Friday, August 31, 2012

ROBBLOG #442

Before summer is through, a trip to the EX in Toronto was on our list of things to do.
 
It was a great day at the CNE. Weather was perfect.
Sunny and Hot- but a good breeze off Lake Ontario.
 
As you stroll the grounds, one thing that never changes at the EX is the outrageous prices.
Most of your EX money goes towards food purchases.
Always has.
To eat cheaply, one should search the Food Building.
I saw hotdogs for $1.50.
Pretty cheap but there were no Freebies. no handouts- like chocolate bars in a bag.
 
For lunch we had two, Montreal smoked meat deli sandwiches, two fries and a pop for $18.00.
The fries sucked by the way. They were like mashed potatoes only deep fried.
Yeech!
 
We didn’t see the donut burgers but a huge booth was called Bacon Nation.
A sandwich comprised of 2 pieces of back bacon, 7 pieces of strip bacon, lettuce, tomato and Nutella- all on sliced bread was featured.
There were two long lineups to the counter.
 
At The Nutty Chocolatier, a small piece of fudge rung in at $5.49
 
At a stand that sold coffee and lemonade, two glasses of raspberry lemonade set us back
8 bucks. Biggest rip-off of the day.
Across the way we could have had 2 bottles of lemonade for $2.50 each.
 
I did have a great Columbian coffee at a coffee stand located just inside the Queen Elizabeth Building. The aroma was intoxicating and I just couldn’t resist.
It was worth the 3 dollars.
Yum!
 
For Supper.
Two sausages on a bun. One French Frie. 2 drinks. Total: $21.
 
It’s always fun to look through the Direct Energy Centre. Everything and anything there.
Facial creams to make one appear young.
Bible Thumpers.
Financial Advice.
Big screen TV’s.
Weight-loss schemes and much more.
 
I bought a leather bag. Man-Bag if you will, to replace the aging one I have.
I’m not using it right away but it’s a back-up when the current bag goes flop-bot.
 
At the first booth the bag I looked at was all leather and priced at 120 bucks.
It’s fine, fine leather I was told.
Very beautiful I was assured.
Yes, indeed.
It smelled nice- like leather.
I declined.
 
Next place I saw the same bag at  $30 dollars marked down from $60.
Not bad but I kept shopping.
 
At the third booth I saw the same bag for 24 dollars!
I bought it!
All leather.
It smelled like leather
I asked the guy in the booth- perhaps hoping for a better deal-
“How much will this bag be on Labour Day Monday?”
He says- “30 dollars but I’ll mark it down to 24.99!”
Big business, eh?
 
The EX of the 1960's with the Shell/Bulova Tower
 
I miss Toronto Radio stations at the C NE. Back in the day every radio station was “live” on location. Those were the days when terrestrial radio had personality and it was fun to listen. I just saw one radio station on the grounds. It was Z103.
I have a new sell line for them-
All Bass. All Thump. All Loud. All Annoying- All the Time.
 
I looked for AM740 and Classical 96. They were supposed to be in the same building as the Flowers and Sand Castle competition. In past years they had a set up but I didn’t see
a sign or anything.
 
As we walked the CNE Grounds, it was the first time ever- since I have been going to the EX in 1962, that the Horse Palace was closed.
Never even saw a horse anywhere. Maybe The Palace was open in the first week or so of the EX but the note on the door said closed and we couldn’t even walk through it.
 
Finally, admission was pricey.
$16 dollars regular.
$12 for Seniors- those 60+.
I bought the tickets on line. If I had of bought prior to August 1th, I could have saved an additional 4 bucks.
Parking was another 20 but it was inside at the Direct Energy Centre just off Strachan Avenue.
Easy access.
We’ve been parking there for years. The vehicle stays cool and if it rains- you stay dry.
 
By 5 o’clock the grounds were packed, however, with $5admission after 5PM
 
The EX was still fun and a nice summertime diversion for a day. It’s really an attempt to re-live years past. You just have to really dig for the memories these days.
No Radio stations broadcasting “live”.
No Aquarama.
No Ontario Place.
No Grandstand but Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits were at the Bandshell.
 
The Superdog Show was entertaining as usual.
The Canadian Armed Forces display was busy displaying the products of warfare as the Armed Forces Band played “I’ll Be Seeing You”.
 
As dusk fell we decided to head back home.
We had seen it all.
We had walked miles in our shoes- or at least flip flops.
We had eaten Ex Food and watched a diverse group of people pass by as we sat sipping that expensive lemonade.
 
So, that’s the EX for another year.
 
Next year we’ll do it all over again.
We’ll spend the bucks.
Eat junk.
Drink expensive lemonade and talk about it all to friends we meet back home-
And why not?
It’s tradition after all.
 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

ROBBLOG #441

Here we are sitting on the cusp of September.
How did that happen?
 
I swear last week it was the middle of June.
 
Oh well.
As they say- Time marches on and waits for no man.
 
We have had a busy week.
Relatives have been visiting from far off places.
Germany to be exact.
Tom’s brother- whom he hasn’t laid eyes on in 20 some years, Danny and his wife Angelika. We toured them around for the better part of a week.
We saw Barry Manilow in concert.
Celebrated a birthday.
Laughed and talked and walked and shopped.
It was fun but good gosh it’s tiring.
 
Tom and I took in our first Pow Wow at Rama First Nations.
It was amazing.
The Grand Entry was so emotional. Tears streamed down my cheeks.
I dunno why…
Perhaps the “Great Spirit” touched me gently on the shoulder.
Maybe seeing our first, original Canadians in their native regalia and knowing of their mistreatment for decades and decades got to me.
It truly was a sight not to be missed and if you have never been make sure you mark your calendar for late August 2013.
 
I would like to thank Sherry Lawson for encouraging Tom and I to attend.
We had plans to go to the CNE.
When we met Sherry a few days before Pow Wow, she told us-
“There’s still time for the Ex. You have until the end of the month!”
We had been enjoying ice cream with Tom’s brother and wife when Sherry- “a real Indian” pulled into the lot too. Cheery as usual, we laughed and Sherry had her picture taken with Danny and Angelika.
She asked me if they were Pow Wow tourists.
It’s a story in her book.
 
We met another First Nations friend prior to the Pow Wow- Chief Sharon Stinson-Henry.
Sharon was at the Barry Manilow concert at Casino Rama. She’s a lovely lady and was accompanied by her Olympic Medal-winning husband Walter Henry. It was another opportunity to introduce Danny and Angelica to important local folks. At the opening ceremonies for the Pow Wow Chief Stinson-Henry looked rather splendid in cream-coloured leather and matching headdress. We didn’t speak with her there. She was very busy talking with people and having her picture taken by many.
 
Byron Stiles who has been on Rama Band Council for four terms was at Pow Wow too. I stopped him as he passed by our vantage point. Always affable, I have known Byron since I was just a youngster in public school. We were in the same grade. Byron used to come to the “Teen Dances” at Southward Hall in the early 60’s.
We had great fun.
A few years back he and I were both on the committee to organize a reunion of those “kids” who faithfully attended South Ward dances on occasional Fridays and every Saturday.
 
So, the week has been busy.
The weather was superb, however.
Now, the end of summer is just around the next corner and I am already thinking about all those maple leaves that will start to turn glorious reds and yellows next month and eventually clutter our lawn.
 
More work.
Time marches on and leaves fall down.
It’s an endless cycle.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, August 20, 2012

ROBBLOG #440

Some ‘Dis and ‘Dat  today.

Well…well... it seems like a lot of fellow Canadians don’t give a “flying fig” about Quebec anymore either!

In fact, many are willing to hold the exit door open with their toe and say- no more compensation packages so you’ll keep quiet.
So shut up or get out!

The results from a poll and from comments I have received after my Blog from a few days ago.

On that note, in another blog about Memories of Zellers, I neglected to mention one of my all-time favourite TV commercials is from Zellers. I am sure you know it.
It’s Christmas.
The gal in the spot is preparing for guests.
She hopes she has remembered everything.
The door bells goes.
She runs to answer and shows the audience she has forgot one small detail.
Her skirt!
We see a deliciously comedic shot of her panty-hosed bottom.
That practically bare-butt gal is now a good friend.
Sue has been in a couple of Garage Door Players Shows and other stuff for local theatrical companies too- and no, she has never shown her buttocks to me “in person”!

I see some locals are upset at the noise from Tudhope Park, specifically The Motorcycle folks. Well, living here atop Snob Hill, one had to close the windows to try to block out the thumping base from the shows at last weekend’s Waterfront Boat Festival.
We sympathize!
The weekend before the midway during the Rotary Lions whatever-it-is called was blaring away. Not quite as loud as past years but when the wind was blowing in the right direction, one could tap one’s toes to the music.
That use to be a viable weekend but now a midway plops down and a few local crafters and that’s about it.
Why bother. I suppose the Lions and Rotary Clubs make some money for local charities.

It’s hard to compete with Kempenfest in Barrie, however.
Kempenfest is several notches above the Civic Holiday Funfest in Orillia in “classiness “but there are problems associated with attending- like  where to park.
The huge crowds make it more than difficult to see the merchant’s displays.

Elvis has been gone for 35 years. I remember working at CFOR at the time. We scrambled and put together an “All Elvis, All the Time” Weekend. His former wife Priscilla and Daughter appeared at the Vigil at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
What are they waiting for?
His triumphant return?
I think he’s quite happy living in Mississauga.
People see him at a local Tim’s all the time.
Listen, don’t think it’s not impossible to disappear and make a new life. I’ll bet more people than we know check out- especially celebrities, and start fresh.
If you have money- it can buy anything.

I wish I had money.
The things I would buy.
The revenge I would wreak- in a nice way of course.
I have said before my motto is:
“I don’t get mad. I get even!”

I must have been the Godfather in a previous life or at least an Egyptian Pharaoh.
Everyone has been a Pharaoh at one time or another- haven’t they?

Yes, give me 20 million and I’d have a place in Honolulu.
Something small- yet very nice.
Two bedrooms and a couple of baths with a nice lanai looking out over the Pacific!
Then, I’d have a walk up in Paris.
Not far from Notre Dame and my favourite Café- Le Departs de Saint Michael.
Maybe a small condo in Naples or Fort Myers Beach and lastly cottage on Salt Spring Island in the Gulf waters between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Hmmm….
Maybe I had better up that to 50 million.
You never know when little incidentals or ‘Dis or ‘Dat may arise!

Monday, August 13, 2012

ROBBLOG #439

Memories of Zellers

I worked at Zellers in Orillia in 1970, back when there were 2 stores. One, Downtown and the new County Fair Plaza location- which I helped open.
I was Department Head of Cameras and Records.

I didn’t know a thing about cameras- especially the 35’s but I sold them.

Records? Now, that I knew about. I had just finished my radio broadcasting course and was waiting for my first job. I had resumes out but things were quiet except for a job offer way in Northern Ontario.
I said no to that.

So I worked at Zellers. In January of 1971 I got a call from a Radio Station in Midland who basically hired me on the spot. I gave the mandatory notice of two weeks and started my radio career.

However, I have some memories of Zellers- both as an employee and a customer I wish to share. After visiting the Zellers Store that is going out of business to make way for the “All American Target” at Orillia Square, I realized I would miss Zellers and their “Truly Canadian” sell line.
Not many of those left these days.
Governments and business have allowed our Canadian retail giants to go bankrupt or go American.
Remember Eaton’s? Simpsons? Sam the Record Man? K Mart (OK- American based),
Woolworth’s, Metropolitan, Coles, Simpson-Sears and more.

That’s why it’s important to shop at Giant Tiger, The Bay, Canadian Tire, Joe Fresh, Mark’s Work Warehouse, Winners and more to keep these Canadian businesses going. Just because there’s a Yankee-Doodle Flag flying from the mast doesn’t mean it’s the best.

So, memories.

I already told you I worked in the Camera and Record Department. What fun!
Friday nights and Saturdays were wickedly busy. I had my own till too- back in the days when the cash register did NOT tell you how much change to give back to the customer.
I can’t remember if we had CHARGEX yet. Chargex was a credit card that came to be known as VISA. I know there was a Credit Department to pay for items “on time” as it was called. I used to direct customers who were purchasing expensive cameras or lenses to that department.

At Zellers, I got 15 % off store-wide practically on purchases.

I bought my first Colour Television there saving 15%. A Zellers Bradford brand.



My parents bought me a Zellers transistor radio- it was AM only (stop laughing!)  , when I graduated from Broadcasting School. I still have it.
Seafoam green in colour.
Bradford label still attached.
It still works and it still only receives AM signals, of course.
A dinosaur in the radio electronics world!

I was working at Zellers when I got my call to Radio.

I still see Cathy- who I worked with at the new store, around town. She spent an entire career with Zellers and I believe she did quite well.

I still have two standing Santa Clauses I bought at the re-vamped Country Fair store when Tom and I moved back here in 1992.

We still have two quilts we purchase from the lower level of the Downtown Zellers Store.

I remember the rainy day opening of Downtown Zellers. CFOR was there broadcasting from their trailer on the main street right in front of the store. Years later when I worked at CFOR I did remote broadcasts quite frequently at both Zeller’s locations.

I recorded the in-store retail announcements for the County Fair location.

In recent years I would shop at the Zellers in Orillia Square as soon as the shelves were stocked with Christmas Decorations. I love Alfred Sung decorations and I would shop early to get the best selection. Some years I would even get great deals on Boxing Day on all Alfred Sung decorations. Now I don’t know where I’ll be able to buy them.
Maybe The Bay?
However, although we should have a Bay in Orillia- we don’t.

In recent years, I would get my 10% off ever Senior’s Day. The first time I asked for my discount, I had to show my Driver’s Licence- twice!
You have to love that! The checkout lady didn’t believe that I was over 55!
I was 57 at the time!

The Snack Bar called “The Skillet” at the Downtown location made the best toasted western sandwiches with great fries. The Toasted Westerns at the Golden Dragon were equally good but more expensive.
Besides, the Dragon was a “real restaurant”.
The Skillet was a snack bar.
The Dragon made Cherry Cokes.
The Skillet had great strawberry milkshakes.
Ying and Yang.
Apples and Oranges.
Many times you would have to wait for a booth or a stool at the lunch counter. It was worth it. The Skillet with it’s sunny yellow walls decorated with copper fry pans and the words “The Skillet Restaurant” was manned (or womanned!) by slender, older ladies in uniforms and waitress caps which were attached to their heads with bobby pins stuck through hairnets that covered their heads.
A pencil was stuffed behind an ear.
A “Guest Check” tablet to write down orders was stuffed in an apron pocket. While you ate, you could sit and watch people shop.
If you were very lucky you were able to sit in a window booth to watch shoppers scurry on by- especially at Christmas when all of Orillia’s population Christmas-Shopped Downtown. Those were the days when that “other” city to our south didn’t even have a mall insight and their downtown Zellers store was old, out of date and embarrassing to shop at.
Here in Orillia on dark, rainy days, it felt comfortable and cosy eating comfort food at the Zeller’s Skillet. We didn’t call it “comfort food” in the 1960’s…
Just food.

I remember buying my 45 r.p.m. records at the Downtown Zellers. At one time they were 66 cents. I’ll bet if I check in one of my record boxes, I could still find a Zellers price tag affixed to the record sleeve.
The 66 sent price rose over the years to 88 and 99 cents. Usually, still cheaper than the inflated prices at The Hobby and Record Shop or Gordon’s Record Bar just up the street.
However, I liked to record shop at Gordon’s. The owner was friendly and would let me browse as long as I liked. Once, he gave me Neil Diamond’s first Album- Solitary Man, for free!
In Stereo too!
In those days we had the choice when it came to an album purchase.
Mono- which was a buck cheaper than the Stereo version.
I had a Stereo record player, so I opted for the Stereo LP whenever I could afford it!

I can’t remember why he gave me the album- which I still have, for free.
Just being nice I suppose and I was a regular customer after all.
Once, when I went into his shop see if he had the latest Supremes Album in stock, he held it in his hand as I walked through the front entrance.
That was customer service and I was just a kid!

There are many other memories of Zellers like always wondering what the word “Foundations” meant on the wall above the ladies’ department at the Downtown Orillia Store. In December the Christmas Decoration took up a large part of the lower level.
Yes, that Zeller’s store had two levels.
Quite posh for a department store in Downtown Orillia!
Woolworths, Metropolitan and Chainway Department Stores were all on just one level!

I am going to miss going to Zellers. Downtown, Mr. Zeller’s picture hung over the Mississaga Street Entrance for years keeping a stern- yet friendly eye, on day to day business.

I wonder how he would feel today with his namesake store disappearing from our Canadian Business Landscape?

Sad too, I should think.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ROBBLOG #438

Small things excite small…

~ahem~

I should say- it doesn’t take much to excite me.

For instance this time of the year thinking about spending a day at the CNE excites me.
It means summer is moving along but I still look forward to going just the same.

If someone were to purchase top price tickets for me to see Barbra Streisand at the Air Canada Centre in October, I would be terribly, terribly excited.
That’s not going to happen, however.

No, small things in small categories are best at achieving some level of excitement for me.

Like seeing Hugh Jackman in the flesh and having him graciously sign an autograph across the cover of a DVD I brought along. That was a year ago and I am still buzzing with excitement!

Is there more excitement in your life- you ask?

Just, a few weeks back we retired our Surround Sound  System in favour of a Polk Audio Sound Bar with separate woofer.
Sound exciting?
Let me tell you, the sound is exciting!
No more wires along the perimeter of the room- plus an absolutely amazing sound!
The box said installation in minutes.
In reality, it took a couple of hours

Then, a week ago we purchased “Apple TV”.
Not a television but a black square about the size of a small box of Black Magic Chocolates. This would bring us You Tube Videos, Internet Radio Stations- like Swisssh & Starlite, as well as Netflix- all on our big screen TV.
We attempted to set it up by ourselves- Tom and I.
We got pretty far along before we decided to call our good friend Steve Hall for help.
Steve tried to get the job done over the phone at first but in the end he drove over from Victoria Harbour to do it. We are glad he did!
He has Apple TV and was able to get it going in an hour or so.
Good Old Mr. Hall!

Quite the product this Apple TV.
It sells for about a hundred bucks but by the time we bought an HDMI splitter box- because our TV is three years old don’t you know, it set us back an additional 200 dollars. A rather inexpensive toy turns out to be a little more expensive- yet exciting!

Anything else exciting Rob?...I hear you say.

Oh Yes!
I just ordered new “singing jingles”- for both Swisssh Radio and Starlite Radio, from the Granddaddy of Jingledom- PAMS/JAMS in Dallas Texas!
Yee-Haw!
I’ve been to Texas and they say that- and y’all too.
The cowboys say that in Alberta as well.
Yee-Haw, I mean
Y’all…not so much.

Pams Promo (Click to Listen)

PAMS and JAMS is famous the world over. The original PAMS Jingles were the jingles you heard on stations like CHUM in Toronto and CKLW in Windsor. When I listened to the packages, many were familiar. The JAMS division which I believe started in the mid 1970’s are more up to date. Jingles from both packages however, are still being recorded today.

The Jingles I chose are from such a package.
The Swisssh Jingles are from a package called “Totally Cool” The Starlite Jingles from “Great Memories”.
They are- no doubt, being used on other stations too but for Swisssh and Starlite they will sing Swisssh Radio or Starlite instead of call letters such as CSIR or CROB.
It’s not a cheap process but I hope to be able to add more jingles in the coming months.

Why didn’t I get a Canadian company to sing and produce my Jingles?
Try to find one and if you do find one- which I kind of did, they never mention prices.
PAMS/JAMS and another US-based company I contacted, all have prices displayed on their websites. So that likely means the Canadian produced Jingles would be “terribly expensive”.

I am excited and with the Canadian Buck at par- I get a fair deal!

Finally, I have to talk about Swisssh and Starlite once more. Another friend in Internet Radio- Don Andrews, had a Terrestrial radio person fill him in on the details regarding ratings and how they are achieved.
I used to work for BBM, so I know a bit.
A little bit.
Most ratings are done in ¼ segments.
It’s all based on the number of listeners who tune in and out in a ¼ hour.
In an hour.
A day.
A week.
A month.
From ratings, Rate Cards are printed and clients are charged accordingly. The most costly spots are in the morning “drive time” as we radio folks call it.
I know that up to 15,000 hours are tuned to Swisssh Radio each month- about half that for Starlite.

The past few days I have been manually counting tune INS during some hourly periods of the broadcast day.
Figuring out an average of ¼ hours over 24 hours and translating that into a week, I found than “on average” more than 2000 people tune in to Swisssh Radio during the week. Probably closer to 3000 but I want to err on the side of less- not more.
In a month those figures would mean there’s upwards of 10 thousand listeners!

That’s pretty decent for an Internet Station from Orillia, Ontario Canada. Starlite would be about half that- but growing.

That’s exciting- isn’t it?
Now, if web advertisers would only jump on the Internet Airwaves.
~sigh~

These “things” are all small things- but exiting small things- don’t you think?