Monday, June 24, 2013

vintage family circle ad of the day

Vintage Ad #2,266: Spinning Top at the Beach?
Source: Family Circle, July 29, 1969.
With the current heat wave slamming Toronto, it's tempting to run to the nearest beach to keep cool. But when even a dip in the lake isn't enough to cool you down, yet you want to remain outdoors, desperate measures are called for.

Which brings us to this beach beauty's innovation: the human spinning top. As you spin in your preferred direction (I prefer clockwise), air flowing through the portholes will keep you cool as a cucumber. Spinning might make you dizzy, but who says that keeping cool and stylish doesn't come without costs?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

past pieces of toronto: the (mutual street) arena

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 February 26, 2012, and has been modified to replace incorrect information. This article also formed the basis of a piece I wrote for Heritage Toronto in March 2013.

Arena Gardens interior, between 1940 and 1960. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 964.
How to eliminate competition: according to veteran Star sports columnist Jim Proudfoot, when Conn Smythe built Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931 he was determined that the Maple Leafs’ former home on Mutual Street would never host another professional hockey game. One morning, he sent a message to staff at the old venue offering all of them work at his new facility. The catch? The jobs were only available until Smythe left for lunch at 12:15 p.m. The staff raced up to the construction site on Carlton Street, leaving no one behind to watch the furnace that powered the building’s ice-making equipment. When the flames died out, the pipes burst and destroyed the ice plant.

If the tale is true, Smythe achieved his goal. Pro hockey was never again played at the Mutual Street site. But it wasn’t the end of a building that adopted many guises over a 77-year history. Whether the venue on the west side of Mutual Street between Shuter and Dundas was called the Arena, Arena Gardens, Mutual Street Arena or The Terrace, it provided entertainment for generations of Torontonians.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

bonus features: goodbye historic concourse building, hello ernst & young tower

This post offers supplementary material for a recent Torontoist article, which you should read first before diving into this post.

Mosaics by J.E.H. MacDonald on the arch of the entrance to the Concourse Building. Photo taken June 18, 2013.
Whatever your opinion on the merits of facadism, it is a relief to know that the surviving pieces of J.E.H. MacDonald's work on the Concourse will live on in its successor. I wonder if anyone has approached Oxford Properties to include poetry in the foyer as the Concourse originally did. There are several approaches that could work:
  • Restore the poetry that graced the Concourse in 1929.
  • Add in appropriate verse from poets of that era who weren't represented in the Concourse.
  • Assign current poets to provide fresh verse.
  • Utilize poetry about Toronto.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

past pieces of toronto: shopsy's on spadina 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 May 6, 2012.

Shopsy's, Spadina Avenue north of Dundas Street, 1968. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1567, Series 648, File 246.
To what lengths would loyal customers go to grab a sandwich from Shopsy’s? During a severe snowstorm in the mid-1940s, one man skied over to purchase a pastrami sandwich. Such was the dedication regulars had during the deli’s 60-year run at 295 Spadina Avenue.

The business began in 1921, when Harry and Jenny Shopsowitz opened an ice cream parlour in front of their home on Spadina, just north of Dundas Street. A selection of deli items was soon added, with corned beef based on a family recipe from Poland becoming the specialty of the house. In her novel Basic Black with Pearls, writer Helen Weinzweig depicted the deli during its early years: "In my time it had been a small delicatessen. I remembered Shopsy’s parents. They stood at the steam table from morning to night, pale and patient, wearing long white aprons, their faces moist from the steamer. They were unfailingly benign towards children."

Friday, June 14, 2013

famous monsters of filmland presents the funtastic adventures of dr. who


While sorting through the stacks of magazines residing in the official warehouse coffee table, I came across the lone issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland I've ever possessed. Fueled by the horror movie boom on television during the 1950s, editor Forrest J. Ackerman cultivated many a budding film buff with a mix of classic movie stills and articles geared to a younger audience. I picked up this issue out of curiosity amid a stack of 1970s Marvel black-and-white magazines for 50 cents at the K-W Bookstore in downtown Kitchener years ago. Juvenile, but fun to flip through for its great images and breathless prose.

Not mentioned on the cover of the Bicentennial month edition is the second-longest feature in the issue, a profile of a long-running British sci-fi television series which had been shown in a few American markets since 1972: Doctor Who.

Monday, June 10, 2013

past pieces of toronto: 811 gerrard street and the messages of morris silver

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 29, 2012.
Morris Silver protesting the Bank of Nova Scotia. The Toronto Star, July 22, 1976.
Morris Silver loved attention. The retired dry cleaner was a passionate, opinionated man who let everyone know what he thought about matters that deeply concerned him, especially political issues and people who knocked back a drink before jumping behind the wheel. The storefront that once housed his Handy Andy’s cleaning business at 811 Gerrard St. E. near Logan Avenue was illustrated with amusing hand painted messages such as “DRUNK DRIVERS ARE…LOUSY LOVERS SOBER DRIVERS PUCK MUCH BETTER” and “WELCOME TO METRO SURVIVORS FROM QUEBEC. IN ONTARIO, WE SPEAK, LAUGH, ADVERTISE, SING, DANCE, PLAY, DO HANKY PANKY AND PROPOGATE FREELY IN 156 LANGUAGES.”

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

bonus features: one hundred years of art at the grange

This post offers supplementary material for a recent Torontoist article, which you should read first before diving into this post.
Goldwin Smith with dog in front of the Grange, 1905. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
A slice of life photograph at the Grange in the years between the house was willed to the Art Museum of Toronto (as the AGO was originally known) by Harriette Boulton Smith in 1902 and the opening of its first onsite exhibition 100 years ago today.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

past pieces of toronto: speakers corner

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 22, 2012.

They seemed like just another bunch of goofy guys crammed into the booth at the corner of Queen and John Streets. Paying a dollar destined for a charity gave them two minutes in the spotlight. As the camera clicked on that day in March 1991, they sang. The tune was about asking a girl to be their Yoko Ono, complete with Yoko-style shrieks. While other musicians earned little more than a brief appearance on CITY TV, a visit to Speakers Corner helped propel the career of the Barenaked Ladies.

Speakers Corner was installed sometime after CITY moved into the former Ryerson Press building in 1987 and was among the quirky innovations programmer Moses Znaimer developed at the station. The public’s views on virtually anything quickly proved a useful addition to the station’s newscasts. In 1990, producer Peter Whittington proposed a weekly half-hour show built around Speakers Corner, with clips linked by themes like politics and the battle of the sexes. Costing little to produce, the series debuted that September. The Star’s Antonia Zerbisias called Speakers Corner “a clever little show” which “covered everything from stupid tongue tricks to propositions to CITY personnel.”