Vintage Toronto Ads: Byrds and Falcons

Originally published on Torontoist on February 12, 2013.

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Left: Toronto Star, May 28, 1966. Right: The Telegram, June 2, 1966.

Joe Peters, president of the Toronto Italia Falcons soccer club, had a brilliant idea to raise the profile of the nascent professional sport among the city’s youth in the spring of 1966: marry a match to a rock concert. “We are introducing young people to soccer under conditions they understand,” he told the Telegram. To lure teens into Varsity Stadium for “Rock ‘n Soccer” on June 22, 1966, he booked one of the most controversial bands of the moment to headline.

It had been a rocky year for the Byrds. Singer Gene Clark departed the group in February 1966, because of a mixture of stress, fear of flying, and dissent within the band. Their next single, “Eight Miles High,” was banned by radio stations across North America because of suspected drug content. In Toronto, 1050 CHUM played the song for a week before station manager Allan Slaight pulled it “the minute we heard what it was supposed to refer to.”

The Star’s Robert Fulford interviewed students at Wilson Heights Junior High for their perspective on the lyrical content of “Eight Miles High” and similarly controversial songs. Fulford wasn’t convinced the Byrds depicted a drug trip, noting that “only in the vagueness, the sense of dislocation, can you find any real hint of such an experience.” One student thought it was about the serenity of being up in the sky, while another thought it described how the singer felt while being with his girlfriend. When informed the song was banned, one girl asked “what do they think they’re trying to hide from us?”

(Among the students interviewed was future Fashion Television host Jeanne Beker. While she didn’t comment about the Byrds, she guessed that the title of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” evoked the concepts of “woman is the world and the rain is just the hate falling on the world.”)

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Toronto Star, June 18, 1966, using an outdated publicity shot (Gene Clark, departed since February 1966, is on the right).

The mixture of rock and soccer didn’t go smoothly at what the Globe and Mail’s John Macfarlane dubbed “Toronto’s first op-pop-soc-hop.” Around 3,000 teens showed up, less than half the audience organizers required to break even. The evening began with a trio of local acts, followed by a match pitting the Falcons against the Hamilton Primos. Overheard in the stands: “What are those squares doing out there kicking a rubber ball around?” Kids bored by the game may have perked up during the halftime go-go dancing spectacular.

After the Falcons earned a 3–0 victory, the audience anxiously awaited the arrival of the Byrds. CHUM DJ Bob McAdorey urged the crowd to “spread out and sit on the natural seat God gave you” before the band performed. While 30 police officers threatened to send excited girls “back to Yorkville” if they didn’t move away from the stage, the band played a half-hour set. “No one will ever know whether they were good, bad, or indifferent,” Macfarlane observed. “At times it was difficult to tell what they were playing above the screams of the crowd.” Star reviewer Douglas Hughes felt “the affair had all the most depressing characteristics of a mass outdoor funeral,” and structured his report in such a manner.

On his way out of the money-losing concert, Hughes overheard a girl suggest to a boy that they head to Yorkville to see “some groups up there that really swing.” He dismissed the idea. Hughes didn’t blame him, as there was “no point in risking another funeral.”

Additional material from the June 23, 1966 edition of the Globe and Mail, the June 18, 1966 and June 23, 1966 editions of the Toronto Star, and the June 2, 1966 edition of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

tely 66-06-02 byrds preview The Telegram, June 2, 1966.

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Toronto Star, June 18, 1966.

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Globe and Mail, June 23, 1966.

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The view from the sports page. Globe and Mail, June 23, 1966.

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Another sports-page take. Toronto Star, June 23, 1966.

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This profile of the Supremes by Peter Gzowski was on the same page of the Star as Fulford’s piece. 

Vintage Toronto Ads: Slaughtering the Price of Glasses

Originally published on Torontoist on February 5, 2013.

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The Telegram, November 26, 1915.

While stores employ colourful, action-packaged language to highlight price reductions during sales, there’s a fine line between promoting bargains and promoting violence. While terms like “blowout sale” and “explosive deals” hint at gruesome circumstances, rarely do stores offer “slaughter prices.” Who wants images of corpses or animals headed to a packing plant dancing through their head while shopping?

Perhaps it was the times. When this ad appeared, readers were saturated with daily updates on the carnage on European battlefields. The slaughter associated with the First World War would have troubled anyone’s eyes and caused headaches for anyone with family on the front.

Luckily, any customers traumatized by in-store signs promoting “slaughter prices” were gently assured by a skilled specialist that no harm would occur during the free eye test.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Scared Stiff by Scotch

Originally published on Torontoist on January 29, 2013.

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The News, January 31, 1913.

How to sell Scotch a century ago: hire a pitchman with Cheshire Cat grin to hide in a dark room. (The disembodied head and mutton chops flying out like long whiskers only add to the feline effect.)

While it’s conceivable that this man might have charmed Scotch drinkers into investing in a bottle of Black & White in 1913, nowadays this ad might suggest a psycho killer preparing to pounce on his victim. Sinister smile lit by candlelight, bottle clenched in hand, no other parts of the body visible, possible Lewis Carroll obsession accompanied by purring voice: the stuff cinematic nightmares are made of.

Perhaps the ad agency should have stuck with the drink’s traditional black and white terrier mascots. Launched as Buchanan’s Blend by James Buchanan in 1879, corporate legend has it that the brand earned its name when customers in dimly-lit drinking establishments asked for “that black and white whisky,” based on its dark bottle and light label. An animal lover, Buchanan added the terriers to the label a few years later. “Some people believe it was these lovable Scotties that made the whisky so famous,” a 1968 ad noted. “But those who have tasted this classic Scotch know it’s really the other way around.” Either way, grinning disembodied heads didn’t factor in.

Additional material from the July 19, 1968 edition of Life.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Mail “Want” Columns Get Results

Originally published on Torontoist on January 22, 2013.

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Toronto Daily Mail, February 20, 1886.

Based on the first situation depicted in today’s ad, it’s clear that, in 1886, serving real butter and eggs instead of that weird oleomargarine stuff was guaranteed to attract as many applicants for a boarding house room as, today, an attractively illustrated apartment listing on Craiglist draws renters. The medium may have changed, but the power of a well-placed classified ad remains the same.

Though small ads had been commonplace for years, recognizable classified sections only started appearing in Toronto papers during the 1870s. In his survey of the 19th century Canadian Press, A Victorian Authority (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), Paul Rutherford summed up the want-ad’s initial impact:

Normally, each item was very short, rarely fancy, mostly abbreviated, since the client was charged according to the number of words used. Here could be found something for everyone, whether of high or low station—business cards, real estate listings, articles for sale (including machinery), personals, board and lodging, above all jobs available and jobs wanted.

For years, the market leader in Toronto was the Telegram, which distinguished itself from other papers by devoting its front pages to classifieds, a practice it stuck with through the mid-1920s. By the end of the 1880s, the Mail carried an average of half-a-page of classifieds daily, and up to two pages in its Saturday edition. Their classified rates ranged from free (accommodations, jobs wanted, lost items) to two cents per word (commercial listings).

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Toronto Daily Mail, February 20, 1886.

In 19th-century Toronto classifieds, the buzzword seems to have been “first-class,” which may explain our city’s eternal obsession with securing first-class/world-class events and projects. Among the highlights of the January 23, 1888 classified section:

  • A barber was needed in Tilsonburg, but only if he was white and “first-class.”
  • Morrison & Co. of 48 Yonge Street was looking for sales agents for an entirely new line of products: “ornamental adhesive hooks used in houses, stores, banks, offices, etc., instead of nails and tacks.” The ad promised large profits.
  • A baker and his wife “without encumbrances” placed a “situations wanted” ad. He was “first-class on bread, cakes, and pastry,” while she was “competent to serve in store or assist in house.” Both offered “first-class references.”
  • A “large, handsomely furnished room” was available for boarding at the Stormont Lodge at the corner of Adelaide and John. The room was heated with hot air and dinner was served late. “None but first-class need apply.”
  • A “respectable middle-aged woman and her son, aged 12” sought a home for a few months. Both were “willing to make themselves generally useful.” They didn’t provide any first-class credentials.

Living the Towne & Countrye Square Life

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on January 19, 2013.

20130119enterprisebanner  Following the opening of Lawrence Plaza in 1953, North York went shopping plaza mad. As the once-rural township transformed into postwar suburbia, farms gave way to large retail structures and their accompanying parking lots. From small neighbourhood strip malls to major shopping centres like Don Mills and Yorkdale, North York residents could do most of their shopping near home. Among the participants in this boom was the oddly spelled Towne & Countrye Square. When it opened at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Steeles Avenue in June 1966, it touted itself as “Sophisticated ‘Downtown’ Shopping in a Country Club Atmosphere.” Although one would be hard-pressed to find any resemblance between a genteel golf course and the shopping centre’s present-day incarnation as Centerpoint Mall, credit the opening day ad writers for their imagination. As was typical of the era, the mall was greeted with several advertorial pages in the community newspaper, the Enterprise.

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Globe and Mail, November 16, 1961.

The oldest component of Towne & Countrye Square was Sayvette, which opened in November 1961. It was the second location for the discount department store chain, which had launched five months earlier in Thorncliffe Park. Management’s dreams of quickly building a Canada-wide chain crashed after the chain sustained a $1.5 million loss in 1962. By the time Towne & Countrye Square was built, Sayvette was supported by a mysterious saviour who eventually turned out to be Loblaws.

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The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

Mall developer Marvin Kratter was one of Sayvette’s initial investors before withdrawing his shares within a year of the chain’s launch. The New York City-based real estate investor briefly owned Ebbets Field in Brooklyn then built the apartment complex which replaced the legendary baseball stadium after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. When Towne & Countrye opened, Kratter owned the Boston Celtics basketball team, who had just won their eighth consecutive NBA title. His New York Times obituary noted that Kratter viewed the team as a vehicle to promote one of his other investments: Knickerbocker Beer.

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The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

The mall’s unusual name was the result of a “Name the Centre” contest which drew 18,000 entries. The winner was Harry Wong, described by the Enterprise as “a semi-retired chemical engineer, of 62 Elm St., Toronto.” Wong received $1,000 and a return trip for two to Bermuda via Air Canada. There was no explanation why Wong added an extra “e” to “town” and “country”—we suspect it was to lend an antiquated, rustic air to the enterprise, a la “ye olde.”

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The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

Anchors Sayvette and Super City were not directly attached to the main mall. Instead, they were linked by covered patios. A giant fountain was installed in the centre court. According to the Enterprise, “this huge floor-to-ceiling fountain ‘drops’ curtains of rain in three big circles within the fountain, while sprays add to the attraction around the base, and coloured lights enhance the effect.”

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Toronto Star, May 25, 1966.

Ads for Towne & Countrye Square began appearing in local newspapers a week before the official opening on June 1, 1966.

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Toronto Star, May 30, 1966.

Management tried to draw every demographic to the new shopping centre, including toddlers mutated into giants by atomic radiation.

The Telegram, May 31, 1966.

Among the amenities not mentioned in this ad: an auditorium, banquet space for up to 400, and a Tuesday night jazz concert series.

Indoor suburban shopping centres were still a novelty in 1966. “A completely enclosed shopping mall,” the Enterprise advertorial noted, “is like a building turned inside out. The entrances are on the inside and the outside is actually the backs of stores.” Designers used touches like quarry tile flooring, light filtered through skylights, plants, park benches, and street lights to create an illusion of being outside.

The Enterprise noted that Towne and Countrye’s stores preferred hiring local employees. “We are a part of the community and want to contribute more than just real estate and merchandise,” a mall spokesman noted. “By hiring our employees from the area, we are augmenting the basic income potential of the people who live there—our neighbours. This policy will be a sound addition to the economy of the area and play a major part in the future growth of the Towne & Countrye Square complex.”

The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

Reitman’s PR department was eager to tout the clothing retailer’s 209th store. An accompanying article noted that like its other locations, the Towne & Countrye store emphasized service and comfort: “Wide aisles, air-conditioning and restful lighting are installed with careful consideration for customers.”

The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

It may seem odd that Bata didn’t bring in a Maple Leaf to open their Towne & Countrye location, but Detroit Red Wings goalie Roger Crozier was a good choice to draw in hockey fans. Despite suffering a bout of pancreatitis at the start of the 1965-66 season, Crozier led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup finals. Though the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the cup, Crozier was rewarded for his efforts with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP.

Bata also tried to exploit Batmania, though it was a year ahead of the Adam West TV series when the shoe store unveiled its version of “Batman’s Girl.” While a short-lived “Bat-Girl” served as a romantic interest for Robin in early 1960s comic books, this female caped crusader could almost be a prototype of the better-known Barbara Gordon incarnation of Batgirl.

The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

Super City Discount Foods was Loblaws’ lower-price banner during the 1960s, though management refused to publicly confirm or deny the grocery giant’s involvement. In the annual corporate report, Loblaws listed sales derived from Super City among other unidentified subsidiaries like National Grocers and Pickering Farms. By the time the connection was acknowledged in the late 1960s, Super City was merged with another Loblaws-owned budget chain, Busy-B.

The Enterprise, June 1, 1966.

In its Enterprise advertorial, Super City promised customers “an exceptionally fast check out system, with extremely courteous cashiers.”  The piece also boasted about attractively displayed produce that was so fresh “it’s almost like picking them yourself.”

Toronto Star, June 3, 1966.

If this customer made up for missing opening day by becoming a regular patron of Towne & Countrye Square, she would have witnessed many changes in the years to come. Later additions included a movie theatre and a Bay department store, while Sayvette was replaced first by Woolco, then a succession of Loblaws-owned banners.

Toronto Star, November 29, 1990.

During the 1990 Christmas shopping season, newspaper ads announced a new identity for Towne & Countrye Square: Centerpoint Mall. The new name bothered Willowdale resident Gordon Allen, who complained about the American-style spelling to the Star:

“Strange! Did the shopping ‘centre’ people hire Americans to do this material and rename their ‘centre?’ Or are we really becoming so much Americanized that even these subtle Canadian differences are to disappear completely? I know that publications have for years left out the “u” in words like labour and favour in order to save space. But, frankly, it still sends shivers through me to see theatre spelled theater, labour and favour as labor and favor, and NOW THIS! Just curious.”

Additional material from the June 1, 1966 edition of the Enterprise, the October 19, 1966 edition of the Globe and Mail, the December 9, 1999 edition of the New York Times, and the March 28, 1991 edition of the Toronto Star.

Queen Street on Saturday Night


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Toronto Star Weekly, November 13, 1926. Click on image for larger version.

There might not be as many “apples and quinces and amethyst grapes” on Queen Street today as there were in 1926 (unless you’re dining out), and are more young drunks stumbling out of bars (which were closed during the dying days of the Ontario Temperance Act), but one can argue that given the right sort of Saturday night,  the street is still “a highway of mirth and romance.”

***

In case you were wondering, this is brand-new material, the kind I want to start posting as the reprints begin to thin out. At this point, I’ve got four more years of my Torontoist run to sift through, plus a few other articles that may end up here. The new posts may be as short as this one, or, time-permitting, full-length articles.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Doin’ the Brading’s Do-Si-Do

Originally published on Torontoist on January 15, 2013.

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Globe and Mail, June 29, 1951.

Bow to your partner. Bow to your corner. Take a little swig. Do a little jig. Do-si-do, but don’t heave-ho.

We suspect these calls weren’t in Brading’s guide to square dancing, but they might have been a useful warning to anyone planning to down one too many Brading’s beers before engaging in another “Canadian Way to Good Health.”

During the postwar era, square dancing rose in popularity across North America as both a social activity and as a component of school physical education programs. Even Bugs Bunny called a dance or two. Thumbing through Toronto newspapers from the month today’s ad was published, we found a classified ad offering weekly sessions at a Lake Rosseau resort, a weekly half-hour showcase Saturday nights on CBC radio (Let’s Square Dance), and, lighting up the screen at the Mount Pleasant Theatre, comedienne Vera Vague, in Square Dance Katy.

Tracing its origins back to 1865, Ottawa-based Brading Breweries was business magnate E.P. Taylor’s gateway to the beer business during the late 1920s. Via acquisitions of regional brewers like Carling and O’Keefe, Taylor’s Canadian Breweries controlled half the Canadian beer market by the mid-1950s. The Brading’s brand gradually do-si-doed into the sunset.