Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 5

Feeding BP to the Lions

Originally published on Torontoist on July 20, 2010.

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Don Mills Mirror, October 28, 1970.

We imagine that if BP stations still existed in Toronto and offered a circus-themed promotional event, the public would want to see a few executives served as a tasty snack for the lions in the wake of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Forget giving the kids sugar-laden food—give them a real adrenaline rush and a lesson in corporate responsibility! We also hope that the prizes in the treasure chest were nice toys and free fill-ups that weren’t soaked in crude.

British Petroleum entered the Canadian market in 1957 and acquired one thousand service stations in Ontario and Quebec within four years. Problems of limited refinery resources were solved when BP acquired the Canadian arm of Cities Service (now Citgo) in 1964 and its 25,000 barrel a day processing facility in Bronte. Within a year of today’s ad, BP picked up “Canada’s All-Canadian Company” Supertest, whose stations gradually lost their patriotic fervour as they switched to the green shield. BP stations were a staple on Canadian roadways until 1982 when Petro-Canada purchased its retail and refining operations, including the station that still pumps away at Don Mills and Lawrence. BP retained some properties and built up its current presence in Canada through subsequent acquisitions, including Amoco Canada, from whom the company derives its current Canadian launch date of 1948.

Additional material from the March 13, 1964 edition of the Globe and Mail.

The Best Sound System Money Can Buy

Originally published on Torontoist on July 27, 2010.

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Maclean’s, March 2, 1987.

Why waste money on pricey luxury stereo systems when creating an enticing sonic environment at home? A simple investment in two concrete blocks certified by the Ontario Concrete Block Association will amplify your life. And when your house, condo, or apartment is built with high-quality concrete blocks, you will never receive a noise complaint from the neighbours when life dictates that you have to crank the volume up to eleven or commit any potential audio atrocity no one else should hear. Ask your friendly neighbourhood stonemason how they can create customized concrete blocks to house your iPod, turntable, and other system components!

We looked into the soundproofing capacities of walls made from concrete blocks in terms of sound transmission class (STC) units. According to the National Research Council, walls made from concrete blocks do an effective job of containing noise, with a basic, no-frills wall earning a rating of 45 to 55 STC (at 30 STC, a loud human voice can be heard through the wall, at 60 STC, it shouldn’t be heard).

Since this ad appeared, the Ontario Concrete Block Association has expanded its scope across the country and is now known as the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association.

A Clean Gala Opening

Originally published on Torontoist on January 4, 2011.

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Weston Times and Guide, October 20, 1960.

Despite the plethora of attractions the proprietors of Chester Drive-In Cleaners secured for the grand opening of their modern premises in the south end of Weston, it’s possible that terming the festivities as a “gala” may have been a last-minute decision. They might have needed an extra word to hide the mess created by the charming yet clumsy majorette in this ad after she accidentally popped the balloon beside the banner.

We haven’t determined who “Dale” was. Perhaps he or she was a local florist, the chief dry cleaner, or a neighbourhood musician specializing in pleasant, inoffensive music. Whoever “Dale” was, we imagine anyone who still has a carefully pressed and preserved bouquet of roses bearing his/her signature owns a priceless memento of that Saturday morning.

Time Machines for Now

Originally published on Torontoist on January 25, 2011.

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Maclean’s, November 27, 1989.

It’s Tuesday morning, early in the second decade of the twenty-first century. There’s little time to sip a glass of crystal pure water, as there’s only fifteen minutes before a hover-taxi arrives to take a load of passengers to the Greater Toronto Spaceport in north Pickering. Better remember to bring the right keys this time before shooting off to the international moon base: light yellow for the house (not the dark yellow one that holds the morning edition of the Toronto Star-Sun), pink for your passport. Waiting patiently on the kitchen table is a venerable Casio timepiece, which has dutifully kept time for over two decades. The watch’s artificial intelligence knows that odds are fifty/fifty that the taxi will have to come back for you to retrieve it when you realize you’ve forgotten to put it on as you glide over Scarborough Town Centre.

Back in our version of 2011, unless a steady supply of not-yet-obsolete batteries have kept these beauties in perfect operating order, these watches are time machines only in the sense of preserving designs and technological advances from the late 1980s.

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on December 25, 2010.

This holiday edition was, as the introduction noted, “a sampling of a century’s worth of Christmas advertisements, illustrations, pictures, and stories. Light up a Yule log (real or video), sit back and enjoy.”

For this edition, I’m not using the original gallery format, deleting some archival photos, and adding in some material that didn’t make the final cut. I am also merging in ads originally featured in a post for the 2014 holiday season.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1885. Library and Archives Canada.

In its Christmas Eve 1885 edition, the Globe reprinted the “Story of the Mistletoe” from Youth’s Companion. While much of the piece drones on about mistletoe’s role in Norse mythology and its use by Druids, it includes these nuggets about its contemporary sources and uses, in as non-romantic terms as possible.

It used to be brought over by friendly foreign steamers, but is now found in Virginia and in most of the Southern States, and is largely used for holiday decoration…The American mistletoe is not the genuine English article, although it strongly resembles it. The botanists have given it a new name, phoradendron, which signifies “a thief of a tree.” It is, however, a true parasite. The mistletoe is now so seldom found growing on the oak that when it is found there it is a great curiousity. It frequents apple trees chiefly, and is propagated by birds wiping their bills on the boughs and thus leaving some of the viscid pulp and seed, and if the bark happens to be cracked there it takes root.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1889. Library and Archives Canada.

Little does the turkey suspect that the young lady who visited each day with yummy treats was secretly fattening him up for her family’s holiday feast. Speaking of turkeys…

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The Globe, December 20, 1890. 

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The News, December 22, 1894.

If you couldn’t slaughter a turkey, you could always check out a “slaughter sale” of fine reading material.

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The News, December 22, 1885.

The News also provided “practical hints for the benefit of West End residents and others” as it named off a variety of Queen West merchants. Among the highlights: a free set of tableware with every purchase of a pound of tea at Laut Brothers (420 Queen West); a stock of nuts “not surpassed in the city” at Mara & Co. (280 Queen West); bargains among the jewellery and other goods damaged in a recent fire at J.I.S. Anderson (294 Queen West); and “beautiful villa sites overlooking High Park and Humber Bay” free of city taxes that went for one dollar per square foot at the real estate office of R. McDonnell at Queen and Gladstone.

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Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Mail and Empire, 1897. Library and Archives Canada.

Underneath the colour cover of this supplement was a collection of seasonal art, stories, and other diversions for the entire family.

20141224xmascardsThe Mail, June 27, 1881.

Even back in the Victorian Age, saving a buck on Christmas supplies like cards was as important as aesthetic considerations.

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The Empire, December 22, 1894.

An excerpt from the Empire’s Christmas Day 1894 editorial: “To the mind of the child this is the glorious season of the year when there is no cloud in the sky to dim the sunlight of pleasure in which infantile natures rejoice; but to the mature it is a period, apart from its spiritual associations, the delights of which are tempered by gravity and the joys of which are tinged with sadness, for as men grow memories gather. Looking back upon the Christmases of the past, who is there among us who does not feel that change and decay have wrought their mysteries as the years rolled on, taking here a friend and there a companion and leaving gaps in the ranks more significant and impressive at this time than at any other, so that even at the feast, and where rejoicing reigns, the heart stops for a moment that sorrow may supply its chastening touch.”

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Front page, the News, December 24, 1910. 

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Illustration by Lou Skuce, Toronto World, December 25, 1910.

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Toronto World, December 22, 1912.

From an editorial on holiday charity: “People are giving freely now, who keep their hearts and pockets closd ’till next Christmas. Why? There is need always as at Christmas time. It is simply that we are moved now by an unusual sentiment–an impulse to kindliness.”

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The News, December 23, 1914.

The Copland Brewing Company’s Toronto roots stretched back to 1830, when William Copland opened a brewery along Yonge Street shortly after arriving in Upper Canada. By 1914, most of its products were brewed at its plant on King Street between Ontario and Berkeley Streets. Bought by Labatt in 1946, the site was later occupied by the Toronto Sun.

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Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

An editorial note from the second holiday season of the First World War:

Above all, the call of Christmas is ‘Peace on Earth.’ In the present grievous crisis of the world there is significance in this call beyond that of any crisis mankind ever before was called to read. That war has darkened Christmas for so much of the world may well seem, at the moment, the crushing condemnation of all such conflicts.”

 

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Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

As the war staggered on over in Europe, World cartoonist Lou Skuce reminded readers of where the battlelines were usually located on Christmas Eve.

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Toronto World, December 25, 1916.

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Toronto World, December 25, 1918.

A pair of First World War-themed ads from Eaton’s.

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Mail and Empire, December 25, 1920.

With the shadow of the First World War fading, Eaton’s ad held the promise that life was returning to normal for its customers, and that Christmas was a time to rejoice in youthful spirit.

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The Telegram, December 19, 1923.

Given that the establishment of Sick Kids was a pet project of Telegram founder John Ross Robertson, the paper took every opportunity during the holiday season to solicit donations for the hospital. Heart-tugging stories to invoke contributions were printed in the Tely around Christmas, bearing headlines like “CHILD SWALLOWS LYE THROAT BADLY BURNED” (December 19, 1923).

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The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

A sample of a Sick Kids ad from a decade later.

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Toronto Star, December 24, 1924.

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Mail and Empire, December 25, 1930.

Simpsons centred its 1930 holiday ad around verse from poet Bliss Carman, who died the previous year.

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Mail and Empire, December 20, 1933.

Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the Mail and Empire urged its readers to light up the city at Christmas time. We doubt any displays inspired by this contest were accompanied by a menagerie of front yard inflatables.

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Mail and Empire, December 22, 1933. 

Years before teaching the world to sing, or employing polar bears as pitchmen, Coca-Cola offered an economical solution for holiday entertaining during the Great Depression.

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The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

 

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Weston Times and Guide, December 14, 1934.

The 1930s equivalent of the slightly naughty gift ads found decades later in alt-weeklies like eye and Now?

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Toronto Star, December 23, 1939.

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Weston Times and Guide, December 13, 1945.

Relieved that the Second World War no longer interfered in his annual delivery run, Santa relaxed a little in 1945. He found time to stop in Weston for a luscious roast bird. Note the slightly scary look in his eye, as if he’s daring the artist to take the plate away from him.

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The Telegram, December 23, 1950.

The poet of Toronto’s sports pages, Telegram columnist Ted Reeve, penned an ode to holiday shopping based on one of the big musical hits of that season, “The Thing“:

 

As we were walking north on Church, no Xmas shopping done,
We went into McTamney’s to maybe buy a gun.
The clerk behind the counter there let out a mighty roar:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and don’t come back no more.”

We hadn’t done our Christmas cards when reaching work today,
We asked the office girls if they would get them on the way.
They turned on us with a vicious yell as fierce as any blow:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and you know where to go.”

We’ll get to Kresge’s Christmas Eve and in a final dash
We’ll try to get the presents bought unless they want some cash.
The chances are the manager, while tearing up our cheque,
Will heave us out with our boom-boom-boom and land us on our neck

There’s only three more days to go, we haven’t bought the tree,
It is a most perplexing week, we think you’ll all agree.
And if we don’t get anything done we’ll just let Xmas pass
And take that terrible boom-boom-boom and hide it in the grass.

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Don Mills Mirror, December 8, 1960.

Either the caption writer was ordered to devise a happy sentence without seeing this picture, or somebody decided to play a cruel joke at the expense of the exhausted Santa at the Don Mills Centre. His arrival by helicopter in late November prompted ten thousand people to greet him at the shopping centre, doubling the number that greeted him the year before. Santa’s trip was delayed ten minutes due to fog and low-flying planes landing at Malton airport. Once the chopper landed, Santa hitched a ride on a fire engine, which took him to his seat at the centre of the complex. With over four-and-a-half thousand kids mounting his lap that day, no wonder Santa looks like he can’t wait to escape back to the comfort of the North Pole.

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Weston Times and Guide, December 22, 1960.

Wonder how many diners around that time hummed Marty Robbins’s 1959 smash hit about the west Texas town while eating their delicious young turkey dinner.

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Maclean’s, December 9, 1961.

From 1912 to 2006, Kodak’s Canadian division called Mount Dennis home. Its large campus near Eglinton Avenue West and Black Creek Drive is being redeveloped and will service the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Whenever that line begins service, perhaps someone who received a Kodak camera under the tree will be inspired by the site’s history to haul it out and shoot the opening ceremony.

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Weston Times-Advertiser, December 22, 1964.

Politicians love sending seasonal greetings, and Alan Eagleson was no exception. Before he achieved fame in the hockey world for forming the National Hockey League Players’ Association and infamy for his criminal actions regarding pensions and disability claims, Eagleson sat as a Progressive Conservative MPP for Lakeshore from 1963 to 1967.

 

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Willowdale Enterprise, December 8, 1965.

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Willowdale Enterprise, December 22, 1965.

Santa and the reindeer might have needed a map when a widened Highway 401 between Highway 400 and Hogg’s Hollow fully opened to to traffic on December 16, 1965. The expansion of the freeway from four to twelve lanes included the introduction of the express/collector lane system.

 

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Toronto Life, December 1966.

Toronto Life celebrated its first Christmas by asking Gordon Sinclair to describe how he really felt about the holiday? His verdict? Despite not being a fan of organized religion, Sinclair felt it was “the best and friendliest of all family celebrations when we are with kinfolk; the ones of our blood who accept us for what we are. Not what we should be, or could be, but what we are.” He also described Christmas was the worst day of the year to be alone, a situation he experienced while reporting from Shanghai in 1938. That day he wandered through clubs and pubs “looking for someone to feel sorry with” but found only a black eye (a present given by an American when Sinclair declined to have a drink with him) and a crying fit (after returning to his hotel to find “wish you were here” cablegrams from Canada). There was only one thing he would have changed about Christmas: “that stupid abbreviation, Xmas.”

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The Enterprise, December 20, 1967.

An excerpt from the Enterprise‘s December 13, 1967 holiday editorial, which criticized the trend toward war toys like G.I. Joe, which kids might have asked Miss Suzie for as they received a candy cane.

War toys are not going to make a killer out of a child, but they do instil an acceptance which lasts into adult life. In other words, war toys are a marvellous propaganda instrument…The only way to counteract war toy propaganda is for the consuer public to boycott any kind of violent toy–and encourage manufacturers to produce just as interesting toys who emphasis is not military.

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Globe and Mail, December 25, 1970.

A stylish seasonal ad from a fashionable Kingsway-area women’s clothier. Two weeks earlier, Lipton’s published a gift certificate order form in the Globe and Mail, positioning it as “great trim for any tree.”

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Toronto Life, December 1974.

While CHUM-FM offered a slender Santa for the holidays, its AM sibling distributed its usual CHUM Chart. Topping the Toronto hit list on December 21, 1974 was Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting.”

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Toronto Sun, December 16, 1975.

Unfortunately for eager carolers, the Sun-sponsored musical celebration of the season was cancelled due to the first blizzard of the season. High winds coupled with around 20 centimetres of snow resulted in a record number of help calls to the Ontario Motor League (now CAA), severe TTC service delays and the cancellation of a Toronto Marlboros hockey game. The storm did not deter holiday shoppers, as Simpsons reported a minor decrease in the usual last Saturday before Christmas crowd at their Queen Street flagship.

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The City, December 3, 1978.

Simpsons felt a little punny during the 1978 holiday season. It was a time of change for the retailer–Hudson’s Bay Company had launched a bid to acquire the department store chain in November, while shoppers at its Queen Street flagship would have seen the south end of the Eaton Centre near completion.

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Toronto Life, December 1985.

Because this article needs a touch of 1980s Christmas style.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Two-Wheeled Nest Egg

Originally published on Torontoist on May 27, 2008.

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The Globe, April 8, 1908.

This week marks the official start of Bike Month in Toronto, which provides an opportunity to look at how cycles were marketed a century ago.

For a decade on either side of the turn of the 20th century, bicycle manufacturers maintained an advertising presence in city newspapers similar to current automakers. Pitches ranged from elegant vehicle styling to thrift, as this attack on tossing your money away on money-grubbing public transit systems demonstrates. The tone is familiar to those caught in the argument over renting versus buying a condo/home.

A century later, Mr. Holdup would take his victim’s bicycle and quickly turn it over to a shady dealer in exchange for more cash than a run-of-the-mill stick-up might net. Whether he would show more decorum in flashing the crime weapon is debatable.

Canada Cycle & Motor Company was formed in September 1899 as an amalgamation of several bicycle makers, including a branch of the Massey-Harris manufacturing empire. A glut of bicycles on the market at the time led to the demise of many smaller makers, quickly placing CCM in a dominant position.

By 1905, with the bicycle market still at saturation point, CCM entered into two side businesses. While their foray into the automobile market with the Russell lasted a decade, ice skates would prove far more lucrative.

A new plant for bicycle production was built in Weston in 1912, and remained in operation until the combination of a strike and bankruptcy saw the last model roll off the line 70 years later. The bicycle and hockey lines were split between different buyers from Quebec and all production shifted east.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

A week later (June 3, 2008) this follow-up Vintage Ad post was published.

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Toronto Star, May 13, 1899.

Further proof of the modesty employed in late 19th century advertising. Call this a prequel to last week’s featured ad, as Welland Vale was one of the bicycle manufacturers whose line was amalgamated into CCM later on in the year this was published. Originally a manufacturer of wagon wheels when the company started in the 1860s, Welland Vale also produced hand tools and farm implements. After divesting its bicycle line and the wagon wheel market dried up with the rise of automated transportation, Welland Vale moved into the automotive rubber-coated fabric business, evolving into Cambridge-based Canadian General-Tower Ltd.