Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a hometown holiday lesson

Sushi is not raw fish

While Amy, Sarah and I wandered around Amherstburg's annual River Lights Festival on Christmas Eve (more photos), we encountered this sign outside of a downtown sushi joint (something I never thought I'd ever see in my hometown).

So what is sushi? Check out the other side...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

last minute christmas shopping in toronto, 1909

Portion of Front Page of the Christmas Edition of The News (Toronto), December 15, 1909

Christmas is days away and local shopping centres are packed with shoppers scrambling for last-minute bargains and procrastinators who suddenly remembered they have gifts to purchase. Scenes filled with mobs of shoppers and frazzled sales clerks appear to have been as common a century ago as they are now.

While researching a holiday-related piece, I came across a special Christmas section of the Toronto News from December 15, 1909 that urged readers to shop early. Note the thoughtfulness expressed towards those who get the short end of the stick at this time of the year—a century later, these suggestions could spare us a lot of grief.

Christmas is almost at hand and the spirit of Yuletide cheer already here. One can feel it in the air—can read it on the face of the passerby. Thoughts are turning to the selection of gifts—each one to add to the cheer of the time.

If only those thoughts could be converted into action.

If instead of thinking of selection the great public were buying now.

How the Yuletide cheer would swell and grow, until every clerk—every delivery boy in every store in the land would rise up and call the Christmas shopper "blessed."

Now is the time to do your shopping—now while the stocks are fresh and clean.

Now while the stores are yet uncrowded and the air is pure.

Now while the clerks have the time and spirit for courteous and smiling service.

It is to your advantage to do your Christmas shopping early.

Your choice is better—shop service is better—you are surer of satisfaction in every way.

Make your shopping motto "Early in the season—early in the day."

Make this your gift, the most welcome one on earth, from the shopper to the worker.

Just as surely as you do you will do your part toward banishing the cruelties of a time which should bring nothing but joy.

Picture a moment the usual late Christmas rush in various shops, which has grown to such proportions in the last few years.

Think of the seething crowds of nervous people—irritable—tired of body.

Think of the workers—girls with aching bodies and pale drawn faces—paying tribute to the demands of a thoughtless people.

Step a moment back of the scenes. Think of the shipping, the packing, the wrapping and delivery forces working in feverish haste to the very limit of human endurance.

And still further back think of the candy makers, toy makers and box makers, whose health destroying "overtime" work follows the belated orders of the late Christmas shopper.

Think of this tumult keeping up until eleven o' clock Christmas eve.

And then for another moment think that all of this could be so easily avoided by a little thought and foresight on your part.

Is the world, indeed, heartless and inhuman?

Is it only heedless?

Does each individual buyer imagine that his neccessity differs from all others and that he alone is justified in his late buying?

Does one impulse of pity for the worn-out shop people visit a single breast?

We wonder also what the simple Workman of Nazareth, if He looked down here on things below, would think of the manner in which the most enlightened of nations celebrate His feast. Is it consistent with the spirit of Christmas expressed in the words "Peace on Earth—Good Will Toward Men."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

a hotel opens in toronto

Vintage Ad #979: Brett Halliday welcomes the Ramada Inn Downtown Toronto
(click for full-size version)

But how could our intrepid writer not been impressed with the facilities, flat rates and "Fiddler on the Roof" while writing this advertorial? He's being paid to enjoy it...which makes me wonder how Mr. Halliday would have raved about a lesser establishment...

I spent a considerable amount of time researching each and every room at the Harlequin Hotel and declare that these character-filled spaces have their own unique touches. I could visualize the merry moments of bliss that filled each eye-catching element of all twenty-five rooms. The sheets come in a rainbow of colours that reflect the moods and inspirations of previous guests. The lush carpeting retains an inkling of the form and function of times long past. Sam the manager has done a spectacular job taking every guest's needs into consideration, from the cool breeze percolating through the stained-glass windows to the complimentary selection of toiletries carefully chosen to enhance your evening rest.

Brett Halliday's advertorial guides to local dining and shopping establishments have been a staple of Toronto newspapers since the 1970s, most recently appearing in the National Post. Unlike most of his work from the late 1970s, Halliday's gushing praise of the Ramada is not broken up by one ellipsis after another. Most of Halliday's dining "columns" can only be fully appreciated if read with dramatic pauses or your best William Shatner imitation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

vintage new yorker ad of the day

Vintage Ad #922: Rose Marie Reid

This ad for a popular 1950s swimwear designer delighted quite a few websurfers when it was posted on Flickr. Chalk it up to the simple, classy style the ad designer used, or the hints of mischief emanating from the model's face.

As for what a New York shopper could have done to amuse themselves after purchasing a "jewel of the sea," let's consult the "Goings on About Town" section (or, as it was subtitled in '58, "a conscientious calendar of events of interest").

If they were in a theatrical mood, productions in first run on Broadway included Look Back in Anger, The Music Man, Sunrise at Campobello and West Side Story.

Under "Night Life", the "Big and Brassy" section might have caught their eye. At the Copacabana, "Ella Fitzgerald, as oracle of many voices, many moods, many tempos, can range from the romantic to the abstract as quick as a wink. She's the one good deed in a very long night." Use your imagination as to what that last statement implied about the rest of the evening's entertainment.

The description of a night at the Latin Quarter is even more colourful:
A fond and foolish replica of the days when floor shows really were floor shows—a pride of showgirls big enough to beat the Chicago Bears; a spate o singers, clowns (the very broadminded Bernard Brothers), pony ballerinas, and whatnot, all marching and countermarching, and a real onstage rainstorm. Lest all this indicate the world to be a ceaseless round of heedless pleasure, there is Johnnie Ray, homely homiletics at the ready, to sing and swing from a flying trapeze.
For high culture, they'd have to forget about visiting the Museum of Modern Art: it was closed "for carpentry and such," with no set reopening date.

The "Other Events" section covered happenings ranging from information on how to attend a Security Council session at the United Nations to prominent auctions. Even university commencements were listed: did our shopper or any readers decide to crash the festivities at Harvard on June 12 or Princeton on June 17?

Source: The New Yorker, June 14, 1958 - JB

PS: A trio of posts for your reading pleasure on Torontoist:

Friday, December 11, 2009

vintage playboy ad of the day

Vintage Ad #912: What Sort of Man Reads Playboy While Snorkeling?

This man didn't read Playboy for much longer. Distracted by the bikini of one of the lovely girls who went snorkeling with him, he released the breathing apparatus one second too long...

Source: Playboy, August 1973.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ossington and on

Christmas on Brock Avenue (2)

Scene from a psychogeography walk last week:

The display greeted the group of walkers as they emerged from a neighbourhood park onto Brock Avenue. Nearly every traditional and commercial symbol of the holiday season was present amid the carefully constructed carnival of lights. The jolly big elf, snowmen, penguins, gift-loaded trains, nativity scenes...little was left out of this west-end front yard apart from an illuminated thank you note from the beancounters at Toronto Hydro. It would have taken a supreme show of willpower from any bypassers not to stop and observe the display and find subtle touches that would be missed by others.

Christmas on Brock Avenue (1)

Just as remarkable was the simplicity of the lights next door. Knowing there was no way to compete with the neighbouring display, the house on the right opted for simple yet colourful strings of lights to provide a cozy December glow.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

slumping buildings department

Lopsided Balcony (2)

Lopsided Balcony (1)

How secure would you feel on these balconies? I felt seasick looking at them during a lazy walk through downtown Montreal.

Photo taken in Montreal, November 7, 2009 - JB

PS: Over on Torontoist, blind workers and trained toasters.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

how about them apples?

Golden Delicious Apples Waiting to be Picked

For the past several years, an afternoon of apple picking has been part of my Thanksgiving weekend. As long as the weather cooperates, it's a chance to relive a favourite childhood activity, when the entire family would head to orchards around Essex or Harrow. Recent pickings have been closer the latter, usually at one of two orchards on Ferris Road. This year, Amy, Sarah and I headed to Twin Oaks, a no frills spot where the only razzle dazzle is the van where pickers purchase bags for the fresh apple goodness to come.

The trees hadn't been fully picked over, leaving us with plenty of fruit to choose from and clown around with.

Ladybug on an Apple

Even the ladybugs joined in the fun, though they failed to wrestle any apples off the trees.

I'm still making my way through the x-number of pounds I picked. Most have wound up in lunchtime salads, mixed with cheese, mandarin oranges and other goodies.

All photos taken October 11, 2009 - JB

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

vintage monthly detroit ad of the day

Vintage Ad #666: 1978 International Walk for Mankind (Sponsored by CKLW) - resized

While Project Concern is still functioning, it should also be noted that none of the chains thanked at the bottom of the ad currently operate in the Detroit area:

I have no idea what Quick-Pik was.


The July 1978 issue of Monthly Detroit reported on the “un-Americanization of CKLW,” as the "Big 8" was rebuked by the CRTC for not making enough of an effort to provide the proper amount of Canadian content to Windsorites. According to writer Judy Gerstel, “you have to understand right from the beginning when you’re talking about CKLW that it is a Windsor radio station licensed by the Canadian government and in Canada success, if not exactly illegal, is at least undesirable.” During the station’s license renewal, the CRTC expected the station “to develop plans to contribute more effectively and significantly to the development of local and regional creative musical talent.” Station manager (and American) Herb McCord indicated the station was making arrangements with the Pine Knob music venue to broadcast Canadian bands in concert. CKLW also considered building a recording studio in Windsor, though recent changes in immigration laws that made it more difficult for musicians to cross the border threatened to scuttle that idea—besides, McCord sounded unsure if the studio would “make twelve superstars from Chatham, Ontario.” He also felt that the CanCon regulations had helped destroy the careers of some Canadian acts, as the station felt obligated to play crap to meet their quota.
Everybody makes bad records, but if Rod Stewart makes a bad record, it never gets played [Ed note: oh really…]. You play three other cuts on the album. As a result the average youngster grows up thinking Rod Stewart only makes hits. But the Canadian content law has assured that Canadian non-hits will be played, again and again. CKLW has damaged the careers of certain Canadian acts, there’s no question about it.
One may quibble with McCord’s next statement: “There has not been a major new artist, with the possible exception of Dan Hill, to emerge in Canada within the last 8 years.”


The station, which was one of the most influential top 40 stations on both sides of the border during the 1960s and 1970s, continued to battle with the CRTC over the next decade. Staffers felt the regulator had it in for CKLW because the station refused to kowtow to its demands and because officials failed to grasp the role the station played in the Detroit market. As Michael McNamara, whose documentary Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 covered the station’s glory days, noted in an interview with The Walrus, “CKLW was in a blue-collar city and it reflected rock ‘n’ roll. It was loud, brash, working class. The men and women running the CRTC were upper-middle-class central Canadians, many of them from Quebec. None understood, let alone liked, commercial pop radio.” CRTC brass felt the station focused too much on the American market (it was claimed at one point its signal could be heard in 23 states) and needed to repatriate itself. Other regulatory prejudices, such as a preference for keeping top 40 formats on AM, scuttled several proposed format changes on both bands for CKLW.

Source: Monthly Detroit, July 1978 - JB