Michael W. Ormsby

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Michael Ormsby was involved with student radicals in New York and in Berkeley, California, before immigrating to Toronto. He met John Anderson at the meeting of the Union of American Exiles and with his wife, Linda, joined the Whole Earth commune on Howard Street. By July 1969 the commune had grown to include John Anderson, Dave Humphries, Bud McClain, Jonathan Borah, Michael and Linda Ormsby and others. The group pooled what money they had, rented the storefront at 160 McCaul Street and opened a natural foods store called Whole Earth Foods.

The store introduced California-style natural food sales to Toronto. Organic and pesticide-free food was purchased in bulk, repackaged by the group at their home and the members of the commune took turns running the storefront at 160 McCaul Street. The store also sold food in bulk from self-serve bins. Everyone was guaranteed room and board but there was rarely any cash money left over for distribution to the commune’s members. Linda Ormsby was the bookkeeper. In March 1970 the commune rented an old mansion on 10-acres of land at Steeles and Kennedy Avenues in Scarborough and the store personnel commuted to the store.

In September 1971 John Anderson was voted out of the Whole Earth commune and given several thousand dollars for his share of the Whole Earth Natural Food Store. In April 1972 Dave Humphries left the Whole Earth commune after three years. The value of the business was divided by the number of people in the house and Dave learned that his share was only $80. The remaining members are Michael and Linda Ormsby, Bob and Pat Ormsby and Jonathan Borah. In August 1973 Jonathan Borah left to open a clothing store on Baldwin Street. In 1978 the lease on the house in Scarborough expired and Michael Ormsby gave the store to Bill Groves, Audry and Penny Regal. By then Michael was working as a cabinetmaker. He placed a large, cedar table at the Ragnarokr leather shop as a sample where it remained for many years. Eventually the table was moved from the storefront and used as a dining table in the kitchen. In the early 1970s Michael was arrested at a UAE-sponsored demonstration at the American Consulate on University Avenue. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 days in the Don Jail. He faced the threat of deportation after leaving jail but hired a lawyer and the deportation proceedings were suspended.

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