Sunday, December 2, 2018

You Are What Your Friends Drink

Over the past few weeks, I've been reorganizing my home office as part of a larger overhaul of our apartment. As I've moved furniture around and added more shelf space, I've tackled the clutter in here, resulting of boxes of books leaving my library for new starts somewhere else. Currently I'm going through my magazine collection, scanning articles from issues that have fallen apart, wait for a trip to the nearest little library, or are preparing to meet their fate in the recycling bin. 

In other words, expect posts using this material here or on Tales of Toronto.

First up: from the September 1981 issue of Epicure, an article on how to stock your home bar with booze appropriate to the lifestyle of your friends and drop-in guests. It starts with an illustration that would have been home in a 1980s clipart collection.

The rest of the article includes suggestions on what you should keep on hand to please anyone. 

How would you curate a "bar for all seasons" in 2018? Among my guesses:

  • Sherry is strictly reserved for cooking. I have never seen anyone down a glass or three of sherry/apera/whatever it's called this days as a party. Kind of like I associate brandy with the ever-present bottle found in the living rooms of 1960s soap operas.
  • Craft brands would take the place of some of the generic ones listed here, especially in the beer and bourbon categories. 

In Ontario, the LCBO still carries O'Darby, though the 21st century version has classier packaging. The green bottle of the 1981 version looks like it was manufactured for leprechauns or for those who wanted to drink something other than green beer on St. Patrick's Day. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

And Now, The Post-Heritage Toronto Awards Post...

Last night was the 2018 Heritage Toronto Awards ceremony. One project I contributed to, the first issue of Massey Hall's Shine a Light magazine, won the Short Publication category. Two others -- my next-to-last Historicist column, and a book I contributed research to -- were also nominated. The following is an extended version of a post I wrote on Facebook this morning.

Thanks to everyone for all the kind comments following last night's Heritage Toronto Awards. It was an honour to play a small part in working on Massey Hall's winning Shine a Light publication. Special thanks to Michael Barclay for bringing me onto the project.

I was also nominated for one of my final Historicist columns, which felt like a nice capper on that part of my life, and a final nod to the work of Kevin Plummer, David Wencer, and the others who contributed to the column over its decade-long run (including editors David Topping, Hamutal Dotan, and David Hains). Hopefully our efforts over that time enlightened and entertained readers, and inspired some of you to do your own historical digging and tell the stories that aren't always told, or put your own spins on familiar tales. This is an era where historical context is more critical than ever, and where many people are content to ignore or twist it. Do your part to ensure that we draw constructive lessons from the past to build a better city (and world) for the future. Don't be afraid to challenge the norms, or call out those who willfully misinterpret history for their own means.


I've been feeling adrift lately. Partly it's exhaustion from the past year's workload. Partly from thinking about how to retain what's left of my sanity by coping with the current city/provincial/world situation via creating more relevant work and crafting material for those fighting the tide of apathy, ignorance, inequality, and intolerance. Partly it's figuring out what pet projects I'd like to work on when time permits.

The atmosphere and conversations from last night have recharged me (at least for today). The calibre of the work that was nominated across the categories was inspiring, covering so many aspects of Toronto. It's time to pull out of that slump, charge forward, and maybe - just maybe - finally pull ideas out of my head and onto computer screens/into print/insert other relevant media. After being cocooned for the past year, it's time to talk with you, online or in person, and brainstorm, toss around collaborative ideas, etc.

PS: Special thanks to Louisa for always being there, especially when I'm at my lowest. She's there to push, to encourage, to brainstorm, etc. She's all you could want in a partner-in-crime...and more.

Disclaimer: Portions of the Historicist paragraph were written in case I won an award for that piece.

Friday, October 26, 2018

New Czar for the NHL

One of my most battered possessions is a copy of the 1977/78 Hockey News Yearbook. Its tattered cover bears all the signs of having used it to press down on while scribbling imaginary road maps, stamp catalogues, and sports leagues as a little kid (I was a little weird, but let my imagination run wild. Heck, I still draw imaginary maps as a stress reliever). I also read the magazine a lot, fascinated by hockey teams and leagues that vanished just before I started following the sport (Atlanta Flames! Cleveland Barons! Cincinnati Stingers! Houston Aeros!).

Upon hearing the death of former NHL president John Ziegler, I remembered this magazine had a two-page spread about his hiring, which came as the NHL/WHA war neared its end. A few things to note from this article:

* NHL franchise issues. The Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary in 1980. Ralston Purina hung on to the St. Louis Blues until 1983, when it nearly sold the franchise to a group prepared to move the team to Saskatoon. The league felt that market was too small, another buyer was found, and the team has remained in St. Louis. The Cleveland Barons (previously the California Golden Seals) merged with the Minnesota North Stars following the 1977/78 season.

* That $15 top seat price fans complained about? If that was charged at Canadian arenas it would be worth, according to the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator, $58.64. The most expensive available full price ticket at the next Maple Leafs game is, with taxes, $706.80. The cheapest ticket available is $160.75 (I imagine prices are inflated for a Saturday night game, but even next week, the cheapest tix are $90. This explains why I have attended only one NHL game in my life, and that ticket was won in a random office draw).

* Beware glowing praise from Harold Ballard. 

* The Detroit Red Wings were about to enjoy a brief break from the "Dead Things" era which lasted from the late 1960s until Mike Ilitch bought the team from Bruce Norris in the early 1980s. Under new coach Bobby Kromm, the 1977/78 Red Wings finished second in the Norris Division and made the playoffs for the first time since 1970. After their trip to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion the Montreal Canadiens, they wouldn't reach the playoffs again until 1984.

* I don't remember where I saw the quote, but I recall an Original Six era owner or executive referring to how lucky the league was that they had a president as malleable as Clarence Campbell. The statement was along the lines of how often can an organization have a Rhodes Scholar figurehead who's so easy to control. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Are You Road Worthy Enough to Drive Around Cyclists?

While dropping some books off in a Little Free Library this past weekend, I found a copy of Road Worthy, a high school driver education textbook produced by the Ontario provincial government in 1985. Lessons from books like these—if courses or proper instruction on road safety are provided to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at all—seem to have been forgotten on Toronto’s increasingly nightmarish streets.

Getting around the city is not easy. There are days it feels like everyone lacks their survival instinct, where the most important duty is to get ahead of others by a fraction of a second. Where concepts like crosswalks, red lights and stop signs belong to an earlier era. Where entitlement is based on your mode and brand of transportation. Where people are utterly oblivious to their surroundings. Where horns are laid with little provocation if you aren’t going fast enough. Where politicians posture or promote divisiveness as cyclist and pedestrian fatalitiesriseWhere life is considered cheap. 

So here’s the section on dealing with cyclists from Road Worthy. Much of its advice remains helpful 30 years. What’s critical is that everyone using our roads be aware of each other. Seconds added to commutes equal years added to lives.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

1943 Ontario Provincial Election Scrapbook

Before reading this article, check out my article for TVO about the 1943 Ontario provincial election.

Globe and Mail, July 19, 1943.

I'm beginning to think that editorial cartoons showing a paper's preferred candidate sowing a field was an easy sketch for cartoonists to do in the midst of a campaign.

canadian statesman 1943-07-15 pc ad with 22-point programme
Canadian Statesman, July 15, 1943. Click on image for larger version.

A campaign ad with the Progressive Conservatives' full Twenty-Two Point Programme.

canadian statesman 1943-07-29 life story of harry nixon ad
Canadian Statesman, July 29, 1943. Click on image for larger version.
The Liberals took a graphic approach to highlighting the accomplishments of Harry Nixon.

gm 43-08-02 ccf ad
Globe and Mail, August 2, 1943.

gm 1943-07-29 sanderson anti-ccf ad
Globe and Mail, July 29, 1943. Click on image for larger version.
Political propagandist Montague Sanderson felt there were more pests to exterminate than the insect kind. During the 1943 campaign, he bought four ads in the Globe and Mail which touted his credentials as a First World War vet and desire to destroy the CCF. Sanderson's lawyer once described his motives as “partly patriotic, partly for the glory and publicity, and partly the advertising obtained for his business.” He believed the party was paving the way for a “Communists-CIO-CCF dictatorship” which “would exterminate democratic government by violence.”

gm 43-08-02 cyril young ad
Globe and Mail, August 2, 1943.
An important lesson to political candidates: hire a proofreader to make sense of your platform. This ad didn't work for Cyril Young, who finished a distant third.

Leamington Post, July 15, 1943.
Election ads during wartime. William (Bill) Murdoch had a long political career, serving as MPP for Essex South from 1943 to 1963, then served as a councillor in Amherstburg. He also served as Speaker in the legislature from 1960 to 1963.

Stouffville Tribune, July 29, 1943.

stouffville tribune 1943-07-29 anti-ccf conservative ad
Stouffville Tribune, July 29, 1943. Click on image for larger version.

ts 43-08-03 commie ads
Toronto Star, August 3, 1943. Click on image for larger version.
Salsberg's victory was celebrated with a parade which began at College and Brunswick, grew to around 1,000 people, and wound its way to Spadina and Dundas. “It was late at night,” Salsberg later recalled. “it was warm, people were sitting outside. They not only applauded…when they saw me leading the parade, they rushed and we hugged and kissed—strangers. It was a communal affair.”

tely 43-07-31 nixon ad
Evening Telegram, July 31, 1943. Click on image for larger version.

Evening Telegram, July 30, 1943.

George McCullagh's political affiliation firmly switched to the Progressive Conservative camp by the time of the 1943 election, having lost his political influence over former Liberal premier Mitch Hepburn. Editorials in the Globe and Mail touted the campaign as one of the most important in Canadian history, and I imagine McCullagh's radio address was similar to his paper's excitement for Drew's platform.

Allan Lamport had been an MPP since 1937, but fell to third in 1943. The two candidates who beat him did pretty well for themselves. Winner William Dennison (CCF) would, like Lampy, eventually serve as mayor of Toronto. As for the second place finisher in St. David...

Evening Telegram, August 3, 1943. Click on image for larger version.
...Roland Michener would win the seat in 1945, and later served as Governor-General of Canada from 1967 to 1974.

wtg 43-07-22 tory ads
Weston Times and Guide, July 22, 1943. Click on image for larger version.
None of these PC candidates won, as the CCF swept all three of these ridings. So much for blitzing political tricks.

ts 43-08-05 luckock victory
Toronto Star, August 5, 1943.
Coverage of Rae Luckock's victory.

tely 43-08-05 editorial
Evening Telegram, August 5, 1943.

Old Man Ontario went back to sleep, and didn't wake up again until 1985 (apart from that period between 1949 and 1961 where he served as premier under the alias Leslie Frost).

Friday, May 11, 2018

1919 Ontario Provincial Election Scrapbook

Before reading this post, check out my article for TVO about the 1919 Ontario provincial election.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.
A staple that has regularly popped up while researching Ontario elections is the editorial cartoon depicting a farmer, either representing the province or a party leader, tending their field of candidates.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.
Who cares how strong a candidate's platform is when there's going to be a good band at the political rally! The high caliber of musicianship didn't help "Bill" Woollatt, a Conservative who lost the riding of Windsor to Liberal J.C. Tolmie by over 4,600 votes, a margin the Border Cities Star claimed was the largest in the riding's history.

Essex Free Press, October 17, 1919.
Another age-old tactic: claim your competitors are incompetent or deceptive in their aims. Alas, this tactic didn't work for Lambert P. Wigle in South Essex...

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.

...but this list of promises from UFO candidate Milton C. Fox did. Number four definitely happened, as Talbot Road became Highway 3.

Evening Telegram, October 9, 1919.
London Free Press, October 17, 1919.

One of the more amusing battles between the wets and the drys, involving another vice.

The Globe, October 18, 1919.
Newspapers had no shame in not only telling its readers how to vote, but showing via illustrated diagrams how to fill out their ballots.

The Globe, October 20, 1919.
These pleas often made their way to the front page, such as this election day reminder.

The Globe, October 20, 1919.
As it was the first provincial election where women voted, the women's page was not immune to gentle persuasion on how to cast ballots.

The Globe, October 21, 1919.

Toronto election coverage taken from the Globe's women's page.

Toronto Star, October 18, 1919.
How a meeting for Henrietta Bundy, one of two female candidates in the election, was covered.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.

Border Cities Star, October 18, 1919.
Toronto Star, September 17, 1919. Click on image for larger version.

Sudbury Star, October 11, 1919.
A sampling of the ad battles between the wet and dry sides.

London Free Press, October 20, 1919.
Advertisers couldn't resist taking advantage of election fever. I think the girl third from the left is sour because she voted for Wrigley's Doublemint gum.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Don't Drive Down the Middle of the Middle Road!

star 1937-10-09 driving tips for middle road 1

Toronto Star, October 9, 1937. Click on image for larger version.

When the Middle Road (today's Queen Elizabeth Way) opened as a divided four-lane highway in the fall of 1937, it took some drivers awhile to adjust to this new style of road. The Toronto Star ran a photo essay on some of the problems drivers were causing, primarily staying within lanes. This is as much a problem driving along the GTA's expressways in 2018 as it was 80 years ago.

star 1937-10-09 driving tips for middle road 2

Toronto Star, October 9, 1937. Click on image for larger version.

star 1937-10-09 driving tips for middle road 3

Toronto Star, October 9, 1937. Click on image for larger version.

Before its conversion to a proto-expressway, the Middle Road was a back road, which some nighttime drivers still believed it was.

Toronto Star, November 23, 1937.

The Globe and Mail believed the Middle Road signalled "a fresh start in Ontario's beautification."

Globe and Mail, October 9, 1937.

Globe and Mail, November 6, 1937.

Among the modern touches: Canada's first cloverleaf interchange, built at what is now the Hurontario Street exit off the QEW.

Globe and Mail, November 23, 1937.