Vintage Toronto Ads: Jack of Hearts’ Flying Circus

Originally published on Torontoist on September 20, 2011.

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Toronto Sun, February 28, 1974, depicting Gilda Radner and Victor Garber.

In brief: Jack was a musical extravaganza based on the four Jacks in a deck of cards, and it featured Victor Garber embodying hearts. Another Jack, Star TV critic Jack Miller, praised it as fun, melodic, and unpredictable, “a musical experience that flies in several directions without ever losing either itself or its pace.” We’d back up Miller’s recommendation, but we haven’t seen it.

And now for something completely different…

The first two series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted on CBC as part of the network’s fall 1970 lineup. After 19 episodes, the show lost its place on the schedule in January 1971 to The World We Live In, an American science program whose title could have been a Python skit. Throughout the week after CBC yanked Monty Python, more than 700 people called in to complain, while 150 students staged a demonstration outside the network’s Montreal studios. CBC officials promised to air the remaining seven episodes as soon as they could find a slot—the show eventually returned, becoming a fixture on the network during the first half of the 1970s. In Toronto, the troupe’s popularity solidified during a long run of their film And Now For Something Completely Different at the Roxy on Danforth Avenue and sold-out live performances at the St. Lawrence Centre in June 1973.

One person left unimpressed by the series was a Mr. John Cameron, who wrote to the Sun in February 1974 regarding the show’s prejudicial attitude toward the Scots. As you read Mr. Cameron’s complaint, with proper Python-ese diction and a “Dear Sir” at the start, try to imagine which skit ticked him off so much that he wished to inflict the Spanish Inquisition on the national broadcaster:

How long is the CBC going to be allowed to bring into this country such racist garbage as the English BBC Monty Python show that we are forced to watch every Thursday night, if we want to watch CBC. I would advise everyone to switch channels. The English government is responsible for this anti-Scottish poison and it is their deliberate policy to try to destroy the Scottish character by ridicule, portraying Scots as mean and miserly so that we will be ashamed of our racial origin, and more easily assimilated into the English Empire…The CBC is a government of Canada body, paid for by the taxpayers of Canada and this proves that our Canadian government is nothing more than a stooge for the English government and this country takes its orders from England and is a partner in these criminal activities against the Scottish people.

Mr. Cameron went on to bellyache about the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s hypocrisy in not pursuing action against this slight to the Scots, before concluding that Monty Python was “the most sick, racist show on television, and it proves just how degenerate our Canadian and English government’s policies are. Imperialism still lives.” The Sun’s one-line response? “We think Monty Python is very subversive—as CBC brass thinks too.”

We’re surprised they didn’t say “you’re a looney.”

Additional material from the February 2, 1971, and February 28, 1974, editions of the Toronto Star, and the February 22, 1974, edition of the Toronto Sun.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: British Days at Yonge and Eglinton

Originally published on Torontoist on November 20, 2007.

Vintage Ad #409: Happy British Days at the Yonge-Eglinton CentreNorth Toronto Herald, March 29, 1974.

How does a newly-opened shopping complex bring in shoppers? Hold a British-themed sale, featuring specials on fine UK products like Orange Julius and Gordon Lightfoot records!

The Yonge-Eglinton Centre opened in October 1973 with Dominion and Horizon as its anchors. The short-lived Horizon chain was an attempt by Eaton’s to enter the crowded discount department store field. This location was converted to an Eaton’s store when the company pulled the plug on Horizon in 1978. Among the current occupants of its space are Silver City and Pickle Barrel.

The store we’re fascinated by is Bean Hut, a name that nowadays would be used for a coffee shop or vegetarian grocery. It has one of the few coupons offering a UK-related special, unless the beans are green and the sausages are anything other than bangers. We imagine the family voted “most awful family in Britain” that year made the trek across the Atlantic to catch this special, if the BBC documentary on them is any indication.

The main event in the neighbourhood that week was the opening of the Yonge subway extension to Sheppard and Finch stations, which may have been a more relevant theme to new commuters passing through. Such a sale might have inspired the following ad copy:

Need a drink or bite to eat to or from the office or a gift for your family? Take advantage of these money-saving coupons! See displays of new neighbourhood developments and future technologies that will guide you around the Toronto of Tomorrow! The SUBWAY SALE at the YONGE-EGLINTON CENTRE is a tribute to the innovative fashions, quality workmanship and hearty foods of our city. Your next stop is YONGE-EGLINTON CENTRE’S SUBWAY WEEK! 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

From the final episode of Monty Python, aired on December 5, 1974, the “Most Awful Family in Britain” sketch.

As time wore on, and the cultural makeup of Toronto changed, once surefire promotions like “British Week” faded away among retailers and shopping centres. This ad serves as a reminder that into the 1970s there was still a strong base this was easily marketed to.