The Dawning of the Age of the Ugly Girl (in North Toronto)

Originally published on Torontoist on May 14, 2011.

When a community paper like the North Toronto Herald (and its identical twin the North Toronto Free Press) featured fashion suggestions back in the early 1970s, they were aimed at homemakers or ladies-who-lunch and not those who viewed themselves as hip and groovy. Anything radical or, worse, “unflattering” to the feminine physique was deemed worthy of an editorial by an anonymous writer whose visual sensibilities were offended by the dawning of the “age of Aquarius”—or by an eye-opening trip to the local supermarket.

No hint of any fashion crimes is evident to readers grazing the front page of the November 5, 1971 edition of the Herald. What you will find are two columns devoted to community social notices (the top item was a simple acknowledgment that Mrs. Chester Jordan of Fairlawn Avenue “entertained a number of her neighbours”), a thinly-veiled advertorial for the local business association “from the retailer’s viewpoint” (merchant unnamed), coverage for the second week in a row of a new pizza pub, a preview of an amateur production of You Can’t Take It With You in East York, and one of many urgings dotted throughout the paper to “shop at your local retail stores.” We assume the latter included the paper’s publisher, North Toronto Herald Printers, whose own ad takes up a good chunk of page two.

The editorial page also looks innocuous upon first glance. Longtime conservation columnist “Hec” reports on his recent trip to the National Sea Products plant in Lunenberg and focuses less on preserving ocean perch than discovering the secret of their excellent flavour—all that’s missing is an interview with Captain High Liner. Another story informs readers that singer Paul Anka and impressionist Rich Little will make special appearances at an upcoming fundraiser for Parkinson’s disease at the Inn on the Park. While you might glance at these stories, we suspect your eyes will quickly divert to an unsigned opinion piece in the top right corner with its subject screaming out in full caps: “THE AGE OF THE UGLY GIRL.”

Curious, you read on and quickly discover the neighbourhood’s ingrained conservatism. This is not going to be the paper’s typical plea for better understanding among all creeds and colours (other editorials that month pushed for increased funding for the United Nations and less money for missiles). From the opening sentences, it’s clear that this editorial is launching an attack on the younger, foolhardy generation who probably aren’t upstanding members of the North Toronto Business Association.

They tell us this has been the Age of Aquarius. But it’s really been the Age of the Ugly Girl. Of course there are a lot of lovely ones—they stand out almost incandescently, so fresh, so natural, their hair shining, their faces clean and unmade-up. Yet they too are a trifle over-exposed and in their extreme minis and long hair, resembling nothing so much as a bevy of lovely mermaids.

Nonetheless, these attractive ones only serve to emphasize the generally unkempt, unpressed, almost unwashed look of the majority of girls who stroll our streets. For them, mini-skirts and “hot pants” only serve to emphasize their legs, lean, knock-kneed and scrawny or ugly flat. As girls, they seem deliberately to choose the styles that emphasize the bad points.

Where this passion for ugliness will end, no one knows. Are these supposedly “hip” youngsters governed by the same herd instinct which causes women to conform to fashions which flatter no one. Fashions for women for the past three years have resembled something out of a horror movie. Are the current styles just a snide joke of the fashion creators, a put-on, like the one in the Tale of the Emperor’s Clothes, which proved that most people will agree on almost anything in order not to differ from the majority opinion? Only a child had the good sense to say—“but the emperor has nothing on.”

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

nth 1971-11-05 hec conservation comment

North Toronto Herald, November 5, 1971.

The full story about ocean perch. “Hec” appeared for years in the North Toronto Herald and the North Toronto Free Press.

nth 1971-11-05 pizza patio 1

nth 1971-11-05 pizza patio 2

North Toronto Herald, November 5, 1971.

The paper also highlighted the left-handed nature of the designer of the pizza chain it was promoting at the time. Sadly, there was no article the following week heralding Pizza Patio as a cure for the “Age of the Ugly Girl.”

star 1971-10-23 dining with liz pizza patio

Toronto Star, October 23, 1971.

While we’re talking about Pizza Patio, here are a few words from the Star‘s “Dining with Liz” advertorial column, which was its latest attempt to compete with the Globe and Mail’s Mary Walpole. The chain, which was later purchased by Pizza Delight, existed in Toronto through the mid-1980s.

nth 1971-11-05 opinion about toronto sun

North Toronto Herald, November 5, 1971.

A few words about the newest competitor among Toronto’s dailies. I’m not sure even the Sun itself would describe itself these days as “a morning newspaper of information and wisdom which is hard to fault.”

Want to read more North Toronto Herald? Bound volumes from the early 1950s onward are available in the local history section of the Toronto Public Library’s Northern District branch.

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 3: Tempt With Rarebits and Have a Fishy Lent

me 1933-03-06 header

me 1933-03-06 lent menu

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933.

Merriam-Webster defines “waltonian” as “of, or relating to, or having the characteristics of Izaak Walton or his writings on angling.” So referring to the 17th century author of The Compleat Angler in the headline makes sense for Ann Adam’s fish-centric menu.

me 1933-03-06 tempt with rarebits

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933. 

Question about the “mock rabbit” recipe: What would have been considered “grated Canadian cheese” back in the 1930s? Would this have been processed cheese the home chef would have grated themselves, a packaged product similar to grated cheddar or Parmesan we generally associate with pasta, or something else entirely?

me 1933-03-06 cheese tomato trite topics

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933.

The friendship between cheese and tomatoes was so close that they developed their own language, devising names like “Rinktum Diddy.”

Seriously, a quick Google search digs up plenty of recipes for Rinktum Diddy aka Rinktum Ditty, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a mixture of tomato sauce, onion, cheese, egg, and seasonings served on toast.” The origins of the name appear to be unknown.

As of 2019, Parkers Cleaners continues to provide Torontonians with cleaning services.

me 1933-03-06 bovril

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933.

A quick word from our sponsor…

me 1933-03-06 womans point of view

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933. 

This marks the first appearance in this series of “Woman’s Point of View” columnist Bride Broder, the pen name of M&E women’s page editor Mary White. More on her in a future post.

me 1933-03-06 fashions

Mail and Empire, March 6, 1933. 

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 2: Happy Marshmallow Day!

me 1933-03-03 page 10 header

me 1933-03-03 page 10 marshmallow day

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

While March 3 did not catch on as a national observance celebrating the wonders of marshmallows in Canada, you can celebrate the toasted version of this sugary treat every August 30!

Also, hands up whoever has seen “mm” as shorthand for marshmallow in a recipe.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 basket of vitamins

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

After indulging in all those marshmallow recipes, a basket of vitamin-rich food may be required. It may also be a quiet reminder that winter was nearing its end, and fresher vegetables were not far away.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 appetizing hot bread

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

“Do You Know This Utensil” was a weekly feature which introduced handy products for any 1930s kitchen, such as this dust pan which saved the day for any klutzes who dropped ingredients for their appetizing hot bread on the floor.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 easy sunday dinner

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

Note the presence of Rice Krispies in the last recipe, which were still a relatively new product when this paper was published. Introduced to store shelves in 1928, their mascots Snap, Crackle and Pop made their advertising debut in 1933. It was several more years before the recipe for Rice Krispie Squares/Treats was unleashed on the public.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 aunt jemima ad

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

And now, a few words from our sponsors.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 trio of cake recipes

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 celery soup

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

Four suggestions for celery-based soups. The title plays upon the notion of celery as a nerve-calmer, which had resulted in numerous celery-based drinks marketed around the turn of the 20th century. One of the few modern survivors is New York deli staple Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray. I’ve tried it several times and haven’t enjoyed it (this from somebody who loves old school sodas like spruce beer). I understand the concept and how Cel-Ray could pair nicely with some form of cured meat, but I suspect I’d be happier if there was a salty, pickle-based drink.

me 1933-03-03 page 10 loblaws ad

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

It’s doubtful that Loblaws will revive its short lived mascots Cash and Carrie for the chain’s 100th anniversary this year.

Onto the second page…

me 1933-03-03 page 11header

me 1933-03-03 page 11 kyle cakes

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933. 

…and more cake recipes.

me 1933-03-03 page 11 loaf fish and baked

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

As gossip is “the child of laziness” that is “adopted by people who don’t think,” what weighty matters of the world shall we discuss while sticking a fork into a piece of tuna and celery souffle?

Aside: if any of you are tempted to try any of the recipes featured in this series, let me know. Send pictures, reviews, etc.

me 1933-03-03 page 11 is your child's diet a thief ad

Mail and Empire, March 3, 1933.

I wasn’t kidding when I said last time that underweight children were going to be a recurring advertising concern. As funny as this ad seems with its bizarre-looking nutrient deficiency crook, child malnutrition was a serious concern during this era.

As for the radio stations which carried the “VIP Broadcast,” both evolved into today’s CBC — CKGW (named after its owner, Gooderham and Worts) is the ancestor of today’s CBLA, while CKNC (run by the Canadian National Carbon Company) would become CJBC.