors, brought comfort and love to both of them when Bobbie tragically died of cancer in 2004. Flo cherishes every minute of their 47 years together.

And Flo continues to cherish every minute of her connection to MCC Toronto.

(And we to you as well Flo!)

– John R. Farrell,
Senior Director of Development & Communications

ArQuives (column posted July 7)

Like our friends at MCC Toronto, The ArQuives is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year! We were founded in 1973 as The Canadian Gay Liberation Movement Archives out of the filing cabinet of The Body Politic (TBP) Collective. Founded in 1971, The Body Politic Collective realized that the growing number of records created by the Collective over the years and that were being received from around the world had created a treasure trove of LGBTQ2+ history. They had inadvertently created a Canadian LGBTQ2+ archival collection, a collection that would not be welcomed or safe in any existing archive in Canada. The LGBTQ2+ community worked to keep its own history safe by creating a space for the material to be donated and accessed by community members in an effort to take control of community stories and histories.

It would be a few years (1975) before the first statement of purpose would lay out the two aims of the organization. “The collection, preservation, and arrangement of information and materials in any medium by and about gay people, with emphasis on Canada; and the encouragement of and assistance in the use of this materials, as well as assistance in the search for new sources.”

At our founding, there were no other LGBTQ2+ archives in Canada and few existed in the world. While the organization has had several names over the years, including the Canadian Gay Archives and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, that mission has remained largely unchanged, though “gay” has been updated with more inclusive language to ensure that the entire spectrum of LGBTQ2+ experiences is represented within the wording.

The ArQuives are proud to house 50 years of MCC Toronto’s archival material.

– Raegan Swanson, Executive Director, The ArQuives

TV! (column posted June 30)

Do you remember a world of one television household, with limited channels, no video recording, no streaming, no PVRing and likely no TV remote? If you do, welcome back to 1973!

So what were the biggest hit tv shows that year?

  1. All in the Family
  2. The Waltons
  3. Sanford and Son
  4. M*A*S*H
  5. Hawaii 5-0
  6. Maude
  7. Kojak
  8. Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
  9. Mary Tyler Moore
  10. Cannon

In the US, The Six Million Dollar Man and Happy Days made their debut, as did the long-running daytime soap The Young & the Restless.

In Canada, The Beachcombers was in its second of eighteen (!) seasons, Howie Meeker’s Hockey School debuted on CBC and City Lights with Brian Linehan premiered on Citytv.

Who remembers Brian Linehan’s in-depth, probing and sometimes surprising questions? His uncanny interviewing skills revealed personal tidbits that often amazed his Hollywood guest stars. His show was one of the first big hits for Citytv which went on the air in 1972, and the show was syndicated across North America. Brian died in 2004, and while most of his ashes were scattered outside his Toronto home, Joan Rivers kept a small portion of them as a memento of him.

What were your favourite shows in 1973? Let us know!

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

LGBTQ+ hang-outs in 1973! (column posted June 24)

LGBTQ+ social life in Toronto was, needless to say, very different 50 years ago. There was no “gay village” as we understand it today – instead Yonge St. was the main artery of LGBTQ+ social life. It seemed less about establishments welcoming the LGBTQ+ community, but merely tolerating them. But as you’ve read in our columns over the past two months, by 1973, we were making some progress: the very first Toronto Pride event was hosted, homosexuality was finally removed from the list of mental illnesses, and the Canadian LGBTQ+ liberation movement was taking shape thanks in part to the activism of publications like The Body Politic.

So as we head into our Toronto Pride 2023 celebrations, I was wondering – where were the LGBTQ+ hangouts back in 1973? Not being intimately aware myself, I turned to my good friend Dennis Findlay, a long-time gay activist, and one of the driving forces of The ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives). While Dennis didn’t himself arrive in Toronto until 1975 (he does, however, recall attended some unofficial “queer” dances at UofT prior to his arrival) I was grateful for his help in directly me to a few resources about the Toronto LGBTQ+ scene in 1973.

  • In 1973, The Club opened on Mutual Street south of Carleton – this steam bath was later named The Toronto Club before closing in 2017; The Roman Sauna Baths, another bathhouse, was located on Bay Street, just north of Gerrard
  • A popular late-night spot for the LGBTQ+ community was Fran’s (on College Street, west of Yonge)
  • The Manatee on St Joseph Street, west of Yonge, was the hottest dance spot in town; this was, however, not a licensed establishment
  • CHAT (Community Homophile Association Toronto) would host dances in a variety of downtown locations
  • In the late 60s/early 70s the Charles Street Tavern, the Parkside Tavern and The Quest were popular LGBTQ+ hang-outs, as was The Carriage House on Jarvis Street
  • On Bloor Street, The Brunswick House was also a popular spot, though its owners would later famously (infamously?) bring charges against a group of women for singing “I Enjoy Being a Dyke” instead of “I Enjoy Being a Girl”

Did you visit any of these hangouts in 1973? Let me know. And happy Pride!

PS: In my research, I came across this ad for MCC Toronto in a 1973 edition of The Body Politic. It may very well be MCC Toronto’s first paid ad!

Body Politics newspaper ad of MCC Toronto from back in 1973

– John R. Farrell,
Senior Director of Development & Communications

Toronto (column posted June 16)

While MCC Toronto’s formation in a space above a gay bar on Yonge Street is surely a highlight for most of us, here are other things that were going on in Toronto in 1973.

  • Construction of the CN Tower began. It would become the tallest free-standing structure in the world between 1975 and 2007. At the time, it was said the Tower “…resembled an oversized tree stump, plunked into an industrial stretch of Toronto next to the railway tracks.” It became an iconic landmark, impacting the Toronto skyline forever.
  • Queen Elizabeth II came to Toronto and officially opened Scarborough’s new Civic Centre and visited Queen’s Park, Ontario Place, and High Park, where she released 100 tagged bass into Grenadier Pond as part of Ontario Conservation Week. She also re-opened Osgoode Hall and attended the Queen’s plate.
  • Judy LaMarsh became a visiting professor of law at Osgoode, becoming the first woman to teach at the law school.
  • Jean Augustine founded the Toronto chapter of the Congress of Black Women of Canada- a national non-profit organization started by
  • Kay Livingstone, dedicated to improving the lives of all Black women and their families.
  • David Crombie was in his second year of serving as mayor – a position he held until 1978 when he resigned to serve as a Progressive Conservative MP.
  • The very first Pride Week was held in Toronto, simultaneously, with other major Canadian cities.
  • Like MCC Toronto, our friends at The ArQuives (formerly the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives) also formed in Toronto in 1973.
  • The TTC approved a plan to build an east-west subway line across Queen Street, subject to the province paying 75% of the cost. The
  • Ontario government demanded a study showing it would meet Toronto’s needs. The plan was killed two year later. However, the remnants of “Lower Queen Station” remain.
  • In 1973, William Hodgson, reportedly saved the Old Mill from demolition for residential development by closing the building for massive renovations, adding new sections, including a wedding chapel and major restorations and decorations.

Toronto has long been at the centre of controversial development, struggles with Queen’s Park, and activism. Has anything really changed? Let us know!

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Fads, Fashion & Toys  (column posted June 9)

As MCC Toronto celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2023, we are launching a new weekly column looking back at the year 1973 to identify the news, happenings and trends that defined the year of MCC Toronto’s founding. This week, we look at fads, fashions, and toys!

Fads and fashions come and go. Sometimes everything old is new again. How many of these fads, fashions and toys do you remember from 1973?

STREAKING started at Memphis State University and quickly took off. Running naked in public for publicity, as a prank, a dare, or a form of protest. We wonder who in our congregation will confess to having been a streaker?

POTTERY CLASSES were the latest social craze – well before Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze!

WOMEN’S CLOTHING: The hippy look was still in! Tie-dyed shirts, ‘Peasant’ blouses, capes, ponchos, bell-bottoms, frayed jeans, ankle length maxi-dresses and midi skirts.

MEN’S CLOTHING: wild coloured shoes with thick platforms and 3” heels became popular – who has a pair hiding in their closet at home?

TOYS: Anybody remember Weeble Wobbles? They were one of the biggest Christmas sellers back in 1973. How about Pong? It became one of the first arcade games ever created, and certainly the first to be commercially success.

FUZZY TOILET COVERS were popular, covering both the tank and the seat cover. Pink, harvest gold and brown were “must haves”. What colour did you, your parents or grandparents have?

HOME DÉCOR: along with your fuzzy toilet cover, you may have had teak or pine furniture, your TV was part of a cabinet with space for knick-knacks, macrame everywhere, fake wood veneer alarm clock sporting numbers that flipped, push button phones that replaced rotary, and fringed lampshades to go with the exposed brick in your rec room.

We laughed a lot as we researched this column and will only confess to each other our own unique 1970’s fads, fashions and toys! Please share your memories here.

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Metropolitan Community Church Denomination  (column posted June 2)

Anyone who knows me – even a little bit – knows I love books. I have five floor-to-ceiling bookcases as well as an old-fashioned “spinner” rack filled with Agatha Christie paperbacks.

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t own any titles on the New York Times best-selling Fiction Books list from July 15, 1973.

Picture of old fashioned spinner rack filled with Agatha Christie paperbacks

  1. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut
  2. Once is Not Enough, by Jacqueline Susann
  3. Facing the Lions, by Tom Wicker
  4. The Odessa Files, by Frederick Forsyth
  5. Harvest Home, by Thomas Tryon
  6. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, by Richard Bach
  7. The Matlock Paper, by Robert Ludlum
  8. Evening in Byzantium, by Irwin Shaw
  9. The Summer Before the Dark, by Doris Lessing
  10. The Hollow Hills, by Mary Stewart

I know most of these writers, but other than Thomas Tyron’s The Other (about a boy whose evil twin brother may or may not be responsible for a series of deaths, published in 1971) ,I haven’t read any of their works. And while Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is a touchstone book for many – and indeed was one of the year’s biggest sellers – I haven’t read it either. Perhaps I am not as well-read as I thought?

Canadian literature was still in its infant stages in 1973. Established and upcoming Canadian writers like Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies, Margaret Laurence, and Mordecai Richler did not publish in 1973.

Other notable books published in 1973: William Golding’s The Princess Bride, Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities by Flora Rheta Schreiber, Sulu by Toni Morrison and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson. Most notable of all (to me, at least!), Agatha Christie’s Postern of Fate became the Queen of Mystery’s last novel published in her lifetime (two other novels were published after 1973, but they were both written in the 1940s; Agatha Christie died in 1976). It is said that next to the works of Shakespeare and The Bible, Agatha Christie is the world’s best-selling author.

What books do you remember reading in 1973? Let me know.

– John R. Farrell,
Senior Director of Development & Communications

Metropolitan Community Church Denomination  (column posted May 26)

For perspective, on October 6, 1968, 12 worshippers gathered in the home of Reverend Troy Perry in Huntington Park, California, birthing what is today an international movement promoting a life-transforming message of spiritual acceptance and affirmation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons. MCC has a presence in over 20 countries and on every inhabitable continent.

In 1969 congregations were formed in LA, San Francisco, San Diego, Costa Mesa, Chicago, Phoenix, Hawaii, Dallas, and Miami.

  • In 1973, in response to a petition, UFMCC began its Global Outreach with congregations in London, England and Toronto!
  • By-laws were written at the General Conference to be less sexist and more inclusive.
  • Reverend Freda Smith became the first ordained woman in MCC and was also elected to the MCC Board of Elders.
  • In January 1973, the MCC LA sanctuary was destroyed by a blaze.
  • In March 1973, a fire was set at the Nashville MCC.
  • Most tragically, on June 24, 1973, a suspected arsonist attacked the Up Stairs Lounge gay bar in New Orleans. The second-floor location had previously hosted MCC services and was frequently a gathering spot for parishioners. 29 people, including the MCC pastor, Reverend Bill Larson, died. Nearly a third of their members were killed or injured. The official cause is still listed as “undetermined origin”. (This story has been documented in a terrific book called Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler)
  • July 17, 1973: UFMCC sent Reverend Bob Wolfe from LA to establish MCC Toronto. The first service was held in office space above a bar on Yonge Street.

Our denomination was founded when 12 people had the audacity to believe they could be both gay and loved by God. Rev Perry apparently remarked that “Nine were my friends who came to console me and to laugh, and three came as a result of an ad in the Advocate promoting a worship service for gays.” We have been on the vanguard of fighting for GLBTQ+ rights ever since – and our work is not yet done! In the words of Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Movies (column posted May 19)

So writing a story for a church about the top films of 1973 gets interesting when one of the top-grossing films turns out to be…..The Exorcist!

It is hard to explain the popularity of The Exorcist, based on a William Blatty novel that came out a few years earlier. It is a horror film that takes its time getting to the “good parts.” And while people may find some of the possession scenes funny now, at the time, they were shocking (and I think many of those scenes still are!). For anyone unfamiliar with the movie, it is about a single mother noticing her daughter doing uncharacteristic things that progressively get worse and worse. When medical science offers no answers (after some graphic showing of tests that are almost as disturbing as the possession scenes), she turns to the Catholic Church and opens herself to the idea that her daughter may be possessed by an evil spirit.

The other top-grossing film of 1973 was much more traditional: The Sting, starring the very handsome duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It was the second pairing of these two movie superstars, after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid four years earlier. This film ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1974 Academy Awards, beating out the head-turning The Exorcist.

So, what was everyone checking out to see at the movie theatres on July 16, 1973 when MCC Toronto formed? Well, they were going to see someone who we are still keen to see even now. Prepare to be shaken and stirred. His name is Bond. James Bond!

Yes, Live and Let Die, the eighth film in the Bond franchise was number one at the box office on July 16, 1973. In this outing, Roger Moore was playing the super spy, his first time taking on the role. He had a few other familiar names co-starring with him: Jane Seymour as Solitaire, the “Bond Girl”, and Yaphet Kotto as the villain, Mr. Big. I don’t think this movie is on anyone’s list as “Best Bond Film”, but on the plus side, it does have a great theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings and the ridiculous scene of Bond running across the backs of crocodiles.

There is no denying that 1973 was an interesting time for the movies. What were your favourite films of 1973? Let us know.

– Trevor Scanlan (movie-loving partner of John R. Farrell)

What Things Cost (column posted May 12)

For those in the housing market in Toronto in 1973, we are sure the prospect of having to pay almost the equivalent of your annual family income to buy an average home in Toronto felt daunting! Especially with a 5-year mortgage at 9.56%!

• The price of oil doubled due to the Yom Kippur War, contributing to inflation nearing tripling to 9.6%. Stats Canada estimated food price increases averaged 13.3% from Jan to August of that year.
• A recession began in the western world that lasted until 1975.
• Canada’s average family income was $47,231 while the average “unattached” individual earned $19,125.
• Toronto’s average home price was $40,605.
• Toronto’s average rent was less than $150.

• Household costs:
– Milk: $1.31/carton
– Eggs: .78/dozen
– Coffee, instant: $1.09/10 oz jar
– Bread: .29/loaf
– Oreos: .59/box
– Cereal: .55/15 oz box
– Shampoo: .99/15 oz bottle

• Amusement/everyday costs:
– A comic book: .20
– A Canadian first-class stamp: .08
– Movie tickets: less than $1.50
– Stereo, AM/FM radio, 8-track player: $70-150

• For car fans:
– Mercedes-Benz had starting prices at $10,000.
– Most Volvos cost more than a Corvette that year.
– An AM radio for your Dodge Colt cost more than half as much as an automatic
– You could choose from a souped-up Toyota ST for $3,093 or a convertible Super Beetle
from Volkswagen for $2,844.

What do you most wish still cost the same today as it did in 1973? Let us know!

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Canada (column posted May 5)

  • Canada’s population was 22.4 million. Today it is 38.7 million.
  • Roland Michener was our Governor General and Pierre Trudeau was our Prime Minister. His son, Justin was two.
  • In Pride Week of August 1973, a national gay rights event, occurred simultaneously in several major cities, including Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
  • A jury refused to convict Henry Morgentaler for performing abortions.
  • On April 1, Toronto’s Interval House opened at 173 Spadina Road, in the Annex area, becoming Canada’s first women’s shelter.
  • The international oil crisis in October 1973, set the stage for a dramatic increase in the price of gas. The crisis would benefit Alberta while taking a toll on the rest of Canada.
  • The RCMP celebrated their 100th anniversary.
  • Montreal announced Canada’s first lottery to help pay for the 1976 Summer Olympics.
  • Montreal Canadiens defeated the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley cup and the Ottawa Rough Riders defeated the Edmonton Eskimos to win the Grey Cup at CNE Stadium.

It has been fascinating to research what was happening in Canada in 1973. The gay rights movement was gaining momentum after the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Women were demanding action in terms of the right to choose and protection from abusive partners. And we had a controversial Prime Minister named Trudeau! Déjà vu?

What other world events do you remember from 1973? Let us know!

– Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Deana Dudley (column posted April 28)

Picture of MCC Toronto's 50th Anniversary Logo and MCC Toronto building in black and white with text saying Back in 1973 .... Deana Dudley, and a picture of Rev. Deana in 1973

1973… It’s hard to believe that was 50 years ago. In 1973, I was a Junior, in 11th grade at Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California, just north of San Francisco. Naturally, I was caught up in all the things that teen-age girls get all exercised about. My big activities were Marching Band and Choir, and I was also “sporty” – I lettered in volleyball and badminton.

By 1973, I had dated a few boys, kissed a few, and… well, never mind. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about with regard to boys. I just didn’t get all the angst about having a boyfriend. Secretly (barely even acknowledged to myself), I had crushes on girls. I could still name all of them. Then, one day in 1973, I kissed a girl. (Well, actually, she kissed me, but I definitely kissed back.) And, need I add, I LIKED IT! I REALLY LIKED IT! Stars! Fireworks! Now I got what all the fuss was about!

Unfortunately, it was still 1973, and I was still pretty enmeshed in conservative Christian circles, and I jumped back in the closet and slammed the door shut for more than another decade. Ah, my wasted youth! In this Lesbian Visibility Week, I want to acknowledge all those young girls whose own lesbian identity is just becoming visible to them. #thankskarron!

Rev. Deana Dudley,
Acting Senior Pastor

World Events (column posted April 21)

The founding of MCC Toronto was not the only major event in 1973! From significant court decisions to medical and political controversies, cultural landmarks, and major conflicts…the year had it all. Sound familiar?

  • Roe vs. Wade: US Supreme Court legalizes most abortions
  • In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) asked all members attending its convention to vote on whether they believed homosexuality to be a mental disorder. 5,854 psychiatrists voted to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and 3,810 to retain it.Watergate hearings began as President Nixon declared “I am not a crook!”.
    The World Trade Centre in New York became the tallest building in the world.
  • The Sydney Opera House opens and instantly becomes one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
  • The United States ends its involvement in the Vietnam War after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.
  • IRA bombing in Manchester City Centre.
  • Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab nations.
  • Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win the Triple Crown.
  • Battle of the Sexes: Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in exhibition tennis match
  • Royal Wedding: Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips

What other world events do you remember from 1973? Let us know!

-Jennifer Alexander & Lori Boyce

Pop Music (column posted April 14, 2023)

Since 1958, Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 has been the definitive weekly chart for the biggest pop hits in North America. In 1973, disco had not yet taken hold of the pop charts, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, and Kiss and AC/DC played their first concerts. And on July 16, 1973, – the day that folks first met to worship together as what would become MCC Toronto– the number one song was Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce. Sadly, that song has, as the saying goes, “aged like milk.” I suspect it would not get any airtime today, as it seems incredibly problematic – racist, even – considering that the singer was a white artist singing about a black man in rather stereotypical and uncomplimentary ways. Time in a Bottle, Croce’s posthumous number 1 from later that year, this ain’t!

Billboard Hot 100 – July 16 1973
1.Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce
2.Will It Go Round In Circles – Billy Preston
3.Yesterday Once More – Carpenters
4.Shambala – Three Dog Night
5.Kodachrome -Paul Simon
6.Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – George Harrison
7.Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
8.Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – Bette Midler
9.Playground In My Mind – Clint Holmes
10.Natural High – Bloodstone

As a pop music fan, I know most of these artists (other than Clint Holmes and Bloodstone). However, I am not sure anyone would select this week’s entries from the Carpenters. Three Dog Night or Paul Simon as their best. By title alone, I don’t think I even know these songs, though Rev. Deana assures me that Kodachrome is goofy fun!

On Billboard’s Year-End chart, the number one song of 1973 was Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando & Dawn, a song I find singularly embarrassing and dated, but was evidently loved by many pop music listeners in 1973.

What do you think? Do you remember/know any of these songs? Which are your favourites? Let me know.

John R. Farrell
Director of Development & Communications


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