Vintage Toronto Ads: Toronto or Vancouver?

Part One: A Full Day of Fun in Vancou..Toronto!

Originally published on Torontoist on July 24, 2007.

2007_07_24ontario.jpgSource: Toronto ’59: One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Anniversary.

For years, Toronto tourism ads have gotten a bad rap. These attempts to bring visitors to our fair city have a knack of running off the rails—try finding the love for the Toronto Unlimited campaign.

Today’s ad proves this is not a recent trend, even when the provincial government is the culprit.

When you hear “Toronto,” are images of totem poles and children building castles on a sandy beach the first scenes that come to mind? One suspects these were not the prime attractions for 1950s travelers either (though the ROM would have been one of the few places in the region to publicly display aboriginal works at the time). Did the ad agency mix up the clip art intended for Toronto with that for Vancouver? Even the “Exhibition” could apply to both cities, since the drawing is so generic, the scene could be at the PNE as much as the CNE.

Our happy nuclear family may not have gotten to know Toronto in its 125th anniversary year. Father can only laugh at the travel bureau’s folly, especially when they failed to warn him that the city all but shut down on Sundays.

Part Two: The Wandering Welcome Wagon

Originally published on Torontoist on March 18, 2008.

2008_03_19welcomewagon.jpg
Source: Toronto Life, November 1969.

A family moves into one of Toronto’s more fashionable neighbourhoods. In the middle of deciding where Junior’s playpen will fit in the living room, there is a knock at the front door. Standing on the front step is the official neighbourhood greeter from Welcome Wagon.

The new residents are greeted with the finest publications our city has to offer: Toronto Life, the Vancouver Province, and an unidentified Vancouver Sunday paper (our city’s dailies respected Sunday day-of-rest traditions and didn’t launch a regular Sunday edition until the first Sunday Sun rolled off the press in 1973).

Junior is not impressed. Mother feigns interest. The greeter drops their gifts and moves on to the next set of new neighbours four doors down.

Originating in Memphis in 1928, Welcome Wagon doled out its first gifts to Canadians in Vancouver two years later. Perhaps our greeter had been with the organization since its early days and brought along leftovers to recycle when she moved to Toronto, or was confused by tourism ads placed by the Ontario government.

Just watch out if they hand you tickets for a Canucks home game.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Over the years, there were vintage ad columns with similar themes. In some cases, especially in these short early pieces, I’m going to group them together as a single post. These examples also illustrate how, especially if time was tight, I used my imagination to write scenarios for what was going on in each ad, a habit I’m tempted to revive when I start rolling out fresh material on this site.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

One historical note: there were earlier attempts to launch “Sunday” papers in Toronto, even if they weren’t necessarily published that day. To circumvent Toronto’s blue laws, the Toronto Sunday World was distributed late Saturday night beginning in 1891. A well-packaged paper, it outlasted the demise of the World in 1921, being published by the Mail and Empire until it was sold to Star Weekly in 1924 (good luck finding copies of those final three years, as major institutions don’t hold it on microfilm). The Telegram briefly experimented with a Sunday edition in the 1950s, but it didn’t last a year.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Shoulders by the Grange

Originally published on Torontoist on July 10, 2007.

2007_07_10grange.jpg

Source: Toronto Life, December 1984.

To borrow a line from an old Saturday Night Live parody of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s fashion sense, you may ask yourself “why such a big suit?”

Village by the Grange opened on McCaul St in the mid-1970s as a mixture of residential and retail spaces. Any secrets the complex held by the time this ad appeared were hidden in each model’s shoulder or loose jacket. The toll of those stuck in narrow passages or otherwise injured by wide clothes across Toronto during the mid-1980s is unknown (though if anyone wants to check the police accident records, your perseverance will be admired).

If you look at the Emy’s model from a certain angle, her outfit resembles a heart—raised curves at the top, narrowing to a point by the waistline. A subliminal suggestion that anyone would love to wear this, or an early hint for Valentine’s Day gift ideas?

BEHIND THE SCENES

Now that “Vintage Toronto Ads” was rolling along, I began buying cheap used copies of old magazines to widen my selection of source material. This was one of the first from a batch of mid-1980s issues of Toronto Life I found at a bookstore along Yonge Street (I want to say ABC, but don’t quote me on that). Dated fashion quickly became handy if I was in a hurry to write the column, or when the inspiration well ran dry. I might collect some future installments together, since I usually didn’t have a lot to say – the images told a better tale than I could. What more is there to say about the ridiculously puffed up shoulders on the Emy’s model?

There will be more about Village by the Grange – rebranded in recent years as Yorkville Village – in future posts.

Time Machine: Towering Over TO

Originally published on Torontoist on June 30, 2007.

2006_06_29_CNTower.jpg

Image pieced together from the June 26, 1976 editions of The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

Who’s up for a trip through time?

While an H.G. Wells-style contraption or fourth dimension-smashing telephone box are not available in the consumer market, there are simpler methods of going back through time. All that’s required are a date and the arcane knowledge of knowing how to load a microfilm reader.

Toronto has a rich newspaper history, with no fewer than three dailies at a time battling for the city’s readers. This series of columns will dig through the piles of paper printed since the colonial government’s offical fishwrap, The Upper Canada Gazette, moved its presses here in 1798 to cover milestones in the city’s history as they happened.

Our first trip back in time is 31-years ago this week, when the CN Tower opened its doors to the public on June 26, 1976.

The day’s headlines concerned the grounding of most Canadian air traffic due to a week-long walkout by air traffic controllers, who were joined in sympathy (and fear of unsafe conditions) by pilots. The issue was a federal proposal to extend bilingual air traffic control services in Quebec, especially in Montreal. The Globe and Mailindicated that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau felt the dispute was a threat to national unity—possibly the country’s most serious crisis since conscription during World War II. The walkout ended a few days later, when the feds agreed to, in the Canadian way, hold a commission to study the issue.

As for the tower, the Sun was the least impressed of the three dailies:

At $2.75 a shot just to get to the inside observation deck, you could call the CN Tower, which opened to the public yesterday, the world’s tallest free-standing tourist trap.” They also reported that 10,000-12,000 visitors showed up for the opening, though nobody knew for sure as somebody forgot to reset the automatic counters at the turnstiles.

The Star featured a special insert section about the tower, boasting that “the only place higher man has stood is on the moon.” It also reassured visitors to “relax, it won’t fall down.” No mention about the dangers of snow falling off the tower.

The Globe and Mail sent city alderman (and soon-to-be CityTV reporter) Colin Vaughan to take a look at the tower. He was less than impressed:

Undoubtedly the tower will draw millions of visitors who will come and gawk at the mechanical and electronic bric-a-brac and buy the CN tower-shaped rye bottles as souvenirs. But none will experience the unique sensation, the vertigo and the straight excitement which should accompany a visit to a structure of this scale.

Other local news:
• Sam “The Record Man” Sniderman received the Order of Canada, along with former federal finance minister Walter Gordon.
• The Mariposa Folk Festival enjoyed a successful weekend on the Toronto Islands. Headliners included Taj Mahal and Robert Pete Williams.
• At the movies, the summer season was in full swing, with The OmenMurder By DeathOde to Billy Joe and The Man Who Fell to Earth opening at the box office.
• Honest Ed’s special of the week was one pound of imported Austrian gruyere cheese for 47 cents.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Along with various pieces by Kevin Plummer and myself, this first (and final) installment of “Time Machine” could be considered a distant ancestor of Historicist. I honestly don’t remember the circumstances behind this piece, and suspect I pitched it to see what would happen with it. The intent appears to have been to set the historical context when major events in Toronto history, such as the opening of the CN Tower, occurred.

Looking at it now is a little cringe-y. The intro is fine for an ongoing column, but the rest feels a little…slight? The opening of the CN Tower isn’t given much room, and more detail could have been provided for the “other local news” tidbits. If anything, this column looks like it was in danger of becoming one of those “remember when such-and-such cost five cents” and “let’s wallow in nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia” columns I loathe whenever I come across them during research marathons. I’m not surprised, and kind of relieved, that “Time Machine” didn’t go any further.

We’re going to encounter a few more hiccups in the evolutionary path toward Historicist. But hang in there. It gets better. A lot better…

Vintage Toronto Ads: Welcome to the Hotel Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on June 26, 2007.
Source: Toronto Life, November 1975.

Downtown Toronto experienced a hotel boom during the first half of the 1970s as modern skyscrapers and buildings like the new City Hall changed the face of the core. Among those that made their debut: the Sheraton Centre (1972), the Holiday Inn on Chestnut (1972), the Chelsea (1975), the Harbour Castle (1975) and, opening its doors 32-years ago this week, the Hotel Toronto.

Western International Hotels traced its roots to the early 1930s, when two hoteliers in Washington state joined together to form Western Hotels (the “International” portion was added in 1954 after its first Canadian location opened). United Airlines ran the company from 1970 to 1987, changing the name to Westin in 1980. This ad promises the usual amenities for weary 1970s travelers, such as colour TV and temperature control.

As for dining options, Trader Vic’s first claim to fame was its invention of the mai tai in Oakland, California during World War II. Its restaurants helped popularize tiki drinks and “Polynesian” food, though the vogue for both was sliding downhill by the time the hotel opened. Note the stern-looking chef, who may have seen one pineapple-based dish too many. The chain still exists, though most of its current locations are outside of North America.

In 1987, the hotel swapped corporate banners with the Hilton Harbour Castle and remains in business as the Toronto Hilton.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

ts 75-06-15 trader vics preview

Source: Toronto Star, June 15, 1975. Click on image for larger version.

When the Blue Jays began play in 1977, the Hotel Toronto hosted the visiting teams, except for the New York Yankees, who preferred the Westbury on Yonge Street. In a 1979 guide to meeting guys around the city, the Star’s Lynda Hurst provided tips on how ladies could catch a glimpse (or more) of baseball hunks:

ts 79-04-07 trader vics where boys are

Source: Toronto Star, April 7, 1979.

ktt 1976-08 trader vicsSource: Key to Toronto, August 1976.

As a tourist draw, Trader Vic’s was included in Mary Walpole’s regular advertorial roundup of Toronto restaurants in the Globe and Mail. For decades, Walpole wore out the dot symbol on the presses, employing a style that seems odd today. You’re tempted to wonder if this was done for aesthetic purposes, or if Walpole actually spoke/wrote like an excited telegram. We’re going to encounter a lot more of her advertorials (as well as writers in other papers, like Brett Halliday of the Sun, who employed a similar style) as we revisit these stories. I was often tempted to write a Historicist column about these writers, who carved out a corner in the dailies for decades but, because they were writing hyperbolic ad copy, may not have received much respect.

gm 76-02-24 mary walpole trader vics

Source: Globe and Mail, February 24, 1976.

More legitimate reviews viewed Trader Vic’s with mixed feelings. Categorizing it under “Tourist Trade,” a capsule comment in the Globe and Mail in 1978 observed that:

gm 78-03-08 trader vic review

Source: Globe and Mail, March 8, 1978.

On dreary winter nights, when the scent of sunny islands is the only promise of springtime, this Polynesian hideaway is the ideal refuge. Those whose spirits aren’t raised by bamboo alone can relax in the arms of a giant rattan chair, and let the soft lights and silky Hawaiian music wash over them while sipping the fragrant—and fresh—fruit concoctions for which Trader’s is justifiably famous throughout the world. (A word of warning—the velvet hand of the bartenders with pineapple, mango, coconut and lime gentles liquor to a lethal whisper, but it packs more punch than navy grog.) – Toronto Calendar, in its 3/5 star rating of Trader Vic’s, December 1978.

Trader Vic’s proximity to Simpsons made it easy to participate in promotions such as cooking classes.

ts 76-02-09 simpsons trader vics pA11

Source: Toronto Star, February 9, 1976.

Finally, a drink suggestion if you’re in a giggly mood during a romantic evening. You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day!

ts 82-02-07 tv rum giggle for two

Source: Toronto Star, February 7, 1982.

Off the Grid (Ghost City): 2 Queen West

From 2012 to 2014 I contributed to The Grida weekly magazine/alt-paper which was known as eye for most of its existence. The publication folded in July 2014, with its web presence vanishing soon after.  As some articles had already vaporized when I finally got around to collecting them for my records, some reprints will be based on original drafts. This installment of my “Ghost City”column was originally published on December 11, 2012. As plans to revamp the building have been released, it seemed appropriate to exhume this piece.

f1244_it0495 knox store small

Yonge Street looking north from Queen Street, early 20th century. 2 Queen West is the Knox store on the left. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 495.

During the last quarter of the 19th century, the intersection of Queen and Yonge was a battleground for clothiers and dry-goods merchants. While Eaton’s and Simpson’s wound up on the top of the heap, other merchants left their own marks, such as the building at the northwest corner named after men’s fashion provider Philip Jamieson.

ts 1900-10-20 jamieson ad

Toronto Star, October 20, 1900.

Jamieson was en route from his native Scotland to Australia in 1873 when he visited his brother-in-law, Bartholomew Spain, in Toronto. Instead of continuing onto the land down under, Jamieson partnered with Spain in a clothing store on the current site of Old City Hall. By 1877, the partnership had dissolved, and Jamieson moved east to the corner of Yonge and Queen. Disaster struck just after midnight on March 4, 1895, when fire destroyed the recently built Simpson’s store across the street to the south. The blaze jumped north across Queen Street, destroying Jamieson’s store and its neighbours, except for Eaton’s, which was saved by its sprinkler system and swift-thinking employees who lived nearby. Despite $150,000 in property losses, Jamieson temporarily moved a few doors north on Yonge and vowed in his ads that “a magnificent building” would rise from the ashes. Designed by architects Samuel Curry and Francis S. Baker, the Jamieson Building, whose original address was 180 Yonge St., included a rounded corner and plenty of plate-glass windows at street level to showcase Jamieson’s goods.

world 09-02-06 jamieson ad

Toronto World, February 6, 1909.

On April 30, 1897, the S.H. Knox Company opened its first Canadian five-and-dime store one door north. Owner Seymour Knox previously partnered with his cousin Frank Woolworth in the variety-store business south of the border, and continued to share suppliers when he set out on his own. Knox agreed to not build anywhere near the early Woolworth stores, making Toronto an attractive locale. (Knox’s heirs left their mark on the Buffalo area—Seymour II was involved with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, while Seymour III and his brother Northrup established the Sabres hockey franchise.) In January 1909, Jamieson retired and Knox expanded into the space. Jamieson planned to travel around the world, but died the following month. The Knox nameplate remained until the chain merged with Woolworth’s in 1912.

f0124_fl0002_id0151 woolworths yonge queen

The discounter’s long presence at one of Toronto’s top retail corners was aided by a stipulation landowner Naomi Bilton included when she sold the property to McMaster University (established by her father) for a dollar in 1917. Bilton had an undisclosed beef against the Eaton family and placed a condition that the property could never be sold to the Eaton’s or their related businesses. (Decades later, neither McMaster nor Woolworth’s showed any interest in selling the space to Cadillac Fairview during construction of the adjacent Eaton Centre.)

tely 69-11-26 woolworths queen and yonge reno

The Telegram, November 26, 1969.

A succession of short-term retailers filled the space after Woolworth’s departed in 1980. When new owners purchased the site in 1985, they hired architect Lloyd Alter to design the restoration of the aging building. Alter referenced archival photos to glimpse what was buried under a layer of metal added by Woolworth’s. “I wanted to peel back the cladding like unwrapping a present,” Alter recalled in a recent email. Engineer Peter Sheffield devised an iron column up the middle of the barely-holding-together structure, to which three layers of plywood were bonded on each floor. While portions of the old brick were exposed, new blue-green aluminum cladding was added.

The project experienced lengthy bureaucratic delays due to the owner’s decision to add a floor at the top for a fitness club (eventually the site of the Goodlife Fitness that vacated the building last year), which made it difficult to meet environmental load requirements. The frustration surrounding the project led Alter to change careers from architect to developer. As for how he could have handled it differently, Alter says that he “would have restored the prism glass and the whole ground plane to the way it was and figured out how to expose the iron-cast columns.” He would have treated the south section as “a real restoration,” while the north half might have been replaced with a new tower.

The Tower Records store that occupied the lower floors from 1995 to 2001 also experienced its share of frustrations. During its first Boxing Day, store managers asked Metro Toronto Police if they should open, given provincial regulations about closure that other retailers increasingly violated. “They laughed,” general manager Bob Zimmerman told Canadian Press, “and said, ‘We really can’t advise you, but you should probably take a look at your competition and do what they do.’” Tower angered Canadian publishers when they discovered the store broke federal guidelines by carrying American-distributed copies of Canadian books. Already edgy over rumours of American book chains eyeing the Canadian market, lawyers were dispatched and letters were written to the feds. Tower officials blamed a rushed store launch for the move, saying that they couldn’t find local wholesalers in time. The offending titles were pulled off the shelves and replaced with perfectly legal titles.

When Tower departed, its space was quickly snapped up by the Forzani Group, who used it as a flagship location for its Coast Mountain Sports chain. The store was later switched to Forzani’s Atmosphere banner.

Additional material from History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario Volume 1 (Toronto: C. Blackett Robinson, 1885); Remembering Woolworth’s by Karen Plunkett-Howell (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001); the March 4, 1895 and July 10, 1895 editions of the Globe; the February 1996 edition of Quill and Quire; and the March 4, 1895, February 9, 1909, February 10, 1977, January 3, 1986, September 26, 1987, and December 27, 1995 editions of the Toronto Star.