TORONTO - Tibor Kiss and his family were among the last members of the public to visit the Canadian Air and Space Museum Saturday after a decision to close the doors ecxept to allow volunteers to pack up the artifacts.
“We heard that it was being closed down and it looks like we came just in time,” Kiss said as he took sons Ryan, 4, and Jason, 14-months on a tour. “I wanted to bring the family here before it shut down.”
The Kiss’ were among several families who showed up at Downsview Park on Saturday to view the thousands of pieces of national aviation artifacts that range from a full-size Avro Arrow replica, the Canadarm and a replica of Canada’s first
satellite, the Alouette 1.
More than 200 concerned museum members, who also act as volunteers, were at a meeting to decide their next move after being told by landlord Downsview Park they had six months to leave.
Museum chairman Ian McDougall said a lock for their door was changed and volunteers will be allowed into the museum only to pack.
The museum was behind on its rent by about $100,000 and had gone through several management changes.
He sent $22,000 in cheques to the museum’s landlord in early September but received the money back on Sept. 14, McDougall said.
“They are putting us out of business,” McDougall told members. “They are putting us in a position were we will be real lucky if we can succeed.”
He said the museum had to cancel several major upcoming fundraisers, shows and school tours.
“We were told our charity status is being looked at,” McDougall said. “From now on we only have access to the buiding to move and pack “
The museum has been in a Carl Hall Rd. building on the former Canadian Forces Base Downsview for about 14 years and has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Downsview Park, a Crown corporation, has plans to demolish all but the
façade of the building, and turn it into a skating rink complex. The park is undergoing changes including the development of a new sports facility, a sustainable community and a subway station.
Leonard Levy, 90, a World War II veteran who flew 32 missions on a Lancaster Bomber, was given a standing ovation by club members.
“We have to preserve our aviation history for the younger people to see,”Levy said. “We have to tell them our story.”
Business owner Sherry Draisey, who owns Good Vibrations Engineering in another unit of the building, said she was also given six months to leave.
“It is very upsetting and disappointing,” Draisey said. “We work in aerospace and moved here to be near the museum.”
Rick Shousha said he drove all-night from Montreal to deliver a hand-made model of the first airplane to fly over Toronto in 1911, the Bleriot X1.
“I drove all the way here to present them with the model,” Shousha said. “I wanted to give it to them before the place closed down.”
Downsview Park officials couldn’t be reached for comment.