Vintage Toronto Ads: School Means Books (and a Larger Store)!

Originally published on Torontoist on September 6, 2009.

20090908bts

The Globe, September 2, 1929.

For most city students, this week marks the start of another year of hitting the textbooks or reasonable facsimiles of. Back in 1929, local department stores such as Simpson’s did their part to further the education of their future customer base by offering texts alongside the normal range of school supplies. Of the subjects listed, note that it was slightly cheaper for students to study British history than Canada’s past, which demonstrates the societal ties that remained between Ontario and “the mother country” (unless the publisher simply charged less). Also note how perilously the texts float above each student’s head—we hope this wasn’t a hint that knowledge should literally be fed to student brains.

Besides students, today’s ad attempted to draw in visitors who came to Toronto once a year to attend the Canadian National Exhibition or enjoy a late-summer getaway. The addition referred to had opened to the public during the winter of 1929, with most of the prestige reserved for the unveiling of the Arcadian Court restaurant on March 11. Besides being “the smart place to meet friends,” the early days of the restaurant included regular fashion shows that showed off designs from around the world. While the Arcadian Court still operates, the same can’t be said for the Silence Rooms, which sound like a great concept for those needing a break from exposure to other shoppers. Would an attendant swoop down like a hawk on any hapless soul sneaking a cellphone call in the “silent” area?

Advertisements

Summer’s Here And The Time Is Right For Golfing In The Streets

Originally published on Torontoist on June 5, 2008.

Home-grown small-screen productions have also made ample use of our city’s streets since CBLT debuted in 1952. During the summer of 1971, comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster used downtown as a backdrop for an exciting new sport, city golf. Over the course of 18 holes, cameramen preserved pieces of the city that development has changed significantly in the ensuing years, from landmarks in their infancy to retail icons that have moved along.

Besides, wouldn’t shooting a golf ball down Queen Street over lunch hour be a great stress reliever, as long as you don’t brain any onlookers?

Among the sites to watch out for while viewing this clip (or to skip ahead to if Wayne and Shuster are not your taste):

1:54: City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, only open for six years at this point. Note the waving spectators on the top ramp.

2:10: Eaton’s Queen Street store. Initially located south of Queen when Timothy Eaton set up shop in 1869, the store moved to 190 Yonge Street in 1883 and gradually expanded to take up the entire block bounded by James to the west and Albert to the north. Company warehouses stretched along neighbouring blocks while a second retail store, the Eaton’s Annex, opened at Albert and Yonge. During the mid-20th century, the Queen store was Eaton’s mid-range store, with the Annex (destroyed by fire in 1977) catering to bargain hunters and their Yonge-College store (now College Park) attracting upscale shoppers. The sale advertised on the Queen entrance places filming around August, when the following ad appeared in local papers.

2008_06_04eatonshome

Globe and Mail, August 2, 1971.

Across the street Simpsons also had a month-long sale running, though they appear to have taken less care in design and material with the “Great Toronto Days” banner.

The two stores would draw shoppers on either side of Queen until 1977, when Eaton’s consolidated their downtown retail operations into their new store at Yonge and Dundas during the first phase of Eaton Centre construction.

3:10: The first hole is near the King Edward Hotel, then on a downhill slide (note the less than elegant front sign). Before the decade was out, the hotel was threatened with demolition before being rescued by new investors…though its Crystal Ballroom might be a decent locale to practice short putts.

5:44: The original configuration of the 401/Don Valley Parkway interchange. The DVP had been built as far north as Sheppard by 1966, with Woodbine Avenue continuing northwards until the first phase of Highway 404 to Steeles Avenue was completed in 1977. More bridge hazards after recent construction would create a greater challenge in a modern game.

6:00: Long-gone parking lots on the south side of Carlton Street opposite Maple Leaf Gardens, later occupied by condos, fast food joints, Mick E. Fynn’s, Peach Garden, and Golden Griddle.

6:37: The Odd Fellows Hall at Yonge and College can be seen behind Wayne. Then a branch of CIBC, now home to Starbucks.

2008_06_05jarvismap

7:40: The drawing of the 10th hole refers to several vanished buildings along Jarvis Street. The Four Seasons Motor Hotel at 415 Jarvis was the launchpad for the luxury hotel chain, which it maintained through the late 1970s. Opened in 1961, it won a Massey Medal for Architecture. Toronto Life’s Toronto Guidebook described the Four Seasons as:

…a great place: small and slightly chic (because of all the visiting celebrities who stay there, because of the proximity of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation across the street); not too expensive; only three storeys, so you don’t have top cope overmuch with elevators; and hassle-free parking. There’s a swimming pool in the central courtyard…a bar-cum-discotheque downstairs called The Studio from which, at lunch time, the timeless Elwood Glover conducts his CBC-TV interview show.

This was a boom time for the chain, with Inn on the Park humming along, its first overseas hotel welcoming guests in 1970, and the development of a new location on Queen that became the Sheraton Centre. The Motor Inn was closed in the late 1970s and eventually demolished, with The Central condos currently staying for the night at its address.

CBC was headquartered at 354 Jarvis until the opening of the broadcast centre on Front Street. Its land is now occupied by Radio City and the National Ballet School. We suspect “the beverage room” was a watering hole for employees of the Corp.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

“City Golf” originally aired on the September 19, 1971 edition of The Wayne and Shuster Comedy Special. According to a capsule preview in the previous day’s edition of Starweek, the show also featured a spoof of Citizen Kane, and a sketch going behind-the-scenes of a minimum security prison. Musical guests were Salome Bey and Gilles Vigneault.

gm 1971-09-20 review of w&s city golf

Blaik Kirby’s review of the show, from the September 20, 1971 edition of the Globe and Mail. The comedic merits of the city golf sketch are still debatable.

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Beautiful Garden of Shops

Originally published on Torontoist on July 1, 2008.

2008_07_01sherway

Toronto Life, April 1971.

Indoor gardens. A climate-controlled shopping experience to deal with harsh winters and humid summers. The most stores under one roof in Canada. Plenty of directions for those using their vehicles or public transit. All of these drawing cards were used when Sherway Gardens opened in 1971.

On the drawing board since the early 1960s, construction of Sherway Gardens was delayed for eight years due to legal challenges from merchants in the nearby communities along Lake Shore Boulevard (who feared bankruptcy once the centre opened), rival Cloverdale Mall (due to competition), and from the townships of Mississauga and Chinguacousy (who feared the effects on their growth plans). After a final appeal at the Supreme Court of Ontario favoured the developers, ground broke in 1969. The original owner was Baltimore-based Rouse Company, whose other properties in the 1970s included Faneuil Hall in Boston.

The initial phase consisted of 127 stores filling 80,000 square feet, a third less space than was occupied by Yorkdale Shopping Centre. An “S” design was used to eliminate long corridors, with the developers beaming that shoppers would always be within 60 feet of a place to rest. Four of these stops were gardens designed by landscape architect George Tanaka with Japanese, cactus, hanging plant, and tropical themes.

At the ends of the “S” were initial anchors were Eaton’s and Simpsons. Grocery giants Dominion and Loblaws spent hundreds of thousands on their stores, with each keeping a close eye on the other’s prices. The list of stores on opening day is filled with vanished retailers such as Agnew Surpass, Dominion Playworld, Elk’s Menswear, Maher Shoes and Sam the Record Man. Two nameplates caught our eye: The Pink Poodle and Very Very Terry Jerry.

Within two hours of unlocking the doors on February 24, 1971, over 20,000 shoppers passed through the new mall. The Globe and Mail compared the festivities to “opening day of the CNE without the rides.” Police pipe bands, choirs and beauty queens entertained the crowds, while broadcaster Gordon Sinclair was on hand to open the Dominion store. Simpsons chairman G. Allan Burton joked: “I hope the only mechanical failure is an overheated cash register.” Tight security saw 70 guards mingling among the crowd, which Rouse Company officials hoped would prevent issues with drug dealers they encountered on opening day at several of their American properties.

Reaction from shoppers and high school students playing hooky was generally favourable, most enjoying the number of downtown retailers with outposts in the new mall. One shopper who wasn’t quite sure about their feelings was Mrs. R.O. Phillips of Etobicoke, who noted that “it’s a real asset to the area, but it’s more sterile looking than I expected. There’s certainly a lot of glass and steel in modern designs.”

Additional material from the February 24, 1971 edition of The Toronto Star and February 25, 1971 edition of The Globe and Mail.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Welcome to the Hotel Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on June 26, 2007.
Source: Toronto Life, November 1975.

Downtown Toronto experienced a hotel boom during the first half of the 1970s as modern skyscrapers and buildings like the new City Hall changed the face of the core. Among those that made their debut: the Sheraton Centre (1972), the Holiday Inn on Chestnut (1972), the Chelsea (1975), the Harbour Castle (1975) and, opening its doors 32-years ago this week, the Hotel Toronto.

Western International Hotels traced its roots to the early 1930s, when two hoteliers in Washington state joined together to form Western Hotels (the “International” portion was added in 1954 after its first Canadian location opened). United Airlines ran the company from 1970 to 1987, changing the name to Westin in 1980. This ad promises the usual amenities for weary 1970s travelers, such as colour TV and temperature control.

As for dining options, Trader Vic’s first claim to fame was its invention of the mai tai in Oakland, California during World War II. Its restaurants helped popularize tiki drinks and “Polynesian” food, though the vogue for both was sliding downhill by the time the hotel opened. Note the stern-looking chef, who may have seen one pineapple-based dish too many. The chain still exists, though most of its current locations are outside of North America.

In 1987, the hotel swapped corporate banners with the Hilton Harbour Castle and remains in business as the Toronto Hilton.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

ts 75-06-15 trader vics preview

Source: Toronto Star, June 15, 1975. Click on image for larger version.

When the Blue Jays began play in 1977, the Hotel Toronto hosted the visiting teams, except for the New York Yankees, who preferred the Westbury on Yonge Street. In a 1979 guide to meeting guys around the city, the Star’s Lynda Hurst provided tips on how ladies could catch a glimpse (or more) of baseball hunks:

ts 79-04-07 trader vics where boys are

Source: Toronto Star, April 7, 1979.

ktt 1976-08 trader vicsSource: Key to Toronto, August 1976.

As a tourist draw, Trader Vic’s was included in Mary Walpole’s regular advertorial roundup of Toronto restaurants in the Globe and Mail. For decades, Walpole wore out the dot symbol on the presses, employing a style that seems odd today. You’re tempted to wonder if this was done for aesthetic purposes, or if Walpole actually spoke/wrote like an excited telegram. We’re going to encounter a lot more of her advertorials (as well as writers in other papers, like Brett Halliday of the Sun, who employed a similar style) as we revisit these stories. I was often tempted to write a Historicist column about these writers, who carved out a corner in the dailies for decades but, because they were writing hyperbolic ad copy, may not have received much respect.

gm 76-02-24 mary walpole trader vics

Source: Globe and Mail, February 24, 1976.

More legitimate reviews viewed Trader Vic’s with mixed feelings. Categorizing it under “Tourist Trade,” a capsule comment in the Globe and Mail in 1978 observed that:

gm 78-03-08 trader vic review

Source: Globe and Mail, March 8, 1978.

On dreary winter nights, when the scent of sunny islands is the only promise of springtime, this Polynesian hideaway is the ideal refuge. Those whose spirits aren’t raised by bamboo alone can relax in the arms of a giant rattan chair, and let the soft lights and silky Hawaiian music wash over them while sipping the fragrant—and fresh—fruit concoctions for which Trader’s is justifiably famous throughout the world. (A word of warning—the velvet hand of the bartenders with pineapple, mango, coconut and lime gentles liquor to a lethal whisper, but it packs more punch than navy grog.) – Toronto Calendar, in its 3/5 star rating of Trader Vic’s, December 1978.

Trader Vic’s proximity to Simpsons made it easy to participate in promotions such as cooking classes.

ts 76-02-09 simpsons trader vics pA11

Source: Toronto Star, February 9, 1976.

Finally, a drink suggestion if you’re in a giggly mood during a romantic evening. You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day!

ts 82-02-07 tv rum giggle for two

Source: Toronto Star, February 7, 1982.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Baseball’s Back at the Simpsons Dugout

Originally published on Torontoist on February 9, 2007.

Depressed by the current deep freeze? Here’s something to make you feel warmer – next week, the boys of summer (or at least the pitchers and catchers) report for spring training for the Blue Jays’ 30th anniversary season.
2007_02-09simpsons.jpgSimpsons was one of many businesses eager to show their support when the Jays prepared to take the field in 1977. The “Simpsons Dugout” concept almost sounds like the Olympic section at The Bay (also located on the second floor of the Queen-Yonge store), though it’s doubtful you can buy an Olympic ashtray. Note the happy family in their Jays finery, except for mom, who looks as if she can’t wait to tear her cap off.

Professional baseball has a long history in Toronto, dating back to the 1880s. The longest-lasting team was the Maple Leafs (1895-1967), who played in the Eastern and International Leagues. Under media mogul Jack Kent Cooke’s ownership in the 1950s, the team led the IL in attendance, winning four championships that decade. A Boston Red Sox farm team for its final three seasons, the team moved to Louisville after the 1967 season. Among the Maple Leafs’ home fields were Hanlan’s Point Stadium (several incarnations from 1897 to 1925) and Maple Leaf Stadium (built in 1926 at the southwest corner of Bathurst and Lakeshore, demolished 1968).

Major league baseball nearly made its TO debut in 1976, when the San Francisco Giants announced that January that a deal had reached to sell the team to a group primarily financed by Labatt’s, who intended to transfer the team here. A court injunction brought on by San Francisco mayor George Moscone delayed the deal long enough that buyers were found to keep the team in the Bay area. Within a month, the American League voted to expand to Toronto and Seattle for the following season.

Toronto was not the first major league team to carry the name “Blue Jays.” The Philadelphia Phillies officially changed their name to the Blue Jays in 1943, when new owner William Cox tried to shake up a team that had finished in last place six out of the seven previous seasons. The name never caught on with fans or sportswriters and was dropped after the 1944 season. Cox was gone before that, having been thrown out of baseball after the 1943 season when he admitted he placed “sentimental” bets on Philadelphia games.

The debut scorebook this ad appeared includes articles on previous major league expansions, the first American League game in 1901, the Baseball Hall of Fame, etc. Oddball feature: a guide on how to dine out in Toronto by longtime Globe and Mail restaurant reviewer Joanne Kates. Top ticket price in 1977? $6.50.

Source: Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Vol 1 No 17, 1977