John Tory’s suggested revitalization plan for Ontario Place goes a long way to restore the crestfallen reputation of that once splendid paragon of patriotism, architecture and culture, but notably misses something which united every visitor back in 1971 and kept the good vibrations alive long after they went home — a theme song!
Released in 1971 on a double sided 45 rpm, “Theme From Ontario Place” was written by the mighty Delores Clamen, composer of legendary ode to Ontario “A Place to Stand” and Canada’s second national anthem “Hockey Theme,” formerly a fixture on Hockey Night in Canada. The A-side featured a poppy version of the song, while the B-side went for easy listening grooves, and many variations, slow and fast, have appeared throughout the years (Delores was a true dub shepherd.)
A variant of the “Theme” appears in this short film, which spotlights the blood, sweat and tears of prep that went into the creation of Ontario Place. You can see the giddy, Expo ’67 hangover in full effect here, and get a taste of the original remit – a celebration of the urban waterfront space as conceived by a gang of wildly imaginative (and probably insane) European architects, building something spectacular from a spectacular nothing.
This orangey, sun-soaked short from the 1970s ran as late night filler on many TV stations, when a program under-ran its slot or just before sign-off. The true kindred spirit of Ontario Place shines through here – this is what your parents and grandparents are talking about when they wax nostalgic about how it used to be…
By the 1980s, Ontario Place was struggling to remain relevant in the shadow of US-style mega theme parks like Canada’s Wonderland, and the freewheeling notion of “It’s All Yours” gave way to the empty spectacle of the Wilderness Adventure Log Ride (For my money, the water park and Children’s Village were top drawer and outclassed Wonderland any day of the summer.)
In the 1990s Ontario Place had mostly abandoned TV spots, awareness and a sense of direction, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting OP even existed as it slouched through the 2000s.
Whoever ends up taking over the mantle of regenerating Ontario Place, whether or not they abide by John Tory’s middle-of-the-road roadmap, certainly has their work cut out for them. And while it may not be helpful to obsess too much over past glories, they could do worse than find someone to re-mix and re-release “Theme From Ontario Place” when show time arrives (if Delores is cool with it, you know).
Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.