Vintage Toronto Ads: A Valentine’s Day Sampler

Valentine’s Day

Originally published on Torontoist on February 11, 2015.

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The Globe, February 8, 1928.

Valentine’s Day: a time to demonstrate one’s appreciation for others, to profess one’s love, and to write florid verse and purple prose in the name of Cupid. Celebrating love on February 14 (or surrounding days, if it fell on Sunday) has been a long, profitable tradition for Torontonians.

One of the earliest commentaries we found was a Globe editorial published in 1858. The elevated prose that publisher George Brown and his writers used forces modern readers to refer to a dictionary. For example, booksellers offering Valentine’s Day stationery were “bibliopoles,” a term we’re waiting for an enterprising young entrepreneur to use any day now. A sample of the Globe’s thoughts:

Our bibliopoles have right diligently done their part to secure the due celebration of the mysteries pertaining to this time-honoured festival. For weeks have the counters and windows of their marts have been profusely garnished with amatory missives, exhibiting all the canonical adornments peculiar to such documents. Dan Cupid there drives teems of harnessed doves, as he was wont to do when “our auld cloak was new,” and smirking couples wend their way “ankle deep in flowers” towards rural churches climaxed with tiny spires suggestive of toothpicks.

20150211flowersThe Globe, February 12, 1931.

By 1862, Toronto’s post office processed 3,500 valentines on February 14. Though rumours suggested sending greetings was passé, stationers reported strong sales, especially among high-end products. “Those of a comic character were sold in large quantities, but the great demand was for those with embossed edges, varying from a quarter to five dollars,” the Globe observed. “The post office was crowded with the fair sex all day; and the smiles on their faces, as they left, showed that their swains had generally done the proper thing.”

During the Victorian era, the degeneration of valentines into cards with grotesque, insensitive jokes was heavily criticized. Cheaper cards replaced sentiment with insults and, the Globe reported in 1889, “the effect upon the unfortunate receiver must be like that of a quart of dishwater thrown from some unseen window.” A valentine sent to a pharmacist might insinuate he was a quack, while a young woman might receive a card inferring she had loose morals. “It is not good even for children to be the carriers of insults the full meaning of which they do not understand.”

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The Globe, February 10, 1933.

Sentimentality was back in fashion when the Great Depression hit. As the economy tanked, caring thoughts and tender reassurances written in valentines provided solace. Around 150,000 valentines were distributed by Toronto mail carriers on Valentine’s Day 1930. The Globe glimpsed the feeling around the city that year:

Sweethearts are giving expressions to their affection in generous measure today and they are “saying it” with valentines. Perchance it is but a dainty card or folder, charmingly embellished with lace and cupids and intriguing bits of verse, and again the valentine may take the form of a basket of red roses or heart-shaped boxes of candies. Twilight last evening fell upon a city seething with excitement akin to that one finds on Christmas Eve, with book stores, candy shops, and florists crowded with young men with dreamy eyes, and thoughtful husbands.

Additional material from the February 13, 1858, February 15, 1862, February 14, 1889, and February 14, 1930 editions of the Globe.

Valentine’s Day ’54

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Toronto Star, February 12, 1954.

Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, a day of happy lovers and happier chocolate purveyors. Back in 1954, two of the city’s larger candy chains filled the newspapers with ads showing off their sweet suggestions. Beyond wolfing down bonbons, what else could sweethearts do that year?

There was the option of more food. Culinary columnists provided their ideas for suitable meals and treats for lovebirds to make at home, which would have helpful in 1954 as Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday, a day when entertainment options outside the home were limited. The Telegram proposed a full buffet consisting of baked Virginia ham, sweet potato casserole, tossed salad, French bread, cranberry/celery salad, iced relishes, and Cherries Jubilee with ice cream. This spread may have been a plot to fill up diners so much that they wouldn’t be in the mood for any monkey business later on. Margaret Carr of the Toronto Star offered up a strawberry-almond mould loaded with gelatin, ladyfingers, and “frills of whipped cream” that may have stimulated a few lovers. The Globe and Mail determined that a one-bowl orange cake was appropriate, as long as one mixed the batter with six hundred spoon strokes—three hundred before the eggs were added, three hundred after. One stroke too many and both the cake and the romance would be ruined.

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The Telegram, February 11, 1954.

If you were unable to come up with a poem to deliver to your Valentine, editorial pages came to the rescue, especially if you were as negligent in delivering your wishes as the protagonist of the Star’s offering, Len G. Selle’s Valentine:

Oh, lovely girl who reads this verse
Think not I am unwise;
I know the softness of your hair
The languer in your eyes.
The laughter of your “rosebud mouth”
And “teeth like pearls”—I guess;
It just remains, my love, for you
To send me your address.

Ah, what a novel scheme this is
To win a Valentine,
To advertise my heart’s desire
At nothing flat a line?
But breathing on my shoulder
Is my last important date…
Alas, this little Valentine
Is twenty years too late!

At the University of Toronto, University College co-eds celebrated by re-enacting Valentine rituals from 1754. These included pinning bay leaves on pillows to ensure any sweethearts dreamed of would be yours within a year, a performance of a play that used creepy masks, and writing names of suitors on slips of paper, rolling them in clay, and dropping them in a jar of water, with the first to float indicating the lucky man.
Modern rituals were the focus of the Telegram’s “Teen Talk” column, where Cynthia Williams offered advice:

Are you trying to woo and win the lady of your choice? Are you trying to get rid of a dope who has been stalking your steps for the past six months? Now’s your chance! Ready-made! But here’s a pointer, boys, if you do want to be popular. The girl, or girls, in your life might not be expecting a card, but believe me, you’ll be number one boy if you remember to send one! And girls, I did get a few of the boys to admit that they were kind of flattered if they got cards, even unsigned ones, that piqued their curiosity!

No mention was made of what a small gift of chocolates could do.

Additional material from the February 11, 1954 and February 12, 1954 editions of the Globe and Mail, the February 13, 1954 edition of the Telegram, and the February 9, 1954 and February 13, 1954 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Two of the recipes mentioned in this story…

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Toronto Star, February 9, 1954.

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Globe and Mail, February 12, 1954.

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.”

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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.

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

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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.

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Globe and Mail, October 24, 1979.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A 1980s Fashion Show

All Puffed Up

Originally published on Torontoist on October 21, 2008.

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Bravo, May-June 1983.

As Halloween nears, costume hunters are descending on the city’s vintage, resale, and thrift clothing stores looking for the right ensemble to dazzle their friends—we suspect that traffic reports will be required for Kensington Market, Goodwill, and Value Village locations this weekend. Someone may be lucky enough to find this gem from a quarter-century ago and channel its wit and vitality in any number of directions, including high-class fashion model, drag diva extraordinaire, or, with liberal application of muck and stage blood, a horrifying apparition.

The puffy sleeves were designed with aesthetics and practicality in mind. They provide an ideal storage/hiding spot for any beverages required for your Halloween activity. Built-in storage compartments reduce the need to carry a bag for your valuables, as long as you don’t shimmy your arms too wildly on the dance floor.

Luxurious Lobes

Originally published on Torontoist on December 9, 2008.

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Toronto Life, December 1985.

In this time of economic turmoil, isn’t it reassuring that all you need to do to tell the world that your investments are secure and your confidence is strong is to show off a pair of pearl earrings? Never mind the corporate restructuring plan that you’ve worked on for the past two weeks to the detriment of your sleeping habits and stress levels—the world must know that you are alive and kicking!

Secrett Jewel Salon offered its first rocks in 1955 in a store at the Park Plaza Hotel. The business continues to operate, though it has occupied other spaces in Yorkville since this ad was published.

Pop 84 for Xmas 85

Originally published on Torontoist on November 24, 2009.

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Toronto Life, December 1985.

Christmas marketing tip from the mid-1980s: if you’re an Italian denim label who wants to push the newsboy/urchin look to tony Toronto shoppers, recruit the most sullen batch of models you can find that look good in loose shirts and suspenders.

This group of ragamuffins showed up in a special “Noel” pullout section that Toronto Life readers were urged to “pull out and save for influential shopping advice and gift-giving tips.” Suggestions included eighty-five dollar bead mazes for children, gift bags of Kernels popcorn and gold-glazed pots for women, and a nineteenth century suit of armour (only eight hundred and fifty bucks!) for men. In a survey of what Torontonians wanted from Santa, author Morley Callaghan wished for a booze-filled seven-course meal (“I think I’d like to start off with an aperitif, then a couple of bottles of good wine, maybe a burgundy, and finish off with some fine cognac”), skater Toller Cranston pined for an elephant’s foot stool with toenails, and artist/musician Mendelson Joe wanted peace on earth—if that failed, he indicated he’d settle for a trillion dollars to promote imagination and creativity instead of humanity’s destructive habits.

UPDATE: When my wife saw this ad, she said “they look like the extras for Newsies.”

Givenchy-Yenchy-Ya-Ya

Originally published on Torontoist on December 29, 2009.

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Toronto Life, December 1984.

 

It was the morning after the night before. She couldn’t remember much, other than it had been one heck of a New Year’s party. Stumbling onto the streets of Yorkville, she found herself clad in a stunning blue, grey, and black number, dimly recalling how she borrowed the snowflake-inspired couture from the hostess after an impulsive jump into the hot tub. Though her head felt like a football tossed around during the bowl games she would watch with her housemates later that afternoon, she was determined to make an impression in her stylish discovery, if only to hail a cab home. Some would say she was trying to present the image of a pouty model to the world; she would say she was holding her aching head before Advil could come to the rescue.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Transit Workers Get Sick Too

Originally published on Torontoist on February 24, 2009.

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Globe and Mail, October 10, 1957.

Whether it is a warning to riders of the penalties for assaulting transit employees or simple tips on how to ride an escalator, the Toronto Transit Commission devotes part of its ad space to informing its users about safety issues. The topic of illness prevention occasionally pops up, especially during cold season when your fellow citizens allow their germs to ride the rocket. Drivers are not immune from these unwanted passengers, which appears to have caused havoc for the TTC back in the late 1950s. Today’s ad doesn’t provide any tips on how to prevent further driver sick days, but it does urge riders to be more punctual or build in more time for their trips. We might add a provision allowing riders to toss off the vehicle any sneezing passengers who spend their ride parked at the front, yammering away as their distracting conversation not only causes a stop or two to be missed but adds another casualty to the mounting pile of ill drivers.

Years later, the city took up the fight against sneezing with a poster that made its way into a transit stop or two.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Battle of the Breads

Originally published on Torontoist on April 22, 2008.

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The Telegram, February 24, 1900.

Two ads for local bakeries lay side-by-side in an evening newspaper. One will become an international food empire, the other will find that a walking loaf of bread does not ensure longevity.

George Weston (1865–1924) entered the bread business at the age of 12, learning the craft at several local bakeries. At 17 he purchased two bread routes that mark the beginning of the company that still bears his name. In 1897, Weston opened the Model Bakery at Soho and Phoebe, which initially produced 3,200 loaves daily.

Perhaps Weston’s genteel advertising image explains why it survived and Tait-Bredin did not. Late Victorians may not have been ready for a loaf that was ready to sock it to them and any poor protein-rich foods that got in its way. They may have felt sympathy towards the sorrowful steak and pitiful potato pushed out of the way by the brown bread bully, or decided that easy digestion and the seal of approval from the elderly beat rosy cheeks any day.

BEHIND THE SCENES

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This post was the seed from which my first contribution to a published book grew. Both ads appear in the essay “Not loafing around: Bread in Toronto” which you’ll find in The Edible City (Toronto: Coach House, 2009).

Vintage Toronto Ads: Have a Honky-Tonkin’ Happy New Year

Originally published on Torontoist on December 31, 2014.

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Weston Times-Advertiser, December 22, 1964.

For many, music is a vital component of their New Year’s Eve celebrations. Hitting the dance floor, listening to a live act, or gathering around a piano to sing old favourites help glide the transition into another year.

In the 1960s, finding the nearest honky-tonk piano player or turn-of-the-century-inspired performer helped some Torontonians mark the calendar change. Across North America, genres like ragtime and barrelhouse piano music experienced a revival, sending bars like the New Toronto Hotel in search of the nearest musicians with striped shirts and 1890s-styled gowns. It was kitschy, but it allowed audiences to get into the spirit of things by encouraging them to drop their reserve and merrily sing along.

Pianist Charlie Young chalked up the revival to fatigue with a scary new musical style. “People just grew sick of rock ‘n’ roll,” he told the Star in 1962. “Rock had nothing for the older ones, or indeed anyone from 35 up. They turned to ragtime.”

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Globe and Mail, December 18, 1961.

Club 76, named after its location on 76 St. Clair Avenue West, claimed to have started the old-timey music trend in Toronto. Owner Bob Cook opened his establishment in August 1959 after listening to ragtime pianist Bob Darch perform while vacationing in the Bahamas. Cook booked Darch as his first headliner, who was soon followed by Young, whose act relied on a century-old piano he found filled with sand in a Colorado hotel. To enhance the nostalgic atmosphere, silent movies were run simultaneously.

Musicians who latched onto forms of old-time piano scrambled to find ways to stand out as bars and lounges joined the bandwagon. “Honky-tonk piany hasn’t even scratched the surface in Toronto,” observed Maxe Sherman during a tenancy at the Concord Tavern’s Gaslite Room in 1961. “But you still have to have a gimmick.” For Sherman, that involved becoming a one-man band whose act included foot-operated maracas and tap-dancing on his piano stool.

One of the most popular venues was the Gay Nineties Room at the Brown Derby Tavern (now the site of 10 Dundas East). For seven years, singer Georgina Rogers and pianist Jimmy White led nightly honky-tonk and ragtime singalongs. The pair played in a Latin-themed band in a local hotel before launching their tenancy at the Brown Derby in 1960. Regular patrons were occasionally given the chance to warble a verse or two on their own. Among those joining in was opera star Teresa Stratas; the first time Rogers noticed Stratas, she went over to her table. “Say, you’ve got a nice voice,” Rogers joked. “You should take this up.”

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Toronto Sun, December 28, 1972.

Around 1967, Rogers and White moved north to the Trophy Lounge at the Beverly Hills Motor Hotel on Wilson Avenue. Globe and Mail critic Blaik Kirby felt the move was a mistake: the space lacked the atmosphere and intimacy they enjoyed downtown, and the suburban audience wasn’t keen on singing along. By the early 1970s, White played a regular gig to a more appreciative crowd at the Barmaids Arms at Yonge and Davisville.

Back at the New Toronto Hotel, while George Small won’t be on hand to play all your old-time favourites this New Year’s Eve, the joint may still be jumping via its current incarnation: the Jay Jay’s Inn swingers club.

Additional material from the March 9, 1967 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the August 29, 1960, July 19, 1961, May 4, 1962, and March 28, 1964 editions of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE

As of the end of 2018, the New Toronto Hotel operates as The Westlake.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Sun, March 30, 1979.

When Jimmy White died in 1979, Sun columnist Paul Rimstead wrote about one of his last performances.