Vintage Toronto Ads: Better Copies Now!

Originally published on Torontoist on June 22, 2010.


Time, November 14, 1969.

Protest sign makers should be busy this week thanks to the event many Torontonians wish was anywhere, ANYWHERE, else. While most of the signs will be crafted with great care or spontaneous inspiration by human hands, there may be the odd slogan slapped onto a sapling (because we all know how protesters love using innocent, young trees) that was created with a high-quality photocopier. The right to use such machinery to promote political and social causes was earned by a dedicated group of angry financial district secretaries during what has gone down in history as the Great Copymaker March of 1969.

Disgruntled officer workers blocked traffic as they walked northbound along Bay Street from King, en route to City Hall on October 16, 1969. Though no deaths or serious injuries occurred during the main rally at Nathan Phillips Square, it was reported that one puzzled observer was hauled away when he interpreted one protester’s sign as a coded plea for LSD, which he tried to offer to an undercover police officer. Targeted offices gave in to the demands of the protesters and soon office staffs all over Metro Toronto were free to print documents on 11″ x 17″ sheets. Copier producer Apeco held a celebration at their office near Islington Avenue and The Queensway, during which the photo for today’s ad was shot.


Some perspective on this ad submitted by “Don ITW”, who worked in the copier industry:

I actually worked on Apeco Rollo Matics. With over 30 years working on copiers they where the absolute worst machine I ever worked on. Last time I saw one was in about 1981. The Apeco office was located on Aimco Blvd in Mississauga, the building was purchased by Savin ( became part of Ricoh) the rollomatics went in the dumpster.

They where always blue I never new until I saw this ad that optional colours where available. Funny the colour of the dumpsters was also blue! The building on Aimco was very flashy (sexy) slanted glass front it is consistent with the image in this ad.



Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 3

Listerine Kills Germs and Body Odour

Originally published on Torontoist on July 21, 2009.


Maclean’s, July 15, 1923.

If Listerine can freshen your breath and kill bacteria in the mouth, why can’t it do the same to the rest of your body? It’s safe!

Deodorants and antiperspirants were still in their early stages of evolution when Listerine made today’s pitch—the first commercial underarm deodorant, Mum, had arrived on the market in 1888, with the first antiperspirant, Everdry, following fifteen years later. After you read descriptions of the composition and application of early antiperspirants, Listerine’s claims begin to make sense. Early products were wet, clammy, aqueous alcoholic solutions of aluminum chloride that were poured onto a cotton ball before being dabbed on the body, a technique that Listerine’s model appears well acquainted with. Drying was a slow, sticky process that, once you got past the skin irritations and damaged clothing, reduced one’s stink.

Is That Landmark Sealed with Polysulfide?

Originally published on Torontoist on August 4, 2009.


Canadian Architect, January 1985.

These three local towers were…

While searching for information regarding Morton Thiokol and polysulfides that didn’t involve deep scientific analysis of the chemical composition of the sealant used in these Toronto landmarks, we ran into an interesting tidbit from the current manufacturer: the sealant should have a “twenty-year service life under normal conditions.”

Makes you want to watch your head while passing by any of these structures, doesn’t it?

Why You Shouldn’t Steal a White Glove Girl

Originally published on Torontoist on September 1, 2009.


Time, February 10, 1967.

Translation: the “temporary” relationship clause in a White Glove Girl’s contract refers to the amount of time she has remaining on this mortal plane. Until then, we’re happy to shuffle temps around from employer to employer, keeping our White Glove Girls under lock and key until the next call comes in. Sometimes we’ll let them out of the dunge…asset pool for a few minutes to take care of their “happy homemaker” duties. Anyone thinking of stealing one of our assets should be aware that we’ve spent years working on glove-tracing technology—we’ll know when you’ve stolen our assets!

A Toast to Good Hydro Services

Originally published on Torontoist on December 8, 2009.


(Left) The Globe, November 1, 1929, (right) Toronto Star, November 19, 1936.

We’re not sure which of the images conjured up by today’s ads is more disturbing. Is it the trio of factory workers depicted in a manner usually reserved for nursery rhyme characters or World War I casualties? Or is it the deified toaster (whose cost, if translated into modern money, would start at around $228) trained to act with the utmost style and refinement for a classy late-dinner gathering?

Both ads are fine examples of the large quantity of newspaper advertising the Toronto Hydro Electric System bought during the 1920s and 1930s. Besides trained toasters, the utility’s retail arm offered customers technological marvels for the home such as electric ranges.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ice Cold Cornelius

Originally published on Torontoist on October 27, 2009.


Canadian Hotel Review & Restaurant, August 1964.

We’d like to offer a toast to the unheralded service industry workers who served up fine fountain drinks back in the 1960s. Whether it was a bow-tied bartender who knew the perfect mixed drink to suit his or her customer’s needs or a bow-tied teenager asking if you’d like a Coke with your burger and fries, these professionals required the finest of beverage-dispensing equipment to quench the thirst of bowlers, brides, and boozers.

Machines like the President and the similar Diplomat provided a space-saving option for bar areas with little room for a full-size machine. Judging from the number we’ve seen still in operation at banquet and Legion halls over the years, many of these machines have been durable enough to continue serving soft drinks with a retro flair.

As for Cornelius Manufacturing‘s Toronto facilities, the company appears to have operated out of at least two sites in Etobicoke. Besides the location mentioned in this ad, 385 Carlingview Drive was its home during the 1970s and 1980s. The most significant mention of the company that we found in any local newspaper was a listing of sites housing cold, refreshing PCBs published by the Toronto Star in 1985. The Carlingview site was recently available for any company looking to satisfy its thirst for space.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Telegram Cares About Your Kids

Originally published on Torontoist on October 20, 2009.


The Telegram, February 1, 1969.

And what are your kids doing tonight, besides hanging out in a dimly lit club?
The Telegram’s main venue for listening was the “After Four” insert, which resembled a polished version of a high school newspaper. Articles were a mix of reports by students and younger Tely staffers like future Toronto Star stalwart Peter Goddard. We checked out the edition printed after today’s ad appeared. Among the stories we found in the February 6, 1969 issue were: a profile of a Forest Hill Collegiate history teacher with an impressive collection of Confederate weaponry; a request from entertainment columnist Bill Gray to Michael Caine to stop making so many movies (The Italian Job was almost ready to hit theatres); a two-page spread on police recruits (most painful lesson for rookie cops? You’ll lose many of your old friends); and a roundup of formals, musicals, and United Nations model assembly action from the halls of private and public academia.

We know what at least one kid might have been doing at night. Students sat on the section’s editorial board and wrote opinion pieces that showed touches of the melodramatic writing teens are known for, such as Andree Ryckman’s editorial about teachers learning their craft:

Student teachers are not only an imposition, they are a sell-out. Each year, senior students endure nine weeks of these stuttering, bungling, inept “teachers.” These nine weeks are in most cases a complete waste of time. Topics covered by these agents of torture are never learned, never really understood. Re-discussion of this material by the regular teacher is the only way to remedy this situation but of course, the result is boredom. Our teachers sacrifice our interest and perhaps even our chances to understand a concept. After nine weeks of agony even our sanity is threatened…Indeed, something can, and must be done to stop what is an exploitation of high school students.

We wonder how many readers found themselves within the position of the bunglers a few years down the line.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Easy-Going, Manly Ales

Originally published on Torontoist on October 13, 2009.


Liberty, May 1960.

Based on these ad campaigns for two of Labatt’s top-selling brews in 1960, we surmise that 50 was targeted to men who indulged in a healthy round of log rolling/jumping or other potentially fatal tomfoolery while downing a few stubbies, while IPA was intended for the alpha male who wanted no distractions, apart from watching his favourite sport, while indulging in his favourite beverage.

India Pale Ale was one of the company’s oldest brands, having won awards in North American brewing competitions as far back as 1876. Labatt 50 arrived on the scene in 1950 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the corporate stewardship of John S. and Hugh Labatt. The brew was Labatt’s best-seller until Blue overtook it in the late 1970s. Though it never regained the sales crown, 50 later developed a reputation as a cheap brew for hipsters to knock back.

What better place for happy young Toronto drinkers to sing the praises of their favourite beer in 1971 than the recently opened Ontario Place?

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 2

Be Free As a Bird For a Fiver

Originally published on Torontoist on March 3, 2009.


Toronto Life, July 1968.

Last week, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority announced that it would end a $1.5 million subsidy to Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport. This move has prompted Toronto Airways, who has operated the airport since the early 1960s, to consider reducing hours or closing the site entirely after more than forty years of offering Torontonians a chance to fly.

Labelling the airport’s location as along the Don Valley Parkway was premature, as the freeway ended at Sheppard Avenue when this ad appeared. The first full segment of what is now Highway 404 (Sheppard to Steeles) would not be completed until 1977 and would not reach Buttonville for several more years.

Phoning It In from Lake Shore Boulevard

Originally published on Torontoist on March 17, 2009.


Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 4, Number 11, 1980.

Because modern technology should never allow anyone the opportunity to be totally removed from the office…will a disastrous business transaction cause our phone-wielding businessman too much anxiety to enjoy a ball game?

Laugh at the exclusive features if you want, but elements like easy-to-read LED displays were bonuses to adapters of this early form of mobile phone. At least this user hasn’t caused an accident during the eastbound crawl on Lake Shore Boulevard…yet.
Preferring not to place his call on the Gardiner Expressway, this user’s drive takes him past landmarks that are still around (the footbridge from Exhibition Place to Ontario Place) and those lone gone (Exhibition Stadium).

Beat the Spring Rush to the Bicycle Shop

Originally published on Torontoist on March 24, 2009.


Toronto World, February 17, 1900.

Now that spring is officially upon us, thousands of bicycles are emerging from winter storage and returning to our pothole-riddled streets. It’s a busy time for repair shops around the city, as riders bring their bicycles in for a tune-up. Cyclists in 1900 appear to have faced the same backlog in waiting to get their vehicles back as riders do during current peak tune-up periods. We’re not sure how many customers took advantage of E.C. Hill’s early-bird special, but we hope that their skill at installing a fresh pair of tires was better than their skill at spelling.

Fiat Freeways

Originally published on Torontoist on April 28, 2009.


Sports Illustrated, June 20, 1960.

Fiat has been in the news headlines regularly lately, thanks to its proposed alliance with ailing automaker Chrysler. Half a century ago, the Italian auto giant tried to woo buyers in North America with compact cars like the Fiat 1100 in an age when bigger was better for domestic manufacturers and consumers.

The expressways that fill out Fiat’s name could have easily been the flurry of highways and speedy road extensions built around Metro Toronto during the preceding decade. The company’s Canadian office at Bloor and Jarvis streets, the site of which now houses Rogers, might have had a good view of the Mount Pleasant Road extension that opened in 1950. Major portions of what are now the Gardiner Expressway, and Highways 400401, and 427 were opened to traffic between 1952 and 1958, while construction of the first segment of the Don Valley Parkway was well underway by the time this ad appeared.

Tales from the Tivoli Theatre

Vintage Toronto Ads: An All-Talking Night at the Movies

Originally published on Torontoist on April 21, 2009.


Toronto Star, September 21, 1929 (left) and August 31, 1929 (right).

For Toronto moviegoers, 1929 saw major changes at many of the city’s theatres, which were busy wiring up competing sound systems as silent films gave way to the talkies. The first all-talkie film to debut in Toronto made its appearance on December 28, 1928, when a crowd gathered at the Tivoli at Richmond and Victoria streets to see a midnight screening of The Terror, a thriller presented with the sound-on-disc Vitaphone system.

By the end of summer silents were quickly on the way out, as the major studios built soundstages and converted films already in progress to talkies. The movies in today’s ads were among the early wave of sound films to hit the city. Madame X was a venerable weepie that has been filmed at least ten times since 1910. This ad captures the anguish displayed in this version by star Ruth Chatterton, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress. She lost, as did director Lionel Barrymore.

For lighter fare, one could have headed to the Uptown to catch the Marx Brothers in a musical based on one of their Broadway hits, The Cocoanuts. The plot found Groucho managing a Florida hotel during the height of the 1920s land boom, with intermittent production numbers. His character’s name, Mr. Hammer, doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Rufus T. Firefly.

Terror at the Tivoli

Originally published as a Historicist column on Torontoist on May 16, 2009.


Toronto Star, December 28, 1928 (left), January 5, 1929 (right).

Dateline: Toronto, December 28, 1928, the corner of Richmond and Victoria streets. Over a thousand people gathered at the Tivoli theatre to attend a midnight screening of the first all-talking feature to play in TorontoThe Terror. The crowd was treated to a tale of an organ-tinkling homicidal maniac preying upon guests at an English hotel, with sound provided via the Vitaphone system of giant record-like discs synchronized with the film.

The “What Press Agents Say About Coming Events” section of the following day’s Toronto Star gushed about the film:

In this sensational production not one single title appears on the screen, but every character in the play speaks every word of his and her part. This weird and wonderful picture is the most astonishing mystery play ever produced…you will be absolutely thrilled to the depths by this stirring and amazing story. But The Terror is not without comedy and one is forced to laugh between every gasp at the humorous and comical incidents.

Critics, especially those across the Atlantic, weren’t as enthusiastic. The New York Times noted that reviewers in London felt the film was “so bad that it is almost suicidal. They claim that it is monotonous, slow, dragging, fatiguing and boring.” Other reviewers felt that star May McAvoy’s voice was so squeaky that it could be classified as a sound effect.

The novelty of sound drew crowds to The Terror until it wrapped up its run at the Tivoli on January 18, 1929. The next film promoted on the theatre’s marquee was another May McAvoy flick that made movie history two years earlier: The Jazz Singer. While one can watch Al Jolson sing “Toot Toot Tootsie” on DVD, little apart from the sound disc is known to exist of The Terror.


Tivoli Theatre, possibly mid-1960s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124. ID 0148.

Originally called the Allen, the theatre served as the premiere venue for its namesake chain in the city, whose other venues included what is now the Music Hall on Danforth Avenue. The theatre was purchased by Famous Players in 1923 and officially reopened as the Tivoli that November. The stadium-style theatre boasted a wide, bright screen and an orchestra led by Luigi Romanelli. Prestige pictures were the favoured fare, for which audiences had to book their seats in advance. Its wide stage allowed it to run 70mm Todd-AO films in the 1950s. The curtains were drawn for the last time in late 1964—as demolition neared the following summer, the marquee displayed one final, grammatically dubious message: “Teperman’s Tearers Strikes Again.”

Additional material from the July 28, 1965 edition of the Globe and Mail, the November 18, 1928 edition of the New York Times, and the December 29, 1928 edition of the Toronto Star.


This is a strong contender for being one of the shortest Historicists ever, suggesting that I was scrambling for content that week. Don’t expect this one to ever appear in any future print compilation. This piece demonstrates how the column was still evolving a few months into its run – frankly, it’s indistinguishable from later Vintage Toronto Ads columns.