832 Bay Street

This installment of my “Ghost City” column for The Grid was originally published on October 9, 2012.

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Bay Street, looking south from Grosvenor Street, April 24, 1930. Photo by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 7582. 

From a distance, the recently completed Burano condominium tower appears to be the latest high-rise residential space along Bay Street. At street level, its ties to the past are more apparent through a nearly 90-year old façade whose angles parallel the jog along Bay north of Grenville Street. Residents will soon be moving into a site whose base offered sales and service for generations of General Motors customers.

Designed by Hamilton-based firm Hutton and Souter, the building housed General Motors of Canada president Sam McLaughlin’s personal dealership when it opened in 1925. When his brother George retired from GM the previous year, McLaughlin vowed “to ease off” after two decades in the automobile business. While running the dealership suggested a gradual move to retirement, McLaughlin occupied both active and figurehead roles with GM until his death in 1972 at age 100. His philanthropic efforts included the nearby McLaughlin Planetarium, which had a meteoric existence compared to the dealership.

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Globe and Mail, November 29, 1951.

During the 1930s, the lot tinkered with its name as often as new models were placed in the showroom. The McLaughlin nameplate disappeared around 1931, when the dealership became Cadillac’s “direct factory branch.” Pontiac was added to the lineup in the mid-1930s. By 1940, it was operated by Beattie Cadillac Chevrolet Oldsmobile, who touted its three lots around the city as “Canada’s largest General Motors dealer.”

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Toronto Star, July 20, 1955.

On July 20, 1955, a full-page newspaper ad announced that former City Buick president J. Harry Addison was taking over 832 Bay. To reassure customers, the ad stressed that “an experienced sales staff is always ready to assist you in every way possible, and skilled mechanics, with modern equipment and a complete line of parts, offer speedy, efficient 24-hour service.” Addison had a long relationship with GM, stretching back to selling fridges from its Frigidaire unit during the 1930s. Perhaps the automaker thought Addison’s luck at the racetrack would help sales—his stable of champion horses included Arise, the first Canadian winner of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, New York.

The 1960s were eventful for Addison and his dealership, then known as Addison on Bay. A strike by the Teamsters in 1963 affected both the Bay lot and a separate dealership owned by his son John, who also served as a Liberal MP in suburban Toronto. The strike delayed the pickup of a seven-seat Cadillac limo by Toronto mayor Donald Summerville, who had traded in a 1960 Lincoln. In addition to providing official vehicles, Addison was active in municipal affairs as a member of the Toronto Harbour Commission, where he served two separate terms as chairman.

Recognizing its historical value as one of the few car showrooms to survive from the early 20th century, the site received a heritage designation in 1999. The following year, the dealership’s real-estate arms bought the property from its landlord, the provincial government. The sale raised eyebrows when Addison Properties received exclusive buying rights for 832 Bay and a site across the street; a government spokesperson attributed the terms to Addison’s long-term tenancy. The sale price was reportedly a third of the site’s market value.

In March 2007, Addison on Bay announced its closure. In a letter to customers, president Clarke Addison indicated that “this decision was a difficult one and one that was ultimately based on economic factors, including the increasing cost of maintaining a central downtown location.” The site became Burano, a condominium to be built by Lanterra Developments and designed by architect Peter Clewes, the same team behind the rhyming Murano tower erected on the land Addison had purchased across the street. We’ll have to wait for the parking spots to be occupied to see what percentage of Burano residents own GM vehicles.

Sources: the July 20, 1955, May 27, 1963, August 4, 1985, and March 2, 2007 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

McLaughlin Buick Canada

McLaughlin Buick, circa 1929-1930. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Series 1230, Item 3922.

globe 32-03-12 cadillac ad

The Globe, March 12, 1932.

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Toronto Star, May 27, 1963.

832 Bay Street (McLaughlin Motor Car Showroom)

City of Toronto Archives, Series 253, File 97, Item 2.

832 Bay Street (McLaughlin Motor Car Showroom)

City of Toronto Archives, Series 253, File 97, Item 6.

The interior of the Addison showroom, at some point before 1999. If anyone’s an expert at which vehicles are shown here, let me know in the comments.

832 Bay Street (McLaughlin Motor Car Showroom)

City of Toronto Archives, Series 253, File 97, Item 8.

A Look at Toronto’s Cycling Heyday

Originally published as a gallery post on Torontoist on May 27, 2013 to mark the beginning of that year’s Toronto Bike Month. As of this posting, 2020’s edition has been postponed until September due to COVID-19.

A cyclist during the height of the bicycle craze of the 1890s would have scoffed at the notion of a Toronto Bike Month. At the time, no special observance was necessary. Everybody was picking up two-wheeled vehicles in models designed for comfort, fashion, and style. They were speedier than a horse carriage, roomier than a crammed streetcar, and offered independent mobility. Outside of the winter months, bicycles were poised to rule the city’s streets for years to come.

The introduction of equal-sized wheels and inflatable rubber tires during the late 1880s produced safer bicycles, sparking a boom in sales. At the height of the fad, trendy riding clothes were available, spectators lined streets and tracks to watch competitive races, and relationships were cemented on leisurely rides. Yet within a few years of the 20th century’s arrival, the bike’s popularity began to fade as the next big thing began to take over: the automobile.

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Mail and Empire, February 9, 1895.

A sampling of top-end models offered by one of the city’s largest bicycle retailers. A second ad in the same newspaper noted that “our Mr. Hyslop has given up all his other business connections with the intention of pushing the bicycle trade to its utmost extent…If energy, push, and live business ideas count for anything, we shall have it.”

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The Globe, April 4, 1901.

Department stores sold their own lines of bicycles. In this ad, Eaton’s explains why they could sell a bike for far less than the average $50-$150 range. Given Eaton’s legendary generosity in terms in accepting returns with few questions asked, we imagine a few wheels made their way back to the store when riders needed an upgrade.

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The Globe, April 18, 1898.

It’s a fact: stopping for a rest by the roadside while out for a ride will immediately turn your clothing to tatters and cause stubble to sprout from your face!

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The Globe, April 2, 1887.

Shockingly, the paper was not swamped with letters from angry bicycle repairmen for being portrayed as greedy businessmen preying on cyclists who chose their vehicles poorly.

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The Empire, January 21, 1895.

During this era, competitive cycling was used as a sales pitch. L.D. Robertson, T.B. McCarthy, and R. Hensel were the top three finishers during the inaugural edition of the Dunlop Trophy Race on September 29, 1894. Participants rode a 20 mile course which included several loops of Woodbine Racetrack (then located at Queen and Woodbine), a journey out and back along Kingston Road, and a final loop of the horse track. The Globe observed that while Woodbine was is in good shape, Kingston Road was “pretty dusty and rutty.” It was also observed that race officials were too cheap to publicize the competition, resulting in only 1,000 spectators at Woodbine. The race moved to Ottawa in 1926, a year which proved to be its final ride.

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The Globe, April 1, 1897.

Teach a few lessons, promote cycling as a competitive sport, and hope the lure of an “academy” sells a few more Cleveland brand cycles. Brilliant marketing, n’est pas?

471 Church Street was the venerable Granite Club’s second location, having moved there from St. Mary Street in 1880. The site hosted athletic and social activities for the local upper crust until the mid-1920s.

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The Globe, April 8, 1908.

Have fun working through the logic of this ad. Would a transit pass plan be the modern equivalent of the hold-up man taking away your hard-earned cash?

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The Globe, April 14, 1897.

The bike courier market was well catered to.

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Mail and Empire, May 3, 1898.

Agricultural machinery giant Massey-Harris was among the manufacturers who jumped into the bicycle business. Instead of using country farmers to sell their bikes, M-H presented images of urbane gentlemen of all ages and sizes.

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The Globe, April 30, 1897.

Bicycle advertising wasn’t immune from the depiction of Victorian women as delicate flowers.

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Mail and Empire, April 2, 1898.

Since 1898, all bicycle repairs have been made bare-handed, without the assistance of tools.

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Mail and Empire, May 7, 1898.

We’ll test you on your Red Bird part knowledge later on.

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Mail and Empire, May 14, 1898.

Bicycles offer a less claustrophobic (unless caught in a tight squeeze with other vehicles), more independent alternative to crowded streetcars. Downside: you can’t read the latest catalogue while riding your bike.

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Mail and Empire, May 21, 1898.

This man is laughing at the fools herding onto the streetcar. Or least we think he’s laughing—hard to tell beneath the beard, not to mention the fine Victorian skill of repressing external displays of emotion.

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The News, April 2, 1903.

Unlike the Pullman railway car, the Hygienic Cushion Frame did include space for sleeping, or a porter to tend to any belongings you brought on your ride.

By this point Massey-Harris’s bicycle division had merged with several other manufacturers to create the Canada Cycle and Motor Company (CCM). The new company settled in Weston prior to World War I, establishing the town as the region’s bicycle production hub.

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The News, April 2, 1898.

It might not be Daisy giving her answer do on a bicycle built for two, but perhaps this is how couples too clumsy to balance a tandem rode together.

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Toronto Star, June 4, 1898.

A ride wasn’t complete with a fine new bicycle suit.

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Mail and Empire, May 25, 1895.

Modern Tweed Ride participants may want to seek antique Rigby suits in case of rain.

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The World, May 20, 1895

Next time you have a tummy ache, hop on your bicycle!

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The World, February 17, 1900.

Then as now, there was a stampede for repairs and tune-ups before spring cycling season.

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The News, May 10, 1902.

A sign of things to come—Hyslop began selling a motorized contraption called an “Olds Mobile.” Bicycle companies soon fought for ad space with car manufacturers, a battle the two-wheeled vehicles eventually lost.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 10

Pour Me a Psycho-Physical Driving Test

Originally published on Torontoist on March 30, 2010.

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New Liberty, March 1948.

For at least a year, Labatt’s ran a series of public service announcements in New Liberty magazine that touted their touring psycho-physical driving test units, whose stops included the Canadian National Exhibition. While the ads showed how drivers learned how to better gauge appropriate spaces to pass and find out if their night vision was up to snuff, nowhere is it mentioned that one should indulge in a few rounds of Labatt’s main business interest before hitting the road.

By the late 1940s, professionals were beginning to realize that getting behind the wheel while drunk was dangerous. Nearly a year before today’s ad appeared, the Telegram ran an editorial after St. Andrew MPP J.B. Salsberg criticized the suspension of a truck driver’s licence due to an impaired driving charge as a hardship for the driver’s family (the government indicated it had no intention of making any exception to the existing licence suspension laws):

In view of the serious menace to public safety which the drunken driver presents there can be little support for any proposal to loosen the operation of the law in this respect. Nor is it desirable, whatever the hardship involved, that variations in the application of the law should be permitted. Leniency in one case would open the door to pressure for leniency in other cases. It is in the public interest that all drivers should realize what such infractions of the law entail and that they should understand that if they offend in this way there is no escape from the penalty provided.

Locomotive engineers, it is understood, are not permitted to drink while on duty. It is quite as imperative that truck and automobile drivers, who do not travel on a private right of way, should avoid intoxicants before or during driving. It cannot be repeated too often that alcohol and gasoline is a bad mixture.

Additional material from the April 7, 1947 edition of the Telegram.

Upstairs, Downstairs

Originally published on Torontoist on October 16, 2012.

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Maclean’s, September 9, 1961.

These scenes from a stereotypical early-1960s middle-class home look serene, but dangers worthy of a television drama are in full view. Unlike the family in that famous Upstairs, Downstairs TV series, this household doesn’t have to worry about relationships between hired help and the gentility. Instead, they should fear for the potential disasters that could befall the children.

Upstairs, while baby can’t crawl up the wall to tear at the beautiful new thermostat and discover if mercury pleases his palate, his parents could be watching what he does with his teddy bear, instead of discussing the contents of their favourite evening paper. Nobody wants to witness an accidental choking. Downstairs, while Junior is in little danger from the blasts of his shiny cap guns, he could accidentally bang his head into the heater’s manifold valve or oil burner if he gets too carried away with his game of cowboys and Indians.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Original Blue Jays Advertisers

Originally published as a gallery post on Torontoist on March 25, 2015.

“One of the most pleasant tasks for me as we are entering the 1977 baseball season,” wrote commissioner Bowie Kuhn in his introductory letter to Blue Jays fans, “ is to welcome all of you to the Major League Baseball family. Major League Baseball is exceedingly proud to include Toronto, one of the great cities of the world, within its ranks.”

Great way to stroke the egos of Torontonians aching to be seen as residents of a world-class city, eh?

Accompanying Kuhn’s letter in the inaugural Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazinewas one from American League President Lee MacPhail:

Now the youthful Blue Jays are off and flying on their own and it will be an exciting experience watching the development of this team. Your outstanding ownership and management will be working constantly toward building the contending baseball team that all Blue Jay fans will be proud of. Enjoy this first season of Major League Baseball at CNE Stadium. It will be fun. And the years ahead will be increasingly enjoyable.

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CBC sent 26 people to cover the Blue Jays’ inaugural spring training in Dunedin, Florida. The network’s plans included an hour-long special to introduce the team, along with feature segments on The National and 90 Minutes Live. To mark its 25th anniversary that fall CBLT rebranded itself as “CBC Toronto,” a move which the Globe and Mail declared was “an admission of defeat in a campaign that’s gone on for years, to give CBLT an identity as a Toronto local station, not just a network outlet.”

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Around 100 members of the Toronto media attended spring training, including CFRB’s trio of sports reporters. Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield didn’t mind the distraction. “I’d much rather have it this way,” he told the Globe and Mail, “then the other way with no reporters at all.”

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CKFH, whose primary format in 1977 was country music, served as the Blue Jays’ original flagship radio station. Sixteen other stations, including one in Buffalo, signed on to carry games. Calling the games was a Hall of Fame duo: Tom Cheek on play-by-play and Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn on colour. Before joining the Jays, Cheek spent three seasons as an alternate radio announcer for the Montreal Expos. Wynn lasted through 1980, and was replaced the following year by Jerry Howarth. Apart from a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s when CHUM held the rights, CFKH and its successor CJCL (Fan 590) has remained the team’s radio home.

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Pizza Pizza’s signature phone number still wasn’t in place a decade after its original location at Parliament and Wellesley opened in 1967. Before becoming ubiquitous, Pizza Pizza earned praise for its pies. In a taste test of eight pizzerias conducted by the Star in June 1971, Pizza Pizza came in second: “Pizza Pizza raises its standing with style. The pie arrives in a box that’s zippered into an insulated black bag. The deliveryman uncased it with words like ‘Here is your delicious Pizza Pizza. Enjoy it in good health.’ Their motto, ‘When you think of pizza, think of pizza twice,’ is also catchy. It is expensive with “the works”—a dollar more than any of the others. It was also the largest by several inches and easily the best-looking entrant.”

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George’s Spaghetti House was a fixture of the Toronto jazz scene for decades. Founded by Doug Cole in 1956, its booker was multi-instrumentalist Moe Koffman. Bourbon Street was a sister club which operated during the 1970s and 1980s. Playing at George’s this week in 1977 was trumpeter Sam Noto. Worn out from playing assembly line style gigs in Las Vegas during the first half of the 1970s, Noto relocated his family to Toronto. “Not only does he rank it as the jazz centre of North America,” Frank Rasky wrote in the Star, “but it’s the city that has enabled him to double his income, so that he now earns $44,000 a year. So it’s little wonder that his jazz creations sound so jubilant.”

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With its proximity to Exhibition Stadium, Ontario Place may have seemed like an excellent spot for families to prepare for the game ahead or unwind after the final out.

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Foster Pontiac Buick was among the local car dealers who advertised in the debut scorebook. One of the earliest dealerships to establish itself in postwar Scarborough, Foster switched its affiliation from General Motors to Kia around 2009. After over 60 years at Sheppard and Warden, the dealership moved to Markham Road in 2015.

We’d also like to note the recent passing of outfielder Gary Woods, who was part of the Blue Jays’ opening day lineup on April 7, 1977. Woods talked to the Star about the first season several years later:

I remember the snow on the field and I remember Doug Ault [who hit the franchise’s first home run just before Woods stepped up to the plate] and I remember the excitement in the city. I was a young ballplayer very excited to be part of a building experience. It was a really neat feeling. But of course we played like an expansion team and I played like a guy who wasn’t quite ready for the major leagues.

All images taken from Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine Volume 1, Number 17 (1977). Additional material from the March 21, 1977 and September 15, 1977 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the June 5, 1971, April 2, 1977, and October 8, 1985 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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A full ad for Ontario Place, which notes there were 10 restaurants to choose from. No mention of little Grozki.

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The “internationally famous” seafood platter from Fishermans Wharf was a staple of Toronto tourism magazines for decades. What visitor couldn’t resist a massive plate of overpriced crustaceans and other delights from the deep garnished with a lemon wedge?

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Globe and Mail, December 23, 1972.

When Fishermans Wharf opened in late 1972, it was featured in Mary Walpole’s advertorial dining column in the Globe and Mail. I’m curious to find out (whenever time’s available) to see if Walpole’s claim is true that the restaurant hired the city’s first female maitre d’.

gm 1973-02-24 mary walpole on fisherman's wharf

Globe and Mail, February 24, 1973.

Walpole regularly featured Fishermans Wharf in her column during its early years. Over the course of its early months, she updated readers on the construction of the restaurant’s oyster bar and touted its luxury liner qualities.

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Globe and Mail, December 17, 1977.

The only newspaper ad I found for Fishermans Wharf from 1977, spotlighting its New Years celebration. There’s that platter again!

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Globe and Mail, January 7, 1978.

At this time, Walpole continued to tout its ship-like qualities, but fails to mention the maitre d’ or chef Niki – perhaps both had set sail by this point.

A callout on social media didn’t produce any recollections from anyone who might have eaten there. The restaurant survived into the 21st century, ending its days on the south end of Church Street.

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Star Week, June 5, 1971.

The Star‘s random pizza test that placed Pizza Pizza in second place. Its current incarnation is one of the last things that I would enjoy in good health. Besides Pizza Pizza, Vesusvio’s is still turning out pies in The Junction.

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Globe and Mail, March 21, 1977.

A note on CBLT’s coverage of the Jays’ first training camp.

Car Wash of the Living Dead

Originally published (with plenty of photos) on Torontoist on August 20, 2012.

When zombies are around, trouble looms. Whether caused by disease, viral outbreaks, space debris, or science gone bad, a gathering of the undead tends not to turn out well for the living.

And yet even though logic dictates that one should run when faced with a mass of shambling, shuffling creatures, curiosity draws us to them despite the mortal danger. I’m guilty of this. How else can I explain why I ventured into the middle of a gathering of zombies who appeared to be…washing cars?

I had heard rumours that the undead were being used to clean the vehicles of the living. The washes are reputed to serve as a fundraising effort for the annual zombie walk through the streets of Toronto. Further rumours suggested that the Heart and Stroke Foundation is a partner in this year’s walk.

As I pulled into the Classic Coin Car Wash at College Street and Lansdowne Avenue, my heart jumped a little. Was I putting my life on the line to discover if a zombie could wash my vehicle? Perhaps, but I had to find out if the undead could do a better job than some of the mechanized car washes around town, whose programmed cleaning cycles can miss a spot or two.

Judging from her fresh-looking gaping wounds and relatively peachy colour, it appeared the zombie collecting my money had recently joined the undead. Her partner was grey and slower-moving, which made it easy to close the window on him when he attempted to eat my brains. I was motioned to park the car and wait for a bay to open up.

Since the air lacked agonized screaming, I figured the situation was under enough control that it was safe to wander the lot. There was a table where several zombies had been pressed into bake sale/T-shirt-selling duty. Even the undead have embraced the cupcake craze: frosting swirled like a brain was a good match with the chocolate cake, even if I tried not to ponder what (or who) might have gone into the sweet topping.

As I drove my car into an open bay, it was swarmed by a legion of groaning zombies. Their eyes spoke of their inner longing to have me for lunch as they slowly spread blood across my vehicle. Their slow, jerky motions shook the car a bit, which was unnerving until I realized they were spreading their bloody mess onto every spot of dirt. Still, the thought that they might turn on me at any second made me want to flee the car the second the horde shuffled off to work on another car.

Back in the lot, more zombies had ventured to the curb to draw in traffic. Their efforts appeared to be working, as a line snaked westward along College Street. While some undead mumbled about brains, others offered children cotton candy. One brave kid smiled when a zombie grunted that he could leave a bloody print on the child’s t-shirt (with parental approval, of course). Any lingering worries about a sudden attack evaporated.

Soon it was time to drive off. I looked over the car and determined that training the undead to clean vehicles might have been a good idea. The car smelled fresh and soapy. The blood had been washed off. With the zombies’ attentions turned to other drivers who shared my morbid sense of curiosity, I drove out of the lot. Just to be to safe, I checked the trunk a few miles down the road just to make sure nothing had crawled in while I wasn’t looking.

BEHIND THE SCENES

This was a fun story to write — what’s there not to enjoy when scribbling about zombies washing your car? It didn’t hurt the participants totally threw themselves into character while cleaning my vehicle, and left it looking spiffy.

It’s possible I may have taken backup photos, but currently I cannot find most of the images I snapped during 2012. When/if I do, this post will be updated. Otherwise, check the link at the beginning of this piece.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Which Vehicle Has the Right of Way?

Originally published on Torontoist on September 6, 2011.

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Toronto Sun, September 27, 1981.

The courtesy suggested in today’s ad only went so far. After two more decades of drivers pinning in public transit vehicles, legislation forcing vehicles to yield to buses became provincial law on January 2, 2004. We suspect there were drivers who took fiendish glee in purposely cutting off buses one last time on New Year’s Day before the risk of receiving a $90 fine kicked in.

Thanks to lobbying efforts from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Canadian Urban Transit Association, Ontario followed British Columbia and Quebec in enacting a yield-to-bus law. TTC officials felt the law would result in speedier service, with some routes expected to see travel times decrease by five minutes. Signs on the backs of buses employed more forceful language: “please” was dropped from the yield warning sign. The change of wording outraged Toronto Star reader Harold Nelson, who complained to the paper that the TTC was “not as polite as it once was.” His remarks prompted Barbara Gilbert of Newmarket to respond. “When was the last time you saw a sign that said ‘please stop?’” Gilbert wrote. “Maybe the reader should familiarize himself with the rules of the road before he heads out in his vehicle.”

Additional material from the April 24, 2004 and April 30, 2004 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Ending Summer with Elmer

Originally published on Torontoist on September 21, 2010.

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The North Toronto Herald, August 23, 1963.

With summer’s end upon us, it’s time to take stock of the season gone by and see what lessons were learned, especially when it comes to personal safety. Can you find the seven flaws in this picture for Elmer the Safety Elephant? Unfortunately, we lack the official answers, but we invite you to make your best guesses!

Toronto Mayor Robert Hood Saunders was inspired by a child-safety program he observed in Detroit in 1946 and consulted with the Telegram to create a similar campaign here. Telegram editor Bas Mason and Toronto Police Department Inspector Vernon Page came up with the idea of using an elephant as a mascot due to the animal’s reputed powers of memory, and put out a worldwide call to fill the position. Elmer’s enthusiasm impressed the hiring committee and he assumed his role with great gusto in 1947. During his first year on the job, the number of traffic collisions in Toronto involving children dropped by 44%. For his second year on the job, Elmer was issued a cuter, more childlike costume designed by one-time Hollywood animator Charles Thorson that remained his standard outfit for decades.

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Motor Magazine, May 1948.

Elmer’s brother Junior was also in the safety mascot biz for awhile, though his work was more commercial-minded. In ads such as the one above for Maremont, Junior demonstrated the right and wrong way to hang the manufacturer’s parts and equipment in garages. After an injury during a 1954 photo shoot for a hood producer, Junior retired and became Elmer’s business manager. A third brother, Pinky, served as the model for the drawing found on boxes of Lucky Elephant popcorn.

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.

Vintage Toronto Ads: An Automotive Knighthood

Originally published on Torontoist on May 25, 2010.

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Financial Post, March 13, 1930.

Not noted in the fine print for the Great Six coupe shown in today’s ad: whether the $2,675 price tag (which, according to the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator, would be around $33,250 in current currency) includes a replica suit of armour so your chauffeur can drive you through Toronto with that extra degree of regal bearing and social distinction.

Toledo, Ohio-based Willys-Overland began its Toronto manufacturing operations (which, depending on the source, were based on Weston Road, Yonge Street, or both) when it purchased the Russell Motor Car Company in 1916. The driver who wanted to enjoy the prestige of purchasing a new Willys-Knight had few opportunities after today’s ad appeared, as the deepening depression reduced the pool of buyers who could afford to travel like European royalty. Willys-Overland slid towards bankruptcy and, as part of its reorganization, chopped the Willys-Knight, several other lines, and its Canadian manufacturing arm by the end of 1933. Within a decade, the company developed the vehicle that became its enduring legacy: the Jeep.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Day by Day in a Cutlass Supreme

Originally published on Torontoist on April 6, 2010.

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Source: Maclean’s, October 1972.

If your friends could see you now in a redesigned ’73 Cutlass Supreme, they’d be impressed by the new set of wheels you got to chauffeur that special person you’re trying to dazzle, even if it is the third new date you’ve gone on this week. Go on, show off your new toy in a public place where people will gawk in amazement and your date will be charmed by your taste for cultural events. Good thing you’ve ventured out at three in the morning to figure out where to ideally position the car for maximum ego gratification.

But the car and its imaginary owner aren’t the reason we’re talking about this ad. Let’s zero in on one of the posters…

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GM’s ad designers may have tried to jumble the letters to avoid copyright issues or invent a foreign-language theatrical sensation, but a sharp-eyed reader in 1972 would have been able to tell that the posters outside the Royal Alex are for the Toronto production of Godspell. After matching the poster with the program, we’ve determined the spotlighted performers below the scrambled title are, clockwise from top left, Avril Chown, Jayne Eastwood, Don Scardino (who replaced original Jesus Victor Garber, who had left to star in the film version), and Gilda Radner. The other poster includes the rest of the cast, which at this point included future SCTV stars Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, and Martin Short. It doesn’t look as if any of the pit band, led by Paul Shaffer, are pictured.

The show’s first preview was in front of a group of two hundred clerics on May 25, 1972. The crowd was pleased with the joyful tone brought to the material, with the exception of a handful of grumbling Roman Catholic priests and nuns who refused to be identified in a Globe and Mail article. When the show opened on June 1, the Globe and Mail’s Herbert Whittaker felt the cast was energetic and high-spirited (“the energy of the performers seem almost diabolical, the frenzy of their enthusiasm unquenchable”), while the Star’s Urjo Kareda found Godspell clichéd, over-directed, and full of self-conscious actors (“there doesn’t appear to be a moment which hasn’t been minutely pre-programmed and choreographed, which leaves the exhausted-looking actors without a hope for the kind of spontaneity or improvisation which might animate and surprise”).

Shortly after this ad appeared, the production moved from the Royal Alex to the Bayview Playhouse (recently the site of a short-lived Fresh and Wild grocery store). Kareda gave Godspell another go after the move and found it more to his liking (“the actual performance is much more relaxed and ingratiating in the intimate confines of the Playhouse”). After 488 performances, the final bows were given on August 12, 1973.

Additional material from the May 26, 1972 and June 2, 1972 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the June 2, 1972 and September 11, 1972 editions of the Toronto Star.