Baldwin Street Village, September 1968-July 1969

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The Yellow Ford Truck advertised itself as “a Liberation Tribal Store” and the “South Village’s Only Dream Merchants” in a bid to attract the tourist and hippie trade from Yorkville Avenue. Yorkville Avenue, block north of Bloor Street, was the most famous hippie destination in Canada and attracted hordes of curious tourists as well as vagabond hippies. Jimmy Wilson became the Baldwin community’s spokesman and its most visible face. He billed Baldwin Street as the “South Village” with reference to the more famous “Yorkville Village” on Yorkville Avenue and “Greenwich Village” in New York City. Jimmy actively recruited individuals and groups to open storefronts on Baldwin Street. In June he organized a street party on Baldwin Street that he called the Festival of the Little Big Horn. The festival commemorated the defeat of the US military by American Indians in 1876. Baldwin Street was closed to traffic and Ed and Sheila Street, Chuck Wall and other American expatriates provided the music for a dance in the street.

In March 1969 Chuck Wall and Lisa Steele rented a warehouse in the alley behind 33 Baldwin Street. They planned to use the warehouse as an art studio and a community center. The warehouse was christened “Slum Goddess.” Chuck and Lisa lived at the building until a City inspector forced them to leave a few months later. In June American expatriates John and Laura Phillips opened a photo gallery on Baldwin Street called the Baldwin Street Gallery of Photography. Greg Sperry, Chuck Wall and other men worked in the suburbs of Toronto going door-to-door washing windows under the name of the Liberation Tribal Window Washers.

The new American exile community commercial center on Baldwin Street continued to grow. John Anderson organized a housing cooperative called The Whole Earth commune that grew to include himself, Dave Humphries, Michael and Linda Ormsby, Bud McClain, Jonathan Borah and Amy. In July Dave, John and Jonathan each contributed $300 and rented the storefront at 160 McCaul, just around the corner from Baldwin Street, and opened a health food store called Whole Earth Food. At the time there were no natural food stores in Toronto and the store found a ready market for its organic grains and cereals, breads and vegetables.

In July Jimmy Wilson overturned his newly purchased truck on the highway to Stratford, Ontario, where he had established a second store. By then The Yellow Ford Truck had evolved into a “head shop” selling boutique clothes, incense, candles, pipes, posters, beads and candles. (Diebel, The Toronto Telegram newspaper, January 23, 1971). It was originally conceived as an outlet for hippie craftsmen but both supply and demand were lacking and Jimmy was forced to find another market niche. Nevertheless the sales opportunities created by the Yellow Ford Truck encouraged individuals to become self-employed craftsmen and several craft businesses, in addition to the Ragnarokr leather shop, owed their existence to the market opportunity offered by the Yellow Ford Truck store.

The narrative continues at Ragnarokr Cordwainery, April 1969-August 1969

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