Vintage Toronto Ads: Wally’s World

Originally published on Torontoist on August 5, 2008.

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Toronto Life, September 1974.

Cow herds and invalids were among the radio listeners that spent over 10,000 mornings waking up with Wally Crouter. His run as CFRB’s morning man from 1946 to 1996 saw his comforting style stay afloat in the ratings against competitors like top 40 radio and shock jocks.

Crouter (1923-2016) felt that one of the keys to his long run was creating a comfort zone for listeners to ease themselves into the new day, without bringing up divisive subjects like sex, politics, and religion. In an interview with The Globe and Mail upon his retirement in 1996, he noted that:

I always tried to put myself in the place of the listener…it’s the most personal time of the day. The radio is on while you’re doing your morning ablutions, getting dressed, having breakfast with the kids coming to the table…I’ve had a surgeon write me to tell me that, when he had three serious operations to do in a day, he started off by listening to my show so he could achieve the right relaxation and focus he needed.

Crouter’s sidekicks in 1974 included reporters Jack Dennett and Bob Hesketh, sportscaster Bill Stephenson, and Henry Shannon with traffic reports from “the CFRB Twin Comanche.”

Additional material from the November 1, 1996 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Given the length of Crouter’s career, you’d expect that there would be plenty of ads to track its evolution. You’d be right. Here’s a sampling of them…

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Globe and Mail, September 4, 1948.

CFRB swapped frequencies with CJBC (then an English language station belonging to CBC’s Dominion Network — it would switch to full-time French programming in 1964) on September 1, 1948. The move was prompted when CBC decided in 1946 that all class 1-A radio frequencies in Canada would be reserved for the public broadcaster, which meant booting CFRB and several other private stations from their spots on the dial. It wasn’t the first time CBC had forced CFRB to move; in 1941, CFRB vacated 690 to allow space for Montreal’s CBF.

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Globe and Mail, September 1, 1948. Click on image for larger version.

After settling on 1010 as its future home, CFRB successfully negotiated to make its new frequency a 50,000 W powerhouse. The move cost the station $500,000, including a new transmitter in Clarkson (now part of Mississauga). Because of two other stations located at 1010 (New York’s WINS and a CBC transmitter at Lacombe, Alberta), CFRB had to use a directional signal which made reception ultra-powerful in Toronto.

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Globe and Mail, November 16, 1970.

From a 1970 Globe and Mail profile of Toronto’s morning radio men:

Wally Crouter is the king of morning radio. An unlikely king, too. Wrinkled, dishevelled, as casual as a sandwich, he looks a bit like Tennessee Ernie Ford. Or is it Ernie Kovacs? He is the king because he makes the most money and has the most listeners, and the key to it all is that CFRB’s Crouter looks and sounds the way most of us feel at that time of day.

“I don’t push people. I carry on a conversation with the listener. You can’t talk down to them and you can’t talk up to them—you have to talk at a level with them. Some of the guys shout, ‘Well, c’mon, it’s time to get up.’ I figure the guy’s intelligent enough to get up by himself. Besides, his wife’s probably bitching at him anyway, so why should I cause further aggravation?”

At the time, Crouter’s show drew 156,000 listeners, Runner-up Jay Nelson (1050 CHUM) drew 74,000.

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Globe and Mail, July 27, 1971.

Based on the illustration, I picture Billy Van in a live action television commerical of this ad campaign.

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Globe and Mail, April 26, 1973.

Once upon a time, radio hosts conducted interviews with celebrities at downtown department stores.

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Maclean’s, June 13, 1977.

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Globe and Mail, September 22, 1979.

Besides Crouter, CFRB personality Earl Warren also operated a travel agency.

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Maclean’s, February 25, 1980.

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Globe and Mail, November 3, 1982.

Like any good local celebrity, Crouter had recipes to share with newspaper readers.

An interview with Wally Crouter from 1987. As CFRB’s format moved away from the old full service model towards a modern news/talk operation, Crouter remained atop the morning ratings. Regarding the changes, “I think we’re anxious to dispel the idea that it’s an old station for people,” he told the Globe and Mail. “I’m right with them. I’ve always thought it was essential to be vitally involved in the community and kept up with the times, but somehow that reputation as an old person’s station haunts us. For years we’ve played Big Band music, and I still enjoy hearing Tommy Dorsey, but like anyone else, I can only take it for so long before I want to hear something new.”

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Maclean’s, December 14, 1992.

From a 1992 Toronto Star profile:

Radio legends are a dime a dozen. Most, I can attest, are legends in their own minds, super-characters that exist only in the ether, in sealed studio chambers, in electric currents and radio waves.

Crouter is different. At work in the studio between 5.30 a.m. and 9 every day, he’s relaxed, composed, even nonchalant. After 45 years in the same slot, of course, the rhythm and pace of the show are second nature to him. He wanders about CFRB’s halls, in the slices of time dedicated to news, traffic and sports reports, commercials, contests, promotions, and commentary, making coffee, chatting to coworkers, collecting mail and messages, answering phone calls, cornering station executives in their offices for a quick word or two . . . and ambles back to the microphone mere nano-seconds, it seems, before he’s due on air again.

“It surprises some people when I tell them I do no preparation, none at all,” he said. “This show’s about what’s happening, what’s unfolding. You can’t prepare for it. And it makes every day different. It’s never boring.”

star 1996-10-11 crouter retirement ad

Toronto Star, October 11, 1996. Click on image for larger version.

Crouter ended his show on the 50th anniversary of his debut. His final on-air words were “Forget yesterday. Think about tomorrow, but live today. Thank you.”

Additional material from the February 7, 1970 and February 19, 1987 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the September 1, 1948, October 25, 1992, and November 2, 1996 editions of the Toronto Star.

A City Bears Fruit

Originally published on Torontoist on August 16, 2009.

Torontonians seeking fresh seasonal fruit in the city tend to head to neighbourhood farmers markets or pray that their local grocery store has something other than produce shipped in from faraway locales. But lurking within parks and residential neighbourhood is a wide variety of edible treats growing wild or being nurtured by community activists and green thumbs. For the second year, urban forest advocates LEAF organized an edible tree tour on Saturday to show off the city’s harvest.
Led by the light-hearted commentary of arborist Todd Irvine, the tour started in Ben Nobleman Park, which houses the city’s first community orchard. As outlined by Growing for Green organizer Susan Poizner, the volunteer-driven project aims to expand from the nine fruit trees planted in June to fourteen by the end of next year. The organization was inspired by similar community projects in Vancouver, Boston, and Great Britain and has received support from the city despite a curtailing of plans to plant up to forty trees in the park. Of the cherries, pears, and plums currently growing in the park, the harvest is split equally among community events, food banks, and volunteers.

Heading southwards, the next stop was in front of an unsuspecting residence with a sidewalk-staining weeping mulberry in its front yard. This stop provided an opportunity for Laura Reinsborough of Not Far From the Tree to explain the assistance her organization provides to homeowners overwhelmed by the amount of fruit produced on their property. Based in Ward 21, the group picked over three thousand pounds of fruit last year that was distributed in the community and hopes to triple that amount by the end of the current growing season.
Walkers got their first chance to test the city’s harvest in Cedarvale Ravine when a cluster of crab apples was pointed out. People rushed into the bushes to pick the petite, mottled fruit, with a lucky few finding a reddish interior after their first bite. The crab apples were still young and bitter to some, but the crunchy fruits appealed to those would like tart apple varieties (we thought they would liven up a summer salad).
At the south end of the park the group was joined by artist Stan Krzyzanowski, who introduced a tree grafting project he has worked on since 2006 and explained how pieces of one tree species are mixed with another. He likened the process to a medical surgeon visiting their patients, checking in to see if the grafts are taking. Look for small flags for evidence of Krzyzanowski’s handiwork near Phil White Arena.

Strolling away from the park towards St. Clair Avenue, the tour stopped at a residential pear tree a week away from being picked. Crunchy slices were passed around before the group moved on to observe what were jokingly referred to as “fruit cocktail trees”—plum and cherry trees grown by a local master gardener who had grafted them onto the roots of worn-out apricot plants. A nearby Not Far From the Tree pick was observed, where long poles equipped with claw-like implements helped relieved a tree of yellow plums destined for a local food bank.

Vulnerability, Suffering, and Strength

Originally published on Torontoist on April 3, 2014.

“The greatest art always returns you to the vulnerabilities of the human situation.” – Francis Bacon

“In the human figure one can express more completely one’s feelings about the world than in any other way.” – Henry Moore

These quotations, which welcome visitors to “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” immediately establish the exhibition’s tone and focus. Each artist’s distortions of the human figure, shaped by their wartime experiences, capture the vulnerability of our mortal forms.

While the AGO has showcased Moore’s sculptures for the past 40 years, this exhibit marks the first major Canadian presentation of Bacon’s glass-encased works. “My painting is not violent,” Bacon once noted. “It’s life itself that’s violent.” His work is the stuff of nightmares—spines threaten to escape bodies; toothy mouths appear on appendages; popes become screaming figures with blurred faces reminiscent of the face-melting climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Based on a show originally presented at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the exhibit pairs works from each artist to highlight similar themes and subject matter (there is, for example, a section devoted to crucifixion). According to the exhibit’s introduction, these pairings “create a dialogue showing their shared awareness of human suffering and mortality that is a testament to human strength and resilience.” The show emphasizes the impact the Second World War, especially the London Blitz, had on their art—Bacon was a civil defence volunteer, and Moore a government artist. Wartime photographs by Bill Brandt (who functions almost as a third featured artist) ground the art, especially Moore’s haunting sketches of people sheltering in the London Underground.

At yesterday’s media preview, Oxford emeritus fellow Dr. Francis Warner suggested that Bacon and Moore are two sides of the same coin: although they did not influence one another—and Moore’s work is more passive than Bacon’s—behind the distorted, violent surfaces, Warner finds a “never give up” humanistic spirit in their works that reflects Britain’s wartime striving for victory.

A Natural Benefit of an Extended Municipal Strike

Originally published on Torontoist on July 16, 2009.

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“Naturalized Area” sign erected in Windsor. Photo courtesy of Broken City Lab.

 

We’ve heard a fair bit about the state of Toronto’s parks during the current municipal strike. Most tales have tended toward the negative, from fears of contamination stemming from temporary garbage depots to the unattractive aesthetic state that some green spaces have fallen into. But what if the withholding of certain services led to a positive effect on the local environment?
Over the course of the fourteen-week CUPE strike in Windsor, the lack of grooming at many of the city’s parks has resulted in new swaths of grassland meadows, where wildflowers, birds, and insects have quickly settled. While the initial stages of the transformation drew angry responses from Windsor residents, both the city and the local media are receiving positive feedback about the naturalization effect. Birdwatchers are enjoying the opportunity to observe grassland species like bobolinks that have rarely been seen in Windsor in recent years, while other residents have praised the experience of walking by and hearing the hissing of tall grasses.
Broken City Lab, a group of artists/community activists, took a look at several of the naturalized sites and developed signage to highlight the new wilderness areas, as signs seem to formalize the presence of these locations. The first, shown above, was erected this week near the approach to the Ambassador Bridge. According to Broken City Lab Research Director Justin Langlois, the group hopes that placing these signs “might encourage someone walking by to look at these accidental meadows for what they are—a wonderful addition to the landscape—rather than such a politically charged issue.”
As for the fate of the signs once the strike ends? According to Langlois,

It’d be great for them to come down and for areas just to remain in their current state, but I’m not sure how well that would be read in the city. The University of Windsor had a similar problem where they created a berm around their football field stadium and planted trees on the berm. The grounds maintenance crew didn’t want to try to cut the berm, due to the incline, much less while zipping around trees, so they inadvertently created a naturalized area. The community responded with a number of comments to the effect of, “It looks messy,” so the University erected a large green sign that reads in white letters, Naturalized Area. It’s kind of funny that it takes a sign to make it all okay, but that’s part of what made us do this project, this question about would a simple 8.5″ x11″ sign make this naturalized area acceptable, would it momentarily diffuse whatever is politically charged when looking at it otherwise?

Windsor residents may continue to enjoy several of the naturalized areas in the long run. The city parks department has announced that once the strike ends, the city is considering leaving up to two hundred acres in large, open parks in their newfound state.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Long term, the 2009 municipal strike in Toronto helped pave the way for Rob Ford to become mayor. Polling afterwards showed a majority of Torontonians felt Miller mishandled the strike, a sentiment which may have played a role in his decision not to run for a third term in 2010.

Bixi Toronto is Here

Originally published on Torontoist on May 4, 2011.

“Today we are celebrating the introduction of an amazing new piece of cycling infrastructure into our city’s portfolio.” With those words, Toronto Cyclists Union director of advocacy and operations Andrea Garcia gave her blessing to the longawaited official launch of Bixi Toronto yesterday morning. Despite the rainy conditions, cyclists and media descended upon Gould Street outside the Ryerson Bookstore to witness the arrival of the first batch of sturdy black bicycles.

Out of the 80 stations and 1,000 bikes that will constitute the first wave of Bixi Toronto, 50 stations and 300 bikes were activated for use yesterday. Some subscribers who might have braved the rain for a day one ride were still waiting for their keys to come, but Public Bike System Company official Gian-Carlo Crivello reassured those attending that 1,200 keys were mailed last Wednesday and will arrive soon. Among other tidbits the audience was told about the bike-share program: local employees of sponsor Desjardins are eligible for a 50 per cent discount off an annual membership; co-sponsor Telus will donate one dollar from each annual membership to the Heart and Stroke Foundation; the bikes will be maintained by Mount Dennis-based Learning Enrichment Foundation; and a smartphone application called Spotcycle will allow users to track bike availability at stations. Concerns about theft were dismissed based on the low rate of missing bikes in Montreal, but it was revealed that the bikes won’t be equipped with tracking devices.

Speaking for the City, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East)—who actually voted against the Bixi program during the last term of council—stressed the ease of use, affordable membership cost, and health benefits Bixi Toronto would bring the city, as well as pointing it out as a fine example of a public/private partnership. “For a guy like me who lives in the suburbs and has to drive downtown, you now have an opportunity to take one of these Bixi bikes to a meeting,” he noted. “You can take it to your lunch appointments—if you’re bicycling from point A to point B, it allows you to order something different on the menu because you know that you’re burning off those calories during the lunch period and afterwards.” We await future studies on the effects of Bixi Toronto on the waistlines of downtown workers.

Since media were allowed to test the bikes, we couldn’t resist trying one. We were shown the light pattern to watch out for after inserting the key into the station (flashing yellow, a pause, then green to go), then mounted the bike. After worrying that the seat was raised too high, and using our feet to break during the first awkward pedals, riding quickly became comfortable. As we did 360s in the middle of the intersection of Gould and Victoria, we noticed the bike’s smooth handling and wished we could have wandered off for a typical half-hour trek.

We also discovered how resilient the bikes are. As the crowd thinned, we wandered by a row of a dozen Bixis that weren’t tethered to a docking bay. Suddenly, there was a crashing sound. One inadvertent swing of our backpack caused the row of bikes to tumble like dominoes. They were quickly propped back up without any signs of damage. If the Bixi bikes can survive a clumsy reporter, they should handle Toronto’s roads just fine.

UPDATE

By 2013, the operators of Bixi Toronto were unable to make payments on the loan they took out from the city. The end result was a takeover by the Toronto Parking Authority. In early 2014, the system was rebranded as Bike Share Toronto. The number of stations has spread across the city, with many close to subway stations.

BEHIND THE SCENES

This was one of the first press conferences I covered, and one of the few I asked a question at: would municipal employees be encouraged to use the system with a discount? Minnan-Wong looked completely puzzled.

Secrets of the Maya

Originally published on Torontoist on November 17, 2011.

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Part of the press preview festivities.

As we approached the seating area for a press conference about the Royal Ontario Museum’s next major exhibit yesterday, we were greeted by a man in blue body paint and a tall headdress wielding a weapon. While he was there to pose for the media (and is pictured above), we couldn’t resist letting our imagination run free to speculate that he was on hand as a ghost of a past civilization warning us of future calamity.

Along with the ROM’s recently reduced admission prices, it probably won’t hurt the museum’s attendance figures that the Maya: Secrets of their Ancient World exhibit that opens to the public this Saturday ties into the hype surrounding the Mayan long-form calendar prophecies—ones that some believe spell either glory or doom for the world next December.

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Funerary mask made of jade, shell, and obsidian, circa 250-600 CE. Royal Ontario Museum.

The exhibition is a collaborative effort between the ROM, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (where it will run later in 2012), and Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (Spanish website). Over 250 artifacts ranging from giant incense burners to rings for ball games have been gathered from the ROM’s collection, various museums in the Yucatan, and institutions from overseas (British Museum) and across the street (Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art). Many items, especially those recently excavated from the ruins of the city of Palenque, are being presented in public for the first time.

Installed in the basement Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall, the exhibit is divided into seven sections covering various aspects of Mayan culture: The Maya World, The City, Cosmology and Ritual, Writing and Timekeeping, The Palace, Death, and Collapse and Survival. We were particularly drawn to the Writing and Timekeeping section, especially the exhibits on the efforts to decipher the glyphs that are the written legacy of the Mayans. Videos and touch-screen panels explain how researchers have determined that the symbols often represent syllables instead of individual letters or whole words. Like the rest of the exhibit, this section includes recreations of objects on display so that the visually impaired or those who enjoy a tactile component as part of their museum experience can touch the items without damaging the originals. This section also addresses the stories around 2012 and the Mayan calendar, including a projected clock on the wall. The ROM is also offering numerous tie-ins to the show, including a lecture series, graphic novels, and a Maya-themed sleepover for kids.

As part of the press conference, we were served samples of Mayan-themed dishes that will appear on the menus of both C5 and the Food Studio Cafe during the exhibit’s run, including some rich hot chocolate. No toasts to the upcoming apocalypse, though.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Brainy Birds for a Child You Love

Originally published on Torontoist on May 26, 2009.

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Toronto Life, March 1984.

Hands up—how many of you read Chickadee or Owl during your childhood or purchased it for kids you knew? With features like the cartoon adventures of the Mighty Mites and the experiments of Dr. Zed (aka York Region science teacher Gordon Penrose), these magazines aimed to introduce scientific and environmental concepts to young readers.

Owl began publishing in 1976, with early subscription ads featuring praise from the likes of Pierre Berton, even if the language used may not have been deemed appropriate for innocent ears (“It’s a damn good magazine!”). Both magazines faced financial difficulties due to publisher Young Naturalist Foundation’s anti-advertising stance, but a fundraising campaign in 1980 kept the publications afloat.

Just over a year after today’s ad, Owl entered the TV biz…

Additional material from the April 16, 1977 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

gm 1977-03-26 owl magazine ad

Globe and Mail, March 26, 1977. 

Count me among the children who grew up reading Owl and Chickadee, sifting through issues sitting in a stack in the basement. These publications engaged me more than other naturalist/science magazines aimed at kids — I’m looking at you, Ranger Rick. The title of the following article may provide a clue as to why Owl succeeded with kids like me.

gm 1979-10-24 owl magazine profile

Globe and Mail, October 24, 1979.