The commune at 418 Dundas Street 1968
The Kansas City group arrived in Toronto in the spring of 1968 and rented a small run-down house on St. Paul Street. The house proved unsatisfactory. Jobs hard to find and the group dispersed. Chuck Wall and Lisa Steele moved to British Columbia. Colleen and Bruce Anderson moved to an apartment on Beverly Street and others went overseas. In the fall the group was back in Toronto and living at the overcrowded house at 224 McCaul Street. In December 1968 Don Holman agreed to lease the house at 418 Dundas Street West on the understanding that his friends from Kansas City would help him with the rent. At the time Don was a teacher and the only one of the group with a stable job. Dave Woodward, one of the founders of the Yellow Ford Truck, joined them at the house on Dundas Street. Myra Kaplan (a friend of Chris Risk) also agreed to move into the large three-story house. Within six months most of the original group had moved elsewhere leaving Don Holman holding the lease. He made the most of the situation and rented the rooms to other people.
Dave Woodward wrote a number of letters to his girlfriend while living at 418 Dundas Street in which he described events at the house. At the time his girlfriend, Carol Hueber, was a student at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Two of the letters are copied below.
January 26, 1969
This is an invitation to the show opening tonight for which I’ll probably be pouring wine again. I’m writing at the gallery now, the show is up and it’s pretty weird looking. Its ribbons and carpet binding stuck to the walls like the one in the picture with darning needles. Some look really nice and others are just not very impressive. But the things are cheaper than most of the stuff we well, about $300, so maybe the show will be a success. She’s a nice chick, 23 with two school age kids, and a pretty successful local artist. Those kids really make a difference. She seems young, but the people I live with are mostly about 23, and she seems years older than they are.
Life in the commune rolls on. Don’s girl is coming up today and they’ll be getting married soon. The people who got married at Christmas may be getting divorced soon, since Greg seems to have gotten interested in this other girl, a source of great disagreement between them. Myra (Kaplan), the girl who was here (moved out or really never seemed to move in. I could have been close to her once though it seems like years since the fucked up-eastern Jewish-intellectual milieu. And the others here were never into that at all. And she was used to much more money than us) has moved into a place that rents for three times what each of us pays. I think everyone is pretty happy about the move, though there are no hard feelings or anything.
January 28, 1969
I wanted to get these pictures off right away. Some of them are pretty nice, yes? We have four good cameras in the house now, plus an 8 mm movie camera and a projector. Don hopes to buy a darkroom outfit through the school where he teaches, so he can get an “educational discount”. We have a big basement to put it in, too. I think, if he gets the stuff, we’ll convert the bathroom in the basement to a darkroom.
Not much has happened since Sunday. The opening Sunday night was a real hit. Hundreds of people were crammed in here, real freaks, mostly “friends” of the artist. They drank three cases of wine, poured by me at top speed, covered the floor with cigarette butts, and, of course, didn’t buy anything. These openings are really just for the hell of it. The critics came yesterday, when the gallery was empty.
Margy (hard ‘g’) arrived yesterday morning. She’s a pretty weird little chick. She has a lot of childlike mannerisms, if you know what I mean. It’s very endearing at first, but it must get hard to take after awhile. She did bring, however, an FM radio and a blender. This last thing especially is great. I made a date milk shake this morning, which tasted pretty lousy, but…
The second page is missing.
…I got a letter from you yesterday, dated the twentieth, so the mails are not really so bad from you to me. I think they were slowed down there for a while. Some of your letters took two weeks to get here.
I’ve been feeling some of your urgency about production lately too. It seems as though translating ideas or conceptions into things is a very important process. The people who do it most often and in effect make that process the center of their lives seem like the happiest people to me. That’s what I have learned from working with these artists around here. The reverse process is important too I think, to know and maybe control what changes are coming from the outside inward. I’ve been concentrating on that sort of give and take between myself and environment lately. I feel a little bit more alive that way.
I was really excited to hear that you’re painting again. Why don’t you send photographs or slides or roll one up (is it on canvas?) in a tube and send it over. I’d like to see what it looks like. The Pollack Gallery, of course, gets exclusive rights to representation in Toronto. Love,
Use this link to return to the narrative, Baldwin Street exile community, March-August 1969