"Are We to Go Literally to the Hot Dogs?" Parking Lots, Drive-Ins, and the Critique of Progress in Toronto's Suburbs, 1965-1975

By Penfold, Steve | Urban History Review, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

"Are We to Go Literally to the Hot Dogs?" Parking Lots, Drive-Ins, and the Critique of Progress in Toronto's Suburbs, 1965-1975


Penfold, Steve, Urban History Review


Abstract

This paper examines reactions to drive-in restaurants in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It begins by laying out the main themes of a suburban critique of drive-ins, which were seen as symbols of larger problems of automobile landscapes, urban sprawl, runaway progress, and honky-tonk modernity. Next, the paper focuses more closely on an extended anti-drive-in campaign in Bronte, Ontario, one of many villages swept into the growing suburban sprawl around Toronto after World War II. There, a vocal group of activists rebelled against the nature of development in the area, mounting vigorous resistance to high-rise apartments, increased traffic, gas stations, and fast food restaurants. Drawing on the "pro-people," participatory democracy rhetoric of urban reform movements. Bronte activists pressed their case on municipal institutions and scored some important political victories. In the end, however, the drive-ins remained, since activist ratepayers could not overcome the limitations of zoning as a tool of redevelopment or the decline of citizen activism over the course of the 1970s. More importantly, they had to confront the continued popularity of the car itself, a commodity upon which their own suburban lifestyle depended.

Resume

Cet article examine les reactions vis-C-vis des restaurants dotes d'un service au volant des banlieues de Toronto (Ontario) C la fin des annees 1960 et au debut des annees 1970. L'article debute en donnant un apercu des principales critiques banlieusardes des services au volant, qu'on percevait comme des symptfmes de maux plus larges, tels les nouveaux milieux urbains planifies en fonction des autos, l'etalement urbain, le progres effrene et une modernite clinquante. L'article se penche ensuite sur une longue campagne d'opposition aux services au volant C Bronte (Ontario), un des multiples villages engloutis par les banlieues torontoises apres la Deuxieme Guerre mondiale. A Bronte, des militants firent effectivement entendre haul et fort leur desaccord quant C la nature du developpement local, de meme que leurs vigoureuses objections contre la construction des immeubles C appartements, l'accroissement de la circulation automobile, l'implantation des stations-service et des restaurants C service rapide. Influences par les <>, ces adherents C la rhetorique des mouvements de reforme urbaine promouvant la participation democratique, les militants de Bronte firent valoir leurs positions devant les institutions municipales en recoltant plusieurs victoires politiques. En bout de ligne toutefois, les services au volant survecurent C leurs pressions, parce que les militants se sont montres incapables de surmonter les limites de zonage en tant qu'outil de re-developpement territorial, sans compter le declin du militantisme citoyen pendant les annees 1970. Qui plus est, ces militants ont ete forces de constater la popularite constante de l'automobile, une commodite sur laquelle reposait le mode de vie en banlieue.

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Introduction

"Bronte has had much growth," local columnist Terry Mannell wrote in early 1971, (1) "and it has attracted its rash of new commerce--drive-in restaurants, car washes, gas warriors, all along the main strip. The rash is as desirable as acne and as comfortable as poison ivy." This was not the first time, nor the last, that Mannell weighed in on the limitations of the local commercial strip. A former fishing village 30 miles west of Toronto, Bronte was one of dozens of small towns swept into the emerging suburban sprawl around the city after World War II. Here, the suburban dream was popular: beginning in the 1950s, middle-class subdivisions had been grafted onto a quaint village with a historic harbour. Partway through this change, Bronte itself was amalgamated with neighbouring Oakville, an affluent community also undergoing increasing suburbanization. …

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