How a piece of Honest Ed's found its way to McMaster

By Erica Balch, July 27, 2016
photo by Richard Lautens     The family of award-winner writer and McMaster alumnus Gary Lautens with a column written by Lautens that was displayed for more than 30 years outside Honest Ed’s. Left to right: Jane (daughter); James (grandson, son of Stephen and Rhea); Richard (son); Stephen (son); Jackie (wife); Rhea (Stephen’s wife); Chelsea (daughter of Jane, currently a McMaster student).

A piece of Toronto history has found a new home at McMaster.

A poster-sized column written by award winning journalist and McMaster alumnus Gary Lautens, which hung for more than 30 years outside iconic bargain retailer Honest Ed’s, will now be housed in McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections.

The poster was presented to the Lautens family earlier this year by Honest Ed’s* owner David Mirvish. Lautens’ widow Jackie donated the poster to McMaster where it will be preserved as part of the Lautens archive.

Lautens, a noted humourist and Toronto Star columnist wrote the column, entitled, “Why can’t the Queen shop Honest Ed’s,” during a royal visit in the 1980s, suggesting that the Queen could liven up her Canadian tour by taking 30 minutes to shop at the famous discount store.

“It was a fun column, very tongue and cheek– Ed (Mirvish) was always about fun, so it obviously resonated with him,” says Jackie Lautens who adds that Mirvish and her late husband had a good personal relationship. “They could kid back and forth,” she says.

Jackie, along with a number of members of the Lautens family, recently delivered the poster to McMaster University Library where damage to the column– the result of decades of exposure to sun and moisture– is now being repaired in McMaster’s Preservation Lab.

“The poster is a wonderful addition to the Lautens archive,” says Wade Wyckoff, Associate University Librarian, Collections. “It captures the popular appeal and impact of Gary Lautens, a talented writer and distinguished alumnus. We’re very pleased that this iconic piece, for so long a fixture in Toronto, has come to McMaster as part of Gary’s archive.”

As a student, Lautens served as the editor of the Silhouette. After graduating from McMaster in 1950, he went on to work at the Hamilton Spectator, then the Toronto Star, where he won a National Newspaper Award for sports writing. As a humourist, Lautens wrote a regular column for the Toronto Star, authored several books, and was a two-time winner of the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

The Lautens archive includes correspondence, newspaper columns, books, speeches, broadcast scripts, appointment calendars and notebooks, awards, personal and financial documents, photographs, interviews with Lautens, artwork and audio and video recordings.

*Honest Ed's is scheduled to close later this year.

Behind University Hall, there is a special tribute to Gary Lautens– a small monument that reads:

I like my life
I like my family
I like my job
I like my country
I liked my parents
I like where I was raised
I like where I went to school

I’m happy

No big complaints
Enjoyed the bumps
and the good times,
the good times more of course

This is written you see,
by a happy man
whose only regret is that
it has all gone much too fast.

Gary Lautens
Class of 1950

Gary Lautens monument behind University Hall

This monument to award-winning humorist and McMaster alumnus, Gary Lautens is located behind University Hall.