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.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Voice from the Bee Hive

Originally published on Torontoist on September 29, 2009.

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The Telegram, December 2, 1948.

We can picture it now—a giant, disembodied head floating in the locker room of Maple Leaf Gardens, hovering near his microphone as he interviews battle-scarred hockey players preparing to dazzle the rest of the country with their skills over the airwaves on Saturday night. Interviewees were too focused on the game ahead to notice the lack of a body…

Sportscaster Wes McKnight (1909–1968) began his association with CFRB in 1928. Four years later, a chat with Charlie Conacher of the Leafs launched his long-running Bee Hive–sponsored Saturday night hockey interview series. Players received twenty-five dollars for appearing on the show, which aired before Hockey Night in Canada (CFRB simulcast the radio version, where McKnight appeared on the Hot Stove League show during intermissions, with CBC for many years). Besides hockey, McKnight also provided play-by-play for Toronto Argonauts matches and golf tournaments and offered a daily sports commentary. He wound down his radio career in the early 1960s as an executive at CFRB, retiring two years before his death.

As for McKnight’s sponsor, the St. Lawrence Starch Company produced Bee Hive corn syrup and other corn-based products in Port Credit for a century. For a couple of generations of hockey fans, the company was best known for the free player photos it offered as a mail-in promotion from 1934 to 1967. The offer was wildly successful, as up to twenty-five hundred requests a day passed through the company’s headquarters. Photos shot in Toronto were mostly taken by the Turofsky brothers.

Money proved to be the nail in the coffin for Bee Hive photos—teams were paid little for photo rights, while players were compensated, at least in the 1940s, with a six-pack of corn syrup at the start of the season. As a letter sent out to disappointed customers in 1967 noted:

It is not without some regret that we take this step, having over the years supplied millions of these pictures to hockey fans across Canada, but steadily rising costs have brought us to the point of no return. Fees for picture rights demanded by the N.H.L. clubs have gone out of all reason; clerical wages and salaries are much higher, cost of producing the pictures themselves and the envelopes has increased and, finally, postage has increased by 25%.

Production ceased at the Port Credit plant in 1990. The site at Hurontario Street and Lakeshore Road is currently home to mixed developments, though the St. Lawrence name lingers via a street and a park.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Two Generations of Rogers

Originally published on Torontoist on December 2, 2008.

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Toronto Life, April 1972.

As Torontoist reported earlier today, media mogul Ted Rogers passed away early this morning. Today’s ad features Rogers alongside his father, who was one of Canada’s broadcasting pioneers.

In 1925, Edward Samuel “Ted” Rogers Sr. designed the first radio to run on electricity instead of giant, expensive batteries, an event commemorated on a plaque at Chestnut Street and Armoury. Rogers Sr.’s batteryless receiver brought down the operating cost of radios, which increased their popularity as a home entertainment system. By the end of the 1920s, Rogers ran the largest radio manufacturer in the country (Rogers-Majestic) and Canada’s first electrically operated radio station, CFRB (“Canada’s First Rogers Batteryless”).

After tinkering with early forms of television and radar during the 1930s, Rogers Sr. succumbed to complications from a hemorrhage on May 6, 1939. The Globe and Mail offered this tribute on its editorial page:

If his invention of the batteryless set did not rank him with Edison, Bell and Marconi, it was revolutionary and conferred great blessings on mankind. What his genius might have contributed to the world but for his regrettable death at the early age of 38 in unknown…. Like the inventor of the telephone and the electric light, “Ted” Rogers often “burned the midnight oil” before he worked out the problem which had baffled older heads. He spent long hours in laboratories and worked his tiny transmitter at night, sending signals across the seas. Young folks and old were thrilled by his success. It provides a lesson for other young men inclined to the defeatist attitude.

The day of his funeral, CFRB went silent for two hours.

Additional material from the May 8, 1939 edition of the Globe and Mail.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Metro Morning

Since 1973, Torontonians have woken up to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. Here’s a sampling of Vintage Toronto Ads posts related to the show and its personalities.

Morning People

Originally published on Torontoist on September 16, 2008.

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Toronto Life, February 1978.

Kudos to the designer of today’s featured ad, which successfully imitates the look and feel of one of the most successful new magazine launches of the 1970s to promote a longtime Toronto wake-up call, CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

Time Inc.’s attempt to package a personality-driven magazine with better research than existing scandal-focused publications resulted in People turning a profit within 18 months of its March 1974 debut. Managing editor Richard B. Stolley felt that the factors behind its success included an increased willingness by celebrities and the public to talk about themselves during the “Me Decade” and the fact that other American magazines “had gotten away from the personality story; they’d become more issue-oriented…We’d do issues, of course, but through personalities.”

This focus on personalities made the magazine’s cover design appropriate for CBC to borrow in a series of ads highlighting on-air talent throughout 1978. David Schatzky was the third host of Metro Morning since its debut in 1973, following Bruce Rogers and Harry Brown. After his 1976–79 run in the host’s chair, Schatzky continued to work for CBC and later became a psychotherapist.

Additional material from Magazines That Make History by Norberto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva (Barcelona: editorialsol90, 2004)

Barrie B.C. (Before CBC)

Originally published on Torontoist on February 2, 2010.

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Toronto Star, October 3, 1988.

On yesterday’s edition of Metro Morning, host Andy Barrie announced his retirement from waking up Torontonians for fifteen years. Since arriving in Toronto from Montreal in the late 1970s, his style has drawn praise from listeners of public and private stations for his ability to put a human face on issues and complaints about being in love with the sound of his own voice. Barrie’s tenure at CBC marks the second half of his Toronto radio career—today’s ads look back at his bearded years on-air at private broadcasters.

Barrie was first heard over Toronto’s airwaves in 1977, when he joined CFRB. Within a year he had his own one-hour evening show, making him one of the youngest hosts on the respectable-yet-greying station. In a 1980 interview with the Star following his coverage of the assassination of John Lennon, Barrie indicated that he didn’t feel “that [he was] a younger token at the station, but in some ways it’s a little lonely and strange. On the other hand, though, it’s quite exciting.”

But perhaps there were some discomforts being the “new guy,” as he departed CFRB to become the morning man (and one of the oldest on-air personalities) at CJCL in early 1981. Barrie was part of a station revamp by 1430 AM owners Telemedia, who had just purchased the former CKFH from station founder Foster Hewitt. Barrie faced a challenge at the former country music station, as its previous morning show had drawn barely more than a thousand daily listeners. “When you’ve got no listeners,” Barrie told the Star, “you’re in the same situation as the Japanese when they first tried to crack the North American car market.” He felt the station could start from scratch and focus its efforts on Toronto, as opposed to CFRB’s concentration on Southern Ontario (“Toronto, after all, is where it’s happening now”). CJCL’s mix of news, talk, and adult contemporary music didn’t set the ratings on fire and Barrie wasn’t replaced when he departed the station in 1983.

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Toronto Star, October 12, 1979.

By 1986, Barrie was back at CFRB hosting a late-morning call-in show that took advantage of emerging communications technology. Each morning, the station notified fifteen Ryerson students what the day’s discussion topic would be, then set them loose on the streets of Toronto with “cordless cellular phones similar to walkie-talkies” to solicit responses that were mixed in with regular calls to the studio. Barrie felt this approach allowed people who normally didn’t listen to CFRB to take part in the discussion.

Barrie was in the early phases of renegotiating his contract with CFRB in 1995 when CBC offered up Metro Morning. He saw this as an opportunity to solidify his ties to Canada. “My wife just said to me yesterday that joining the CBC is a nice thing to do with my citizenship,” he joked to the Globe and Mail. “I think when you’re an immigrant to this country working at the CBC feels like a second arrival. I think the CBC is an astonishing organization and I’m glad to be part of it.” It was also a fresh opportunity: Barrie compared the possibility of staying at CFRB, where many of its personalities had long runs, to being “like the prom queen never being asked out because everyone thinks she has a date.” Newspaper reports indicated that many CFRB staffers were upset at the departures of Barrie, Jane Hawtin (who went to 640 AM), and Brian Linehan (who left when management wanted to go with a harder-edged approach to entertainment reporting). Station president Gary Slaight was philosophical about the departures, noting Barrie and Hawtin received offers they couldn’t refuse. Reading between the lines of an interview with the Star, one suspects that Slaight wasn’t unhappy that two personalities perceived to have leftish biases were gone as CFRB remade itself into a younger, further-right voice than it had been.

Barrie’s first year at Metro Morning was a rocky adjustment for some listeners, as CBC phone lines received complaints that the new host had too musical a voice, pontificated too much, and was generally too exuberant. Barrie took in listener reactions (he was said to be the first host to drop in on focus group sessions), settled in, and led the show’s climb toward the top of the morning ratings.

Additional material from the July 25, 1995, and June 29, 1996, editions of the Globe and Mail, and the December 12, 1980, May 16, 1981, August 31, 1986, July 25, 1995, and July 29, 1995, editions of the Toronto Star.

Good News from Jim Curran

Originally published on Torontoist on March 27, 2012.

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Toronto Star, June 1, 1970.

This week marks the end of an era for loyal CBC Radio listeners because, after 40 years of traffic reporting, Jim Curran will provide his last update for Toronto commuters on Friday. Part of the Metro Morning team since the show debuted in April 1973 as Tomorrow is Here (the name changed a year later) and a fixture on the afternoon drive show for just as long, Curran has provided a parade of hosts with the latest on the city’s gridlock. We suspect that his soothing, easygoing style has likely prevented a road rage incident or two. Online reaction to his retirement announcement last month was so widespread that Curran became a trending topic on Twitter.

Before he joined CBC in 1972, Curran studied radio and TV journalism at Ryerson. During his undergrad career, he was part of CFRB’s “Good News” program for budding journalists, which we covered in a previous column. His fellow upbeat reporters included longtime instructors at Centennial College and Concordia University, and a future serial investor.

Our research also uncovered a Globe and Mail profile from 1974 that focused on Curran’s passion for antique clocks. At the time, he had assembled a collection of 25 timepieces over three years. His advice to novices was to read up on the history of Canadian clock manufacturing to avoid fakes on the market. He admitted being ripped off once: “I bought what I thought was an antique bit of Canadiana but when I got it home and took the dial off, I found it stamped Made in Japan.”

Additional information from the April 2, 1974 edition of the Globe and Mail.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Summer Is Such Fun With CBC!

Originally published on Torontoist on June 24, 2008.

Vintage Ad #572: Summer Is Such Fun!
Toronto Life, July 1973.

With summer now officially upon us, some of our fair city’s citizens face an age-old dilemma: stay in the city for the weekend or flee to the cottage. Families who choose the latter are then faced with the prospect of entertaining themselves in the midst of gridlock and curveballs tossed by the weather deities.

Enter CBC’s network of repeater stations to keep family members safe from each other’s throats and help them avoid the indignities suffered by bored pioneer cottagers. Without the modern miracles of radio and television, the parents have retreated into their own worlds, occasionally engaging in a quiet contest to see who can display the sourest facial expression. Their children, deprived of television classics like The Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup to keep them mellow, give in to their primal urges and engage in an intense hair-pulling match.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Growing The Good News

Originally published on Torontoist on May 6, 2008.

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Toronto Life, July 1975.

Several ways to interpret the stated goal of “reporting some of the happier happenings in our community”:

  • An opportunity for budding reporters to hone their skills on enlightening human interest stories and positive community events that fly under the radar during a typical grim news day.
  • A momentary respite from the sensationalism creeping into the news world.
  • A program that allows a media outlet like CFRB to break in fresh young talent gently, without the fear of any of these raw recruits screwing up a hard news story.
  • It’s summer—who wants to be depressed on a sunny day?

Vintage Toronto Ads: Rocking the Ice Away

Originally published on Torontoist on April 1, 2008.

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Toronto Life, January 1980.

 
Little-known scientific fact: clock radios embedded in a block of ice will cause their frozen shell to melt faster when tuned to an album rock station than any other kind of radio format. Tests are inconclusive as to whether this effect will occur more rapidly if the clock was manufactured by Panasonic or General Electric, or if the ice will reform whenever Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” blares away.

Think of how much the city could have saved in removal costs if it had strategically placed these radios in snowbanks this past winter.

CILQ first hit the airwaves on May 22, 1977 as the sister station to country-formatted CFGM (now 640 Toronto Radio), with Murray McLauchlan’s “Hard Rock Town” as its debut song. Among the on-air staff in Q107’s first year were future CityTV anchor Mark “The Voice” Dailey and future CFRB morning host Ted Woloshyn. The station’s highlight for 1980 was a 36-hour on-air stint by morning host Scruff Connors that raised $72,000 for cancer research after Terry Fox was forced to stop the Marathon of Hope that September.