201188-Ex-stadium-1980s-maybe-v05_01

The arrival of the Canadian National Exhibition has always been a harsh portent of Summer’s twilight and Fall’s unstoppable creep. How amazing is it that a simple, five word jingle is still able to capture that bittersweet emotion and turn it into a rallying cry, 30 years plus since its inception: “Let’s Go To the Ex!”

“Let’s Go To the Ex!” was the brainchild of celebrated ad man Jerry Goodis, Toronto’s very own Don Draper (that is, if in addition to being an ad genius Don Draper was a member of the Mamas and the Papas and a special advisor to Lyndon B. Johnson in his spare time; Doubtful even Matthew Weiner could create such a varied fictional character).

Goodis was a founding member of Canadian folk band The Travellers as well as tactical advisor, speech writer, communications counsellor and policy consultant for Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but it’s his Midas touch with jingles and advertising slogans that truly beggar belief: in addition to “Let’s Go to Ex!,” Goodis came up with such classics as Harvey’s “Harvey’s Makes Your Hamburger a Beautiful Thing,” Speedy Muffler’s “At Speedy You’re a Somebody”, Swiss Chalet’s “Never So Good For So Little” and hundreds more, most of which have sadly been lost to the ravages of time.

Goodis was hired by the CNE in 1980 to come up with a catchy jingle that recalled the greased up sounds of the 1950s, a decade which was still enjoying a renewed retro boom thanks to American Graffiti. Enter Danny & The Juniors’ “At the Hop,” a modest chart topper from 1958 (that also featured in Graffiti) which with a few minor tweaks easily became an ode to the joys of going to the Ex.

Response was gushing, so the cheery tune was wheeled out every August in those glorious early 1980 summers, but inevitably when the CNE moved to a new ad agency in 1986 both the song and the saying were jettisoned in favor of this kind of thing:

By the late 1990s, some semblance of sense was restored and “Let’s Go To the Ex!” returned from its decade-and-a-half hiatus, where to this day it pretty much remains the de facto theme song of the CNE. People even sing it aloud on the TTC. Jerry Goodis passed away in 2002, but it’s hard to imagine contemplating a visit to the CNE without his golden jingle bouncing around somewhere inside your head.

Retrontario plumbs the seedy depths of Toronto flea markets, flooded basements, thrift shops and garage sales, mining old VHS and Betamax tapes that less than often contain incredible moments of history that were accidentally recorded but somehow survived the ravages of time. You can find more amazing discoveries at www.retrontario.com.