Tuesday, March 31, 2009

do shoes grow on trees?

Beaverton Shoe Tree (1)
Beaverton Shoe Tree (2)

Beaverton Shoe Tree (3)
South of Beaverton, Ontario, the answer appears to be "yes."

Photos taken on Durham Road 23, March 22, 2009 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

restaurant uniform chic

Vintage Ad #766: The Best Ideas in Fashion Uniforms
Ah, the ads one stumbles upon while conducting research, such as this example of the fine outfits restaurants could order for their employees as the 70s gave way to the 80s. One might be convinced that Ms. Skinner really, really liked the colour scheme then employed by the San Diego Padres (I shouldn't laugh, given the brown and mustard yellow track suit top I have a fondness for).

My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I think that the waitress outfit shown in the bottom left picture was the uniform of choice at Sir Cedric's Fish & Chips in Windsor not long after this ad was published. I haven't been there in years, but Amy informs me the fish is as good as it ever was at the downtown location—flaky portions of cod and halibut in a batter that was crunchy but not particularly greasy.

Source: Foodservice and Hospitality, September 1980

Friday, March 27, 2009

southern sojourn 5: walking in memphis, driving along the natchez trace

Big Ass Beer
After Stax, Amy and I headed into downtown Memphis. After parking next to a dead mall, we strolled along Beale Street and quickly determined it was the place to indulge in "big ass beer."

Giant Can of Whup... Too Much Monkey Business
A. Schwab Dry Goods
A. Schwab Dry Goods has been in business since 1876 and smells as if the opening day air was trapped inside. Still, who can resist monkeys and a giant can of whup a**, as shown in Schwab's window?

We ultimately decided Beale Street was ideal for an evening bar hop, but not for strolling on a sweltering afternoon.

Lorraine Motel (1)
Lorraine Motel (3) "I May Not Get There With You..."
Lorraine Motel (5)
Though time didn't allow us to have a thorough look, we wandered around the perimeter of the National Civil Rights Museum. Built around the shell of the Lorraine Hotel, this was the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated in 1968.

I-40 Bridge
We wandered down to the Mississipi River but didn't linger long due to the oppressive heat and haze, which didn't help our depleted energy levels. This was followed by an accidental trip across the river into Arkansas when I made a wrong turn on the freeway. All I learned during our 10-minute stay in "the Natural State" was that drivers turn into maniacs upon crossing the state line. We beat a quick path back into Memphis.

After dinner, I noticed a light on the dashboard that shouldn't have been on, followed by a sluggish feeling coming from the front of the car. This required a trip to a dealership the following morning and a change in plans. I had intended to head south along the Mississippi to Clarksdale to see the "crossroads" of musical/Robert Johnson sells-his-soul-to-the-devil legend before heading east to Nashville. While sitting comfortably in the waiting room enjoying several court shows and Maury, I decided blues sites would have wait for another trip. We would drive across northern Mississippi then take the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway up to Nashville.


Kudzu (1)
As we crossed the Tennessee/Mississippi state line on a back road, we passed more kudzu. The way it grew over anything in its path and created such smooth forms creeped out Mom. I thought of two things: my childhood fear of plants/"meteor s**t" growing over human flesh as in some horror stories I had encountered (OK, maybe it was just a nightmare or two I had after flipping through the comic book adaptation of Creepshow on a trip to Toronto), and the cover of R.E.M.'s Murmur.

Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center
We joined the Natchez Trace after a shopping stop in Tupelo. The highway stretches 444 miles from Natchez to the outskirts of Nashville. Based on a historical path mostly used in the early 19th century, the current highway was built between 1936 and 2005. Close to our starting point was the official vistor centre, where I picked up a guidebook and Amy played with some skulls.

Pharr Mounds (1) Pharr Mounds (3)
We pulled off at various points along our 200 mile stretch of the parkway. One stop was Pharr Mounds, a series of native burial mounds north of Tupelo.

Tennessee River Bridge on Natchez Trace Parkway (1)
One of the most beautiful sights was the Tennessee River, which we crossed during our brief time in Alabama. It was hard to pull ourselves away from the small park on the north side of the John Coffee Memorial Bridge, as we took in the scenery. The parkway was a relaxing, easygoing drive that we imagined would be spectacular during the height of fall colour. We also suspected this would have been a road Dad would have loved every moment of.

Meriwether Lewis Grave (1) Meriwether Lewis Grave (2)
Meriwether Lewis Grave (3)
About 40 miles into Tennessee, we stopped at the Meriwether Lewis memorial site. The explorer, one half of the Lewis and Clark duo, met his end at this site under mysterious circumstances. The wording on his monument ("melancholy death") sounds suspiciously like one theory usually trotted out, suicide. Erected in 1848, the monument is designed to look like a broken shaft to symbolize Lewis' untimely demise.

Next: Nashville a Go Go 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

see the paper bag puppets, all in a row

Paper Bag Puppets, All in a Row
Photo taken at For the Love of Jo Coffee House, Port Perry, March 22, 2009 - JB

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

vintage metropolitan detroit ad of the day

Vintage Ad #760: Listening to a CD Next to Carnegie Hall

Compact disc players were introduced to the consumer market in late 1982. By the time this ad appeared four years later, portable players had arrived that allowed early CD buyers to listen as they wandered by Carnegie Hall. Nearly a quarter of a century later, some units of the XR-P9 continue to function.

(Sorry folks - the Detroit-Windsor ads in this issue weren't that spectacular)

In the August 1986 issue of Metropolitan Detroit:

* Cover story on the best and worst restaurants in Greektown. The control meal at each spot was Greek salad, moussaka and grilled lamb chops. None received glowing praise. Pegasus Taverna and Olympia fared best (two stars out of four), New Hellas and Greek Islands the worst ("poor", two rating levels below one star). Among the culinary dangers of noted by writer C.J. Chandler were "woefully overdone lamb, the shade of an exhaust pipe," "Salads a la Frigidaire, with lettuce the colour of yesterday's newspaper," and "service so bad that visitors actually find humour in it."

* A profile of three companies that staged comebacks from bankruptcy (or the brink of): Crowley's Department Stores, Michigan Baptist Homes and Allied Supermarkets. No idea what became of MBH, but Allied's Great Scott! stores disappeared in the early 1990s and some remnants of Crowley's were purchased by Value City, who called it quits last year.

* An interview with "the funky grandpas," two twenty-something dancers who won $50,000 in prizes on Dance Fever by performing as hunched-over, heavily made-up elderly men who suddenly sprung to life on the dance floor.

Random Windsor Restaurant Review
Himalaya *** (out of 4)
841 Ouellette

Review: "No place to go if you're interested in fast food, as it can be an hour before you see bite one. The trip is in the waiting, and talking, and waiting...and it is time well spent. Chef Oza is a treasure, his kids are disciplined waiters, and there is the food...tandoori chicken, beef and lamb curries, curious appetizers and things otherworldly. For Indian holdouts, there are French dishes like coq au vin and veal cordon bleu. All of this happens in an old Victorian house steeped in India, from the tapestries to the quiet, discordant music to the smells. An etheral experience."

Have I Ever Been There?: No. We had a take-out menu in a box of early 1970s maps I loved looking through as a child. My introduction to Indian cuisine occurred in Windsor, but at the New Asian Curry House on Wyandotte Street West.

My theories as to why we never went to the Himalaya:
1) The leisurely experience alluded to in the review, which I wouldn't have handled well as a teen.
2) Uncertainty as to whether it was still in business. It never received any press and the sign had faded significantly.
3) Though memory tells me that Dad said he enjoyed it, perhaps my mind is playing tricks on me.

Is It Still There?: Appears to be. The building and sign are still there and the odd review floats around the internet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

the rise and fall of a shopping arcade: bonus features

A few extras related to the latest installment of Historicist, which spotlights the Toronto Arcade.

Vintage Ad #756: Floral Revitalized Air Parlours
Vintage Ad #757: Sutherland's Cheap Music Store

Three of the original merchants in the building, who placed ads in a guide published for the arcade's grand opening in 1884. Note the promotion of a dental office as a "vitalized air parlour," which makes me visualize silent comedies where patients receive an overdose of laughing gas.

The current Arcade Building opened in 1960, six years after the original was demolished. One of the first events held there was a travel-themed "Career Girl Show" sponsored by The Globe and Mail and the Wool Bureau of Canada. "Tiny tables with red-checked cloths and gaily colored travel posters add a continental flavor to the fashion theatre," noted the Globe in a September 27, 1960 article. Besides offering the latest in globe-trotting fashions, participants could enter draws for all expense paid trips to exotic locations like Mexico and India. "If she is wise, any young woman about to be wed should take her fiance at least once to this show. Besides containing all sorts of trousseau suggestions, a visit may help the young couple to decide where to spend the honeymoon." No reviews of the calypso singers were provided.

Big Retail for Lease at the Arcade Building

Empty Arcade
The Arcade Building as it currently appears. The ground floor retail concourse is devoid of services and independent businesses that once lined it, as the current owners attempt to attract one or two "big retail" tenants. Passers-by can still enjoy the light show on the front of the building.

Career Girl Show ad source: The Globe and Mail, September 26, 1960 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

forget jim dandy...it's jem dandy to the rescue!

Vintage Ad #530: Get that Jem Dandy Bounce with Geratex!
Jem Dandy (in pill form) to the rescue...anyone else think this ad was drawn in forty-six seconds?

Subtitled "for men and women with the spirit of adventure and the hunt," Safari was published by Montreal-born bodybuilding guru Joe Weider. A flip through this issue gives the impression that the magazine was a he-man version of National Geographic, full of exotic photography of strange tribes, naked Inuit women and soon-to-be-deceased animals. The "booklengther" cover story was a ten-page excerpt from author/explorer/filmmaker/insurance executive Lewis Cotlow's book Zanzabuku. Pictures from Cotlow's 1954-55 trek through Kenya included a tea with baboons, antelopes and elephants, a hasty escape from a charging rhino and the tricky pursuit of a "meek, mild" giraffe (tip: if stopped abruptly, a giraffe's neck will snap). Cotlow's crew were advised by British authorities to be armed at all times, in case they ran into any problems caused by the Mau Mau insurgency.

Source: Safari, March 1957 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

bye bye david mirvish books

Closure of David Mirvish Books (1)
My first visit to David Mirvish Books was during some forgotten childhood trip to Toronto. If we were in town on a Sunday, Dad would drive down to Markham Street to pick up that day's New York Times—whether this provided an excuse to browse or that he couldn't purchase a copy at Sunnybrook Plaza is a question I can't answer. While he checked out the art bargains, I scurried off to the children's section as I did in most book stores. I don't remember anything specific about going there other than liking the airy feel of the place.

After moving here, I dropped by regularly to check out the deals. It was usually one of my first stops upon returning from A'burg at Christmas, to check out the year-end sale. I rarely left empty handed on those occasions, usually picking up a cheap Taschen book or three.

Closure of David Mirvish Books (3)
I figured something was up during their annual post-Christmas sale, when boxes of art magazines from the 1960s and 1970s were placed in the middle of the store for a dollar apiece. Combined with other old, worn-looking books, it felt more like a rummage sale than the usual markdowns of regular items. Shortly after the sale ended, the store announced its closure.

This is the second specialty bookstore on the block to shutter in the past year, following the closing of architecture-focused Ballenford Books. As long as The Beguiling keeps going, I'll still have an excuse to venture down to Markham Street for some quality book-browsing time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

one friday night at the tikka house

Lahore Tikka House (3) - Karahi Chicken
As some faithful readers may know, I am addicted to Indian food. One of the places I feed my fix is along Gerrard Street, usually at Udupi Palace or one of the Siddharthas. It may come as a surprise to some that one place I hadn't ventured into until recently was the eternally-under-construction Lahore Tikka House.

The main reason that I had never settled into one of their outside picnic tables or whatever form the building was in was that it didn't appear to be a spot suited for solo dining. All I ever saw were large groups passing around dishes and figured there probably weren't any set dinners for one. One Friday night, my current partner-in-crime and I pondered nearby spots to go and she remembered that I had never been in Lahore Tikka—why not tonight?

We ate in one of the trailers attached to the main building. Colourful linens were hung on the wall to liven up the 70s-style wall paneling. We sat side by side to stay out of the way of the sizzling platters for other diners that passed by the other side of table.

Lahore Tikka House (1) - Plain Rice and Lahori Lamb Kabab

The menu doubled as a scorecard to hand back to the waiter. We checked off karahi chicken (pictured at top), plain rice, Lahori lamb kabab (picture above), samosas, naan, saag paneer and a long stick of almond kulfi ideal for two. The meal was a tasty one, though some dishes left worrisome oil slicks on our paper plates. Neither of us suffered any ill effects later on.

Going to the washroom was an eye-opener. The trek involved a flight down a narrow set of steps, a stroll past the kitchen and a sharp turn or two before reaching the opulent facilities. The washroom felt too spiffy to be heeding the call of nature. Just another odd piece in the complex's puzzle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

backstreets of toronto: broadway avenue 1

Disclaimer: After a long hiatus, an old feature of this site returns. Blame it on several factors—diving into other projects, time factors, lethargy, stubborn belief in finishing one massive instalment before moving on to the next one, lumbago, etc.—choose the excuse you wish to believe. Most of the photos used in this post were shot in December 2006, in case you notice any outdated elements. The final entry in this series may include photo updates.

Broadway Avenue Sign
It may not resemble Manhattan's similarly monikered main artery, but Toronto's Broadway carries its share of history and stories, from rebellion launch site at its west end to a gateway to the Don Valley park system in the east. Broadway was one of the few side streets that ran through three municipalities in pre-amalgamation Metropolitan Toronto (Toronto, North York, East York). Among its homes and buildings lies several pieces of my family's history.

This three-part look will begin with most of its run through the old city of Toronto.


1 - Post Office Station K/site of Montgomery's Tavern
2 - Anne Johnston Health Centre
3 - North Toronto Collegiate Institute
4 - Northern Secondary School

Montgomery Avenue Sign
Our trip begins just before Broadway starts. West of Yonge runs Montgomery Avenue, named after the inn that was located at the southwest corner. On December 4, 1837, a group of rebels led by fiery journalist/politician William Lyon Mackenzie gathered at Montgomery's Tavern and marched south along Yonge, leading to four days of confrontations with government troops. The rebels eventually retreated back to the tavern, where they were defeated on December 7.

Montgomery's Tavern Plaque
The tavern was burned down and then rebuilt. Sold to Charles McBride in 1858, it was renamed the Prospect House and served as a meeting spot from the township council and Masonic Lodge. Destroyed by fire in 1881, the property was purchased by John Oulcott, who opened Oulcott's Hotel two years later.

Postal Station K and Montgomery's Tavern Plaque
By the 1920s the site was used as a post office and was torn down to make way for the present Postal Station K in 1936, which is unique for being one of the few public buildings in the British Empire to bear the royal mark of King Edward VIII.

Anne Johnston Health Centre
On the northwest side of Montgomery and Yonge stands the Anne Johnston Health Station, a non-profit community health facility named after a longtime city councillor whose municipal career ended in a furor over her support for the controversial Minto Quantum condo towers a few blocks south. A community/NIMBY group put out a call for candidates to run against Johnston in the 2003 municipal election, which resulted in the victory of one of the current key "opposition" figures at city council, Karen Stintz.


Broadway/Montgomery and Yonge, Looking East
Looking east down Broadway from Yonge Street

The space at the northeast corner has been a cursed spot for eateries, a revolving door for most of the past decade. It looked like Yummi's, a Middle Eastern eatery, would dodge the curse but it ceased to be at the end of 2008. It appears the South St. Burger chain will be the next occupant.

Broadway Apts. Apartments and Tim Horton's
Two apartment complexes greet those venturing east from Yonge, along with a busy Tim Horton's.

St. Monica's School
The first of several educational facilities along Broadway is St. Monica Catholic School. The first portion of the current building was erected in 1925.

North Toronto Collegiate Institute
The street runs along the backside of North Toronto Collegiate Institute. Established in 1910, the school moved to its current site two years later. My grandmother attended NTCI in the late 1920s.

Notes on a Notice A Community Vision Comes to Life
When I shot these photos in December 2006, the first signs of Tridel's Republic condo development were appearing along the street. Part of NTCI has been demolished, with a refurbished school to be integrated into the complex. This was the first of several proposed condo/school combinations designed to find funding to fix crumbling schools.

Are the additions to the "Notice" sign meant to be helpful or hostile?

Couch, Anybody?
Anyone for this bee-utiful couch?

A Touch of New York
Manhattan Towers is one of the few buildings along Broadway to reference the Big Apple. No theatre-themed apartments or condos...yet.

Broadpath Manor 127 Broadway
Two typical examples of the apartment buildings that line the street between Redpath Avenue and Mount Pleasant Road.

NEXT: Mt. Pleasant to Bayview