Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 4

Ten Thousand Doctors Can’t Be Wrong

Originally published on Torontoist on January 12, 2010.

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Toronto Star, March 5, 1915.

Trusting the judgment of her faithful nurse, the morose, near-suicidal patient took the tipple of Wincarnis. And another. And another. She wasn’t sure if the promised “new life” ran through her veins, but at least she was temporarily distracted from the other pressures of this mortal coil.

Wincarnis derived its name from its mixture of wine and meat byproducts. It was a snappier branding than the one it bore when introduced in Great Britain in 1887: Liebig’s Extract of Meat and Malt Wine. The current manufacturer continues to tout the medicinal qualities of the herbs and vitamins mixed into Wincarnis, even if it is officially marketed as an aperitif instead of a cure-all. We’ve also read that it tastes great mixed with Guinness and milk.

Golden Girls Galore

Originally published on Torontoist on April 27, 2010.

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Toronto Sun, August 29, 1983.

Thirty years after this ad teased Toronto Sun readers, the phrase “golden girls” may not conjure up a night in a peeler joint, unless you’re a fan fiction writer willing to place the sitcom characters in such a setting (though given Betty White’s willingness to do anything lately, it might not be that great a stretch to imagine her in pasties and a g-string).

Besides overemphasizing the hair colour and lusty potential of the dancers, we wonder if club management had a soft spot for a classic Bob Dylan album. Would the non-blonde (unless the newsprint is lying) Viki Page have titillated her audience to the strains of “I Want You” or “Just Like a Woman”? Would the urging to get stoned in “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” combined with the lack of accessories on the dancers have caused club clientele to drop all discretion?

Later nightclub incarnations at the same address include Uberhaus, Tila Tequila, and Moda Night Life.

A Cure for Oilcers

Originally published on Torontoist on June 1, 2010.

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New Liberty, March 1948.

Today’s ad is for readers who are puzzled whenever bags appear under the headlights of their vehicle that aren’t caused by scratches bestowed by other drivers exiting a tight parking space or provided by a bird in an artistic mood. Fret not: oilcers can be cured (however, that puddle of stomach battery acid on the ground might be a different story…).

For readers unable to decipher the good doctor’s prescription underneath the remedial box, our certified medical professional recommends that the patient should have “one complete set of Perfect Circle Custom Made Piston Rings—to be taken before the next meal. This to be followed by plenty of road work.”
Disclaimers: Only use Perfect Circle as recommended. Do not use if car develops fever, froths at the mouth, or responds to the name “Christine.”

Free to Go

Originally published on Torontoist on July 13, 2010.

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Maclean’s, March 2, 1987.

Yes, this businesswoman is free to go…into the afterlife, that is. The glowing lights and yellow arches welcome her to whatever awaits after she shuffles off this mortal coil (though it looks like it will resemble a 1980s ad designer’s dream). She should have taken it as a warning sign when the pressure of balancing so many communications gadgets sitting atop her head, day after day, caused her face to assume a grape juice–like complexion. Poor Robert will receive neither a reply about the breaking developments with the coffee supply contract, nor will he receive the page she was preparing when her brain caved in.

National Pagette was acquired by Shaw Communications in 1995. At the time, it was described as Canada’s largest provider of telephone answering services and sixth-largest paging company.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Canned Food Will Change Your Tune

Originally published on Torontoist on May 4, 2010.

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Chatelaine, February 1945.

HE: Scientific cooking or not, I want food now! By the way, dear, were you suggesting that the food I’ve raved about all these years was not made from scratch by your lovely hands?
SHE: Umm…er…yes…but think of all the metal I’ve donated to the neighbourhood scrap drive! Besides, every time I make something from scratch, you complain it takes too long and that “something tastes off tonight!”
HE: You’ve got a point. Now be fox-quick and fix me some beans!
SHE: Keep your loincloth on, Tarzan, or else next time you can cook for yourself…if you can figure out how to open a can. Now that would change your tune!
US: Canned foods may not be able to solve marital discord, but we guarantee the arguments will end once you taste the freshness inside!

Eager readers may have taken advantage of the wonders of canned foods if they followed the daily menu suggestions for February found on the next page. Several of the suggested bills of fare specifically listed canned fruits as an item to liven up a meal, though never on Tuesdays (no reason given). If the charts were followed to the letter, a wartime homemaker could carefully plan their rations and never worry about what to feed the family.

Curious about what Chatelaine’s typical daily suggestions were? Here’s the recommended menu for Tuesday, February 13, 1945:

BREAKFAST: grapefruit juice, grilled smoked fish, brown toast, coffee, tea
LUNCHEON: barley broth, potato and parsley salad, egg garnish, strawberry jelly whip, wafers, tea, cocoa
DINNER: rolled lamb shoulder, browned potatoes, creamed celery, fig shortcake, lemon sauce, coffee, tea

A Wartime Letter

Originally published on Torontoist on November 11, 2008.

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One activity that today’s remembrances of those fallen in war might prompt is a look through boxes in attics and archives for letters sent home by those on the front lines. As demonstrated in a series currently running in The Globe and Mail, these letters provide a snapshot of what it was like to be caught up in conflicts far from Canada. In these documents, the joy at receiving small pleasures of life from home stand out, whether it’s a shipment of candy bars or a newspaper clipping announcing a friend’s wedding.

Here is one of those letters, sent by a Toronto fighter pilot (my great-uncle) to his family during the early years of World War II.

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Douglas Morrison Waldon, known as “Morrey” to friends and family, was born in Deer Park in 1914, one of five children of a TTC conductor. After graduating from the Toronto Normal School, Waldon worked for Royal Trust for five years before his dreams of flying led him to sign up with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. After several months of training at Uplands near Ottawa, Waldon was sent over to England in February 1941 and served as part of No. 403 Squadron.

Waldon composed a steady stream of letters, including this one for his older sister Helen (my grandmother). Military censorship prevented any descriptions of his flying activities, but the letter is rich in details about items sent from home and hijinks that made life bearable. There is a strong sense of how he misses everyone at home, especially when he writes about the family garden back in Deer Park.

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Dear Helen, Lorne & all the family,

The weather here has been quite bad for the past few days, so we had a rest from flying. It is now 3:30 P.M. and I am sitting in our Flight Dispersal Hut as I write this letter. I had hoped by this time to have some pictures to send to you, but I have had only one roll developed as yet. However, I hope to have some ready for my next letter. The mailman was very good to me this past week and I received 4 letters from Phil, two from Dad and one from Jack [younger brother]; and last but not least an elegant parcel from Hartley [older brother]…In case the rest of you don’t know what was in the parcel Hart sent me, I will tell you. 20 packages of Wrigley’s gum, 25 chocolate bars, a case of Planter’s Peanuts, two films for my camera, razor blades, toothpaste, toothbrush, two pads of this writing paper and a lovely pair of socks which I think were Lot’s handiwork [Hartley’s wife]. Opening that parcel was almost as good as Christmas and I was certainly very, very grateful for it. The chocolate bars lasted for one afternoon and evening and were enjoyed by all. My roommate and I [and] a Scotch lad we call “Haggis” finished the peanuts and a box of marshmallows the same evening. As a result of my indiscretion and not controlling my fingers, I am sporting 3 lovely cold-sores, which would make Bea [older sister] very unhappy if she could see them.

I am glad that you reminded me about my Air Force Pin which I had quite forgotten, It is on my greenish shirt in the clothes closet of what was your room at home. I am not sure but I think that is on the trousers above the watch-pocket. It is also possible that it is on my sports coat. You are very welcome to it.

From all reports, the garden at home must be really something to see this year [and] I would like very much to be sun-bathing there right now. There are lots of delphiniums around here which remind me of home. We have several large beds of beautiful roses around our mess here and we have fresh roses on the mess dinner table each day. They certainly help to make the dining room pleasant, along with the W.A.A.F. waitresses. I was pleased to hear that the front yard has been freshly sodded & if it gets lots of water it should make a great improvement.
I don’t think you need to worry about me over-drinking but I do like to join the boys occasionally on a pub-crawl as often times there is nothing else to do. However, I am not a confirmed drunkard or anything like that.
Your good wishes for promotions for me are appreciated Dad, but from now on they are very slow [and] rather hard to get.

Last Wednesday, I was invited out for dinner and an evening of tennis, both of which were very enjoyable. As a result of meeting a very nice girl that evening I was invited to a super party on Friday night. The evening started with a cocktail party and then we went on to the home of a Lady Somebodyorother for dinner and it was the best dinner I have had since coming to England, bar none. After dinner we went to a lovely country club where there was dancing and supper until 12:30. The dance was a real good one and there was an outdoor swimming pool for those that became overheated. I got to bed around 1:45 and so I had to get up again at 4:30 that morning. I was very tired. I had also volunteered to do late readiness for one of the boys going on leave last night, so the inclement weather pleased me very much. The girl I was with is the daughter of a banker in a nearby town. She is tall, dark, devastating and very, very interesting. Perhaps she will want my picture. Woo! Woo! Dogpatch style [a reference to the popular comic strip L’il Abner].
My R.A.F. life has been much the same as in previous weeks so there is nothing new to report there. It is hard to believe that I have been away from home for five months and I must say that time is going very, very quickly.
It is time to say good-bye now. Best regards to all the family and lots of love.
Morrey

P.S. Thanks again for the parcel.

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This proved to be one of the last letters Waldon sent. Three days after his father received a note indicating that all was well, the family was informed that he had gone missing while piloting a Spitfire fighter over France on August 9. Cables from the International Red Cross over the next month indicated that he was a prisoner in a German hospital. In mid-September, the family was informed that Waldon had died of injuries soon after he was shot down over Gravelines.

When interviewed by The Toronto Star, his father noted that “it was a great disappointment to us. Douglas was a strong and healthy boy and after five weeks passed we had high hopes for his safe recovery.” Waldon was buried in the British Commonwealth section of the Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir cemetery. Back in Toronto, a service was held at Christ Church in Deer Park soon after his death was announced. He was one of six fallen parishioners remembered at the church’s Remembrance ceremony that November.

Additional material from the August 11, 1941 and September 13, 1941 editions of the Toronto Star and the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Douglas Morrison Waldon Air Force Portrait and Death Notice

The material I used for this story comes from a box which belonged to my paternal grandmother. It contains photos and newspaper clippings stretching from the 1920s through my first regular media gig, a monthly highlight column for my elementary school written for the Amherstburg Echo when I was in grade 8. Much of the material is World War II vintage and revolves around my great-uncle Morrey.

Pilot Officer from Toronto Listed Missing

This is the notice that appeared in the Toronto Star on August 11, 1941, when Morrey was reported missing. A similar story appeared the same day in the Telegram. The loss was devastating to the family. His name lived on among several nephews, including my father, who was given Douglas as a middle name when he was born the following year.

"They Died For Freedom's Sake"

The Telegram, November 11, 1942.

Morrey was one of 26 airmen honoured by the city in a Remembrance Day ceremony the year after he died.

Official Opening of Mountain View RCAF Station

Globe and Mail, July 21, 1941.

While he was overseas, it appears the family journeyed east to attend the opening of an RCAF station in Prince Edward County. My grandmother is getting a crash course in how to operate a plane in the middle picture.

Vintage Toronto Ads Goes to War

Plucky Boys Need Their Smokes

Originally published on Torontoist on June 16, 2009.

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The News, May 6, 1915.

Given the attitudes, health concerns, and advertising restrictions regarding tobacco products, Toronto newspaper readers won’t be seeing appeals to send smokes to Canada’s overseas forces in their morning read anytime soon—a general appeal for morale boosting/easy to barter items would be more likely.

The soldier depicted in this ad was created by cartoonist Bert Thomas for a similar campaign across the Atlantic for the Weekly Dispatch newspaper in November 1914. The image of a Cockney “Tommy” telling Kaiser Wilhelm II that he needs a smoke break helped raise approximately ₤250,000 in donations from the British public. “Arf a mo’ Kaiser!” became a catchphrase whose use appears to have lasted in the U.K. through World War II, when it underwent a slight alteration to reflect that conflict’s German leadership.

Cows Have War Jobs Too

Originally published on Torontoist on September 15, 2009.

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Acme Farmers Dairy billboard, circa 1942-44. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Item 6611.

During World War II many Torontonians worked towards victory and, as this billboard testifies, cows were not excluded from doing their part to tackle Hitler and Tojo. The regional bovine population contributed to the war effort by providing food-solid goodness for the home front. Officials of local dairies soon discovered that the helmets they issued refused to stay on any cow’s head (straps were at a premium), so they were utilized as feed buckets or souvenirs for children touring their facilities.

Located on Walmer Road south of Casa Loma, the Acme Farmers Dairy site is currently occupied by the Castle Hill townhomes.

Wartime Target for Tonight

Originally published on Torontoist on November 10, 2009.

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Mayfair, March 1944.

A dazzling view of the Toronto skyline welcomed visiting flyers like this Royal Canadian Air Force pilot throughout World War II. The glimmer of city lights, the Royal York Hotel, and other pre-war skyscrapers as he approached Port George VI Airfield (as the island airport was officially named upon opening in 1939) was a far more welcoming sight than enemy fire.

A year after opening for service, the island airport was pressed into wartime use as a training facility. Pilots from Norway used the site from fall 1940 through winter 1943, which led to the establishment of “Little Norway” across the channel. After the Norwegians departed for expanded facilities in Muskoka, the RCAF used the airport for the duration of hostilities.

Around the time today’s ad appeared on the newsstand, one flyer leaving the airport almost made Sunnyside their target. On February 13, 1944, RCAF Flying Officer John R. Talkington required a rescue after he was forced to land one hundred yards from shore inside the seawall near Windermere Avenue. Talkington was piloting a training plane destined for Selfridge Field near Detroit when trouble struck. The Toronto Star picks up the story:

“The engine quit,” said Flying Officer Talkington, describing his experience afterward, “So I just let her down in the water.” The young pilot, a native of California, sat on the cockpit hood, his feet dangling in the water, until [he was] taken off. The rescue was made within twenty-two minutes of the time the mishap occurred…Talkington resumed his flight an hour later in another plane. Life-savers rushed to Humber station in a car, obtained a punt and paddled out to make the rescue.

Once the peace O’Keefe hoped for arrived, the airport was restored to civilian use and likely employed some of the clear-eyed men destined to work in the post-war aviation industry.

Additional material from the February 14, 1944 editions of the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Watermelon and the Boy

Originally published on Torontoist on March 16, 2010.

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Time, October 27, 1947.

In the battle against racial discrimination, 1947 was a year of turning points. The major story across the continent was Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrierthat had existed in major league baseball since the 1880s. Locally, municipal officials spurred by the continued bigotry displayed by an ice skating rink developed an anti-discriminatory licensing policy for entertainment establishments, while students at the Central High School of Commerce (now Central Commerce Collegiate Institute) elected a black student as school president. Despite these events, and several anti-racist editorials in city newspapers, Toronto’s black community still found many venues unwelcoming and derogatory stereotypes easy to find.

Having read many Toronto Star articles from 1947 that decry the negative treatment blacks received, that somebody thought the illustration above was a good way to sell newspapers seems like a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.

After scrolling through back issues, the Globe and Mail appears to have displayed the most progressive viewpoint among Toronto’s daily newspapers that year in its coverage of racism and discrimination, thanks to a series of strong editorials and columnists like sportswriter Jim Coleman who risked legal action when speaking out against offenders. The Star comes in next, with its positive intentions sidetracked by the ad above and for being the only local paper to make Robinson sound as if he spoke pidgin English (the caption above a picture of Robinson looking at his son read, “And Mistah Rickey, well, he jes’ don’ say nuthin’”). The Telegram reported these kinds of stories, on those occasions when it did, with little flair and no additional commentary.

Additional material from the March 19, 1947 and October 6, 1947 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Poise That Lysol Gives

Originally published on Torontoist on February 16, 2010.

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National Home Monthly, May 1935.

While it may seem laughable now, for much of the twentieth century Lysol was marketed as a solution for feminine problems as often as for its all-purpose cleaning properties. Genteel women had no patience for normal feminine odours, vaginal infections, and other bodily functions not discussed in polite society. Through carefully coded language, Lysol offered itself as a solution that preserved one’s grace and dignity, using chemicals a body shouldn’t come in contact with internally. The reference to “organic matter” in ad number one is likely code for contraception, as openly advertising birth-control methods was a no-no.

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New Liberty, October 1948.

Ad number two was directed at married women who worried that their non-dainty attributes caused their husbands to sleep on the couch. One dose of Lysol and her “romance appeal” and “married happiness” would return in a jiffy! Besides, how could she not trust the recommendation of a distinguished-looking medical professional? Answer: she shouldn’t, as an investigation by the American Medical Association revealed that the “European” doctors often quoted in Lysol ads were fakes.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Voice from the Bee Hive

Originally published on Torontoist on September 29, 2009.

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The Telegram, December 2, 1948.

We can picture it now—a giant, disembodied head floating in the locker room of Maple Leaf Gardens, hovering near his microphone as he interviews battle-scarred hockey players preparing to dazzle the rest of the country with their skills over the airwaves on Saturday night. Interviewees were too focused on the game ahead to notice the lack of a body…

Sportscaster Wes McKnight (1909–1968) began his association with CFRB in 1928. Four years later, a chat with Charlie Conacher of the Leafs launched his long-running Bee Hive–sponsored Saturday night hockey interview series. Players received twenty-five dollars for appearing on the show, which aired before Hockey Night in Canada (CFRB simulcast the radio version, where McKnight appeared on the Hot Stove League show during intermissions, with CBC for many years). Besides hockey, McKnight also provided play-by-play for Toronto Argonauts matches and golf tournaments and offered a daily sports commentary. He wound down his radio career in the early 1960s as an executive at CFRB, retiring two years before his death.

As for McKnight’s sponsor, the St. Lawrence Starch Company produced Bee Hive corn syrup and other corn-based products in Port Credit for a century. For a couple of generations of hockey fans, the company was best known for the free player photos it offered as a mail-in promotion from 1934 to 1967. The offer was wildly successful, as up to twenty-five hundred requests a day passed through the company’s headquarters. Photos shot in Toronto were mostly taken by the Turofsky brothers.

Money proved to be the nail in the coffin for Bee Hive photos—teams were paid little for photo rights, while players were compensated, at least in the 1940s, with a six-pack of corn syrup at the start of the season. As a letter sent out to disappointed customers in 1967 noted:

It is not without some regret that we take this step, having over the years supplied millions of these pictures to hockey fans across Canada, but steadily rising costs have brought us to the point of no return. Fees for picture rights demanded by the N.H.L. clubs have gone out of all reason; clerical wages and salaries are much higher, cost of producing the pictures themselves and the envelopes has increased and, finally, postage has increased by 25%.

Production ceased at the Port Credit plant in 1990. The site at Hurontario Street and Lakeshore Road is currently home to mixed developments, though the St. Lawrence name lingers via a street and a park.