Friday, December 31, 2010

rewinding through 2010

...or an excuse to revisit some of this year's scribblings.

Historicist: Icy Discrimination (Torontoist, March 6)
Bonus Features (Blog, March 18)

The story of a discriminatory ice rink in North Toronto garnered a lot of positive feedback, including an email of thanks from the niece of one of those involved in the story.

Roncesvalles Construction Sucks (Torontoist, January 25)

Though the streetcar has returned, the bump-outs have debuted, and two-way traffic is back, Roncesvalles isn't out of the woods yet when it comes to construction chaos. More work to come in the spring.

Historicist: Measures of War (Torontoist, June 27)
Historicist: Kill Bill 99 (Torontoist, July 10)
Your G20 Stories (Blog, October 19)

Pieces written during, about, and inspired by G20 weekend.

The Empire Strikes Back (Heritage Toronto, July 28)

The first of a series of Toronto newspaper histories that should continue through 2011. - JB

Sunday, December 19, 2010

how deep is snow in metric?

Part of a series of spots from the mid-1970s, around the time Canada began its switch to metric measurement. Can't say that this message made an impression in the Windsor area during my childhood - apart from the local CBC television station, everyone continued to measure snow in inches and feet. Even now, I still convert to the old system in my mind whenever I listen to the weather.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

vintage street & smith college football ad

Vintage Ad #1,272: Who Cares?

It's cleaning time at the Warehouse. Among the scraps of paper we found were ads clipped out of college football yearbooks tossed out long ago. Most concerned "handicapping" services for die-hard sports gamblers.

We figure Baystate knew their target audience. Much like Scoreline Man, the guy boring his lady friend in the tub with the latest spreads on the Bears-Packers game looks like a stereotypical example of a man who'd use a sports handicapping service. He's an average guy with a slight paunch, receding hairline and a taste for cheap wine and cigars. What average Joe wants to endure high-pressure tactics from phone bookies? If the advertised relaxed approach pays the promised high dividends, maybe you too can use those winnings to treat your wife/partner/girlfriend/hired companion to a weekend of relaxing in a hotel jacuzzi.

Just don't bore her with two hours of conversations centred around point spreads, OK?

Source: Street & Smith 1983 College Football Yearbook - JB

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

one fine weekend of dining in montreal (1)

I Heart Cheese (2)
Rather than wrack my brain in an attempt to start this post off by waxing poetic about all things Montreal, I’m going to cut to the chase: Sarah and I recently spent a weekend there and made our stomachs very happy.

Disclaimer: Two Montreal food staples we didn’t have or barely sampled on this trip: smoked meat (almost got into line at Schwartz’s, but decided to keep my rough pattern of indulging in their famous sandwiches on every other trip to the city…and I wasn’t really in a smoked meat mood this time around) and bagels (did have one as a morning snack on Saturday, was going to bring a bag home but determined we had enough stuff to lug onto the train).

One related amusement: posters around the core for a musical about Schwartz’s. Hey readers: which Toronto culinary landmark deserves a song-and-dance ode?

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Nix No Never Not

While searching though back issues of the Toronto News for holiday-related material for an upcoming Historicist column, I stumbled upon a cartoon that seemed to fall into the genre of strips/one-offs whose plot was built around getting one of the characters to say the title in the final panel. You be the judge as to whether this style of humour still cuts the mustard a century on.

The same page of the News found the gruff old Scot on the left passing judgement on the quality of pipes found at Toronto branches of United Cigar Stores. This stereotypical depiction appeared in the retailer's advertising of the period, with different captions under his satisifed visage to suit the ad copy.

News stories on the same page:

  • A bedroom fire at 69 DeGrassi Street destroyed a $20 feather mattress belonging to a Mrs. Dowling.
  • Windsor dry goods merchant Joseph Appelbe won a partial appeal of a judicial dismissal of an injunction against the Erie Tobacco Company to cease the "obnoxious odors" eminating fom their factory. The new judgement ruled that the injunction go into effect six months later, so that Erie Tobacco could fix the problem.
  • Federal Minister of Finance W.S. Fielding returned to work after a bout of illness (referred to as "facial trouble"). A date for the resumption of reciprocity negotiations with the United States had yet to be established. The deal he reached was a key factor in the defeat of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government the following September.
  • The state treasurer of New York gave away $500 worth of gold to his office staff, orderlies, and elevator operators at the government offices in Albany.
  • Words of wisdom: "If a man's conversation is heavy it's safe to bet that his words carry but little weight."

Source: The Toronto News, December 23, 1910. - JB

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

on those days full of bad news and bumbling misadventures...

How a Gingerbread Man Relaxes

...sometimes you have to relax and let the cares of the world melt away.

Gingerbread man from Sittler's Home Baking, Conestogo, Ontario. Glass bowl from Libbey Factory Outlet, Toledo, Ohio. Milk from Tremblett's Valu-Mart, Toronto, Ontario, made foamy by a frother from IKEA. - JB

Monday, November 29, 2010

vintage woman's day ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,248: It's Not The Amount of Eggs That Concerns Us About This Cake...

This may be the grossest depiction of cake frosting we have ever encountered in a family-friendly setting. That sweet talker Betty Crocker is going to have to prepare the greatest sales pitch of her life to convince us that the greyish goop isn't a secret storehouse of toxic chemicals erupting like lava from the cake, the remnants of someone's failed attempt to digest this dessert, or a leftover sample from a toy company's quest to create a new line of novelty fake doggie doo.

Considering that the ad boasts that the cake doesn't require icing, perhaps Betty purposely instructed the photographer or paste-up artist to present a slice with frosting in an unflattering light.

Source: Woman's Day, March 1950. - JB

Monday, November 15, 2010

point pelee

From circa 1978, an ad spotlighting the annual monarch butterfly migration through Point Pelee. Note slightly-creepy soundtrack that sounds vaguely like chirping wildlife. - JB

Thursday, November 04, 2010

pumpkin burlesque

Pumpkin Burlesque (1)

TORONTO: Residents of historic Cabbagetown had the rare opportunity to witness a performance by the Folies des Citrouilles on Sunday night. Presented at the corner of Sackville and Winchester, the show provided a enjoyable evening for afficianados of vegetable variety shows. The star attraction threw the troupe's two burlesque dancers in the spotlight, as they slinkily danced their way out of heavy-duty work clothes to the strains of "I've Got You Under My Skin." The evening also included the comedy stylings of Acorn & Squash, and a stirring rendition of "Follow the Drinking Gourd."- Warehouse News Service

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

do the oxydol sparkle dance!

Vintage Ad #1,241: The Oxydol Sparkle (1)

WARNING: Health authorities in your jurasdiction caution that prolonged exposure to "Oxydol sparkle" will cause extreme expansion of cranial and facial structures. Other side effects include paralysis of the facial muscles resulting in a permanent open smile and the mutation of the epidermis into tissue resembling a line drawing.

Source: The Telegram, June 24, 1947. - JB

Friday, October 29, 2010

vintage eerie ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,185: Be a Cool Ghoul with Professional Hollywood Masks!

Can you name the movies that inspired these interpretations of classic monsters (at least two seem to be drawn from Abbott & Costello movies...)?

Source: Eerie #11, September 1967 - JB

Thursday, October 28, 2010

welcome to rob ford country

Warehouse Election Central

Special Election Edition of Adventure Comics!

So here we are, just a little over a month before Rob Ford officially assumes the duties of Mayor of Toronto. Based on the numbers from Monday night, there were slightly more people walking around Tuesday with long faces (or nursing hangovers) than those giddy at the prospect of derailing the gravy train (and nursing hangovers). The results capped a campaign where anger reigned supreme and both candidates and voters did their best to imitate the Incredible Hulk.


I admit it. I drew a line to connect the two stumps of arrow next to Joe Pantalone's name. Not my ideal candidate, but as the sort-of-stand-in for the outgoing administration, I could live with myself if I voted for him.
Neither Ford nor George Smitherman were enticing prospects. The only thing I discerned all along from the former provincial cabinet minister's campaign was that he was running for mayor just to become mayor. Give Ford credit: his policies were unpalatable, but there was no question about where he stood. Smitherman's vagueness allowed him to swing toward the right side of the spectrum when Ford gained momentum, then swing back toward the middle when he became the anointed lead for the anyone-but-Ford brigade...though Smitherman's swings weren't as wild, or bizarre, as Rocco Rossi's.

Monday, October 25, 2010

election sign department

From the Punny Election Signs Department...

My habit of madly snapping election signs subsided this year, partly because few raised by eyebrows in terms of design or uniqueness (or the headscratchers flew under my radar). Out of the signs I took pictures, this one from Peterborough wins the pun category. Despite historic associations with this candidate's last name, it's safe to assume there won't be any rebellions if he is elected.

Photo taken October 10, 2010 - JB

just a friendly reminder...

Just a Friendly Reminder...

Based on an ad that appeared during the 1969 North York municipal election campaign. - JB

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

vintage fightin' marines ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,232: Monorail, Monorail, MONORAIL!

Was this the product that inspired a certain Lyle Lanley to embark on a career of promoting the construction of monorails (and fleece unsuspecting communities across North America)?

Source: Fightin' Marines #45, January 1962. - JB

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

your g20 stories

Your G20 Stories (1)

Not long after the G20 summit, a wall was set aside in Kensington Market for anyone to relate their thoughts and memories about the events of the last weekend in June. Whether you were in or near the chaos downtown or at home glued to a blackberry or radio, it would be hard not to have a story related to the craziness that ensued.

Here's ours.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

bonus features: who'd make a better north york controller than mel lastman? NOOOBODY!

Before reading this post, check out the related article on Torontoist.

Lastman Loop
From the November 19, 1969 edition of the Enterprise (a community paper in Willowdale) comes this map of the proposed "Lastman Loop" commuter rail system. The accompanying article was titled "Lastman a-go-go," either as a nod to the times or a reference to GO Transit.

Friday, October 08, 2010

favourite movie scenes department

While sorting through mounds of childhood stuff at home over Labour Day weekend, I came across a stray card from O-Pee-Chee's Raiders of the Lost Ark trading card set featuring one of my favourite scenes from the movie.



The back of the accurately sums up the action on screen.

I saw Raiders during its first run at the theatre (whatever name it was operating under that point) in Fort Malden Mall. Given that a year earlier I had run screaming out the Capitol in Windsor when Chevy Chase became Benji in Oh! Heavenly Dog, it's a testament to see how far I'd come in a year when I took in the melting Nazi scene with no problems (other than the dude with the medallion burned into his hand looked like Dad, a resemblance which his high school students reminded him about for the next year or two). From then on, Dad had few worries about taking me to a theatre to see anything that wasn't Muppets, Disney or child-centric.

The Raiders card set was one of the first non-sports series I collected, along with Topps's tribute to Superman II. I collected few non-sports series, as gaps in the set broke up the flow of the storyline printed on the back and you couldn't sort them into teams beyond heroes and villains.

Sorting was a large part of card collecting for me—I'd sit in my room or basement for hours in imitation of Dad sorting out his newspaper and magazine clippings before taking them to his classroom. I chose a sport for that day (baseball, football or hockey), then loosened the rubber bands holding each set together and sort the cards by team. Within a month or two I'd grow bored of that order and place the cards back into their respective sets. The cards weren't a future investment but something to read and play with. Dad encouraged my collecting, partly out of memories of the collection he had as a child that my grandmother got rid of for not being an educational tool. I continued this cycle of sorting into my early teens, when my interest flagged. I tried to pick up a new pack or two of cards once a year to maintain a sense of continuity in case I ever produced any offspring who shared my interest, but even that trailed off. The investor mentality the hobby veered toward alienated me, as the product became treated like a precious commodity to be preserved beneath twelve layers of protective material. My collection was worn but well-loved, which is more valuable than the latest glossy-coated, uniform swatch-embedded piece of cardboard.

The collection is still intact, but probably not for much longer as I slowly clean out my remaining stuff from Mom's. My suspicion is that I'll keep everything up to the cusp of my teens and toss out everything after that (if you'd like to make an offer for mass quantities of worthless sports cards circa 1990, talk to me after Christmas). The Raiders of the Lost Ark set will be one of the keepers, as Indy doesn't deserve a visit to a snake-filled landfill site. - JB

Thursday, October 07, 2010

the cat who loved the sunday new york times

Sunday morning. As in many homes across North America, we ease into the day by reading the New York Times. Our brains slowly crank into gear as all three of us flip through our favourite sections, whether it be op-ed, arts coverage, or the style section to determine if anyone in the wedding notices isn't a lawyer or financial analyst.

Wait...did I say three of us?

Haruki and the Sunday New York Times (2)
It's true: besides Sarah and I, Haruki also reads the morning's headlines. Of all the newspapers that float through our homestead, it's the New York Times that draws his attention. He jumps up on the bed and promptly plants himself on whatever section is lying flat...even if I'm in the middle of reading it (especially if I’m in the middle of reading it). We've figured out that if we toss him a section neither of us is drawn to immediately (business or sports), he'll snuggle up to that cozy newsprint and stretch out on those column inches.

Haruki and the Sunday New York Times
And yet there are times where I'm convinced he is trying to read the paper. He stares down at the paper, as if he's scanning the headlines. He flips the pages with his paws, looks for a minute, then flips again. We knew he was a smart beastie, but we may be underestimating his intelligence. Perhaps his purring sounds aren't contentment at finding a comfy spot to rest with us, but his attempt to comment (in cat-ese) about American politics, mutual funds or the batting order of the Yankees. - JB, SO

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

irving the unlucky

When running for public office, candidates hope to have Lady Luck on their side. Under ideal circumstances, civic officials in waiting hope to get positive feedback from their potential constituents, score points during debates, and pray no dirt from their past resurfaces. Even if you accomplish all of that, fate may have other ideas.

Take the case of Irving Goldberg, who ran for alderman in North York's Ward 6 back in 1969. Based on this account from the Don Mills Mirror, he was plagued by misfortune throughout his campaign.

dmm 69-11-26

Goldberg's bad luck continued on election day, when he lost by just over 500 votes to optician John Knox.

Source: The Don Mills Mirror, November 26, 1969

PS: Here's what Goldberg's pharmacy looked like when Google Maps snapped a shot of 2829 Bathurst. At the time, it was an shuttered children's store. - JB

Thursday, September 30, 2010

vintage woman's day ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,219: Try This on Your Tribe!

If nothing else with spark you about Rosy Chicken Soup with crackers, the sodium will. We imagine this recipe was conceived under the following conditions:

Fred was a Nabisco test kitchen employee who was famished by the time lunch rolled around on the fateful day. He looked in his locker for something to eat and saw two cans of soup. Without noticing that they were two completely different flavours, he mixed them together. Looking for added ingredients to weaken the salty result, Fred spied milk and cheese in the fridge. "Hmmm," he thought, "if I shredded some cheese and add some crackers on top, this could be a deconstructed grilled chicken and cheese sandwich with tomato soup!" Never mind there was no grilling involved, or that Fred used the term "deconstructed" years before revered chefs did. Fred mixed the ingredients, declared it passable, then wrote down the recipe for future reference in case his bosses were in a pinch for a recipe to print on boxes or in homemaking magazines.

One relief: the non-essential native trappings extend only to the headline and the feathers worn by our happy 1950s family. Perhaps this recipe filled the need for a meal in a hurry before heading out to a sporting event featuring combatants on teams named after native tribes.

Source: Woman's Day, January 1952 - JB

Thursday, September 23, 2010

generic album review


While cleaning out a box that had been buried in the depths of my bedroom closet, I found several clippings from the year I was arts editor at the Ontarion. The piece above, printed in the fall semester's edition of the Contrarion (joke issue), was a poke at one of my least favourite duties: editing album reviews.

While there were many reviewers who did a good job of assessing the pros and cons of a given album, others made me believe they had no opinion at all. These reviews either pulled out the cliches listed above or, worse, simply listing the tracks without any indication of whether they liked the disc. I knew there were people just wanted the CD and had to go through the formality of writing something...but still. Even "song two had a nice tambourine solo" would have shown some thought.

Monday, September 20, 2010

sights on a sunday walk around toronto

The last Sunday of summer. Sunny skies, comfortable temperatures. Good conditions to spend an afternoon reaquainting myself with certain parts of downtown. I went on an amended version of the old "Sunday constitutional" route I used to walk most Sundays—instead of starting at Osgoode station and succumbing to the lure of a cheap Indian buffet, I took the Spadina car down to the top of Kensington Market. From there, it was a meandering trek down to Queen West, followed by a (brief) stop amid the crowd at the art show in Trinity-Bellwoods (the tight cluster of those browsing proved claustrophobic). From there, I strolled up Montrose to College, passing neighbours shooting the breeze on their porches and men pruning front yard foliage for elderly residents.

And then there was a sight that provides a good opportunity to haul out a well-worn logo used on this website...

Warehouse Election Central

Rocco Rossi: Bocce Balls

Election signs will soon become chic decor items in apartment windows and on city lawns. The odd poster has popped up around town, such as this one for Rocco Rossi I came across. Seems the contender (hovering, according to the poll currently grabbing attention for how far ahead Rob Ford is, in fourth place) is basing his campaign posters upon his Italian background and some of the stereotypes that go with it. Our Mayor: the goodfella.

Where was this posted? College Street on the edge of Little Italy.

Given the nature of some of Mr. Rossi's recently revealed platforms (recalls that could lead to dubious attacks from interests with specific axes to grind, the Spadina"Toronto Tunnel"), one may suspect that his bocce balls aren't implanted in his gut but his brain. One also suspects the Rossi campaign's fancy hired help are desperately trying anything to capture a moment of a voter's time. They may be succeeding, but not with the desired outcome.

Musical Chairs in Baldwin Village

While heading toward Yonge Street, I accidentally stumbled upon Baldwin Village's Pedestrian Sunday. Taking up the middle of Baldwin Street was a game of musical chairs with live accompaniment. It was tempting to stick around and see if another game ensued to test out my chair-grabbing skills, but my energy was winding down.

Waiting Room Only

While waiting for a bus at Davisville station, I took a picture of the notice painted above the entrance to the sheltered waiting area. The letters seemed to be in a similar state of decay during childhood waits for the Bayview bus. It's likely the only signage in the station to retain the classic TTC font.

Photos taken September 19, 2010 - JB

Thursday, September 16, 2010

warehouse video counter: blobby business

From the vaults (of YouTube), the Warehouse brings you the directorial debut of television star Larry Hagman (I Dream of Jeannie, Dallas). The sequel to the 1958 drive-in classic, Beware! the Blob (or Son of Blob) was among the nominees in "The Most Humiliating Performance by a Future TV Star" category in the book Son of the Golden Turkey Awards:

Amazingly enough, it took fourteen years before someone in Hollywood stepped forward to take this obvious challenge and to unfreeze the man-eating strawberry Jell-O for a second attack on the human race. The resulting sequel - inevitably called Son of Blob - defined new lows in cinematic sloppiness and left audiences longing for the sincere stupidity of the Steve McQueen original. The new film tried to combine humorous and terrifying elements in the celebrated style of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes but in its confusion failed either to frighten or to entertain. As one wag put it at the time of the film's release: "What they wanted was tongue-in-cheek, but what they got was finger-down-throat."

Treating the opportunity as something of a gag, and as a welcome opportunity for learning how to use a camera, Hagman helped persuade many of his pals from the world of TV to join in his fun by portraying bits of blob chow...They must have had a splendid time on the set, since the finished film looks like the home movie of a private party, where all the guests are so drunk or stoned that they have begun to look on every belch or hiccup by one of their friends as a brilliant bit of improvisatory humour...There is also a good deal of incoherent social commentary: Hagman the director delivers some laughably topical touches about hippies, policde brutality, drug abuse, the generation gap, and the homeless.

Not to mention slightly lecherous "hair sculptors" (Shelley Berman's sequence screams improvised, and is one of the legitmately funniest parts of the flick).

[For the curious, the winner in the category was Joan Collins running around in K-Mart finery in Empire of the Ants (1977). Other nominees included Raymond Burr (Bride of the Gorilla, 1953), Danny Thomas (lead role in the 1953 version of The Jazz Singer), Merv Griffin (Phantom of the Rue Morgue, 1954), Linda Evans (Beach Blanket Bingo, 1965) and Tom Selleck (Daughters of Satan, 1972).}

Watch for a brief appearance by the director as a hobo, alongside improv guru Del Close (who later appeared in 1988 remake of the original movie) and an uncredited Burgess Meredith. To build on Hagman's evening soap opera noteriety, the producers reissued the film in 1982 with the tagline "The film that J.R. shot!"

The Blob has received the full Criterion treatment. Son/Beware!? Not so much.

Warning!!!: This film is not recommended for viewers easily traumatized by red Jell-O attacking cute kittens or by large men wearing nothing other than a fez. - JB

stage door

Stage Door, St. Lawrence Centre

Stage Door, St. Lawrence Centre

Photos taken at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts, August 13, 2010 - JB

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

an important, almost forgotten, revelation about the joker

Vintage Ad #1,207: An Important Revelation About the Joker

The root cause of the Joker's insanity? Not a chemical bubble bath. Not an incredibly rotten day.


He doesn't like Hostess Fruit Pies!

After all, who in their right mind can resist the allure of tender crust and fruit filling full of chemical additives and globular bits that once resembled real fruit?

The Clown Prince of Crime's mistake was forgetting that since there were no donut shops in this particular precinct, the cops fulfilled their daily sugar and lard dietary requirement by purchasing fruit pies at the Kwik-E-Mart two blocks from the station.

Source: Justice League of America #142, May 1977 - JB

punny business department

Harrow Fair - It's All About Ewe

Photo taken on 3rd Concession, Kingsville, September 5, 2010 - JB

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

my conversation with yeeha!

For several years, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with internet dating. While the results were ultimately successful (as over a year-and-and-a-half with my partner-in-crime will testify), there were more than a few odd moments along the way. Sometimes the awkward moments were in public, others on a computer screen.

The latter was the case around Victoria Day weekend 2006. While cleaning out one of my email accounts, I found a transcript of a conversation on Messenger. Why email? I sent it to a couple of friends out of disbelief.

The tone of the conversation leads me to believe that I'd had an online chat with "Yeeha!" (the handle used in the transcript) at least once before. If so, I may not have noticed her odd way of "laughing" online, which was akin to the maniacal laughs found in any old J.M. DeMatteis/Keith Giffen issue of Justice League (though instead of "BWAHAHAHAHA!" she used "yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeeehahahah!").

I knew I was in for an odd session early on and should have stopped quickly. You know when you feel like you're watching a slow car wreck and know you should divert your gaze but can't? This was one of those moments. I'm human. Sue me.

We started by asking how our long weekends went—she had braved crowds at the Eaton Centre and complained about shopping-obsessed people.

Me: anything else besides fighting the crowds downtown?

Yeeha!: haaaaaaaaaa nothing much. im just sick of all those shopping obsessed people who have nothing else to do. really. its like they are so made up and they are not even good looking. they are sooo obsessed. its like get a life hahaa...i dont care. i just look at them and im like god. give it up hahaha.

Me: though i could stand to toss out a few things in a goodwill bag

Yeeha!: dont you think they are obsessed though, people here? with dressing up. i think its so primitive.

Me (trying to be balanced): some are, some aren't

Yeeha!: yeah but a lot of people i find more people are then arent

Monday, September 13, 2010

one evening at the old spaghetti factory

Vintage Ad #1,182: The Little Tramp Likes Spaghetti
Advertisement, Toronto Life, September 1972. More about this ad on Torontoist.

The Old Spaghetti Factory was a staple of my childhood. Most visits to my grandparents included at a trip down to the Esplanade to sit amid the bric-a-brac while my family ate many garlic butter-smeared pieces of bread and slurped down the headline dish. It was an ideal place for my parents to bring me and Amy: colourful, child palate-pleasing, and cheap. The recipe seems to have worked for families and tourists for the past forty years, even if patrons like the little tramp can no longer load up at a salad bar.

mutant eggplant discovered in toronto

Nosy Eggplant (1)

Place: St. Lawrence Market
Time: around 11:30 a.m., Saturday, September 11
Story: Three people browsing the produce stands lining the perimeter of the north market. One finds an unusual specimen among a large collection of eggplants. A specimen than appears to be a mutant among its kind. A specimen with a nose. Not just any nose, but one that would make Bob Hope, Jughead Jones, cartoon hillbillies, and possibly Cyrano de Bergerac proud. Shoppers passing by commented on the unique physical characteristics of this specimen. Naturally we took this eggplant home.

Nosy Eggplant (3)

Upon further inspection, it was revealed that this eggplant also had the beginnings of a tail. When placed at a certain angle, the specimen also bore a faint resemblance to a coffee pot. Whether its veins are filled with the proud pickings of Juan Valdez is subject to further investigation.

Researchers in the Warehouse's laboratory have yet to determine if this unique specimen should be immersed in a preservative fluid for long-term study or sliced up to make eggplant parmesan for the next department potluck.

Photos taken September 11, 2010 - JB

Friday, September 10, 2010

let's explore your mind, shall we?

tely 54-06-19 explore the mind

From the hobby page of the weekend edition of The Telegram comes this doozy of a syndicated column. At first glance it seems like silly fluff from the 1950s, but digging deeper reveals darker impulses at work.

A profile of Dr. Albert Edward Wiggam D.Sc.(1871-1957) in the May 1937 issue of The Rotarian noted that he was "in the vanguard of those who interpret science" and that "his contribution to popular education is beyond reckoning...why read fiction when you can read Wiggam?" On first glance, it's tempting to change one letter in Dr. Wiggam's name and imagine some distant relationship to the Wiggum family from The Simpsons (poor l'il Ralphie would fail question no. 1 miserably).

Have you ever made a list of those with whom you'd prefer to go hiking or exchange presents under a Christmas tree? Would a modern version ask who you prefer going to the gym with or exchanging songs on your iPods with? Or would Wiggam ask a cruel teenager for activities to vote on?

The references in question no. 2 to preserving species through marriage into "naturally long-lived stocks" hint at the good doctor's deep belief in the wonders of eugenics. He once wrote that "eugenics is simply evolution taken out of the hands of brute nature." Quickly scanning some of his views published in newspapers and old books that have found their way onto the internet, one finds a man whose views on "race progess" might have found a happy home in Nazi Germany...and who yet presented his thoughts to millions of readers in North America, sometimes light-heartedly.

Kinda scary when you think about it.

Question no. 3? One imagines some readers oblivious to their treatment of their children didn't like the answer.

Source: The Telegram, June 19, 1954 - JB

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

can you identify this ttc mug?


One lazy summer day, Sarah and I were taking a quick browse through the Value Village in Leslieville. At the front of the store, one item quickly caught Sarah's eye: a giant mug with the TTC logo on one side and a front end loader on the reverse.

Naturally we bought it.

I've tried to track down any information about the mug and come up with very little. The only hint on the mug itself is a 1982 copyright date under the logo. Our guesses:

  • Part of a set available only to TTC employees (supported by a similar mug with a 1981 date found on Craigslist), perhaps as part of a holiday gift box like the model cars I receive from my employer each year
  • A retirement gift
  • A commemorative item for those involved with the construction/opening of the Scarborough RT (opened 1985)

If you have any background information about this mug, please leave a comment. - JB

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

bonus features: farina takes the stage

Before reading this post, check out the related article on Torontoist.

ts 32-02-12 farina visit

From the February 12, 1932 edition of the Toronto Star, photos of the visiting Hoskins siblings. Janey (Mango) looks relaxed on the left...while Allen (Farina) is "turning the juice on" with an expression bordering on the stereotypical pop-eyed look black comedians were expected to employ onscreen at the time. It also appears that the publicity photo in the middle was taken some time earlier.

Here's four-year-old Farina demonstrating his self-preservation skills in the face of a poorly-controlled train in a clip from 1924's Sundown Ltd. - JB

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

wanted: vuarnet

Vintage Ad #1,165: Wanted: Vuarnet

Though they are not featured in this ad, hands up from any of you who owned a Vuarnet t-shirt as the 1980s drew to a close. It was an essential item around the time I left elementary/entered high school, even if it meant breaking the bank (knockoffs picked up at flea markets or sketchy mall stores were looked down upon with scorn). No matter which colour you wore (and I'll fess up to having owned them in navy blue and orange), you too could have the self-assured look that these cool cats display with their sunglasses.

I recall prodding my parents into emptying their accounts several times to match fashion trends in high school, often bought at the men's store in town. I may have had some lingering guilt, as several pricy pieces of clothing from that time survived until recent closet purges - au revoir 1991-vintage Polo oxford shirt with decade-and-a-half-old sweat stains (or years of dust) under the arm!

Source: Maclean's, April 11, 1988. - JB

past for sale

Looking Out the Front Door, early 1970s
I don't have any pictures on hand of the house on Second Concession/Fryer Street when we lived in it, but here's a shot taken from the front yard circa 1973-74. The quarry is till there, but part of the field is now occupied by an elementary school.

Amy sent me a link a couple of days ago showing that the house we grew up is up for sale. I figured it was a matter of time, as the property has been vacant for awhile (the 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper taped in the middle of the front window indicating a number to call if you noticed something funny was going on was the tipoff). It sounded as if several additions were made after we left the house twenty years ago, including a backyard pool, fireplace and a hot tub. None of these added touches appear to have increased the property's value—when I asked Mom how much we received for it, the figure was a few thousand more than the current price. The sale price likely reflects the downturn in the economy down there as much as any potential flaws with the property.

Monday, August 30, 2010

vintage windsor star ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,190: For the Love of Chicken (Swiss Chalet Comes to Windsor)

Swiss Chalet had served up its rotisserie chicken to diners in other parts of Ontario for a quarter of a century by the time it opened its first locations in Windsor in 1980. One sign a proofreader may have been asleep on the job—it's Dougall Avenue, not Dougal Rd.

The Dougall location was a frequent dinner destination during childhood. Our orders varied little: Chalet Salad (chicken chunks mixed into shredded cabbage) and a side of fries for Dad, quarter chicken breast dinners for the rest of us. Maybe a chicken sandwich once in awhile. Fulfilling my role as a human garbage disposal unit, I drank anyone's leftover Chalet Sauce that hadn't been used to coat chicken, fries or the half of a hamburger bun that came with dinner. It was fun to dunk my hands into the finger bowl filled with water and a dainty shred of lemon at the end of the meal (sorry Swiss Chalet management, but wet wipes are a wimpy substitute). My grandmother sometimes accompanied us and I wonder if a meal there was a comforting reminder of home after she moved from Toronto to Amherstburg.

Both of the Windsor locations were heavy on the faux-Euro trappings during the 1980s: medieval castle-style carvings, dark lighting, waitresses in Swiss Miss finery. Ever years after the chain switched to casual ware and a brighter atmosphere, it still feels a little odd not to see chickens rotating behind decor appropriate for a minor German prince.

Two tenants in the plaza behind the Dougall Swiss Chalet were an interesting pairing. Operating next to each other were Baskin-Robbins...and Weight Watchers. When the plaza was rebuilt years later, both remained.

Swiss Chalet currently operates three locations in Windsor, none of which are the pair that established their presence in the city.

Source: The Windsor Star, May 2, 1980 - JB

Friday, August 27, 2010

let's go to the ex food building!

1980 Food Building Report at the Canadian National Exhibition

Every year before Dad (and later Amy and I) had to return to the classroom, we’d visit my grandparents in Leaside and spent one day of the trip at the Ex. While the rides were fun, the Food Building and its array of cheap/free delights from local and major vendors was often the highlight. The odds are good I was running around (or tethered to my parents with a leash around my wrist so that I wouldn’t disappear into the crowd) the Food Building in 1980 when Canadian Grocer magazine prepared a special report/advertising section about the fair.

Even in 1980, it seems patrons were dismay by the dwindling amount of freebies exhibitors handed out each year. In an effort to bring back the “good ol’ days,” the CNE Food Products Association gave away over 10,000 food and food-related prizes on Food Products Day (August 20). Coupons were handed out that made patrons eligible to win items ranging from candy bars to Cuisinart food processors. Pipers were used to draw people to the coupon booths.

The special section provided profiles of what several key vendors offered the public that year, accompanied by colour photos. Here are the highlights (with apologies for the grainy quality of the shots).

1980 CNE Food Building: A&P
A&P Food Stores

Besides their long-running cooking demonstrations at the Kitchen Theatre in the Better Living Centre, A&P operated a booth in the food building in 1980:

This new booth served A&P’s own Bokar Coffee for 25 cents a cup, which included cake. They also offered a new deluxe 100 mL tub of ice cream for 25 cents. It was offered in four flavours...Another CNE special was Bokar Coffee at $3.50 or 8 O’Clock at $3.00 for a one pound bag. There was also a pamphlet available at the booth with an entry form for $200 worth of groceries...The booth was managed by Loretta Ring, who also manages the two cafeterias at A&P’s head office. Loretta’s staff of 14 were colourfully dressed in red jackets and caps.
Perhaps those outfits were then donated to nearby stores, as they resemble those seen in Amherstburg’s A&P for years. As my sister notes, those working the booth are smiling awkwardly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

vintage toronto daily mail ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,183: Brunner Mond

Every so often in the midst of scrolling through reels of microfilm at the Toronto Public Library, I'll find an ad or story with loose connections to Amherstburg. While researching the coverage of the death of Sir John A. Macdonald in Toronto's newspapers, I came across this ad for a company who, just over a quarter of a century later, became one of Amherstburg's largest employers.

Built between 1917 and 1919, the Brunner Mond soda ash plant provided Amherstburg with both jobs and an improved water supply thanks to a filtration facility the company built. Later known as Allied Chemical and General Chemical, the plant operated until 2005. The Brunner Mond name lives on in a boat launch along the Detroit River (Bru Mon Harbour Marina, formerly used by plant employees as the Brunner Mond Yacht Club) and a side street near the plant where the company once built homes for its employees (Brunner Avenue).

Note that the Mail had a header specially made for advertisers in the alkali business.

Source: The Toronto Daily Mail, June 10, 1891. - JB

Sunday, August 22, 2010

by the numbers

Numerals in Different Languages

Photo taken in a parking garage along Washington Street in Ann Arbor, August 10, 2010. - JB

Thursday, August 05, 2010

vintage toronto star ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,162: Odd Pants, Get Your Odd Pants! Starting at 69 Cents! Get Your Odd Pants...

A lesson in how to make a retailer's leftovers sound attractive.

Question: were there any special, unprinted deals for regulars of the mission across the street (say, very special odd pants or suits to help somebody down on their luck climb back up the ladder of life)?

Source: The Toronto Star, July 6, 1928. - JB

Saturday, July 31, 2010

random notes

While shopping at St. Lawrence Market early this afternoon, the front page of the Toronto Sun caught my eye. The Summerworks theatre festival was the target of their trademark sensationalism-in-the-name-of-showing-easily-outraged-taxpayers-where-their-money-is-being-wasted-today. Seems one of the plays takes a sympathetic view toward a convicted member of the Toronto 18. Cue outrage from politicians and lobby groups sympathetic to the paper's editorial tilt. Talk about lazy: of course if you ask the Canadian Taxpayers Federation what they think of funding anything vaguely artistic or fun, the answer is going to be no. Too predictable, too pat, too much of a reconfirmation of the views of the paper's readership.

And the play hasn't even opened yet.

Summerworks's blog has responded.


Speaking of the Sun, amid some research I've done through its back pages lately and a recent find at Value Village, there will be upcoming posts devoted to oddball discoveries in its pages. Hint: the weekend funny pages.


Haruki's Temporary Home

One week in and I think Sarah's "sweet beastie" Haruki is starting to settle into his new surroundings. After a couple of rough nights earlier this week, Sarah put out a box of towels, hoping that a reminder of his old home might help with the transition. So far, they aren't working too badly...

This is going to be an interesting experience, considering that this is the first time in my third-of-a-century on Earth that I have lived with a pet. Given my oft-strained relations with the rest of the animal kingdom, perhaps this will turn out to be a mellowing experience...once Haruki ceases to be afraid of me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

the ever-inventive nancy finds a cure for the neighbourhood mosquito infestation

All was going well until, distracted by further questioning from Sluggo, Nancy accidentally opened her eyes...

Strip originally published August 5, 1953. Nancy © United Media - JB

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

elizabeth street scene, 1934

Photograph by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10091.

According to the City of Toronto Archives, these pictures show a "traffic tie up on Elizabeth Street south of Dundas with truck having lost a rear wheel parked on tracks on Elizabeth Street delaying a Peter Witt streetcar on the Dundas route" on January 10, 1934.

Photograph by Alfred Pearson. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 10092.

This incident may not have made it into the day’s papers, but Elizabeth Street figured in two stories in the following day’s edition of the Star. A front page headline noted that “GAMBLING DENS THRIVE IN CITY HALL’S SHADOW OPEN TO ALL COMERS.” An undercover reporter, “who had never placed a bet or risked a nickel in any public gambling house,” visited three bookie joints within three blocks of (Old) City Hall. Among those stops was “a rendezvous on Elizabeth Street” that was “known to the sophisticated. The reported wasn’t asked any questions by the doorman as he passed through a set of swinging doors into a dimly-lit room where wagering over cards and horse races moved at pace “that only experts could keep track of.” The venue, referred to as “Joe’s Place,” was staffed by four men: “Joe,” who kept his ear on the telephone for race results and handed out money to lucky bettors; “Slim,” who took the money and looked after the book; a blackjack dealer; and “a prosperous-looking Chinese who hovered in the background and put in a word now and again to keep things running smoothly.” The reporter had mixed luck in the smoky room—a horse bet turned a profit, while a lucky streak at blackjack quickly turned sour.

The other reference to Elizabeth Street was found in the “Shopping with Estelle” column, where thrifty consumers were notified that Goodman’s at the corner of Elizabeth and Dundas was having a liquidation sale. Noted as one of the oldest stores in the Ward neighbourhood, Estelle wrote that “Goodman’s have so long been identified with this romantic district that they need no introduction from me,” which is the first time I have ever seen the Ward described as “romantic.” Estelle recommended picking up new dress arrivals from New York ($5.95 each), which were “the sort of dress you will wear, with a certain swagger to your bridge club or out to dinner.”

Additional material from the January 11, 1934 edition of the Toronto Star. - JB

Monday, July 26, 2010

vintage maclean's ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,166: Would You Trust This Salesman?

Potential lines delivered by this slightly-creepy salesman:

"Hey baby, wanna check out my luminar?"
"I like my ladies pencil-thin, like my mustache."
"I've got 500 lines of picture clarity ready for your viewing pleasure."

If you know one or four hundred and ninety-seven additional bad pickup (or sales pitch) lines this lovely fellow would have delivered to unsuspecting customers and dates, let us know.

Warehouse management notes that we're knackered after a busy week and that we gave in to the lure of cheesy humour that this ad's headline begs for. Any complaints can be directed to the offical Warehouse decency monitor, Sam Eagle.

Source: Maclean's, February 7, 1987 - JB