Vintage Toronto Ads: Dressing Up for Danakas

Originally published on Torontoist on May 18, 2010.

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CFL Illustrated, October 11, 1976.

The man on the left was not a happy fellow. If given a choice, he would have worn his comfortable corduroy sports jacket and checked trousers to the business dinner, but the boss insisted he had to wear a tuxedo as very important clients were attending and the firm had to put on its classiest face. He shuffled off to his neighbourhood Tuxedo Junction at the last possible minute and discovered all that was left was the Prince Edward ensemble. He put on the outfit, stared in the mirror and sighed. Not only did he feel uncomfortable in so formal an outfit, but he thought he looked like a fifth-rate celebrity guest starring on a game show. No, it was even worse than that. This was the same tux his cousin Murray was married in, the cousin who told so many embarrassing, cringe-inducing stories at the altar that half the wedding party fled before the ceremony was over.

While waiting for his dinner ride, our sullen friend picked up a book a friend gave him featuring local restaurants and their prized recipes. He flipped through the pages of The Flavour of Toronto until he reached the section on his destination this night, Danakas Palace.

Mirrored ceilings, wood-panelled walls, richly upholstered furniture, a brightly glowing grill pit: all combine to create a palatial background to an elegant meal. Specializing in steaks and seafood, the Palace has named its delicious seafood platter in honour of Canada’s prime minister…Many theatrical and athletic stars have followed his example. Good wines are a specialty and service is attentive.

He gazed at the recipe for the Prime Minister’s Seafood Platter. How to eat like Trudeau…two lobster tails, six scampis, six prawns, six shrimps, eight crab legs, eight oysters, eight scallops, two ounces of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, an ounce of dry white wine, three ounces of butter, three teaspoons of lemon juice, and a pint of vegetable oil. The crab and lobster were baked, the smaller crustaceans sautéed in garlic and wine, and the remaining seafood fried until golden. Arrange the lot on a silver platter, douse with cognac and set aflame. The dish had possibilities. Maybe, he thought, he would buy a rose from a street vendor, place it in his label like PET, then enjoy the delights of the sea.

His ride wasn’t due for another fifteen minutes, so he pulled out the box of restaurant review clippings he filed away as potential date destinations. Buried near the bottom was Joanne Kates’ opinion in the Globe and Mail from a year earlier. His heart sunk when the headline read unfulfilled promises.” Danakas Palace got off to a bad start with Kates for producing ads touting its “famous” charcoal broil — she felt it was “strange that a restaurant should be famous in time to make that claim when it opens.” Meant to be the first in a chain of restaurants, she felt that “it’s fitting that a chain begin with a nod to progress. All guests are treated to garlic bread wrapped in that modern wonder, aluminum foil.” The food didn’t impress her, as out of the highly-touted eleven fresh vegetables, only two appeared on her plate (of which one, creamed cauliflower, was mushy and lacked cream). Bouillabaisse featured stringy, tough fish; trout was over-fried; black forest cake was leaden. She sighed that the chain would probably do well, as “it has the ingredients that seem to sell nowadays: underground parking, décor that at first glance looks first class, a la carte dinner for two with wine and tip for about $40, and above all, mediocrity.”

As his ride arrived, all he could hope was that it wasn’t going to be a long night in a stiff tux with middling food. The deal-making possibilities of the evening had better be worth the potential misery.

Additional material from The Flavours of Toronto: A Gourmet’s guide to restaurants and recipes, edited by Kenneth Mitchell (Toronto: Four Corners, 1977) and the October 27, 1975 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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And now, for your eager eyes, the seafood platter at Danakas Palace that Pierre Trudeau  liked so much the owners renamed it in honour of his position. Whether the story is true or not, it’s not surprising a seafood platter would receive such an honour, as restaurants in the vicinity of Danakas Palace loved showing off their ensembles of lobster, shrimp and other sea creatures in full-colour ads targeted to business executives and tourists—a show of hands from anyone who’s ever actually eaten the “award winning” seafood platter showcased in every Toronto visitors guide by Fisherman’s Wharf since the dawn of man?

It often seems like a seafood platter is designed to look attractive and draw as much money out of a customer as possible. I won’t deny having succumbed to the allure of a broad sampling of delights from the deep. During my university days at Guelph, there was a restaurant in the upper reaches of Stone Road Mall called Legends that accepted school meal plans. At the time, it was one of the few off-campus spots that took meal cards, so it often wound up being the destination for special events among my residence-mates at Arts House. It became a running joke that I’d always order the most expensive thing on the menu, which was the seafood food. A further running joke was that the platter was never the same twice—a good night might bring heartly samplings of crab, grilled swordfish and tuna, a lousy one saw a meagre serving of shrimp and a puny crab appendage arrive at the table.

Come to think of it, Legends was often unpredictable with its fare, such as the time four of us ordered blue lagoons and each arrived with a different colour. Who knew purple lagoons existed?

Here’s how you can make a meal worthy of the occupant of 24 Sussex Drive, though you can choose to eat it as a salute to the current PM or your all-time favourite leader.

2 lobster tails
6 scampis
6 prawns
6 shrimps
8 crab legs
8 oysters
8 scallops
2 oz (50 g)breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 oz (25 mL) dry white wine
3 oz (75 g) butter
3 tsp lemon juice
1 pint (500 mL) vegetable oil

To prepare: cut the lobster tails and bend back in butterfly style; shell and de-vein the scampis, prawns and shrimps; extract the meat from the crab claws; remove the oysters and scallops from the shell and coat with breadcrumbs. Finally, wash the lobster, scampi, prawns and shrimps under cold running water and dry thoroughly.

Proceed with the following cooking methods simultaneously: (a) Place the crabmeat in a small ovenproof dish, add 1/3 tsp garlic, 1 tsp lemon juice and half the white wine and bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes.; (b) Place the lobster tails in an oven pan, add 1 oz (25 g) butter and 1 tsp lemon juice and bake in a moderate oven for 8-10 minutes; (c) Melt 1 oz (25 g) butter in a frying pan, add 1/3 tsp garlic and the remaining wine and sauté the scampi, prawns and shrimps for 2 minutes, stirring continuously; (d) Heat the oil and fry the scallops until golden, then transfer to a small overproof dish, add the remaining butter, garlic and lemon juice and place in a broiler for 5 minutes; (e) Re-heat the oil and deep fry the oysters until golden.

To serve: arrange attractively on a silver platter, pour over the Cognac and flame. Serves 2.

Recipe taken from The Flavour of Toronto, edited by Kenneth Miller, photographed by René Delbuguet (Toronto: Four Corners, 1977). 

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Canned Food Will Change Your Tune

Originally published on Torontoist on May 4, 2010.

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Chatelaine, February 1945.

HE: Scientific cooking or not, I want food now! By the way, dear, were you suggesting that the food I’ve raved about all these years was not made from scratch by your lovely hands?
SHE: Umm…er…yes…but think of all the metal I’ve donated to the neighbourhood scrap drive! Besides, every time I make something from scratch, you complain it takes too long and that “something tastes off tonight!”
HE: You’ve got a point. Now be fox-quick and fix me some beans!
SHE: Keep your loincloth on, Tarzan, or else next time you can cook for yourself…if you can figure out how to open a can. Now that would change your tune!
US: Canned foods may not be able to solve marital discord, but we guarantee the arguments will end once you taste the freshness inside!

Eager readers may have taken advantage of the wonders of canned foods if they followed the daily menu suggestions for February found on the next page. Several of the suggested bills of fare specifically listed canned fruits as an item to liven up a meal, though never on Tuesdays (no reason given). If the charts were followed to the letter, a wartime homemaker could carefully plan their rations and never worry about what to feed the family.

Curious about what Chatelaine’s typical daily suggestions were? Here’s the recommended menu for Tuesday, February 13, 1945:

BREAKFAST: grapefruit juice, grilled smoked fish, brown toast, coffee, tea
LUNCHEON: barley broth, potato and parsley salad, egg garnish, strawberry jelly whip, wafers, tea, cocoa
DINNER: rolled lamb shoulder, browned potatoes, creamed celery, fig shortcake, lemon sauce, coffee, tea

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 Goes to War

Plucky Boys Need Their Smokes

Originally published on Torontoist on June 16, 2009.

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The News, May 6, 1915.

Given the attitudes, health concerns, and advertising restrictions regarding tobacco products, Toronto newspaper readers won’t be seeing appeals to send smokes to Canada’s overseas forces in their morning read anytime soon—a general appeal for morale boosting/easy to barter items would be more likely.

The soldier depicted in this ad was created by cartoonist Bert Thomas for a similar campaign across the Atlantic for the Weekly Dispatch newspaper in November 1914. The image of a Cockney “Tommy” telling Kaiser Wilhelm II that he needs a smoke break helped raise approximately ₤250,000 in donations from the British public. “Arf a mo’ Kaiser!” became a catchphrase whose use appears to have lasted in the U.K. through World War II, when it underwent a slight alteration to reflect that conflict’s German leadership.

Cows Have War Jobs Too

Originally published on Torontoist on September 15, 2009.

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Acme Farmers Dairy billboard, circa 1942-44. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Item 6611.

During World War II many Torontonians worked towards victory and, as this billboard testifies, cows were not excluded from doing their part to tackle Hitler and Tojo. The regional bovine population contributed to the war effort by providing food-solid goodness for the home front. Officials of local dairies soon discovered that the helmets they issued refused to stay on any cow’s head (straps were at a premium), so they were utilized as feed buckets or souvenirs for children touring their facilities.

Located on Walmer Road south of Casa Loma, the Acme Farmers Dairy site is currently occupied by the Castle Hill townhomes.

Wartime Target for Tonight

Originally published on Torontoist on November 10, 2009.

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Mayfair, March 1944.

A dazzling view of the Toronto skyline welcomed visiting flyers like this Royal Canadian Air Force pilot throughout World War II. The glimmer of city lights, the Royal York Hotel, and other pre-war skyscrapers as he approached Port George VI Airfield (as the island airport was officially named upon opening in 1939) was a far more welcoming sight than enemy fire.

A year after opening for service, the island airport was pressed into wartime use as a training facility. Pilots from Norway used the site from fall 1940 through winter 1943, which led to the establishment of “Little Norway” across the channel. After the Norwegians departed for expanded facilities in Muskoka, the RCAF used the airport for the duration of hostilities.

Around the time today’s ad appeared on the newsstand, one flyer leaving the airport almost made Sunnyside their target. On February 13, 1944, RCAF Flying Officer John R. Talkington required a rescue after he was forced to land one hundred yards from shore inside the seawall near Windermere Avenue. Talkington was piloting a training plane destined for Selfridge Field near Detroit when trouble struck. The Toronto Star picks up the story:

“The engine quit,” said Flying Officer Talkington, describing his experience afterward, “So I just let her down in the water.” The young pilot, a native of California, sat on the cockpit hood, his feet dangling in the water, until [he was] taken off. The rescue was made within twenty-two minutes of the time the mishap occurred…Talkington resumed his flight an hour later in another plane. Life-savers rushed to Humber station in a car, obtained a punt and paddled out to make the rescue.

Once the peace O’Keefe hoped for arrived, the airport was restored to civilian use and likely employed some of the clear-eyed men destined to work in the post-war aviation industry.

Additional material from the February 14, 1944 editions of the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Gunning for Good Pie

Originally published on Torontoist on March 24, 2010.

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Toronto Star, February 2, 1915.

Mother’s joy that her son savoured her new apple pie recipe quickly turned to horror as the boy’s eagerness to wolf down the piping hot dessert without using a plate led to burns on his hands and oozy mounds of fruity filling creeping down his new school outfit.

Donald Gunn entered the Toronto food business in 1873 as a produce vendor near St. Lawrence Market. By the end of the nineteenth century he joined the meatpacking trade and, by 1907, had shifted operations to the Stockyards area. Through a series of acquisitions and mergers, Gunns became one of the founding components of Canada Packers in June 1927, lending its Maple Leaf brand to the new company’s meat products. The Gunns name lives on in the road and TTC loop near St. Clair and Keele.

As for how much this fine shortening set mother back, an ad for Arnold’s Markets in January 1927 listed a three-pound pail of Easifirst for forty-two cents (about $5.25 today).

Additonal material from the January 4, 1927, edition of the Toronto Star.

BEHIND THE SCENES

I’ve been lucky that my work rarely attracts trolls. With rare exceptions, the comments I received on columns like Vintage Toronto Ads tended to be benign, or drift off onto benign/irrelevant tangents. Sometimes they even added details to the story, or cleared details.

(My general position on comments, especially on media sites, is that unless they’re carefully moderated, they’re either useless or a vehicle for people to show the worst elements of humanity. “Never read the comments” is generally sage advice, unless you’re satisfying your masochistic streak.)

But there are always exceptions. There was one reader whose handle I’ve forgotten who frequently popped up on my posts. Their comments made it sound like he’d been present at every moment of Toronto history. Sometimes they employed the tone used by somebody who believes their age automatically imparts them with wisdom that is correct and must be respected. You know, the lecture-y type.

Though the comments for this piece no longer exist on Torontoist, I remember this piece as the time this commenter received their comeuppance. They posted a lecture about the packaging of lard versus shortening – I think it boiled down to shortening not being sold in pails. A Gunn descendent replied that, yes, they sold shortening in pails.

I don’t recall the commenter leaving many lectures after that.

 

Vintage Toronto Ads: Sleepless, Stubborn, and Sterling

Originally published on Torontoist on November 17, 2009.

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Mail and Empire, November 9, 1931 (left); The Telegram, November 4, 1931 (right).

Pity the person made agitated and restless by drinking an over-stimulating beverage. Because of their tragic decisions, the owl woman fell asleep at her office desk, while the mule man walked up to his boss, a report firmly clenched in his hand, and allowed his overactive nerves to tell the boss what he really thought of the company’s management. By the end of the day, both found themselves facing the harsh realities of the Great Depression. If only they had sent away for a free sample of Postum…

Postum was developed in 1895 by C.W. Post as a caffeine-free alternative. As these ads demonstrate, Postum’s mixture of bran, wheat, molasses, and corn byproducts was targeted to drinkers who wanted to stay cool, calm, and collected. The beverage enjoyed great popularity among religious groups like the Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists, who found its non-stimulating properties did not lead the faithful astray.

Postum’s most infamous advertising icon was the nefarious Mister Coffee Nerves, who was introduced during the 1930s. A ghostly symbol of the evils of mocha-induced jitters, Mister Coffee Nerves found his attempts to wreck careers and romances were inevitably thwarted by Postum. When Kraft discontinued Postum in 2007 due to dwindling sales, devotees scoured the continent for the remaining jars.

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Sterling Tower, corner of Bay St. and Richmond St., looking south-west, 1972. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 2032, Series 841, File 76, Item 12.

General Foods, in an earlier guise as the Postum Company, was one of the earliest tenants of the Sterling Tower. The sixty-five-metre-tall complex at 372 Bay Street briefly held the title of tallest building in Toronto when it opened in 1928, but that glorious honour was wrested away when the Royal York Hotel opened the following year. Other early tenants included the Campbell-Ewald advertising agency and the Sterling Bank. A 1929 ad in the Globe claimed that “the environment enjoyed in Sterling Tower goes a long way towards making the business day successful. Businessmen recognize the value of good surroundings…and profit by them” (perhaps particles of Postum were wafted through the heating system to induce calm feelings). Restorations made to the building a decade ago earned architect Dermot Sweeny a merit award from Heritage Toronto in 2001.

Additional material from the February 8, 1929, edition of the Globe and the November 16, 2001, edition of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The League of Rations

Originally published on Torontoist on November 3, 2009.

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Toronto Star, November 19, 1936.

Isn’t it wonderful when four stereotypical figures can come together in perfect harmony thanks to a humble can of spaghetti? We never suspected that the finest spices from Asia lurked within our sloppy Saturday childhood lunch.

Paying homage to the League of Nations might not have been the smartest marketing move in 1936. The weaknesses of the forerunner to the United Nations were all too apparent that year as it failed to make sanctions against Italy stick after Benito Mussolini’s forces invaded Ethiopia and did little to intervene when civil war broke out in Spain.

As for the teaser at the bottom of today’s ad, CFRB was one of the Canadian outlets for the new Heinz Magazine of the Air program, which aired three times a week on CBS. An ad in Life magazine promised homemakers that they would enjoy “a fun half-hour of sparkling music, famous guest stars, romance, drama, homemaking, child problems.” We suspect that a tin of spaghetti was the recommended method of restoring harmony between battling brats.

Additional material from the November 23, 1936 issue of Life.