This Week in History, 1949: The Sun zaps the masses with bolts of world news coverage

Staff ads were often used to promote the Sun’s writers

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The Vancouver Sun has never been shy about touting itself.

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In 1927, for example, The Sun proclaimed itself “The People’s Paper,” as well as “The Only Evening Paper Owned, Controlled and Operated By Vancouver Men.”

Take that, you easterners that owned The Province!

Then there were the staff ads. In the 1950s The Sun had an on-going campaign called “The Sun Has The Writers,” where it ran giant promo ads for columnists like Jack Scott, Jack Wasserman and Mamie Moloney.

In 1969, The Sun ran a series of psychedelic ads for writers in its Leisure section. The Alex MacGillivray ad is a classic: someone drew in a go-go dancer across his forehead, a guitarist playing on his right cheek and a bartender serving someone on his left.

My favourite Sun staff ad is from a “Know Your Paper” campaign on Nov. 5, 1949.

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It promoted the Sun’s World News Coverage, and features one of the paper’s all-time great graphics: a map of the world, with “Sun” signifying where Vancouver is.

Lightning bolts shoot out of the Sun to the far-flung reaches of the world, signalling to one and all that the paper’s coverage spans the globe.

“Three Great Globe Girdling News Services,” boasts the ad. “Hundreds of Correspondents. Thousands of Miles of Wire and Radio Networks. Radio Photos in a Flash from Everywhere.”

The full World News Coverage ad from Nov. 5, 1949.
The full World News Coverage ad from Nov. 5, 1949. PNG

The lightning bolts weren’t a mere graphic device, they were a reference to a neon sign atop the Sun Tower, the paper’s home from 1937 to 1965.

“THE SUN” was lit up in red neon, with three golden lightning bolts flashing on and off on either side. In an era when Vancouver had thousands of flashy neon signs, it was one of the best.

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The Know Your Paper campaign was designed to show readers “the daily work of the people who produce your Vancouver Sun.”

On Nov. 2, there was an ad for the composing room, “where day and night crews of printers turned (typewritten stories) into type, the start of many mechanical processes that produce a daily paper.”

Running an ad on printers may have been a dig at The Province, which had been embroiled in a long dispute with Local 226 of the International Typographers Union (ITU), Local 88 of the International Stereotypers Union and Local 70 of the Mailers union, which was affiliated with the ITU.

The unions had walked out on June 6, 1946 in support of a strike at the Winnipeg Tribune. Both The Province and Tribune were owned by the Southam chain; sympathy strikes were also launched at Southam’s Edmonton Journal, Hamilton Spectator and Ottawa Citizen.

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The Province was shut down for 1½ months until Southam decided to start printing the paper again. The striking ITU members and their sympathizers responded with a protest outside the Province on July 24, 1946, which turned violent when protesters surrounded a Province van and tipped it on its side.

The Province had been Vancouver’s top-selling paper for decades, but Vancouver was a union town and many switched to The Sun. The ITU strike against The Province finally ended on Nov. 5, 1949, after 41 months. But many readers didn’t go back, and The Sun has had the highest circulation since.

Staff ad from The Vancouver Sun on Nov. 2, 1949 showing readers the composing room, where “night and day crews of printers turned (news stories and ads) into type.”
Staff ad from The Vancouver Sun on Nov. 2, 1949 showing readers the composing room, where “night and day crews of printers turned (news stories and ads) into type.” PNG

At the time, The Province was more of a highbrow paper than The Sun, which had a humorous daily column by Barry Mather.

That Nov. 5 Mather wrote a poem to Princess Margaret, “the pretty 19-year-old daughter of King George” who The Associated Press reported had “puffed away at her first public cigarette at a Halloween charity ball.”

Mather’s poem offered a few words of advice for the Princess from “this old inhaler.”

“What every young smoker should know,” Mather began, “A smoker exchanges dough/For unnecessary woe. He pays enough in taxes/To clothe the RAF and WAAC’ses.

“Other drawbacks to smoking you should consider include: The daily bane/Of cellophane/& Finger stain.”

It ran on the page one.

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A Jack Scott ad from the April 17, 1957 Vancouver Sun was part of “The Sun Has The Writers” campaign. Scott ‘s Our Town column was arguably the most popular column in the Sun’s history.
A Jack Scott ad from the April 17, 1957 Vancouver Sun was part of “The Sun Has The Writers” campaign. Scott ‘s Our Town column was arguably the most popular column in the Sun’s history.
A Barry Mather ad from the June 7, 1957 Vancouver Sun was part of “The Sun Has The Writers” campaign.
A Barry Mather ad from the June 7, 1957 Vancouver Sun was part of “The Sun Has The Writers” campaign.
A Jack Wasserman ad from the June 7, 1957 Vancouver Sun.
A Jack Wasserman ad from the June 7, 1957 Vancouver Sun.
Staff ad for Vancouver Sun writers on Jan. 11, 1958.
Staff ad for Vancouver Sun writers on Jan. 11, 1958.
“The Sun Has The Writing Stars!” staff ad for The Vancouver Sun, April 8, 1958. It featured columnists like Jack Scott, Jack Wasserman, Barry Mather, Mamie Moloney, Penny Wise, Marie Moreau, Dick Beddoes, Lee Straight and Annis Stukus.
“The Sun Has The Writing Stars!” staff ad for The Vancouver Sun, April 8, 1958. It featured columnists like Jack Scott, Jack Wasserman, Barry Mather, Mamie Moloney, Penny Wise, Marie Moreau, Dick Beddoes, Lee Straight and Annis Stukus.
Psychedelic Alex MacGillivray promo ad in the Oct. 4, 1969 Vancouver Sun.
Psychedelic Alex MacGillivray promo ad in the Oct. 4, 1969 Vancouver Sun. PNG
Vancouver Sun ad for columnist Mike Grenby on April 24, 1976. The ad references a popular Grenby column on how he shared hot water from baths with his wife and son.
Vancouver Sun ad for columnist Mike Grenby on April 24, 1976. The ad references a popular Grenby column on how he shared hot water from baths with his wife and son. PNG
The neon sign at the Sun Tower on Sept. 17, 1946. The Sun Tower was the home of The Vancouver Sun from 1937 to 1965. Dominion Photo Co./Vancouver Public Library VPL 27181
The neon sign at the Sun Tower on Sept. 17, 1946. The Sun Tower was the home of The Vancouver Sun from 1937 to 1965. Dominion Photo Co./Vancouver Public Library VPL 27181
Removal of the neon signs from The Vancouver Sun tower. July 28, 1965. Deni Eagland/Vancouver Sun
Removal of the neon signs from The Vancouver Sun tower. July 28, 1965. Deni Eagland/Vancouver Sun Vancouver Sun
The full Vancouver Sun ad for football columnist Annis Stukus, Aug. 17, 1956.
The full Vancouver Sun ad for football columnist Annis Stukus, Aug. 17, 1956. PNG
May 24, 1969 ad in The Vancouver Sun for fashion writer Pat Slattery.
May 24, 1969 ad in The Vancouver Sun for fashion writer Pat Slattery. Vancouver Sun

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