My Flemingdon Park: Darow Myhowich, the CBC and a Missed Opportunity
Darow Myhowich dreamed of becoming a singer. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, into a working-class Ukrainian family – his father Leon was a miner – by his teens, the handsome six-foot-five performer appeared at venues in the city. After high school, he went into radio, a distinct baritone among disk jockeys at AM stations in Medicine Hat and Edmonton. When a friend secretly sent a recording of the songster to a popular television show in Toronto, Myhowich headed east in 1958, changed his name and struck it big. Before this, however, his life and events in the emerging neighbourhood of Flemingdon Park briefly intertwined.
The same year North York planning board approved the construction of Flemingdon Park, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation purchased a 33-acre lot in the north end of the future self-contained residential community. The site would be home to the public broadcaster’s $70,000,000 state-of-the-art broadcast centre. The size and scale of the television and radio studios would rival anything in existence in North America.
Construction was tentatively scheduled to commence in 1960.
CBC’s suburban headquarters accessed by Wynford Drive east of the recently opened Don Valley Parkway minutes from downtown would be the Cullinan Diamond among commercial gems like IBM, Oxford University Press and Smith Corona with roots in the neighbourhood.
Broadcast studios would accommodate roughly 2,000 employees and centralize nearly a dozen CBC TV and radio operations dispersed throughout the City of Toronto. What’s more, the CBC announcement to locate in Flemingdon Park produced a ripple effect throughout the industry. Suddenly private television stations, movie production companies, film processing and advertisement firms vied for area land. All this new development would require additional housing for employees as well as shopping and hotel facilities.
With the public broadcaster committed to establishing a presence here, a deluge of industry people on both sides of the microphone and camera moved in. Scores of camera operators, sound engineers, media directors, cinematographers, grips, stagehands, news editors, on-air personalities and several print journalists arrived with families in tow to take up residence in area townhouses and apartments.
Among arrivals was Darow Myhowich, or as the public now knew him, Mike Darow.
Mike Darow’s career in television began at the CBC Toronto affiliate, CBLT. Back in Edmonton, a friend had secretly sent a recording of a Darow performance to the popular variety show, Music Makers, hosted by Jack Lane. He told a newspaper reporter, “When I saw they were willing to fly me down and pay me a fee, I figured I better move here.”
Darow’s appearances on Music Makers were a hit, but performances were infrequent. If he was to remain in Toronto, he needed regular work and quickly landed a high-profile, on-air job as an announcer at radio station 1050 CHUM.
Residing for a time in a Kingston Road apartment, in 1961 the popular disk jockey moved with his wife into townhouse No. 30 at 58 Grenoble Drive where son Randall was born. (Two years later daughter Alissa arrived during a 1050 CHUM publicity stunt that required Darow to remain confined to a car secured to scaffolding sixty feet above a car dealership until the public purchased 300 cars from the lot.)
In addition to the radio gig, Darow appeared on the CBC television show Club 6, Canada’s answer to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand south of the border. Club 6 was taped in CBC’s 354 Jarvis Street studio. He made frequent guest appearances on a variety of CBC television shows like Juliette and On the Scene. Like other Flemingdon Park residents employed by the broadcaster, Darow anticipated the day when work would be a short walk away.
CBC advanced plans to build. Preparations were made to break ground. Amendments to North York’s official plan were altered to permit additional land use for commercial development. In what appeared to be a boon to the neighbourhood and township coffers, two private-sector television stations acquired tracts of land with the intent to add their presence.
The initial 33 acres of production space ballooned to 117 acres.
Meanwhile, Mike Darow’s celebrity increased. He now hosted two television shows, a radio quiz show, and continued on-air work at 1050 CHUM. He even had a local radio hit with the musical parody, The Battle of Queenston Heights.
Things were going well all around. Mike Darow was finding fame; Flemingdon Park earned a reputation as an exciting, creative hub. Things would only improve with the CBC’s arrival.
Then politicians in the City of Toronto began to meddle.
Recognizing the loss would negatively impact local economies, including revenue earned by the Toronto Hydro-Electric System which provided the broadcaster with excessive amounts of power, the Board of Control commenced a concerted effort to dissuade CBC from relocating operations in the Township of North York. Incentives were proposed in 1962 to convince them to remain in Toronto that included offering the broadcaster a choice location in the downtown core plus other civic inducements.
Backroom deals were struck. CBC brass went from boasting about the move to Flemingdon Park to releasing a letter late that year stating the Mother Corp. “Is not irretrievably committed to this site, and it would be prepared to consider an alternate location….”
Now that CBC’s commitment to building a headquarters on Wynford Drive was up in the air, things began to change for Flemingdon Park residents who located here for employment reasons.
The ground shifted for many.
Mike Darow quit radio to focus exclusively on a singing career. He performed at nightclubs on the Yonge Street strip. Believing he would benefit from music lessons, he hired a private instructor who, by chance, introduced him to an influential American game show producer.
Life was about to take Darow in a whole new direction.
Where he once said, “I don’t think you have to go to the States to make a name,” the performer informed the media during an interview he was considering a move to New York City on account, “There’s more work there.”
In 1967 the CBC officially announced it abandoned plans to build a suburban broadcast headquarters. At this news, an exodus of radio and television professionals from the community commenced.
A year earlier, Mike Darow and his family left Grenoble Drive bound for New York City. In the spring of 1968, he would become the host of the hugely popular US game show Dream House. Darow became one of the most recognized game show hosts in television history with a career that included hosting spots on The Opposite Opposite Sexes, The Who, What, or Where Game, The $128,000 Question, Jackpot and Tic, Tac, Dough. He was a fixture on the Jerry Lewis Telethon for over a decade.
In the end, Flemingdon Park lost the most. Some claim the failure of CBC to establish itself here marked a turning point in the neighbourhood’s fortunes.
The CBC would go another 25 years without a centralized broadcast centre until facilities at 205 Wellington Street West were completed in 1992. Land set aside in Flemingdon Park for the defunct broadcast centre remained largely unused until the early 1990s.
Mike Darow died of cancer at his home in Rye, New York, in 1996. He was sixty-three years old.
Additional material from The Globe and Mail, Dec. 18, 1959, pg.20; Mar 17, 1960, pg.5; Nov 8,1962, pg.43; Toronto Star, Sept 28, 1960, pg.35; Feb 9, 1966, pg.39;
Jan 17, 1977 pg. D11; The CHUM Story; Allen Farrell, Stoddart Publishing Co., 2001
Photograph courtesy Randall Myhowich
Ed Brown lived in Flemingdon Park at 58 Grenoble Drive from 1969-1991 email@example.com