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.

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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.

The Mark of Edward VIII

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on May 3, 2008.

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The southwest corner of Yonge Street and Montgomery Avenue is rich with history. Montgomery’s Tavern, the spot where William Lyon Mackenzie and his followers launched the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, is honoured with a plaque. Oulcott’s Hotel served customers and community groups in the late 19th century. The current occupant, Postal Station K, threw open its doors a century after Mackenzie’s march under a royal insignia that would prove unique to the city’s government buildings.

Welcome to one of the few buildings in the British Empire to bear the mark of the brief reign of King Edward VIII (1894-1972). His 11-month reign ended in December 1936 when he resigned from the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, “the woman I love.” Outrage over the abdication crisis led to a proposal to replace the insignia on Station K with that of Edward’s successor George VI, which never came to pass. Edward soon assumed the title of the Duke of Windsor, was suspected of pro-Nazi leanings, briefly served as governor of the Bahamas, and spent his remaining days in retirement in France.

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Edward had better press during his quarter-century as Prince of Wales, to the extent that his two visits to Toronto resulted in a pair of local landmarks being named in his honour.

His first tour began on August 25, 1919 with a quick visit to Queen’s Park, followed by the formal opening of that year’s Canadian National Exhibition. The editors of The Globe welcomed the prince in that day’s edition:

Prince Edward is doubly welcome to a Dominion which has cast off the fetters of colonialism and boasts of a freedom as wide as that exercised by a sovereign nation. He is welcome as the heir to a Throne to which we yield voluntary allegiance because it is based on the will of the people, and is a link which binds us to other Dominions and the Mother Country in a common purchase and destiny. We welcome him also because he is a Prince worthy of the lofty station and solemn responsibilities which he will inherit…all reports agree that he is a clean, wholesome youth with courage, industry and a high sense of duty. Elastic spirits and a winning manner add to his personal attractiveness. May he find much in Canada to interest and entertain him as a reward for the ceremonial fatigue inseparable from his tour.

Mobbed by crowds in his public appearances, much of Edward’s trip was spent visiting wounded World War I veterans (those who “did the dirty work in war,” screamed a Globe headline). On August 27, he was driven around the city in Sir John Craig Eaton’s Rolls Royce to mingle with Torontonians, which led The Globe to proclaim that “he must have felt at home here…it was no mere mechanical performance with him; there was nothing stiff or formal about it. He stood up on the seat of his motor car and waved his hat with the abandon of a schoolboy in acknowledgement of the cheers of the citizens.”

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Traffic on Bloor Viaduct opening, October 18, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Item 0872.

The route included a trek over the bridge connecting Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue, open to vehicular traffic for less than a year. The week after Edward’s visit, the span was officially proclaimed the Prince Edward Viaduct.

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Edward, Prince of Wales, at the Canadian National Exhibition, 1927. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 8140.

Edward returned to Toronto eight years later, this time with his brother George (later the Duke of Kent). Despite morning rain, Edward cut the ribbon for the new eastern entrance to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds on August 30, 1927, which was named the Princes’ Gates in honour of the visitors. Memories of the war lingered on, as over 13,000 veterans marched behind the royal motorcade.

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Material excerpted from the August 25, 1919 and August 28, 1919 editions of The Globe. Photos of Postal Station K and Princes’ Gates by Jamie Bradburn.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Four years after this story was published, I covered a protest regarding plans to turn the Postal Station K site into a condo. Originally posted on Torontoist on July 31, 2012, here’s “Rebelling Over Postal Station K”

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One hundred and seventy-five years after William Lyon Mackenzie assembled his rebels at Montgomery’s Tavern, another group of angry citizens seems ready to rise up against the government on the same site, or at least let a crown corporation know they are unhappy about the possible fallout from its sale—especially if that fallout proves to involve a high-rise condo, as at least one commercial realtor has predicted.

Monday night, a crowd cried things like, “No more condos!” and, “Our history is not for sale!” at a rally in front of Postal Station K, which is what stands on the Montgomery’s Tavern site today. The protest was organized by Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle. As a modest crowd listened to speeches about the history of the site and its value to the community, a steady stream of passers-by lined up to sign a petition to save the building.

“There’s really not much going on right now,” noted Canada Post spokesperson John Caines in a phone interview yesterday. An RFP (request for proposals) was made in April for Postal Station K, along with Canada Post properties at 50 Charles Street East and 1780 Avenue Road. “We’re considering selling them, but only if the purchaser provides a suitable replacement property or properties in return. We’re not looking to leave the area but upgrade and modernize our network.”

20120731stationKcrowd

Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle (centre) leads rally in cry of “No More Condos!”

While the property is a national historic site, because of its role in the rebellion of 1837, Postal Station K is listed but not historically designated by the City of Toronto, affording it few protections under the law. Designed in art-deco style by Murray Brown, whose other works include the nearby Belsize Theatre (now the Regent) on Mount Pleasant Road and the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Postal Station K is one of the few buildings in the British Empire to bear the insignia of King Edward VIII. Built in 1936, it replaced a structure originally known as Oulcott’s Tavern, which had been used as a post office from 1912 onward. Besides sorting neighbourhood mail, the building has also, at times, provided space for businesses and a halfway house.

Colle first heard rumblings about a potential sale while on a Heritage Toronto walk through the neighbourhood several weeks ago. He decided to mobilize the community before any clashes with developers could occur. “It’s a great place to take a stand,” Colle noted in a phone interview, referring to the property’s symbolic value. During the fight against amalgamation in 1997, Colle participated in a march that stopped at the site. He believes Canada Post is “totally remote from the public” and he will do his “darndest to make sure they realize that the taxpayers of Toronto paid for that building and they can’t just sell it off willy-nilly without listening to us.” Beyond the building, Colle stressed the property’s role as a public gathering place, especially for wheelchair users who find its lack of barriers ideal for relaxing and meeting others.

Anti-high rise sentiments in the neighbourhood should not be discounted, especially when a high number of condos are underway or being proposed. Though community efforts failed to stop the Minto towers south of Eglinton Avenue, anger at former city councillor Anne Johnston’s role in brokering the deal that allowed the project to proceed led to her defeat in Ward 16 by Karen Stintz in 2004. Though Stintz was unable to attend the rally because she was on vacation, neighbouring councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) was on hand to lend his support.

20120731stationKcondo

If a condo doesn’t become part of the site’s future, what could the building be used for? Colle said that the Anne Johnston Health Centre, located across the street, had expressed interest in additional space for their programs. Eglinton Park Residents’ Association chair Tom Cohen imagined a commercial tavern paired with a museum celebrating the rebellion of 1837. Whatever happens, it’s likely that a creative solution that utilizes most or all of Postal Station K (which seems to be a condition of any sale) will be better received than a high-rise that does little to acknowledge the site’s history. Otherwise, any march down Yonge Street to mark the anniversary of Mackenzie’s rebellion this December might not be a mere re-enactment.

UPDATE

The front and forecourt of Postal Station K was integrated into the base of the Montgomery Square retail/condo project. The surrounding neighbourhood is in the midst of a condo tower boom, building up density as Yonge and Eglinton prepares to grow into even more of a transit hub with the construction of the Crosstown LRT.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Puffins Have Landed for Froyo

Originally published on Torontoist on September 4, 2012.

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Now, September 10-16, 1987.

Like a viral epidemic, frozen-yogurt chains and franchises-in-the-making are spreading across the city. Every few seconds, a new froyo parlour opens or papers an empty storefront with its logo. The craze has filled in spaces closed for years, like the former Demetra’s restaurant on Danforth Avenue, where place settings appeared untouched for at least a decade.

A quarter of a century ago, the first wave of frozen-yogurt purveyors spread across the city.

Perceived as a healthier alternative to ice cream due to its lower fat content and presence of bacterial cultures, frozen yogurt began popping up in malls. Chains like TCBY and Yogen Früz dotted the landscape, and among the companies attempting to cash in was Silcorp, owner of Mac’s convenience stores. Apart from today’s ad and patent information, we uncovered little information regarding their Puffins Yogurt Emporium concept. Perhaps it was folded into another chain Silcorp launched in 1987: Yogurty’s Yogurt Discovery.

According to a Calgary Herald article, Yogurty’s original target market was the “18-to-45-year-old yuppie with a female skew.” The piece noted that “the public, men in particular, still needs to be educated to the virtues of 30 flavours of frozen yogurt, garnished with one of 40 toppings.” It was hoped that the chain’s mascot, “a young, moustachioed explorer, with a bird on his shoulder, searching the world for new yogurt flavours,” would help break consumer resistance to the product.

Run for a time alongside Silcorp’s Baskin-Robbins franchise, Yogurty’s wound up in the hands of Yogen Früz in the early 1990s and lingered until it was revamped as a self-serve chain. The intrepid explorer was given his walking papers long ago, his educator role filled by tiny paper sample cups. As for Puffins, its Yonge and Eglinton location has seen a succession of eateries over the years, including current tenant Gourmet Burger Co.

Additional material from the June 28, 1989 edition of the Calgary Herald.

UPDATE

Self-serve fro-yo quickly ran its course in the former Demetra’s site, which is a credit union as of 2018. 2419 Yonge has also changed — its current occupant is a supplements store.

 

Rebelling Over Postal Station K

Originally published on Torontoist on July 31, 2012.

20120731stationK

One hundred and seventy-five years after William Lyon Mackenzie assembled his rebels at Montgomery’s Tavern, another group of angry citizens seems ready to rise up against the government on the same site, or at least let a crown corporation know they are unhappy about the possible fallout from its sale—especially if that fallout proves to involve a high-rise condo, as at least one commercial realtor has predicted.

Monday night, a crowd cried things like, “No more condos!” and, “Our history is not for sale!” at a rally in front of Postal Station K, which is what stands on the Montgomery’s Tavern site today. The protest was organized by Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle. As a modest crowd listened to speeches about the history of the site and its value to the community, a steady stream of passers-by lined up to sign a petition to save the building.

20120731stationKhandout

Event flyer.

“There’s really not much going on right now,” noted Canada Post spokesperson John Caines in a phone interview yesterday. An RFP (request for proposals) was made in April for Postal Station K, along with Canada Post properties at 50 Charles Street East and 1780 Avenue Road. “We’re considering selling them, but only if the purchaser provides a suitable replacement property or properties in return. We’re not looking to leave the area but upgrade and modernize our network.”

20120731stationKcrowd

Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle (centre) leads rally in cry of “No More Condos!”

While the property is a national historic site, because of its role in the rebellion of 1837, Postal Station K is listed but not historically designated by the City of Toronto, affording it few protections under the law. Designed in art-deco style by Murray Brown, whose other works include the nearby Belsize Theatre (now the Regent) on Mount Pleasant Road and the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Postal Station K is one of the few buildings in the British Empire to bear the insignia of King Edward VIII. Built in 1936, it replaced a structure originally known as Oulcott’s Tavern, which had been used as a post office from 1912 onward. Besides sorting neighbourhood mail, the building has also, at times, provided space for businesses and a halfway house.

Colle first heard rumblings about a potential sale while on a Heritage Toronto walk through the neighbourhood several weeks ago. He decided to mobilize the community before any clashes with developers could occur. “It’s a great place to take a stand,” Colle noted in a phone interview, referring to the property’s symbolic value. During the fight against amalgamation in 1997, Colle participated in a march that stopped at the site. He believes Canada Post is “totally remote from the public” and he will do his “darndest to make sure they realize that the taxpayers of Toronto paid for that building and they can’t just sell it off willy-nilly without listening to us.” Beyond the building, Colle stressed the property’s role as a public gathering place, especially for wheelchair users who find its lack of barriers ideal for relaxing and meeting others.

20120731stationKcondo

Anti-high rise sentiments in the neighbourhood should not be discounted, especially when a high number of condos are underway or being proposed. Though community efforts failed to stop the Minto towers south of Eglinton Avenue, anger at former city councillor Anne Johnston’s role in brokering the deal that allowed the project to proceed led to her defeat in Ward 16 by Karen Stintz in 2004. Though Stintz was unable to attend the rally because she was on vacation, neighbouring councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) was on hand to lend his support.

If a condo doesn’t become part of the site’s future, what could the building be used for? Colle said that the Anne Johnston Health Centre, located across the street, had expressed interest in additional space for their programs. Eglinton Park Residents’ Association chair Tom Cohen imagined a commercial tavern paired with a museum celebrating the rebellion of 1837. Whatever happens, it’s likely that a creative solution that utilizes most or all of Postal Station K (which seems to be a condition of any sale) will be better received than a high-rise that does little to acknowledge the site’s history. Otherwise, any march down Yonge Street to mark the anniversary of Mackenzie’s rebellion this December might not be a mere re-enactment.

UPDATE

In the end, Postal Station K was integrated into the Montgomery Square condo tower, which is nearing completion as of early 2018. The older building will become dining and retail space. The project is one of the numerous towers sprouting up around Yonge and Eglinton, which combined with the work on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, have transformed the neighbourhood into a gigantic construction zone.

Scenes of Toronto: Spring 2011

Anti-Harper Commentary

Originally published on Torontoist on April 6, 2011.

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WHERE: Bayview Avenue, north of Eglinton Avenue.
WHEN: Approximately 9 p.m. last night. (Photographed at approximately noon today.)
WHAT: One North Toronto voter’s public commentary on the federal election. The message appears to resurrect the “Anything But Conservative” campaign backed by former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams during the 2008 federal race. We suspect that the author won’t be allowed to attend any upcoming Conservative rallies.

Flowers for a King

Originally published on Torontoist on May 6, 2011.

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WHERE: West section of Mount Pleasant Cemetery
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon; photographed 7:00 p.m. Thursday
WHAT: A large bouquet of flowers beside the tombstone of William Lyon Mackenzie King. While it may simply be a springtime memorial to Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, the imagination runs wild as to other possible motives behind the placing of these flowers. In light of the poor showing by the Liberal party on Monday night, could this be a memorial for the “natural governing party” that King helped build?

Vintage Toronto Ads: An Epicurean Delight

Originally published on Torontoist on May 24, 2011.

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Toronto Life, December 1966.

Say “Red Lobster” and, apart from the pricy crustacean, many people will conjure images of garlic cheese biscuits, popcorn shrimp, and a treasure chest of prizes for small scallywags. Long before the American seafood restaurant chain washed up on Toronto’s shoreline in the mid-1980s, several other businesses briefly used that name before drifting back into the lake.

One was a North Toronto gourmet takeout/delivery that operated during the late 1960s. Early ads touted its unique dinners (netting not included), which allowed customers to heat and serve at their own leisure. Any clumsy chef could quickly prep the lobster, uncork a nice bottle of South African vino, and then enjoy a cozy tête-à-tête.

Besides plain lobster, The Red Lobster offered other seafood dishes with fanciful origins. An August 1965 ad pitching Lobster Newburg (or, to make it sound fancier, “Lobster a la Newbourg”) claimed the meal was invented by Irving Newbourg, personal chef to Julius Caesar. The ad claimed that the dish was “rescued from obscurity by the tender reverence of our own chef, a great admirer and personal friend of Irving’s.”

By early 1967, ads touted new ownership, which changed the name to Lobster Gourmet two years later. Under its new name, the business received several mentions in Mary Walpole’s advertorial column in the Globe and Mail, such as this one promoting its holiday offerings during the 1972 Christmas season:

Those spur-of-the moment Yuletide affairs when guests linger longer or relatives arrive unexpectedly can be done with grace and aplomb merely by calling the Lobster Gourmet on Mt. Pleasant Rd…Office blockbusters will of course require a few days notice, but then when you consider Lobster Gourmet deliver the entire feast in disposable containers, piping hot and at the specified hour, everyone from the top echelon to cleaning staff will bless the organizer on the morning after…We call ourselves whenever we feel like being spoiled when staying home…The bread that goes with every order deserves raves too—home baked on the premises, it is so rich and buttery you can cut it with a fork.

A less advertiser-inspired assessment appeared in Epicure’s Toronto Food Book (Toronto: Greey DePencier Books, 1978):

Lobster Gourmet offers shellfish dinners for those who don’t like cooking or eating out. All the store needs is an hour’s notice. A 1-1/2 lb lobster dinner (including home-baked bread, drawn butter, salad, and baked potato) is $12.95; a la carte (lobster alone) only 50 cents less. Still, the store salad and bread aren’t that great and if you feel like putting out some effort, you’d be better to arrange those matters at home. The unadulterated cooked lobster itself is first-rate—always in my experience.

Additional material from the August 20, 1965, and November 30, 1972, editions of the Globe and Mail.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 1

Some weeks while working on Vintage Toronto Ads my mind overflowed with ideas. Others, whether due to brain fog, a heavy load at my then day job, or a hectic personal life, produced ridiculously short pieces I’m amazed the editors accepted. Rather than give all of those pieces their own posts, I’m collecting them in batches such as this.

Suitable Attire

Originally published on Torontoist on July 29, 2008.

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The Globe, May 12, 1883.

While P. Jamieson tried to raise a ruckus with their dare to the dozen or so other dry goods retailers located in the vicinity of Queen and Yonge, two competitors would have the last laugh—T. Eaton and R. Simpson expanded rapidly after 1883, with the early versions of their landmark stores in place by the end of the 19th century.

Who Are the Educational Trustees in Your Neighbourhood?

Originally published on Torontoist on September 2, 2008.

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The Leaside Story, 1958.

With today marking the first day back to school for most students in the city, we take this opportunity to let parents know who runs the institutions that will mould your children into upstanding young citizens…or at least the people who ran the show in Leaside 50 years ago.

Founded in 1920, the Leaside Board of Education operated out of Leaside High School by the time today’s ad appeared. Besides the high school, the board’s responsibilities in 1958 included three public schools (Bessborough, Rolph Road, Northlea) and one separate school (St. Anselm). The board merged with East York’s educational overseers when the two municipalities amalgamated in 1967.

Do 1010 Ads Use Stereotypes? We Need to Talk

Originally published on Torontoist on January 27, 2009.

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Sources: Toronto ’59 (left) and CFL Illustrated, July 4, 1978 (right).

The provocative stunt-based advertising campaign currently employed by CFRB has been one of Torontoist’s favourite targets for ridicule. This prompted us to dig deep and see if “Ontario’s Family Station” had any promotional skeletons in the closet, as most old CFRB ads we have encountered tend to be warm and friendly.

You be the judge as to whether this pair of ads, one designed to tout the station’s potential reach during the city’s 125th anniversary, the other meant to draw in Argos fans, retain the quaint, humorous charm the ad designers intended or demonstrate how attitudes towards First Nations people and leering football players have changed since they were published.

Look for representatives of either of these groups holding signs for the station on a street corner near you.

When Restaurateurs Go Editorial

Originally published on Torontoist on February 3, 2009.

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Source: Upper Yonge Villager, July 16, 1982.

Most ads for restaurants tout the eatery’s virtues (smart decor, well-prepared food) or highlight special offers. Less common, unless the restaurant has bought ongoing advertorial space, are spots where the owner takes a stance on burning issues of the day. Ads for Oliver’s in community papers usually highlighted the menu, but today’s pick tackles the economic problems of the early 1980s with the subtlety of a talk radio caller, though modern callers would not tack on an apology to those who enjoy statutory holidays.

Opened in 1978, Oliver’s was the first of a series of restaurants Peter Oliver has operated in the city on his own and as part of the Oliver Bonacini partnership.