Cooking with Etta and Earl

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on October 30, 2010.

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Earl Warren and Etta Sawyer about to carve poultry on the front cover of Etta Sawyer at the House of Warren: Kitchen Capers at CFRB (Toronto: Personal Library, 1979).

 

When browsing the cookbook section of any thrift shop or fundraising book sale, it’s not unusual to find a few media-related pamphlets or tomes. Whether produced to support a charity or satisfy audience members who misplaced that roast chicken recipe they clipped or quickly transcribed, these cooking tomes provide as much lasting value as glimpses into personalities who once entertained large audiences as they do with culinary advice that may or may not stand the test of time. One such item we found earlier this year is 1979’s Etta Sawyer at the House of Warren: Kitchen Capers at CFRB, which spotlights the kitchen skills of both a popular cooking teacher and a veteran Toronto radio host.

A native of Regina, Earl Warren Segal (who dropped his last name during his first on-air gig at the tender age of seventeen) joined CFRB in 1961 after stints at several stations out west. He spent the next two decades as the station’s honey-voiced late morning/lunchtime host. Warren described House of Warren as “a real homey show” where he chatted to listeners about “anything from my kid’s measles to a fight I had with my wife.” By the early 1980s, the show’s laid-back mix of personal stories, news, and easygoing music drew 116,000 listeners, which was three times more than the nearest competition. Warren’s boss, Alan Slaight, felt that the host “came across as a really warm, natural human being, and that’s not easy to do in radio.”

Among his regular guests by the end of the 1970s was Etta Sawyer, who appeared on Tuesdays and Thursdays to lend her culinary advice to listeners. Born in Hungary, where her family had a long tradition of cooking for nobility, Sawyer began teaching night school cooking classes for the Toronto Board of Education in the mid-1950s. She was hired to supervise the Canadian National Exhibition’s Kitchen Theatre demonstration area in 1962 and first met Warren that year when he appeared as a celebrity chef. As Sawyer remembered in her introduction to the cookbook, they disagreed over what should go into a pot of fudge.

He said he liked plain unadorned fudge, while I on the other hand liked maple walnut. Among the ingredients on the tray there were walnuts so in they went! Besides, this was MY show! The Kitchen Theatre audiences fell in love with him as did I. We were all hooked on Earl.

In 1971, Sawyer established the Academy of Culinary Arts on Bayview Avenue in Leaside, where she taught thousands of students the ways of the kitchen until her death in 1987 (the retail arm of the business continues to serve cooks of all skill levels).

The recipes in the forty-eight-page book were, according to Warren, perfected during a “three-day orgy—cooking orgy that is…Etta has done the cooking and I’ve done the eating!” The featured dishes range from kitchen basics to age-old favourites from both of their families. Among the latter was a recipe for latkes inspired by those Warren’s Grandma Segal made during his childhood that he often discussed on air:

Every day after school, when most kids were having peanut butter sandwiches and milk, I came home to a big glass of chocolate milk and a plateful of hot, fresh pancakes made from potatoes dutifully hand-grated by Grandma every afternoon. I used to eat them while sitting in front of the radio, listening to a program called The Mailbag from Radio CHAB in Moose Jaw. It was then that I decided to carve out a career as a radio broadcaster. I think those pancakes inspired me.

Those looking for similar inspiration can test the simple recipe while enjoying their favourite media outlet:

2 large potatoes, grated
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup milk
Dash salt and pepper

Instructions: “Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Fry in hot pan, preferably in vegetable oil.” If desired, grated onions could be added to the mix. In an interview with the Star about the cookbook, Warren admitted, “I am not a top latke-maker. But I am a top latke-eater—especially when it’s Etta making the latkes.”

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The back cover.

 

As for the other dishes in the book, the name of one suggested as an accompaniment to a simple curry may have made readers unfamiliar with Indian cuisine think the authors slipped in a joke about eating man’s best friend: the “e” is usually dropped off the end when you order a rose-flavoured “Lassie” in a restaurant. While there are pictures of the authors sampling the recipes, most of the illustrations show them nurturing Warren’s beloved stable of horses.

Warren remained at CFRB until House of Warren was suddenly axed in June 1983. Station management decided a change was required to draw younger listeners and felt that Warren’s audience was too elderly for their liking to fit the station’s gradual shift to a news-talk format. He ran a travel agency, did PR work for the Constellation Hotel, and continued to dabble in radio through a big band music show based out of Burlington. His final on-air gig was a Sunday morning show on AM 740 that he hosted until two weeks before his death in 2002.

Sources: the March 16, 1980, June 18, 1983, October 25, 1987, and October 20, 2002 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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An early draft of this article combined coverage of this cookbook with The Naked Gourmet, a 1970 collaboration between soon-to-be Toronto Sun editor-in-chief Peter Worthington and cartoonist Ben Wicks. I decided that book was worth a future article of its own, which the world is still waiting for (I don’t own a copy, and never took down notes the times I borrowed it from an institution of higher learning). I’ll leave you with the bizarre cover for now…

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Introductory notes from the authors. Based on the price penciled inside the front cover, I bought this at the Elora Festival Book Sale, during a period where I bought anything historically related to Toronto regardless of what it was. After all, who knew when something might come in handy?

I’ve curbed my buying excesses since this period, gradually getting rid of materials that I’ll either never use or may have one use and are available at local libraries or archives when the time comes to use it. A few cookbooks slipped into my collection, and future posts will plow through those that remain before they find new homes.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said there were a lot of pictures of horses in this book. Over the course of its 48 pages, there are six shots of horses, along with one on the back cover. Warren’s Star obit observed that “he loved horses, but lost a lot of money on them,” which led to his other business ventures. Not surprisingly, there are no recipes for cheval.

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The curry recipe, along with the accompanying lassi. This is an old school interpretation, heavy on the fruit and relying on curry powder for seasoning. Once in awhile I’ll make a dish along these lines, though my preferred recipe turns it into a baked chicken casserole with almonds, raisins, and dried apricots.

If you’d like to browse the entire book, reference copies are available at the Toronto Reference Library and the University of Guelph’s Canadian Cookbook Collection.

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Toronto Star, March 16, 1980.

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Toronto Star, October 25, 1987.

Let’s Visit the Harry Horne Booth at the CNE (and eat some Nanaimo bars along the way)

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Nanaimo bars. Yum.

One of my favourite desserts is Nanaimo bars. The mix of chocolatey and coconutty goodness with creamy vanilla filling is irresistible to my tastebuds. Every Christmas, my mom sends me home with batch that my wife and I ration throughout January. For years, a key ingredient for the delectable yellow filling was Harry Horne’s Custard Powder.

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Canadian Grocer, May 7, 1920.

Its advertising claims may be debatable, but it made mighty fine desserts. Besides custard powder, the brand (later reduced to Horne’s)  lingered on for decades on products ranging from barbecue sauce to seafood sauce. Its last owner, Select Food Products, appears to have stopped making the custard powder the mid-2010s, but a sales sheet listed on its website indicated a Horne’s branded gravy was still available as of 2020.

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While researching the early days of Loblaws last year, I found a section in the September 9, 1932 edition of Canadian Grocer highlighting the exhibits in the Pure Food Building at that year’s Canadian National Exhibition. Located on the same site as the current Food Building, it served as the focal point of the fair’s food displays and samples from 1922 to 1953.

The company with the most displays in this section? Harry Horne.

 

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Canadian Grocer, July 3, 1914.

Flipping through back issues of Canadian Grocer, it appears Horne started as a food distributor. The location listed in this ad is, as of January 2020, a Gabby’s restaurant. Foster Clark’s custard powder is still available in Australia (what would an Aussie version of the Nanaimo bar be like?).

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The Globe, May 8, 1926.

Some of Horne’s advertising reflected the prejudices and stereotypes of the day.

By 1932, the company had a storefront operation at 1297-1301 Queen Street West, a site currently occupied by the Parkdale library branch.

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Other displays featured in this section included Borden, Kellogg’s, Kuntz Brewery, Libby’s, Lipton’s Tea, Ovaltine, Peek Frean, Procter and Gamble, Tea-Bisk, Welch’s Grape Juice, and Weston’s.

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The Liberal (Richmond Hill), August 14, 1952.

Horne survived the accident, and passed away six years later.

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Weston-York Times, September 27, 1973

A pair of Nanaimo bar recipes from a community cookbook section. Note varying amounts of custard powder used. The Canadian Encyclopedia gives a detailed history, placing the first published recipe in a 1952 Nanaimo hospital cookbook, but notes there are plenty of other claimants.

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Toronto Star, September 24, 1978.

Harwood’s recipe for Nanaimo bars first appeared in the Star four years earlier, in a feature on ballerina diets. According to the February 20, 1974 article, Harwood’s dessert “established her culinary reputation in the ballet field.” By contrast, Veronica Tennant was known for “sole baked in white wine, then bathed in a cream sauce with green grapes and broiled until delicately golden.”

Vintage Toronto Ads: How to Prevent a Domestic Disturbance

Originally published on Torontoist on April 15, 2008.

Vintage Ad #521: Does Your Husband Yawn at the Table?

National Home Monthly, January 1950.

Sometimes what passed for clever advertising in the past leaves us speechless. Note that today’s ad appeared seven years before Advertising Standards Canada came into being.

57 Ways to Use Heinz Condensed Soups

The free guide offered in this ad was first published in 1944 and offered the following words of wisdom:

Soup has long played a stellar part on the Canadian menu—but never has it filled so many interesting and appetizing roles as it does today! Formerly served as a first course, versatile soup now appears as an important ingredient in dozens of dishes—dressings, meat loaves, rarebits, casseroles and many another old favourite. For housewives have found this a quick, thrifty way to make everything from sauces to salads extra nourishing and delicious.

Most of the recipes provided in the guide are mid-20th century staples, though some lean toward the exotic-sounding (“Fricasseed Chicken with Marengo Sauce”), fattening (“Weiner-Vegetable Casserole” loaded with bacon drippings), or are overdue for a modern remake from the city’s finest chefs (“Tomato Soup Cake” complete with cream cheese frosting).

420 Dupont Street still exists as an address, though Heinz moved their Canadian head office to North York long ago. The site, located at the NW corner of Dupont and Howland, was later the home of Mono Lino Typesetting, and has served as an exterior for films such as Hairspray.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Searching for stories about domestic abuse published in Toronto’s papers in 1950, the majority of reports related to sentences handed out to offenders in Trafalgar Township (present-day Oakville). The June 30, 1950 edition of the Star reported that Bronte resident Elmer Catley was sentenced to four days in jail and “10 strokes of the strap” for wife-beating. He was also ordered to post a $500 property bond and pay $25 in costs, or face 10 more days behind bars. Trafalgar Township police chief Fred Oliver noted that “liquor is this man’s downfall.” Catley was denied a request to be placed on the LCBO’s “Indian List,” which would have blocked his access to alcohol.

Lashing appears to have been a common punishment at the time in Bronte. The December 15, 1950 Globe and Mail reported the sentencing of Walter Ripley to 10 strokes, along with two months hard labour.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, apparently hitting a landlord merited a larger fine than hitting one’s spouse.

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Globe and Mail, March 22, 1950.

Christmas at Mackenzie House, 1963

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Over the holiday season of 1963, Mackenzie House was spotlighted in at least two home magazines as a venue one could enjoy old-fashioned Christmas scenes.

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First up was an article in the December edition of Ontario Homes and Living, “Holiday traditions live on in historical Mackenzie House,” photographed by Peter Varley (apart from this photo and the next one).

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The article declared that the home, as restored and furnished by the Toronto Historical Board, “looks so authentic that it would not seem at all odd if the Mackenzies appeared at the door and sat themselves down at the table for a Christmas roast duck dinner.”

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The museum was decorated for the holidays by the Junior League of Toronto. “Only the simple decorations that the frugal Mackenzie family would have made themselves were used, including such things as popcorn and cranberry gardlands, paper chains, eggshell tree ornaments, evergreen boughs, a kissing ball, and the traditional yule log.”

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The original caption: “Cozy fireplace corner of family room suggests the feeling that here was the heart of the Mackenzie home. Everywhere are signs of industry–hand-hooked rugs, patchwork pillows, and embroidered chair cushion.”

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Canadian Homes Magazine, December 1963.

Mackenzie House was also featured in a two-page spread in Canadian Homes Magazine.  These recipes were served that season at the museum’s Victorian Christmas celebration, where visitors were also taken on tours of the house by members of the Kinette Club.

For 2019’s lineup of holiday events at Mackenzie House, check out their website.

 

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 7: See the New Cookery Methods and Latest Fashions

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Mail and Empire, April 6, 1933.

And so (after a long hiatus for this series), we roll into day 3 of the Mail and Empire‘s cooking school and fashion revue.

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Mail and Empire, April 6, 1933.

A sampling of the prizes used to entice readers to attend the cooking demonstrations.

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Mail and Empire, April 6, 1933. Click on image for larger version.

A sampling of the styles displayed during the fashion revue.

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Mail and Empire, April 6, 1933.

Beyond the reminders to attend the cooking school, regular content carried on. In this case, recipes for crepes suzettes and mayo.

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Mail and Empire, April 6, 1933. Click on image for larger version.

A full page of recipes, alongside ads for the cooking school’s suppliers. The Acme Farmers Dairy plant was located on Walmer Road south of Casa Loma. After a succession of ownership changes, the plant closed in 1986 and was replaced with housing. Pickering Farms was acquired by Loblaws in 1954.

Mrs. Shockley was rolling in endorsements during her stay in Toronto. On April 6 alone, besides these two ads, she also pitched Mazola Corn Oil and Parker’s Cleaners.

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Anchora of Delta Gamma, January 1932.

Sidebar: a contemporary biography of Katherine Caldwell Bayley (1889-1976), aka Ann Adam. Beyond what’s mentioned here, she also wrote several cookbooks as Ann Adam or whatever house names her clients used. Based in Toronto, she ran Ann Adam Homecrafters, a consulting agency which operated through the 1960s. Among her assistants was Helen Gagen, who later became food editor of the Telegram.

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The Globe, February 21, 1935.

An ad for one of Bayley’s regular radio gigs. CKGW, which was owned by Gooderham and Worts distillery, was leased by the forerunner of the CBC around 1933 and changed its call letters to CRCT. On Christmas Eve 1937 it became CBL.

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Bayley’s first “Today’s Food” column for the Globe and Mail, September 24, 1942.

When the Mail and Empire merged with the Globe in November 1936, Bayley’s columns were not carried over. Six years passed before she joined the Globe and Mail as a daily food columnist on “The Homemaker Page.”

Her reintroduction stressed the realities of wartime home economics. “This daily column is designed to help you with the sometimes rather complicated problem of adjusting your cooking and meal-planning to the regulations necessary in a country at war,” the page editor wrote in the September 25, 1942 edition. “Some foods are rationed; some are no longer obtainable, and of others we are asked voluntarily to reduce our consumption. All this, and the effort, in spite of it, to increase, rather than decrease our physical efficiency to enable us to fill wartime jobs, involves more careful catering for our families and a skillful use of substitutes.”

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Globe and Mail, February 27, 1963.

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Globe and Mail, December 31, 1964.

Bayley’s final G&M column received no fanfare elsewhere in the paper, but went out in a partying mood.

Back to the cooking school…

 

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By April 7, the cooking school was front page advertorial copy…um…news.

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Mail and Empire, April 7, 1933.

Next: the cooking school wrap-up.

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 5: From Chowder to Pigeon

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Mail and Empire, March 18, 1933.

Missing from this list of chowders is the kind you might expect: clam. The first printed recipe using the term, published in Boston in 1751, reads like poetry.

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Mail and Empire, March 18, 1933.

One of the few pieces on celebrities to slip into the M&E’s women’s pages so far during our look at them. Norma Shearer did not appear in any films during 1933, returning to the screen in Riptide in March 1934. As for her two-year-old son, Irving Thalberg Jr. grew up to be a philosophy professor.

And now a word from our sponsor…

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Mail and Empire, March 18, 1933.

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Mail and Empire, March 20, 1933.

Bride Broder’s moaning about late winter weather in Toronto is not a recent development.

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Mail and Empire, March 20, 1933.

Let’s embrace spring and make some fresh lemonade syrup.

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Mail and Empire, March 21, 1933. 

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Mail and Empire, March 23, 1933

A double-dose of Ann and Katherine for you, heavy on desserts and sweet treats.

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Mail and Empire, March 23, 1933. 

A suggestion to create community gardens in poor areas of the city in the midst of the Great Depression. Note the nod to The Ward, a historical Toronto neighbourhood which has been the subject of much research and reexamination in recent years.

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Mail and Empire, March 24, 1933.

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Mail and Empire, March 24, 1933. 

These days, pigeon is not a meat you can easily walk into a supermarket to buy. And it’s not a dish that gets much publicity. But modern recipes can be found, such as this one from Jamie Oliver’s site.

A quick Googling also found that contraptions similar to today’s featured utensil exist, even though I’ve never seen one in action.

1933 Mail and Empire Women’s Pages 4: Suggestions for St. Patrick’s Day

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

I’m going to guess that, much as now, much of the “gay doings” Ann Adam expects around St. Patrick’s Day involved consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. This may partly explain why the Mail and Empire‘s morning competition, the Globe, barely mentioned the occasion at all. The Globe‘s owner, William Gladstone Jaffray, refused to run ads for alcohol even after prohibition ended in Ontario in the mid-1920s, and I can’t imagine him endorsing any articles remotely celebrating drinking.

Since this article encourages readers to tint their party pleasing foods green, I checked if green beer was a thing in 1933. According to Smithsonian magazine, the practice dates back to the early 20th century, but didn’t catch on widely until the 1950s.

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

And now a word from our sponsor…

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Mail and Empire, March 16, 1933.

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Mail and Empire, March 17, 1933.

In Search of Ireland (1930) was among the numerous travel books written by English journalist Henry Vollam Morton (1892-1979). Here’s how Kitty Hauser described one of Morton’s most popular works, In Search of England (1927), for the London Review of Books in 2005:

In Search of England came out of a series Morton wrote for the Daily Express in 1926. It is an account of a journey around England in a Bullnose Morris, written ‘without deliberation by the roadside, on farmyard walls, in cathedrals, in little churchyards, on the washstands of country inns’. Its tone is jaunty, as the narrator leaves London and reels at whim in his two-seater down country lanes and past historic sites in search of an essential and timeless England. It is a quest to find in reality the England that existed as myth for a war-ravaged generation; the village at dusk, smelling of woodsmoke, surrounded by green fields; the thatched cottages and rambling gardens; the time-worn historical monuments. This was the land ‘worth fighting for’ in the propaganda of both world wars. That Morton apparently found it, many times over, in the course of his travels (reaffirming it in every new edition), reassured readers that it really was out there, even if it might not be visible to those living in cities or their ever-expanding suburbs. What Morton demonstrated to his predominantly urban readers, with a deceptively casual air, was that this England – the ‘real’ England – was just a car journey away, down an inviting and empty country road.

Morton moved to South Africa in 1948, just as apartheid was being implemented in that country, a political direction that didn’t seem to bother him.

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Toronto Star, March 17, 1933.

As for what the other Toronto papers had to offer for St. Patrick’s celebrations, the Star published recipes for Shamrock Cake and Mint Jelly.

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Toronto Star, March 17, 1933.

The Star also published a photo of an unidentified baby wearing a St. Patrick’s Day hat.

I couldn’t find any references to a St. Patrick’s Day parade happening in the city. More digging reveals that processions that day ended in 1877, and did not resume until 1988. Public processionals of Irish identity — or at least Irish Protestant anti-Catholic identity — were reserved for the Orange Parade on July 12. According to the July 13, 1933 edition of the Globe, 50,000 people marched across municipalities throughout Ontario to mark the 243rd anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Dignitaries and Orange Lodge officials addressing these gatherings declared their allegiance to the British Empire and denounced atheism, bilingualism, and Communism.  In Toronto, where 10,000 people marched, the parade went from Queen’s Park to a rally at Exhibition Park. In front of attendees such as Mayor William J. Stewart and Premier George Henry, participants denounced what they believed was an “organized effort to make Canada a bilingual country” by criticizing French language instruction in schools and radio programming.