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: Terminal Time

Originally published on Torontoist on June 8, 2010.

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Financial Post 500, June 1982.

The pitch Olympia & York used to entice businesses and residents into the still-under-construction Queen’s Quay Terminal seemed to work. As the spring of 1983 approached, nearly all of the retail space was leased and the seventy-two luxury condos were selling quickly despite being among the most expensive boxes in the sky in the country (up to $520,000 per unit).

When the Terminal Warehouse Building was constructed in 1926, it was the first large poured-concrete structure in Canada. The site was used for regular and cold storage of merchandise under a variety of owners who allowed the structure to decay over the next half-century. By the time architect Eberhard Zeidler was commissioned to revamp the building for Harbourfront, rot had set into both the concrete and the roof. “If the warehouse hadn’t been so grossly over-constructed in the first place,” Zeidler told the Star, “if it hadn’t been so damn muscular, it would have sagged to its knees years ago.”

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Globe and Mail, June 18, 1983.

Comments about the building were generally positive in the newspapers. The Globe and Mail’s “By Design” column found fault only with the size of the condos relative to their cost. Critic Adele Freedman was most impressed with the way the southeast corner of the façade was cut open to expose the interior and provide a great view of the harbour. She praised how the site was reused instead of being knocked down to make way for the atriums in vogue at the time (Atrium on Bay was the comparison point). “It demonstrates that the true heritage of public architecture in Canada resides in its indigenous agricultural and industrial buildings,” she noted, “which can survive adaptation and change. Of how many new public buildings in Toronto will that be true 53 years from now?”

The first major preview for the public on March 21, 1983 had a few hiccups. The plan called for the tower’s clock to start ticking as soon as spring officially arrived in England. Guests watched as 4:39 p.m. rolled around…and nothing happened. Mother Nature decided to bestow the event with the worst snowstorm the city had seen that year, which resulted in the layers of ice that froze the clock’s hands. An hour passed before workers cleaned off the clock enough for it to operate. The clock did not cause any problems when opening ceremonies were held in June.

The ad listing day one’s festivities left one Globe and Mail reader fuming. Given his complaint, we wonder if Harvey H. Bowman of Islington wasn’t using his real name when he let loose his bile:

Why do so many advertising promotion pictures featuring the violin show the instrument in the hands of a person who has obviously never played a note in his life, certainly not a note that deserves to be heard? The Queen’s Quay Terminal advertising supplement…showed a picture of a violin lying across a score, with the bow underneath the instrument. Symphony and concert violinists pay large amounts of money for their bows, and would never treat them that way. It’s just not done.

Additional material from the June 25, 1983 and July 8, 1983 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the March 22, 1983 and June 22, 1983 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Just What Blue Jays Fans Ordered

Originally published on Torontoist on April 13, 2010.

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

Thanks to your friendly neighbourhood Dominion store, budding Blue Jays fans in 1980 could extend their love of their favourite baseball team to the culinary items usually associated with the sport. If the kids couldn’t make it to Exhibition Stadium, they could pretend they were at the ballpark merrily munching on hot dogs and chips while watching or listening to a game. Proud parents might find this a great opportunity to take a picture of their junior Jays, though the kids could lose patience after being forced to hold a bag of popcorn for fifteen minutes.

The 1980 home opener was scheduled for April 14, but heavy rain, high winds, and bone-chilling temperatures led to its cancellation. Fans were used to lousy weather to start the season—as spectator Lorne Leboeuf told the Star, “I’ve been down to all four of these opening days and I come expecting the worst. Today I got it. Even before they called it, though, I knew I just wasn’t going to be able to get ‘into’ the game. The weather sure knocks the enthusiasm out of you.”

Two days later, despite windy, one-degree weather, the Jays strode onto the field and clobbered the Milwaukee Brewers 11–2. Just over twelve thousand fans saw Dave Stieb pitch a complete game where he struck out five Brewers and gave up only six hits. Third baseman Roy Howell started the scoring with a two-run homer, then turned two double plays with new second baseman Damaso Garcia. The playing conditions were an adjustment to Garcia, who had been acquired in off-season from the Yankees: “that was the coldest weather I’ve ever played in.”

The Jays hovered around the .500 mark until June then stumbled for the rest of the season. Though they finished in the American League East basement for the fourth season in a row, 1980 marked the first time the team lost fewer than one hundred games as they finished with a 67–95 record.

Additional material from the April 10, 1980 and April 17, 1980 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 3

Listerine Kills Germs and Body Odour

Originally published on Torontoist on July 21, 2009.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

Days of Carltons Past

Originally published on Torontoist on November 25, 2009.

When the house lights come up for the last time at the Carlton Cinemas on December 6, it won’t the first time Toronto moviegoers will witness the closing of a theatre by that name. One version was a neighbourhood venue, the other a grand palace. Guess which one of those two is still standing?

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“The gang’s all here. The Frantics comedy show on CBC radio enjoys a cult following of nutty fans and 375 of them showed up for the taping of the one hundreth show at CBC studios on Parliament St. last night. Funny costumes were de rigueur; of course. Particularly on Grey Cup day.” Photo by Dick Darrell, 1984. Toronto Public Library, Toronto Star Photo Archive, tspa_0048344f.

The first theatre to bear the Carlton name welcomed audiences to 509 Parliament Street in Cabbagetown between 1930 and 1954. After the projectionists were sent packing, the building was used as a CBC production facility, primarily for radio. Since the Mother Corp’s departure to Front Street, the building has served as a dance space and currently houses 509 Dance and the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre.

While the first Carlton was geared to its neighbourhood, the second theatre to bear the name was designed as a showcase for British cinema giant Odeon’s post-war entry into the Canadian market. The chain spent two years and two-and-a-half million dollars constructing the Odeon Toronto (as it was originally known) at 20 Carlton Street, with the resulting product outlined by John Lindsay in his book Palaces of the Night: Canada’s Grand Theatres:

In the auditorium, hundreds of hidden lights constantly changed colours on the smooth plastered walls. This frequently changing light and colour was accomplished through a patented lighting panel called a “Thyratron, painting with life.” The enormous two and a half ton contour (sculpted) curtain rose slowly, it various motors lifting each swag to a predetermined height. The curtain also changed colour to match the changing colour of the walls of the big auditorium. The smooth line of the balcony swept around in a great gentle curve flaring out at the side walls to accommodate large aisles. The auditorium held 2,300 richly upholstered seats, although it was spacious enough for 3,000 or more, and every inch of the floor was broadloomed. The woodwork was light blonde and the mural on the grand staircase was in pastel tones depicting the theme of picture making. The trim was stainless steel with huge areas of mirror and other glass. The Odeon Toronto’s marquee with its huge vertical sign was the biggest Toronto had ever seen before or since.

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Globe and Mail, January 7, 1949.

“Toronto had a North American movie premiere last night fit to make the most premiere-hardened citizen of glamorous Hollywood lift his eyebrows,” gushed the Globe and Mail when the Odeon opened on September 9, 1948. “It was what they call a ‘brilliant premiere,’ noted the Star. “That is to say, a lot of people gathered in the lobby to exchange small talk.” British actors Trevor Howard and Patricia Roc provided the star power, with the latter joking that the theatre was “really too good for Canada. We have nothing as grand in London, and if you don’t want it—well, we’ll just take it home with us.” Howard played upon his mother’s Canadian roots, noting that when Odeon offered to invite his local relatives to the opening, sixty-two responded. After a few words from assorted dignitaries on stage, the curtain drew back and the audience saw the Canadian premiere of David Lean’s version of Oliver Twist.

As the Odeon chain spread throughout Toronto, it ceased making sense to refer to this theatre simply as the Odeon, so its name was officially changed to the Odeon Carlton in 1956. Business continued to be brisk for the next decade—several accounts from around the time it closed referred to a successful run of Thunderball during the winter of 1966 that saw a steady stream of sold-out crowds during the seven daily opportunities to see 007 in action. The theatre also proved to be the last movie house in Toronto to regularly entertain the audience with live organ music from the “magnificent console” its ads touted.

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Odeon Carlton, summer 1972. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 2, Item 158.

By the early 1970s, the theatre’s size worked against it. Average weeknight crowds of two hundred and fifty patrons were not enough to pay the bills, so the site was sold to a developer. Burt Reynolds was the last star to grace the Carlton’s screen when White Lightning entertained the closing night crowd on September 27, 1973. When organist Colin Corbett played a farewell number, audience members rushed to the stage to ask for more. The credit roll was aborted and Corbett resumed playing tunes like “Auld Lang Syne.”

The imminent threat of demolition provoked a last minute rush of ideas on preserving the theatre. Alderman Art Eggleton spearheaded an unsuccessful attempt by city council to apply a heritage designation to stave off the wrecking ball, while the Canadian Opera Company proposed to convert the Carlton into an opera house/ballet venue. While opera officials had starry-eyed visions of the possibilities that the site offered (mostly because it wasn’t the O’Keefe Centre), National Ballet of Canada Artistic Director Celia Franca had a clearheaded view of the situation. She felt the rush to look at the Carlton was an emotional one based on the circumstances and that nobody had investigated the site too deeply. Despite a few protests and notions among city councillors to expropriate the property, demolition began in late November. The seats were passed around to other Odeon cinemas and a theatre chain in Vancouver, while the organ was shipped to Queens University and installed at Jock Harty Arena.

Cinemaphiles would have to wait until 1981 for films to show again at 20 Carlton, although the address was now applied to a new building slightly east of the original.

Additional material from Palaces of the Night: Canada’s Grand Theatres by John Lindsay (Toronto: Lynx Images, 1999) and the following newspapers: the September 10, 1948, October 6, 1973, and November 24, 1973 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the September 10, 1948, and November 23, 1973 editions of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE

The Carlton’s closure was shortlived, as it reopened under new management in June 2010. As of November 2017, it’s still in business. The Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre currently occupies 509 Parliament.

BEHIND THE SCENES

If you compare this version of the post to the original, you may notice some changes. Some are subtle, like moving around images. One isn’t: replacing the original lead image, which was a contemporary shot of 509 Parliament with an archival photo. By this time, I was starting to use Torontoist’s great pool of photographers for images where appropriate. There may be some cases in upcoming posts where I’ll reach out to the photographers to ask permission to use their shots, otherwise you should expect substitutions of images I took or relevant archival material.

IFOA I: 1980

preOriginally published on Torontoist on October 26, 2009.

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The lineup for the first edition of the festival, along with other events at Harbourfront. Toronto Star, October 16, 1980.

Twelve thousand dollars. That’s the budget the organizers of the first edition of the International Festival of Authors (or Harbourfront International Authors’ Festival, as it was called then) had to work with in 1980 to showcase twenty-two writers of varying infamy. Capacity crowds throughout the six-day event proved to organizers and potential sponsors that Toronto could support a literary festival.

Such an event had been on Greg Gatenby’s mind ever since he was hired by Harbourfront in 1975 to run its literary program. Descended from poetry nights run by the Bohemian Embassy coffeehouse, Harbourfront’s program had focused on local talent, partly due to a lack of stable funding to bring in writers from elsewhere. Under Gatenby’s guidance, the weekly reading series evolved to include a mix of established poets and anyone who stepped up to the microphone. “Sometimes,” noted the Globe and Mail in a 1978 profile of Gatenby, “the readings are ludicrous, sometimes the poetry is the best you could hear, and sometimes they’re boring.” Successful appearances by British poet George MacBeth in spring 1978 and American writers John Cheever and John Irving over the next year convinced Gatenby to attempt a full-blown festival.

His goals were outlined years later by Sandra Martin in a Toronto Life profile:

Let Canadians experience the wonder and virtuosity of writers from abroad in comparison with the best of our own authors and thereby learn to appreciate excellence whatever its source; and invite the best foreign writers here for a week so they can hear their Canadian counterparts read, commune with them in relaxed conversations over lunches and dinners, explore the city, and then go back home and spread the word.

Gatenby wanted the festival to be a venue for authors to engage with their readers and with broader societal issues. As he told the Globe and Mail on the eve of the first festival, he was “against the self-serving retirement of Canadian writers. Writers have always articulated intellectual revolt in Latin America and Europe. Of course, a retiring person like Alice Munro can’t be expected to become a barricades fighter but it’s odd that so many Canadian writers are not political.”

Media access to several authors proved tricky. The festival got lucky when Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz won the Nobel Prize for literature two weeks before his appearance. Wishing to maintain a low profile, Milosz refused to talk to reporters. British poet/critic Stephen Spender caused a ruckus when he demanded three hundred dollars from anyone wishing to interview him. As festival publicist Debbie Westphal told the Star’s Sid Adilman, “He’s an old man and he’s been on the scene for a long time and feels he’s virtually talked out. Charging for interviews is his way of making a living.” Only CBC Radio shelled out.

Spender was far more willing to engage with the audience, as he signed over three hundred copies of his works. Among those books were fifteen titles brought to the venue in a plastic bag by Toronto “poet cop” Hans Jewinski. While Spender had no qualms about signing Jewinski’s stack, fellow poet Daryl Hine did. Adilman reported that “Hine sternly told Jewinski he ‘couldn’t possibly sign any books from someone who carried them in a plastic shopping bag.’” Perhaps it was fitting that Spender received a standing ovation, while Hine did not.

With capacity crowds of up to four hundred and fifty attendees per night, the success of the inaugural festival made it easier for Gatenby to organize the second edition. The budget for 1981 was over six times greater than that of 1980, thanks to increased government funding and corporate sponsorships. Planning extended into the future—upon learning that Pope John Paul II was scheduled to visit Canada in 1982, Gatenby contacted the Vatican to see if the pontiff would be interested in reading his published poetry. While the Pope was flattered, officials wrote back to say that the planned itinerary wouldn’t allow time for such a stop, but that John Paul II “prayed for the munificence of God’s blessing on Gatenby’s soul.”

Additional material from the March 1, 1978, October 18, 1980, and October 17, 1981 editions of the Globe and Mail; the February 1998 issue of Toronto Life; and the October 21, 1980 and October 24, 1980 editions of the Toronto Star.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Around the time this piece was published on the main site, Torontoist launched a companion site devoted to Toronto’s literary scene, which had several names during its year-long existence: Torontoist Books, Books@Torontoist, and The Excerpt. From what I recall, this piece caused the book site some grief, as IFOA, which was marking its 30th edition, was upset that too much credit was given to Gatenby for shaping the festival. It’s interesting to note just how brief the festival’s about us page is in 2017 – I wonder if they wanted to avoid old battles. I countered back that this was what the contemporary press reported at the time. I suspect there was plenty of bad blood stemming from splits that affected the festival earlier in the decade.

Unfortunately I no longer have the email chain to show what unfolded, but my lingering memories are that the Torontoist book site editor was unhappy (given the page was covering IFOA at the time and the festival expressed its displeasure to them) and I decided not to pitch that side of the operation from then on.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Thrifty Jays

Originally published on Torontoist on October 6, 2009.

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1980 Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine.

While Blue Jays fans may bemoan the disappointments of the past season, at least this year’s squad didn’t stink as badly as their predecessors thirty years ago. The 1979 edition of the bluebirds was the worst in team history, with a record of fifty-three wins and one-hundred-and-nine losses. Chances were good that the shirt modelled by outfielder Rick Bosetti could have performed better on the field than most of that year’s lineup.

As Stephen Brunt noted in his history of the Blue Jays, Diamond Dreams, Bosetti was “a player blessed with more charisma and chutzpah than talent. But on a very bad team that was more than enough to make him stand out. It was Bosetti who became the first Blue Jay to publish a book under his name [Rick Bosetti’s Baseball Book, a guide on how to watch the game], which in retrospect seems like an act of colossal hubris.” Bosetti played every game of the 1979 season and had a career year, knocking in eight home runs and sixty-five RBIs to go with his .260 batting average.

Among Bosetti’s flakier habits was his desire to water the grounds of all of the natural grass fields in major league baseball…the natural way. As he told a reporter in 1979, “I’ve gotten all the American League parks. That’s why I want inter-league play. To water that beautiful grass in Wrigley Field would be a dream come true.” An outline of Bosetti’s watering technique was later provided in The Baseball Hall of Shame 2:

Bosetti claimed that he wet the grass without a hose only in pre-game warm-ups when there were no fans in the park. But it was an open secret around the league that he did it during games while pitching changes were being made. He wanted to prove that he could take a leak before thousands of fans and not be noticed. He accomplished this feat by turning to the outfield wall and putting his glove in front of his waist.

Bosetti stayed with the Blue Jays through 1981 and retired a year later after a stint with the Oakland Athletics. He later served as the mayor of Redding, California, where we hope he didn’t take a deep personal involvement in the city’s groundskeeping budget.

Additional material from Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt (Toronto: Penguin, 1996) and The Baseball Hall of Shame 2 by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo (New York: Pocket Books, 1986).