Saturday, December 23, 2006

new concepts in parking department

Parking Is For Pants Only

During Thursday night's Festival of Lights in Kensington Market, the Toronto Parking Authority tested its latest innovation at the Bellevue lot: special spots to leave one's pants.

If the results are successful, other spaces will be created around the core, which will come in helpful for those times where you can't be bothered to cart your pants around when you're not using them, or when carrying them becomes a distraction.

Tires n' Toilets

Not to be outdone, the Toronto District School Board will be testing their new specialty parking spot over the holiday break at Central Tech: tires or toilets only.

Friday, December 22, 2006

casseroles '68

It's that time of year again...time to take a trip back into the often terrifying world of 1960s cookery.

Better Homes and Gardens Casserole Cookbook (1968) was well used at home growing up, mostly it contains one of my favourite comfort foods, steak and noodles (or, as the cookbook calls it, Round Steak Sauerbraten). Here's the recipe - I figure I should serve up the tasty before the the tacky.

1-1/2 pounds steak, 1/2" thick (we use sirloin instead of round)
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 tbsp dried onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 bayleaf
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
hot buttered noodles (extra broad egg noodles preferred)

Cut meat in 1" squares, then brown. Remove meat from pot, add gravy mix and 2 cups water. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Stir in next 8 ingredients. Add meat. Pour into casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350F for 90 minutes. Remove bayleaf. Serve on noodles


I found another copy of this cookbook at a spring booksale in Elora, for a quarter. While many of the recipes look perfectly edible, others suffer from the same pre-fab food horrors that plague other mass market cookbooks of the era.

Cases in point...

Hamburger Pie with Potato Fluff Topper
Serve Hamburger Pie with Potato Fluff Topper, Cabbage Slaw and brown-bread sandwiches filled with cream cheese.

Is there anything potato fluff topper can't do? The pie itself contains canned green beans and condensed tomato soup, while processed American cheese was an optional addition to the instant mashed potatoes on top.

Corned Beef Bake
When a quick meal is just the ticket, serve Corned Beef Bake with lettuce wedges topped with French dressing.

Notice how nicely the processed American cheese melted, and the swamp of canned veggies the corned beef is swimming in. French was the most exotic salad dressing this series ever came up with - now the suggested salad would be field greens with sesame soy, mango lime or sundried tomato vinaigrette.

Jumbo Cornburger
The family will enjoy a wedge from this Jumbo Cornburger. It's a well-flavoured corn mixture surrounded by ground beef.

Is that corn in the middle or an infestation of maggots? This dish was so colossal in scale, it earned a two-page spread. We're also 3 for 3 in the processed American cheese department.

Monday, December 11, 2006

more monkey business

Vintage Ad #103 - Darling Pet Monkeys Remove Unwanted Hair Forever
Yes, our friend the darling pet monkey is back. A year-and-a-half after hanging out with Dr. Strange and Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD, here he is in a "confessional" magazine. Maybe the monkey was edging towards more adult concerns - supporting cancer research, removing unwanted hair, etc. Note price and clothing remain the same, leading to one funky (smelling) pet.

Like the monkey, Blair was also a frequent comic book advertiser well into the 70s, with "Tim Newcomer" as their usual saleskid. Alas, no further information on them.

Permagon was only one of a wide variety of oddball products Honor House sold in magazines. If you didn't want a hair zapper, how about a personal nuclear sub? Also, note how the object the scantily-clad model is holding in the closeup looks like a grease/mark-up pencil. Could be they lost the zapper for the shot and had to borrow the closest substitute from the paste-up artist nearby. It is also possible that she is wearing one of the many wigs for sale in this magazine.

Among the "real stories" in this hard-hitting issue:
* Our Housewife "Tea Parties" Were Marijuana Binges
* Why Couldn't My Daughter-in-Law Died Instead of My Son
* My Ex-Lover Walked Back Into My Life
* For Two Weeks Each Year I Was Another Man's Mistress
* I Can't Be A Virgin For More Than One Hour

Remember: give generously this season to the Guelph Rent-a-Monkey Fund.

Source: Real Story, February 1969

rosedale rhapsody

Number 3 Spooky Rosedale House
This week's walk: holiday lights in Rosedale.

Along the way, we discovered an abandoned/secured property, fully lit up yet totally inaccessible. All walkways up to the house were blocked by fencing. We guessed a legal dispute was at play - our theory was an inheritance tied up in litigation. The picture on the right turned out blurry, but a few filters give it the proper spooky effect. I expect rays of light to burst through the windows at any second...

Man With Tail Watering Lawn
The further north we went, the number of lighting displays increased. This held to another group theory, that lower-wealth neighbourhoods contain better holiday displays (wealth being relative in Rosedale, though this point was proven to me a few nights later when I wandered on my own around the city, to be covered in an upcoming post).

The side shot above almost looks human shaped, except for the giant tail/very long watering house/whatever you imagine it is.

Rhapsody in Red
North of the train tracks, homes decked with lights stood out, including this rhapsody in red. Also noticed one home where four vehicles were packed into the driveway so tightly, we wondered what their "move the car" ritual must be like.

The wind really hit us as we walked towards Yonge along St. Clair. Like a rocket losing its shielding upon re-entry, protective elements like gloves began to fail as we struggled against blasts of cold air, especially when we hit the office towers. Cue a thawing session at a nearby pub.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

shop by mail via strange tales

Vintage Ad #102 - Darling Pet Monkeys on Space Probes with He-Man Voices Sell Comic Books
A fine array of products available to Marvel Comics readers in 1967. Things were going well for Merry Marvel that year: sales were rising and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four debuted on Saturday morning TV.

Multiple-advertiser pages such as these remained a staple until the early 80s. Compared to National/DC, who carried ads from reputable companies like Tootsie Roll, Marvel's resembled a flea market, the junior version of similar layouts from their men's magazine line.

Isn't that pet monkey adorable? Who wouldn't want a shirt-wearing, lollipop-munching primate around the house? We're not going to ask if owners had any other uses for the cage and leather goods included with the monkey. Note emphasis on "young" monkey - we'll never know if older monkeys in the stable sued on the grounds of age discrimination. Note Orwellian name of the advertiser.

This little monkey got around, as we'll see in a future vintage ad...

Based on Perfect Voice's website, you can still buy the secrets of the Feuchtinger method of improving one's voice, even if the term "he-man" is nowhere to be found. Alas, a perfect voice does not mean perfect spelling of the company name.

The Ed Sale Music Company still exists - the "secret system" appears to have seen few changes in 40 years, other than dropping ten songs and two pages and cost adjustments (from $2.98 to $9.98).

Oh, the horrors of blackheads, the terrifying foe of pimply adolescents! I'm betting this particular zit-popper was medical surplus. Searching the web, Vacutex has been trademarked, as a "wound dressing".

Watch the small print when buying a California Gold Piece! Based on the address, my guess is that Metropolitan Coin Exchange was based in the Penobscot Building, for nearly 50 years the tallest building in Detroit (from the completion of its tower in 1928 until the opening of the Renaissance Center in 1977). Wikipedia entry.

As for "Poems Wanted"...everything you wanted to know about song poems but were afraid to ask.

The most expensive item on the page is the Fox Mini-Bike, "small enough to fit in a car trunk"...which I could believe for the boat-like vehicles of 1967, but not so sure for a modern compact. Out on the web: the 1968 Fox Catalog.

Aspire to be a magician? Got a quarter? House of 1,000 Mysteries to the rescue! A brief bio of the magician behind this catalogue, Vick Lawston.

Insert your own jokes about the Space Probe, though it's nice to know that if your placed the Incredible Shrinking Man into the rocket as a passenger, he would have an easy, parachute-assisted landing. I recall shooting off a rocket once at a friend's house as a kid, only to watch it land on the roof of their house, hence my total lack of interest in model rocketry. Centuri sold its rocket kits from the early 60s through the early 80s (history page).

Finally, Howard Rogofsky was one of the first back issue comic dealers. He was also one of the first to charge high prices for back issues, regardless of their condition. According to Steve Duin and Mike Richardson's book Comics Between The Panels,

When you ordered from the king of Queens, you never knew if the mail would bring a book that was pristine mint or buried in tape..."Carefully applied Magic Tape," Rogofsky said in 1967, "does not constitute a defect." (375)
Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons would shudder.

Source: Strange Tales #158, July 1967

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

meanwhile, back on croft street...

While out for a stroll Sunday afternoon, I wandered by the College St end of Croft St and noticed a few new elements - a fresh series of artwork along the walls of the east side of the street.
Croft St Plaque
John Croft, receiving the official plaque treatment.

Dancing on the Walls
The plaque is sandwiched between dancers on the left, an unnamed portrait on the right.

Take a Bite Out of Cloud
The red figure in the middle reminds me of characters from 60s/70s undergrounds (usually talking pills).

Gettin' a Haircut by the Windows
Haircuts and apartment dwellers.

Heart of the City
The new heart of the city?

Wonder Woman and Pie
You're a wonder, Wonder Woman.

Croft St, Croft St Next
Waiting for the Croft St Red Rocket.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

city-tv every day in every way

Vintage Ad #87 - City TV, Channel 79 Cable 7
Another break from the vintage CBC ads this week for a peek at how CITY-TV advertised itself in the late 70s. Little flash or uber-hipness here, just strong lettering and increasing shades of grey.

On air for five years when this ad appeared, CITY had upped its signal the year before, when the CN Tower went into service. Note that the station was way up the dial at channel 79, where it stayed until 1983. The station had a mixed ownership, including Moses Znaimer - CHUM wouldn't buy its first stake until the following year and wouldn't gain full control of the station until 1981.

Brian Linehan's City Lights enjoyed a healthy run on the station and in syndication (1973-89). Known for digging deep into the background of those he interviewed, he was later parodied by Martin Short as "Brock Linehan" on SCTV. Linehan's 2004 obituary from the Globe and Mail.

Another CITY regular spoofed on SCTV was Morton Shulman, whose life included stints as Toronto's chief coroner in the 60s, a provincial MPP (High Park, 1971-75), talk show host (The Shulman File, 1977-82) and financial adviser. His controversial methods as a coroner inspired the 60s CBC drama Wojeck.

On the information end, CityPulse launched in '77. Looking at the current CITY bios page, longtime anchor Gord Martineau joined the station that year, with Anne Mroczkowski and JoJo Chintoh coming aboard the following year.

While nothing resembling a "Baby Blue" movie is mentioned among the station's upcoming flicks, there are a few whose content wouldn't have made it onto network TV unless they were heavily chopped (I'm looking at you, Straw Dogs).

Source: Saturday Night, April 1977

Monday, November 27, 2006

this newspaper will explode in 10 seconds...

Do Not Touch My Newspaper!
Now here's something I've never seen before...

The Sunday New York Times made its debut at the new digs this weekend, with a red sticker on the bag. This sticker provided a dire warning to whoever might want to snatch my afternoon reading. Anyone have statistics on the conviction rate for people pilfering their neighbour's papers?

There were times I could have used a notice like this at my old place, especially one month several years ago where the person housesitting the apartment above me ensured that my morning Globe and Mail made it into my hands 50% of the time, often appearing pre-read (it took several reminders before they left the paper alone).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

movin' right along

Once upon a time, I moved around a lot. It wasn't uncommon to move my junk in and out of residences, houses and sublets two, three times a year in university. But I didn't have as many possessions as I built up in the bunker over the past seven years, so moving was never particularly taxing.

There were times I had wished this was the case now.

The past week was almost pure packing. There had been dribbles over the previous month, but it was mostly tossing a few clothes in donation bins or donating cannned goods to local food banks. There was life to live, and my old landlord wanted to show the apartment. Only when my target date began to dawn on me did I get down to business.

I was proud I moved around 20 boxes in the Official Warehouse Car on my first two runs...then collapsed from total exhaustion. Pacing was going to be the key, especially as I discovered just how much of a packrat I'd been...

An old-fashioned, writing-university-essay style panic attack struck Thursday night, as the scale of how much stuff I had crammed into the bunker fully dawned on me. Did I have enough boxes? Even though several friends had indicated they could help, would that be enough? I wrote a frantic e-mail, which hopefully didn't annoy too many people. About five minutes after I sent off the note, I calmed back down - maybe getting my panic on paper was the tonic my nerves needed, even if unwillingly involved a dozen others (whoopsie).

Tip: Food Basics, or at least those around East York and the Don Valley, had a steady supply of good condition, bottom-included cardboard boxes.

Friday I felt more relaxed and continued with packing, trying to clear off the lingering items on my shelves. Made the last box run in Thorncliffe Park, stopping for a quick bite at Iqbal Sweets - tasty lunch thali special, including one of the meatiest, least greasy tandoori chicken thighs I've ever had. Several responses to my panicky note eased my mind more.

I was about to head over to Yonge St to pick up the cargo van when I received a call from the rental agency. Turned out somebody was tardy in returning a van and none were available from any of their Toronto locations.

My feeling of ease evaporated.

I headed over to check out their first substitute option, a pickup. Totally inadequate. After some calling around, a Dodge Grand Caravan was secured near Yorkdale (navy, not the grey pictured at left). The agency reduced the rental price, then drove me over to pick up the van. Due to tight spacing, a corner of the lot that turned into a cramped dead end and general inexperience driving large vehicles, it took me 10-15 minutes just to leave the lot, accompanied by a high volume of cussing.

I arrived back at the bunker to the find the first round of help waiting. For the next seven hours, furniture and boxes were shuttled over. I discovered I was lousy at backing the van into the bunker's driveway, which one of the helpers noticed. After the second trip, I was relieved from backing-in duty. Many thanks to Greg and Mark for their skillful coordination and talent for fully utilizing the space in the

van, as well as thanks to Nile, Elizabeth and James for their help.

A running joke was that I was using the "Yanoush, Hands of Fate" moving service (combining two cheesy things longtime readers of this site may recognize).


The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning out the last dregs from the bunker. Like one friend said, it was the small stuff that would kill me, as items kept popping up. By this point, I was in full purge mode - if it wasn't absolutely necessary, it went. A few large items didn't survive this cull, ranging from the living room rug to my George Foreman grill (RIP - you offered service above and beyond the call of duty, but you were wearing down. You'll be replaced sometime soon).

The Official Warehouse Car was rewarded for its dutiful service by being babied at the garage yesterday.

I suspect there will be further purging before the apartment assumes its full shape. If I have learned one thing from this experience, it's that my stockpiling habits were growing out of control. Better organization should ensure that I don't continually buy items I have hidden elsewhere, like tape, storage bags and gift wrap. That it is OK to toss out the odd book or CD. That I don't need a nuclear stockpile of food. That I don't want to be found dead when I'm 66 under a mound of...whatever.

But first, I have to unpack.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the tuned-in look of chch

Vintage Ad #83 - The Tuned-In Look
A short break from the usual Tuesday CBC ad for a look at one of its competitors.

CHCH started off as Hamilton's CBC affiliate in 1954, severing its ties around 1960-61. For the next three decades, it was one of Canada's strongest independent stations, developing programs such as Hillarious House of Frightenstein, Party Game and Smith & Smith. A number of sales followed, until it formed the basis of CanWest Global's CH network after the station was acquired from WIC.

The introduction of colour programming spurred this series of trippy ads, featuring the station's "flower" logo. Also note that while the ad is tuned in and turned out, it doesn't suggest that the audience "drop out". The bean counters wouldn't have appreciated the audience numbers had that happened...

Source: Toronto Life, December 1967 

Monday, November 13, 2006

grand opening sale at tower records piccadilly

Vintage Ad #93 - Tower Records Comes to London
One anniversary I missed last month - the 20th for British rock magazine Q.

Amy and I started to pick it up around '93 and were regular readers for the rest of the decade, before price increases forced us to the back issue market. We'd howl at its humourous edge, especially the "Who the Hell" interviews and the side comments used for photos. English words drawn from article headlines slowly crept into our vocabulary. It was much fresher than the North American press - did we really need to know everything about a tired 70s act's latest project, as Rolling Stone often featured?

Cover stories on the premiere issue were Paul McCartney, Big Audio Dynamite, Lenny Henry and cocaine. Among the pieces inside:

* How digital audio tape threatens to sink the then-still-new compact disc
* The collapse of Stiff Records
* The new face of British horror fiction (featuring Alan Moore, Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker)
* Reviews of albums by Elvis Costello (Blood & Chocolate, 3 of 5 stars), Human League (Crash, 4 stars), Huey Lewis & The News (Fore, 3 stars), R.E.M. (Life's Rich Pageant, 4 stars), Lionel Richie (Dancing On The Ceiling, 4 stars), Paul Simon (Graceland, 5 stars) and Talking Heads (True Stories, 4 stars). Stinking up the joint? One star each for The Bolshoi, Love & Rockets and The Lover Speaks.
* New movies in the UK that month: About Last Night..., Day Of The Dead, Highlander and Mona Lisa

As for Tower Piccadilly, I often browsed there while living in London. Problem was UK CD prices were out of my range, about double what the going rate was in North America (they certainly didn't slide down to the record/tape prices shown in the ad). Tower sold the Piccadilly store to Virgin in 2001, who still run it as one of their Megastores.

Source: Q #1, October 1986 

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

political party notes

Warehouse Election Central

Random notes from The Political Party Monday night...

* Arrived around 7:45 and the place was already packed...though I managed to snag a parking space directly across the street. The joys of running late.

* I've been to Revival twice before and couldn't believe how different the space looked with full lighting. Surprisingly bright.

* To indicate that time was up when answering a question, the TTC chimes were used. Some confuson was caused when a bicycle The only real abuse of this came during Jane Pitfield's last question, when she rambled on about crime in the city (summed up as people don't feel safe in the city because "crime is unpredictable").

* It was quickly clear that the house was pro-David Miller. It felt as if there were a few strategically-placed designated clappers for Pitfield, especially one near the front of the room, who at times literally was the only person clapping. Miller seemed more relaxed than his challenger, in dress, tone and speaking style.

* Despite pleas not to boo or show similar behaviour, a few items Pitfield brought up produced a few razzberries. The first boos came when she mentioned New York mayor Michael Bloomberg in relation to homeless issues (she also developed a slight stutter in trying not to say the word "ghetto", going as far as "ghe". A proposal to extend corporate naming into the subway system did not go down well.

* Most of the audience razzberries toward Miller came during a question on the street furniture contract and the much-loathed eucans, which he admitted were probably a mistake. One or two groans could be heard when he indicated tolls on the Gardiner and DVP weren't coming anytime soon (he made a good point that tollswouldn't drive people in outlying areas of the city to transit unless service was expanded).

* Odd tangent when Pitfield, replying to a question about trash, mentioned her close ties to the aboriginal community. When a snicker was heard in the crowd, she discussed her work with them and how they needed to be "lifted up".

* A recurring villain was councillor Case Ootes and his opposition to bike lanes in his ward, especially the existing one on Cosburn. While she didn't mention Ootes by name, Pitfield made a nice slam dunk of his obstructions of the city bike plan.

* Other takes on the evening: Campaign Bubble, Funkaoshi, Spacing Votes, Toronto Star

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

paper people

Vintage Ad #82 - The Paper People
Colour programming debuted on CBC in September 1966 with a documentary on the Calgary Stampede on Telescope (video clip). Slowly, colour worked its way across the schedule, which
brings us to today's ad.

A description of The Paper People from a 1991 article on author Timothy Findley's dramatic work in Theatre Research in Canada:

The 1967 broadcast of The Paper People, CBC's first feature-length colour film, caused an immediate controversy. Members of Parliament joined the public and critics in an outcry over the film's high cost and subject matter. The film focuses on an artist who fashions life-size figures out of papier-mâché then burns them in a kind of early performance art, filming the conflagration. The filming of a documentary about the artist's work frames the story. Findley came up with the plot idea after producer Mervyn Rosenzveig said he wanted a script to capture the essence of the sixties. Script editor Doris Gauntlett and director David Gardner helped shape the text and shooting script of the film.

For Findley, 1967 was a "people"-filled year, as it also saw the publication of his first novel Last of the Crazy People.

(Annoying autobiographical pause: Last of the Crazy People was my introduction to Findley, thanks to a reading Dad took me to when I was a kid. It was at a Chinese restaurant in downtown Windsor - don't remember the name of it (Oriental Express?), other than it was at the corner of Pitt and Ferry and was demolished years ago for the Daimler Chrysler building. All I remember is that it may have been the first time I ate a spring roll, Dad thought it was sweet Findley's partner William Whitehead was in attendance and I got a signed book out of it.)

The guest cast features an interesting contrast: Kate Reid, one of Canada's most distinguished actresses of the period, and Brett Somers, a few years removed from 1970s game show immortality on Match Game.

Festival (1960-69) was an arts program whose productions ranged from remounts of shows from Stratford to ballet, original dramas to literary classics.

Source: Toronto Life, December 1967

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

snapshots department

Nighthawks at the Vesta Wookie Go Home
1) A recent Psychogeography walk, which circled the train tracks running alongside Dupont. Left: Nighthawks at the Vesta Lunch. This was my first visit to the venerable greasy spoon and I was happy to discover my stomach could handle it (mind you, I only had a roast beef sandwich, but the meat was thrown on the griddle). On the right, one of Toronto's darkest secrets - its quiet strain of anti-Wookieism. More photos from this trek on over here (Oct 20th pics).


Miles of Aisles of Peppers Sample an Orange?
2) Marche Jean-Talon in Montreal. I drove back from la belle province with a back seat full of produce, ranging from peppers to pattypan squash. Made a fantastic spaghetti sauce from a large $1 bag of baby eggplants. The orange samples on the right are typical for the market - they lived up to their "very, very sweet" billing. I could have made a light lunch out of all the chunks of apples, pears, pineapples and cucumbers that were up for grabs. I also blew a bundle on local ciders and preserves at Le Marche des Saveurs du Quebec, a store on the south side of the market specializing in oddball Quebec items. We'll see if the small jar of spruce jelly I picked up remains a conversation piece.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the national...with lloyd robertson and george finstad

Vintage Ad #78 - The National Enters The 70s
1970 was a time of change for the evening newscasts on both sides of the border. Stateside, NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report ended after 14 years with the retirement of Chet Huntley. John Chancellor and Frank McGee joined Brinkley for the next year on the renamed NBC Nightly News, then Chancellor went solo. ABC News started the year with Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith behind the anchor desk, until Reynolds was replaced by Harry Reasoner (in between stints on 60 Minutes) in December.

The National officially gained its name in 1969, amid an anchor change (Stanley Burke, who quit as newsreader to raise awareness surrounding the Biafran war in Nigeria, was replaced by Warren Davis) and a switch to colour. Lloyd Robertson replaced Davis in 1970.

One question this ad raises: was grey jacket/tan or mustard yellow shirt the official CBC newscaster uniform in 1970?

As for the hosts pictured, Robertson remained as anchor through 1976, while George Finstad became one of the original co-hosts of Marketplace (1972-77).

Video extra: possibly the best known line uttered on any CBC News report that year, from the October crisis, courtesy of PET.

Source: Maclean's, December 1970

bridges, brickworks, and backyards

Tried to go with a slightly spooky theme on last week's walk. With a stroll alongside Mt. Pleasant Cemetery as the starting point, who knew what ghoulish sights and sounds awaited?
Heath St is one of Toronto's most chopped-up streets, hacked off into three sections due to ravines. The busiest portion is the main branch, running from the Rosedale ravine to almost the back entrance to St. Clair West subway station (from there to Bathurst, it's Tichester) - I often use this portion as a car/bike alternative to St. Clair. We joined Heath at the end of its Moore Park branch, where it runs into a footbridge across the Moore Park ravine.

Heath St Bridge (2) Heath St Bridge (4)
The yellow light cast the right eerie note.

Once across the bridge, we headed into the ravine. Our eyes adjusted to the darkness quickly, the only light provided by the occasional house up top. The path followed Mud Creek, which was appropriate given that we wandered along a combination of mud and leaves, which created a spooky squishing sound.

We emerged from the forest at the Don Valley Brick Works (City site. Lost River Walks page), where we ran into low-hanging fog.

Fog Rolls In
Flash = fog.

Fog Rolls Out
No flash = no fog. Some blurring, but hey, that's an occupational hazard when you're not carrying a tripod. The fog produced interesting effects for the others...or were they ghosts?

We headed along a path that took us uphill, towards the North Slope/Wall. The higher we went, the more spectacular the view of downtown offices and the multiple layers of traffic at the DVP/Bloor/Bayview interchange. The gravel soon ran out, turning into a muddy trail that led into the woods. We lost the trail a couple of times - when we found it, it usually involved steep slopes that required slow, steady movement. We saw lights ahead, but no obvious exits, which led to two possibilities: retrace our steps and try not to slip, or hop a wealthy family's fence. It felt like a prison escape scene.

It turned out someone laid stones into the woods, which led to a driveway that we quietly dashed across. We had emerged from the wild in the Governor's Bridge neighbourhood.

More on this walk at Squiddity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

the surname symbolism signage playbook

Warehouse Election Central

...or, how to exploit the symbolic power of your name for fun and political profit. There is no shortage of candidates taking advantage of this playbook during the current campaign.

Municipal Election Sign 4

Municipal Election Sign 25
Two candidates ringing their Bells - the top's from Leamington, bottom Guelph. The latter is, depending on your view of sign clusters, in full bloom or needs serious weeding. Note avoidance of phrases like "ringing in change" or "time for a change".

Municipal Election Sign 18
From the Maitland area in Eastern Ontario, a candidate capitalizing on the avian aspect of their name.

There are variants to this playbook:

Municipal Election Sign 26
Variant #1: Utilizing the punny potential of your name. However, if the candidate's name was November, using a similar line could cause heads to scratch more than usual.

Municipal Election Sign 30
Variant #2: playing on the name of your ward, as is the case with this sign from Guelph. This sign takes the tasteful approach, with a silhouette of the namesake saint and a small pair of shamrocks. Imagine if the Lucky Charms leprechaun had been used.

things fading away in essex county department

Faded Apple
When I was little, we picked apples along Ridge Rd, outside of Harrow. By the orchards was this barn, which back in the day was a vibrant mural of a deified apple. Now, it appears the worshippers have moved on, as time has taken its toll.

Blocky Leamington Street Sign
I've always been a font geek, even if I didn't hear the term until well after childhood. I also loved road signs as a kid. Put the two together and you have this picture. Street signs in Leamington and Wheatley had an unusual blocky font that I never saw anywhere else, instantly telling me where I was. Over time, these signs have been replaced, to the point that Robinson St, located near the Heinz plant, has one of the last survivors.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

signs, signs, everywhere signs

Warehouse Election Central

Toronto was one of the last municipalities to allow candidates to erect signs this year, which was very noticeable if you drove out of the town. Signs in the rest of the province were in full bloom by the time the first signs appeared in Toronto last week. As I have driven around most of Southern Ontario over the past month, I've had my camera handy to capture any signs that deviate even slightly from the usual "Vote John Doe" or "Re-elect Jane Doe". You can find the growing set of pictures over on Flickr.

Today's samples come from my old stomping grounds, the deep southwest.

Municipal Election Sign 3
From Kingsville, one wonders how many American Pie-based jokes this candidate is on the receiving end of. It's human nature to make fun of a candidate based solely on their name.

Municipal Election Sign 9
This comes from the "70s Real Estate Sign" playbook. It screams small-town realty firm: the logo, the placement of text, the cut-out picture, the colour scheme. Discovered while driving out of Blenheim.

Municipal Election Sign 1
From Amherstburg, the caring/big brother approach. One of the few signs I've seen so far that has given slight Orwellian vibes. Other lingering question: if this is the only candidate who openly cares, what does it say about the potential depth of engagement in municipal affairs for other candidates who don't openly state that they give a darn?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

au revoir, hometown mall

White Woods Mall, RIP
Amherstburg can join the list of towns across North America that have a dead mall. After 30 years, most of them known as Fort Malden Mall, White Woods Mall will breathe its last within the next few months, to be replaced with a power centre anchored by the Bentonville Behemoth.

For most of its life, the mall was filled with small local businesses and Windsor-based chains. Few national retailers passed through its doors over the first half of its life.

The original portion of the mall, the east corridor, opened in 1976, with A&P and The Met (Metropolitan stores) as its anchors. The Met was a second-tier discount chain owned by Gendis, who later converted it to a SAAN store. For several years, both chains operated across the street from each other. Don't really remember much about the Met, other than Dad used to pick up cutout records there and Amy and I had childhood portraits taken there. It was considered ultra-low-end shopping by late childhood. The only other Met locations I ever remember seeing were in Leamington (in a plaza that later housed No Frills) and Wallaceburg.

White Woods Mall, Southeast Entrance
The southeast entrance. The Met once occupied this entire portion of the mall, but the space was carved up when it became SAAN. Mark's Work Wearhouse occupied the near-corner for a time.

SAAN Iluminated
The interior entrance to SAAN. In its Met days, this was a typical, wide-open frontage.

PharmaPlus On The Move
Over the years, the drug store was home to Fort Malden Drug Mart (whose logo was similar to the black & white Shoppers symbol), Shoppers Drug Mart, vacancy, Pharmasave and PharmaPlus...which was nearing completion of its new location uptown when these pictures were taken.


After a 28-year run, A&P closed its doors in 2004. The store was aging and its prices did not compete well with two other town grocers that had undergone major changes: No Frills (formerly Valu-Mart) and Sobeys (formerly Rocco's). My family had not shopped there regularly for years, preferring to grab most of our groceries in Windsor.

Ironically, I shot these pictures in what would have been the store's 30th anniversary month. Happy birthday - let's look at the ruins!

White Woods Mall, Northeast Entrance
The northeast entrance to the mall, next to A&P. The RBC branch will move into its own outlot, where the initial demolition is occurring.

Ghost of an A&P
The front of the store, where the grocery pick-up was located. I used to love playing with the rollers, giving our order a push in the large red bins.

We're Not Fresh Obsessed
The interior entrance, with the mall announcement board. Note the empty phones and early-days-of-Ontario-Sunday-Shopping hours.

No Skating
I have my doubts as to how well this sign is obeyed.

Not-so-Fresh Produce
The remnants of the produce section, on the south side of the store. I don't recall this layout, so I suspect it dates to the early-to-mid 90s. Growing up, this was the bakery section, full of middling-looking Jane Parker products. The meat section was along the north end, with produce to the east. The main A&P products I remember buying were snack crackers and giant tins of fruit drinks (mostly pineapple-orange to guzzle, or fruit punch for Mom's punch). This was also were we used to buy the world's lowliest soft drink, Chateau Cola, which tasted like syrup with a little water added and require a beer opener to puncture drinking holes for a straw.


The Last Flea Markets Demolition Corridor
On the northeast door, a list of the last Sunday flea markets was posted. Growing up, these occurred monthly and later alternated/were mixed in with antique or sport card shows. I built various collections through these sales over the years, from Dad going through stamps (from a dealer based out of the Yonge-Eg area) to me building up my collection of 70s hockey cards and comics.

The closed-off section on the right is the north corridor, where the demolition started. Halfway down is where the original mall leads into the early 80s addition, the entire west half of the building. Unfortunately, most of my interior shots of this side of the mall didn't turn out, but Labelscar has pictures from 2004 in its profile of the mall.

North Side Demolition
What remains of the north corridor from the outside. The north side was home to a steady turnover of store in front, a workshop for the mentally challenged in back.


Projections Crane View
Two views of the northwest anchor space. Originally, it was the Garrison Cinemas, then closed after a few years, then reopened with a massive advertising campaign as the Bijou, which quickly gave way to the Fort Malden Cinemas. The earliest movies I clearly remember seeing there were Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Great Muppet Caper. Amy and I occasionally went to Saturday matinees, usually with whatever oddball kid flick the management could dig up. One that sticks in my mind: The Christmas Martian, my introduction to (dubbed) Quebecois cinema. Evenings, the theatre was a first-run two-plex in all of its incarnations. It closed for good around 1988-89 - I think the last movie I saw there was The Naked Gun.

After that, it became the town bingo hall. If you belonged to a high school organization or team, it was almost inevitable that you had to work a fundraising shift or two at the smoke-clogged bingo. Non-smoking area? Hah! Players would sit with half-a-dozen dabblers and mounds of rabbit's feet, puffing away as the numbers were called. After I headed off to university, the space did a 180, as the bingo was replaced by the relocated town medical clinic.

White Woods Mall, Northwest Entrance
The northwest entrance. The Buck or Two location saw a steady stream of bargain stores over the years - Big Top, Bargain Harold's, BiWay, etc. I applied for a job at BiWay before it opened, but failed the required multiple-choice personality test - it seemed I was too honest to work for BiWay. The Book Bin was next door, with the mall restaurant nearby (Gary's for most of my childhood).

Ghost of Reitmans
The former Reitman's store in the south corridor, dating from the early 90s.

Total Fitness
Finally, the southwest entrance and the only part of the mall that may remain when demolition is finished, Total Fitness. Though it has undergone several name changes, starting with Vintage Courts, the health club was the steadiest tenant in the west side of the mall.


For the first few years after I left town for university, little changed. I'd come home and it felt like a time warp. Then slowly, I noticed the odd business closed or in a new location, new equipment in parks and the trees looking much taller in my old neighbourhood. The century turns and boom! Local factories shut. Large grocers step in. Long vacant buildings downtown come down to be replaced by condos.

Even though I could count on one hand the number of times I'd been in Fort Malden/White Woods Mall since I stopped dropping off high school yearbook pictures for developing, its looming disappearance is the thunderbolt that shows my childhood landscape is starting its vanishing act.