Friday, February 27, 2009

1,496: tales from the ttc

8:25 A.M., 34 Eglinton East bus. The vehicle is performing its usual rush hour imitation of a sardine can. I'm standing in the aisle, trying to stay out of the way of others. A passenger sitting behind me gets off at Dunfield Avenue, one stop before my usual jumping-off point. Since it won't be long before I make my exit, I keep standing—someone heading into Eglinton station can take it for a quick rest.

A younger man, maybe late 20s, professional-looking, asks me if I want to take the seat. I tell him that's OK, I'm getting off at the next stop. He sits down and makes the following comment with a sing-song inflection in his voice:

"I'm getting off soon too, but you could have sat down and made room for other people!"

I do not react. I make my way to the rear to get off at Yonge Street, slightly stunned by his response. Yup, sitting down for two seconds then pushing my way back out would have significantly raised the comfort level of my fellow passengers.

***

Walking towards my office, I think about recent posts on websites where anonymous commentators spew pure vitriol towards TTC employees in the wake of the current safety poster campaign. They feel as if they are being treated like little children, but I wonder if these are the same passengers who treat other riders like crap for minor indiscretions or things that would only bother them. That these are the people who refuse to move their seat-occupying bags to allow worn-out riders to sit on a crowded vehicle. That refuse to move further back when the front of the bus has no breathing room. That threaten operators when they are late by one second.

Ah, humanity...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1,495: shameless self-promotion department

Three pieces for your enjoyment...

On Torontoist:


On Spacing Toronto:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1,494: new treatment for tasty hot dogs (3)

Previously: Cheese blankets and stuffing

Pineapple-Bacon Hot Dogs
Recipes inspired by North American notions of Hawaiian or Polynesian food were a staple of 1950s cooking tips, so it's not shocking to see the humble hot dog paired off with bacon and pineapple for a taste of the south seas. Note the other fruit pairings—at first, I was revolted by the notion of peaches and hot dogs, but then remembered I've eaten sausages with fruit-enriched barbecue sauce or marinades, so perhaps the idea isn't so far-fetched...

OK, maybe it is. Large chunks of peaches and bologna-like meat. Mmmm.

Mashed Potato-Stuffed Franks
Our final culinary creation is something I'm surprised a fast food chain or frozen food manufacturer never investigated the sales possibilities of. People like hot dogs. People like overstuffed or flavoured mashed potatoes. Why not combine them? Ta-da—tater dogs!

(If anyone from McCain's is reading this, I get 5% of the profits, OK?)

FIN

Source: Better Living, June 1953 - JB

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

drinks from the chateau

Chateau Dry Soft Drinks
Today's entry is a rewrite/update of one of the earliest posts on this site. Apologies to anyone with long memories.

One of the joys of researching the pieces I write for other sites is stumbling upon pieces of my past that share the page with the topic I'm supposed to be writing about. The latest popped up while digging through stories and ads for the Grand Union/Steinberg's/Miracle Food Mart piece I recently posted on Torontoist.

Proof at last that Chateau cola existed!

My father used to bring cases of Chateau cola home from our local A&P - he really enjoyed guzzling it, probably due to the ultra sugar rush it provided. Chateau was an anachronism, being the only pop I remember that required a can opener to get at the ultra-syrupy liquid inside—let other soft drink makers include frills like tabs or push buttons. Punching holes into the can was appropriate, as the cola had the viscosity of motor oil. This was a small blessing, as it meant I couldn't bring any to school.

The taste was sickly sweet, close to pure syrup. It was the kind of stuff that could give a kid a psychedelic experience, like that episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Millhouse down pure syrup Squishees. There were other flavours that were closer to standard sodas—the ginger ale was watery but OK, while I don't recall what orange and grape were like.

But Dad liked it and it was cheap, so we drank it.

Based on a flip through online Toronto newspaper archives, Chateau Dry was regularly placed on sale by a variety of grocery chains (mostly A&P, IGA and Miracle Food Mart) from 1979 to 1988, usually at $3.99 per case of 24. The brand name did not turn up outside of ads and internet searches haven't turned up a manufacturer or any other information.

Mysteries to be solved another day...

Image excerpted from a Miracle Food Mart ad that appeared in the October 16, 1982 edition of The Globe and Mail - JB

Friday, February 20, 2009

1,492: how to ride an escalator on toronto's public transit system

TTC Escalator Safety
The TTC's latest suggestions for escalator dos and don'ts, including a groove-y logo. This was among the first ads to be posted at Bloor when it ceased to be the Being Erica station.


Had the TTC gone for shock value, they might have considered an updating this British public information film. Lesson: don't leave empty rubber boots on an escalator. - JB

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1,491: how to make tourists and locals feel cheery and welcome as they enjoy their family day vacation in downtown toronto

One Man's Way of Bringing Joy on the Family Day Holiday
The apocalyptic set love hanging out on the perimeter of the Eaton Centre.

Photo taken at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas, February 16, 2009 - JB

1,490: vintage communication arts ad of the day

Vintage Ad #737: Learn to Hypnotize Your Clients!
You are getting sleepy...you will buy dye transfers...you will enjoy The Hypnotic Eye...you will make transparencies you do not need...you will feel those tensions fade away...you will dazzle Algernon in accounting...you will feel your hidden desire to partake in go-go dancing...you will throttle me for attempting to stretch out this joke.

Source: Communication Arts, May-June 1966 - JB

***

Over on Torontoist: The 1954 National Auto Show, which doesn't appear to have involved any hypnotism, other than buyers being dazzled by classic automobiles and dresses made from car upholstery.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

1,488: vintage metropolitan detroit ad of the day

Vintage Ad #709: One of Summer's Worst Pests
Not quite the "LOOK UP!" safety ads with Isiah Thomas that ran frequently when I was little. Anyone who has lived through a Detroit/southwestern Ontario summer can testify to how humid it can be come mid-July.

***

Over the holidays, I purchased a large number of magazines about Detroit, dating from the late 1960s through early 1990s. For each ad excerpted from this batch, I'll spotlight features from each magazine and a random Windsor restaurant review.

Also in the August 1984 issue of Metropolitan Detroit:

* Cover story on emergency health care in Metro Detroit. Tip: it's more important to carry a card listing your medication allergies while on the way to the ER than wearing clean underwear. Minimum user costs for an emergency ranged from $35 (Detroit Receiving) to $122 (Henry Ford).

* An interview with Robert Altman, who was in Ann Arbor filming Secret Honor: The Last Testament of Richard Nixon and teaching the odd course. When asked about being an artist, Altman noted "the artist is the only person who I think you can really trust. The artist—or at least the artistic part of a person—doesn't have an ulterior motive. A real artist isn't trying to buy a yacht or get a bigger house or a Mercedes-Benz or anything like that...And the artist isn't making art out of an altruistic sense either. He's doing it because he wants to. He says, "Hey, what does red look like when it's up against green?"

* A review of Jim Harrison's novel Sundog.

* A feature on amateur astronomers.

* An article declaring that "computing is a lifestyle, not a fad," as Detroiters discover they can use PCs to do everything from tally weekly bowling league scores to assisting blind lawyers.

* "Grilling: More than Macho"

Random Windsor Restaurant Review
Orient Express *** (out of 4)
188 Pitt W (at Ferry)

Review: "Out to make a lasting impression in one way or another, the OE is smashingly and very expensively outfitted, with rich upholstered chairs, chandeliers, and Rosenthal China. The menu is fairly smashing too—Oriental, naturally, with Chinese provinces addressed, as well as Japan with sushi, sashimi and Teppan tableside cooking. An early evening of sushi and champagne is a sensual, once-in-great-while pleasure you owe yourself—right?"

Have I Ever Been There?: Once. Dad liked to take me along to readings whenever authors swung through Windsor in the late 80s/early 90s. Usually they were at the main library branch or South Shore Books, but when Timothy Findley was in town, the reading was at the Orient Express. I still have a signed copy of Last of the Crazy People from that evening. All I remember was the atmospheric interior, yummy spring roll samples and Dad explaining what "gay" meant in terms of human relationships (he thought it was sweet that Findley's partner William Whitehead was in the audience).

Is It Still There?: No. The building was razed along with the neighbouring Norwich Block in the late 1990s to make way for One Riverside Drive, home to Chrysler's Canadian headquarters. Fallout from the city's expropriation of the Norwich Block went on for ages.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1,487: new treatment for tasty hot dogs (2)

Previously: Bread rolls and fritters

Franks in Cheese Blankets
Proto-Pillsbury crescent roll wiener wraps? I would have been revolted by the addition of olives as a kid—they would have been rolled out of the hot dog. I liked my toppings plain and simple—mustard and ketchup. At some point Dad and I discovered the miracle of canned hot dog chili sauce, brown glop we liberally applied to the bun. Any leftover sauce was served in bowls, occasionally with a dash of shredded cheese. We usually bought Castleberry's or Vietti brands on stateside shopping trips. I haven't cracked open a car so far this century.

UPDATE (Feb 25/09): While conducting a recent cleaning of the Warehouse nuclear food stockpile, I discovered a can of Castleberry's hiding at the back of the pantry. Further research and taste-testing to be conducted.

Hot Dogs With Stuffing
Here's where the test kitchen's ideas really fall apart. It may be a blessing this dish was shot in black and white, as combination of ingredients suggest a regurgitated hot dog with bun, with pickle slices subbing for relish. I apologize for causing anyone to lose their appetite.

Next: More stuffing and the inevitable Polynesian treatment.

Source: Better Living, June 1953 - JB

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

1,486: amherstburg crime blotter, 1909

One of the interesting things about the research I do for my historical pieces on other sites is the odd items that pop up as I scroll through rolls of microfilm. While looking for material for a piece on events in Toronto on New Year's Day 1909, I stumbled upon a lurid tale of murder in that day's edition of the Mail and Empire...which took place in my hometown.

Blessed the Son Who Slew Him

"His life-blood gushing forth in a great stream." I'm finding that this colourful, illustrative, gruesome language was commonly employed by the Conservative-leaning Mail and Empire, which merged with the Globe in 1936 to form the Globe and Mail.

By contrast, coverage in the Toronto World that day was muted and to the point:



I read these stories to Mom, who couldn't place the names or recall hearing any legends about this incident pass down through the years. I keep forgetting to check the Windsor papers on file at the Toronto Reference Library to see what they had to say about the murder.

Sources: the January 1, 1909 editions of the Mail and Empire and the Toronto World - JB

Monday, February 09, 2009

1,485: random notes

My contribution to the "25 Things" memes spreading across the net:

things things things things things
things things things things things
things things things things things
things things things things things
things things things things things

***

A gem from a recent edition of the Globe and Mail, courtesy of Christie Blatchford:
The slaying of Jeffrey Lewis -- gloriously alive at 4:10:57 a.m. on July 2, 2006, crumpling to the pavement and for all intents and purposes dead at 4:10:59 -- barely rated a mention in the press.

This inspires me to use exact time to measure sudden changes in my life. At 11:37:24 p.m. on January 29, 2009, I was calm and writing away; at 11:37:29 p.m. I had a headache and downed an Advil.

***

Article to check out in this week's edition of Eye Weekly: the barriers Torontonians erect around themselves. My weekly footprint across the city tends to be wide, depending on events and if I get a sudden urge to buy calamansi soda in outer Scarborough. Where I live draws sense-of-place-and-distance reactions ranging from central/downtownish ("You're close to the subway, that's downtown!") to Siberia ("How far north of Bloor are you?!?").

***

Recently on Torontoist: when restauraters go editorial and a 1980s classic for late night TV viewers that was also covered here awhile ago.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

1,483: new treatment for tasty hot dogs (1)

New Treatment for Tasty Hot Dogs
Now that we're in the depths of the winter blahs, isn't it time to start daydreaming about next summer? Come June, it's time to take in baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet...or soccer, veggie dogs, gelato and Toyota, if one were to update the old car jingle. The number of hot dog carts on Toronto's sidewalks either testifies to our love of all manner of tube steaks or reflects the laws that make them practically the only type of food street vendors are allowed to sell.

For those looking for a change from standard cart fare or boiling/grilling a supermarket 12-pack at home, the Warehouse has dug up handy hot dog hints from the 1950s. Feel free to experiment with chicken or veggie dogs for a modern touch!

Hot Dogs in Bread-Rolls
First up, a tray of baked doggies. As far as 1950s experiments with processed meats go, this one doesn't sound too horrible, though I have never tried horseradish mustard on a hot dog.

Bread was a last resort when it came to hot dogs during my childhood. If we were out of buns, out came the white bread. I never thought the two mixed well, though I can't be sure if this was psychological or if there was a genuine taste difference.

Fritter-Frankfurters
This is a swankier version of a fairground staple—"corn dog" probably screamed "Hick!" to the editors. The celery salt adds class to this down home treat. No sticks are provided to prevent kids from scorching their fingers in their eagerness to down the first one out of the fryer.

Next: Proto-Pillsbury wraps and the start of scary things to do with innocent hot dogs.

Source: Better Living, June 1953 - JB

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

1,482: one night at the black forest inn...

The Black Forest Inn
During the last Sunday in January, I drove a friend out to Guelph and Waterloo Region to show off some of my old haunts. The U of G campus was busy, thanks to an organic food show that offered plenty of samples—thumbs up to organic cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt and pickled asparagus (individually, not combined).

For dinner, we wanted to try someplace neither of us been before, which made me think of The Black Forest Inn in Conestogo.

The layout reminded me of places I ate at during childhood, the type of taverns that were plentiful then but have disappeared as time marched on. The long tables and area set aside for a dance floor brought back memories of many family meals at the Anderdon Tavern in Amherstburg, though we were never there for music.

We figured the Sunday night buffet was the easiest way to sample the menu. Amid the sausage, schnitzel and sauerkraut was a dish served at several restaurants in the region that I had never laid eyes on before: pigtails.

Pigtail
This required sampling...

Getting at the meat required an archaeological dig, but the result was worth it. The taste reminded me of sweet-glazed pork ribs. Neither of us minded the pigtail, despite the amount of gunk we cleared away.

Dancing at the Black Forest Inn (2) Dancing at the Black Forest Inn (1)
Several couples of varying age made their way to the dance floor during the meal—we counted seven or eight at peak. A trio playing standards provided the music, with the singer slipping her shoes on and off. Dancing abilities ranged from those who had clearly taken lessons to a pair of pre-teen girls goofing off with exaggerated ballroom moves. We resisted the urge to test out the floor but enjoyed watching others having a good time.

All photos taken January 25, 2009 - JB

Monday, February 02, 2009

1,481: it's groundhog day!

Wiarton Willie Statue
Six more weeks of winter...it looks like Wiarton Willie's statue will remain surrounded by snow for awhile.

Photo taken February 1, 2009 - JB