Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Back from a one-week layoff, old CBC ads...

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, amidst an anchor change (Stanley Burke, who quit as newsreader to do humanitarian work concerning 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, Marketplace profile).

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 - JB

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. - JB

Monday, October 30, 2006

1,005: 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...

Which gives me an idea...if candidates in Toronto used the same approach, what would be appropriate or inappropriate symbols to use based on our ward names? Leave your ideas in the comments...maybe I'll even whip up a mock sign or two based on your suggestions. - JB

Note: due to a technical glitch while trying to access the spellchecker, the post that was intended for this slot was cast into oblivion. Grrrr. I'll rewrite about bridges, brick yards and backyards later (if you're scratching your head, check out Squiddity). In its place, this set of scattered thoughts


It's freebie newspaper time at the bunker. After noticing several days worth of the Toronto Star piling up on the porch with nobody claiming them, I figure that paper is making its second or third unannounced attempt to woo me back after I dropped my subscription last year. Tip: make it more obvious in a multi-unit dwelling!

This morning, the Globe and Mail came with a surprise: due to a "significant investment in a local production facility" to "better service their Canadian readers", the New York Times will be delivered daily for the next two weeks. Decent timing for this freebie, with the elections down south.

So, for November, it looks like I'll be halfway to Dad's old daily reading list (by my count, we had five daily papers coming into the house). One advantage: I won't run out of newsprint to wrap dishes and other fragile materials in as I start packing.


Things Fading Away Back Home 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. - JB

Friday, October 27, 2006


To get myself in the Halloween mood, I've dug into my DVD collection to pop in a horror/sci-fi flick every night this week. I've done this for the past two years, ever since my old TV gave old the ghost and I could no longer watch CBC's seasonal selection (usually a nightly Universal monster classic from the 30s or 40s). From classic to crap, gold to gouda, Dracula to Blacula, I'm cramming in as many as I can before November hits.

Feeling like an older shocker? Here are a few picks from the mustier sections of the video vault. The shocks may be mild for a modern audience, but other elements still pack a punch:

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1932 - Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins). Before the introduction of the Production Code in 1933, there was a definite sadistic streak running through Hollywood flicks, with this film high on the list. 75 years on and some of the scenes and their implied actions still make one queasy (I will never be able to say to a waiter "champagne for the lady"). Gruesome simian-like makeup on March, especially the final transformation (which, due to the nature of the materials used, led to a three-week hospital stay for March to let his face heal up). It was worth the pain, as March won a Best Actor Oscar, the last actor to do so in a horror flick until Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

WereWolf of London (1935 - Henry Hull, Warner Oland) - the first major werewolf movie, beating Lon Chaney Jr by six years. The makeup has a feline quality to it, emphasizing a widow's peak and jutted fangs. The title wolfman comes off as a cold, stuffy prick (a botanist with a pretty young wife whose eyes are being drawn towards a childhood friend), which makes you feel more for the "bad guy", Warner Oland's mysterious Dr. Yogami. A Swede, Oland was Hollywood's all-round ethnic in the late 20s and early 30s, with parts ranging from the disapproving cantor in The Jazz Singer to his best known role, the lead in the Charlie Chan series.

Son of Frankenstein (1939 - Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone). Outside of a brief TV appearance in the early 60s, this was Karloff's last go-round as the monster. Quite a bit of this film (the nervous Frankenstein heir, the one-armed police inspector) later made its way into Young Frankenstein. Rathbone's performance as the heir is often funny, especially when he's in a panic-striken state. Major demerit: one wishes the monster would do something horrible to Rathbone's whiny kid.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1941 - Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner). This version features a Hyde who is physically less repulsive (a lighter makeup job is used on Tracy, emphasizing his eyes and teeth) but even more sexually sadistic than March's. Remove the formula aspect and it's easy to see this Hyde wandering around the normal world. Also notable for casting the two female leads against type: Bergman's the floozy, Turner the refined fiancee.

Cat People (1942 - Simone Simon). The start of producer Val Lewton's series of psychological thrillers for RKO in the mid-40s (including I Walked With A Zombie, Bedlam, Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher). Less literal than the 80s remake, which adds to the air of unease in this version. Beware any felines roaming around pools... - JB

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

1,002: signs, signs, everywhere signs

Warehouse Election Central

The municipal campaign is now in full swing, time for the WEC team to make an appearance.

First off, handy links for municipal election news and views (in alphabetical order):

Campaign Bubble - The Globe and Mail's election blog, from the writer of Paved.
Decision Toronto 2006 - Stories gathered by several community papers.
Eye Weekly - election blog, often with a humourous slant.
Spacing Votes - A companion to Spacing magazine, offering a mix of quick news hits and commentaries.
Toronto Votes 2006 - The official city election site.
Who Runs This Town? - more information on the campaign.
X Marks the T.Dot - The Sun's election blog.


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? - JB

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Pull up a chair - this anniversary post is going to be a long one...

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. Amherstburg Echo story on the approved plan for the site.

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. - JB

Monday, October 23, 2006


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 - JB

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie
Amherstburg: a leftover pic from Thanksgiving weekend. Mom picked up some fall shape cutters at Williams Sonoma (a store that has become a favourite indulgence of hers) while visiting here the weekend before and used them for the crust of the pumpkin pie. I had to take this picture quickly before the pie vanished.

The Hand of Mustard
Montreal: Every time I go to Montreal, I have to grab a smoked meat snadwich. So far, I'd rank Schwartz's and Lester's at the top, the Main at the bottom (dry and tough, and I was in a medium fat mood that day!).

It was Schwartz's turn this year. The trick is to go early, before the endless line forms - in this case, around 10:15 AM. The briskets are just being put out, the service not living up to its surly reputation. The counter staff was laugh over the cover of one of the alt-weeklies, noting that cover boy Forrest Whittaker (as Idi Amin) looked like one of their co-workers. I sat at the counter, next to two middle-aged guys from the States who sounded as if they were also having their yearly smoked meat fix.

Smoked meat piled high, one of the few things I like plain old yellow mustard on. A giant juicy pickle. A can of Cott black cherry. Diets be damned, even I make a concession by getting my sandwich cut lean.

Article in this weekend's Globe and Mail on a film doc involving Schwartz's. - JB

Thursday, October 19, 2006


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 deciding the precise layout of the apartment. Look for a comparison in a month. - JB

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


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.


Here's Bobbie Gentry, performing Ode to Billie Joe on the Smothers Brothers show in 1967 (it's the second tune - Niki Hoeky is up first).

As an added bonus feature attraction, we present Roland Kirk from the same year, performing in Prague. - JB

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Because it's Tuesday...though for some reason I keep thinking it's Wednesday. Didn't even cross any time zones while I was away! Apologies for any scrambled brains in the following entry, which is why I'll let the ad do the talking.

Vintage Ad #77: This Country In The Morning

Yes. it's fun with pictures today, with this semi-Concentration style ad for This Country in The Morning (1971-77). Note importance of granola on the list - hey, it was a hot breakfast food! Also note the seasonal scary monsters, though the red werewolf reminds me more of Gossamer than Lon Chaney Jr.

Clip from Gzowski's last episode of the show, a year-and-a-half after this ad appeared.

Source: Maclean's, November 1972. - JB