Friday, December 05, 2014

au revoir, world's biggest bookstore building

It’s not so much that the former World’s Biggest Bookstore is being knocked down that bugs me. Nor that the site may become a parking lot (Toronto’s favourite temporary solution to demolitions during the 1960s/70s) while the property’s owner abandons plans for a “restaurant row” in favour of a rezoning application.

No, it’s the fact that Indigo didn’t remove the store’s shelving before the wrecking ball made its first punch. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

warehouse video department: murdoch mysteries

This summer, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for an online bonus feature for Murdoch Mysteries. After quickly slipping back in time to tour the show’s sets, the camera rolled. Here’s the result – I show up around the 1:55 mark to discuss the state of automobiles in Toronto during the early Edwardian era.

Between this, giving a talk to a local historical society a few weeks ago, and leading a heritage walking tour this summer, my confidence in my public speaking ability has skyrocketed. It’s a sideline worthy of further exploration as a sideline to my freelance activities. Fingers crossed that I can tap into more opportunities like these. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

less-than-great moments in toronto municipal election history department: anne mcbride, 1980

Toronto Sun, November 3, 1980.
After a nine-month slog, the 2014 municipalelection campaign draws to a close today. Amid its stranger-than-fiction twists and turns, a sad truth has emerged: there is a segment of Torontonians who have discovered they can get away with boldly displaying small-minded attitudes we like to sweep under the carpet. As Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise observed in atweet this morning referring to a gawdawful Andy Donato cartoon of Olivia Chow published in the Sun, one of the campaign's big problems is "that we've given racists, sexists, xenophobes a platform of legitimacy in TO politics." From attacks on Chow's ethnicity to the mutilation of signs for Islamic candidates, it hasn't been pretty.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

vote brillinger (the druggist)

The Telegram, December 28, 1923.
Does being the first name atop a ballot help one's political career? Likely not; otherwise, Said Aly would be among the critical contenders in this year's Toronto mayoral race (though thankfully his name sits just ahead of our city's perennial racist candidate).

It didn't aid Magnus Austin Brillinger (1882-1939) in the 1924 race for the two trustee positions up for grabs in Ward 6. When the votes were tallied on New Year's Day, he finished third behind future TTC chair W.C. McBrien and veteran board member Dr. John Hunter.

Better luck next year for the St. Clair Avenue West pharmacist, right?

Friday, October 17, 2014

election night score sheet, get yer election night score sheet

Toronto Star, December 5, 1960. Click on image for larger version
I suspect there are devoted municipal election junkies, especially among Twitterati, who'd love a sheet like this at their fingertips on October 27. Adjustments would be required for the present day: five minute increments on the chart would suit the rapid pace of the internet age (or two-and-a-half if your handwriting is as small as mine is). The suburban mayoral races of 1960 would be replaced with either key council battles or, for the truly dedicated, all 44 wards.

Monday, October 13, 2014

bonus features: william dennison

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

Source: The Telegram, Dec 6, 1966.
While researching this piece, I was struck at several parallels between Dennison and Rob Ford, namely what we'd now call "retail politics" and campaigning on being mindful of taxpayer dollars. (There were major differences: Dennison was a teetotaller, displayed leftist tendencies during his early political career, and didn't make a public spectacle of himself). Several months before the 1966 municipal election, Toronto Star city hall columnist Ron Haggart looked at Dennison's chances, using language that could have been adapted by his successors in 2010:
But Dennison can by no means be written off. He has helped literally thousands of ordinary persons during his years as an alderman and controller at City Hall. He efficiently keeps in touch at election time with those whose problems have crossed his desk. He has an independence from, even a coolness toward, the City Hall Establishment which has earned him a reputation as a man who fights City Hall at City Hall. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

vintage municipal election editorial cartoon of the day

Cartoon by Sid Barron, the Toronto Star, November 23, 1962. Click on image for larger version.
Adjust the dates to match this year's election (October 27, for the record), and you could easily recycle this cartoon. Some voters may feel as if the world ended long ago during the current drawn-out, fiction-writers-couldn't-make-this-stuff-up narrative.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

bonus features: hans in the kitchen

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

If your appetite has been whetted, here are a pair of Hans Fread recipes I encountered during my research. First up, his take on chicken liver pate.

Source: Globe and Mail, November 16, 1957. Note steer behind Hans's head.

Second, from Fread's George Brown College course on "Cooking for the Budget Minded," a recipe printed in the September 12, 1969 edition of the Toronto Star.

Budget braised beef

1 piece beef fat, size of small potato
4-5 pounds beef, crossribs, or bottom round
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp crystallized ginger, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced
8 small potatoes, peeled
4-5 carrots, quartered
8 medium onions

Dice and melt the fat in a dutch over or pot. Brown the meat slowly on all sides, until it has a good-looking brown colour.

When meat is browned, pour the lemon juice on top, then the garlic, celery salt, diced ginger, salt, pepper, and slices of unpeeled lemon. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, or until meat is tender.

After 1-1/2 hours of cooking, place the potatoes, carrots and onions around the roast. Cover and continue to simmer until everything is tender.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

bonus features: allan lamport

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

If only more mayors kept scrapbooks as extensively as Allan Lamport did. To say the dozens of brittle, flaking volumes sitting in the City of Toronto Archives were a valuable resource in preparing this profile is an understatement. Throughout his political career, Lamport clipped every article mentioning his name and pasted them into the type of scrapbook you can easily pick up at Staples or Wal-Mart. During his mayoralty, volumes are organized by newspaper, which is especially helpful in the case of the yet-to-be-digitized Telegram.

Warning: due to the condition of the scrapbooks, you’ll need to brush the flakes off yourself after viewing them.

Monday, August 04, 2014

john the hugger and other scenes from toronto police court, 1909

As Toronto's police magistrate between 1877 and 1921, George Taylor Denison III passed judgement on thousands of people in his court. The press dutifully covered the proceedings daily, leaving historians with a record alternatively amusing, enraging, and heartbreaking.

Over the years, I've saved several police court reports, usually topped with a catchy headline like this one. Who doesn't want to know the sordid details surrounding "John the Hugger" that caused him to be hauled in front of Denison?

Let's dive into the details of John, the Stone family, the "saucy mendicant,"  and the other cases included in the News's court roundup on November 22, 1909...

Saturday, August 02, 2014

hippie gets rub in tub

Source: Toronto Star, September 29, 1967.
While this story is presented in a charming manner, complete with victim who apparently shook off being grabbed and dunked in a tub of water, it's hard to deny that the hippie-washers were out to commit acts meriting assault charges if attempted now. This wasn't an "attempt to do something constructive," this was a bunch of yahoos looking to stir shit up.

Note the look on the victim's face. His expression screams "Seriously? Are you kidding me? Riiight..."

Not everyone at U of T felt the same way about cleaning up Yorkville. A story in the Globe and Mail the following day noted that in a 78-56 vote, the Graduate Students Union endorsed financial aid for draft dodgers and for people arrested at a Yorkville sit-in the previous month.

Monday, July 21, 2014

dave keon invites you to try...

Dave Keon invites you to try... (1)
Click on image for larger version.
The 1970s. You have a pantry full of Campbell's Vegetable Soup. You can't decide what kind of sandwich will taste best while playing spelling games with the alphabet pasta. Who do you turn to!

Toronto Maple Leafs hockey star Dave Keon, of course!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

nautical 'n nice

Nautical 'n Nice (1)
Click on image for larger version
In the midst of recent housecleaning, this pamphlet fell out of a decaying cookbook I was about to toss out. Much screams 1970s: the layout, the nod to Canadian nationalism, and the heavy use of tinned food. Perhaps somebody worked very hard in Aylmer's test kitchen to devise these nautical-inspired dishes...or perhaps they were handed a list of products and told "do something with these!" Note the absence of "edible" in that sentence.

Brave enough to enjoy a taste of "Nautical 'n Nice?" Continue on...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

signs of insanity from windsor

Source: Eye, May 3, 2001.
While researching a recent Torontoist post regarding the demise of Eye/Eye Weekly/The Grid, I dug through a box of material meant to be scrapbooked over a decade ago. Besides finding a couple of fully intact issues focusing on the 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival, I unearthed this clipping of a long-shuttered Windsor pizzeria whose slowly-decaying sign provided years of mirth for my sister and I.

Over time, Star Pizza's sign lost more letters. By the mid-2000s you could buy a "lie" for 99 cents, which is a bargain when you're looking to hoodwink somebody.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

bonus features: proclaiming pride

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

Source: Toronto Star, November 1, 1978.
On my computer reside plenty of files I'm stumbled upon in the midst of research which I figure may be useful someday, no matter how absurd they are. Prime example: Art Eggleton dressed as a pickle. Based on the highlighting on the PDF copy of the original page, I discovered this gem while working on a Hallowe'en post. The original caption read as follows:
No sourpuss: Dressed as a pickle, but all smiles, Toronto Alderman Art Eggleton hands out a balloon to Diana Russo, 2, of Grace Street, at campaign headquarters last night. Supporter Robert Long offers Hallowe'en treat.