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Globe & Mail airplane, Island Airport

Photographic proof that about seventy years ago, the Globe & Mail was once cool.

Unidentified group of men with the Globe & Mail's Grumman G-73 Mallard amphibian at the Toronto Island Airport, circa late 1940s. (Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 2049)

The straight vertical windows on the control tower indicate that this photo was taken prior to the early 1950s, when the tower was upgraded with now-familiar sloping glass windows.  The Grumman G-73 Mallard was only in production from 1946 through 1951, further narrowing the possible date of origin.

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Toronto, Bollywood style

A few years ago I was watching a Bollywood movie on OMNI, and to my surprise I started to recognise local landmarks in the movie’s setting.  Despite an uninteresting and uninspired story, I ended up watching the whole thing for the location-spotting sport of it all.

The movie turns out to be Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi, released in 1997; while I cannot recommend it, I can offer up some YouTube clips which will permit you to do some location-spotting of your own.

The “Jumme ke jumme” dance number above even has aviation content (at 4:04), although I cannot identify the hangar interiors by sight.  Other locations include the park/exteriors around Metro Hall, the Port Credit Yacht Club, the Eaton Centre, and Brookfield Place.

The “Akela Hai Mr. Khiladi” song (embedding disabled, sorry) has even more amusing settings.  A large chunk of it was clearly shot in the parking lot of Mississauga’s Square One shopping centre, with GO buses zooming by in the background.  And on the lawn of the Mississauga Civic Centre.  These cheapskate choices seems a little odd given that the production also splurged a little to shoot in Niagara Falls, Marineland and downtown Toronto.


Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough was apparently the setting for these Bollywood-inspired moments from The Love Guru. Don’t be fooled by these clips; they offer a glimmer of what the movie could have been if it stuck with the Bollywood theme. But in reality the rest of the movie is astonishingly and unremittingly bad.

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Toronto by night

An assortment of images collected from Flickr.

Toronto at dusk, originally uploaded by wivy.

Toronto looking West, originally uploaded by wivy.

Toronto Downtown Core at night, originally uploaded by wivy.

Pearson Airport (YYZ), originally uploaded by James Knox.

For some reason, night views of the city will always remind me of those time-filler late-night Global shows that featured a roving camera and light jazz music; Night Moves, Night Ride and Night Walk.  They gave ’80s Toronto a bit of a noir feel, and helped a lot of folks (even those of us who were born here) fall in love with Hogtown.

RELATED: Shawn Micallef of Spacing Toronto reminisces fondly about those insomiac memories of yesteryear.  And, against the odds, a clip of Night Walk circa 1984 survives on YouTube.

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Suggestions for Air Canada Jazz

Dear Air Canada Jazz,

I know you’re probably excited about the prospect of operating from the Toronto City Centre Airport again.  I would like to be excited for you too, but unfortunately I remember how awful your prior service was.

Now that Porter has demonstrated that a regional carrier can be successful operating from the Island, let’s take a quick look at their winning formula.

  • Porter has a shuttle bus to the airport. Jazz had one too, although I don’t remember much about it.  Porter has two buses running at 15 minute intervals; from what I recall Air Ontario (later Air Canada Jazz) had a single bus running once every five years.  I know I was only lucky enough to catch it to the Royal York once; every other time I had to call a cab from the airport’s deserted gravel parking lot.
  • Porter has newer, quieter planes. Porter’s Q400s are fairly new and have not had time to get old, overused and filthy yet.  This is a disadvantage for Jazz because its current Dash 8-100/300 fleet is already old and filthy, and there is no easy fix aside from new furnishings or a new fleet.  The old Air Ontario birds used to carry the Ontario shield on the nose, and be named after a city in the province (i.e. “City of Sudbury”).  I liked those nods to old-school aviation, but for G-d’s sake would it have killed you to vacuum and clean the cabins once in a while?
  • Porter flies to many destinations. Like New York (Newark), Boston, Chicago, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Halifax, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, et cetera.  Air Canada Jazz used to fly to Ottawa, Montreal, Windsor, London and Newark, but it slowly began cancelling services, and by the time it was evicted from the airport in 2006, only the Toronto-to-Ottawa service remained.  The Port Authority rightly cut a deal with Porter to save the airport; Jazz was only interested in winding things down.
  • Porter has spent a lot of money on infrastructure upgrades. I have flown out of all three iterations of island airport terminal buildings (four if you count the Eagle Aircraft/Shell Aerocentre FBO on the GA ramp)—the original wooden 1939 terminal (“Terminal A“), the ’80s/’90s vintage Air Ontario terminal, and now the Porter terminal.  The Air Ontario/Jazz departure lounge was a dump.  Rows of plastic seats attached to a single underlying metal bar, just like bus terminal seating.  No complimentary food or drinks. On the mainland side, there was no place to wait for the ferry (or the seldom-seen shuttle bus, or a cab) other than an old TTC bus shelter.  Try cramming 30 people in there in the rain.  Porter smartly built a waiting area (with automated check-in kiosks) on the mainland side.  No longer do you have to wait outside in the rain.  Porter’s departure lounge has comfortable seats and free goodies.  The terminal layout makes ergonomic sense.  The only thing I would fault Porter on is the tiny space for baggage pickup.
  • Porter’s animating philosophy is business class for everyone. They have free food and drinks in the lounge.  You don’t have to get to the terminal three days early in order to complete security screening on time.  Porter understands that people will pay a premium for convenience and good service.  In contrast, the Air Ontario/Air Canada Jazz animating philosophy appeared to be third world economy class for everyone.  Especially you, urban dwellers who might want to get someplace in a hurry.  What’s the matter, Pearson’s shiny new terminal, enormous fees, and ridiculous pre-boarding wait times not good enough for you?

The opportunity was always there for a downtown air carrier to survive, if not thrive; what Jazz lacked was a fundamental appreciation of their customer base.  Getting from Point A to Point B in Greyhound style doesn’t appeal to the execs and middle management that might have to make those trips frequently.  The fact that Porter thrives in the same spot where Jazz failed abysmally should be an obvious and compelling object lesson to Jazz management.  Let us hope they do not squander a seldom-given second chance.

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Ark of Arts

PDVD_031In Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children of Men, the human population has become infertile, most of the world’s cities have been laid to waste, and only Britain remains somewhat intact.  Battersea Power Station has been turned into the Ministry of Art’s “Ark of Arts”—the repository of humanity’s priceless art treasures, salvaged from the wreck and ruin of less stable nations, now preserved for posterity.

You might be surprised to learn (as I was) that Canada is doing something like this, musically.  Via Torontoist:

Since 1985, the Canada Council for the Arts has been amassing (on a small scale) more than twenty-six million US dollars worth of antique instruments for the benefit of Canadian musicians. This week the Canada Council hosts the Musical Instrument Bank’s largest national competition ever to decide who will take home one of thirteen pieces—plus a cello bow—fabricated between 1689 and 1902. This week the competing Canadian musicians have played before a jury of three experts, and the winners, who will be announced today, will take home the instrument of their choice on loan for a period of three years. The fourteen winning musicians play a showcase performance tonight at the Glenn Gould studio (RSVP here for tickets), to be aired on Bill Richardson’s In Concert next Sunday (October 4). Glenn Gould Studio (Canadian Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front Street West), 10 a.m. (winners announced), 8 p.m. (performance), FREE.

I have to admit I am actually enthusiastic about this, preserving humanity’s musical heritage and making it available to exceptional Canadian performers is exactly what organisations like the Canada Council ought to be doing.  Now making a mental note to give them a one-time pass the next occasion somebody goes into a tizzy over arts funding.

I’ve seen soloists performing with the TSO using some of these rare instruments, but their provenance was never mentioned in the performance or the guide.  I had assumed that some wealthy private patron had ponied up the dollars to get his or her mitts on these rare instruments, and then awarded them to the artist.

This is a worthy endeavour by the Canada Council, I hope they maintain it.

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The kids are all right

Children in the Ward, Toronto, c. 1911

Children in the Ward, Toronto, c. 1911

The more things change, the more they stay the same:

“Parents who believe babies can sleep in their arms, in a baby carriage or go-cart while they gad about with them at Hanlan’s Point or Scarboro Beach Park will have a sorry awakening some day. But they will ascribe it to something else, not their own gross abuse of the baby. Most of our children do not get enough rest and sleep; rest should mean complete relaxation of the muscles, and a young babe should be in its bed before seven o’clock, and stay there till morning, except for necessary feeding and care.

There is one thing our children do get enough of, and that is amusement; they get too much of the stimulating, exciting, and unhealthy kind of amusement. A child needs amusement, but of the simplest [kind] and largely in the nature of play. Moving-picture shows, band concerts, days and nights at Hanlan’s Point, Scarboro Beach, the Midway at the Exhibition, and light operas at the theatre are making our children blasé before they are out of their ‘teens, and giving them a weak, unstable, nervous system and a mushy sentiment which they dream is genuine feeling.”

Dr. W.E. Struthers
Chief Medical Inspector, Toronto Board of Education

It should be noted that the generation Dr. Struthers is fretting about later went and defeated Germany and Japan in a globe-spanning contest of arms lasting just six years.

Maybe that lump on your couch playing Halo will turn out to be something, after all.

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