ARCHIVES: Memories of the Grand Ole EX

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), also known as The Exhibition or The Ex, is an annual event that takes place at Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the 18 days leading up to and including Canadian Labour Day, the first Monday in September.

Approximately 1.5 million visits each year, making her Canada’s largest annual fair. The first EX opened in 1879, showing off Canada’s agriculture and technology in Canada. Today the CNE reflects Canada’s growth in diversity and innovation, though agriculture and technology remain a large part of the EX.

The EX has been visited by millions of people and those who attended the fair have very fond memories of the “EX of the past.

Share your memories of when you visited the EX in the past, what you remember most and what made you enjoy the Grand Ole Lady of the Lakeshore.

Our site visitors reminisce:

Memories from the 1950’s

  • The Princess Gates
  • The Shell Tower
  • The Better Living Center – latest washers, dryers, sewing machines
  • Sports Hall of Fame – boring for a little girl but my dad loved it
  • The Flower Pavilion
  • The Horse Pavilion – always hot and smelly
  • The Band Shell

The Food Building…wow!

  • waffle sandwiches
  • samples – paper cups full of spaghetti, cookies, pickles ( I still have a tiny plastic pin of a Heinz Dill Pickle), very first slice of pizza, tiny chocolate bars
  • Double Bubble Gum
  • Flat paper strips when folded and attached at the back made you a paper crown to wear all day
  • coupons to take home for mom to use at the grocery store
  • Honey Dew cone shaped wax containers with enough drinks for the whole family
  • Tiny Tom donuts going along a conveyor belt with icing sugar at the end
  • and always the delicious smell of fried onions


Cupie dolls on a stick (fashioned after Bette Boop), felt pennants that said the CNE and the year (my brother collected them for his bedroom wall, the Air Show, furry stuffed toys from winning on the midway

and finally,
the sleepy ride home on the Gerrard St. streetcar.

Good times from long ago.

Jan & Don, Pickering


We didn’t have a car until I was 12 or 13, so my annual trips to the CNE were on the train, the CNR steam engine initially and always on Labour Day weekend. We checked our suitcases and then entered the CNE grounds through the famous Dufferin Gates.

  • Ritz-Carlton dog (mustard only)
  • Honey Dew drinks
  • the ‘tiny donuts’ preparation
  • The Food Bldg!!
  • ‘free food samples’
  • tiny paper cups of beans to soups

Then we took the Queen East St. car to Grandpa Frank’s at Kew Beach.

  • Shopsy’s Corned Beef
  • those greasy midway hamburgers loaded with greasy fried onions
  • ALL the buildings:
    Horticultural, Automotive, The Coliseum!!, The Bandshell,
              Ladies Fastball games, the CHUM and CKEY Booths,
              The Shell/Bulova Tower, the Dodgem Cars, the Merry-go-round
              the butter sculptures, and even some of the ‘freak’ shows
                       (like The Alligator Man and Schlitzie The Monkey Boy)

From 1950 to ’55, all my fave cowboys:

  • Hopalong Cassidy
  • Gene Autrey
  • Gabby Hayes
  • Cisco and Pancho
  • MY hero Roy Rogers….galloping full speed!! on Trigger past the grandstand full of cheering kids and parents, with his wife, Dale Evans on Buttermilk, Pat Brady in Jezebel the Jeep, and Bullet the dog

  • Bob Hope
  • the RCMP Musical Ride

Bob R


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