Over 135 Years of Service
In recognition at our 125th Anniversary milestone, we created Dates to Remember: a book containing a pictorial history of Toronto by Mike Filey. We have included an excerpt from the book below.
When Julius A. Humphrey first established his firm at Yonge and Dundas 125 years ago, the world was a much different place. Sir John a. MacDonald was Prime Minister, Yonge and Dundas was considered "midtown" and Yonge and Bloor was uptown, where toll gates governed access to the city. It was a city with wooden plank sidewalks where odd-looking bicycles whizzed by and horse-drawn streetcars and fire-wagons clambered up and down the streets.
The year was 1879, and it was a year of many firsts: the first Toronto Phone Book was published, the Canadian National Exhibition opened its gates for the first time, and the first flat hockey puck slipped onto the ice. Thomas Edison demonstrated his light bulb, which would eventually replace gaslights in millions of homes, and McConkey's Restaurant made history by being the first restaurant in Toronto with electric lights.
Twenty years later you could still get a cab ride by horse for 20 cents, the Toronto Star newspaper was one cent, and City Hall officially opened on Queen Street.
Progress was exceptionally notable by the turn of the century: Marconi's first wireless transmission took place in 1901 and the University of Toronto played host to the first Grey Cup Game in December of 1909.
Arthur W. Miles, the founder of A.W. Miles Chapel, introduced the first motorized ambulance to Toronto in June of 1911, and in 1912 Mr. Miles opened the grounds of his home in Mimico to the public, free of charge. It was known as Miles Park and it was more than just beautiful gardens - it was a place for people to enjoy exotic animals, have a picnic and, if they wanted, ride a camel. The part was home to an elephant, giraffe, camels, donkeys, monkeys, ostriches and other exotic birds and animals.
Leaside made history in 1918 when Captain Brian A. Peck flew the first postal flight between Montreal and Toronto, transporting a bag of 120 letters in envelopes specially postmarked for the flight. The flight took 6 hours in total with a stop over in Kingston to refuel before making the inaugural landing in our very own Leaside.
By the 1920's the Toronto Transit Commission was developing, replacing horse-drawn streetcars with electric ones; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was formed, and The Royal York Hotel became Toronto's tallest standing structure at 439 feet. There was also talk of turning the Don Jail into an aquarium. Toronto had experienced some hockey success up to this point, but did not have a team that the entire city could rally around and call its own - this changed in 1926 when our Toronto Maple Leafs were formed.
By the time Maple Leaf Gardens had opened in 1931 and the Leafs had won their first Stanley Cup in this decade, the Humphrey firm was now under the direction of Julius' son Bert, and had expanded to three locations. However in 1935, the sudden death of Bert combined with the effects of the depression saw the business scaled back to one location.
Toronto turned 100 years old in 1934, and officially had "history" that would only continue to grow. In 1939, just five years after its Centennial, the first plane landed at the Toronto Island Airport and TransCanada planes were landing in Malton. Admission to the CNE was 25 cents and King George arrived to visit Toronto. Third generation President Thomas A. Humphrey turned 21 in 1939, old enough to take over the family firm.
The 1940's were glory years for the Toronto Maple Leafs with five Stanley Cup wins. Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, and in 1955, J. "Rennie" Graham was appointed Manager of A. W. Miles Chapel at 30 St. Clair Avenue West.
The 1960's brought us EXPO 67, a new flag, the celebration of Canada's Centennial, and the Maple Leafs won the most recent Stanley Cup. Neil Armstrong awed the world and ignited the imaginations of young and old alike as he broadcasted back to earth while taking the very first steps on the moon in 1969.
On April 2, 1975, Toronto completed the world's tallest freestanding structure: The CN Tower. In 1980, we watched a remarkable man, Terry Fox, as he endeavoured to run coast-to-coast to raise money and awareness for cancer research. In addition, he inspired the marathon of Rick Hanson and all the many, many marathons for worthy causes in which we take part today.
July 16, 1981, marked an important date for the business: A.W. Miles Chapel merged with Humphrey Funeral Home and moved to the Bayview Avenue location. The marriage of the two companies brought about the birth of Humphrey Funeral Home - A.W. Miles Chapel which in 1989 came under the leadership of the fourth generation, Bruce Humphrey.
On August 15, 2014, the Murray E. Newbigging Funeral Home joined with the Humphrey Funeral Home at our Bayview Avenue location forming the Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles - Newbigging Chapel Limited. For more than 135 years now, we have celebrated life with the people of Toronto and are proud to have been part of this wonderful city for four generations. We are grateful for our rich heritage which was reflected in our production of the 125th anniversary Dates to Remember book.