Tuesday, February 28, 2006

men and women drinking together: the end of civilization in pre-1970 ontario

This week's trip back in time via Detroit: A Young Guide to the City takes us not to Motown but a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o. While Windsor may now be a haven for underage boozers, back then cross-border tipplers had to deal with our crazy blue laws. Regulated glass sizes and servings, gender-specific drinking rules, liquor stores akin to a Sears Catalogue counter with less decor and bottles given to you with a shameful look in a brown paper bag (oooooh, you're buying booze...shame, shame!).

Here's what the guide had to say about our drinking rules:

It is one of Ontario's dubious distinctions to have some of the most confusing liquor laws ever devised...under no circumstances may alcoholic beverages be consumed anywhere other than one's residence or on licensed premises. For legal purposes, a "residence" has recently been redefined to include temporary residences; therefore, motel rooms, tents, etc. can now be considered legal drinking places.

Licensed premises include taverns, hotels, supper clubs, dining rooms and houses. Houses, for example Bridge House or Dominion House, serve no liquor, only beer, ale and occasionally wine. Houses sell both draught and bottled beer, but the draught beer is highly recommended. At twenty cents a glass, it is one of Ontario's great bargains. Ale may also be purchased for the same price, but it must be specifically requested.

Until very recently, most pubs were partitioned by law into a "men's beverage room" and a "ladies' and escorts' room". Only men were to be served in the men's beverage room, but women could drink in the ladies' and escorts' room with or without escorts. Men could enter this room to scout out willing female companions; however, if invitations were not forthcoming, males were required to leave. Actually, only one female per table (or group of tables) is required to qualify as "ladies and escorts". This law has been revoked by the Ontario Liquor Licensing Board and is now enforced strictly by the whim of the pub owner. (263, 269)

Note: the two bars mentioned in this excerpt, unlike many of those listed in the book, still function as watering holes near the University of Windsor. I've never been in either; the only bar-like place I've ever been to on the west side of Windsor is the long-gone South Campus Place on Huron Church, where once a year my father and I would polish off crocks of cheese-crusted french onion soup (still among the best I've ever had) and thick burgers. - JB

Monday, February 27, 2006

the backstreets of toronto: denison square

Before diving in, here's Kensington Market as it was laid out 120 years ago (source: Goad's 1884 Atlas of Toronto, taken from Lucy Booth Martyn's 1982 book The Face of Early Toronto).

Note the many changes in street names: Kensington Ave was an extension of Vanauley St, Augusta was Grosvenor, Baldwin was Clyde, etc. We're interested in the plot marked "Col. Denison".

Here's a current map.

Denison St and Sq were named after the Denison family, who earn a brief sketch in the back of the 1966 edition of Henry Scadding's Toronto of Old (1873):

Descended from John Denison and his wife Sophia who emigrated from England in 1792, the Denisons have been active in Toronto political and military activities from the first, and have had more members on the city council than any other family. (362)
As mentioned in previous entry, the Denisons purchased land previously owned by Major Edward Littlehales. The family home was Belle Vue, located on the north side of Bellevue Square. Scadding described the house as "a large, cheery-looking abode lying far back but pleasantly visible from Lot Street (present-day Queen West) through a long vista of over-hanging trees" (258).

George Taylor Denison I (1783-1853) married four times and owned title on 556 acres in modern Toronto before his death. He had a lengthy military career, serving in the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837 (he and William Lyon Mackenzie butted heads on Toronto's first city council). His son Robert gradually subdivided the family estate. One of Robert's legacies is under threat: St. Stephen's-in-the-Fields Church.

Belle Vue was demolished in 1890, replaced by two homes, which were demolished in 1926-27 for the present occupant at Bellevue and Denison Sq, the Kiever Synagogue.

Any experts able to translate this inscription on the east corner of the synagogue? Kiever's e-mail address appears to be down.

Update: from Paved's Marc Weisblott:
The synagogue inscription is presumably a dedication plaque that incorporates English words and presumably Yiddish vernacular but spelled out in Hebrew letters e.g. the line under the star reads "ladies auxillary" and a few proper names are beneath that.

Across the street, in Bellevue Square Park, stands TV's King of Kensington, Al Waxman (1935-2001). The benches by the statue are usually packed, though I haven't seen anyone carry on a conversation with Al. The statue can be disconcerting after dark; one time, I walked with a friend by a park, who jokingly told me to watch out for the strange man who stands all night long dishing out drugs.

Some of the homes facing the park.

A floral-themed structure on the south side of the park (Wales Ave in the background).

Back across the street to Sasmart, purveyor of kitchen goods and clothing. The window is full of throwback items, as mentioned in an earlier post.

A closer look at some of the goods to be found outside of Sasmart.

A general view of Bellevue Square Park.

Chalky fish.

A grey set of washrooms at the east end of the park.

A well-worn community notice board, with the quickly-vanishing old Toronto Public Library logo.

Denison Sq comes to an end at Augusta, at Amadeu's restaurant (Toronto Life review). Portuguese businesses flourished in Kensington Market during a wave of immigration in the 1960s and 70s.

But we're not finished yet. Time to turn around and snap an westward view.

Head back down the street, passing more homes that impress in the fall sunshine (these pictures were taken around Halloween)...

...and back to Bellevue. An alley lies west of Bellevue - the smokestack on the left is part of Toronto Western Hospital.

Next: We move south to the Entertainment District and a street named after a man who left one of 19th Century Toronto's messiest wills.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

etched in ice

At the tail end of this week's Sunday Constitutional (TM), I wandered by a block's worth of ice sculptures along Yorkville Ave. As the walk started with a fiery meal at Margarita's with Latte Girl, this seemed an appropriate capper.

Iceman's Favoured Mode of Transportation

The latest way to arrive in Yorkville with panache. Available for $133,989 OAC.

Freeze Yer Head Off

Taking the term "freezing your head off" literally, in this ode to the Venus de Milo.

Frozen Dreams

Somebody's still peeved about the men's hockey team. - JB

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

getting your goat—ali's west indian roti shop

Ali's West Indian Roti Shop

Another month, another Chowhound dinner. Headed down to Parkdale this time, to test out the Trinidadian food at Ali's West Indian Roti Shop (Queen W and Lansdowne).

Almost Like Being There...
Decorwise, Ali's could best be described as fast-food joint with tropical scenery, such as the painting above. Business seemed to be mostly takeout, though a few customers decided to stick around the clean surroundings.

Rather than order individually, we ate family style, ordering a variety of dishes. Staff helpfully described what was in unfamiliar-sounding items.

We sampled mauby, a carbonated drink that started off with a pleasant hint of licorice that left a bitter aftertaste (though nowhere near as bad as Moxie). Nobody ordered a full cup. Instead, our drinks ranged from a large cup of peanut punch (think liquid Crispy Crunch/Butterfinger bar, very tasty) to 591 mL bottles of Busta soda (I tried pineapple, which didn't have the overwhelming sweetness of other brands).

Ali's AppetizersOther than pattties, we ordered each of the appetizers listed on the take-out menu. Left plate: chickpeas (for doubles), sahina (akin to a fluffy, spongy falafel), poulori (little dough balls). Right plate: aloo pie (a soft potato-stuffed patty), doubles. On the side: tamarind sauce that had kick. Thumbs up for all.

Name That Food!
Our main dishes. Clockwise from top left: plantain, pumpkin, dhalpouri, dhal, boneless goat, bone-in duck. Not pictured: paratha.

Consensus was that the duck was the weakest link, too bony to derive any satisfaction. The boneless goat may have been the best I've ever had: tender, flavourful and lean. I like goat, but hate fiddling around with bones or chunks that are 70% fat. The pureed pumpkin was nice, though we couldn't figure out what it was cooked in (we suspected beef or chicken broth - definitely no trace of cinnamon). Plantains were moist without being too greasy. Of the breads, I prefered the paratha, which was like a thin naan. They were great for dipping in our side containers of soupy dhal. The dhalpouri were OK, but messy (the dried lentils inside fell everywhere).

Thanks to the amount of bread we received, this was another meal where size looked deceptive. Though tempted, none of us tried any of the tempting desserts. Guess I'll have to try homemade soursop ice cream another day. Definitely a future stop on day-long walks out Queen West.

Cost: cheap. Our family-style meal was $12 a head. Individual dishes were in the $7-9 range.

Review on Chowhound's Toronto board.
Previous dinners: Ethiopian House (Jan/06). - JB

Thursday, February 16, 2006

toledo children's television department

Post revised October 19, 2009

Amherstburg's geographical location made it a mecca for picking up TV stations without cable. With strong reception from Windsor, Detroit and Toledo, plus the occasional burp from Sarnia or Cleveland, we didn't need no stinkin' converter box. An antenna (living room) and mega-bunny ears (basement, later my bedroom) were our passports to home entertainment. This meant a large variety of kiddie shows to choose from.

On Sunday mornings, channel 11 (WTOL, Toledo's CBS affiliate) ran the locally-produced Patches & Pockets. I remember little about the show, other than discovering years later the theme was Bernard Herrmann's overture from Citizen Kane!

Here's an experiment, humble readers - walk into your local TV station wearing clown costumes, pitch your idea for a zero-budget kids show and see what happens...if you make it past security. According to one defunct Toledo television history website, that's more or less the story of how Patches & Pockets reached the airwaves.

Some background on the duo from the October 4, 1976 edition of The Bryan Times, when they were in the Ohio town to address a Christian fellowship:

Sue Donner and Beve Schwind...have appeared [for] the past five years as [the] Toledo area's foremost children's personalities. As Patches and Pockets they represent two rag dolls with lots of heart, on a program based on the Golden Rule. They write all of their own material. In real life they are both wives and homemakers who share a spirit filled ministry of love and laughter...

(I don't recall the show being preachy, unless any Biblical references flew over my widdle head)

Note the slower, relaxed pace that wouldn't fly on most kiddie shows today...or didn't on tomorrow's featured kiddie show. - JB

Monday, February 13, 2006

unfinished project #87: commerical pitches

A few years ago, some friends entered the Moc Docs contest. None of our entries made it far, but it was a learning experience in that it was the first time I ever finished a script. While that project was brewing (here's my contribution), I tried to write other, unrelated ideas in case we ever got a film collective rolling. One I fooled around with for awhile used an ad agency meeting as a framework for short, satirical commercial parodies. What follows is all I ever wrote down, last updated in March 2004. I would have written this during down town at the office, or while my brain needed a rest from other activities. Some of the jokes remain relevant, others are dated. Other than spelling and quickly designing a graphic this evening, I haven't whipped this into better shape.

All I hope is that nobody south of the border takes this segment seriously...


(An advertising agency meeting room, with several employees and executives sitting around. Pitches for new advertisements are being discussed)

We had an evangelical group from the United States come to us requiring an ad campaign for a new line of children's clothing and retail stores they hope to launch. Something about indoctrinating the young, I think. They flipped when creative came up with this ad.

(Switch to video display. An idyllic farmer's field on the edge of a small town, followed by scenes such as children in school, praying in church, etc. Announcer with soothing, folksy voice)

It's the heartland that shapes our values. Honesty, faith and patriotism. Fighting for what's right for America. It's never too early to instill these values in our children, wherever they live.

(shots of various children around a playground, nursery school, etc. At least one of the children should talk in the manner of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons)

I like Freedom Fries.

(a long-winded ramble about abortion, prayer in schools or something along those lines)

Women belong in the kitchen, making cookies for me.

My two daddies should not get married. God says so.

My friends are a coalition of the willing.

The next generation of young Americans, learning the values that made this nation great. Shouldn't your children wear the land of the free and the home of the brave on their sleeves?

Introducing Bushbabies, clothing that fits your child and their country. Child-friendly red, white and blue clothing at wallet-friendly prices. Made only by workers in countries who, just like your children, are discovering the freedom of democracy (show a group of ragged-looking sweatshop workers, smiling insanely).

Bushbabies...coming soon to your town.

(small print on screen: Bushbabies clothing will cost extra for atheists, pro-abortionists, environmentalists, liberals, homosexuals, Muslims, non-American citizens and Red Sox fans. Proof of identity required at store.)


Couldn't you have found more convincng child actors?

They insisted their grandkids be used.

That's all I wrote, folks! - JB

Sunday, February 12, 2006

detroit dating advice, 1970 (part two)

Due to popular demand, and due to Valentine's Day being this week, let's carry on with some advice on how to snag a date, 1970 Motor City style. For part one, click here.

In a small town, only a "loose" girl would meet a man in a bar, but in a city the older boy-meets-girl techniques often break down; and alternative methodsm must be created. To collectively designate special bars on special nights with special procedures as morally acceptable is one way this is accomplished.

Go with a couple of friends and find a bar where the people appear to be similar to yourselves...once you've found a place you feel comfortable, exert yourself further by not hiding in a corner. Mingle and move as much as possible-to the john, the juke box, the cigarette machine. On a packed Friday night conversation will come spontaneously, without forcing your male counterpart into the unnerving ordeal of approaching you.

For men: Your problem, admit it or not, is that you're basically chicken, all show and no go. You'll leer, dream, and get your eyeballs all steamed up; but you won't get up and give it the old college-try. Rather, you'll slug down a couple of drinks and then leave claiming:
-Those are the ugliest women since Medusa.
-Hmmm, this singles thing is certainly an interesting sociological phenomenon.
-They were all so damn busy talking to each other that they didn't want to be interrupted
-I'm ugly, unloveable, unwanted.

...what you need, you think, is a good opening line.
-"Aren't you the chick who played Sandro Catatonio's pill-pushing mistress in Murder in the Mercado-the one who betrays Sandro by filling his Vitalis bottle with napalm?"
-"You're a Cancer! I just know you're a Cancer...I can tell by your grey eyes and.."
-"Hey, what are you doing with that martini? Har har har. After we got you sobered up a bit after that party you swore up and down that you would never touch another drop to drink."
-Or, looking around sadly as you tragically move in to light her cigarette: "Look at them all. (gesturing) Kind of sad in a way, really. Now me, I'm just an old people watcher from way back and...

Keep working on it until you're happy with it, or drunk enough to approach the girl. (43-44)

I'm speechless. - JB

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

visit beautiful markville shopping centre

Vintage Ad #14 - Visit Beautiful MarkvilleOpened in 1982, Markville Shopping Centre is still around, though buyouts, family squabbles and bankruptcies mean that none of the anchors listed in the ad exist anymore. Replace Eaton's with Sears, Woolco with Wal-Mart and scratch the other two off the list (Famous Players moved out of malls, then merged with Cineplex, while squabbles among the Steinberg family led to Miracle Food Mart's sale to A&P, who closed most of the remaining mall locations by the mid-90s).

Tangent time: My family frequently shopped at Woolco while I grew up, usually the Dougall Ave store in Windsor. Mainly remember eating in the old school cafeteria, with flip-up red vinyl seats, striped drink cups, mini-packs of Peek Freens at the cash and smell of french fries. Even as a kid I thought the dining area had a dated charm. At their Leamington branch (a deluxe Woolworth's for most of its life, only switching to the Woolco nameplate towards the end), I used to stock up on remaindered Scholastic magazines like Dynamite and Bananas.

Dig the fashion show models. The guy looks like a shady magician from a 70s cop show or a spiffed-up dealer from a 60s anti-dope mental hygiene flick. You decide if she screams Eaton's or Woolco.

Source: Toronto Life, September 1985.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

detroit dating advice, 1970

Lots of attention has been paid to Detroit over the past few weeks, as the Super Bowl hits Motown this Sunday. Stories about attempts at renewal, the "sin city" image of Windsor, etc. Having grown up across the river from Motown's southern burbs, I'm familiar with everything you're reading, chuckling at much of it.

The Warehouse doesn't want to be left out of the festivities. Our spin will be several entries harking back to a time when Detroit's decline started rolling. Our source is Detroit: A Young Guide to the City, edited by Sheldon Annis in 1970.

(Note: this image of the cover comes from the only other site that refers to this book, Detroitblog. Let's just say that on my copy, the "naked stoner chick" has aged naturally over the past 35 years).

In 1970, the Motor City was still reeling from the riots three years earlier. "White flight" had started in earnest. Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain, who had won 31 games two years earlier, spent most of the year suspended for various infractions, from possession of a weapon to dumping buckets of ice water on the press. The Red Wings were at the start of a decade-long slide, as Gordie Howe entered his final season with the team.

Detroit: A Young Guide to the City attempted to be a hip look at the region, much is which is hillariously dated. Besides usual city guide features like attractions and restaurants, chapters are devoted to the "underground", ethnic groups and remembrances of labour organizers. Fascinating stuff.

Today, we look at their view of the dating scene, much of which flies in the face of their "hip" orientation. Try to sort out the following rules for knowing which night of the week to ask a girl out:

"...a girl, appropriately accompanied by a female friend, would be considered perfectly within the bounds of singles morality to give out her phone number to a young gentleman on a Friday night-but never on a Tuesday. A good girl just wouldn't. After all, NO ONE goes to singles bars on a Tuesday night. And certainly. for Godsakes, not on a Monday. Wednesday, however, is almost as good a night as Friday, which is the best. Thursday is a so-so night, and no self-respecting girl would be caught out alone on a Saturday night. She'll watch television, write a letter to her mother, bite her nails or order a pizza and talk to her room-mate; but she won't go without a date.

Now if you're a prospecting prospect, you had better take all of this into consideration, Go bowling with your buddies on Tuesday and look for chicks on Wednesday and Friday. Furthermore, once you've broken some ice, the proper thing to do is not immediately start hustling her into your pad, but settle for just getting her phone number. On a singles night she'll want to go home with her friends, on a date night, she'll want to go out with you." (42-43)
There will be more advice around Valentine's Day. For now, these words of wisdom (or foreshadowing for what lay ahead for the city - you decide):

"Remember that the very fact that you are in Detroit at all works against you." (53)
Coming soon: Restaurants! Hippies! Windsor! Ontario's archaic liquor laws! - JB