A big thank you to everyone who attended the launch of the City Builders’ travelling exhibit, website, oral history videos, and documentary last evening at York University. We’re humbled by all the positive feedback and encouragement to continue our work. There were many people involved in the making of the City Builders’ project, as you can see in our “The Team” page.
Many of the people who attended yesterday’s launch had a direct connection with the stories captured in our project, as construction workers and union organizers, or as their family members. But the stories featured by this project are formative for all Torontonians, whether they know it or not. Many of the publications, articles in the press, panels on TV, and other media dedicated to Toronto’s “builders” have focused on the politicians, developers, urban planners and designers who shaped Toronto after the Second World War. By comparison, very little has been said about the tens of thousands of workers, most of them immigrants, who did in fact build this city with their hands. The pursuit of their individual and family dreams, and their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to achieve them, was what made the dreams of those figurative “builders” possible. Frederick Gardiner, Philip Givens, Macklin Hancock, Jane Jacobs, Paul Reichmann, Harold Green, are just some of the names that we typically associate with Toronto’s postwar development; and rightfully so. What I propose to you is that we also speak of Gerry Gallagher, Norman Pike, Frank Drea, Bruno Zanini, Charles Irvine, and so many other central figures in this history; some of them household names in the 1960s and 70s that we have so quickly forgotten. I hope the City Builders bring these stories back into our public consciousness.