Monday, June 28, 2010

vintage toronto world ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,110: Squeezing Pimples

Long before innocent victims of zits were urged to Oxycute them, sufferers of acne, boils and other facial skin eruptions were urged to try quack medicines like Stuart's Calcium Wafers. Besides working their magic on pimples, these wafers were also touted as a remedy for constipation, liver problems, nerve damage, "and all disorders and symptoms arising from impure blood."

One group who took issue with the product's claims of "scientifically" treating pimples were health authorities. The "Propaganda for Reform" column (PDF) of the June 1, 1918 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association determined that not only were the manufacturer's claims about the wafers being safe for children and containing no poisonous ingredients were "false and misleading," but that the remedy "did contain a poisonous ingredient, to wit, strychnin."

Source: The Toronto World, March 25, 1910 - JB

Friday, June 25, 2010

random notes (g20 edition)

Important Notice to CIBC Users During G20 Summit

So here we are. A billion bucks worth of security that has left many Torontonians unhappy to have a police state thrust upon them for an early summer weekend. A city presented to foreign dignitaries and media with phony lakes. A city with businesses and institutions normally viewed as showcase attractions to outsiders that have been shuttered out of fear of potential riot damage. These elements, and many others surrounding the G20 summit, have prompted severe fits of headscratching. At last check, admissions to local hospitals due to extreme scalp damage have gone up 600% over the past month.

Thanks Stephen...heck, you even caused the Eternal Flame of Hope to flame off.


Curiosity prompted me to walk along King Street last night to see how preparations were going for the G20 summit before the craziness kicked into full gear. Civilians were few amid the packs of police officers. Most of the law enforcement officials I passed were in groups of eight to ten and were either chatting normally amongst themselves or trading jokes with tourists. Near the Royal Alex, I overheard a young female tourist with a heavy British accent tell an officer "if I come back for the protests, maybe I'll run into you!" Everyone laughed.

Based on the riot helmets each officer carried, I doubt there will be much more light-hearted interaction with civilians for the rest of the weekend.

The lack of the usual Thursday night hustle and bustle around the Entertainment District was eeriest near Bathurst Street. All bars and eateries were dark along King and the lack of people made me feel like I had survived an apocalyptic event and was on the prowl for others who escaped the catastrophe.

Security guards I passed wore "why me" expressions on their faces, especially those on the fringes of the security perimeter. They clearly wished they were elsewhere or had something to read. One poor fellow at King and Yonge shrugged as I wandered by his window.


As I got off the bus this morning, I noticed two guys in newsboy-style costumes holding up "newspapers" with a large monetary figure as the headline. I was too far away to make out what they were yelling, so I assumed they were G20 protestors making their case outside the subway entrance at the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton. As I drew closer, my camera was on standby to chronicle a protest so far away from the main action of the day.

The opportunity to be a frontline news reporter evaporated quickly. These newsies weren't delivering their views on the controversies surrounding the summit. They weren't pitching satirical attacks against the man. These dudes weren't even protesting.

They were pushing a $50 million lottery draw.

The only battle was a struggle for sidewalk space with commuters and orange bib-clad distributors of 24 Hours who have manned the intersection all week. Given Yonge and Eglinton's cluster of office buildings and residential towers, the intersection is a natural magnet to anyone eager to hand out any slip of paper for a health club deal, new food product, newspaper, religious tract, etcetera, to innocent pedestrians.

I mentioned the lottery newsies to a coworker who had also seen them on their way into work and who shared the same initial reaction. Their disappointment ran deeper, thanks to the newsies's waste of a few good trees.


Speaking of handouts at Yonge and Eglinton, there were many smiling people out today. One set of green shirts wished to educate the public about TD Canada Trust services, while another forced people to smile for the camera for a free sample of Greg's vanilla ice cream. One batch of hander-outs, if positioned further downtown, could have posed a security risk: for the second time in recent weeks, bottles of Frank's Red Hot Sauce were being given out gratis. Think of the following scenario: an angry protestor gets their hands on a bottle, breaks off the cap, tosses tasty mix of cayenne peppers and vinegar into eyes of unprepared officer during demonstration. Chaos ensues.

(We would like to thank the media and government officials for leading innocent minds to imagine such situations)


This week's Historicist column (which I'll be cranking out tonight) just received a boost from the news this morning that the province quietly gave the go-ahead to law enforcement to arrest more freely near the security zone. This isn't the first time that a stronger hook for a piece I'm writing has fallen from the sky late in the writing process...and this one fits so well. Watch for the column on Torontoist tomorrow, along with ongoing G20 coverage all weekend.

Photo at CIBC branch taken June 17, 2010 - JB

Thursday, June 24, 2010

bonus features: better copies now!

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

Vintage Ad #145 - We Want Our Apeco Roll-O-Matic Now!

This ad has proven to be one of the most popular I've posted on the web, with over 2,300 views (and counting) since I uploaded it to Flickr in 2007. An interesting perspective was recently submitted by "Don ITW", who worked in the copier industry:

I actually worked on Apeco Rollo Matics. With over 30 years working on copiers they where the absolute worst machine I ever worked on.
Last time I saw one was in about 1981. The Apeco office was located on Aimco Blvd in Mississauga, the building was purchased by Savin ( became part of Ricoh) the rollomatics went in the dumpster.

They where always blue I never new until I saw this ad that optional colours where available. Funny the colour of the dumpsters was also blue! The building on Aimco was very flashy (sexy) slanted glass front it is consistent with the image in this ad.

So much for liberating the humble office worker.

I suspect many of my co-workers would picket the copier on our floor, which has long been the bane of our existence. Rarely a week goes by without a visit from a repairman, whose remedies are short-lived. Though the copier's vendor will take the beast back once the contract is over, I have often thought it might make a nice charitable gesture (and stress-reliever) to adapt an event from high school: instead of taking whacks with a mallet at a car the shop class was finished with, anyone working on my floor could line up, pay a nominal fee to our corporate charity, slide on a pair of safety goggles and smash the copier to bits. - JB

Monday, June 21, 2010

doctor tongue's 3-d house of interviews

Another wonderful find from Retrontario: from 1981, Elwy Yost interviews legendary 3-D movie star Dr. Tongue on Saturday Night at the Movies, who happens to look a lot like John Candy. Note how Elwy is totally in the spirit of the thing.

For those of you not familiar with the cinematic oeuvre of Dr. Tongue, enjoy one of his first films, Dr. Tongue's Evil House of Wax, as taken from a 1977 ad for Monster Chiller Horror Theatre.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

vintage toronto telegram ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,147: BP Helps Your Child Understand Nature

While this giveaway may have helped children discover nature, its lessons didn't sink in for executives at BP. My jaw dropped when I stumbled upon this ad while doing research at the Toronto Reference Library last night. In light of the disaster unleashed by BP in the Gulf of Mexico, this product seems like a sick joke.

I may have owned a copy of this album when I was a kid. It resembles one I dimly remember leafing through at my grandparents in Toronto—the cover was green, the "pictures" were stamps you licked and pressed onto the pages with care. Since I wouldn't have touched the album until a decade after today's ad appeared, my guess is either a family member stockpiled stickers for future use or BP felt an educational impulse more than once.

Source: The Toronto Telegram, October 29, 1970. - JB

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

are milkmen careless in riverdale?

Milk Program at Manning Avenue School, April 27, 1923. City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Subseries 32, Item 711. We know this picture wasn't taken in Riverdale, but it was the most appropriate picture we could find that was taken in Toronto within two decades of today's tale.

A tidbit tucked away in a roundup of news from the east side of Toronto in the June 2, 1911 edition of the Evening Telegram:

"There's more broken glass around the streets of Riverdale than was ever seen before," said the father of a little girl whose foot had been in contact with part of a broken milk bottle, "and milkmen are the worst offenders, for if they get a broken bottle they rarely carry it to a safe place, but throw it into a vacant lot, or even into the street."
Other stories in the roundup included the arrival of two carloads of steel to be used for the Queen Street viaduct, the laying of streetcar track on the Wilton Avenue bridge (now Dundas Street East), the erection of hydro poles on streets north of Danforth Avenue, and an angry property owner in North Riverdale who wished the city would throw its energy into building a promised sewer pipe along Danforth east of Pape instead of building the Bloor viaduct. "The class of houses going up in this district is fairly good," he noted, "but the absence of sewerage will prevent better class dwellings being built."

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

life in the fresh lane at cultures

Vintage Ad #1,111: Life in the Fresh Lane

Maybe it's me, but something in our office drone/rising executive's expression suggests he'd rather have anything other than quiche for lunch. He doesn't care if it's a macrobiotic meal or a fat, juicy hamburger with extra bacon and cheese. He wants something that won't make him a poster boy for 1980s "fresh food" clich├ęs. If I'm wrong, and he can't wait to tear into his coffee, quiche and salad, then perhaps his pdd look betrays thoughts of "has the d@*m picture been taken yet?"

For readers having trouble deciphering the green text to the left of the diner, here's what your eyes are failing to register:

Free of one big worry. Eating right without wasting time. Where else can you choose from superb salads, quiches, soups and sandwiches and be at your table in minutes? No one has to give up fresh to get fast.

Cultures was the healthiest option when the food court opened at Windsor's Devonshire Mall in the 1980s. Mom frequently ordered their food while Amy and I ran off to seek other forms of fast food. That location is long gone, as are most locations outside of the GTA and scattered spots across the rest of the country. Based on sideways glances over the years, the visual appeal of Cultures food went downhill over time, which may have been one reason for the chain's decline (though their website touts a revival in fortunes). One item I continued to stop for: soft-serve frozen yogurt, usually the vanilla/strawberry twist, which has a tang that indicates the presence of a bacterial culture.

Cultures's website touts the bright look of their current locations. I haven't been up by the large eatery in the Toronto Eaton Centre for awhile to see if it has become a sunnier dining spot, but the dark lighting and feeling of empty space it had for a long time gave off sad vibes. It felt like the sort of place where the man in the ad might have stayed in the fresh lane only as long as it took to order his meal and flee back to his office.

Source: Macleans, June 26, 1989 - JB

photo du jour

Glass Tower at Ireland Park (1)

This column of light is part of a memorial in Ireland Park (behind the Canada Malting silos) that honours those who fled from the famine in Ireland in 1847 to start a new life in Toronto. Of the more than 38,000 Irish who arrived in the city, 1,100 died before the year drew to a close.

Ireland Park is one of the eeriest spots in the city at night. Sculptures depicting the emaciated victims of famine become haunted spectres in the dark. The column of light feels like a device from a sci-fi or horror movie that a scientist tests out too soon with tragic results (as in the Cronenberg version of The Fly).

Photo taken June 3, 2010. More photos from this walk from my Flickr stream and from hyfen. - JB

Thursday, June 03, 2010

dawn of the king's highways in ontario

me 30-03-20 kings highways signs
Source: The Mail and Empire, March 20, 1930

A tidbit I found while researching a recent Historicist post. Since the current series of highway route markers was introduced in 1993 "The King's Highway" moniker has gradually vanished from Ontario's roadways, along with many of the highways themselves—thanks Mike Harris! For most of the system's existence, the name has been a misnomer, since Ontario's official head of state has been a queen (sorry QEII).

As for Minister of Highways George Stewart Henry, he left the position he had held since 1923 in December to become Premier of Ontario after Howard Ferguson resigned to become Canada's High Commissioner in London. Henry's name lives on in the North York neighbourhood named after his farm.

More info: The History of Ontario's King's Highways features a history of route signage in the province. - JB