Bonus Features: “Knocking out that rag is my only passion”

Before diving into this post, read my TVO article on the Star and the Charitable Gifts Act.

Warning: there’s a lot of material in this one, as so much ink was spilled in the press concerning the Charitable Gifts Act (CGA). What I’m presenting here is a tiny fraction of the coverage. At the peak of the controversy, a quarter of the Star‘s pages (averaging around 56 pages an edition) mentioned the CGA.

Due to COVID-related closures, I was unable to check the Telegram‘s coverage. As the Globe and Mail remained closer to George McCullagh’s heart, I imagine the Tely‘s coverage wasn’t much different, other than using language better suited for the paper’s audience.

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Toronto Star, May 10, 1948.

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Toronto Star, May 10, 1948.

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Toronto Star, July 14, 1947.

Let’s step back a few months, to the news that the Telegram, which had been administered by trustees since founder John Ross Robertson’s death in 1918. Throughout the Charitable Gifts Act saga, politicians and the press wondered why the arrangements surrounding the Tely and the Hospital for Sick Children had not been questioned.

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The Telegram, December 1, 1948.

A front page message from George McCullagh after he bought the Telegram. One can quibble about the claims of political independence, given McCullagh’s strong ties with George Drew and other Progressive Conservatives. Still, he modernized the paper, bringing it into the postwar era by gradually lessening its strong British flavour (the Union Jack soon vanished from the masthead) and bringing in a new generation of talented writers and editors.

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Honolulu Star-Bulletin, January 8, 1949.

McCullagh’s dislike for the the Star made it into the North American wire services, with this story spreading as far as Hawaii.

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Toronto Star, March 26, 1949.

The first of many front-page Star editorials on the CGA and its potential effects.

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Globe and Mail, March 28, 1949. 

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Toronto Star, March 30, 1949.

A few words about who was serving at Queen’s Park at the time. The result of the June 1948 provincial election was 53 PC, 21 CCF, 14 Liberal, and 2 LPP (Labor-Progressive Party, the legally acceptable name of the Communists). Though his party won, Premier George Drew lost 13 seats compared to 1945, including his own. He was vanquished by one of the men seen here, William “Temperance Bill” Temple. Drew handed the premiership over to veteran Peel MPP Thomas Laird Kennedy, who would serve as interim leader until the PCs voted for a permanent replacement on April 27, 1949.

Besides Temple, the CCF caucus of 1949 was an interesting mix of MPPs. Among them:

  • William Dennison (St. David), a speech therapist who served as Toronto’s mayor from 1966 to 1972.
  • Agnes Macphail (York East), elected as Canada’s first female federal MP in 1921. She had switched to provincial politics earlier in the decade.
  • C.H. Millard (York West), who was the United Auto Workers local president during the Oshawa GM strike in 1937, beginning a career which shaped trade union activism in Ontario.
  • Reid Scott(Beaches), who, at 21, was the youngest person elected to the Ontario legislature until Sam Oosterhoff in 2016. He later served the public as a city councillor, judge, and federal MP. When he died in 2016, he was the last surviving member of the parliamentary committee who chose the current Canadian flag.

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Cartoon by Les Callan, Toronto Star, March 30, 1949.

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Ottawa Journal, March 30, 1949.

The Ottawa Journal was among the conservative papers who disagreed with the bill.

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Globe and Mail, March 31, 1949.

A front page editorial where the G&M takes the high ground in paragraph one, then resorts to name calling in paragraph two. But then with a title like “Pay Up and Shut Up,” could you really expect less?

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Ottawa Journal, March 31, 1949.

Premier Kennedy’s thoughts on the bill. Apart from a three-year break following the Liberal landslide of 1934, Kennedy served as an MPP for Peel from 1919 to 1959. He served as minister of agriculture under four premiers, and retained the portfolio during his interim premiership. His name lives on via a Mississauga secondary school and two major roads in Peel Region (Kennedy Road and Tomken Road).

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Windsor Star, April 1, 1949.

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Cartoon by Jack Booth, Globe and Mail, April 1, 1949. 

The G&M‘s cartoon following CCF leader Ted Jolliffe’s filibuster (which, if you have access to the online archives of the G&M and the Star, you can read lengthy excerpts printed in each paper). The man in the dumpster at the back is federal CCF leader M.J. Coldwell. Pro-CGA coverage accused Jolliffe of defending the Star in order to lure the paper away from its traditional support of the provincial Liberals.

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Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 1949.

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Cartoon by Les Callan, Toronto Star, April 2, 1949. 

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Financial Post, April 2, 1949.

The Financial Post also reported on the potential effects of the original bill on charities and foundations, including the University of Toronto (with its interests in Connaught Laboratories and University of Toronto Press) and the Royal Conservatory of Music (which ran music publisher Frederick Harris).

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Toronto Star, April 6, 1949.

Agnes Macphail’s feelings about the CGA, along with a guest appearance by former premier Harry Nixon (also not a fan of the legislation).

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Toronto Star, April 6, 1949.

Was John S.D. Tory (grandfather of the current Toronto mayor) an advisor on the CGA…

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Globe and Mail, April 7, 1949.

…or not?

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Windsor Star, April 6, 1949.

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Canadian Champion (Milton, ON), April 7, 1949.

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Newmarket Era and Express, April 7, 1949.

Excerpts of pro-CGA editorials from papers of all sizes and publishing frequency were reprinted in the Star.

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Kingsville Reporter,  April 7, 1949.

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Stouffville Tribune, April 7, 1949.

A pair of small-town pro-CGA editorials. Of the larger papers in the province, the G&M published a supportive editorial from the Hamilton Spectator. I wonder what the London Free Press‘s take was, as its name never came up in anyone’s coverage.

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Globe and Mail, April 7, 1949.

The shortest CGA-related editorial, and a fine example of the snark that enveloped everyone.

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Toronto Star, April 7, 1949.

The Star‘s front page editorial the day after the CGA passed. This sums up several other articles which had run in the paper over the previous week.

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Toronto Star, April 7, 1949.

McCullagh’s interview appears to have been in the Canadian version of Time – it’s not in the April 11, 1949 cover dated American edition.

gm 1949-04-08 editorialGlobe and Mail, April 8, 1949. 

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Toronto Star, June 23, 1949.

How the Star and McCullagh’s papers covered the 1949 federal election is worthy of a post of its own, if only to show the depths both went to sling mud at each other. Drew fared poorly in his first election as federal PC leader, as their seat count dropped from 65 in 1945 to 41. In Ontario, their count dropped from 48 to 25.

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Toronto Star, March 26, 1958.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Very Special Birthday Party

Originally published on Torontoist on January 10, 2012.


Globe and Mail, January 1, 1969.

9:30 a.m., January 2, 1969: a group of police-escorted limos filled with three generations of the Eaton family arrived at their Queen Street department store. As two of President John David Eaton’s granddaughters opened the store with a gold-plated key, fireworks exploded from the roof. Blasts were fired every four seconds until 100 went off. Inside, the Eaton family was greeted by a children’s choir and over 1,000 past and present employees. The entourage proceeded to the statue of store founder Timothy Eaton to officially launch the company’s 100th anniversary celebrations.


Globe and Mail, January 2, 1969.

John David Eaton’s speech got off to a rough start when he mixed up his seasonal celebrations. “First of all a Merry Christmas…I mean a Happy New Year.” After a pause, Eaton joked “That’s a good way to start.” Though the slip was accidental, it may have signalled Eaton’s weariness with the duties he had been groomed for from a young age. After 27 years of running the company, Eaton retired from the presidency in August 1969.

Following a few more remarks, Eaton pushed a button which illuminated a six-foot “Eaton 100” logo. After the ceremony was over, a retired delivery man, whose association with the store dated back to the horse-and-buggy era, shook hands with Eaton. The teary-eyed man told Eaton, “I’m so proud.” Others in the crowd were less interested in greeting the owners—one woman asked “where are the shirts?”


Globe and Mail, January 2, 1969.

Centennial activities were held throughout the year, culminating in a celebration at St. Lawrence Hall in December that included a seven-foot high birthday card and the presentation of an illuminated scroll by Mayor William Dennison. Given the mistakes Eaton’s management made during the company’s 30 remaining years in business, it might have been one of the last times they accepted anything that was illuminating.

Additional material from The Eatons by Rod McQueen (Toronto: Stoddart, 1998) and the January 2, 1969 edition of the Toronto Star.

Pop Goes the Festival

Originally published on Torontoist on June 17, 2011.


Teenaged Jeanne Beker, clad in a yellow bikini, gets down with the sounds of Ronnie Hawkins at the Toronto Pop Festival. Photos by Dave Cooper. The Telegram, June 26, 1969.

Scene: Varsity Stadium on a Sunday afternoon in June 1969. Weather forecasts have indicated the possibility of rain, but the sky has yet to open up on the crowd attending the second day of the Toronto Pop Festival. The “King of Yonge Street,” Ronnie Hawkins has taken the stage and entrances the crowd with his style of driving rock n’ roll. A 17-year-old girl from the suburbs embraces the sounds and grooves her way onto the stage:

I jumped onstage in a yellow pompom-trimmed bikini top for an impromptu dance with the legendary rocker Ronnie Hawkins. A large photo of this suburban kid — and I was identified by name — boogying her brains out as the Hawk did his mean rendition of “Hey! Bo Diddley” appeared in the Toronto Telegram the next day. Of course, my mother was mortified, but I was proud as punch. The whole experience was downright exhilarating, and it unquestionably contributed greatly to who I am today.

And thus, alongside his nurturing of musical legends like the Band, Ronnie Hawkins inadvertently helped the career of Jeanne Beker.


Left: poster for the Toronto Pop Festival. Right: advertisement, the Globe and Mail, June 7, 1969.

Unlike the decisions facing music lovers this weekend—which NXNE shows are worth checking out or whether to grab a ticket to a remaining Luminato performance—attendees of the Toronto Pop Festival had a simple choice: go for one day or two? Besides the announced line-up of performers ranging from Memphis soul (Carla Thomas and the Bar-Kays) to Quebeçois chansonniers (Robert Charlebois), there were unannounced, little-known acts whose anonymity wouldn’t last much longer (Alice Cooper, who was not to be confused with fellow performer Al Kooper).

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The Telegram, June 12, 1969.

Reviews of the festival were positive, with much praise for how smoothly the event ran. Incidents like a burned-out amp during the Band’s performance, a brief rain shower Sunday evening, and isolated bad trips were treated as minor mishaps. Unlike recent American festivals, violence didn’t flare up between the 60,000 ticket holders and police; the cops, some of whom were grooving in rhythm with the rest of the crowd, admitted that enforcing pot laws would have stirred trouble and let the audience enjoy the grass that wasn’t part of the field.


“Tiny Tim shows his frenetic singing style and Dr. John sports a head band and coloured speckles as part of his full formal tribal gear.” The Telegram, June 23, 1969.

While the hot acts of the moment (Blood, Sweat and Tears; Sly and the Family Stone) entranced the audience, it was old-timers like Hawkins and Chuck Berry who brought out the energy in the crowd. As Peter Goddard noted in the Telegram, before Berry’s Sunday set the event felt like individual concerts; after Berry shouted “Long live rock and roll,” everyone in the audience swung to “some inner beat” and the show truly felt like a festival. The artistic and critical success of the festival paved the way for the Toronto Rock n’ Roll Revival headlined by John Lennon a few months later.

One of the few dissenting notes came from City Hall. Mayor William Dennison reportedly refused to provide an official greeting from the City to the festival (via letter or an appearance at the stadium) due to his distrust of “hippies.” Dennison was also said to have been alarmed by reports of obscenities uttered onstage at music festivals south of the border. As festival promoter John Brower told the Globe and Mail when it was clear nothing bad had happened, “I bet he couldn’t look himself in the mirror this morning.”


“Fans like Sheila Armroyd, 19, of Niagara Falls, NY (left) and the local girl (right) came from far and near.” The Telegram, June 23, 1969.

Unlike Dennison, well-over-30 attendee Harold Town got into the spirit of the festival. The artist provided one of the most colourful summaries of the event in his Toronto Life column:

I loved our first Pop festival. I’ll never forget the fields of fuzzed-out heads looking like a crop of orderly fungus being raked by the searchlights. I loved the plump balloons carrying sparklers into the night. And the joy of friends hurling friends in the air from blankets—white bellied fish displaying spawning fibres. And the heat of the faithful’s adulation held back by the new cool cool when suddenly coming face to beads with yet another idol heading for the stage. I admired the boredom with which they greeted David Clayton-Thomas mindless platitudes on the drug and school bit. Their enthusiasm for Chuck Berry, on old master of rock, and finally just the memory of a sleek cat wearing a Billy Bishop helmet talking softly to a perfect bird in navel drop bells about his exams, oblivious to the raunchy singer in sequined strides bellowing crotch music over the wincing transistors. His buddy was being studiously ignored by Superbell’s handmaidens as they went through the ancient ritual of letting him know some have, some don’t.

We don’t doubt such rituals will play out among their modern equivalents at music venues around the city this weekend. As Town ended his column, “Play it again, Sam. Nothing changes.”

Additional material from Finding Myself in Fashion by Jeanne Beker (Toronto: Penguin, 2011), the September 1969 edition of Toronto Life, and the following newspapers: the June 24, 1969 edition of the Globe and Mail; and the June 23, 1969 and June 26, 1969 editions of the Telegram.