Vintage Toronto Ads: Doris Faye and Her Talking Torso

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Globe and Mail, January 12, 1970.

So I’m in the middle of research the other night. Browsing the Globe and Mail’s archives, I came across a roundup of what entertained New Year’s revelers as 1969 gave way to 1970. The accompanying photo showed a woman with a large headdress and two faces on her bosoms.

The caption? “Doris Faye and Her Talking Torso: vaudeville revived.”

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Globe and Mail, January 1, 1970.

Turned out she was a ventriloquist whose dummy heads were “mounted on her well-clothed breasts.” The type of act one could really appreciate after a few drinks to end the old year.

Naturally I had to share my discovery with my partner-in-crime.

“Hey, how’s this for an act? Doris Faye and Her Talking Torso!”

She thought about this mind-blowing concept for a second.

“Sounds like a drag queen.”

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Globe and Mail, November 3, 1969.

This wasn’t a bad guess, as the Blue Orchid (the present-day Lee’s Palace) had recently featured the “Jewel Box Revue” of female impersonators.

Ms. Faye and her babbling bosoms required deeper digging.

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Binghampton Press, February 28, 1945.

It appears Ms. Faye (born, according to a copyright notice, as Doris Firkser) began her ventriloquism career toward the end of the Second World War. The Paterson, New Jersey Morning Call praised her talent when she participated in a vaudeville style bill in October 1945:

Doris Faye, meeting her dummy boy friend offers an example of ventriloquism at its best. Not only does this gal give off with light-hearted dialogue, but she sizzles with a dramatic thunderbolt in a scene from the movie Gaslight.

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Toronto Star, May 9, 1947.

While it’s hard to say for sure, since the ad doesn’t specify her talents other than “just patter,” it looks like Ms. Faye may have performed in Toronto as early as the late 1940s. It definitely appears that by the end of that decade she was touring nightclubs and theatres when she wasn’t performing in New York City.

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Bronxville Review Press-Reporter, July 14, 1960. Would the photo used in the ad at the top of this post have been taken during this photo session?

By the late 1950s, Faye was appearing as a ventriloquist on children’s television shows in the Big Apple, including a brief stint co-hosting the long-running series Wonderama. She moved on with her co-host Bill Britten when he became New York’s Bozo the Clown, appearing in Indian maiden garb as “Princess Ticklefeather” through the early 1960s.

Around 1967 Faye and her husband, multilingual tenor Nino Tello, toured with a vaudeville-style show running under names like Fun City Revue and Fun City Varieties. The Pittsburgh Press described their acts:

Miss Faye sings, chatters, turns in an interesting ventriloquism act with her pal “Tyrone” and is well steeped in show business. She keeps moving along at a merry pace. Nino Tello contributes a number of songs in both Italian and English with plenty of gusto. His repertoire runs the gamut from today’s hits and show tunes to the familiar classics. Nino and Faye wrap up a couple of duets and join in the production numbers as well.

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Globe and Mail, December 29, 1969.

By the time the revue reached Toronto in December 1969, it was known as Funs-A-Poppin’, playing off the 1940s Olsen and Johnson hit Broadway revue and film Hellzapoppin’. It fit nicely into a general revival of old-timey entertainment in the city and across North America, when traditional burlesque acts took stages and honky tonk pianists found roosts in local bars. This also fit into a growing trend of testing restrictions surrounding the degree of raunchiness and nudity allowed in public venues. During Faye’s stint in town, police kept their eye on the Royal Alex as previews began for the Toronto production of Hair.

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Desert Sun, February 15, 1974.

A 1974 feature in the Palm Springs Desert Sun summed up how the Talking Torso fit into changes in societal attitudes:

Her body, known as the “Talking Torso,” is not only eye-appealing and unique, but hilariously funny and clever. The “Talking Torso” is an intended comedy spoof, satire, and commentary on society’s present-day sexual attitudes toward the female body, which has been made to do everything but talk.

Faye and Tello (sometimes billed as “America’s Night Club Caruso”) continued to perform into the 21st century. The latest I traced her was a 2009 blog post discussing her determination to continue performing after hip surgery, where you get the sense that she was somebody who loved entertaining others. According to a ventriloquist website, Faye passed away in 2012.

Sources: the February 15, 1974 edition of the Desert Sun; the October 16, 1945 edition of the Morning Call; and the October 10, 1967 edition of the Pittsburgh Press.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ookie Dookie

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Toronto Life, August 1989.

It’s 1989, and you’re flipping through the summer issue of Toronto Life. In the front, there are a series of short bits about the city, including legendary Buffalo TV news anchor Irv Weinstein’s opinion on his Golden Horseshoe counterparts. He felt most were stiff, with the exception of CHCH Sunday show host Dick Beddoes (“I was mesmerized by him–you know, the same way you’re mesmerized by a guy with one eye in the middle of his forehead”). On page 29, a piece on activist Dudley Laws and the strained relationship between the city’s black community and the police. You pause for a moment, contemplate, and figure things will mended between the two groups by, say, 2020.

Next, you read some tips on how to cycle in style. Fools, you think. This city is built for motorists–why bother spending a ton on a fancy bike?

You settle into a comfy chair with the special fiction section, featuring short stories from home (Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findlay) and abroad (Isabel Allende, Graham Greene), along with a sprinkling of Leonard Cohen poems.

Next, a new bar-and-club guide. Ah, but you’re too old for that sort of thing. You continue flipping until you hit the “Taste of the Town” restaurant guide. One ad catches your eye, with its splashes of bright yellow and checkerboard pattern.

You read it.

You scratch your head.

“Ookies?”

Are your fellow earthlings going wild over some store you’ve never heard of in Forest Hill? It’s possible. Or not.

You sigh and continue on with the restaurant reviews. None of them mention ookies.

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Toronto Star, April 12, 1989.

After digging through the Star and Globe archives, the only story I found about C.C. Ookies was this one about their matzo meal cookies.

Did the Queen’s Quay location ever pan out?

Why was combining initials and parts of words such a long, complicated story?

So many questions…

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“All in the Family,” House of Mystery #204, July 1972. Story by Mary Skrenes, art by Bernie Wrightson.

Perhaps the true story of the ookie, and the reason they never caught on, is that they were actually sentient blobs with a taste for humans. Blobs who insisted the proper spelling of their species was “Ookey,” and required plenty of Alka-Seltzer for proper digestion.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Tip Top Man of the Class

Originally published on Torontoist on June 15, 2010.

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Goblin, January 1924.

While all of the other attendees resemble grotesques from the funny pages, the Tip Top customer is dripping with 1920s sophistication. With his pencil-thin moustache, slicked hair, stylish tuxedo, and elegant cigarette holder, this fellow could have stepped out of a Noël Coward play.

Cartoonist Lou Skuce (1886–1951) was one of Toronto’s busiest artists during the first half of the twentieth century. His work, often sports-related, graced the pages of many local newspapers and publications. Skuce also toured theatres with a contraption called the Cartoonagraph, which he used to project drawings as he worked on them. Among the achievements singled out in obituaries for Skuce was a series of murals he produced for the Toronto Men’s Press Club that humorously depicted the organization’s activities and the evolution of the printed word from the Stone Age onward.

Refined elegance had long departed 245 Yonge Street by the 1970s. The address gained infamy during the summer of 1977 when the body of Emanuel Jaques was found on the roof of the Charlie’s Angels “body rub parlour.” The gruesome murder of the twelve-year-old shoeshine boy led local officials to crack down on the adult businesses that occupied the storefronts once inhabited by more respectable retailers like Tip Top.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Goblin, March 1924.

Flipping through the pages of Goblin over the rest of 1924, Lou Skuce’s art appeared in a series of ads for General Motors.

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Goblin, April 1924.

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Goblin, May 1924.

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Goblin, June 1924.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen

Originally published on Torontoist on February 6, 2015.

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Toronto Star, February 27, 1963.

According to her corporate website, Aunt Jemima stands for “warmth, nourishment and trust—qualities you’ll find in loving moms from diverse backgrounds who care for and want the very best for their families.” Yet no amount of facelifts, bandana removal, or cultural diversity pitches can erase past depictions of its pancake-making pitchwoman as the ultimate stereotypical southern mammy.

Aunt Jemima’s image has long been problematic. Created in 1889 to promote an early pre-mixed baking mix, the brand was reputedly inspired by a minstrel show where a white performer sang as “Old Aunt Jemima” in blackface and drag. In 1893 Nancy Green, a former slave, was hired to portray her for cooking demonstrations at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Marketers developed a back story steeped in the mythology of the old South, including a benevolent plantation owner named Colonel Higbee and the large black woman working in the kitchen to please her white employers and aid the Confederacy.

Green’s successful appearance in Chicago led to tours where she or other women donned what was effectively slave garb. Toronto was among the stops. For a week of cooking demonstrations at Simpson’s department store in March 1902, ad writers felt the best way to illustrate Aunt Jemima’s place in society was to translate her pitches into pidgin English:

Aunt Jemima has fried pancakes all over the United States. Her record is 9,000 cakes a day. She is “demonstrating” the high and mighty art of turning pancakes in our grocery department this week, and, judging by the crowds, her ideas is regard to pancakes are of great and exceeding value.

“No buttah. No la’ad. Jus’ a bit o’ salt powk tied up in a piece o’ clean cheesecloth bought fo’ dat puhpus.” That is one of Aunt Jemima’s principles, which at first blush might seem a trifle revolutionary.

“One pint watah, one pint milk, one teacup o’ de flour makes cakes for six puhsons.”

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Don Mills Mirror, May 6, 1964.

In 1955, Aunt Jemima owner Quaker Oats opened a southern-themed family restaurant at Disneyland. By 1962, after serving over 1.6 million customers at the theme park, Quaker expanded the concept into a North American pancake house chain. Metro Torontonians downed their first Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen flapjack on February 27, 1963, when a location opened at Lawrence Avenue East and Bellamy Road in Scarborough. Opening day ads reinforced the mythology of the genteel, relaxed southern plantation the restaurant hoped to evoke, and promised a personal appearance from Aunt Jemima herself.

Quaker’s choice of Scarborough to debut the concept complemented other food franchisers who saw the suburb as an ideal testing ground. “The area has a very high ratio of cars to population, a good standard of living, and is having growing pains,” observed Harold Schner, a franchiser for Mister Donut and Red Barn. “Since there are few good restaurants in Scarborough, a community with young families dependent on automobiles for transportation to a great extent, it is a good area.”

In her Globe and Mail advertorial dining column, Mary Walpole played along with the cringe-inducing stereotypes. “The décor is beautifully done, warm and friendly as a southern plantation,” Walpole gushed, “and not without reason for the Aunt Jemima name is a carefully guarded thing and all must be perfect before they hang out the sign of her smiling dark face.” Walpole also played upon old fashioned notions of patriarchy, noting that when ordering the Family Platter, it was the father’s duty to serve the scrambled eggs and meat.

While Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen added a second location at Bayview Village in 1964, both brand and chain faced increasing criticism as the civil rights movement aimed at what the smiling cook represented. Black consumers had rarely been consulted for their thoughts about Aunt Jemima; when they were, the feedback was negative. The NAACP called for a boycott. Delegates at an August 1966 American Federation of Teachers convention in Chicago adopted a resolution condemning a nearby Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen for demeaning employees by making a black woman wear an Aunt Jemima costume. A boycott was launched until management allowed the employee to wear contemporary hostess clothing. Quaker Oats promised costumed Aunt Jemimas would be phased out from their five Chicago locations, a pledge fulfilled across the chain when the last one was pulled off the road in 1967.

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Globe Magazine, March 25, 1967.

The chain soon declined. Its flagship Disneyland location closed in 1970. Toronto was abandoned two years earlier—toward the end, the Bayview Village location decreased its selection of fancy pancakes from 37 to 23.

While efforts were made to modernize the brand—most significantly the removal of her headwear in 1989—the baggage remains. In his book Slave in a Box, M.M. Manring draws the following conclusion as to why Aunt Jemima endures:

Aunt Jemima lives on because white Americans like having a mammy. Quaker Oats can move her off her plantation, take off her bandanna, and tint her hair; it makes little difference. If times change, they might even be bold enough to put the bandanna back on her head. Aunt Jemima and mammy are tools used to interpret our legacy of racism, sexism, and slavery, either approvingly or disapprovingly. Keeping her around, spinning superficial explanations for her continued presence on that box, doesn’t help us overcome that legacy.

Sources: Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima by M.M. Manring (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998); the April 20, 1963, May 18, 1963, and May 31, 1963 editions of the Globe and Mail; the August 26, 1966 edition of the New York Times; and the March 25, 1902 edition of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE

In June 2020, Quaker Oats announced that the Aunt Jemima branding would be dropped.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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The Globe, March 28, 1902.

Another ad from Nancy Green’s stint at Simpson’s in 1902.

brantford expositor circa 1906 pancake booth

It’s probably a relief that the low quality of this scan of a pamphlet for a 1906 fundraising fair for Brantford’s John H. Stratford Hospital blots out the chef’s features (likely the “real pickaninny”), especially if he was wearing stereotypical blackface makeup of the era. The facility was renamed Brantford General Hospital in 1910.

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Canadian Grocer, Septemeber 17, 1909.

A series of Aunt Jemima rag doll premiums available to grocers perpetuated racist stereotypes and passed them on to children. The local Toronto agent for the mix was MacLaren Imperial Cheese, whose name lives on in a cold pack cheese spread that’s still available on Canadian grocery shelves as of 2020.

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Canadian Grocer, October 10, 1913.

I’m afraid to know what the “dandy advertising campaign” involved.

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Canadian Grocer, November 20, 1914.

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Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1923.

Nancy Green’s obituary. Even in death, her words were translated into pidgin. At least there’s no backstory of glorious plantations here, though one wonders how similar wealthy Chicago families were.

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Dawn of Tomorrow, September 15, 1923.

A more dignified obit for Green was presented in the Black press – this clipping is from the London, Ontario based Dawn of Tomorrow.

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The Globe, October 23, 1923.

How Aunt Jemima was advertised by the 1920s. Usually the mammy image was included…

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The Globe, December 26, 1923.

…sometimes not (though the pidgin-English slogan remained).

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Globe and Mail, April 20, 1963.

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Globe and Mail, May 18, 1963.

A pair of Mary Walpole’s advertorials about Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen. I’m imagining a steady soundtrack of Stephen Foster songs.

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Globe and Mail, May 31, 1963.

An article on how Scarborough was seen as an ideal place to test franchising concepts during the 1960s.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Dr. Cassell’s Great Remedy

Originally published on Torontoist on May 31, 2011.

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Mail and Empire, December 9, 1915.

With his pince-nez, authoritative finger, and giant pill bottle, wouldn’t you trust your health to the noble Dr. Cassell? Never mind that his powerful tablets claim to remedy the same afflictions as other period quack medicines. He looks trustworthy and by Jove, he’s British! We suspect the pills were most effective on the financial ledger of Toronto food and drug distributor Harold F. Ritchie.

While the “well-known” Dr. Botwood happily lent his name to promote the curative power of Dr. Cassell’s remedy, British doctor R. Murray Leslie didn’t. Less than two weeks after today’s ad was published, Dr. Leslie filed an injunction against the manufacturer for falsely using his name in other ads. The sordid details were published in the December 25, 1915, edition of the British Medical Journal:

On October 20th last Dr. Leslie delivered a public lecture at the Institute of Hygiene in London on the subject of war strain and its prevention, and a summarized report appeared in the public press. The Dr. Cassell’s Medicine Company Limited, who were the vendors of “Dr. Cassell’s tablets,” thereupon inserted in the advertisements which they published in the press a reference to Dr. Leslie and to the lecture lie [sic] had given in terms which gave the impression that Dr. Leslie recommended or approved of the “tablets” which the company purveyed.

With no resistance from the defence lawyers, the injunction was granted.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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The Daily Province, January 26, 1915.

If advertising is anything to go by, it appears Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were introduced to the Canadian market in early 1915. Initially, Vancouver received a more colourful campaign, as the first batch of ads printed in Toronto’s papers lacked illustrations.

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The Globe, January 30, 1915.

That was quickly remedied. Do you know any little martyrs to nerves?

While ads for Dr. Cassell’s faded out by the end of 1918, the Tamblyn drug store chain carried them through the early 1930s, touting the pills as “The Supreme Nerve Tonic and Body Builder.”

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Sydney Morning Herald, November 8, 1926.

By the mid-1920s, Dr. Cassell’s Tablets were available in Australia. Meanwhile, Dr. Cassell’s British parent, Veno Drug Company, was swallowed up in 1925 by Beecham’s Pills, a forerunner of today’s pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Photoplay Palace Turns Ninety

Originally published on Torontoist on August 18, 2009.

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Toronto Star, August 16, 1919 (upper left); Toronto Star, August 18, 1919 (the rest).

It was ninety years ago today that east-enders were first able to enjoy fine entertainment at the theatre that underwent numerous name changes between its opening as Allen’s Danforth and its current incarnation as the Music Hall. Growth in what was considered suburbia in 1919, along with the ease of reaching Danforth Avenue via the recently opened Prince Edward Viaduct, persuaded the Allen’s cinema chain to build a high-quality theatre in the neighbourhood.

The Mail and Empire provided a preview in its August 16, 1919 edition:

After having traced them half-way across the United States and a large portion of Canada, Messrs. Jule and Jay J. Allen received with great relief yesterday the news of the arrival of the 1,800 seats for their new Danforth theatre, which will be opened on Monday evening. The handsome structure is entirely complete and it is promised that it will show the people of Toronto something new in the way of cinema house construction. Although this house has been built largely for the convenience of the residents of the Danforth and Rosedale sections of the city, it is one of the largest motion picture houses in Toronto and among the most modern. There will be no formalities for the Monday evening performance, but the theatre will be open to the general public.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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The Music Hall, March 30, 2010. My notes indicate Toxie hadn’t been on the premises for awhile. The poster slots are currently filled with upcoming listings deep into 2020. Click on image for larger version.

The theatre marked its 90th with a plaque presentation by Heritage Toronto, followed by a silent feature with live piano accompaniment. As the opening night film exists in fragments, viewers saw another Madge Kennedy vehicle, 1920’s Dollars and Sense. The admission price was sensible—only one thin dollar. It was a fun evening, despite a few technical hiccups.

The Music Hall is still a busy concert venue, marking its 100th anniversary in 2019.

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Photoplay, May 1920.

From the Toronto Star‘s August 7, 1919 description of Through the Wrong Door:

Through the Wrong Door is playing to capacity houses at the Allen this week, and the exvellent feature which is offered more than justifies the large crowds. Light, gay, and amusing, Through the Wrong Door is frankly composed to chase dull care away, and it is so well interpreted by Madge Kennedy and the cast in general that the effect is a very pleasant one. She softens and beautifies by some very fine acting the role of a bright young girl who throws over her fiance abd elopes with a man she scarcely knows. In the new dignity of one who sympathizes with the man her own father has deliberately tried to ruin, who she is assisting to achieve natural justice, she plays the part so convincingly that the sudden change of mind and heart is not only excused, but approved most cordially.

Motion Picture World, June 5, 1920.

Vintage Toronto Ads: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

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Globe and Mail, December 20, 1969.

To some, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best James Bond movie ever made. To others, it’s the one with…what’s his name…George Lazenby? Either way (and count me closer to the former), it was one of top movie attractions for Toronto moviegoers during the holiday season 50 years ago.

How did local film critcs feel?

The Telegram‘s Clyde Gilmour felt that “newcomer Lazenby’s amateurishness as an actor sticks out all over the place, but the role has become a comic-strip character anyway. Bond No. 2 does the job quite satisfactorily.” Gilmour also believed that Telly Savalas played Blofeld “with his accustomed air of amiable deviltry.”

In the Star, Dorothy Mikos felt Lazenby was acceptable, as the role didn’t require fine acting. “All that is required is a large conventionally handsome man who can fall down and stand up on cue.”

The sourest review was courtesy of The Globe and Mail‘s Martin Knelman, who found “the new 007 bats .000.” He also didn’t care for some of the film’s audience, if this sneering observation following a packed viewing at the old Odeon Carlton theatre is any indication:

Fighting my way out of the theatre, I heard a middle-aged woman say she had been lured into the city from a suburb for the first time in months to see this movie, and now that she’d seen it, she didn’t know what to look forward to. One could fake pity for people who don’t have anything in their lives to look forward to besides a James Bond movie, but that’s really beside the point.

Knelman ended his review by comparing people anticipating Bond movies to friends who eagerly awaited trying the “far-out specialty of the month” at their local ice cream parlour. “They play at the ritual of looking forward each month to going down to sample the new flavor, and I think people go to the James Bond movies in the same spirit. Dr. No and Goldfinger were yummy enough, but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service left the same taste in my mouth as peanut butter licorice sherbet.”

Whatever, Martin.

Of the other major new releases that week, Knelman found John Vernon’s performance as an evil Castro-esque Cuban the most entertaining thing about Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz, and felt director Stanley Kramer’s The Secret of Santa Vittoria was “just a big, crude, stupid movie.”

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Toronto Star, December 19, 1969. Click on image for larger version.

A sampling of other movies that season, along with some interesting double bills assembled by the 20th Century chain.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Coming Christmas Day—The Odeon York!

Originally published on Torontoist on December 20, 2011.

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Toronto Star, December 24, 1969.

Things opened on Christmas Day: presents under a tree, cards from dear friends, bottles of wine at the dinner table, old family wounds, and movie theatres.

Yes, movie theatres.

Catching a film on December 25 is a tradition for lonely souls eager to escape painful reminders of the holidays, for families and friends to flee chaotic Christmas celebrations for a few hours, and a shared cultural experience for those who don’t celebrate Christmas in the first place. With a large pool of customers to draw upon, especially on a day when few other businesses are open, why not use Christmas to debut a splashy new cinema?

Parents may have welcomed the York Theatre’s opening bill on December 25, 1969, since neither of the main attractions was suitable for younger audiences. We suspect kids were content to stay home and play with Santa’s deliveries. Viewers could take the theatre’s spiral staircase to see a farce (Cactus Flower) or a foursome (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice).

Blockbusters graced the screens of the York until 2001. After operating as an event venue and fitness club, the site became the Madison condo project.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, September 19, 1984.

The York occupies a sentimental spot in my heart, as it was the first place I saw a drama intended for grown-ups, as opposed to family-friendly blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. We ate dinner at Harvey’s on the northeast side of Yonge and Eglinton, then walked over to see Amadeus. Nine-year-old Jamie was impressed, following along without being bored.

Best of all, I was a big boy now! Bring on the non-kiddie films!

(I went to kid-friendly flicks for a few more years)

I wonder if my father thought it might spur me to share his love of classical music. If so, it didn’t, though I briefly explored his Mozart records when we returned home.

Given the timing of Amadeus‘s release, this may have occurred either on my last trip to Toronto before my grandmother moved down to Amherstburg or the first visit there after she left the city.

By the time I moved to Toronto in 1999, the York was nearing its end. At the time, the few remaining non-rep house single or double screen cinemas in the old City of Toronto were heading toward their demise. A survey of the scene by the Star in January 2001 indicated that Cineplex Odeon was operating the York on a month-to-month basis and a “For Lease” sign was already out front. Elsewhere, Famous Players did not renew the lease at the Plaza in the Hudson’s Bay Centre, while the fates of the Eglinton and Uptown waited for a ruling in a human rights complaint regarding accessibility (the result of which was used as an excuse for their closure).

Sometimes when an old movie house closes, we can’t help feeling that there’s something more being demolished than the broken seats and torn carpets in the lobby. For some of us, our vivid memories of movies that mattered to us long ago are all wrapped up with memories of the way we were, who was with us at the time, and, of course, the odd little details about those places where we gathered long ago waiting in the dark for something wonderful to happen. – Martin Knelman, Toronto Star, January 21, 2001.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Colouring Contests

Originally published on Torontoist on August 26, 2015.

Before reading this column any further, grab the nearest pack of coloured pencils, crayons, or markers, or open up your favourite digital art program. Have we got a colouring bonanza for you!

Long before adult colouring books topped the Amazon charts, there was the humble colouring contest. It was a simple gimmick: draw interest in your brand, event, publication, or store by reeling in kids with promises of prizes if they applied their artistic skills (or lack thereof) to simple line drawings based on popular shows or seasonal icons. For their efforts, they might win pocket change, a bicycle, a chance to meet their idols, or bragging rights at the playground.

Today’s selection of ads spotlights past opportunities to dazzle judges with your colouring skill. Let your creativity run wild!

Click on any of the following images for larger versions.

Robertson Brothers Colouring Contest

Toronto Star, March 23, 1928.

  Treasure Island Colouring Contest

The Globe, December 4, 1934 and December 5, 1934.

From the August 18, 1934 New York Times review of Treasure Island:

Although there are occasional studio interpolations, the present screen offering is a moderately satisfactory production. It has not the force or depth of the parent work and, kind as one might wish to be to the adaptation, it always seems synthetic. However, hitherto on the stage and in two silent films of the same subject, the role of Jim Hawkins has been acted by a girl. One is spared this weakness in this picture, for that able juvenile, Jackie Cooper, plays Jim, and, although he may not impress one as being the Jim of the book, he does fairly well.

Star Weekly Christmas Colouring Contest Toronto Star, December 5, 1940.

Christmas colouring contests have long been a holiday staple. In this case, they may have also provided a boost to the Star’s sister publication, Star Weekly.

Roy Rogers Colouring Contest

Toronto Star, September 11, 1954 and September 19, 1954.

Forget the beautiful statue of the “King of the Cowboys” riding his trusty horse Trigger; the real thrill for most winners would have been spending a few moments with Roy and Dale at the 1954 CNE. A photo published in the Star of 11-year-old victors John Goslinga and Alfred Kemp depicted them in full cowboy regalia, as if they were ready to be extras in one of Roy’s horse operas.

Davy Crockett Colouring Contest

Toronto Star, September 12, 1955 (left) and September 13, 1955 (right).

A year after the Roy Rogers contest, the Star capitalized on the success of Davy Crockett. Note flattering depictions of aboriginals and women.

Parkay Colouring Contest

Globe and Mail, April 19, 1955.

Faster than a bicycle going downhill! More powerful than a butter churn! Spreads margarine on toast with a single stroke! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s PARKAYBOY!

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Toronto Star, October 9, 1956.

Simpsons gets in on the colouring contest action with RCA Victor’s venerable mascot, Nipper.

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Toronto Star, November 21, 1956.

We (and Disney’s lawyers) can only hope that the actual drawing of Mickey and Minnie used for Dominion’s Ice Capades tie-in was superior to this spartan sketch.

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Toronto Sun, April 19, 1972.

How terrfying can you make this clown?

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Toronto Sun, November 20, 1977.

A previous post covered the story of dinner with Chewbacca.

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Toronto Star, August 6, 1977.

The Star’s kids page launched its first colouring contest with this detailed pair of figures who would have looked at home in the Royal Ontario Museum. A trip to the ROM might have been preferable to the grand prize: a chance to see the first-year Blue Jays drop both ends of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees. The first game was a 15-0 blowout, which saw future Jay Cliff Johnson hit two homers. The Yankees were gracious during the second match, with only a 2-0 victory.

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Toronto Star, May 28, 1978.

More colouring, more baseball, happier results for the Blue Jays. The prize winner saw the home team defeat the Orioles in another doubleheader by scores of 6-2 and 9-8. It was the franchise’s first doubleheader sweep at Exhibition Stadium.

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Toronto Star, September 2, 1984.

Who better to represent a teddy bear picnic at the Metro Zoo than Winnie the Pooh? We wonder if, a year or two later, the celebrity mascot would have been Teddy Ruxpin.

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Toronto Life, April 1973.

While not promoting a colouring contest, this ad for the fashionable Bloor Street clothier fits the mood of a modern adult colouring book.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, September 7, 1954.

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Toronto Star, August 25, 1955. Click on image for larger version.

While the winners of the Star‘s Roy Rogers contest only received a small corner of a page, the winners of the paper’s Davy Crockett took up most of the front page of the second section. Sadly, none of them posed with series stars Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen.

Vintage Toronto Ads: How to Prevent a Domestic Disturbance

Originally published on Torontoist on April 15, 2008.

Vintage Ad #521: Does Your Husband Yawn at the Table?

National Home Monthly, January 1950.

Sometimes what passed for clever advertising in the past leaves us speechless. Note that today’s ad appeared seven years before Advertising Standards Canada came into being.

57 Ways to Use Heinz Condensed Soups

The free guide offered in this ad was first published in 1944 and offered the following words of wisdom:

Soup has long played a stellar part on the Canadian menu—but never has it filled so many interesting and appetizing roles as it does today! Formerly served as a first course, versatile soup now appears as an important ingredient in dozens of dishes—dressings, meat loaves, rarebits, casseroles and many another old favourite. For housewives have found this a quick, thrifty way to make everything from sauces to salads extra nourishing and delicious.

Most of the recipes provided in the guide are mid-20th century staples, though some lean toward the exotic-sounding (“Fricasseed Chicken with Marengo Sauce”), fattening (“Weiner-Vegetable Casserole” loaded with bacon drippings), or are overdue for a modern remake from the city’s finest chefs (“Tomato Soup Cake” complete with cream cheese frosting).

420 Dupont Street still exists as an address, though Heinz moved their Canadian head office to North York long ago. The site, located at the NW corner of Dupont and Howland, was later the home of Mono Lino Typesetting, and has served as an exterior for films such as Hairspray.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Searching for stories about domestic abuse published in Toronto’s papers in 1950, the majority of reports related to sentences handed out to offenders in Trafalgar Township (present-day Oakville). The June 30, 1950 edition of the Star reported that Bronte resident Elmer Catley was sentenced to four days in jail and “10 strokes of the strap” for wife-beating. He was also ordered to post a $500 property bond and pay $25 in costs, or face 10 more days behind bars. Trafalgar Township police chief Fred Oliver noted that “liquor is this man’s downfall.” Catley was denied a request to be placed on the LCBO’s “Indian List,” which would have blocked his access to alcohol.

Lashing appears to have been a common punishment at the time in Bronte. The December 15, 1950 Globe and Mail reported the sentencing of Walter Ripley to 10 strokes, along with two months hard labour.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, apparently hitting a landlord merited a larger fine than hitting one’s spouse.

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Globe and Mail, March 22, 1950.