A selection of unorthodox counsel, plausible fantasies and informative exotica to better deal with and appreciate big-city existence in Toronto

By Robert Sarner, Cityspan, 1978-79

In early 1978, The Canadian Magazine launched a new weekly section in its Ontario edition called Cityspan. It focused on life in Toronto with an informative, offbeat and wry perspective. Lamentably, Cityspan only lasted little more than a year.

Robert Sarner was Assistant Editor of the section, working under Editor Tom Alderman who proved a great mentor. The following is a selection of items penned by Robert that appeared in Cityspan with much valued input from Tom.

Jan. 7, 1978


Surely you've also had that horrible fantasy, while standing on the subway platform waiting for the train to arrive, that you might fall over the edge on to the track. The train's bearing down upon you. You wonder what you could possibly do to save yourself.

It actually happens about a dozen times a year that someone tumbles down to the track level. It's often a drunk, or someone suddenly ill, or someone who can't see too well - and happily, there's usually no train arriving. So there's plenty of time to be rescued. But if you do fall over the edge, and the train's coming, you've got at least three ways to save your skin, though two of them aren't all that attractive:

  1. If you've got only an instant to decide your course of action, flop belly down between the tracks and allow the train to pass over you. However there's a space of only about a foot between the roadbed and the train - sometimes it's a few inches less than that - and you'll end up bruised for sure. You may lose part of your gluteus. And if the gap's particularly narrow and you're particularly overweight, you're finished.

  2. In stations where there's a centre island separating trains going in opposite directions - like the Bloor stop on the Yonge line - you might try leaping for the safety of that island. There among the signboards advertising contact lenses, modeling schools and running shoes, you'll find room to stand when the train whizzes by. (At stations such as Eglinton, which have common platforms, a similar maneuver is to race for the far wall and flatten yourself against it.) However, to get there, you have to leap over the third rail, which supplies power to the train. It's wrapped partly in a wooden jacket and there's no problem if you step on the wood. But it'll shoot 600 volts though you if you accidentally touch that rail. Goodbye.

  3. Undoubtedly the safest refuge is under the lip of the platform. A quick split-second leap and you're huddled in that little alcove under the platform, which is always about three feet in height and ranges from two to five feet in depth. The newer stations with centre platforms - York Mills and Lawrence, for example - are usually the widest, being closer to five feet. But the older stations, such as Summerhill, Rosedale, Bloor and Wellesley - are, at about two feet, the tightest fit. You'll really have to scrunch yourself up.

Then, after the train has gone by, you trot carefully to either end of the platform and scramble up the stairs leading back up the platform. Lucky you.

It's not wise, when the train's coming in, to step over that 16-inch-wide, non-skid tile trim that runs the length of the platform. The TTC provides it more as a psychological barrier than anything else. And if you should drop a parcel or handbag over the edge, don't think for even a second to take the plunge to retrieve it. Let the nearest TTC employee know - usually the man in the collector's booth - and he'll arrange to get it back for you.

Jan. 7, 1978


It's not nice for Ma Bell to fool us folks. But that's what she's doing when she hangs signs on about one-third of her 13,000 pay phones around Toronto saying that "You cannot receive calls at this telephone." In short, that you can only make outgoing calls on these phones, that it's impossible to receive incoming calls.

The reasons for such phones are eminently logical. If you don't have one-way phones, says Bell, kids tie up the lines with their games, drug dealers fearful of being tapped use them to confirm drops, perverts call from one phone in a cluster to another phone just a short space away and watch in delight while whoever picks up the ringing phone is appalled at the caller's obscene inventions. So it is that one-way phones turned up on the local scene around1964.

Now it turns out Bell's been kidding us all along. We tested a few one-way phones and guess what? You could call in to every one we tried. You can call in to 416-869-9129 at the Union subway station, for example, and you can call into 416-465-0344 in the New Shamrock Hotel on Coxwell Avenue and you can call in to 416-595-9332 at the Dundas subway station, hard by the Eaton Centre. All had signs insisting that you couldn't take incoming calls on them. We could go on and on listing numbers but you're old enough to get out there and discover them for yourselves.

Jan 14, 1978


The Mounties don't get all their info from snitches, break-ins and telephone taps. They also get it quite legally by reading papers and magazines - but not the kind the rest of us would ordinarily look at. Unless we wanted to fall into a trance browsing through such sleep-inducing periodicals as World Marxist Review.

But the horsemen love that pinko, black and left-leaning stuff. Indeed, they've got a standing order for 13 of the 15 copies of World Marxist Review sold each month at Lichtman's News, 34 Adelaide St. W. Other hot items making the rounds of the RCMP's Toronto headquarters at 225 Jarvis St.: Canadian Tribune (16 copies); Contrast, a Toronto tabloid for the black community (13 copies); and Communist View Point (10 copies).

The Mounties pick the stuff up themselves. Twice a month, a plainclothes emissary turns up at Lichtman's. "Is there anything for me?" he meekly asks the salesclerk. Out comes the parcel from under the counter (where else?) and the Mountie pays in cash and vanishes. No subscription list, no trusting to the mails, no accusing trail of paper.

The bill, says our source at Mountie headquarters, comes to about $75 monthly. Among the other favorites picked up at Lichtman's: Mohammed Speaks, The Canadian India Star, The Peking Review, Young Worker, Young Socialist, Old Mole, Georgia Straight, Black World, World Digest, The Trinidad and Tobago Express, Spear, New Canada, Labour Action, Labour Challenge, Life and World, Forward, Reformation Bulletin, Milne Slova, Worker's Action, Spartacist Canada, The African World and New World.

There must be an awful lot of yawning going on in there on Jarvis Street.

Jan. 14, 1978


There's not much to say for taped phone-answering devices except that they do the job of answering your phone when you're not around. "Hello, this is Ambrose Small. I'm out right now but if you'll leave your name and number...." Polished, efficient - and impersonal. For no one likes to talk to a machine. Little wonder a lot of callers hang up at the first sound of that disembodied voice.

But some machines are more human than others. That's because many of their owners are putting the juice of life into their taped messages. These I've-gotta-be-me-kind of routines may not be quite the same as talking to a real person, but at least they're not bland recitations. And most important, they're more likely to seduce the caller into listening, then surrendering his name and call-back number.

Just to show you that talking to a machine can be fun, we've sought out some of the city's more entertaining messages with a personality. Over the coming months, we'll present a selection to you, starting with a couple from the machine of Mark Breslin, owner of Yuk Yuk's Komedy Kabaret:

* "Hi. This is Mark Breslin. I'm home now but I don't feel like coming to the phone. I'm playing a game of strip Scrabble with a couple of 12-year-old friends of the family. Why don't you leave your name and number and I'll call you back as soon as I can after the beep. Do you know any words that begin with the letter X?" Beep!

Jan. 21, 1978


Oh, it's vile, vile, vile what's going on at Sportables, the chic women's wear shop in the Lothian Mews, 96 Bloor St. W. Charming décor, friendly sales staff and first-class sportswear. But isn't it shocking about those four changing rooms at the back of the store.

Those changing rooms must be the most revealing in town. The brown curtains that are supposed to give some privacy actually give little. They're of a very thin, indeed translucent, open-weave material. Add to this the harsh fluorescent lights above and you've got a shadow play like this city has never known. Some of the shop's clientele also seem to have a hard time closing those curtains completely.

Some dirty old men have been taking advantage of the situation. When approached by the help, they go into a standard routine. "Mind if I browse? I'm looking for something for my girlfriend." Then they position themselves by the large table directly in front of the changing rooms. More cowardly types station themselves farther back, near the blouse department, where they feign interest in the apparel. Tsk, Tsk. We trust the management will move to make their enjoyment short-lived.

Jan. 21, 1978


More from Cityspan's collection of real taped messages-with-a-personality from the phone-answering machines of Toronto. This from the machine of cinematographer Henry Fiks:

* "Please do not hang up. Please don't put me back into oblivion. I'm only a machine that thinks and a machine that has feelings. Henry Fiks goes out and has a good time and all he does is leave me to go 'beep' and people hopefully leave a message after it, which they really do. Please leave a message. Thank you. Beep!"

Jan. 21, 1978


Many city cabs are dirty, crummy, depressing heaps that let you off feeling like you need a shower. But don't put Metro Cab's #1732 in that abominable bag. Andy Diamantis' 1975 Plymouth Fury is invariably neat, spotless and - how to put this - decorated most interestingly.

"I'm in my cab nine hours a day six days a week," says Andy. "So I figured I might as well make it feel like a living room."

Andy decided to become an interior decorator. But Budd Sugarman need have no fear. Andy has just one client - himself - and though the colours might clash and the extras seem excessive, you're certainly not in for another dull cab ride across town. There's nothing quite like the inside of that thing.

A raspberry-coloured shag rug on the floor. Assorted air fresheners, all with different essences, fighting for control of the interior. On the ceiling, a collage of postcards, maps, coins, snapshots of Andy's son, a $4 cheque made out to Andy (it bounced) and assorted other unidentifiable objects. And around the dashboard, where Andy's taste really shines, a vase with real flowers, a small water jar for sprinkling same, a framed picture of his son, a whole mess of toy soldiers, glass figurines and other decorating touches and - his latest acquisition - a toy lion holding a lace-fringed yellow and orange umbrella. Let it be known that Andy's looking for a grey ashtray to replace the bronze one attached to his meter, the better to colour-coordinate with the meter's gun-metal grey colour.

At least, that's the way the inside looked last time we peeked in. For Andy is constantly changing the décor, moving things around, adding brilliant pieces he picks up at Canadian Tire or wherever.

Naturally, he won't allow his car to be washed commercially. It might upset his meticulous arrangements. So he washes and vacuums the thing himself to make sure it's done right. It goes almost without saying that Andy is also the kind of driver who opens doors for passengers. There's a payoff at the end for him. Since he decorated two years ago, shortly after getting his owner's license, Andy's tips have been about one-third higher.


Feb. 4, 1978


More from Cityspan's collection of taped messages-with-a-personality from the phone-answering machines of Toronto. This from the machine of Dave Mazmanian, production director at CILQ-FM:

* "Hey listen, we're awfully busy. What do you want? No, I mean it. Hey look, all the time you're ringing the phone bothering us. And we gotta put these recorded messages on, cause we don't want to talk to you. Now if you've got something of interest, then go ahead and say it when the tone comes on. Dummy, when the tone comes on! And if you don't, well, you know, go away." Beep!


Feb. 4, 1978


Rochdale College is now 10 years old - and looking uglier every day. It hovers over Bloor Street like some giant tombstone, totally at odds with its environment. Whenever we're around there - Rochdale's on the southeast corner of Bloor and Huron - we try to ignore the thing. Not because of its notorious past as a freaky high-rise for hippies. But because it hurts the eyes simply to look at the building.

This grey 18-storey structure cost $5,500,000 to put up. The firm of architects who designed it is understandably reticent about discussing it.

"We don't wish to continue talking about Rochdale," says senior partner Elmar Tampold of Tampold Wells Architects. "We don't need this type of advertising."

However, Tampold couldn't resist putting the typical - and perfectly valid - case of the architect who must make do with what his client gives him to work with.

"It's basically a low-cost shelter," he explains. "It doesn't try to be monumental architecture."

Tampold insists all the place needs is a little sprucing up. Trees, a flower garden, awnings above the ground floor, all of which the original plans called for. Cosmetic upholstery. But it won't remedy the over-all sterility of the structure. That can never be spruced up. Bloor Street is stuck with a concrete lump to end all lumps.


Feb. 4, 1978


Subway riders, have we got a garbage can for you! It's the TTC's all-new 1978 refuse collector, guaranteed to do away with all the problems of previous refuse collectors. Problems like nasty kids kicking in the cans or carrying them off. Problems like being tough to clean, often overflowing, and sometimes soggy with some vile, unidentifiable liquid or other. Problems like, well, like not being too pretty to look at - in short, looking a lot like garbage cans.

These new babies, designed and built at the TTC's own carpentry shop, weigh in at 400 pounds - almost all of it concrete - and stand three feet high. That makes for a 25-gallon capacity, about double of previous models. Drain holes in the bottom allow liquids to filter out and prevent clogging. They're dent-resistant and, thanks to a removable aluminum top, more popular with the gentlemen who have to empty these things. Their beef with most older models was that they couldn't see inside, the better to acquaint themselves with the awful leavings they were obliged to collect. Some truly disgusting items turned up in their hands before they could properly adjust to them. Now at least, they have a preview of what's coming and they can flee if they want to.

All this and beauty, too. Warm-hued, reddish-brown tiles - like simulated brick - wrap around the concrete shell. So nice. But don't anyone try to take them home to mother. They're bolted in place on the platform to ensure that frisky lads don't tip them over and roll them on to the tracks. Absolutely the last word in garbage cans and on view, at this writing, mainly at the Bloor and St. George stations. But coming soon to a station near you.


Mar. 4, 1978


Ben Sherman, the city's pre-eminent senior citizen, will be 107 years old next Saturday and he's still hanging in pretty good. All next week he'll be a shrine to the media, which will visit him at his Queen Street West hardware store and ask him his recipe for a long life. So it's time to spike a nasty rumour about Ben that's been going around town the past couple of months.

Namely that Ben doesn't give an interview unless Canadian Club, his favorite rye whisky, gets plugged somewhere in the article. And that every time Canadian Club gets plugged, Ben gets a case of the stuff from CC's grateful distributor. After all, you can't want a better endorsement than a 107-year-old who takes two or three shots of your stuff a day.

Well, it's a vile, untrue rumour about Ben, given further credence in a recent gossip column in the Globe and Mail. The truth is that, while Ben loves his CC - "My best medicine," is how he describes it - he doesn't insist that it be plugged. It just gets plugged, naturally, in many stories about Ben because it's the only stuff he drinks and mentions by name.

Ben's son, Sam, drew this to the attention of CC's distributor a few years ago and they came through with a free bottle on his birthday. And every birthday since. And sometimes on Christmas. Whether or not they get plugged.

All clear? Happy birthday, Ben. (This story should be worth five cases, eh, Ben?)


Apr. 1, 1978

THE SMALLEST: A column devoted to the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things in the big city


The smallest amount of money lost on TTC property and turned in by the finder to the Lost and Found Department: one (1) cent. It was discovered on Dec. 17, 1976 on the Queen subway platform (northbound) by a severely honest person who would not reveal his/her name or address. Too bad, because unclaimed monies can be awarded to the finder eventually. The monies are kept for three months at the TTC's Lost and Found in the Bay subway station (924-2136) and released upon a proper, detailed description of both the monies and the circumstances of their loss.

In this instance, when the three months were up and neither loser nor finder had stepped forward, the penny - as in the case of all unclaimed monies - went into TTC coffers to help offset its annual deficit.


July 1, 1978

THE SMALLEST: A column devoted to the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things in the big city


Warning: the cheapest bottle of Coke in Toronto may not be around much longer. For the past 11 years, customers browsing through the Old Favorites Bookshop, a second-hand book emporium at 250 Adelaide St. W., have been able to get a Coke from the store's machine for a miserable dime. True it's just the 6-ounce bottle, but still, you can't beat that price.

The store loses money on the transaction. Manager Ken Saunders figures he drops about three cents on each bottle. But he regards it as a service to his browsers, who lap up about 250 bottles of the stuff a week. It's when the browsers make off with the empty bottles that Saunders gets annoyed. Each time that's another 10 cents he loses on the deposit.

Saunders says he'll sit still for a loss of up to a nickel a bottle. But if it gets any higher - either because of a price increase or, more likely, those greedy bottle-nappers - he'll be forced to raise the price. Until then, however, the city's longest-running loss leader lingers on - tenuously - at Old Favorites from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.

And if we catch you making off with an empty (and thus contributing to the demise of the 10-cent Coca-Cola), we'll do what they do with thieves in the Middle East: chop off your hand at the wrist.

July 15, 1978



A few months ago, we asked readers to suggest ways of wheedling addresses out of Bell Canada operators. For Bell has a stern policy of not giving out the addresses of its subscribers. You can call for phone numbers anytime, but if you ask for the address to go with it, the operators are suddenly struck deaf and dumb. Even though the address is right there on the page before them.

So we asked how you'd get that address out of them and, well, we're sorry we asked. Such a barrage of mail did we get from people saying they're glad Bell doesn't give out addresses. There may be the odd instance when it would be all right, most of them agreed, but most times it's probably some creep calling who's plucked some phone number off the latrine wall and now wants the address to go along with it. Subscribers - especially women living alone - don't need that kind of trouble.

We agree. But we've also learned Bell isn't that stern about giving addresses. Indeed, it has a special number that you can call to get an address to go along with a phone number. Bell doesn't like to talk about this service, available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday, because to mention it might get some subscribers mad - as well as swamp it with incoming calls from creeps. But it's mainly for the business community, who put in about 1,000 calls daily to its switchboard, checking on the veracity of personal cheques and who knows what else. There are presumably no creeps in the business community. So don't think Bell is so staunchly defending the privacy of its subscribers.

You don't need an introduction to dial this secret number. All you do is dial it and blurt out the number you want the address for. The operator doesn't even ask which firm you're with. You'll get the address within 10 seconds, right down to the apartment number if you please. This number is 487-8--- no, we can't complete it because we've been struck by a sudden attack of responsibility. If we give out the number, the weirdos will be on the phone in a flash and all hell will break loose. We don't want our phone lines jammed with women complaining that they're being followed by strange men in trench coats and blaming it all on us. So we'll just say that, if you've got a phone number and want the address for it, call Bell's business office at 599-3911 and give them reasons why they should give it to you. If you're persuasive - very persuasive - they'll let you have it.

July 15, 1978


Everyone has a contender for the seediest-looking shopping plaza in Metro Toronto. But all choices will have to go some to beat our candidate. It's the unnamed plaza, in the Bathurst and Wilson district, on the north side of Wilson Avenue running west from Collinson Boulevard. The plaza as it stands is probably no better or worse than most medium-sized suburban plazas stretching in one long, shabby row of smallish enterprises below second-storey apartment suites. It's the housekeeping on the narrow parking lot fronting on Wilson Avenue that makes your eyeballs spin. From the Drildzer Young Men's Mutual Benefit Society on the plaza's eastern end, through a wild assortment of some two dozen storefronts, to the window on the western end proclaiming the Brite-Way Coin Laundry, it's like walking across a garbage dump.

We don't know whether the landlords are trying to save on maintenance fees, the plaza's customers are sloppier than any others or the prevailing North York winds blow all the trash from three miles around into this particular mall. But it's filthy out there all the time.

About the only thing that can be said for the slop is that it obscures from view the parking lot's numerous potholes - cars have been known to disappear in them and never return - and the tracks in the walkways close to the storefronts. Last April, after all the snow had melted, we reached down to unglue a piece of newspaper that had wrapped itself around our legs. Curious, we glanced at the date. It was the Toronto Sun of Dec. 17, 1977.

Sept. 2, 1978


About two dozen street musicians plied their trade in downtown Toronto this past summer. Most were not so good, deserving a coin or two only if they promised to stop and go elsewhere. However, some weren't bad at all, and others - if not all that proficient - at least interesting.

We listened to them all in preparation for this listing of the city's best and/or liveliest street entertainers. If other magazines - Downbeat and Playboy, for example - can present their musical all-stars, so can Cityspan. Herewith, our first annual all-star street band, some of whose members can still be found playing their little hearts out around town. The rest have doubtless moved on to warmer climes and won't be found again till the spring.

Saxophone/James Pobiega

One of the musical giants of the street, Pobiega - also known as Papa Doctoreaux - can be found blowing a mournful instrument in the Lester Young vein at Yonge and Carlton. He'll shift to Yonge and Wellesley occasionally, where sometimes, for your amusement, he'll play sax and harmonica simultaneously. Pobiega, who believes in voodoo, has been working the streets since he moved here from Chicago three years ago. He's self-taught and plays only tunes that he's written. Tunes like Stone Believer, Pain in My Heart and Little Bandanna For Anna. Year-round performer. He insists he didn't miss a day on the streets in 1976. Switches to guitar every now and then, at which time passers-by also get the dubious benefit of his voice. Stick to the sax, Papa - puh-leeze.

Violin/Steve Jeffery

A workhorse, Jeffery puts in about four hours a day on the streets, moving from in front of the Colonnade to outside the Eaton Centre and then Simpson's. He's Ottawa-born, moved here a year ago and hopes to play in as many cities as he can before laying his instrument to rest and getting an honest job. Self-taught, Jeffery plays in a down-home style reminiscent of the best Cape Breton fiddlers. His repertoire includes Mabu Ridge, The Musical Priest, Sunday is My Wedding Day and other popular chestnuts. Also plays guitar and harmonica, but finds he does better with the fiddle.

Singer/Deborah Jones

Deborah's pleasant voice handles just about anything without too many flat notes. You'll find her in the Union Station tunnel or, more often, along Yonge Street south of Wellesley. Plucking at a guitar, she accompanies herself on the usual range of pop, folk and blues tunes, liberally sprinkled with old favorites like Moon River, Mr. Bojangles and Summertime. And, occasionally, something she wrote herself. It helps pay the rent in The Beaches because, at the moment, she's unemployed.

Flute/Tom Regina

The streets' classiest performer, Regina sports a recent Bachelor of Music degree from Queen's University. Deals mainly in the classics - Bach seems to generate the most coin - two or three lunch hours a week in front of the Colonnade on the south side of Bloor Street east of Avenue Road. He doesn't play much more than two hours at a stretch because after that, his teeth hurt, his fingers ache and he's plumb out of breath. He's usually off the streets when the cold weather comes in.

Guitar/C.W. Gibson

A perennial all-star despite the fact that he strums only in one monotonous chord. His voice isn't so good either. At 72, C.W. can be found most days between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the southwest corner of Yonge and Adelaide, serenading passers-by with some of his original works. Like Angels of Yonge, which goes this away: Everything is fine/Just like a good pine/Everything is so good in Rome/Everything is good/So good you don't even have to touch the wood...

The rest of the lyrics available upon request. Suffice it to say, C.W. is self-taught. The proceeds from his solo gigs supplement his pension. C.W., who uses the street name of Alvus Prosley, always wears gloves when he plays to protect his delicate hands from vicious dogs.

Sept. 16, 1978


If you look closely at the storefront at 811 Gerrard St. E., you might surmise that the main business carried on therein is dry cleaning. But you'd be wrong. Despite the overhanging sign - HANDY ANDY'S DRY CLEANERS - it's only a front for owner Morris Silver's major activity. Morris is in the crusader business.

When called upon, he will take in your dirty shirts and rumpled pants. But that just pays the rent. Mainly, he's looking for causes to take up and, judging by his front windows, he has little trouble finding them. Morris' windows are festooned with garish signs proclaiming his numerous causes céläbres. He's dead against drunk drivers, global terrorism, Quebec's language policy and assorted other local and international outrages.

Morris' causes aren't particularly novel - after all, no right-thinking person is for drunk drivers - but what distinguishes him is that he's not shy about telling people what he thinks.

"Most people don't speak out," he says. "They just shrug their shoulders. But a social conscience is no good if it's dormant." Then, pausing for effect Morris quotes the philosopher Plato. " 'The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.' I've often gone back to that statement."

Morris has no intention of giving evil men the upper hand. He says what he thinks with his signs, which he makes himself and plasters over every available space in his windows. With foot-high lettering on fluorescent paper - he's especially fond of banana yellow - they should be approached with sunglasses to avoid permanent eye damage. In short, they're loud, indelicate and to the point. If signs were voices, Morris' efforts would all be singing Seventy-six Trombones at the top of their lungs, with full brass backing.

Morris is aware that a certain elegance seems to be missing from his crusades. But he's only been into them about two years. Before that, he was just another dry cleaner, albeit a dry cleaner with a mild interest in public affairs. He read the papers and chatted amiably about what was wrong with the world with his wife, Edith, and his neighborhood cronies. Then one day he read a news story about a young girl crippled for life by a drunk driver. Morris, then 55, suddenly realized he had to go public.

"It came to me that I had a social conscience," he says. "Maybe there's always been one buried inside, waiting for the right time to turn up. All I know is that being one average guy trying to influence government is my ultimate challenge."

He'd learned sign-painting as a kid and it was to this medium that he turned. The painting was easy, but deciding what to say was somewhat more difficult. To capture attention and make a point in a few words is what $25,000-a-year advertising copywriters are constantly striving for. Morris is no wordsmith. His signs are crude, often corny but - strangely - adorably catchy. That's because he does his homework. He reads the papers carefully, keeps a newsclipping file - an admittedly chaotic one - and has a copy of Roger's Thesaurus on hand to help him find his mot juste.

Morris' crusades have certainly given him attention. He's been on cable TV. "The show was repeated nine times," he says proudly. Strangers wave to him on the street. Politicians drop in to the store to shake his hand. People bring him their dirty shirts from as far away as Don Mills. And someone once heaved a brick through his window. It was hard to tell which of the signs they disagreed with and Morris doesn't care anyway. "Ninety-nine point six per cent of people support my crusades," he insists with the assurance of a professional pollster.

Morris isn't sure if his signs accomplish anything. He's not even sure it's important that they do accomplish. "What's important is that I'm standing up and saying what I want," he says.

Morris' only problem is lack of space for all his signs. That's why he has a standing offer to anyone with a bare window and a just cause. He's already done a sign for his friend Alex Weiss, proprietor of a tailor shop at 103 Dundas St. E. If called on, he'll also do one for you. Call him at 465-3911 with details of your cause. You, too, can stop traffic with a fluorescent sign by crusader Morris Silver. Maybe someone will even think you important enough to toss a brick through your window.

Sept. 16, 1978


Unconking the city's five worst stinks

Each city has its own distinctive smells, not all of them pleasant. But it is these smells that help define it, give it its character, make it easily recognizable. Herewith, a guide to the fine old stinks that have been with us for years - indeed, were here long before most of the rest of us - and will probably remain with us long after we're gone.

Canada Packers, 2200 St. Clair Ave. W.: The premier stinker in Toronto. Together with four smaller meat packers in the neighborhood, it puts its signature on the West End. It's a complex essence made up of urea, manure and something called paunch manure, which is what animals emit when they're slaughtered. Please don't ask for details about paunch manure. Add the aroma of meat being cooked and cured and you've got a stench that, when the wind is right, can permanently damage your nostrils.

Ashbridges Bay Sewage Treatment Plant, 1091 Eastern Ave.: The king-sized version of the famous rotten-egg smell of your high school chemistry class. It's what you get when bacteria attacks sewage. Assorted other gases mingle with the resulting hydrogen sulphide. Then all together, they assault the entire Beaches district. You can't hide from this aroma. It hunts you down and brings you to your knees.

Gordon Young Ltd., 554 Lakeshore Blvd. E.: Though it doesn't cover as wide a range as Canada Packers or Ashbridges Bay, this one makes its presence felt. It hits you where the Gardiner meets the Don Valley Expressway. Never have your car windows open at this traffic intersection. Gordon Young Ltd. is a renderer, meaning that it takes inedible restaurant scraps and other awful things and cooks them down to wax. In the process, you get to sniff methane, hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide. Not at all fragrant.

Maple Leaf Mills, 371 Queen's Quay W.: Another fine old stinker on the western fringes of downtown. This place extracts oils from grain and, when that happens its ptui! time all along the waterfront. You're smelling the stench of burning vegetable oil and vegetable matter. Toronto wouldn't be Toronto without it.

Molson's Brewery, 640 Fleet St.: Don't confuse essence of Maple Leaf Mills with the odor of nearby Molson's Brewery. Absolutely nostril-dilating, this latter one, though folks who live in the neighborhood say it's not so bad once you get used to it. It takes about 20 years of living near there to get used to it, however. Then, every time you leave the old neighborhood, you miss the smell of hops, malt and yeast fermenting, and you wonder why the rest of the city smells so strange.

Nov. 4, 1978


If you want to know how the rest of the world views Canada, walk into Club Iris, the earth's most complete post card shop. Unfortunately, this'll be difficult for most of you, Club Iris being on the Left Bank in Paris, France. However, we dropped in recently on your behalf and there, among the 2,000,000 cards arranged alphabetically according to country of origin, were the cards of Canada. Here, between cards from Cameroon and China, the world traveler can get some inkling of what our country is all about.

Almost every one of the other 120 countries on show is represented by vibrant, seductive shots of the best that country has to offer. Even Uganda looks good enough to visit. But in Canada's two dozen card samples, there's nothing to stir the soul - unless you're stirred by an aerial view of a potash plant in Kalium, Sask. Hardly something to lure tourists. Also a card featuring a hydro plant in Tracy, Que. Browsers who don't move right on to China may also catch a glimpse of the civic centre in Moose Jaw, Sask. There's a nice shot of a federal building in Sept-Iles, Que., and also one of the now-deceased Ethiopian Pavilion at Montreal's Expo 67. A nice touch of ancient history, that. The shot of a rundown motel in Portage, Man., also won't do much for our tourism imbalance.

This is the face of Canada in the world's biggest, busiest post card emporium. Toronto doesn't exist. Neither does Vancouver. Montreal is an afterthought. Niagara Falls is nowhere to be seen! Nothing of the foothills of Alberta, the charms of Nova Scotia, the vast open spaces of the Prairies. Even Zaire looks terrific by comparison. A helluva lot all this'll do for our failing dollar.

Those of you who can't believe this can see for yourselves at Club Iris, 102 Ave. Denfert-Rochereau, Paris 14. Just be aware that you too will be contributing to our economic problems. The shop is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 11, 1978


Erect an ugly building - totally at odds with its immediate neighborhood - and nobody beats a path to your door. It's been a costly lesson for the succession of owners of 111 Elizabeth St., a 12-storey office building south of Dundas in the heart of Toronto's Chinatown.

There's no number, no mailbox, no identification on this ill-fated edifice. Also no tenants. Indeed, the place has only had one tenant since it first reared its ungraceful head in 1974. That was a Chinese restaurant which stayed in business only a short while, retiring to the sidelines when someone ignited a bomb on its main-floor premises. Not a very nice way to complain about the quality of the egg drop soup. The bomb killed one employee, and many local Chinese now regard the building as an unlucky place.

They shouldn't have needed a bomb to tell them that. It's not the kind of building you'd feature on a postcard. It sticks up there, a hunk of grey cement 150 feet high, hovering ominously over the lively jumble of Chinatown. For some reason we can't fathom, the north and east sides of the place have no windows. Viewed from those directions, the building looks like a giant tombstone. Not much better are the west and south sides, which at least have windows but come tarted up in a gruesomely glazed red brick exterior.

Since the second owner defaulted on his mortgage payments and is nowhere to be found, the building's been in the hands of Crown Life Insurance. They put it up for sale for $1.6 million. No takers yet. And it's not getting any prettier.

Indeed if it keeps on this way, we may have another Bayview Ghost on our hands.

Nov. 11, 1978


You'd think the world would be pounding on Gerhard Reimann's door, thrusting fame and fortune upon him for inventing something everyone's been waiting for: the Auto Sleeper. C'mon, admit it, it's just what you've always wanted - a method of turning the back seat of your car into a double bed within seconds. Well, Gerhard has it under patent and all he needs is an angel with $1 million to get it rolling. In a pinch, he'll take an angel with $50,000, maybe even less.

Think, Abib, dost thou think of the possibilities. No more being gouged for motel rooms. No more rear-seat contortions in lovers' lanes. And the next time you're caught in a traffic jam, you don't have to just sit there and fume. You can stretch out, maybe even catch a nap, till the chaos clears.

Gerhard, a 53-year-old Toronto cab driver, trumpets all these attractions when he makes his pitch to potential investors. After 10 years, no takers. Lots of nice words, though. ("Atta boy, Gerhard, keep plugging.") But when it comes to laying out cash money, everyone shies away. The car companies, the federal government, and the governments of Ontario and New Brunswick - Gerhard figured if N.B. would sit still for the Bricklin, it'd go for the auto sleeper too - and a number of private investors, many of whom don't know they're regarded as such till they step into Gerhard's cab.

"You never know when you're going to run into someone with vision and money," says Gerhard, explaining why any fare that looks like a moneyed visionary gets a chance to be let in on the ground floor.

The idea of the auto sleeper came to Gerhard in 1963. He'd traded in his 1951 Hudson, in which he was used to taking back-seat naps, for a used Cadillac. But he couldn't get comfortable in the Caddy's rear seat. There was too much padding, especially around the door panels. So he hollowed them out and increased the interior space from door to door by 22 inches. A little more fiddling around and, by means of a leaver and a custom-cut foam cushion, he found he could turn the back seat into a broad sleeping surface in less than a minute.

If it worked on a Caddy, he reasoned, he could make it work on other large-scale American cars. Within five years, the first fully operative prototype awaited investors. They didn't come. Gerhard figures he's pumped about $45,000 of his own money into the scheme, taking out patents, printing brochures and making pitches to anyone who will listen. It hasn't been easy, considering that he also works the 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift for Diamond Taxi.

But he hasn't lost faith. Even the recent trend to smaller cars, which has made conversion of the back seat into a motel room even more difficult, hasn't fazed Gerhard. He pushes gamely ahead, turning up at auto shows to show just how comfy his 1976 Impala is when turned into a bedroom. And you can have the same in your car, says Gerhard to the assembled, if you'll give me a mere $1,200. That's when the assembled drift off to the other exhibits.

Undaunted, Gerhard feels he'll score eventually. Maybe you'll get the chance to be his angel, should you some day step into Diamond cab number 786. "Have you ever thought," Gerhard will start off, "what it means to be able to get a good sleep in your car?" You'll admit you never have.

"Well, have I got a deal for you," says Gerhard. "Let me tell you about..."

It'll be an interesting cab ride.

If you can't wait to get into Gerhard's cab, you can write him at Auto Sleeper Inc., 145 George St., Toronto, Ontario M5A 2H6. Or phone him at (416) 363-0613, but not between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., when he's on the road.

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