Halloween in Toronto, 1978

star 1978-10-31 gzowski on halloween

Toronto Star, October 31, 1978.

Malabar’s, the costume people, have never been busier than they have during the past couple of weeks, and the reason may provide a dandy little summary of the times we’re in. These times, inarguably, are rotten. The dollar, the family, the nation, the Argos…everything’s falling apart. Hallowe’en, if we’ll let it, gives us a chance to get away from all that. To hide. Fantasize. Escape from reality. Turn into someone—or something—else. – Peter Gzowski, Toronto Star, October 31, 1978.

Talking to staff at Malabar, Gzowski discovered one of 1978’s most popular costumes was one that would be frowned upon for numerous reasons 40 years on: an Arab. “They want to rich,” noted Malabar’s Michael Schilders. “They could just put on a tea-towel, a rope and a tablecloth, but if they come to us they can have gold and silver cords and really looks as if they owned oil wells.”

gm 1978-10-31 editorial cartoon

Globe and Mail, October 31, 1978.

Also popular that year: masks of Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque, anything Vatican related (the year had gone through three popes) and nun’s habits, especially among pregnant customers. Store staff noted that interest in costumes went up when the economy tumbled (the Great Depression had been especially good for rentals).

Best costume suggestion in the column: “the Blob Who Ate Etobicoke.”

star 1978-10-25 woolco ad

Toronto Star, October 25, 1978.

Over in the Globe and Mail, columnist Bruce West felt Halloween was going downhill, partly because nobody had the chance to tip over outhouses:

It is my personal theory that Hallowe’en started its downhill trend not long after the advent of inside plumbing brought about the demise of the outdoor privy. There was a time, I’ll have you know, when—particularly in the more rural areas—the humble outhouse was almost as import a symbol of Hallowe’en as the ghastly smile of a flickering pumpkin or even a witch flying by on a broom.

No one was really considered to have really won his spurs as a graduate Hallowe’en prankster until he had at least assisted in the overturning of one outhouse. The owners of these conveniences usually took this annual ordeal in fairly good humour—with the notable exception of one deceitful rascal in my home town who gained the undying hostility of a group of privy-tippers by craftily shifting back his outhouse a few feet, in the early hours of Hallowe’en, in such away that the raiding party, while later approaching their target in the deep darkness, suddenly encountered some mighty poor footing.

The scariest element of modern-day Halloween, according to West, came “when you are confronted by the horrible giant prices of a dwarf bag of hand-out chocolate bars or trick-or-treat apples.”

gm 1978-11-01 dracula the banker

Globe and Mail, November 1, 1978.

One candy kids wouldn’t get their hands on was Clikkers tobacco-flavoured gum. The Consumers Association of Canada (CAC) successfully lobbied Zellers to remove the product, which was offered as a seasonal special at some locations. Though it didn’t actually contain tobacco or nicotine, the CAC wondered what the chances were that “children who acquire a taste for tobacco-flavoured gum will be encouraged to try tobacco itself?” An official from Zellers’ head office in Montreal admitted that “based on the calls we’ve had, it just isn’t worth it.” Aspiring smokers had to settle for Popeye candy cigs.

Two Toronto-based animators, John Leach (later known as Jonathan Rogers) and Jean Rankin, created one of the season’s hottest new animated specials. Here’s how The Canadian magazine introduced Witch’s Night Out:

Winnifred, bless her black lace bloomers, is not your average witch. A grande dame with the Seventies style of a stand-up comic, a funky fairy godmother temporarily fallen on hard times, she worries because work isn’t coming in the way it used to; nobody seems to believe in magic anymore. But she still has class, wears expensive underwear, and puts on her makeup every morning. And she can make wishes come true.

Winnifred was named after Leach’s mother, who remarked “Fame at last!” The character was partly inspired by Gilda Radner, who provided her voice (other voices included Catherine O’Hara and Fiona Reid). The cartoon was originally intended for CBC, who sat on it for nearly a year before finally rejecting it. It ended up on NBC, where Radner was starring on Saturday Night Live.

star 1978-10-28 starship page

If you were running dry on costume ideas, you could always check the Star’s “Starship” page for inspiration via its ongoing “Costumes of the World” series. Who knows how many little fishermen from Flanders ran around the streets of Toronto! October 28, 1978.

Halloween night the Toronto tradition of egging drag performers attending balls on Yonge Street continued, which resulted in 90 arrests. “Most of the arrests,” the Star reported, “were for causing a disturbance, drunkenness and breach of the peace.” It was also noted that “one marijuana charge was laid.” Two years later, a crackdown by police and the community began winding down the hate-tinged mayhem.

star 1978-11-01 eggleton dressed as pickle

Art Eggleton would top the polls in Ward 4, which covered Trinity-Bellwoods and Little Italy. Two years later, he was mayor. Toronto Star, November 1, 1978.

Halloween 1978 also coincided with the municipal election campaign, resulting in some election sign pranks. A Globe and Mail editorial observed that householders were placed “in the position of being promised goodies as they hand goodies over. The trick is to tell the real hobgoblins from those in disguise and to beware of brochures with pins in them.”

star 1978-10-26 fashions from hadassah bazaar

Toronto Star, October 26, 1978.

Fashion then, costumes now: the image above offers a sampling of the outfits one could put together from goods available at the 1978 edition of a long-running Toronto tradition, the Hadassah-WIZO Bazaar, which was promoted throughout the week of Halloween. Held on November 1 at the CNE’s Automotive Building, it was expected to draw 60,000 people looking to buy everything from high fashion to cantaloupe preserves.

Additional material from the October 28, 1978 edition of the Canadian; the October 27, 1978, October 30, 1978, October 31, 1978, and November 1, 1978 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the October 31, 1978 and November 1, 1978 editions of the Toronto Star.

Halloween in Toronto, 1918

Halloween was a low-key affair in Toronto in 1918. Between the Spanish Flu pandemic which struck the city that month and the winding down of the First World War, it’s not surprising that there were reduced celebrations that year. The public was asked to direct any extra money to the Victory Loan bond drive. Real life horrors may have squelched any desire to indulge in imaginary ones.

globe 1918-10-24 eatons af

The Globe, October 24, 1918.

The major department stores barely acknowledged Halloween in their ads—this sampling of décor items from Eaton’s was one of the few I found.

globe 1918-10-30 sugarless suggestions for halloween

The Globe, October 30, 1918.

The Globe offered sugarless snack suggestions, as sugar was considered a high demand item not to be wasted on frivolous treats.

globe 1918-11-01 weird people stalk streets

The Globe, November 1, 1918.

This account of Halloween night notes that some people were still in a mischievous, gender-bending mood. It also reflects fears about Bolshevism rising in the wake of the Russian Revolution and homegrown socialism, and the fire department’s eternal annoyance at Halloween false alarms.

star 1918-11-01 girl killed by car on danforth

Toronto Star, November 1, 1918.

It was a tragic evening on the Danforth, due to a pedestrian fatality.

world 1918-10-31 victory loan open air moving picture exhibition.jpg

Toronto World, October 31, 1918.

For several nights that week, as part of the Victory Loan drive, films were shown outside the Allen Theatre at Richmond and Victoria. Later known as the Tivoli, it operated until 1964. Many of the stars listed, especially Pickford and Fairbanks, had undertaken personal appearance tours for wartime bond drives in the United States.

Halloween Hijinks

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on October 31, 2009.

20091031costumes
The Telegram, October 29, 1949.

 

Halloween has long provided an excuse for Torontonians to relax and cut loose their stiffer qualities for at least one day. Whether it’s infants dressed as garden vegetables and insects or downtown revellers dressed in outfits that can’t be mentioned in family publications, Toronto has long loved assuming disguises and participating in all of the accompanying rituals that go along with today. A flip through old local newspapers shows that pranks played a large role in past Halloweens, from harmless showoffs to destructive blazes. For better or worse, tricks were as equally important as the treats.

20091031dominion

Toronto Star, October 31, 1929.

Halloween 1929 was marked by the usual sorts of hijinks city officials had come to expect from naughty revellers. As the Star noted, “As long as there is a Halloween to celebrate, boys will pull fire alarm boxes and set vacant houses on fire with an utter disregard of property.” This meant a long night for Fire Chief William Russell who, according to the Globe, was “sitting at home with one eye cocked on the recorders on which all box alarms are relayed to his house.” Russell “said he spent a large part of the evening, when he wasn’t out at real fires, winding up his gong-box on the wall as false alarms poured in one after another.” His box had a healthy workout, as around fifty calls came in.

One of the few legitimate alarms came from Boulton Drive and Poplar Plains Road, where a group of small children were blamed for setting a blaze that destroyed one and damaged two luxury homes that were nearing completion. Firefighter James Bell suffered severe injuries to his legs and ribs, falling eight feet to the concrete basement of 12 Boulton Drive after the main floor gave way. Damage from the night’s most “expensive bit of fun” was estimated at twelve thousand dollars (almost $150,000 in today’s currency).

20091031eatons

Excerpt from a Eaton’s advertisement. Mail and Empire, October 18, 1929.

While the fire department was busy that night, police felt that they dealt with fewer incidents than an average Halloween. Newspapers received plenty of false crime tips—the Mail and Empire reported that “two naïve jokesters” phoned in “with frantic word of desperate and bloody holdups in widely separated parts of the city.” The paper couldn’t resist bragging about their ability to smell a phony or taking a jab at competitors, noting “what success their playfulness met with among the other papers could not be learned, but Mail and Empire reporters were not, of course, taken in.”

On the lighter side of trickery, the Mail and Empire also reported that “there was a crowd in a downtown one-arm lunch, when a masked woman entered, followed closely by a man in a silk castor. Finally they embraced each other in the screen manner of the moment. It got so that some people began to look the other way. Others laughed or ridiculed. But when the woman removed her domino, ‘she’ was a man.” We imagine such an incident now would cause half the restaurant to continue eating without batting an eyelash.

20091031ttcemployees

TTC employees at a party at head office, October 29, 1934, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10678.

Four decades later, parents and community leaders were very concerned about some of the tricks children received in their pillowcases and plastic jack o’lanterns. The late 1960s saw a sharp increase in the number of apples and candies that had been tampered with. Metropolitan Toronto police received over 170 reports during the 1968 Halloween season from parents who found glass, razor blades, poisons, stick pins, and other hazardous items in their children’s treats. The following year saw an increase in neighbourhood patrols and a pitch to trick-or-treaters to approach any officer at the slightest hint of trouble. Parents came up with various methods of keeping their children safe and out of mischief. Among the oddest was one employed by Garr Hamilton of Blythehill Road, who placed an alarm clock in her children’s bags. “It’s set to the time I want them home,” she told the Telegram.

Despite the fears from kooks and other dangers, local columnists looked back fondly on past Halloweens, such as the Telegram’s Scott Young’s memories of how his son Neil handled his first Halloween in Omemee at the tender age of five:

He was full of enthusiasm until the instant he found himself outside. Then he refused to budge off the top step of the veranda as he listened to the cries in the night around him. In a minute or two, he abruptly bolted back in to safety, stating as an obvious afterthought “I have to go to the bathroom.” It was only when I found a crowd of children he knew, fellow perch-fishermen and turtle-hunters, and unmasked a few for his relieved inspection, that he went out again. Before long he was enjoying it as much as the others, and returned home an hour later with his pillowcase laden with the standard collection of peanuts, fudge, apples, Chiclets, cookies, dog hairs, dry leaves and gum drops, all cunningly stuck together with jellybeans.

20091031kresge
The Telegram, October 27, 1959.

Young struck an optimistic note at the end of that column that could easily be on the minds of parents taking their children out this Halloween:

That was Halloween, man, and there is a natural temptation to believe that it will never be the same again. But really, I know better. The little kids out tomorrow night will be just as scared, just as excited. And their parents, lurking watchfully in the background, will be storing up memories for the future, as all of us who went before have done.

Additional material from the November 1, 1929 editions of the Globe, the Mail and Empire, and the Toronto Star; and the October 30, 1969 and October 31, 1969 editions of the Telegram.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 10

Pour Me a Psycho-Physical Driving Test

Originally published on Torontoist on March 30, 2010.

20100330labattsafedriving

New Liberty, March 1948.

For at least a year, Labatt’s ran a series of public service announcements in New Liberty magazine that touted their touring psycho-physical driving test units, whose stops included the Canadian National Exhibition. While the ads showed how drivers learned how to better gauge appropriate spaces to pass and find out if their night vision was up to snuff, nowhere is it mentioned that one should indulge in a few rounds of Labatt’s main business interest before hitting the road.

By the late 1940s, professionals were beginning to realize that getting behind the wheel while drunk was dangerous. Nearly a year before today’s ad appeared, the Telegram ran an editorial after St. Andrew MPP J.B. Salsberg criticized the suspension of a truck driver’s licence due to an impaired driving charge as a hardship for the driver’s family (the government indicated it had no intention of making any exception to the existing licence suspension laws):

In view of the serious menace to public safety which the drunken driver presents there can be little support for any proposal to loosen the operation of the law in this respect. Nor is it desirable, whatever the hardship involved, that variations in the application of the law should be permitted. Leniency in one case would open the door to pressure for leniency in other cases. It is in the public interest that all drivers should realize what such infractions of the law entail and that they should understand that if they offend in this way there is no escape from the penalty provided.

Locomotive engineers, it is understood, are not permitted to drink while on duty. It is quite as imperative that truck and automobile drivers, who do not travel on a private right of way, should avoid intoxicants before or during driving. It cannot be repeated too often that alcohol and gasoline is a bad mixture.

Additional material from the April 7, 1947 edition of the Telegram.

Upstairs, Downstairs

Originally published on Torontoist on October 16, 2012.

20121016upstairsdownstairs

Maclean’s, September 9, 1961.

These scenes from a stereotypical early-1960s middle-class home look serene, but dangers worthy of a television drama are in full view. Unlike the family in that famous Upstairs, Downstairs TV series, this household doesn’t have to worry about relationships between hired help and the gentility. Instead, they should fear for the potential disasters that could befall the children.

Upstairs, while baby can’t crawl up the wall to tear at the beautiful new thermostat and discover if mercury pleases his palate, his parents could be watching what he does with his teddy bear, instead of discussing the contents of their favourite evening paper. Nobody wants to witness an accidental choking. Downstairs, while Junior is in little danger from the blasts of his shiny cap guns, he could accidentally bang his head into the heater’s manifold valve or oil burner if he gets too carried away with his game of cowboys and Indians.

A Street-Smart Bridal Party

Originally published on Torontoist on June 5, 2009.

20090605bridalsheets

A trip to a thrift store often turns into a stroll through a stranger’s life. Hidden among household items, clothing, or books are stray pieces of the past that the original owner left behind—shopping lists, love letters, business contracts, photographs, etc. During a recent trek to the Value Village at Victoria Park and Van Horne in North York, we discovered a stack of notes, games, and faded blank paper left by organizers of a long-ago bridal party. Among the quizzes is a test of local geography—can you solve the riddles left for those about to watch friends walk down the aisle?

20090605coverscramble

These mementos were found in a copy of Parties for the Bride, published in 1959. As we lack both access to carbon dating tools to test the faded papers and an expert eye for typesetting, we’re not sure when the party in question took place. Game clues and answers don’t provide a hint, as none are tied to trends from any particular decade. The games could have been played while drinking copious amounts of coffee, tiki-inspired cocktails, or Baby Duck.

20090605memo

Clues are equally scarce as to the identity of the bride and groom. Attached to a sheet of handwritten “Matrimonial Mix Up” word scrambles is a note from “Iva” to “Jean” asking for a copy of the sheet. A filled-out “Flowery Romance” game sheet has protagonists named “Sweet William” and “Rose or Lily,” but these likely refer to appropriate plant names (the couple was married by “Jack N. Pulpit”). With so few details, only the imagination can limit the scenarios about what happened to the couple and how this memento ended up at a Value Village. Spring cleaning? An attempt to wipe out an unhappy union? Death?

20090605streetnamesblankedo

One game that ties the impending nuptials to Toronto is a quiz on local street names. Based on the answers, it seems that the couple settled in the old city of Toronto: only one street is found east of the Don River and only one runs west of the Humber River.

Care to try this one? As only an answer sheet was included, we’ve blotted out the answers. Here are the clues:

1. What do you do at 6 p.m. when you are hungry?
2. The opposite of old.
3. Where the optimist looks.
4. Where good people always go.
5. A fall in real estate.
6. Never in the rear.
7. A wide outlook.
8. A man’s hat.
9. A leader in the battle of Waterloo.
10. Name of pear.
11. A street shared by several.
12. A street connected with a dragon.
13. A street more than blue.
14. A fast street.
15. A street that governs a country.
16. An inlet.
17. A famous general.
18. A street that dislikes intensely.
19. An enjoyable climb.
20. The saintly name of a little English Bay.

UPDATE

Torontoist posted the answers, but that update no longer exists. Nor do undoctored photos in my personal files. And I got rid of the package long ago. So feel free to figure out what the answers actually were!

Vintage Toronto Ads: Strength! Science! Slams!

Originally published on Torontoist on October 28, 2008.

2008_10_28wrestling

Toronto Star, October 28, 1948 (left) and November 4, 1948 (right).

While hockey has usually been portrayed as the main attraction for spectators at Maple Leaf Gardens, the building had an equally rich professional wrestling heritage. Starting with a Jim LondosGino Garibaldi card in November 1931, a parade of dignified heroes and costumed heels entertained packed houses at Church and Carlton. For half-a-century most of the matches were promoted by Frank Tunney, who, when asked if the sport was on the level, responded “The ring is level, isn’t it?”

The tag team matches in the spotlight today featured one of the city’s most popular mid-century sporting figures, Whipper Billy Watson. Born William Potts in East York in 1915, he moved to England to begin his professional career in 1936, where a promoter quickly determined he required a snappier moniker. Watson first hit the ring at the Gardens in 1940 and continued to wrestle until injuries sustained in a car accident ended his career in 1971. He spent much of his life supporting charitable organizations in the GTA, with his contributions ranging from championing Easter Seals skate-a-thons at the Gardens to campaigning for therapeutic pool services in York Region.

Heels Sky-Hi Lee (named, with spelling variations over the years, due to his 6’9″ stature) and the Masked Marvel (one of many to grace Toronto cards) triumphed over Watson and tag team partner Fred Atkins on October 28, 1948, prompting a rematch a week later. The villains did not emerge unscathed—Tunney told the press a few days later that Lee had suffered multiple leg wounds and “and a few more on his back that he claimed was wrought by a nail file in the hands of an infuriated fan. Also his ankle was swollen from the bending treatment it received when another fan leaped on the ramp and tackled him. Lee wanted the ramp built higher, the customers searched, the ushers provided with tear gas bombs.”

The Toronto Star was filled with outrage from the Watson-Atkins camp. The defeated wrestlers were “fully aroused over the foul treatment accorded them by the villainous pair in last week’s match.” Watson was offended by the officiating of Cliff Worthy, who “let the Mask and Lee get away with everything short of murder…and then he saw Hi Lee kick me off the ring apron. He should have disqualified the Mask and Lee. Instead he gave them the bout.” The day of the rematch, the Star pictured Watson in perfect health and ready to rumble. “He’s so much in the pink,” the caption writer noted, “that Dr. Myron Millar of the Ontario Athletic Commission turned over his stethoscope to the Whipper and said ‘You tune in on me.’”

Did good triumph? The scriptwriters were fuzzy about that—accounts depicted a mayhem-filled night, with much of the body-slamming, rope-choking action taking place on the ramp before referee Bunny Dunlop declared a tie, then called the match off due to the ensuing pandemonium. A crowd of 1,000 spectators mulled around Tunney’s office, jeering the promoter, Dunlop, and the heels. With a sly smile, the Star noted that the disgruntled fans “vowed they wouldn’t come back next week—because the Ice Capades will be in the Gardens.”

Additional material from the October 30, 1948, November 1, 1948, November 5, 1948 and May 10, 1983 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

f1257_s1057_it7520

Wrestling match, Dick Hutton vs. Whipper Billy Watson, Maple Leaf Gardens, July 5, 1956. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7520.

Looking for an action shot of Whipper Billy Watson on the city archives website, I came across this picture from a bout where Watson defended his National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship against Dick Hutton.

star 1956-07-04 wrestling advertorial

Toronto Star, July 4, 1956.

gm 1956-07-05 hutton watson ad

Globe and Mail, July 5, 1956. Fritz von Ulm soon changed his wrestling persona to Fritz von Goering.

I can’t match the colourful writing style used by sportswriters to describe vintage wrestling matches, so here’s the Star’s account.

star 1956-07-06 whip tries one slam too many

Toronto Star, July 6, 1956.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Kipling Slept Here

Originally published on Torontoist on July 3, 2012.

20120703kipling

Maclean’s, September 1, 1986.

For its mid-1980s advertising campaign, the King Eddy highlighted its roster of esteemed guests. Whether Rudyard Kipling actually played with the title of one of his works to describe his stay is debatable, but he certainly received royal treatment elsewhere while visiting Toronto as part of a Canadian speaking tour in October 1907.

The British author began October 18, 1907 with an automobile tour of the city. Over three “most enjoyable” hours, Kipling wound through Rosedale, greeted students and faculty at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, and stopped at City Hall. Legend has it that he was supposed to make an appearance at the Woodbridge Fair, but cancelled at the last minute. Though there is no evident proof, it is suspected that the rural road running into Woodbridge was renamed Kipling Avenue soon after, despite his being a no-show.

That evening, he addressed nearly 800 members of the Canadian Club on imperial relations, where he suggested that Canada should draw closer to Britain’s other large possessions (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa). “Endowed with a voice which, though not robust, is clear and penetrating,” the Globe noted, “Mr. Kipling, who was received with unbounded enthusiasm, spoke with the incisiveness and force which distinguish his writings, and with an earnestness and conviction which showed how deeply he cherishes the true unity of the empire.”

20120703kiplingsketch

Sketches by C.W. Jefferys, Toronto Star, October 19, 1907.

Sketch artists found Kipling a trying subject, as he was fidgety throughout the evening. His physical appearance struck the artists and other observers as more modest than regal. “The most striking about his looks,” the Star reported, “are his heavy dark brown eyebrows and moustache, the latter pointed like a modest sergeant-major’s. Meet Rudyard Kipling on the street as a perfect stranger and you would guess him to be a hardworking schoolmaster.”

Additional material from Toronto Street Names by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould (Toronto: Firefly, 2000), the October 19, 1907 edition of the Globe, and the October 19, 1907 edition of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

globe 07-10-19 kipling address 1

The Globe, October 19, 1907.

Publishing long excerpts or the full text of speeches from visiting dignitaries was a common practice in Toronto newspapers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Here’s how the Globe presented Kipling’s talk:

globe 07-10-19 kipling address text 1

globe 07-10-19 kipling address 2

The Globe, October 19, 1907.