25 August 2015

Toronto, Life, the Subliminal Seduction of the Innocent and a Morley Callaghan Mystery

Toronto Life, vol. 4, no. 7 (7 June 1970)

There are jokes to be made about Toronto Life having to travel two hours outside the city for a cover story, but this Montrealer is above all that. What's more, this Montrealer deserves credit for saving this magazine from the pulper.

Just look at that cover!

It would've been displayed at United Cigar Stores four years before I made the leap from Allancroft Elementary to Beaconsfield High. A to B, it was at the latter that I encountered Wilson Bryan Key's Subliminal Seduction, the closest thing the school library had to a dirty book.

Key, who taught briefly at the University of Western Ontario, saw sex everywhere. In fact, he claimed the very word – SEX – was written in caps on images of ice cubes used in ads for hard liquor.

SEX on ice? I couldn't see it – and as a twelve year-old I was really looking. That said, my fifty-two year-old self did notice something about the cover of this old Toronto Life.

Do you?

Different times, right? This is the issue's subscription card:

Forty-five years have passed. "Stratford As You'll Like It", the promised "Fun guide to Stratford the turned-on town", is now as dated as author David Smith's wardrobe.

Smith's hook, dull and lacking a lure, is all about how much the town has changed since the Stratford Festival's 1953 beginning:
Boutiques now line Ontario Street where the dry goods shops used to be. The "hippies" on the street are probably townspeople. Stratford even has its own topless dancer, at 56" more for your money than anywhere else I know.
It doesn't say much that Smith failed to interest the local historian in me, though I did enjoy the photos, like this one of nearby St Marys, where I now live.

Like something from another century… which, of course, it is. And look, here's the author in Olin Brown's, "where confectionary is still made by hand – and tastes delicious."

Toronto Life informs that David Smith is a "Toronto couturier".

Odd how few recognizable names feature in the bylines. This Toronto Life is no Montrealer: no short stories, no poetry, no book reviews; though you will find an automotive column, a cooking column and a column concerning interior decoration.

Not to say that literary types didn't contribute. Our very own E.L. James, Marika Robert, whose lone novel A Stranger and Afraid I read last year, has a travel piece on Rome. Eric LeBourdais, nephew of Gwethalyn Graham, provides a very long article: "Why We Need the Spadina and How It Can Lead Toronto into the 21st Century", in which he draws on a study by automotive industry front General Research Corporation of Burbank, California.

Heather Cooper's illustrations did not convince, though I did marvel at those demonstrating how the proposed expressway "would skirt Casa Loma and provide a partial interchange at Davenport":

"READ ON FOR FACTS ABOUT THE SPADINA AND THE FUTURE" encourages the magazine, between ads for General Motors, Shell, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Maserati and a Lincoln Mercury dealership.

To be perfectly fair, the same  issue features a snap of novelist David Lewis Stein making the rounds in his fight against the very same project.

I'm afraid that the only other sign of Toronto's literary scene comes through a recycled press release:

Thumbs Down on Julien Jones – note correct title – "his first book in seven years", was never published; I've been keeping an eye out for decades. Callaghan began the novel in 1942 as his follow-up to More Joy in Heaven. Twenty-one years later, he told the New York Times that it was a month from completion. And here it is again in 1970, presented as something on the cusp of publication.

Callaghan read four excerpts on CBL. Some of it was adapted and published in 1973 as a short story, "The Meterman, Caliban, and Then Mr. Jones", in son Barry's Exile. The following year, the same was dramatized in an episode of the CBC's The Play's the Thing.

I keep expecting Thumbs Down on Julien Jones to be published; Library and Archives Canada holds several drafts. Of And Then It All Came Together, described in Toronto Life as a novel in progress, there is no trace; nothing with that title is found amongst his papers. Throughout the latter half of 1970, Callaghan talked about the work as something he wouldn't talk about.

Maybe not talking about it was enough.

Could be I've said too much.

I'll shut up.


I would be remiss not to recognize that Morley Callaghan died twenty-five years ago today. His was the last death of which I learned by way of a newspaper. I was walking across Square St-Henri when I read the news on the front page of the Gazette.

Different times, right?

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  1. My brother in law was at Stratford in the early years and wrote a memoir about it:


  2. Wait... YOU went to Allancroft and BHS too??

    1. I certainly did. I grew up on Sherbrooke Street, four blocks from Allancroft, which I attended from kindergarten all the way through grade six. I was at BHS for grades seven through eleven, graduating in 1979.

  3. I rode the bus from Hillcrest Gardens (in Pierrefonds). Started at Allancroft in Grade 5, the year it opened (1960, I guess). BHS Gr 8 only, before being repatriated to Toronto, 1964. Before your time. (My dentist was on Sherbrooke.)