Halloween in Toronto, 1918

Halloween was a low-key affair in Toronto in 1918. Between the Spanish Flu pandemic which struck the city that month and the winding down of the First World War, it’s not surprising that there were reduced celebrations that year. The public was asked to direct any extra money to the Victory Loan bond drive. Real life horrors may have squelched any desire to indulge in imaginary ones.

globe 1918-10-24 eatons af

The Globe, October 24, 1918.

The major department stores barely acknowledged Halloween in their ads—this sampling of décor items from Eaton’s was one of the few I found.

globe 1918-10-30 sugarless suggestions for halloween

The Globe, October 30, 1918.

The Globe offered sugarless snack suggestions, as sugar was considered a high demand item not to be wasted on frivolous treats.

globe 1918-11-01 weird people stalk streets

The Globe, November 1, 1918.

This account of Halloween night notes that some people were still in a mischievous, gender-bending mood. It also reflects fears about Bolshevism rising in the wake of the Russian Revolution and homegrown socialism, and the fire department’s eternal annoyance at Halloween false alarms.

star 1918-11-01 girl killed by car on danforth

Toronto Star, November 1, 1918.

It was a tragic evening on the Danforth, due to a pedestrian fatality.

world 1918-10-31 victory loan open air moving picture exhibition.jpg

Toronto World, October 31, 1918.

For several nights that week, as part of the Victory Loan drive, films were shown outside the Allen Theatre at Richmond and Victoria. Later known as the Tivoli, it operated until 1964. Many of the stars listed, especially Pickford and Fairbanks, had undertaken personal appearance tours for wartime bond drives in the United States.

Buy Victory Bonds

Originally published on Torontoist on November 11, 2011.

War is costly. In addition to the horrifying human toll, conflicts rack up a financial bill that needs to be paid one way or another. As the First World War neared its end in the fall of 1918, Torontonians and fellow Canadians were urged to perform their patriotic duty during Canada’s second Victory Loan campaign (and fifth wartime fundraiser) to vanquish Kaiser Wilhelm II and his evil Huns and help smooth the transition to peacetime.

The local campaign was launched in Queen’s Park on October 27, 1918. The Sunday afternoon crowd, which was estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000, heard pitches delivered by Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, Ontario Premier Sir William Hearst, and other officials. Out of the $500-million national fundraising target, Torontonians were given a goal of $80 million. According to federal President of the Privy Council Newton Rowell, “The Victory Loan affords the Canadian people an opportunity to show their appreciation of the great and unselfish service of our army during recent months, and their faith in the cause for which that army is so valiantly fighting; an opportunity to demonstrate to Germany and the world that Canada is in this war until Prussian military autocracy is completely overthrown and liberty and peace are assured to the freedom-loving people of the world.” To anyone having doubts about purchasing a bond, Borden reassured the crowd that they were “not asked to give. You are asked to lend, but to lend upon the security of your country and the world doesn’t offer any better today than the security which is given by this fair land of Canada.”

“Lend” was the buzzword of the campaign during its early days, and it was placed on banners adorning buildings, fire wagons, and streetcars. A sign placed in front of City Hall tracked Toronto’s progress in reaching its assigned goal. The city was divided into five districts to which 380 salesmen were dispatched to sell the bonds. As you will see in the gallery of Victory Bond advertisements, there was no soft-pedalling when it came to pushing the public to purchase—if you didn’t shell out for a bond, you shirked your duty to the British Empire and disrespected the bravery and sacrifice of Canadian soldiers. Daily updates in Toronto’s six daily newspapers urged readers to purchase more bonds not only to aid the cause but to beat Montreal in the race to win a flag awarded by the Governor-General to the city that sold the most.

The end of the war on November 11, 1918, gave the campaign a final boost. A Victory Loan parade scheduled for that afternoon turned into a mass celebration of the end of four years of conflict (and an event we will cover in tomorrow’s Historicist column). Images of the Kaiser disappeared from advertising as the focus switched to aiding soldiers who would soon be home and remembering those who wouldn’t return. When the numbers were tallied up after the last bond was sold on November 16, government officials smiled. Nearly $145 million worth of bonds were sold in Toronto, which beat Montreal by just over $1 million.

Additional material from the October 28, 1918 edition of the Globe.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

I’ve added to the gallery several ads that didn’t make the original final cut.

IMG_1504-chinguacousy-flag

Here’s what one of the Victory Loan flags looked like, as it was being placed on display prior to the opening of the Peel 150 exhibit at PAMA in Brampton in 2017. It is believed that this flag was awarded to Chinguacousy Township (present-day Brampton and a portion of Caledon).

bc-1918-11-14-victory-flag-ad

Brampton Conservator, November 14, 1918.

Among the discoveries I made while researching the Victory Loan drives in Peel County was a series of limericks published in the Brampton Conservator on November 7, 1918.

In Caledon lived a wise man.
For the future he mapped out this plan:
I’ll provide for old age–
I’ll save at this stage;
I’ll take all the bonds that I can.

A young lady who lives in the Gore
Was anxious in riches to soar.
She took all her funds
And put them in bonds,
Then borrowed to purchase some more.

There was a young man in Port Credit–
Saving with him was a habit–
Having gathered much coin
Which he wanted to loan,
He bought Victory Bonds to the limit.

 

The War is Over

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on November 12, 2011.

20111112family892

Family reads Armistice Day headlines, November 11, 1918. Pictured left to right: Mrs. J. Fraser, Jos. Fraser Jr., Miss Ethel James, Frank James, and Norman James. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 892.

2:50 a.m., November 11, 1918, the office of the Telegram newspaper on Melinda Street. An early morning full of anticipation as workers there and at Toronto’s five other daily newspapers waited for word sometime during the day that an armistice ending the First World War would be signed.

The news during the night had indicated that nothing was expected to happen till this morning. But there was not let up in the eternal vigilance that is the price of efficiency. Jimmie Nicol, the Canadian Press operator, was eating his lunch and joining in the desultory conversation with one ear turned to the key. He had heard the declaration of war flashed into the office and had waited four years and three months to hear this click of the instrument that would tell that the slaughter had ceased. Suddenly he stopped in the middle of a bite and jumped to the wire. Then that crowd of weary waiters came to life as it electrified. Each man knew his work and did it.

Within 20 minutes of the wire notice, special editions of the Telegram and the other papers hit the streets of the city, ready for citizens roused from their slumber by church bells, fire sirens, factory whistles and other loud noisemakers. The war was over and, as the News noted, “Toronto went mad with glory.”

20111112newscover

The News, November 11, 1918.

The city needed to let loose after a recent spell of bad news. The influenza pandemic that ravaged the world hit Toronto hard in October 1918. Companies like Bell Telephone lost up to a quarter of their staff due to illness or care giving. Churches, entertainment facilities, libraries, and schools were closed, public gatherings were curtailed, and visitors were not allowed in hospitals. During the pandemic’s peak in mid-October, an average of 50 people a day succumbed to the flu, which ultimately killed around 1,300 Torontonians that month. Combine this with daily reports of the mounting casualties during the final month of battle in Europe and it’s easy to see how Toronto was ready to party.

20111112morningpeace

The Telegram, November 12, 1918.

News of the armistice spread quickly throughout the city. In the east end, residents along Bain Avenue were awakened around 3:40 a.m. by a trumpeter. Half-a-dozen windows opened and an equal number of heads stuck out, asking each other what was going on. “The armistice is signed,” somebody shouted. “The war is over—no fake this time!” Within 10 minutes, most homes in South Riverdale were lit up and pyjama-clad neighbours congratulated each other on the good news. By 4 a.m., as the News reported, “the streets, as a rule deserted and silent at the hour of coming dawn, were filled with quick-marshalled companies of girls and boys, all marching with waving flags and all equipped for carnival.” Traffic jams of cars formed as some revellers decided to head downtown.

The Telegram sent a car around the city to survey how celebrations were breaking out. Everywhere they found scenes similar to those in South Riverdale: people on the streets dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, clanging tin cans, and gathering in their nightclothes and raincoats around impromptu sidewalk bonfires. Streetcars were so packed that passengers sat on the roof.

20111112streetcar7110

Streetcar on Spadina Crescent, November 11, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 7110.

By dawn, streetcar service, apart from a few suburban routes, ground to a halt as conductors and operators abandoned their vehicles to join the festivities. Any driver who attempted to continue to head into the city was met with opposition by their fellow employees, as one determined Queen streetcar operator learned. Shortly after setting out on an eastbound course from Roncesvalles, he encountered a procession of 100 fellow Toronto Railway Company workers led by a Highland piper. When he failed to stop, the procession pulled off the streetcar’s pole and smashed its windows. Without streetcars, people wishing to head downtown jumped onto any automobile—the Telegram reported seeing as many as 28 people sitting in and hanging off one car.

Work was hardly on anyone’s mind that day. Few went to the office, and those who did didn’t stay long. City workers were told to take the day off. Bankers were obliged to stay on the job, but the only ticker tape flowing out of most financial institutions headed out windows onto the streets below. Courts were in session, but Police Magistrate Rupert Kingsford gave clemency to anyone up on charges of drunkenness, gambling, speeding, or other minor offences. “This is not a day for punishment,” Kingsford told those assembled in police court. “It is a day for amnesty and pardon.”

20111112unionjackgirl

Girl celebrating Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 905.

Out in the streets, a carnival atmosphere prevailed. People draped in Red Ensigns, Union Jacks, and other Allied flags were among those who descended by the thousands onto Yonge Street and other crowded downtown arteries. Some descriptions paint a scene similar to Church Street on Halloween with revellers, in the words of the Mail and Empire, “bedecked themselves in the most grotesque costumes with false and painted faces.” One person dressed as the recently-abdicated German emperor wore a sign which read “I am the Kaiser, kick me.” Knowing people might deliver four years of pent-up frustration against him, the man padded his posterior to soften any swift kicks. Hopefully he wasn’t mistaken for the numerous effigies of the Kaiser burned with glee across the city.

20111112crowdedcar891

 

Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 891.

Celebrants along Yonge Street between Shuter and King found themselves in a war zone. The Mail and Empire reported that “for several hours the main thoroughfare presented the appearance of a region that had been subjected to a gas attack, because of the battle of talcum powder by the boys and girls who waged it with little relaxation.” Anyone who objected to being doused in powder was, with the approval of bystanders, showered with a double dose. Despite a few people who were hit square in the eye, people were generally amused by the battle or rolled with it. They had little choice—according to the News: “the crowds were so dense that escape was impossible, and the victims soon purchased and used supplies of their own.” Police directing traffic took the powder showers in stride, even if they “looked more like millers than officers of the law.”

20111112flandersfloat

Float representing “In Flanders Field” at Victory Loan Parade, November 11, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1583, Item 161.

Officially sanctioned ceremonies began at noon on the steps of City Hall (now Old City Hall), where Mayor Tommy Church issued a proclamation. Following that was a previously scheduled Victory Loan parade that became a general celebration. Over 200,000 lined the route along University, Queen, Simcoe, King, Jarvis, Carlton, and College to watch the procession of soldiers and bond-promoting floats. Wounded hospital patients were chauffeured in automobiles. Airplanes dropped pamphlets urging spectators to “lend” to the loan drive. Music was provided by groups ranging from ragtag marching bands to the United States Navy Band led by, in possibly his only personal appearance in Toronto, John Philip Sousa. Of the floats, the most poignant was a tribute to the poem “In Flanders Fields.” The women’s page of the News described the scene portrayed: “There was the grass of the fields, the vivid scarlet poppies and the charred crosses of the men who had fallen. A man in khaki standing looking down at the crosses carried out the picture in its last detail.” When the parade returned to its starting point at Queen’s Park, it was followed by a religious service.

20111112sousa2576

John Philip Sousa, University Avenue, November 11, 1918. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 2576.

The partying continued well into the night. Sousa conducted a concert at Queen’s Park. Dances were held at the King Edward Hotel and other venues across the city. Bonfires burned on, including a large one fuelled by old wagons across from the Albert Britnell bookstore at Yonge and Bloor. A parade through Chinatown (then centred around Dundas and Elizabeth) saw a truck carrying smiling deities wielding gongs. The Star, then based on King Street, ran movies and bulletins on the side of a neighbouring building. Amid the jovial spirit, the News noted that some members of the crowd remembered the costs of the battle just ended: “Mingling with the wild abandon of youthful rejoicing was the note of sadness among those who recalled all too vividly the poignant sacrifice of war, and here and there in the swirling, gleeful crowds were lonely individuals who looked at the people but saw a grave in Flanders.”

The next day, tired Torontonians dragged themselves back to work and settled back into routine. The city estimated clean-up would cost $1,000. Little damage was done, and few arrests were made during the celebrations (it seemed even pickpockets had taken the day off). As the week unfolded, the Victory Loan drive wrapped up and the first postwar contingents of veterans returned home. The uncertainties of what peacetime would hold were pushed aside as the afterglow of the armistice celebrations lingered on.

Additional material from Our Glory and Our Grief: Torontonians and the Great War by Ian Hugh Maclean Miller (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002) and the following newspapers: the November 12, 1918 edition of the Globe; the November 12, 1918 edition of the Mail and Empire; the November 11, 1918 and November 12, 1918 editions of the News; the November 12, 1918 edition of the Toronto Star; and the November 11, 1918 edition of the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

This subject was also covered in an earlier installment of Vintage Toronto Ads, originally published on November 11, 2008.

Vintage Ad #653: Armistice Day, 1918

The Globe, November 11, 1918.

November 11, 1918: eager Torontonians, having seen several days of stories in the local dailies that the end of World War I was imminent, waited for word from Europe of the armistice that would bring loved ones home. The newspapers stayed close to their wires to put the presses into motion once the armistice was official. The Telegram described the wait:

The news during the night had indicated that nothing was expected to happen till this morning. But there was not let up in the eternal vigilance that is the price of efficiency. Jimmie Nicol, the Canadian Press operator, was eating his lunch and joining in the desultory conversation with one ear turned to the key. He had heard the declaration of war flashed into the office and had waited four years and three months to hear this click of the instrument that would tell that the slaughter had ceased. Suddenly he stopped in the middle of a bite and jumped to the wire. Then that crowd of weary waiters came to life as it electrified. Each man knew his work and did it.

Nicol received the wire at 2:50 a.m. The first edition of the Telegram hit the streets 20 minutes later. The paper used their speediness to take a potshot at the Star, who, “first in fake but last in reliability, put in a tardy appearance with the same news, accompanied by the morning papers.” Eaton’s used their regular advertising space to publish the official announcement and a blessing.

Vintage Ad #657: Drink to the Health of the Allies!

Toronto Star, November 11, 1918.

O’Keefe’s ad may have appealed to one group who welcomed the armistice, local drunks. The Telegram reported that inebriates around the city were “happy as larks” that not only was the war over, but that the city magistrate had declared a one-day amnesty on charges of public drunkenness, gambling, speeding, and other minor offences. The magistrate’s explanation for his actions? “We are doing it for our country.”

Vintage Ad #655: My Boy

Toronto Star, November 11, 1918.

Though the war was over, ads for Victory Bonds were published that day. Pitches soon switched from helping Canadians fight on to aiding returning soldiers and the citizens of countries devastated by the conflict. The city declared a half-day holiday for a bond drive, which quickly turned into a general celebration.

Additional material from the November 11, 1918 edition of the Telegram.