Thursday, May 30, 2013

bonus features: "bravo for the women of canada"

This post offers supplementary material for a recent Torontoist article, which you should read first before diving into this post.
Cartoon by Andy Donato, the Toronto Sun, January 30, 1988.
One of the pleasant surprises I discovered while researching this story was that all of Toronto’s major newspapers agreed that the Supreme Court of Canada made the right decision to kill the existing federal abortion law. There were notes of caution (the Sun’s editorial strongly recommended counselling on alternatives and birth control, while the Star suggested some controls would be necessary), but they weren’t accompanied by troglodytic language.

I was impressed by the Sun’s coverage—it was very even-handed, to the extent of a point/counterpoint piece where representatives from pro-choice and anti-abortion groups were given space to state their views side-by-side. There was one exception, and it’s a doozy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

past pieces of toronto: eaton's college street

From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. The following was originally posted on May 27, 2012. 

Front cover of special number of The Eaton News showing Eaton’s College Street. City of Toronto Archives, Series 682, Subseries 1, File 34.
Once upon a time, a major retailing family decided that College and Carlton Streets would replace Queen Street as the city’s main east-west artery. They intended to erect one of the world’s largest retail/office complexes at the southwest corner of Yonge and College. Though reality intervened, the end result, the Eaton’s College Street store, was hardly a letdown.

Eaton’s began assembling land at Yonge and College prior to World War I. When construction began in 1928, Eaton’s envisioned a seven-storey base housing a store topped by an office tower rising 670 feet into the sky. While all of Eaton’s merchandise and offices were intended to move from its collection of buildings off Queen Street, company officials later admitted they lacked the resources to pull off the full transfer. Thanks to a combination of worsening economic conditions, problems with building over Taddle Creek and the vagueness of the tower plans (apparently the sketches made no provision for elevators or stairs), only the base was built.

Friday, May 17, 2013

bonus features: 10 scrivener square

This post offers supplementary material for a recent Ghost City column written for The Grid, which you should read first before diving into this post.

Source: The Globe, September 10, 1915.
Besides Mayor Tommy Church, at least two other people spoke during the September 9, 1915 cornerstone ceremony for the Canadian Pacific Railway's new North Toronto station. CPR general manager A.D. MacTier thanked everyone for their assistance in initializing the project: “I hope that through this gathering I may be able to get to know your city officials, businessmen and the public generally, believing as I do that only by much personal friendship and knowledge of each other’s aims and needs can that mutual understanding and respect be created, without which the proper amicable relations between a large public utility and the people of a great city can neither be created nor maintained.”

Also speaking was jurist William Mulock, who referred to the ongoing conflict in Europe. According to the Globe, Mulock “observed that the Empire was engaged in a gigantic struggle, but ultimate victory for Britain and her allies was certain. The action of the CPR showed that they had confidence in the future, which had in store greater things for Canada and for the whole British Empire.”

Thursday, May 16, 2013

bonus features: opposing the subway

This post offers supplementary material for a recent edition of Historicist posted on Torontoist, which you should read first before diving into the following text.

Headline, the Toronto Star, December 18, 1958.
Accompanying several of the stories I drew upon were plenty of  screaming front-page headlines. Or at least there were in the Star and the Telegram - it appears the Globe and Mail thought they were below their sober, reserved standard. TTC Chairman Allan "Lampy" Lamport soon caused enough problems for the transit provider on his own when he resigned his position several weeks later.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

a tale of two game 7s

Click image for larger version of the front page of the May 2, 1993 edition of the Toronto Star.
I expected to run into honking cars galore.

Given last night was do-or-die time for the Maple Leafs, I figured there would be mass celebrations if they managed to survive the first round of the playoffs. In the checkout line at the Vic Park and Gerrard FreshCo, the customer ahead of me asked the clerk if she had heard any game updates. She had—it looked like the boys in blue were headed to victory.

Mentally noting that the game was almost over, I anticipated running into happy, honking fans spilling onto the streets. Drove west along Danforth. Nothing. Deciding I wanted to discover the result organically, the dial on my radio developed an allergy to hockey games.

The streets were still quiet when I reached home. No honking in the distance as there was when the Leafs won their first match in the series. Overtime, perhaps?

A quick glance at social media told me all I needed to know. It was going to be a silent night.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

past pieces of toronto: fran's st. clair avenue

From November 2011 through July 2012 I wrote the "Past Pieces of Toronto" column for OpenFile, which explored elements of the city which no longer exist. The following was originally posted on April 15, 2012.

Advertisement, the Globe and Mail, January 22, 1948.
The man probably struck the staff of Fran’s on St. Clair Avenue as eccentric. Most nights, he dropped into the 24-hour diner around 2 a.m., bundled up in a heavy coat regardless of weather, gloves covering his hands. Whether he spoke through his scarf or not, the order was the same every time: a plate of scrambled eggs. Given his nocturnal habits and its close proximity to his apartment, pianist Glenn Gould became a Fran’s fixture.

Catering to the habits of night owls like Gould was one reason the original location of Fran’s stayed in business for 61 years. As longtime customer Shirley Olejko told the Star when the restaurant closed in 2001,”when you were partying, after a long night you came here because nothing else was open.”
Francis Deck had worked for his brother’s Buffalo-based Deco restaurant chain for two decades before establishing his own 10-stool diner at 21 St. Clair Avenue West in 1940. The menu consisted of comfort foods like burgers (Fran’s introduced the banquet burger) and salads enhanced by dressings developed by Deck’s wife Ellen. The formula worked well, as the Decks opened two more locations by 1950.

Friday, May 10, 2013

ten years of gold

This is the first and last reference to Kenny Rogers in this post. Apologies to  fans of "The Gambler" hoping for more.

Tomorrow marks a decade since I jotted my first random thought online. The site has waxed and waned, from periods of prolific posting to a depository of reprints from defunct outlets. What started as an attempt to resurrect my university journal writing habit became the launch pad for my current writing career, even if many early entries were little more than text messages which I later wiped out.

The earliest screen capture I could find of the site, snapped June 2, 2004.
The ongoing process of reformatting and cleaning up old entries has revealed plenty of changes over the past decade. In May 2003, I had long dropped the notion of working at Canadian Tire’s head office for two years before moving on to something else. By year four, a comfort zone had set in. Yet old creative impulses reassert themselves. Writing had been a painful process since the black comedy of The Ontarion, an experience whose legacy would probably be diagnosed as a mild case of post-traumatic stress disorder. It didn’t help that an attempt to restart a written journal/scrapbook died when that notebook vanished along with the backpack it was resting in. Observing the world of blogs which emerged at that time, I thought it might be fun to see where writing one might lead to. One without flashing letters and bad MIDI files.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

vintage facial massage equipment department

Source: the News, December 15, 1911
Initially I thought this piece was typical advertorial copy of the period. Reading on, a couple of things jumped out at me: no reference to a specific distributor/manufacturer, no mailing address, and no customer testimonials. It's a legitimate story about the latest innovations in facial massage technology.

It's easy to see why this invention never caught on - if the facial contraption fell off, drowning was a giant risk. If anything, this contraption resembles a proto-snorkel -- the inventor might have better directed his energy to developing deep-sea diving equipment.

Monday, May 06, 2013

these are a few of my favourite things

Vintage Ad #2,244: 21 of my favourite things (3)

While processing a pile of backlogged vintage ads awhile back, I encountered a set of spots from a batch of mid-1980s issues of Maclean's promoting a period creamy liqueur. Each ad listed 21 favourite items of models straight from Eighties central casting. Which made me think: what would a list of 21 of my favourite things look like?

I loathe making "favourite" lists of any sort. Compiling "top ten" lists makes me shudder. Yet I love reading them. Go figure.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

shameless self-promotion department

ITEM! If it's the first weekend in May, it's time for Jane's Walk. In just six years the annual event has grown from a handful of strolls around Toronto to walks in 25 countries. I've enjoyed the walks I've joined, and decided this year to lead one.

Toronto has long enjoyed one of the most competitive newspaper markets in North America. With no fewer than three major competing dailies at any time since the 1870s, Toronto readers are accustomed to a broad range of editorial viewpoints. Our papers have been run by a cast of characters including philanthropists, labour and social activists, political parties, comic strip enthusiasts, lousy businessmen, and Fathers of Confederation. The behind-the-scenes stories were often as dramatic as those that were printed in the pages of publications bearing banners like Empire, Globe, Mail, News, Star, Sun, Telegram, and World.

This walk will look at the sites where the news was produced, and how those sites were used as public gathering places, especially during election campaigns. We’ll reflect on the architecture lost when the cluster of newspaper offices around King and Bay gave way to financial towers. We’ll explore the circumstances under which some of today’s major dailies were born, and how nearly-forgotten papers died.

Where: Starting at the southeast corner of King Street East and Leader Lane (across the street from the King Edward Hotel).

When: Sunday, May 5, 2013, 2 p.m.

ITEM! Woke up to great news yesterday morning -- Kevin Plummer and I were nominated for a National Magazine Award in the "Blogs" category for our work on Torontoist's "Historicist" column. We've got pretty good company in our category [PDF of all nominees]. Coming on the heels of the column's fifth anniversary, this is a great honour. The winners will be announced on June 7.

vintage cringe-inducing medical breakthrough department

Source: the Telegram, March 22, 1922.
The same day that the Toronto Star heralded the work of Frederick Banting, Charles Best, J.B. Collip, J.J.R. Macleod and their associates for giving those afflicted with diabetes a "message of hope," this disgusting "medical breakthrough" appeared in the Telegram. I believe the same technology has been employed in fiction to cure vampirism. I also don't doubt that stories like this warmed the hearts of casually racist readers, or those who might have believed such a quack invention would truly improve humanity.