Vintage Toronto Ads: The Watermelon and the Boy

Originally published on Torontoist on March 16, 2010.

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Time, October 27, 1947.

In the battle against racial discrimination, 1947 was a year of turning points. The major story across the continent was Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrierthat had existed in major league baseball since the 1880s. Locally, municipal officials spurred by the continued bigotry displayed by an ice skating rink developed an anti-discriminatory licensing policy for entertainment establishments, while students at the Central High School of Commerce (now Central Commerce Collegiate Institute) elected a black student as school president. Despite these events, and several anti-racist editorials in city newspapers, Toronto’s black community still found many venues unwelcoming and derogatory stereotypes easy to find.

Having read many Toronto Star articles from 1947 that decry the negative treatment blacks received, that somebody thought the illustration above was a good way to sell newspapers seems like a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.

After scrolling through back issues, the Globe and Mail appears to have displayed the most progressive viewpoint among Toronto’s daily newspapers that year in its coverage of racism and discrimination, thanks to a series of strong editorials and columnists like sportswriter Jim Coleman who risked legal action when speaking out against offenders. The Star comes in next, with its positive intentions sidetracked by the ad above and for being the only local paper to make Robinson sound as if he spoke pidgin English (the caption above a picture of Robinson looking at his son read, “And Mistah Rickey, well, he jes’ don’ say nuthin’”). The Telegram reported these kinds of stories, on those occasions when it did, with little flair and no additional commentary.

Additional material from the March 19, 1947 and October 6, 1947 editions of the Toronto Star.

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.