Vintage Toronto Ads: The Watermelon and the Boy
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Vintage Toronto Ads: The Watermelon and the Boy

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Advertisement, Time, October 27, 1947.

In the battle against racial discrimination, 1947 was a year of turning points. The major story across the continent was Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier that had existed in major league baseball since the 1880s. Locally, municipal officials spurred by the continued bigotry displayed by an ice skating rink developed an anti-discriminatory licensing policy for entertainment establishments, while students at the Central High School of Commerce (now Central Commerce Collegiate Institute) elected a black student as school president. Despite these events, and several anti-racist editorials in city newspapers, Toronto’s black community still found many venues unwelcoming and derogatory stereotypes easy to find. Having read many Toronto Star articles from 1947 that decry the negative treatment blacks received, that somebody thought the illustration above was a good way to sell newspapers seems like a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.
After scrolling through back issues, the Globe and Mail appears to have displayed the most progressive viewpoint among Toronto’s daily newspapers that year in its coverage of racism and discrimination, thanks to a series of strong editorials and columnists like sportswriter Jim Coleman who risked legal action when speaking out against offenders. The Star comes in next, with its positive intentions sidetracked by the ad above and for being the only local paper to make Robinson sound as if he spoke pidgin English (the caption above a picture of Robinson looking at his son read, “And Mistah Rickey, well, he jes’ don’ say nuthin’”). The Telegram reported these kinds of stories, on those occasions when it did, with little flair and no additional commentary.
Additional material from the March 19, 1947 and October 6, 1947 editions of the Toronto Star.

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