A Maple Leaf Gardens Gallery

Based on a gallery post originally published on Torontoist on November 30, 2011, with new material mixed in.

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Maple Leaf Gardens, 1969. Photo by Bob Olsen. Toronto Star Photo Archive, Toronto Public Library, tspa_0098050f.

“Where pucks once flew 15 feet or more on the ice, shoppers will stare at a 15-foot wall of cheese.”

That’s how this story originally began, published on the day Loblaws opened its Maple Leaf Gardens location. The arena on the upper level (still officially called, as of 2019, the Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre) was still a few months away from opening. The occasion was a good excuse to take a stroll through the building’s history and the diversity of activities it had witnessed.

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The Globe, February 13, 1931.

In a timeframe that would be almost unheard of today, the request for a building permit was made in February 1931. The arena was open 10 months later. Also note the simultaneous request to the city to build an arena in Spadina Crescent, which was never constructed (the site is now U of T’s Daniels Faculty).

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Sketch of Maple Leaf Gardens, The Telegram, March 5, 1931.

Construction of Maple Leaf Gardens began in July 1931 and proceeded rapidly in order to be ready for the 1931/32 hockey season. Over 1,200 labourers, 750,000 bricks, and 77,500 bags of concrete were required to build the arena.

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Opening night ceremonies at Maple Leaf Gardens, Mail and Empire, November 13, 1931.

Over 13,000 people attended opening night on November 12, 1931. Maple Leaf Gardens President J.P. Bickell hoped that the arena would “be regarded as a civic institution, rather than a commercial venture, because its object is to foster and promote the healthy recreation of the people of this British and sport-loving city.” Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs lost to the Chicago Black Hawks 2-1.

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From W.A. Hewitt’s “Sporting Views and Reviews” column, Toronto Star, November 13, 1931:

The new Maple Leaf gardens proved a revelation to the hockey public last night. Everybody expressed amazement and pleasure at its spaciousness, its tremendous capacity, its comfort, its beautiful colour scheme, and its adaptability for hockey and all other indoor sports, with the spectators right on top of the play.

The crowd–a record one for hockey in Canada–was splendidly handled. No confusion, no crowding or rushing, everything done in the most orderly and systematic manner. The opening ceremonies were elaborate and a little lengthy, but that was excusable when one considers the importance of the occasion. They don’t open million-and-a-half arenas every night in the week.

Hewitt’s son, Foster, became a Gardens legend over his decades of broadcasting games on radio and television.

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Wrestling match, Whipper Billy Watson versus Dick Hutton, Maple Leaf gardens, July 5, 1956. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7520.

Seven days after the first hockey game, pro wrestling made its debut at the Gardens. A crowd of over 15,000 watched Jim Londos defeat Gino Garibaldi on November 19, 1931. The match was promoted by the Queensbury Athletic Club, who had recently hired Frank Tunney as its secretary. Within a decade Tunney took over the promotion and would be responsible for most of the venue’s wrestling cards until his death in 1983. One of his most popular draws was East York native Whipper Billy Watson, seen here defending a world title against Dick Hutton in 1956.

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Irvine “Ace” Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs Hockey Club in his office, 1960s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 2370.

Among those who kept offices in the Gardens was Irvine “Ace” Bailey, who was one of the Maple Leafs’ top forwards until he was nearly killed by a vicious hit from Boston Bruin Eddie Shore in December 1933. Though unable to resume his playing career, Bailey went on serve two stints as the University of Toronto’s hockey coach and worked as a timekeeper at the Gardens until 1984.

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Skater jumps through ring of fire at Toronto War Savings Committee youth rally, Maple Leaf Gardens, February 13, 1941. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Iten 7068.

What lengths did organizers go to grab the attention of those attending the numerous war rallies at the Gardens during the Second World War? How about a skater jumping through a flaming hoop?

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Communist leader Tim Buck (front left) and others, Communist Labour and Total War Committee meeting, Maple Leaf Gardens, October 13, 1942. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7099.

Over 9,000 people attended a rally held on October 13, 1942 to support lifting the ban on the Communist Party that had been imposed under the War Measures Act two years earlier. Leader Tim Buck urged full support for the war effort to destroy the Axis powers, including conscription. Assorted labour leaders and politicians across party lines were also on stage to oppose the ban, including Ontario Premier Mitch Hepburn. One wonders if Hepburn’s motives were to further embarass Prime Minister Mackenzie King as much as helping the Communists break the ban and boosting war morale.

The ban wasn’t lifted, so the Communists reorganized as the Labour-Progressive Party the following year.

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Recruiting station at wartime rally, Maple Leaf Gardens, June 1, 1941. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7033.

The Gardens were used for numerous events supporting the war effort, from fundraisers to recruiting stations like this one. Even though he was in his mid-40s, Conn Smythe signed up for military service during the Second World War, eventually leading a sportsmen’s battalion and publicly criticizing the federal government’s handling of the war. Injuries sustained while caught in a German attack in July 1944 caused Smythe pain for the rest of his life. increasing his irascibility.

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Toronto Youth for Christ rally, Maple Leaf Gardens, circa 1946. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7111.

Religious rallies were a popular draw, such as this one for Toronto Youth for Christ in 1946. Faiths ranging from Roman Catholics to Jehovah’s Witnesses held mass meetings inside the arena. This photo also provides great views of the ceiling clock and the portrait of King George VI that Conn Smythe proudly displayed.

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Mayor Robert H. Saunders and Charles Templeton at Toronto Youth for Christ rally, Maple Leaf Gardens, 1946. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7114.

Mayor Robert Saunders talks to Charles Templeton (then in the evangelist phase of his life) during the Toronto Youth for Christ rally held on June 15, 1946. Over 16,000 people attended the event. “The pageant was as colourful as a professional revue and more gripping than the hundreds of athletic contests which have been fought out before hoarse throated thousands in the Gardens,” the Star reported. “With colourful, authentic costumes, fanfares from trumpets, excellent staging and colourful, effective lighting the story of religious leaders throughout the ages was unfolded.” Among the other speakers was Billy Graham.

Templeton, who was associated with the Avenue Road Church of the Nazarene (now the site of the Hare Krishna temple), gradually lost his faith, declared himself agnostic, became a journalist, ran for the leadership of the provincial Liberals, edited Maclean’s, and generally lived a busy, interesting life.

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Bingo players, Maple Leaf Gardens, 1940s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7368.

On occasion, Maple Leaf Gardens became the biggest bingo hall in the city. I think they called O67…

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Lou Brody at Maple Leaf Gardens, between 1940 and 1960. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 2439A.

Cleaning the ice surface, pre-Zamboni.

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Badminton played on skates in Maple Leaf Gardens ice show, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6709.

Ice badminton, anyone?

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Liberace at Maple Leaf Gardens, May 8, 1954. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3404.

As longtime Gardens publicity director Stan Obodiac described this photo in his book Maple Leaf Gardens: Fifty Years of History (Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981), “Liberace exchanged his glittering suit for a straw hat in a 1954 country number.” While this particular number wasn’t mentioned , the Star reported in its May 10, 1954 review of the pianist’s show that “every time he ran off to make a change of costume or pull some cute gag, middle-aged women, who looked as though normally they’d be the soul of domestic decorum, got up and rushed after him.”

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Stanley Holloway putting on makeup, Old Vic Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maple Leaf Gardens, December 1954. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Iten 7342.

Veteran British actor Stanley Holloway applies his makeup between cigarette puffs before a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by a touring company from the Old Vic in London. Globe and Mail drama critic Herbert Whittaker was disappointed with Holloway’s performance as Bottom. “I expected this prime exponent of earthy humour to be rougher, more simple,” Whittaker wrote in his December 15, 1954 review. “This Bottom is surprisingly modern, betraying his music hall antecedents without whipping us with uproarious burlesque. But he found himself not eclipsed but rather aided when he donned the monster head of an ass which the Ironsides have provided, and which is almost the hit of the production.” Also starring were Moira Shearer (The Red Shoes) as Titania and Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) as Demetrius.

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Maple Leaf Gardens refreshement stand, April 12, 1955. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7422.

Time for a refreshment break. Based on the date, my guess is that this photo was taken prior to the fourth game in the Eastern qualifying series for the Memorial Cup between the Toronto Marlboros and the Quebec Frontenacs.

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Globe and Mail, April 13, 1955.

The Marlies won the game 3-1, and went on to win both the series and the Memorial Cup. The roster was full of future Maple Leafs stars, including Bob Baun, Billy Harris, and Bob Pulford, along with future Leafs coach Mike Nykoluk.

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Crowds on new escalators, Maple Leaf Gardens, 1955. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7446.

Obodiac claimed that Maple Leaf Gardens was the first North American arena to be equipped with escalators.

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Performer in Maple Leaf Gardens’ Ice Capades rehearsing Peter Pan with journalist, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6776.

Long before journalists earned the wrath of Harold Ballard, reporting from the Gardens had its share of dangers, For one, you could have conducted an airborne interview with Peter Pan before a 1950s edition of the Ice Capades.

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Performer in Maple Leaf Gardens’ Ice Capades with broken leg, with members of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club, between 1958 and 1962. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 6757.

It appears this injured Ice Capades performer’s recovery from a broken leg was assisted by Maple Leafs Tim Horton, Carl Brewer, and Bert Olmstead.

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Bill Haley and the Comets, Maple Leaf Gardens, April 30, 1956. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7213.

In what was considered the arena’s first rock n’ roll show, Bill Haley and his Comets headlined a 12-act bill on April 30, 1956 that also included Bo Diddley, LaVern Baker, Big Joe Turner, the Drifters, the Platters, and Frankie Lymon. “Like natives at a voodoo ritual,” the Star reported the following day, “the crowd writhed and reeled until their pent-up emotions burst the dam of reason and the clambered on to the stage and into the aisles to dance.” The following years, the Gardens was one of three Canadian stops Elvis Presley made on his only tour outside of the USA.

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Perry Como and Conn Smythe with “Timmy” in Como’s dressing room for Easter Seals show, “Timmy’s Easter Parade of Star,” Maple Leaf gardens, April 14, 1957. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7314.

A benefit concert for Easter Seals was an annual staple of the Gardens schedule beginning in the 1950s. Preparing for the 1957 edition are crooner Perry Como, “Timmy” Paul Gamble, and Conn Smythe. While Perry and Paul take the photo session in stride, Conn looks a little spooked. While researching this gallery, we discovered this wasn’t an unusual expression for Mr. Smythe.

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Likely from the same photo session, with Whipper Billy Watson and another youth subbing in for Perry Como. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7318.

As for the concert, the April 15, 1957 edition of the Globe and Mail observed that “it was the front rows to which Como and every star before him played. Bright-eyed children with crippled legs were the most fortunate: many there had crippled bodies as well as bodies, but they too obviously enjoyed every minute and hopped up and down with ecstatic delight.”

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Toronto Star, April 13, 1957. Click on image for larger version.

Other performers ranged from wrestler Whipper Billy Watson to the stars of CBC’s variety series Cross Canada Hit Parade and Country Hoedown.

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Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and his wife Jeanne at Liberal party rally, Maple Leaf Gardens, June 7, 1957. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 4213.

The federal Liberal election rally on June 7, 1957 was a political disaster, as a teenage heckler attempting to climb onstage fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete floor. The overall Liberal campaign that year was a dud.

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Cliff Richard and the Shadows at the Biggest Show of Stars for 1960, January 25, 1960. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7220.

Cliff Richard and the Shadows were among the acts featured in the January 1960 edition of the “Biggest Show of Stars” package tour.

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Toronto Star, January 26, 1960.

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The Isley Brothers, Biggest Show of Stars, January 25, 1960. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7252.

Other acts on the bill included the Isley Brothers and Clyde McPhatter.

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Audience at the Biggest Show of Stars for 1960, January 25, 1960. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7245.

A row of screaming fans at the January 1960 edition of the “Biggest Show of Stars.” Testing the limits of their vocal chords would serve them well, especially if any of them went on to see the Beatles at the Gardens four years later.

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Toronto Maple Leafs versus Chicago Black Hawks, between 1958 and 1964. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7529.

Ageless goalie Johnny Bower guards the net for the Maple Leafs against Chicago Black Hawks forwards Ron Murphy (10) and Eric Nesterenko (15).

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Toronto Maple Leafs versus Boston Bruins, between 1961 and 1963. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7527.

In this early 1960s match against the Bruins, the Leafs’ Bob Pulford (20) has his stick primed while team captain George Armstrong attempts to help. Among the Bruins trying to prevent a Leaf goal are Pat Stapleton (4), Ed Westfall (18), and Leo Boivin (20).

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Two men in Maple Leafs Gardens dressing room, pointing to painted Toronto Maple Leafs sign, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 7447.

A clubhouse motto erected by Conn Smythe to inspire the Maple Leafs. The City of Toronto Archives does not identify the two gentlemen pointing at the inspirational words, but we think they may be forward Sid Smith and goalie Harry Lumley.

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Sonny Fox with Harold Ballard at Maple Leafs Gardens, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 3038.

Harold Ballard’s association with Maple Leaf Gardens began during the 1930s when the future Maple Leafs owner was involved with a number of local amateur hockey teams. This picture, featuring Ballard with American television personality Sonny Fox, was taken long before hockey fans began uttering his name with contempt.

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Dave “Tiger” Williams signing an autograph for Greg Crombie, 1978. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 8857.

This photo appears to have been left on the cutting room floor when I prepared the original post, probably to make the gallery a nice, neat total of 28 images.

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Greg Crombie at Maple Leaf Gardens with King Clancy, 1978. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 8859.

Francis “King” Clancy was the sunny face of the Maple Leafs, whether it was as a player in 1930s or a team executive from the 1950s until his death in 1986. In his biography of Harold Ballard, sportswriter William Houston compared Clancy to a leprechaun. “Clancy usually has a big smile, a twinkle in his eye to go along with his high-pitched voice. He has an amiable personality and offends no one…He is full of stories from his hockey past and can be a delightful companion.”

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One of the last chances the public had to stroll around Maple Leaf Gardens before its conversion into its present form occured during Nuit Blanche in October 2008. While there were art installation on the arena floor, the real magic that evening was hearing visitors tell stories about their experiences in the building. There were also plenty of reminders that the Leafs had left behind after vacating the premises, such as this Mercury ad.

Love During Wartime

Originally published on Torontoist on February 14, 2008.

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Toronto Star, February 13, 1945.

While some may scoff at modern rituals surrounding Valentine’s Day, simple expressions of love and sentimentality held a deeper meaning in Toronto towards the end of World War II. Tucked amidst the newspaper coverage of the Yalta Conference during the week of Valentine’s Day in 1945 were stories on how Torontonians expressed their admiration towards each other and loved ones fighting overseas.

A sense of nostalgia for peaceful times affected the valentine cards that were available. Top sellers were Victorian-inspired combinations of lace, paper and ribbons. The Daily Star noted that “with the opening guns of battle a revival in romanticism swept the western world resulting in the current mode for ornate Victorian furniture, nostalgic literature…hearts and flowers were the order of the day for thousands of Canadians seeking in old-fashioned sentimentality some escape from the stark realities of the wartime world.”

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Toronto Star, February 12, 1945.

Those realities may have reined in a trend that a Globe and Mail editorial found disturbing. “Not so many years ago valentines were taken rather seriously. The date was made the occasion of proposals and for beginning courtships. Then there intervened a lamentable era where insulting and abusive valentines were sent anonymously to less fortunate young women, as if their plain face were a personal fault.” The paper was relieved “that era seems to be passing…Valentines are more sentimental these days…a little present, a card, or even a phone call to some one loved can never be amiss.”

The most welcome greeting was delivered to Cathie Conlin of Harvie Avenue, who received belated Christmas wishes from her brother Patrick, a POW in Japan. The cable Mrs. Conlin received was the first message to arrive in Toronto under a Red Cross arrangement with the Japanese to allow one return communication between prisoners and their families per year. Mrs. Conlin told the Globe and Mail that it was “the best Valentine I ever got.”

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Toronto Star, February 12, 1945.

Servicemen on leave in Toronto were provided with a number of Valentine’s Day-themed dances to go to. These events ranged from a gathering of navy veterans at the Royal York to a joint collaboration between Simpson’s and the Toronto Conservatory of Music at the College Street YMCA. Older women were encouraged to attend morale-boosting teas and luncheons thrown by the likes of the Kiwanis Club.

Society editors felt that despite all of the good feelings circulating around the city, something was amiss. The Star‘s “Over the Teacups” column was not impressed with the new language of love, which failed to meet certain requirements.

Today was the day for lace and ribbons and sentimental poetry. Doves were supposed to come down out of bell towers and coo in public places. Everywhere were to be happy dreams, tranquility and love. We didn’t see any. The day was a flop. No doves nested in our hats. All we saw to come anywhere near it was a tall sailor walking hand in hand with his girl. He was saying, “Listen, did you remember the razor blades?” And she was saying “As soon as you go, I’m going to have my hair cut-short.” Well, that’s the way love talks nowadays. We’ll just have to be content with that.

Sources: editions of the Globe and Mail and Toronto Daily Star published February 10-16, 1945.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Toronto Star, February 13, 1945.

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Globe and Mail, February 14, 1945.

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Globe and Mail, February 15, 1945.

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Globe and Mail, February 15, 1945.

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The flipside of a wartime Valentine’s Day (with harsh feedback from “Uncle George”), Toronto Star, February 15, 1945. 

Vintage Toronto Ads: D-Day

As the reprints of older Vintage Toronto Ads columns wind down, this is the first in a new, occasional series. 

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Front page, Toronto Star, June 6, 1944.

As Canadians participated in the D-Day invasion, newspaper advertisers expressed their feelings, hopes, and prayers about its outcome. Here is a sampling of some of those ads, as published in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

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Toronto Star, June 6, 1944.

Simpson’s department store suspended its normal sale ads for several days, starting on D-Day with a full-page prayer taken from Francis Drake’s attack against the Spanish at Cadiz in spring 1587.

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Toronto Star, June 6, 1944.

Near Simpson’s Queen Street flagship, the public gathered for a prayer meeting outside (Old) City Hall. Elsewhere in the city, schools held special assemblies, and all Anglican churches prepared for special services at 8 p.m. that evening. St. Michael’s Cathedral reported people streaming into the church as early as 7 a.m., many of whom were wives and children of soldiers serving in Europe. Special services were also scheduled at several war productions plants, including Massey Harris and, out in Malton, Victory Aircraft.

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Toronto Star, June 7, 1944.

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Globe and Mail, June 9, 1944.

Simpson’s followed up the prayer ad with two spotlighting leaders of the invasion. There was also an invasion-tinged full page spot marking King George VI’s official birthday celebration, even though his actual 49th birthday wasn’t until December.

By contrast, rival Eaton’s continued with their normal advertising, only adding an invitation published on June 6 from Mayor Frederick Conboy to attend a civic prayer service in front of City Hall two days later.

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Toronto Star, June 6, 1944.

For regular updates on the invasion, moviegoers could catch the latest at the Uptown and Loew’s (now the Elgin) theatres on Yonge Street.

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Toronto Star, June 7, 1944.

Radio listeners could follow CBC’s invasion coverage. CJBC, the flagship station of the CBC’s recently formed Dominion Network, swapped frequencies with CFRB in 1948 and moved to 860 AM.

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Globe and Mail, June 7, 1944.

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Globe and Mail, June 9, 1944.

Two examples of ads from the business community.

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Globe and Mail, June 7, 1944.

A listing of some of the Ontario residents who took part in the invasion.

Finally, a pair of editorials: one from the city, one from an outlying area.

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Toronto Star, June 6, 1944

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Orono Weekly Times, June 8, 1944.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Short Cuts 7

A Victory Shower

Originally published on Torontoist on August 23, 2011.

Vintage Ad #1,617: Victory Means a New Bathroom!

Mayfair, March 1944.

We suspect a shining new bathroom with a corner shower was not high on the daydream list for those on the battle lines in World War II—getting home in one piece might have been slightly higher. Still, executives at heating and plumbing equipment manufacturers could sit back and soak up war effort projects until the postwar consumer boom hit. Then they would find customers like this fellow, who was relieved to clean himself with more than just the canteen-sized doses of water he was forced to use in the field. A private shower to him would truly be a “fruit of freedom.”

After several mergers, Standard Sanitary dropped the icky part of its name and, as American Standard, continues to provide products to make anyone’s bathroom dreams come true.

Have You Tasted This Sensational Soup?

Originally published on Torontoist on October 11, 2011.

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Was it the mounting effects of wartime rationing making this man so excited about Lipton’s Noodle Soup Mix, or the high sodium content of the broth? Comforting as a bowl of reconstituted dry soup mix can be, calling it “rich and natural” is a stretch. But to wartime consumers, the convenience, economy, and versatility were irresistible qualities.

While present-day Knorr Lipton soup no longer touts tasty chicken fat among its enticing attributes, two predictions came true: children enjoy the seemingly bottomless supply of noodles, and the pouches of dehydrated goodies have remained a standby in many Toronto homes for the past 70 years.

Miming Increased Productivity

Originally published on Torontoist on September 13, 2011.

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Financial Post Magazine, March 1980.

Hinted at but not made explicit in today’s ad: besides promoting time-saving business forms, this advertisement for the Moore product-ivity kit inferred that word processing speeds would improve if staff donned white makeup and communicated solely through miming during working hours. While there was a risk that an interested firm would lose employees due to their inability to keep their mouths shut, allergic reactions to makeup, or fear of mimes, a manager thinking outside the box might have taken the risk. Less idle chit-chat equals profit!

Using a mime spokesman might not have been out of line for Moore Business Forms, given that founder Samuel J. Moore was the production manager for the satirical weekly Grip before entering the stationery field in 1882. You might have to mimic the outline of a building where the company’s former office was in Mount Dennis: Google Maps shows Goddard Avenue as a blocked-off road awaiting residential redevelopment.

Master the Art of Pleasing Each Other

Originally published on Torontoist on October 18, 2011.

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Maclean’s, April 3, 1978.

After moving into the zigzagging towers of The Masters zipped into the Markland Wood neighbourhood, this couple spent more time together enjoying nightly swims, sipping fine wines despite the stares of the medieval citizens depicted on their wallpaper, practicing their golf swings, and spending quality time in the sauna. They also took advantage of the leisure facilities to further their individual interests: he spent hours in the darkroom developing photos of amateur models who succumbed to the charms of his red neck scarf, while she unwound in the pottery room by recreating in clay pleasant and disturbing visions from her dreams of what her lover was up to.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Less Sugar Tonight in My Coffee

Originally published on Torontoist on March 1, 2011.

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Toronto Star, February 5, 1942.

As World War II reached its midpoint in 1942, Canadian consumers increasingly felt the effects of the conflict. Partly out of a desire to free up shipping vessels and materials used in packaging to aid the Allied war effort, food rationing gradually went into effect over the course of the year. When it was announced that the sugar supply would be curtailed, a sense of panic quickly ensued.

Sugar rationing went into effect on an honour-system basis on January 26. When word reached edgy Toronto consumers that they would only be allowed three-quarters of a pound of the sweet stuff per person per week, they rushed to their neighbourhood department stores and grocers. Some of those stocking up worried the new regulations would prevent them from sending sugar to friends and relatives affected by the war in Europe, but government officials quickly reassured them that as long as the quantity exported was taken out of their ration, the practice could continue. Other people were just plain greedy, as demonstrated by four local hoarders caught stowing away up to sixty pounds of sugar. Though they weren’t charged (likely due to their sheepish attempts to return the sugar once investigators were hot on their trail), it was legislated that those who tried to skirt their ration could faces fines of up to $5,000 and two years in jail.

Retailers like Loblaws, who were given little guidance in how to combat hoarders, held emergency staff meetings. Some tied the amount of sugar one could purchase to the final tally on the grocery bill. Others printed signs with patriotic messages stressing how hoarding hurt the war effort and constituted an offence against decency. Customers looking for alternatives found plenty of advice in newspapers from dieticians who embraced the reduced circulation of sugar. The recommended alternative was honey, and beekeepers across the province promised a bumper crop for 1942. Another alternative would receive less favourable press today: corn syrup, which had been used as a substitute in sodas during World War I. One expert told the Star that “it is not as sweet as sugar but otherwise its presence will not be noticed in soft drinks.”

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Toronto Star, January 27, 1942.

Rationing also brought out the stand-up comedian in editorial page writers. One knee-slapper from the Star: “Canadians are restricted to three-quarters of a pound of sugar as a war ration, but young men will be relieved to know that there is no restriction upon 115 pounds of honey.”

Tighter restrictions on the purchase of sugar went into effect when coffee and tea were subjected to rations on May 26. The sugar allocation was decreased to half a pound per person per week. Restrictions were also placed on how restaurants could serve sugar—containers and packets could not be placed on tables, while those wanting to sweeten their favourite hot beverage were limited to three lumps. Despite a vow to remain on the honour system, ration books were soon in the works, and when the first ration books were mailed out later that summer, sugar was among the items for which coupons were issued.

Those with a sweet tooth had to wait two years after the war was over before their favourite ingredient was available without restriction. Sugar was one of the final food products to be removed from rationing when the federal government decided in November 1947 that supply restrictions were no longer necessary.

Additional material from the January 26, 1942, January 27, 1942, and May 26, 1942 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Canned Food Will Change Your Tune

Originally published on Torontoist on May 4, 2010.

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Chatelaine, February 1945.

HE: Scientific cooking or not, I want food now! By the way, dear, were you suggesting that the food I’ve raved about all these years was not made from scratch by your lovely hands?
SHE: Umm…er…yes…but think of all the metal I’ve donated to the neighbourhood scrap drive! Besides, every time I make something from scratch, you complain it takes too long and that “something tastes off tonight!”
HE: You’ve got a point. Now be fox-quick and fix me some beans!
SHE: Keep your loincloth on, Tarzan, or else next time you can cook for yourself…if you can figure out how to open a can. Now that would change your tune!
US: Canned foods may not be able to solve marital discord, but we guarantee the arguments will end once you taste the freshness inside!

Eager readers may have taken advantage of the wonders of canned foods if they followed the daily menu suggestions for February found on the next page. Several of the suggested bills of fare specifically listed canned fruits as an item to liven up a meal, though never on Tuesdays (no reason given). If the charts were followed to the letter, a wartime homemaker could carefully plan their rations and never worry about what to feed the family.

Curious about what Chatelaine’s typical daily suggestions were? Here’s the recommended menu for Tuesday, February 13, 1945:

BREAKFAST: grapefruit juice, grilled smoked fish, brown toast, coffee, tea
LUNCHEON: barley broth, potato and parsley salad, egg garnish, strawberry jelly whip, wafers, tea, cocoa
DINNER: rolled lamb shoulder, browned potatoes, creamed celery, fig shortcake, lemon sauce, coffee, tea

A Wartime Letter

Originally published on Torontoist on November 11, 2008.

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One activity that today’s remembrances of those fallen in war might prompt is a look through boxes in attics and archives for letters sent home by those on the front lines. As demonstrated in a series currently running in The Globe and Mail, these letters provide a snapshot of what it was like to be caught up in conflicts far from Canada. In these documents, the joy at receiving small pleasures of life from home stand out, whether it’s a shipment of candy bars or a newspaper clipping announcing a friend’s wedding.

Here is one of those letters, sent by a Toronto fighter pilot (my great-uncle) to his family during the early years of World War II.

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Douglas Morrison Waldon, known as “Morrey” to friends and family, was born in Deer Park in 1914, one of five children of a TTC conductor. After graduating from the Toronto Normal School, Waldon worked for Royal Trust for five years before his dreams of flying led him to sign up with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940. After several months of training at Uplands near Ottawa, Waldon was sent over to England in February 1941 and served as part of No. 403 Squadron.

Waldon composed a steady stream of letters, including this one for his older sister Helen (my grandmother). Military censorship prevented any descriptions of his flying activities, but the letter is rich in details about items sent from home and hijinks that made life bearable. There is a strong sense of how he misses everyone at home, especially when he writes about the family garden back in Deer Park.

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Dear Helen, Lorne & all the family,

The weather here has been quite bad for the past few days, so we had a rest from flying. It is now 3:30 P.M. and I am sitting in our Flight Dispersal Hut as I write this letter. I had hoped by this time to have some pictures to send to you, but I have had only one roll developed as yet. However, I hope to have some ready for my next letter. The mailman was very good to me this past week and I received 4 letters from Phil, two from Dad and one from Jack [younger brother]; and last but not least an elegant parcel from Hartley [older brother]…In case the rest of you don’t know what was in the parcel Hart sent me, I will tell you. 20 packages of Wrigley’s gum, 25 chocolate bars, a case of Planter’s Peanuts, two films for my camera, razor blades, toothpaste, toothbrush, two pads of this writing paper and a lovely pair of socks which I think were Lot’s handiwork [Hartley’s wife]. Opening that parcel was almost as good as Christmas and I was certainly very, very grateful for it. The chocolate bars lasted for one afternoon and evening and were enjoyed by all. My roommate and I [and] a Scotch lad we call “Haggis” finished the peanuts and a box of marshmallows the same evening. As a result of my indiscretion and not controlling my fingers, I am sporting 3 lovely cold-sores, which would make Bea [older sister] very unhappy if she could see them.

I am glad that you reminded me about my Air Force Pin which I had quite forgotten, It is on my greenish shirt in the clothes closet of what was your room at home. I am not sure but I think that is on the trousers above the watch-pocket. It is also possible that it is on my sports coat. You are very welcome to it.

From all reports, the garden at home must be really something to see this year [and] I would like very much to be sun-bathing there right now. There are lots of delphiniums around here which remind me of home. We have several large beds of beautiful roses around our mess here and we have fresh roses on the mess dinner table each day. They certainly help to make the dining room pleasant, along with the W.A.A.F. waitresses. I was pleased to hear that the front yard has been freshly sodded & if it gets lots of water it should make a great improvement.
I don’t think you need to worry about me over-drinking but I do like to join the boys occasionally on a pub-crawl as often times there is nothing else to do. However, I am not a confirmed drunkard or anything like that.
Your good wishes for promotions for me are appreciated Dad, but from now on they are very slow [and] rather hard to get.

Last Wednesday, I was invited out for dinner and an evening of tennis, both of which were very enjoyable. As a result of meeting a very nice girl that evening I was invited to a super party on Friday night. The evening started with a cocktail party and then we went on to the home of a Lady Somebodyorother for dinner and it was the best dinner I have had since coming to England, bar none. After dinner we went to a lovely country club where there was dancing and supper until 12:30. The dance was a real good one and there was an outdoor swimming pool for those that became overheated. I got to bed around 1:45 and so I had to get up again at 4:30 that morning. I was very tired. I had also volunteered to do late readiness for one of the boys going on leave last night, so the inclement weather pleased me very much. The girl I was with is the daughter of a banker in a nearby town. She is tall, dark, devastating and very, very interesting. Perhaps she will want my picture. Woo! Woo! Dogpatch style [a reference to the popular comic strip L’il Abner].
My R.A.F. life has been much the same as in previous weeks so there is nothing new to report there. It is hard to believe that I have been away from home for five months and I must say that time is going very, very quickly.
It is time to say good-bye now. Best regards to all the family and lots of love.
Morrey

P.S. Thanks again for the parcel.

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This proved to be one of the last letters Waldon sent. Three days after his father received a note indicating that all was well, the family was informed that he had gone missing while piloting a Spitfire fighter over France on August 9. Cables from the International Red Cross over the next month indicated that he was a prisoner in a German hospital. In mid-September, the family was informed that Waldon had died of injuries soon after he was shot down over Gravelines.

When interviewed by The Toronto Star, his father noted that “it was a great disappointment to us. Douglas was a strong and healthy boy and after five weeks passed we had high hopes for his safe recovery.” Waldon was buried in the British Commonwealth section of the Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir cemetery. Back in Toronto, a service was held at Christ Church in Deer Park soon after his death was announced. He was one of six fallen parishioners remembered at the church’s Remembrance ceremony that November.

Additional material from the August 11, 1941 and September 13, 1941 editions of the Toronto Star and the Telegram.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Douglas Morrison Waldon Air Force Portrait and Death Notice

The material I used for this story comes from a box which belonged to my paternal grandmother. It contains photos and newspaper clippings stretching from the 1920s through my first regular media gig, a monthly highlight column for my elementary school written for the Amherstburg Echo when I was in grade 8. Much of the material is World War II vintage and revolves around my great-uncle Morrey.

Pilot Officer from Toronto Listed Missing

This is the notice that appeared in the Toronto Star on August 11, 1941, when Morrey was reported missing. A similar story appeared the same day in the Telegram. The loss was devastating to the family. His name lived on among several nephews, including my father, who was given Douglas as a middle name when he was born the following year.

"They Died For Freedom's Sake"

The Telegram, November 11, 1942.

Morrey was one of 26 airmen honoured by the city in a Remembrance Day ceremony the year after he died.

Official Opening of Mountain View RCAF Station

Globe and Mail, July 21, 1941.

While he was overseas, it appears the family journeyed east to attend the opening of an RCAF station in Prince Edward County. My grandmother is getting a crash course in how to operate a plane in the middle picture.