Vintage Toronto Ads: Merry Christmas to All of You From GM

Originally published on Torontoist on December 23, 2008.

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Toronto Star, December 24, 1948.

Not quite the style of advertising emerging from General Motors this holiday season, is it?

Had GM been in deep financial doo-doo sixty years ago, they could have tapped the oratory skills of North Toronto dealer Denton Massey to make their case to the public. A member of one of the city’s most prominent families (grandson of Hart, cousin of Raymond and Vincent), Massey dabbled in business (selling cars and nuclear reactors) and politics (MP for Greenwood for most of the 1930s and 1940s) but ultimately found his calling in religion. The evangelical fervour of his York Bible Class, which packed Maple Leaf Gardens in the early 1930s, eventually gave way to the abandonment of his secular activities and his ordination as an Anglican priest in 1960.

A decade after today’s ad appeared, the Star dedicated their Christmas Eve editorial to “splashes of joy” throughout the city. Some samples:

To the stranger on Lawrence Ave. who stopped his car and got out to help a harried housewife get hers out of the slippery driveway last week.
To the postman who braves our neighbour’s dog every morning and though his (the postman’s) hair bristles, delivers the letters.

To the man who discovered the four-year-old child cold, frightened and crying four blocks from home, wiped her nose and eyes, found out where she lived and took her back to her mother’s bosom.
To the big boy who stopped a fight of younger lads on a rink and moreover didn’t swipe the puck.

And to many, many others in this great, sometimes unfriendly, sometimes alarming metropolis, who all through the year and not only at Christmas time do acts of kindness, of friendliness, of courtesy, that make Toronto an easier and even pleasant place. Perhaps because the times are oppressive and the city is growing even bigger, more people are showing that they are human, helping each other to brave the tumult and the shouting, the loneliness and frustrations.

Merry Christmas to these, and to all.

Additional material from the December 24, 1958 and January 26, 1984 editions of the Toronto Star.

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’.

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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.

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.

Vintage Toronto Ads: An Olympic Drive

Originally published on Torontoist on June 2, 2009.

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The Globe, June 1, 1929.

As Toronto taxpayers now own part of General Motors, we feel it appropriate to offer up a slice of their new investment’s history.

The Oakland Motor Car Company was launched in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1907 and was purchased by General Motors two years later. The marque was positioned above Chevrolet and below Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac in the GM hierarchy. Oakland-branded vehicles were produced through the 1932 model year, when the division changed its corporate name to that of a companion marque that quickly outsold the Oakland line, Pontiac.

The A.D. Gorrie dealership on Gerrard Street east of Yonge eventually sold Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles. By the time the lot closed in the late 1960s, it faced the northern expansion of Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. The dealership was owned for years by the Seitz family, who were also the original proprietors of Golden Mile Chev/Olds in Scarborough.

A pair of auto-related “special despatch” stories were printed on the same page as today’s ad. In Stratford, Daniel Hohner satisfied his need for a late-night high-speed joyride by borrowing the largest passenger bus in the city’s fleet for a trip forty miles west to Elginfield and back. Hohner claimed a bus driver was with him, though he did not know the driver’s name and was still charged with taking the vehicle without the owner’s consent. East of Toronto, in Belleville, Mrs. Robert Maynes had rotten luck with automobiles. A week after her husband was killed in an accident, Mrs. Maynes “was sitting in a car with her right arm hanging out over the door. Philip McDonald unwittingly backed his car into the auto in which Mrs. Maynes was sitting, jamming her arm.” The end result was a trip to the hospital with a compound fracture.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Be Sure of Your Radiantubes and Thermizers

Originally posted on Torontoist on June 17, 2008.

Vintage Ad #559: Be Sure of the Features on your Frigidaire Stove

Maclean’s, August 1, 1949.

If this spacious stove were marketed today, what expression would the customer service rep at your friendly neighbourhood big box retailer display if you asked them about the radiantube and thermizer specs?

A division of General Motors for 60 years, Frigidaire set up shop in Leaside in 1933 when it purchased most of the former Durant Motors property. The company opened a second plant along the Golden Mile in Scarborough in 1952, one of the first manufacturers to establish themselves in the rapidly-developing area. Both plants operated until 1958 when the Leaside property was sold to Canada Wire and Cable, who had purchased the remaining Durant property back in the 1930s. The Scarborough facility gradually switched to automotive manufacturing, shifting to GM’s Delco division in 1968. Six years later it became a van plant and operated until 1993, after which the facility was demolished and redeveloped as Eglinton Town Centre.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Cadillac Snowbird

Originally published on Torontoist on February 19, 2008

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Toronto Life, February 1967.

Imagine what the Caddy would think of this month’s snowfall. The car wouldn’t bother waiting for a driver to take in the greyhounds before the next storm strikes.

Cars were sold at the northwest corner of Bay and Grenville for over 80 years, starting in 1925 with a dealership owned by General Motors of Canada president Sam McLaughlin. Addison took over in 1955 and remained until the lot closed last March. The heritage-designated building will be integrated into the Burano condominium project.

As for who this vehicle would find down south, Woody Woodbury was a Florida-based comedian whose booze-centric routines were preserved on a series of adult “party records” in the 1960s. Considered too raunchy for radio airplay, his albums contained enough mild innuendo to add a naughty touch to any respectable Cadillac owner’s cocktail party.