Monday, November 30, 2009

there goes the dealership (a story in pixelboard)

Blowout Inventory SaleEverything Has To Go

I guess I should have waited a little longer to post the last installment of my stroll along Broadway Avenue.

Almost two weeks ago, I noticed that the lot of Brennan Pontiac Buick GMC was emptier than usual. Upon closer inspection, office equipment was piled up in the showroom. Sell-off sale announcements were posted on all of the windows.

In short: sixty years of car dealerships at the corner of Bayview and Broadway have drawn to a close.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

days of carltons past: bonus features

Before reading this post, check out the related Torontoist article.
Vintage Ad #969: Grand Opening of the Odeon Toronto
This ad appeared in Toronto newspapers on September 8, 1948, the day before the Odeon Toronto's opening gala. I considered using it for the article, but none of the copies I found were in good shape. This version from the Globe and Mail was the least scruffy of the lot—the copy in the Star looked as if somebody had dropped a bottle of ink on it.
To modern eyes, the coverage of opening night makes the event feel as if it was "let's suck up to the British" time...except that the speeches that stressed the importance of Toronto's strong ties to Great Britain were the norm during the first half of the twentieth century. When Mayor Hiram McCallum told the audience that “the future of this country lies with the British community of nations,” he repeated a mantra uttered by numerous dignitaries before him. McCallum also mentioned it was fitting that ever-loyal Toronto received such a fine British-owned theatre, as if the city was a small child rewarded by its parent for obedience. This tone was far more evident in the Globe's coverage than the Star's—while reading the latter I sensed a cynical tone towards the evening (reports that those in formal dress wielding invites were able to skip the long lineup, and a comment that "it was what they call a ‘brilliant premiere.’ That is to say, a lot of people gathered in the lobby to exchange small talk.”).
Other recent Torontoist posts for your reading pleasure:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

drinking chocolate, spo-dee-o-dee...

Vintage Ad #967: Nerves of Steel

After a hard day of working on the railroad, in the repair shop, or on the assembly line, isn't it nice to restimulate your nerves with a relaxing cup of cocoa?

I've been on a hot chocolate kick lately, or at least versions that aren’t just Swiss Miss in a cup. I foist the blame on Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, where I fell for the lure of a cup of Vosges Aztec Elixir Couture Cocoa over Thanksgiving weekend. The Zingerman’s website describes it as:

Inspired by the recipes of the Aztecs. Dark chocolate, ancho and chipotle chilies, Mexican vanilla beans, cinnamon, and cornmeal to thicken. Steamed with our Calder Dairy milk and a splash of 1/2 and 1/2, this drink is silky and rich.
It packed a rich, peppery punch that felt soothing on a sunny fall weekend afternoon after gorging on the sandwich below.

#46 Stan's Canadian Hotfoot
#46 Stan's Canadian Hotfoot at Zingerman's. More details.

Locally, Soma Chocolatemaker in the Distillery District makes a mean Mayan hot chocolate. The main drawback is its richness—it’s hard to imagine drinking more than a small cup.

Just because the chocolate drink has “hot” in its name doesn’t mean it has to be warm. While waiting for Sarah to order a drink at a Montreal branch of Second Cup earlier this month, I glanced at a display of canned mixes near the window. Looking over the “Fffrozen hot chocolate" mix, I noticed that its ingredient list had fewer oils and multisyllabic chemicals than the other preparations. Sensing that I could use a cooling, dessert-like drink after having downed a smoked meat sandwich and fries at Schwartz’s (hmm, does my chocolate consumption coincide with ingestion of mass quantities of deli meat? Discuss.), I ordered a cup. Sarah figured I had discovered the coffee shop equivalent of my addiction to Slurpees. The first one may point in that direction (the lower count of artificial ingredients was detectable), though the slightly heavy feeling that sinks in once you've polished one off might mitigate the risk of developing a habit.

Source: The Mail and Empire, October 24, 1929

PS – For advice on how to control overstimulated nerves, check out today’s vintage ad column on Torontoist.

Monday, November 09, 2009

shameless self-promotion department

If you aren't up to braving the masses at the Santa Claus Parade this coming Sunday, you can head down to the Gladstone Hotel to check out the launch of the latest collection of essays about Toronto from Coach House Books, The Edible City.

I contributed one of the essays, parts of which may not come as a big surprise if you've read some of the pieces I've published on the web over the years. Hopefully readers won't find the piece to be half-baked. - JB

Friday, November 06, 2009

vintage atlantic ad of the day

Vintage Ad #936: Atlantic Monthly Press Selections

With the Christmas shopping season underway, why not consider some literary picks from half-a-century ago for those on your gift list? This selection of books even fills CanCon rules, thanks to the selections from two Canuck literary titans.

While researching a recent Historicist column, I stumbled upon reviews for both of these books while browsing microfilms of The Telegram. It appears that portions of The Desperate People were serialized earlier that year in the paper, so those with long memories may have remembered Farley Mowat's look at Inuit life by the time Laurie McKechnie reviewed it:

Surely Farley Mowat’s book will stir the conscience, rouse the indignation of Canadians in much the same way the UNCLE TOM’S CABIN aroused America a century ago...Mowat’s book is NOT fiction. It is tragic truth. It is a magnificent documentary—the story of a race of primitive people carefully constructed by focusing upon the facts of one fragment of their society. And through it all, Mowat’s anger runs powerfully from his pen.

McKechnie was impressed by Mowat's efforts to demolish the myth of the average Inuit as “childishly simple roly-poly figure," even if it was noted later in the review that the author might have played loose with some facts in his earlier books (an issue that proved controversial forty years later). The critic's conclusion?

It may be that experts will find flaws in Farley Mowat’s facts; they may find chinks in his arguments. It may be that in his anger, Mowat has not always made allowances for human frailty. But, after reading this book, nothing can convince me that Farley Mowat speaks anything but the essence of truth…truth that makes me ashamed as a Canadian.


James Scott started off his review of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by comparing it to another rags-to-riches story about an ambitious young Jewish man, What Makes Sammy Run?, only Duddy is “a lot bigger stinker and a far more understandable human being than Sammy ever was.”

Have we a paradox here? Not at all. Human beings can be thoroughly horrible and yet attract our sympathy for them as human beings. A novelist can capitalize on this if he manages to do one of the most difficult things in fiction—that is make his horrible hero completely believable as a human being. This is what Mordecai Richler—in what is by far his best book to date—has accomplished.

And underneath this tale of a young man from the slums, driven to every extremity to prove himself and make money, lies both a deep understanding and a subtle satire of the Montreal ghetto and what has made the ghetto be there in the first place. Mordecai Richler has a sharp point to his pen which can bring the blood with a deft jab. He also is not inclined to be merciful. The result is a beautifully mature performance. I don’t think there is a false line, a blurred image or a contrived motivation in the whole book…This is a great book and when Mr. Richler has rubbed off the rough edges of his prose he is probably going to be the best writer in Canada.

Source: The Atlantic, December 1959. Additional material from the October 24, 1959 and October 31, 1959 editions of The Telegram.

PS: More vintage ads on Torontoist, featuring a "league of rations." - JB

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

the backstreets of toronto: broadway avenue (2)

Part one of this journey.

1 - Northern Secondary School
2 - Brennan Pontiac/Buick
3 - Esso station

Broadway and Mt. Pleasant

Northern Secondary School marks Broadway's crossing of Mount Pleasant Road. There was considerable debate on what name to bestow upon what was then planned as a joint commercial/vocational school. Possible monikers were tossed around on the front page of the February 8, 1930 edition of the Toronto Star, along with fussy reasons for their unsuitability:

"North Toronto": Would conflict with North Toronto Collegiate a few blocks away.

"Eglinton": Would conflict with the public school of that name.

"Mount Pleasant": Would sound too much like the cemetery of that name.

"Roehampton": Name of one of the streets on which the school will stand, is deemed rather an awkward sort of name.

Opinion now seems to favor the name "Northern Vocational School" as expressing both the location and the scope of the school.

One further name emerged: Hudson Vocational School, in honour of the local phone exchange. The front-running name was victorious in a February 11 meeting.