Vintage Toronto Ads: Metro Morning

Since 1973, Torontonians have woken up to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. Here’s a sampling of Vintage Toronto Ads posts related to the show and its personalities.

Morning People

Originally published on Torontoist on September 16, 2008.

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Toronto Life, February 1978.

Kudos to the designer of today’s featured ad, which successfully imitates the look and feel of one of the most successful new magazine launches of the 1970s to promote a longtime Toronto wake-up call, CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Time Inc.’s attempt to package a personality-driven magazine with better research than existing scandal-focused publications resulted in People turning a profit within 18 months of its March 1974 debut. Managing editor Richard B. Stolley felt that the factors behind its success included an increased willingness by celebrities and the public to talk about themselves during the “Me Decade” and the fact that other American magazines “had gotten away from the personality story; they’d become more issue-oriented…We’d do issues, of course, but through personalities.”

This focus on personalities made the magazine’s cover design appropriate for CBC to borrow in a series of ads highlighting on-air talent throughout 1978. David Schatzky was the third host of Metro Morning since its debut in 1973, following Bruce Rogers and Harry Brown. After his 1976–79 run in the host’s chair, Schatzky continued to work for CBC and later became a psychotherapist.

Additional material from Magazines That Make History by Norberto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva (Barcelona: editorialsol90, 2004)

Barrie B.C. (Before CBC)

Originally published on Torontoist on February 2, 2010.

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Toronto Star, October 3, 1988.

On yesterday’s edition of Metro Morning, host Andy Barrie announced his retirement from waking up Torontonians for fifteen years. Since arriving in Toronto from Montreal in the late 1970s, his style has drawn praise from listeners of public and private stations for his ability to put a human face on issues and complaints about being in love with the sound of his own voice. Barrie’s tenure at CBC marks the second half of his Toronto radio career—today’s ads look back at his bearded years on-air at private broadcasters.

Barrie was first heard over Toronto’s airwaves in 1977, when he joined CFRB. Within a year he had his own one-hour evening show, making him one of the youngest hosts on the respectable-yet-greying station. In a 1980 interview with the Star following his coverage of the assassination of John Lennon, Barrie indicated that he didn’t feel “that [he was] a younger token at the station, but in some ways it’s a little lonely and strange. On the other hand, though, it’s quite exciting.”

But perhaps there were some discomforts being the “new guy,” as he departed CFRB to become the morning man (and one of the oldest on-air personalities) at CJCL in early 1981. Barrie was part of a station revamp by 1430 AM owners Telemedia, who had just purchased the former CKFH from station founder Foster Hewitt. Barrie faced a challenge at the former country music station, as its previous morning show had drawn barely more than a thousand daily listeners. “When you’ve got no listeners,” Barrie told the Star, “you’re in the same situation as the Japanese when they first tried to crack the North American car market.” He felt the station could start from scratch and focus its efforts on Toronto, as opposed to CFRB’s concentration on Southern Ontario (“Toronto, after all, is where it’s happening now”). CJCL’s mix of news, talk, and adult contemporary music didn’t set the ratings on fire and Barrie wasn’t replaced when he departed the station in 1983.

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Toronto Star, October 12, 1979.

By 1986, Barrie was back at CFRB hosting a late-morning call-in show that took advantage of emerging communications technology. Each morning, the station notified fifteen Ryerson students what the day’s discussion topic would be, then set them loose on the streets of Toronto with “cordless cellular phones similar to walkie-talkies” to solicit responses that were mixed in with regular calls to the studio. Barrie felt this approach allowed people who normally didn’t listen to CFRB to take part in the discussion.

Barrie was in the early phases of renegotiating his contract with CFRB in 1995 when CBC offered up Metro Morning. He saw this as an opportunity to solidify his ties to Canada. “My wife just said to me yesterday that joining the CBC is a nice thing to do with my citizenship,” he joked to the Globe and Mail. “I think when you’re an immigrant to this country working at the CBC feels like a second arrival. I think the CBC is an astonishing organization and I’m glad to be part of it.” It was also a fresh opportunity: Barrie compared the possibility of staying at CFRB, where many of its personalities had long runs, to being “like the prom queen never being asked out because everyone thinks she has a date.” Newspaper reports indicated that many CFRB staffers were upset at the departures of Barrie, Jane Hawtin (who went to 640 AM), and Brian Linehan (who left when management wanted to go with a harder-edged approach to entertainment reporting). Station president Gary Slaight was philosophical about the departures, noting Barrie and Hawtin received offers they couldn’t refuse. Reading between the lines of an interview with the Star, one suspects that Slaight wasn’t unhappy that two personalities perceived to have leftish biases were gone as CFRB remade itself into a younger, further-right voice than it had been.

Barrie’s first year at Metro Morning was a rocky adjustment for some listeners, as CBC phone lines received complaints that the new host had too musical a voice, pontificated too much, and was generally too exuberant. Barrie took in listener reactions (he was said to be the first host to drop in on focus group sessions), settled in, and led the show’s climb toward the top of the morning ratings.

Additional material from the July 25, 1995, and June 29, 1996, editions of the Globe and Mail, and the December 12, 1980, May 16, 1981, August 31, 1986, July 25, 1995, and July 29, 1995, editions of the Toronto Star.

Good News from Jim Curran

Originally published on Torontoist on March 27, 2012.

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Toronto Star, June 1, 1970.

This week marks the end of an era for loyal CBC Radio listeners because, after 40 years of traffic reporting, Jim Curran will provide his last update for Toronto commuters on Friday. Part of the Metro Morning team since the show debuted in April 1973 as Tomorrow is Here (the name changed a year later) and a fixture on the afternoon drive show for just as long, Curran has provided a parade of hosts with the latest on the city’s gridlock. We suspect that his soothing, easygoing style has likely prevented a road rage incident or two. Online reaction to his retirement announcement last month was so widespread that Curran became a trending topic on Twitter.

Before he joined CBC in 1972, Curran studied radio and TV journalism at Ryerson. During his undergrad career, he was part of CFRB’s “Good News” program for budding journalists, which we covered in a previous column. His fellow upbeat reporters included longtime instructors at Centennial College and Concordia University, and a future serial investor.

Our research also uncovered a Globe and Mail profile from 1974 that focused on Curran’s passion for antique clocks. At the time, he had assembled a collection of 25 timepieces over three years. His advice to novices was to read up on the history of Canadian clock manufacturing to avoid fakes on the market. He admitted being ripped off once: “I bought what I thought was an antique bit of Canadiana but when I got it home and took the dial off, I found it stamped Made in Japan.”

Additional information from the April 2, 1974 edition of the Globe and Mail.

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Saluting Saturday Night at the Movies (and Magic Shadows) with Elwy Yost

Part One: Saturday Afternoon with the Tow Truck

Originally published on Torontoist on January 2, 2008.

Vintage Ad #439: Saturday Afternoon with the Tow Truck

Toronto Life, December 1985.

Nobody likes to be stranded during the holiday season due to car trouble. Whether it’s a dead battery, unexpected snowfall, or executing a 180-degree spin into the ditch alongside the 401 on the way back to the city, inclement weather and Murphy’s Law often combine to make this a busy time of the year for auto clubs like CAA. Even beloved weekend movie hosts occasionally require their assistance.

Before gaining fame as a movie host, Weston native Elwy Yost’s occupations included stage actor, high school English teacher, employee in the personnel department of A.V. Roe during the Avro Arrow controversy, and television quiz show panelist. Yost’s first film show was Passport to Adventure, a mid-1960s CBC series in which features were presented in a serialized format alongside interviews with performers. When Yost began his film-hosting duties for TVOntario in the 1970s, he utilized the serial format for Magic Shadows on weeknights, while a rich archive of interviews with filmmakers and critics provided the context for the feature presentations on Saturday Night at the Movies. The bubbling enthusiasm he displayed for films during his 25-year run on TVOntario helped inspire a generation of film geeks. For his final broadcast in 1999, Yost screened Speed, written by one of those he inspired, his son Graham.

While waiting for his vehicle to be pulled out of the snow, one wonders if Elwy and the driver discussed movies with well-framed towing sequences.

Part Two: Curtains Fall on Saturday Night at the Movies

Originally published on Torontoist on November 13, 2012.

When the phrase “plan that looks to future” sits atop a press release, it’s often code for cutbacks or reallocation of resources. So it is with a missive released today by TVO, which buries the axe amid plans to direct reduced provincial funding into digital children’s and current affairs programming. Not until paragraph six does the bombshell hit: Saturday Night at the Movies (SNAM), currently the longest running movie program on television, will soon load its final reel.

According to TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde, “When Saturday Night at the Movies began almost 40 years ago, it broke new ground but now entire TV networks and web services are dedicated to movies.” While this may be true, those other services lack the extensive archive of interviews TVO has built up since SNAM debuted in March 1974. Those other services offer studio-produced puff pieces and PR junket quality featurettes on movies, but they don’t reach into the mechanics of filmmaking as SNAM’s conversations do. Since the late 1990s, the series has been included in York University’s film curriculum.

Beyond fulfilling TVO’s mandate as an educational broadcaster SNAM, especially during Elwy Yost’s quarter-century run as host, turned a generation of viewers into film connoisseurs. As Torontoist’s Christopher Bird noted in his obituary for Yost last year, “He was the friendliest man on television who wasn’t Mister Rogers, because he had the best job ever: he got paid to talk about movies, and movies deserved better than cynicism and snark to someone like Elwy Yost.” His manner and the show’s excellent programming choices helped the series become the network’s highest-rated series.

To a child growing up in a pre-cable household during the 1980s, SNAM was a gateway to classic movies that weren’t regularly shown on television. Under Yost’s warm guidance, it was a place to discover films that they only knew through stills in picture books, to understand who Groucho Marx was beyond the inspiration for gag glasses, spot Alfred Hitchcock’s cameos, and crack the mystery of “Rosebud.”

Besides SNAM, TVO also announced that it is ending Allan Gregg in Conversationafter 18 years. While Big Ideas is being cancelled as an ongoing series, the network indicates the lectures will reappear as an occasional segment of The Agenda with Steve Paikin. The total cuts announced today will save TVO $2 million and axe up to 40 jobs. But amid the carefully vetted talk about fiscal realities and leveraging efficiencies, a little magic has been lost.

Part Three: More Than Turning On a Projector

Originally published on Torontoist on November 20, 2012.

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Globe and Mail, November 5, 1975.

Last week, we reported that TVOntario is cancelling Saturday Night at the Movies after almost 40 years on the air. Today’s ad from the show’s early days sums up the things that made it a hit: an enthusiastic host, smart programming choices, and the use of the medium as “a springboard for discussion, ideas, feelings and—education.”

Saturday Night at the Movies was prominently featured in the network’s “TVOntario opens eyes” print advertising campaign during the mid-1970s. Today’s ad gives a feel for the range of films the series was showing at that time: Hitchcock thrillers, swashbuckling adventures, and Cold War–paranoia sci-fi.

Sharing space in this ad is host Elwy Yost’s weeknight gig, Magic Shadows. To fit the half-hour slot, movies were split up, serial style, and curated by Yost in a less formal manner than the Saturday-night feature bills. The show featured an imaginative—if slightly frightening to children—animated opening sequence.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Here’s a sense of what Magic Shadows was like, via a series of intros from its presentation of The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

TVO’s online archive includes several episodes of Talking Film, which thematically compiled Yost’s interviews (and was another series I ate up as a kid).

Combined, all of Yost’s TVO film shows, combined with the guidance of my father and devouring many library books, helped me develop an appreciation for cinema that remains today. The few times I watched the series after Yost’s retirement, it always felt like something was missing. I think it was his sense of infectious enthusiasm, mixed with a deep appreciation for film history, that made the package work.