Tag Archives: Police

The Fruit Loop in 1982

Calgary’s Gay Prostitution Stroll for many years was centred around the Lougheed House on 13th Avenue SW between 6th and 7th streets. Colloquially it was known in the gay community as “the Fruit Loop.” Trolling cars would circle the block around the Lougheed House, in a clockwise direction, due to 6th being a one-way street. In 1982 local residents who lived in apartment towers facing the Fruit Loop petitioned Calgary Police to have the stroll removed. The petition received 547 signature from area residents (165 signatures from the Birkenshaw Apartment, 166 from Hull Estates, 68 from Park 300, and 148 from Evergreen Apartments).

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Driving route on the Fruit Loop: Source Google Maps

The apartment building owners alleged they were losing renters due to the distasteful activity and the ensuing noise and traffic that the prostitutes were making. Occasionally the sex workers would even get into the buildings and rest in the apartment lobbies’ overstuffed chairs.

Inspector Bill Brink who was in charge of policing the Beltline noted that male prostitutes had been moving west from Central Memorial Park, due to increased lighting there, as well as stepped-up enforcement. He also claimed that the gay bar, the Parkside Continental at 1302 4th St. SW, was one of the drawing cards for male prostitution in the area.

The Calgary Herald on June 21st, 1982 reported that police had enhanced enforcement efforts at the Fruit Loop. Noting enforcement difficulties, Inspector Frank Mitchell reported that male prostitutes were harder to spot than female prostitutes. He said, “if there are five men walking down the street, two may be homosexual, one may be a homosexual prostitute and two may be going to the library. It’s very difficult to assess.”

Later that week at a Police Commission Meeting, the petitioners brought forth their complaint. Police Chief Brian Sawyer, said the Calgary police force was sympathetic but helpless. He recommended that citizens write to their Members of Parliament, to lobby for laws to help police deal with prostitution.

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Image source: The Calgary Herald: July 21, 1982, page B1.

The Beltline NIMBYers were not happy with that response. One woman invited the Police Chief to spend a night in her apartment to assess for himself the magnitude of the issue. Another man thought that the male prostitutes could be moved as Police had done with the female prostitution stroll. The manager of the Evergreen Estates told the commission: “I don’t think the police’s hands are tied. They can do something about the commotion. We’re talking about commotion, noise, and disturbance.  [These] young guys are howling and hooting at the moon.”

Inspector Bill Brink incidentally was the police representative on the first gay community/police liaison committee (he also notoriously had busted Club Carousel years earlier on liquor charges, and was hostile to the activist side of the gay community).  The gay members of the committee agreed to help the police relocate the Fruit Loop to 10th Avenue SW.  The compliant committee then had cards printed which they hand-delivered to the stroll’s sex workers asking them to relocate. Although it was a polite initiative, it proved ineffective.

Finally, one wonders, is it a coincidence the Fruit Loop was across from the Ranchmen’s Club, one of Calgary’s then last remaining exclusive (men-only) private members clubs?


Striking Back at the Bay in 1964

After World War II there was an ongoing domestic battle in Canada between gay men and the nation’s department stores that lasted for decades. The issue was public sex in department store washrooms. All across the country men seeking sexual contacts would meet up in little used washrooms while the nation’s shoppers went about their daily business.

Academics have written about the public washroom phenomenon extensively. Lavatories are a popular site among men seeking sex from each other: they are easy to get into and out of; their recognition as a site for sex is known and shared mainly by those who participate; and there is some assumption of privacy and concealment in regular washroom business, making other behaviour seem less noticeable.

Calgary was typical in this regard, and downtown department stores such as Eaton’s, Hudson’s Bay, and the store-linking Devonian Gardens all had men’s washrooms well known to frustrated facility operators and authorities. Police stings and/or entrapment were a definite threat and there was a societal culture of intimidation to try to prevent these acts. Men found in a washroom engaged in unsavoury business would be arrested on the charge of gross indecency. Often their name, occupation and home address would be published in the daily newspapers the next day. In the mid-20th Century this kind of public outing and ostracization was life altering, and in some cases ended in suicide.

In 1964, on Clarence John Young, a former Bay employee and washroom found-in, fought back, with his own lawsuit (see the attached article).

Calgary Herald March 7, 1964 p. 26

Calgary Herald, March 7, 1964, pg. 26.

We do not know how the lawsuit ended, but the article certainly gives us the tenor of the times. {Thanks to our colleague, historian Harry Saunders, who ran across this article and forwarded it to us}.

Intimidation as a tactic was not confined to the 50s and 60s. In 1980, one Calgary downtown department store operator, posted this notice on the men’s washroom, which viewed today is shocking.

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In today’s world, with both the internet and gay hook up phone apps like GrindR and Scruff, men who have sex with men have never had it easier to connect. However, we are fully confident that public washrooms, particularly in downtown Calgary, still get their fair share of all kinds of business.