Wednesday, December 31, 2014

warehouse cocktail bar department: new year's eve suggestions, 1970s style

Saturday Night, December 1976.
With tonight being New Year's Eve, the time seems right to post a pile of booze ads with drink suggestions which were tucked away in a mid-1970s edition of Saturday Night magazine.

Don't fret if you don't have a magnifying glass, as you can click on any of the images for a larger version. Feel free to substitute your favourite brand, which may be unavoidable for long-gone labels.

Monday, December 22, 2014

bear-ing it all

Saturday Night, November 1977.
Sometimes, while looking for material around the home office for upcoming articles, I stumble upon items I forgot I had which would have been useful at a particular time. Such was the case last night as I was prepping for this week’s installment of my "Vintage Toronto Ads" column for Torontoist. Flipping through a stack of 1970s Saturday Night magazines next to my desk, I discovered the cover shown above.

Friday, December 05, 2014

au revoir, world's biggest bookstore building

It’s not so much that the former World’s Biggest Bookstore is being knocked down that bugs me. Nor that the site may become a parking lot (Toronto’s favourite temporary solution to demolitions during the 1960s/70s) while the property’s owner abandons plans for a “restaurant row” in favour of a rezoning application.

No, it’s the fact that Indigo didn’t remove the store’s shelving before the wrecking ball made its first punch. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

warehouse video department: murdoch mysteries

This summer, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for an online bonus feature for Murdoch Mysteries. After quickly slipping back in time to tour the show’s sets, the camera rolled. Here’s the result – I show up around the 1:55 mark to discuss the state of automobiles in Toronto during the early Edwardian era.

Between this, giving a talk to a local historical society a few weeks ago, and leading a heritage walking tour this summer, my confidence in my public speaking ability has skyrocketed. It’s a sideline worthy of further exploration as a sideline to my freelance activities. Fingers crossed that I can tap into more opportunities like these. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

less-than-great moments in toronto municipal election history department: anne mcbride, 1980

Toronto Sun, November 3, 1980.
After a nine-month slog, the 2014 municipalelection campaign draws to a close today. Amid its stranger-than-fiction twists and turns, a sad truth has emerged: there is a segment of Torontonians who have discovered they can get away with boldly displaying small-minded attitudes we like to sweep under the carpet. As Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise observed in atweet this morning referring to a gawdawful Andy Donato cartoon of Olivia Chow published in the Sun, one of the campaign's big problems is "that we've given racists, sexists, xenophobes a platform of legitimacy in TO politics." From attacks on Chow's ethnicity to the mutilation of signs for Islamic candidates, it hasn't been pretty.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

vote brillinger (the druggist)

The Telegram, December 28, 1923.
Does being the first name atop a ballot help one's political career? Likely not; otherwise, Said Aly would be among the critical contenders in this year's Toronto mayoral race (though thankfully his name sits just ahead of our city's perennial racist candidate).

It didn't aid Magnus Austin Brillinger (1882-1939) in the 1924 race for the two trustee positions up for grabs in Ward 6. When the votes were tallied on New Year's Day, he finished third behind future TTC chair W.C. McBrien and veteran board member Dr. John Hunter.

Better luck next year for the St. Clair Avenue West pharmacist, right?

Friday, October 17, 2014

election night score sheet, get yer election night score sheet

Toronto Star, December 5, 1960. Click on image for larger version
I suspect there are devoted municipal election junkies, especially among Twitterati, who'd love a sheet like this at their fingertips on October 27. Adjustments would be required for the present day: five minute increments on the chart would suit the rapid pace of the internet age (or two-and-a-half if your handwriting is as small as mine is). The suburban mayoral races of 1960 would be replaced with either key council battles or, for the truly dedicated, all 44 wards.

Monday, October 13, 2014

bonus features: william dennison

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

Source: The Telegram, Dec 6, 1966.
While researching this piece, I was struck at several parallels between Dennison and Rob Ford, namely what we'd now call "retail politics" and campaigning on being mindful of taxpayer dollars. (There were major differences: Dennison was a teetotaller, displayed leftist tendencies during his early political career, and didn't make a public spectacle of himself). Several months before the 1966 municipal election, Toronto Star city hall columnist Ron Haggart looked at Dennison's chances, using language that could have been adapted by his successors in 2010:
But Dennison can by no means be written off. He has helped literally thousands of ordinary persons during his years as an alderman and controller at City Hall. He efficiently keeps in touch at election time with those whose problems have crossed his desk. He has an independence from, even a coolness toward, the City Hall Establishment which has earned him a reputation as a man who fights City Hall at City Hall. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

vintage municipal election editorial cartoon of the day

Cartoon by Sid Barron, the Toronto Star, November 23, 1962. Click on image for larger version.
Adjust the dates to match this year's election (October 27, for the record), and you could easily recycle this cartoon. Some voters may feel as if the world ended long ago during the current drawn-out, fiction-writers-couldn't-make-this-stuff-up narrative.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

bonus features: hans in the kitchen

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

If your appetite has been whetted, here are a pair of Hans Fread recipes I encountered during my research. First up, his take on chicken liver pate.

Source: Globe and Mail, November 16, 1957. Note steer behind Hans's head.

Second, from Fread's George Brown College course on "Cooking for the Budget Minded," a recipe printed in the September 12, 1969 edition of the Toronto Star.

Budget braised beef

1 piece beef fat, size of small potato
4-5 pounds beef, crossribs, or bottom round
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp crystallized ginger, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced
8 small potatoes, peeled
4-5 carrots, quartered
8 medium onions

Dice and melt the fat in a dutch over or pot. Brown the meat slowly on all sides, until it has a good-looking brown colour.

When meat is browned, pour the lemon juice on top, then the garlic, celery salt, diced ginger, salt, pepper, and slices of unpeeled lemon. Cover and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours, or until meat is tender.

After 1-1/2 hours of cooking, place the potatoes, carrots and onions around the roast. Cover and continue to simmer until everything is tender.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

bonus features: allan lamport

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

If only more mayors kept scrapbooks as extensively as Allan Lamport did. To say the dozens of brittle, flaking volumes sitting in the City of Toronto Archives were a valuable resource in preparing this profile is an understatement. Throughout his political career, Lamport clipped every article mentioning his name and pasted them into the type of scrapbook you can easily pick up at Staples or Wal-Mart. During his mayoralty, volumes are organized by newspaper, which is especially helpful in the case of the yet-to-be-digitized Telegram.

Warning: due to the condition of the scrapbooks, you’ll need to brush the flakes off yourself after viewing them.

Monday, August 04, 2014

john the hugger and other scenes from toronto police court, 1909

As Toronto's police magistrate between 1877 and 1921, George Taylor Denison III passed judgement on thousands of people in his court. The press dutifully covered the proceedings daily, leaving historians with a record alternatively amusing, enraging, and heartbreaking.

Over the years, I've saved several police court reports, usually topped with a catchy headline like this one. Who doesn't want to know the sordid details surrounding "John the Hugger" that caused him to be hauled in front of Denison?

Let's dive into the details of John, the Stone family, the "saucy mendicant,"  and the other cases included in the News's court roundup on November 22, 1909...

Saturday, August 02, 2014

hippie gets rub in tub

Source: Toronto Star, September 29, 1967.
While this story is presented in a charming manner, complete with victim who apparently shook off being grabbed and dunked in a tub of water, it's hard to deny that the hippie-washers were out to commit acts meriting assault charges if attempted now. This wasn't an "attempt to do something constructive," this was a bunch of yahoos looking to stir shit up.

Note the look on the victim's face. His expression screams "Seriously? Are you kidding me? Riiight..."

Not everyone at U of T felt the same way about cleaning up Yorkville. A story in the Globe and Mail the following day noted that in a 78-56 vote, the Graduate Students Union endorsed financial aid for draft dodgers and for people arrested at a Yorkville sit-in the previous month.

Monday, July 21, 2014

dave keon invites you to try...

Dave Keon invites you to try... (1)
Click on image for larger version.
The 1970s. You have a pantry full of Campbell's Vegetable Soup. You can't decide what kind of sandwich will taste best while playing spelling games with the alphabet pasta. Who do you turn to!

Toronto Maple Leafs hockey star Dave Keon, of course!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

nautical 'n nice

Nautical 'n Nice (1)
Click on image for larger version
In the midst of recent housecleaning, this pamphlet fell out of a decaying cookbook I was about to toss out. Much screams 1970s: the layout, the nod to Canadian nationalism, and the heavy use of tinned food. Perhaps somebody worked very hard in Aylmer's test kitchen to devise these nautical-inspired dishes...or perhaps they were handed a list of products and told "do something with these!" Note the absence of "edible" in that sentence.

Brave enough to enjoy a taste of "Nautical 'n Nice?" Continue on...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

signs of insanity from windsor

Source: Eye, May 3, 2001.
While researching a recent Torontoist post regarding the demise of Eye/Eye Weekly/The Grid, I dug through a box of material meant to be scrapbooked over a decade ago. Besides finding a couple of fully intact issues focusing on the 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival, I unearthed this clipping of a long-shuttered Windsor pizzeria whose slowly-decaying sign provided years of mirth for my sister and I.

Over time, Star Pizza's sign lost more letters. By the mid-2000s you could buy a "lie" for 99 cents, which is a bargain when you're looking to hoodwink somebody.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

bonus features: proclaiming pride

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

Source: Toronto Star, November 1, 1978.
On my computer reside plenty of files I'm stumbled upon in the midst of research which I figure may be useful someday, no matter how absurd they are. Prime example: Art Eggleton dressed as a pickle. Based on the highlighting on the PDF copy of the original page, I discovered this gem while working on a Hallowe'en post. The original caption read as follows:
No sourpuss: Dressed as a pickle, but all smiles, Toronto Alderman Art Eggleton hands out a balloon to Diana Russo, 2, of Grace Street, at campaign headquarters last night. Supporter Robert Long offers Hallowe'en treat. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

dull, dull toronto

During some recent research, I stumbled upon a book review longtime Globe and Mail writer William French penned over 40 years ago for George Glazebrook's The Story of Toronto. French's introduction sums up the stereotypical view of Toronto history, and the battle I and my fellow historians face daily to present the city's past in fresh, engaging ways.
Anyone writing a history of Toronto faces an awkward problem: the story, on the whole, is dull. It lacks drama and dash, and our heroes are in a minor mode. Without exceptional effort on the part of the author, his book will also be dull.
Apart from the clash of arms in 1813 and the rattle of muskets in 1837—both encounters were marked by an almost comical incompetence—Toronto’s story is one of slow, plodding growth over the years. The major element in that story is a rather dull and narrow bourgeoisie, preoccupied with matters of property, finance, and morals. Until recently, anyway: the city is now undergoing a fundamental transition, but that’s current events, not history, and won’t be history until the transition is completed.

"Fundamental transition" might be an understatement, given the changes the city underwent during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.

Source: the Globe and Mail, December 4, 1971. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

appreciating archives

Conservatory Lab, Archives of Ontario
Conservation lab at the Archives of Ontario. Photo taken during a Doors Open tour in 2010.
Plug in the laptop. Attach the cooling pad to ensure the computer resists self-immolation. Wait for research materials to arrive, or start in on an order placed ahead of time. If waiting, sign on to the internet, work on other projects, or grab a pencil (no pens allowed!) and scribble random thoughts on scrap paper or in a notebook. When the boxes and file folders arrive, dive headfirst into the past.

Yep, just another day researching in an archive.


I love working in archives. Flipping through holdings brings forward the same feelings of discovery I had as a student while working with my father’s archival-sized collection of newspaper clippings. In both cases, beyond gathering the information required for the project at hand, I enjoy stumbling upon odd, unrelated tidbits. These side findings are good for a laugh, for shock value, and for inspiring future articles. Anything that pushes the wheels in my head is a bonus.

Each archive has its own character. Size wise, work spaces I’ve utilized in Toronto range from the roomy research hall at the City of Toronto Archives to the cozy, residential setting of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. The D.K. “Doc” Seaman Hockey Resources Centre is attached to an arena in Etobicoke, so it’s possible to catch some shinny when your work is done. Out in Scarborough, I’ve worked amid a collection of century-old musical instruments at the Salvation Army’s archives. Just today, I made my first visit to the Ontario Jewish Archives, a collection whose slightly hidden location within a large North York complex enhances the treasure hunt atmosphere.

The archives I’ve mentioned are only a small sampling of the historical records sources available in the city. The internet has widened exposure of collections large and small—beyond posting archival documents and photos, archive websites allow better preparation for visits by allowing you order materials before dropping in. The time savings hit me when I forgot to place an order before my first visit to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, resulting in an hour-and-an-half to kill before my materials were scheduled for delivery.

Staff is a critical asset. Archivists and their associates will answer your questions regardless of how bizarre they might seem. They’ll hunt far beyond your initial request and deliver material from sources (or suggest search terms) you hadn’t considered, or something will spark their memory of a deeply-buried item suited to your quest.

And so, on Archives Awareness Week, this is thanks to all of those working in archives who offer their expertise to researchers of all stripes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

past pieces of toronto: cbc don mills broadcast centre

Jesters on Top of the World
Photo taken on Gordon Street, Toronto, December 3, 2009.
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. This is the final installment to be reprinted, one appropriate for today as it was originally posted on April 1, 2012. 

That date is key, for the following is an April Fools joke, one I learned several lessons from. Prepare yourself for another lengthy preamble.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

past pieces of toronto: knob hill farms

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. I've republished all but two of those pieces on this website. 

Here's the first of the final pair, both of which provided good lessons for future writing. Prepare yourself for a lengthy preamble.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

scenes from st. lawrence market, 1934

Scenes from St. Lawrence Market, 1934 (2)

Sifting through files on one of my 7,853 USB keys, I found a folder of material I'd copied from City Lights, a short-lived (1934-35) Toronto magazine from the mid-1930s. Its content fell somewhere between the New Yorker and a Depression-era Toronto Life. City Lights is also one of those subjects that is perennially on my Historicist back burner - someday a profile will see the light of day, once I can find any information about its brief existence.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the poetry of william lyon mackenzie

Last night I went to Second City for the first time in ages. Little did I know the comedy wouldn't stop when I got home.

The interwebs were abuzz with news of  2010 Toronto mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson jumping into this year's race. Said candidate decided to launch their campaign with a lengthy poem which provoked waves of derision, because that's what you automatically do when you have a platform which allows only 140 characters at a time (though in this case, it is a train wreck of verse).

In my fatigued state, the following thought sprang into my head:

The only offhand example I thought of was a piece of doggerel I encountered while researching the incorporation of Toronto in 1834. Technically, William Lyon Mackenzie wasn't running for mayor when the following piece was written - the position didn't exist yet - but he'd be named our city's first chief exec soon enough.

Context: Mackenzie, along with some other Reformers, opposed Upper Canada's legislation to incorporate the Town of York as the City of Toronto, viewing as little more than an attempt to raise taxes and control who sat on the new city council.

And now, a sampling of the poetry of William Lyon Mackenzie:
Come hither, come hither, my little dog Ponto
Let’s trot down and see where little York’s gone to;
For forty big Tories, assembled in junta
Have murdered little York in the City of Toronto

If I stumble upon more verse by our city's past mayors, or mayoral wannabes, you can bet it'll find a home here. 

Source: The Firebrand by William Kilbourn (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company, 1956).

Monday, March 17, 2014

predicting what 2014 would look like department

Great Grandma's Attic in 2014
Source: the Toronto World, March 18, 1914. Click on image for larger version.
The author, so obsessed with nice girls and CLOTHES, neglects to mention how ATHLETIC Great-Grandma was. Unless only the garments and the SUFFRAGIST banner were Great-Grandma's, the readers of 1914 were left to assume that the fishing reels, golf clubs, paddles, playing cards, and racquets WERE Great-Grandpa's. The author also neglects Great-Grandma's taste for WRITING, via the book on the floor and the typewriter hiding under the chair. FANCY that.

But this is me in 2014 LOOKING BACK at 1914. It's true many people's first impulse would be to don the vintage clothing to see how FUNNY they look. Or attractive...

Sunday, March 02, 2014

and the oscar for criticizing the 1964 academy awards ceremony goes to...

Source: the Toronto Star, April 13, 1964.
To mark Oscar night, we're heading back 50 years to check the reaction from Toronto's TV critics regarding the 36th annual Academy Awards ceremony on April 13, 1964. Among the milestones that night were the first black performer to win Best Actor (Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field) and the first film to place three nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category (Diane Cilento, Edith Evans, and Joyce Redman in Tom Jones, all of whom lost to Margaret Rutherford from The V.I.P.s).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

shopbreaking and sweating

Source: the Telegram, April 7, 1911.
Two adjacent sketches make up today's post. Did the artist try to suggest bags under each crook's eyes to illustrate their depravity in holding up one of the city's most prominent jewelers? Or did John Lester naturally look that weary? Also, were they trying to pass along their stolen diamonds to unsuspecting tourists in Niagara Falls? A possible sales pitch under that scenario:

WILLIAMS (since he shows promise as the smooth talker of the pair): Hello there young lovers. Are you here to celebrate your honeymoon?

GROOM: We are. Just arrived on the train. Been looking forward to this for three years. Do you know if anyone's going over the falls in a barrel today?

WILLIAMS: Wouldn't know. Not as common as you'd think. By the way, I notice your rings are not diamonds.

BRIDE: He couldn't afford them on his clerk's salary. But our love is priceless.

WILLIAMS: That may be true, but it would be nice to have one to show the depth of your love, wouldn't it?

GROOM: Why sure!

WILLIAMS: It so happens I'm a travelling jeweler, and I have some sample diamonds I'm intending to show to dealers here. I think I may have one which is perfect for such a lovely couple as you two. And since it's a sample, I can let you have it for a reasonable price. Think of the envy your friends will feel when they see you with genuine diamonds!

BRIDE: Henry, we have to have them!

GROOM: Anything for you my dear.

WILLIAMS: Excellent. You will be happy with your purchase.

GROOM: Thank you sir. And now, let's go find somebody who can tell us if anyone is going over the falls in a barrel today. We really want to see this!

Sidenote: Ellis Brothers were based at 96-98 Yonge Street, north of King Street. The firm was eventually absorbed by Birks.


The second illustration depicts plans for a new YMCA at College and Dovercourt. A century later, the building still provides a place for locals to work out. It was designed by the architectural firm of Burke, Horwood & White, who also worked on the Central and Broadview Ys mentioned in the article. Neither of those buildings survive - the Broadview location is now residential, while the old Central site is currently occupied by Toronto Police Headquarters.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

making trouble at the grand opera house with ward and vokes

Vintage Ad: Those Trouble Makers, Ward and Vokes
Source: the Toronto World, April 9, 1911. Click on image for larger version.
First thing about this ad which caught my eye: the funky typeface used by the Grand Opera House, which it used for all its showcase ads during this period.

Second thing about this ad which caught my eye: "Lucy Daly and her Pony Ballet." Did Ms. Daly bring ponies on stage to performance classical ballet? Did she do an interpretative dance routine to salute ponies? While I'm unable to confirm either theory, it appears Daly was a singer/dancer who had toured with headiners Hap Ward and Harry Vokes for several years. The New York Dramatic Mirror noted that during a production of A Pair of Pinks in Montreal in 1905, Daly "was as bright and vivacious as ever and danced beautifully." I also wonder if she was related to another frequent performer in Ward and Vokes productions, Vokes's wife Margaret Daly-Vokes.

Third thing about this ad which caught my eye: "The Famous Fun Makers." Ward and Vokes were unknown to me, which prompted some digging. They appear to have been a popular touring act across North America starting in the late 1880s, producing farcical musicals. A program for their production of A Run on the Bank at London, Ontario's Grand Opera House in 1896 lists witty character names like Con Mann, Clubs R, Trumps, Adam Shame, Nera Mann, Billy Booze, and Sassy Moll ("a tough girl"). 

Harry Vokes's New York Times obituary raises another question about this ad: did Toronto audiences actually see Hap Ward, or did another comedian assume the name? According to Vokes's obit, the pair split in 1904 when War retired. Yet the act continued for several years. It's entirely possible Vokes kept the act's name, using new partners as necessary, or maybe the Times meant 1914. Vokes continued to perform until 1918, after which he worked at the Beacon Oil Company plant in Everett, Massachusetts. He died from injuries sustained in a plant explosion in 1922 at the age of 55. It was noted  that "Hap Ward was at his old partner's bedside during the night." Ward spent his retirement running a roadhouse near Boston, then died in New York City in 1944. His obit notes that he left behind a widow named Lucy - Lucy Daly of pony ballet fame, perhaps?

Source: the Toronto World, April 9, 1911.

Local reviews of Trouble Makers were positive, albeit in the way most productions of the period received thumbs up (Toronto's newspapers lacked quality drama critics until the arrival of Herbert Whittaker and Nathan Cohen after World War II). E.R. Pankhurst of the Globe noted: 
The piece is replete with ludicrous situations, the comedy perfectly irresistible. The dances and ensembles have much to commend them; the scenic settings are excellent, which the musical numbers...are particularly pleasing. Altogether the production offers diverson that could not be bettered and Ward and Vokes incidentally score another triumph.
Additional material from the April 11, 1911 edition of the Globe, the June 3, 1905 edition of the New York Dramatic Mirror, and the April 16, 1922 and January 4, 1944 editions of the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

bonus features: george gurnett

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

In an opinion piece published on November 30, 1833 complaining about the rejection of his expense claims in covering the provincial assembly, Gurnett described his editorial policy for the Courier of Upper Canada. He avoids mentioning that the “the true interests of this province” he believed in tended to coincide with Tory/Family Compact policies:

In the management of our journal, we have never courted, or deferred to, what is usually called public opinion; neither have we courted the approbation of persons in authority, or in fact of any individuals whatever. Our sole object has been to promote to the utmost extent of our ability and our means, the true interests of this province; and in the pursuit of that object; we have advocated those principles which we believed to be most conducive thereto; those principles we declared clearly and distinctly, when we first appeared before the public some seven odd years ago.

Monday, February 03, 2014

wonder what a hold-up man thinks about after he is caught

Source: the Mail and Empire, March 11, 1922. Click on image for larger version.
An odd one-shot cartoon found on the crime and southwestern Ontario news page of the Mail and Empire. It appeared above the daily rundown of the previous day's proceedings at Osgoode Hall, none of which involved hold-ups.

The only story with a vague connection to this illustration concerned two mail robberies in Essex County. In the first case, five men pleaded guilty to charges of "conspiring to rob Herbert Jacobs of Government mail at Tecumseh on February 15th." Severn Laforet, a bank teller, confessed to plotting the dastardly deed in order to cover a $2,000 shortfall in his accounts. One of those involved in the heist was also charged with two other men in an attempted hold-up of a mail car in Amherstburg.

The oddest story from the Mail and Empire's crime blotter came from the Chatham area, under the headline "INJURED BY VICIOUS SOW."
Roy Beamish, a farm hand employed by Charles Stewart, of Harwich, was seriously injured about the hands and body when he was attaced by a vicious sow while endeavoring to take young pigs away from her.
It appears no charges were laid against the sow.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

jaywalking: the early years

I should be used to waking up to the radio blaring our glorious mayor's latest blunder. Should be, but it's still aggravating, maddening, and saddening all at once. That there are people who actually still admire the oaf is among the things that makes me fret about the future of humanity.

It appears our best mayor ever may have been ticketed for jaywalking last night. Which got me to thinking, especially after reading a story on the early history of jaywalking, when did the term first appear in Toronto newspapers? Cue a quick trip to the online archives of the Globe and Mail and the Star...

The answer appears to be two stories published a century ago. First, an item from the May 18, 1914 edition of the Star, which compares jaywalkers to another emerging menace of the automotive age, the joyrider.

Source: the Toronto Star, May 18, 1914.

The next day, the Globe published the following piece - less body, more headline:

Source: the Globe, May 19, 1914.

Friday, January 31, 2014

the toronto that wasn't department

Source: the Globe and Mail, March 19, 1976. Click on image for larger version.
"A master plan for Aquatic Park in Lake Ontario calls for expenditures of $26 million for a 5,000 seat ampitheatre, campsites, a wildlife area, fishing piers, and accomodation for 1,500 power and sail craft," opened a 1976 Globe and Mail article on future plans for the Leslie Street Spit. The plan also provided for the private sector to build attractions like hostels, hotels, and a "20-acre marineland park."

A Metro Toronto and Region Conservation Authority official noted that over 150 potential uses for the site were studied so that the proposed park would complement, not compete, with existing recreational facilities along the waterfront. Under the plan, the public would enjoy unrestricted access to 70 percent of the park's shoreline.

The article doesn't address the pressing concern of what to do with the quonset hut in the middle of the spit, whose naming rights were later claimed one fine April 1 by Spacing magazine.

Alas, you cannot go swimming in an artificial lake in the middle of the Leslie Spit, nor can you enjoy water rides at its mini-marineland, or shower after an overnight camping trip. I think the non-realization of this plan was a good thing, as the greenspace which evolved along the spit provides a temporary weekend escape from the hurlyburly of the city. It's a ideal place for a lazy day's bike ride or walk, to stare at the many species of birds who stop by for a rest, or guess where the debris along the water was carted in from.

Additional material from the March 19, 1976 edition of the Globe and Mail

Thursday, January 30, 2014

vintage toronto media infighting department

When reading Toronto's early newspapers, you have to remember that half of what you're reading is either partisan sniping or satirical attacks. That little context is provided for most of these attacks can drive a researcher mad, unless you're already deeply immersed in the subject. Reading these stories at random can be a head-scratcher - you know it's supposed to be funny, but you're not sure why.

And then there are times when a great headline lures you into an attack piece. Take the case of the following headline I stumbled upon in the January 12, 1849 edition of the Toronto Mirror:

Death from Intense Cold

Naively, I thought Toronto might have endured a cold snap 165 Januarys ago similar to the new ice age we've enjoyed this month. Maybe this headline topped a tragic tale of a victim of deep freeze.


Instead, the story "mourns" a rival newspaper, the original incarnation of the Toronto Standard (whose modern-day namesake has endured its own deep freeze). I should note that the Patriot was another rival rag.

This story helps explain why if you flip through surviving copies of the Toronto Standard in the Toronto Reference Library's Baldwin Room, there aren't any editions past number five.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

great moments in toronto transportation history

Source: The Telegram, October 14, 1961. Click on image for larger version.
An amazing fact: if this was the first accident on the DVP, it occurred a month-and-a-half after its first section (Bayview/Bloor to Eglinton Avenue) opened. Were drivers that much more careful in 1961, or was it plain old luck that nobody else had spun out or suffered a fender bender?

If you're wondering when the DVP experienced its first traffic jam, the answer is: August 31, 1961, the day it opened. Star reporter Fred Hollett was brave enough to experience the DVP's first evening rush hour.
I rode the new five-mile section of parkway yesterday during its first evening rush-hour. And it was a five-minute trip from Dreamsville to Nightmare junction.
Dreamsville was the Danforth Ave. entrance to the parkway, where I had all three lanes to myself for nearly a mile. Nightmare Junction was the Eglinton Ave. exit where hundreds of motorists celebrated the parkway's official opening with one of the worst traffic jams in Metro history.
Eglinton Ave. during rush hour is usually jam-packed. The parkway traffic just increased the pressure. There were so few cars at the Danforth end of the parkway I could have sat down in the middle of the road and boiled a three-minute egg. At the Eglinton end the only things boiling were motorists and radiators.
Hollett suspected the south end of the highway was empty because motorists couldn't figure out where to enter it from either side of the Bloor Viaduct.

Additional material from the September 1, 1961 edition of the Toronto Star.

UPDATE: It appears Brian Ferguson wasn't the first driver to get into an accident on the DVP, though he may have been the first under normal circumstances. During the opening procession, Toronto alderman Joe Piccininni smashed a taillight while trying to make a turn. Thanks to Chris Bateman for this piece o' information.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

vintage letters to the editor department: "he should be forgotten, not revered"

While doing some research for the next installment of Torontoist's "Meet a Mayor" series at the city archives this week, I found a photocopy of the following letter to the editor, submitted to the Toronto Star in late 1972. Seems this correspondent was no fan of our first "rebel mayor," William Lyon Mackenzie.

Source: Toronto Star, December 5, 1972. Click on image for larger version.
The writer was wrong to state that Mackenzie's writings had never been republished; Oxford University Press published a curated selection of our fiery first mayor's opinions in 1960 (The Selected Writings of William Lyon Mackenzie).  The letter writer's tone echoes sentiments felt by the Family Compact and their Tory allies during the 1820s and 1830s, who were as guilty of "yellow journalism" as Mackenzie.


Speaking of former mayors, here are the questions to round two of our Jeopardy-style quiz:

1) Who was Robert John Fleming? The street's name derived from his initials ("R.J."). His son owned land in the area when the street was developed, and requested that it be named after his father, who served as mayor from 1892 to 1893, and from 1896 to 1897. Read fellow Historicist writer Kevin Plummer's take on Fleming.

2) Who was Thomas Foster? One of our stingiest mayors during his term from 1925 to 1927, but he was more than happy to blow his money on a massive memorial to himself. In the end, he proved he had a philanthropic spirit via the odd bequests made through his will.

3) Who was William Dennison?  I've written about his speech therapy school - during his tenure as mayor (1966 to 1972) he continued to attend seminars on the subject.

4) Who were Sam McBride (died 1935) and Donald Summerville (died 1963)? We came close in 1837 - the first candidate for the mayoralty that year, Simon Washburn, died shortly before the rebellion (George Gurnett was named during the second vote that January). I wrote an article on the memorial services held at (Old) City Hall for both mayors.

5) Who was Horatio Hocken? The former printer served as mayor from 1912 to 1914.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

"i'll take toronto mayors for $400, alex"

Before we go into round two, here are the questions to yesterday's answers (from top to bottom):

1) Who are the Howlands? (William Holmes Howland 1886 to 1887, Oliver Aiken Howland 1901 to 1902). Some may try to claim Rob and Doug Ford, given the latter's penchant for assisting his brother.

2) Who is Fred Beavis? I wrote about the hat draw for The Grid.

3) Who is Henry Sherwood? Mayor from 1842 to 1844, Sherwood expired while traveling through Bavaria in 1855. ending a career which also included an eight-week stint as the attorney-general of Canada West.

4) Who is John Shaw? Here's a fuller excerpt of Shaw's remarks on the opening of (Old) City Hall in September 1899 (Shaw served as mayor from 1897 to 1899):
Why people will spend large sums of money on great buildings opens up a wider field of thought. It may, however, be roughly answered that great buildings symbolize a people's deeds and aspirations...It is now the most attractive place in Toronto, and will stand for generations to come, a splendid permanent mark and sign of the strong will, the energy and foresight, the splendid confidence and perfect faith of the citizens of Toronto in the future of their glorious city.
5) Who is Ralph Day? He served as mayor from 1938 to 1940,  TTC chairman from 1963 to 1972, and operated the Ralph Day Funeral Home.

And here we go with round two. You can answer in the comments section.

Additional information from Mayors of Toronto Volume 1 1834-1899 by Victor Loring Russell (Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1982).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"i'll take toronto mayors for $200, alex"

This week was yet another goldmine for people to make fun of our fine city's mayor. Even Jeopardy got into the act. Which got me to thinking...what if there was a category on everyone's favourite quiz show dedicated to Toronto's mayors?

Thanks to a clue screen generator, we have made this possible. Over the next two posts, test your knowledge of our city's past chief executives!

Here's the first quintet of questions. Place your answers in the comments section. Enjoy...and no cheating! Answers will be posted with round #2 tomorrow!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

bonus features: john powell

This post offers supplementary material for an article I wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this piece.

An illustration of Powell escaping the rebels on December 4, 1837. I wasn't able to figure out the exact documentation for it, though it was suggested by the fine folks at Mackenzie House that it probably belongs to the National Archives. The image was sourced from this article about William Lyon Mackenzie and the rebellion.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

what if...linkbait had existed in 1914?

What If Linkbait Had Existed in 1914?
Click on image for larger version. Don't click on it expecting to go to any of these stories.

Foods you shouldn't eat. Celebrities you shouldn't care about. Items that could change the destiny of humanity. Forgotten child stars as they look now. Sensationalistic photo galleries depicting people who require quiet, sensitive help.

You know what I'm talking about: those squares of content, usually at the side or bottom of a webpage, which drag you into an infinite hole of linkbait. There are whole sites whose grand purpose is to link you to links that will link you to links that will link you to linkbait links. The depths you can plumb are depressingly impressive.

After seeing one roundup o' linkbait too many, a light went on in my head: what if this stuff had existed a century ago?

The result: the collage above, based on what a websurfer might have run across had the internet existed in January 1914.

Some of the faux links are based solely on the teasers linkbait producers reel us in with. Others, I can answer:

What's The Deal With Kaiser Bill's Arm?: Traumatic delivery during the future German emperor's birth in 1859 led to Erb's Palsy in his left arm, leaving it shorter than the right. Wilhelm II used several techniques to mask the situation, including holding a pair of gloves or, as seen here, clutching the arm.

You Won't Believe Which Keystone Comedian He Is!: Ford Sterling, one of the legendary silent comedy studio's first stars. During his tenure at Keystone, Sterling usually glued on a goatee to portray a "Dutch" character. Were this collage produced later in 1914, I might have used makeup-free pictures of Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, or anyone else known for their screen mustaches.

Politicians You Wouldn't Recognize From Their 70s Looks: The 1870s, that is. We'll let you guess this one. Hint: American president.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

vintage toronto sun ad of the day

Vintage Ad: Brett Halliday Invites You To The Buccaneer's 8th Anniversary\
Source: the Toronto Sun, November 1, 1985.

The Warehouse starts off 2014 with from a visit from our old pal Brett Halliday, purveyor of advertorial delights in Toronto for decades. Today's selection could be classified as an outright ad, as it lacks the tidbits about the entertainment scene, local retailers, and pieces of wisdom which usually broke up Halliday's advertorial columns. 

The tone's the same, as is the colourful language. When was the last time you heard anything referred to as a "neon of activity?" Dammit, let's revive this phrase! 

SPEAKER 1: I'm bored tonight.Where shall we go?
SPEAKER 2: Let's go to (fill in the trendiest neighbourhood in your city or village)! I hear it's a neon of activity!
SPEAKER 1: Good enough for me. Or, we could go to (fill in the second-trendiest neighbourhood in your town or crossroads). I hear it's a gaslight of activity!
SPEAKER 2: Better toss your cyberpunk gear on if we're heading there...

Halliday also introduces readers to the locale readers will discover that neon of activity, the region of Malton-Mississauga. This is the first time we've encountered this hyphenated description for the area north of Pearson Airport, and suspect it may be the only place it ever appeared. We could create an alternate history of Peel Region based on this ad, where Malton demanded equal billing when the province amalgamated  municipalities to form the Town of Mississauga in 1968, and made it a provision of remaining when city status arrived several years later. The "pins in a veritable haystack" grew together to form a vibrant city centred around Airport and Derry Roads. As population and business development exploded in Malton through the 1970s, voter strength ensured that it would be the dominant political centre over Port Credit, forever dashing the hopes of perennial mayoral candidate Hazel McCallion. Developments like the Airport One shopping centre, the "Little India" cultural district along Airport Road, and a hipster strip along Goreway Drive (several blocks of which were renamed Avro Street to reflect the region's heritage) fulfilled Halliday's vision of a thriving metropolis...

Maybe we indulged in too much grog in the Captain Kidd room.

Googling the address indicates the site is currently used as a banquet hall.