This page is a collection of interesting and quirky historical plaques, markers, and roadside signs seen on my travels in my unceasing quest to understand how the past informs the present (and future).

Newfoundlanders are known for their warmth and welcome to any soul who happens upon their shores. As the events on September 11, 2001 unfolded, American airspace was closed, and hundreds of airplanes were forced to land. As a tribute to the power of kindness and community, the only place outside the United States to have a piece of steel from the collapsed World Trade Center is Gander International Airport in Newfoundland. Read my blog post on the Top 10 Plaques – Newfoundland.

While walking on Dundas Street just west of Spadina in Toronto’s Chinatown, this sign caught my eye in the window of the Toronto Hong Luck Kung Fu Association, which is apparently “Canada’s First and Oldest Traditional Wushu/Kung Fu School,” established in 1961.

Another little Toronto gem found on Ossington Avenue, just south of Dundas Street. Since he was effectively banned from boxing in the U.S. due to his political views, Muhammad Ali trained at a gym located here in 1966 in preparation for a match with Canadian boxer George Chuvalo. As an interesting side note, legendary Toronto doctor Joseph Greenberg, father of my own family doctor, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for his medical care of Chuvalo and other boxers. I wonder if he ever got to meet Muhammad Ali? (UPDATE: Yes, he did, several times.)

A fascinating discovery at the foot of the steps that lead up to Casa Loma in Toronto. Davenport Road became what it is due to an indigenous trail already existing at the foot of the bluffs. Further back in time, the land from this point out to what is now Lake Ontario was all under water. Perhaps with climate change it will eventually revert.

One of my favourite signs of all times. Can you guess it’s in London, UK?

A beautiful little hike on a sun-dappled day tucked behind a Loblaw’s in Toronto just north of the Brickworks, Crothers Woods was virgin forest until the Mississauga indigenous people sold it in 1787 to be a part of Toronto. It saw much industrialization (mills, sewage treatment plant, chemical plants, etc.) until it was rehabilitated in the early 2000s.

Seen in Toronto at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue. Charles Best helped discover insulin for diabetics with Sir Frederick Banting. The pair revolutionized the lives of diabetics. I have a young friend with Type 1 diabetes whose life in 2019 is hard enough, even with all the modern technology to which she has access. I can hardly imagine what it was like before insulin. This location would have made a very short and walkable commute for Best from home to the University of Toronto.

Seen in Toronto at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue. I had no clue who Anna Russell was and so had to look her up. Originally born and trained as a singer in England, she moved to Canada and launched her career as a “musical cartoonist.” Comedy + music = two great Canadian traditions.