Tuesday, 9 October 2007

'84 Moneypenny col.

This one is for Kate Webster, a TSF reader who is looking for Moneypenny columns, written by Lois Maxwell and consistently a favourite among Toronto Sun readers for 15 years.

The Lifestyle page column is from Saturday, Jan. 28, 1984, a $1 "Special Variety Village Edition" in aid of the Variety Club of Ontario.

It reads:

Neighbors like mine
sweeter than wine
Ever since I moved into this funny house, I've been collecting empty wine bottles for my neighbors, Cherubino and Franco.

I've stashed them behind the furniture, under the washtubs and in the basement storage room. Every year I've promised myself I would present the vast collection of glass to the two men when I saw them pressing grapes to make wine, but for one reason or another I've never been in Toronto at that critical time.

This year was no exception. I was visiting Virginia.

When I returned and entered my little house, I smelled an unusual odor. I followed my nose to the source and found a cardboard box upside down in the storage room. It was covering something vast, draped in pink insulation.

The "something" was making a strange, rolling noise. I lifted the box and looked at a demijohn of fermenting wine. My kind neighbors had decided to utilize the grapes that clustered thickly in my arbor. That was three months ago.

Yesterday morning, there was a loud knock on my door and Cherubino was standing there smiling. "Ah, signora, it's time we bottled the wine." In his hand was a length of green rubber tubing.

"What's that for?" I asked.

"To siphon the wine into the bottles. Where are the bottles?"

I collected all the bottles and washed them well. When everything was ready, we cleared a space in the cluttered kitchen, unwrapped the pink insulation and eased the huge container to the doorway.

I took one handle and Cherubino took the other. We lifted together. My side didn't even budge from the floor.

"How many pounds does this thing weigh?" I groaned. Close to a ton, I figured.

It was sheer agony carrying that demijohn to the kitchen and placing it on a sturdy chair.

Fortunately, my muscles are in good condition after a couple of months of hoisting sails in the South China Sea, so we managed to do it without mishap.

Cherubino stuck the rubber tube into the narrow neck and sucked on the other end. The ruby wine flowed smoothly into a gallon jug. While transferring the tube to the next jug, I splashed wine on the floor.

My pup, Lulu, appeared at that moment and dropped her squeaky ball in the puddle. It rolled across the floor leaving a red trail. She picked it up in her mouth, dropped it as though she'd been scalded, sneezed and shot upstairs.

I understood why, after we'd taken a little rest and I sucked on the siphon and got a mouthful. The wine was so dry that my mouth was puckered for 10 minutes.

The second and third sips tasted better, however.

All the bottles are now carefully stacked in the storage room. The guck in the bottom of the demijohn did not plug my bathtub drain as I feared it would. The kitchen floor has finally been washed and the house no longer smells like a winery.

The Massimobene wine, as I call it, for that is the Italian translation of Maxwell, will not put fear into the hearts of vintners in France, Italy or Ontario. But it's an interesting rose and I'm becoming accustomed to its taste.

Tonight, I will raise my glass in a toast to Variety Village and all the miracles taking place there."

Kate, that was our Miss Moneypenny, always popular with readers. Hope you enjoyed a small sampling from her hundreds of weekly columns.

It brings back a lot of fond memories of the more positive Sun years.

The Moneypenny column was on Page 38 opposite a column by Christie Blatchford.

Christie and Lois on the same page, with words elsewhere by George Anthony, Wilder Penfield III, Mark Bonokoski, Gary Dunford (Page Six), Lorrie Goldstein, John Downing, Ian Harvey, David Kendall, Dick Chapman, George Gross, Garth Turner, Jim Hunt, Maria Bohuslawsky, Scott Morrison etc., plus a Norm Betts SUNshine Girl and a Veronica Milne SUNshine Boy.

The editorial cartoon was by Andy Donato and the of op-ed columnists were Walter Stewart, Peter Worthington, Art Buchwald, William F. Buckley and then editor Barbara Amiel, aka the Black Queen of King St.

Doug Creighton was publisher; Donald Hunt, general manager; Robert Jelenic, acting general manager; Ed Monteith, editorial director, and Robert Burt was managing editor.

It was the 1980's Toronto Sun we knew and loved - a fun place to work and a fun paper to read.

Did readers who paid $1 for this special 1984 Variety Village edition get their money's worth?


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