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.

Monday, October 23, 2006

ponjola: a romance of the african veldt

Vintage Ad #70 - Ponjola

Plot summary, via the New York Times. Murder, gender-bending, South Africa, booze and romance...what more could you want in a movie? I love the descriptions used for the characters, be it "Love-a-little Loochia" or "his cool debonaire ways and fearless, insolent tongue".

Anna Q. Nilsson (Desmond, 1888-1974) was a star throughout the teens and 20s. She briefly retired with the coming of sound, then returned to play uncredited bit roles, mostly in musicals, through the 40s and 50s. Her last movie appearance was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). The Q? It stood for Quirentia, the saint of the day she was born.

James Kirkwood (Druro, 1875-1963) had both acted and directed in the teens, the latter mostly with Mary Pickford. His acting career ended with The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956). His son, James Kirkwood Jr, won a Tony for co-writing the book for A Chorus Line.

Tully Marshall (Blauhimel, 1864-1943) made his screen debut at 50, after a long stage career. Specialized in nasty characters early on. Final credit: Hitler's Madman (1943).

First National was a major studio for its short existence. Formed in 1917 as a theatre chain by owners as an attempt to fight Paramount's increasing stranglehold on film bookings. The company quickly gained prominence when Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford signed on to produce films for them (though sour experiences with FN management soon led them to form United Artists). A large studio was built in Burbank in the mid-20s...which soon became the home for the company that purchased FN in 1928, the rapidly-rising Warner Bros. The First National name lived on for the next few decades, due to legal requirements and tax loopholes (Casablanca was a WB-FN picture).

As for the other pictures listed: Flaming Youth was one of the first movies to revolve around flappers - only one reel exists today. Anna Christie was the first film version of Eugene O'Neill's play, eclipsed by the 1930 version that launched Greta Garbo's sound career. It was also one of the last films produced by Thomas Ince before his mysterious death on William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924.

Source: Photoplay, November 1923 

Thursday, October 19, 2006

blank slate

Tabula Rasa (1) Tabula Rasa (2) Tabula Rasa (4) Tabula Rasa (5)

On Monday, I picked up the keys to my new digs. As this would be the last time the apartment would be in its pristine state, I brought the camera along and snapped a few shots. For the curious, the two pics on the left will be the bedroom/office, followed by the living room and kitchen. People who have visited the bunker will notice two distinct new elements - sunlight and closets.

Tabula Rasa (3)
Can't leave out one of the most important rooms of any household. No longer do I have to cut shower curtains in half.

Now begins the fun of determining the precise layout of the apartment...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

inspired by what happened at the tallahatchie bridge?

I should know to stick to back roads.
Driving down to Montreal last Friday was an exercise in frustration whenever my wheels touched 401. Numerous construction zones, inexplicable traffic jams, much like recent travels along 401 from Toronto to Windsor. I thought I'd mix freeway and backroad travel, but should have stuck entirely to the latter.

Especially when odd discoveries were made.

After filling up in Napanee, I headed along county roads to the north of 401, an area I'd never been through before. Among the towns I passed through was Yarker, northwest of Kingston. At the town's main intersection, I saw a bridge ahead of me and decided to check out the view from it.

The name of the street next to the bridge caused me to do a double-take.

Ode to Billie Joe, Canadian Style?

Choctaw Ridge...next to a bridge...cue the record player in my head. The only thing missing was a sign indicating this was the Tallahachie Bridge (I didn't see any signs namimg it).

Looking West Off The Bridge By Choctaw Ridge Looking East Off The Bridge By Choctaw Ridge
Views from the bridge, showing off fall colours. Any local version of Billie Joe would appear to have a painful landing.

Mill Carving
Carvings next to the bridge. It was soon time to move on, driving peacefully until I hit a traffic jam along Hwy 2 in Kingston.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

true grit for geeky kids

Vintage Ad #75 - Geeky Boys Sell GRIT!

Today, an ad from a classic comic book advertiser, Grit, which billed itself as "America's Favorite Family Newspaper".

The paper's philosophy was summed up by publisher Dietrick Lamade around the turn of the century:

Always keep Grit from being pessimistic. Avoid printing those things which distort the minds of readers or make them feel at odds with the world. Avoid showing the wrong side of things, or making people feel discontented. Do nothing that will encourage fear, worry or temptation... Wherever possible, suggest peace and good will toward men. Give our readers courage and strength for their daily tasks. Put happy thoughts, cheer and contentment into their hearts.

According to Grit's official history, the paper reached its peak circulation around the time this ad appeared - one-and-a-half million subscribers in 1969. Over time, it flipped owners, reduced its frequency and evolved into a farm lifestyle magazine.

As a friend noted, it's odd to see that one of the questions asked of potential Grit newsboys is "are you a boy?" Sexism and ageism in one fell swoop! I imagine they didn't want 57-year olds pushing Grit to traditional nuclear families, even if the boy pictured looks like 13-going-on-57. The model changed shortly after this, as that crew-cut was definitely passe by the early 70s (all I have to do is look at my Dad's yearbooks from his first few years teaching in A'burg for proof). This is the nerdiest Grit kid I've encountered, though far from the geekiest...

Also note that it's not tips or a guide that are offered to budding businessmen, but "selling helps". Yes, selling helps, otherwise the kid wouldn't make his 7 cents an issue.

The issue this ad was scanned from marked a milestone for the God of Thunder, as it was artist Jack Kirby's last issue. Kirby co-created Thor with Stan Lee in 1962, intermittently drew the first year of the series, then settled in permanently by 1964. Kirby left Marvel in 1970, heading over to DC to draw, write and edit a variety of series over the next five years, including the "Fourth World" series (New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People and tie-in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen), The Demon, OMAC and Kamandi.

Lee stayed on Thor as writer for another year. The series rolled along as one of Marvel's most run-of-the-mill titles until artist/writer Walt Simonson gave it a shot in the arm in 1983.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Spent the long weekend back in A'burg, which included the usual trip over to Detroit with Amy.

Everywhere we went, the only subject of conversation was that afternoon's Tigers/Yankees playoff game. I would have listened to it, except that their current flagship radio station, WXYT, has a weak signal. Happily, the Tigers won their first playoff round since '84, the Yankees went down in flames and no burning police cars were reported by local TV stations.

Get In With WJLB! Did Somebody Mix Their Reds With Their Whites?
Two shots from the intersection of Woodward Ave and McNichols Rd (the name through Detroit of 6 Mile Rd), which marks the northern boundary of Highland Park.

Left: WJLB has long been one of the leading urban contemporary radio stations in Detroit, stretching back to their "strong songs" TV campaign in the 80s. Not sure how to explain this ad, other than they're tapping into the largely neglected radio-in-the-shower market.

Right: Based on the colour of this building, would you trust these cleaners to separate your reds from your whites?

The Fat Lady Is Blinded By The Light Bangkok Cafe
We continued along Woodward into Ferndale.

Left: Looks like the fat lady was blinded by the light that morning. I can't think of the name of the club whose window this sits in, other than it's by the start of the downtown Ferndale strip along 9 Mile west of Woodward. From the reflection in the window, you can tell who holds down the corner of 9 Mile and Woodward.

Right: The Bangkok Cafe has long been a favourite in the family, ever since we discovered it while shopping at the long-gone Sam's Jams record store. The decor is not much to look at, but the food...let's say that in 15 years we've never had a bad meal. It's not fancy, just simple stir-fries. Medium spicing is usually my threshold of pain here.

Rochester Cider Mill
After a few hours of shopping, we headed north along Rochester Rd to catch fall colour. We were in the apple belt and stopped at a cider mill north of Rochester (recent Detroit Free Press taste test). It proved to be the most sedate-looking of any we passed, especially those on Van Dyke Rd. The smell of fresh cider doughnuts dominated. Amy gave them a thumbs-up.

School Bus Shelter (2)
South of Leonard, we passed this bus shelter. We suspect a regular school bus rider designed it. - JB