Looking back, the year 1937 was a challenging one for the Canadian National Exhibition Association, due to the outbreak of Polio.
What follows is an excerpt from the 1937 Annual Report:
To the Members of the Canadian National Exhibition Association:
Your Board of Directors respectfully submits herewith and account of the activities of the Canadian National Exhibition in 1937, having more particular reference to the actual operations of the fourteen-day period, August 27th to September 11th. At the outset it is fitting, even necessary, to refer to the epidemic of poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis) which coincided with the operating period and which had a very direct effect on attendance and revenues. Attendance suffered to the extent of approximately 300,000. There was a decrease of 78,000 on Children's Day alone.
Before the outbreak and up to the stage at which it reached the peak of its virulence, there was ample justification for the prediction the Exhibition would have quite one of the best years in its history. Very considerable sums were disbursed by the Exhibition itself and by exhibitors and concessionaires in keeping with a mammoth Coronation Year celebration. There had been definite improvement in business conditions and that spending power was higher than for several years was indicated in various sources of revenue throughout the park.
Provincial and municipal health authorities took prompt measures to control and abate the epidemic. Indeed, the advisability of closing the Exhibition's gates to children was seriously discussed. Railway and steamship excursions to Toronto were cancelled and tourists were warned and sometimes unduly alarmed at ports of entry. As a precautionary measure the Exhibition management cancelled the baby show which had attracted one thousand entries and notified the health departments of its eagerness to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in overcoming the menace to public health. Suspected cases at Exhibition Park were rushed to hospital or quarantine. Our own emergency hospital staff was particularly alert and active.
A striking feature of an unfortunate situation was the wide popular approval accorded the Exhibition. It was quite generally agreed that it was much the best, in many respects, ever presented by the association. The new amusement area, "Frolexland", organized and conducted by Exhibition and which superseded the former "Midway" received immediate acceptance.
Another noteworthy reaction to the changed conditions imposed by the epidemic and resultant decrease in attendance was that of many exhibitors who advised the management that the absence of unwieldy crowds in buildings and elsewhere actually redounded to their benefit. Business, they said, was facilitated, many of them averring their volume of transactions was increased.
In his address on the occasion of the Opening Ceremonies, Hon. Newton Wesley Rowell, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario, paid tribute to the Exhibition, remarking that the stimulating competition it engenders encourages improvements in all the products of industry and agriculture and promotes the spirit of national unity.
In commending this report to your earnest attention your Board of Directors respectfully submits that despite the untoward conditions under which the Exhibition of 1937 was conducted, it proved again that is an indispensable national service and a great and growing contribution to the welfare of our country and her people.