Visiting the mural 'Spooner's Garage', Scarborough, Ontario: 1940s cameo

Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Spooner's Garage mural, Scarborough, Ontario
Spooner's Garage mural, Scarborough, Ontario | Source
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario | Source

Echoes of Edward Hopper?

Kingston Road, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, is endowed with several, striking murals. Many of these murals have been commissioned as part of the Heritage Trail series, which gives sometimes engaging insights into various periods of local history and life.

This mural, entitled 'Spooner's Garage', recalls the establishment of a proprietor, Art Spooner, who served motorists in the Kingston Road area over a long period. The artist was Phillip Woolf, who painted the work in 1992.

I have entitled this article 'Visiting the mural 'Spooner's Garage, Scarborough, Ontario: 1940s cameo' because clearly there are indicators of the late 1940s (or, possibly early 1950s) in various features of the mural. The styling of the automobile at the gasoline pumps is strongly suggestive of the 1940s. Interestingly, in North America, there was very little building of private automobiles between the years 1942 and 1947; and then when, in 1947 it was recommenced, the manufacturers tended to continue initially with the styling that had been in vogue in 1942; so it is somewhat hard to pinpoint on the basis of likely styling exactly where in the decade the vehicle in the picture belongs.

The young man at the driving wheel, and the pump attendant (possibly intended to be Mr. Spooner himself?) seem to be almost ageless in their appearance. But it is the young woman standing by the car that gives various, further clues as to the specific period which the mural represents. While the high heels and loose-sleeved top are hardly restricted to particular decades, yet the pleated skirt dates her attire to a period most definitely prior to the 1960s, as would its hemline. Her hair, too, gives some clues; the loose, slightly styled look would probably identify the influence to be a more recent one than those of the 1920s or even 30s, when a more closely trimmed, Brooks style would have been extremely widespread, but, again, the hair depicted in the mural would predate the 1960s. The gloves, also, would also be strongly indicative of a period not later than the 1940s or 50s.

The apparent demeanour of three human figures in the mural — driver, standing woman and pump attendant — also convey some sense of either artistic alienation or at least detachment: the attendant seems to be absorbed in his fuelling task; the woman seems to be waiting on the attendant to finish his task, while the driver seems less fixated on the fuelling than on his companion. The absorption of curiously anonymous figures in everyday, North American urban tasks is, in fact, a recurrent theme of artists such as Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and I wonder if the latent influence of Hopper is lurking in the background to this mural.

The mural is located at 2340 Kingston Road, in Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario.

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I was unable to obtain a sufficiently satisfactory photograph of another mural at 2348 Kingston Road, which also depicts Spooner's Garage at an earlier period of its existence; but this shows an automobile with strikingly older styling, and gasoline pumps of an earlier design also.

Also worth seeing

Other murals on Kingston Road include: 'Scarborough Rifle Co.' at No.1577, 'Half Way House' at 2502 and 'In the Way of Progress' at 2835, among others.

Thomson Memorial Park , Scarborough (distance: approx. 6 kilometres); there are interesting, 19th century buildings in the Park

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How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to the area of the mural at 2340 Kingston Road: approx. 40 kilometres). However, visitors may prefer to use the TTC public transit: services to the area include the #12 bus. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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