When T.O. gas was low & spirits were high
Does $1.35 a litre unleaded have you yearning for the the early days of Toronto filling stations & motoring clubs?
Gas prices are soaring to their highest levels since 2008 with little relief in sight heading into the summer driving season. It seems, these days, people are spending more time at the gas station than ever before, which makes it hard to fathom that there was a time when there was only one.
Back in 1903, there were little more than 100 registered cars in the city. The city’s first traffic fatality was recorded four years later in 1907. People didn’t take to the horseless carriage right away. The automobiles tended to scare the horses, the primary mode of transportation at the time. A local group of 27 automobile owners, including Dr. Perry Doolittle, first president of the Toronto Automobile Club and “father of the Trans-Canada Highway,” and Sir John Eaton formed a motorcade to protest the growing resentment. The group would become the Toronto Automobile Association and eventually the Canadian Automobile Association.
The first places that used to sell gasoline for automobiles were pharmacies, and the cost, in today’s dollars, was far more expensive. The world’s first filling stations dedicated exclusively to providing fuel for automobiles opened in 1905 in the United States. The first in Canada opened in Vancouver in 1907. By 1926, according to the CAA, there were approximately 200 service stations located on main roads in Ontario. And, although there are more than 12,000 gas stations operating in Canada today, that number is on the decline from its peak in 1989 when there were 20,000.
Joy Oil could be considered the most memorable of the city’s historic service stations, thanks to their recognizable faux-chateau style. They dotted area streets beginning in the 1930s before closing one by one until the last one closed in 2006. The quirky structures are long gone save for one on Lake Shore Boulevard that was designated an historic site by the city, refurbished and converted for park use.
Toronto’s first electric car was actually created right here in town in 1883. In retrospect, it might have been better to think globally and buy locally back then, too.