Vintage Toronto Ads: Someday Your Prince Hotel Will Come

Originally published on Torontoist on April 29, 2008.

2008_04_29prince

Toronto Life, February 1975.

Today’s ad offers an ideal 1970s entertainment lineup for upper middle class patrons on business, vacation, or a wild night in the suburbs. The Royal Box offered dinner theatre twice a night. The “merely posh” Le Continental filled the decade’s appetite for romantic meals loaded with soft jazz and slabs of meat (chateaubriand for two, ma belle amie?). Katsura supplied a then-exotic Japanese dining experience. The Brandy Tree offered fancy drinks and a piano bar. The Coffee Garden catered to those for whom none of the above appealed to (or were affordable for) and to those with an appreciation for macrame walls.

Opened on July 10, 1974, this luxury hotel was the first foray by Prince Hotels International into North America and its second outside of its Japanese base (the first was in Guam). In an article published shortly after the hotel opened, the Toronto Star noted that:

A recurring theme of conversation with the hotel executives was a determination from the outset not simply to transplant a Japanese hotel to Canada but to fit it in with the environment (even the dead trees on the property have been left standing) and with Canadians (domestic materials, almost exclusively, Canadian architects, local people comprising almost all the operating staff).

Another way the owners ingratiated themselves to nearby residents was through minor hockey sponsorship a year before the hotel opened. The team won their division and Prince executive Kikuo Yamazaki treated them to a party at his home.

The Prince experienced growing pains, tearing through three operations managers and four PR firms by the time Christmas of ’75 rolled around. By March 1976, the hotel was one of three the Star marked as the emptiest luxury spots in Toronto, along with the Harbour Castle and the Plaza II (now the Marriott in the Hudson’s Bay Centre). The paper felt that apart from a few specialty suites and Katsura, the hotel didn’t provide enough Japanese decor and atmosphere. With its average occupancy hovering under 32%, Prince did not move forward with further North American expansion plans. The site was eventually rebranded as a Westin hotel.

Additional material from the August 24, 1974, December 9, 1975 and March 23, 1976 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Just Dial GO

Originally published on Torontoist on March 4, 2008.

nth 1974-03-22 dial a bus

The North Toronto Herald, March 22, 1974.

Congratulations. You’ve just moved into a home or apartment in the rapidly growing city of North York to start your bright future. You either don’t own a car or prefer to use one as little as possible. Fixed public transit services haven’t quite made it out to your neck of the woods yet you really want to be chauffeured by a bow-tie wearing driver with a creepy smile who will drop you off at your doorstep.

For a brief period in the mid-1970s, GO Transit and the TTC combined to provide a fleet of minibuses to come to your rescue. GO launched the first Dial-a-Bus pilot in Pickering Township in the summer of 1970, which ran for three years. The service was introduced to Metropolitan Toronto in October 1973, when three zones were launched in partnership with the TTC along either side of York Mills Road between Yonge and Leslie. Accessibility came at a premium compared to bus fares of the time (40 cents versus 30), with no transfers between Dial-a-Bus and regular TTC bus stops.

The experiment barely had time to prove itself. Service expansions to Armour Heights and Downsview lasted less than a year, while the York Mills service fizzled out in 1976. The stereotypical image of a user may have been a problem, as residents complained that only “maids” would provide the bulk of the ridership for proposed permanent TTC routes in the York Mills zones.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Western Days in Don Mills

Originally published on Torontoist on March 9, 2007.

Vintage Ad #191 - The West Moves East

Source: Toronto Life, August 1968.

“Hey kids, let’s dig out that cowboy gear we bought for Halloween last year and hum the theme to Bonanza on the way to the Western Days hoe-down in Don Mills! Don’t forget the toy gun, pardner!”

Suburban shopping centres used plenty of gimmicks in the early days to get consumers to hop in the car and drive out to stores where they didn’t have to worry about paying for parking or carrying their goods home on the TTC. Modern indoor sidewalk sales have nothing on their ancestors — when was the last time you received free grilled meat from a server in a Stetson at Bayview Village or Yorkdale?

Note the description of the aboriginal element of the event. Based on everything else in the ad, it’s easy to imagine a depiction of Native culture as sensitive as a 1940s B-western.

Much of the advertising for the Don Mills Centre from this period plays on Wild West terminology, appropriate for a pioneer in Toronto retailing. One of the region’s first large-scale suburban shopping centres, it was designed to be the heart of the Don Mills development. The centre opened in 1955 as an open-air plaza which included long-term tenants like Dominion, Brewers Retail and Koffler Drugs (which evolved into the Shoppers Drug Mart empire). Eaton’s built their first suburban store at the centre in 1961, to be joined by Zellers in 1965. A roof came with a 1978 expansion.

The closure of Eaton’s when the chain was sold to Sears in 1999 began the stampede towards the centre’s demolition last year, to make way for an outdoor “lifestyle” shopping area. The current blank space is large enough to hold a decent-size carnival and rodeo, if anyone is interested…

Vintage Toronto Ads: Opulent Penthouse-Style Living

Originally published on Torontoist on February 23, 2007.

2007_02_23topofvalley.jpg

When searching for a new place to live, what is the first thing you look for? Location? Lifestyle compatibility? Enticements? A blank slate to shape in your unique style? Groovy wallpaper?
Judging from today’s ad, the latter may have been a key condition in North York back in 1970.

This was the era of “swingin’ singles” apartments, promoted in areas of the city like St. James Town. Think of this ad as the late 1960s equivalent of lifestyle ads pitched to upwardly-mobile condo buyers, without the benefits of ownership—replace “penthouse living” with “loft”, “condo” or “lifestyle community” and the text could be slotted into the next project to hit the weekend paper.

Depending on decorating taste, your eyes may be thankful for the decision to make this a black and white ad, given the loudness of the “luxury wallpapers” in this “opulent bathroom.” Is the tenant pointing into space, admiring her new surroundings or relieved that she found the mirror in the midst of everything? Conversely, the decor may provide cozy memories of homes you grew up in or your first snazzy pad.

Note the prominent placement of the toilet paper dispenser—was the photographer passing subliminal judgement?

While current enticements to potential tenants include free TVs and time-restricted reduced parking rates, this company capitalized on the recent opening of Fairview Mall (then anchored by Simpsons and The Bay) by offering a shuttle service. Today, residents further south in Don Mills have use of a shuttle to the mall in the wake of the demolition of the Don Mills Centre.

Source: Toronto Life, September 1970