Friday, August 3, 2007

78s fRom HeLL: Ozzie Williams - Sunday In Toronto / The Toronto Subway Song (1950)

***I'm proud to declare this post a collaborative effort between myself and JB's Warehouse and Curio Emporium!***

I found this old 78 many years ago, and have always found it rather enchanting and jolly, and maybe just a bit mysterious, too.

That's how it goes with regional and/or topical songs - - a change in time and place, and people may no longer comprehend the references.

Such was my case; I didn't know much of anything about Toronto, and even less about its history.

So recently I contacted JB, who clearly is an authority on all things Toronto.

Being excited about a new subway going in seems straightforward enough, but what's the deal with a song decrying the lack of things to do on a Sunday??

Here's some of what JB had to say on the subject:

"Toronto used to be known as 'Toronto the Good', because of the strict blue laws that held sway over the city for decades.

"The city all but shut down on Sundays - few businesses were allowed to open, and one suspects the city elders felt those were too many.

"Even Sunday streetcar service was deemed to be 'the work of the devil' (it took three civic votes before it was finally approved, by less than 100 votes, in 1897).

"Thus, everybody left town - traffic jams of Sunday drivers heading down to Niagara were especially common.

"A heavy dose of morality, fuelled by mostly Protestant congregations, held sway over everything - film censors had a field day, liquor regulations were utterly bizarre...

"Sunday was to be set aside for prayers and family.

"The first cracks appeared in this facade in the 1950s - reasons given range from waves of immigrants establishing themselves in the city to the boomers breaking away from their parents traditions.

"The diehards against any kind of Sunday fun continued to battle for restrictions - it wasn't until 1992 that full Sunday shopping was allowed in Ontario."

***Follow this link to JB's Warehouse and Curio Emporium for his half of this story, with more historic background, links and photos!***

I don't have any information about the vocalists on this record, Betty Carr and Charles Baldour, and precious little about the backing band.

Ozzie Williams was a big band leader, he formed his first band in 1932 for a booking into the Club Kingsway in Toronto, and it would appear he played there off and on for many years.

Looks like Mr. Williams' band began poking fun at the 'Sunday In Toronto' situation in 1948, and if this brief anecdote is to be believed, the ribbing was taken in stride by city government.

As to that Club Kingsway, I see that Duke Ellington played several dates there in 1943, but I'm not finding much else. JB says it showcased jazz up into the early 1960's, and then rock acts later in the decade.

⬅ (excavating Front Street in Toronto, circa 1950)

Toronto's subway first opened in 1954, and it was clearly a big deal for the city.

Sounds like the years of construction were a bit arduous, especially for people working in the downtown area. When sections under excavation hit solid rock, work crews began scheduling the use of dynamite twice a day in the afternoons.

See also: This online gallery of Toronto subway history. (click for link)

MANY THANKS to JB for his help and enthusiasm in this collaboration!

(click for audio)

Listen to: Ozzie Williams and Your Favorite Music (vocals by Betty Carr and Charles Baldour)
- Sunday In Toronto (1950)

Listen to: Ozzie Williams and Your Favorite Music (vocals by Betty Carr and Charles Baldour)
- The Toronto Subway Song (1950)


Christine Waloszczyk said...

I want to thank you for posting these recordings. My dad, Bert "Worth" Wrigglesworth, long deceased, played bass on these recordings and it brought tears to my eyes to hear him again. These songs were written tongue-in-cheek according to the band's quirky sense of humour, and these records sat gathering dust in a cabinet in our basement for many years. I have no idea how you came across them. May seem "from Hell" to you, but I assure you they are heaven to my ears.

The In Crowd said...

Hi Christine, thanks so much for the note! Glad to have the information and pleased you found this old blog post. To clarify: I never meant "from hell" in a disparaging way in these posts. I love all these records. Hmm, in hindsight, I suppose it is a bit confusing.
I guess when I was first hearing that phrase, I took the meaning to be more like - - from who knows where. From out of the blue. Out of nowhere. From under a rock, out of the attic, the basement...
In this case, I'm certain this was one I found when I was working in a collector's record shop, trying to organize the 78 room and all its nooks and crannies.
Some of the records would come into my hands and I had to solve the mystery of an odd title. How this record made its way there, I have no idea. That was part of the fun!
Thanks again!

Christine Waloszczyk said...

Sundays in Toronto were a little bit like hell, though. Church followed by what seemed to be an endless quiet, until Walt Disney and Bonanza came on TV in the evening.

Freshly-stirred links