The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on December 2, 1983 · 25
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The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada · 25

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Location:
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Issue Date:
Friday, December 2, 1983
Page:
25
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2 cci-oa FRIDAY. DEC. 2, 1 383 By ELIZABETH GODLEY ILITARY toys and games have pre-empted an increasing portion of the toy market this Christmas, according to wholesalers and distributors. "I would say it has increased by about 50 per cent over last year," says Ken Blatherwick, salesman at Shaben and Hamdon Ltd., a Coquitlam toy wholesale and distribution firm. "Last year, you just had your G.I. Joe. This year, there's a whole range of military toys tanks, jeeps, and military games." Sales of such toys this year have risen "by 25 to 30 per cent," Blatherwick adds. This trend, coupled with growing fears of nuclear destruction fuelled by television shows like The Day Alter; alarms parents and peace activists. "There's a real push for war toys" this year, says Claudia Donata, a Victoria woman who is concerned that military toys foster violent and hostile behavior in children. "Anybody who has a TV knows that during the morning cartoons, G.I. Joe is marching in every seven minutes," says Donata, founder of an anti-war-toy organization called Kids and Guns and mother of a five-year-old boy. A penchant for military-style toys has been noticeable over the past five years, says Chis Eland of Eland Distributors, a Burnaby company that buys toy for the 28 Toys and Wheels outlets in B.C. '''It's definitely a reflection of the times," Eland says. Cathy Sosnowski, a community college instructor and mother of a seven-year-old boy, is particularly offended by the G.I. Joe toys, realistic models of American military hardware, which come with a jointed plastic doll, 10 centimetres tall, dressed in combat gear. The toys are made by Hasbro Industries Ltd., a company based in Rhode Island with branch plants all over the world, including Montreal. Hasbro boasts sales for 1982 of "in excess of $40 million." In 1982, G.I. Joe was named one of the top 10 toys by Toy and Hobby World, the industry's leading trade magazine. According to Tara McMenamy, public relations spokesman for Hasbro, G.I. Joe is not a war toy. "It's a fantasy toy . . . G.I. Joe is a real American hero ... it's basically futuristic," McMenamy says, reading from a "fact sheet" supplied by Stephen Swartz, a senior vice-president with Hasbro. "The nature of boys' toys today is that they are aggressive, but not in the sense that they are violent," she continues. But Sosnowski, co-chairman of Educators for Nuclear Disarmament, is not mollified. In November, she wrote to Vancouver's four major department stores to express her opposition to the miniature tanks, missile carriers and bombers prominently displayed in their toy departments. "To nurture the aggressive and destructive instincts in our young would be evil and self-defeating at any time in history," Sosnowsky's letter stated. "Today, when the very existence of life on this planet is threatened by an escalating arms race . . . your Christmas offerings of death and destruction are particularly offensive." Sosnowsky has support for her position. Her letter was signed by 18 persons, representatives of more than a dozen anti-nuclear organizations. One of the signatories is Sheila Young, a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Young has been working for peace since the 1950s, when she and her colleagues opened a storefront in the 600-block Granville to publicize their campaign against militaristic toys. "We had posters up about the evils of war toys and how they developed in children this militaristic viewpoint," Young recalls. "Now the whole world is up in arms, there is such a feeling of aggressiveness everywhere, it is more imperative r mMmi msmmmmm ' r lhmw mm0wmm00m0 m0mgg0000 K o: '''if o:-o.000Sf 0, WomVli900m-0k ' 00o;' - 00: 111 0 0 sfe Jik r:. 0 , ' k J$mijXi0 P - txV-' 0 ysm:0m0 I CATHY SOSNOWSKY, co-chairman of Educators for Nuclear Disarmament, with tank toy than ever that children learn they should cooperate with one another and there's no need to fight." This stance is contested by John Lecky, current owner of Windmill Toys, a fixture in Vancouver for 25 years. Lecky says he chooses toys to be sold in his shop with care, but has no philosophical bias for or against military toys. "If a kid's playing with a cap gun, that doesn't mean he's going to grow up to be a bad kid," he says. "You're kidding yourself if you think you can hide your child from guns. All you have to do is turn your TV on.". Windmill's three outlets stock cap guns, holsters, plastic model soldiers and toy rifles, but do not carry the G.I. Joe series. "G.I. Joe, to me, is probably overpriced. But more important, I felt we were getting drowned in the American soldier bit," says Lecky. "I don't stock Barbie dolls either. It's just a personal thing." John McLean, regional sales promotion manager at The Bay, says he has not noticed an increase in militaristic toys this year, despite the fact that his store's toy department is decorated with posters and hangings of red-coated and busbied soldiers. McLean is aware the G.I. Joe series is much in demand, but says that other toys Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears, for instance are equally sought after. "Obviously we are concerned about war toys if some of our customers are concerned," he says. "But we are not censors. It's one of the toys in greatest demand. "If the government tells us that these are not acceptable, then we'll certainly take them off the shelves." Customer complaints will be taken into account "We don't want our customers to be upset" but the bottom line is popularity, McLean says. McLean refused to have his photograph taken in the toy department, saying: "It's a very sensitive area and I just think that adds fuel to the controversy." However, he did permit a reporter to borrow a selection of toys from the store to photograph. Valerie Fronzcek, executive director of the Children's Play Resource Centre, says her organization is opposed to military toys. "We believe violence breeds violence. But that doesn't mean we don't recognize that children are aggressive; we all have aggression in us, and we can play aggressively soccer, and things like that. "If a child has a baseball bat in his hand, he will hit a ball hard. If he has a DENI EAGLAND toy machine gun . . . then he'll be going around rat-ta-tat-tat and killing his friends. "We believe there is a difference." Donata says her own son "finds the idea of guns intriguing, like all little boys do. We discuss that, and discuss the idea of how dangerous they are, that they're not toys. "By giving children guns, it's like you're endorsing their use." Lucille Giles, a psychologist specializing in child development, says there have not yet been enough long-term studies to gauge the effect of war toys on adult behavior. But most psychologists agree that in the short term, toy guns increase aggressive behavior. "Let's be creative. There are so many different kinds of play for children. Why stick to something we know has negative effects?" Students confront racism By ANNE MULLENS Zenobia Engineer, a 20-year-old East Indian physicist from New Delhi, pleads with immigration officers in her heavy accent to let her come to Canada. "I'm very good. I'm very smart. I will have job building space parts. I join my fiance here. If you let me come in, you all can come to my wedding. You like whisky? We'll have lots of whisky." The immigration officers mark her score as a potential Canadian citizen on an evaluation form and call on the next immigration candidate, a nanny from Australia. -The immigrants are actors; the officers are more than 100 children, aged nine to 11, who are students in Grade 5, 6, and 7 at Ma-quinna elementary school in East Vancouver, They are playing parts in a theatre-in-education drama called Project Immigration, an audience participation play designed to explore racism. "We are trying to broaden understanding of different races and cultures," said Judith Ceroli, director of the Theatre Energy group of Nelson, which is taking the play, created by Edmonton's Catalyst Theatre, to schools throughout the province. .. Today, after the last drama is presented to Thunderbird and Renfrew elementary schools, more than 15,000 students in B.C. will have seen the show. The two-hour-long realistic play introduces five people to the students, all of who want to make Canada their home. There is Engineer, the educated East Indian; Isobel Anderson, the WASP Australian nanny; Feridoon Jambani, an Iranian carpenter fleeing persecution because of his Baha'i faith; Shinago Yamamoto, a Japanese woman skilled at making high-tech circuits, and Franz Vormann, a German self-proclaimed leader of a cult religion. Only three out of the five can come to Canada and the students must choose the three based on Canadian immigration policy, explains Ceroli. That means non-dis-crijnination on the basis of color or culture, an aim to re-unite families and a humanitarian regard for refugees. The students must keep inftnind the promefon of social, eco- rv rj TTTfr y 1 ',;00J k. 7 j A SI f : . . A , , v 4 Jyr -sr"V DAVID TOPLIFF as Franz Vormann, with Hudson elementary school students nomic, demographic and cultural goals in Canada. , In small groups the children interview each candidate and score them out of 10 for each of education, job prospects, legal record, reason for leaving own country and reason for coming to Canada. Then they give the candidate a score for overall impression. It is never an easy decision. The five characters are played extremely convincingly by five young actors. (When the children are told the characters are actors at the end of the show, they exclaim in surprise.) And the five have individual strengths and weaknesses, some of which pass over the children's heads, others which they spot immediately. "The actors picked to immigrate vary with every school, region and cultural make-up of the children," said Ceroli. "The age of the children is also important. The younger ones are much more likely to be swayed by personalities and miss the subtleties of the characters." The students were hard on Engineer (Zena Daruwalla), who had an arrogant personality and did not understand she shouldn't try to give the officers bribes and favors to be let into the country. They disliked her pushy manner, but she received high scores because of her education and family ties. She was allowed to immigrate. Although more than half of the children taking part spoke English as their second language, they gave the highly-trained Japanese technician (Ruby Truly) low scores for not speaking English well. She did not get chosen to enter the country. The students had no difficulty spotting the racial prejudice of the Australian nanny (Sue O'Donnell) who believed she should be let in because she is white, from the Commonwealth and speaks English. When she said: "You mean you'd let colored people run your government?" they chastised her :"That doesn't matter as long as they are good at what they do." She did not make a favorable impression, scored below the other immigrants, and was not allowed to enter the country. The children, however, were not sophisticated enough to pick up the subtle clues that Reverend Vorman (David Topliff), who had been convicted of defrauding his country of $1 million in taxes, was a cult leader, as well as a crook and a charlatan. His persuasive manner gave him scores high enough to immigrate. Despite his terrorist activities, the persecuted Iranian carpenter (Wyatt Lamoureux) who had a Grade 8 education, no job, and no contacts in Canada, was accepted on humanitarian grounds as a refugee. The show does not eliminate racism, it illuminates it, said Ceroli. It leaves the students with thoughts to discuss with their teachers. "We are not going to change children's beliefs overnight. We can't expect that the kids will know that Vorman is a crook, but maybe it will plant a seed of understanding. Maybe four years from now they will understand better what happened to today. It is a iatalyst." Mystery shopper keeps firms on their toes W! FHEN Jan Peskett goes shopping, she often uses a phoney name, and dons old clothes. Like the women she employs, she's been known to "borrow" someone else's child for the excursion, adding to the generally harried look she tries to wear. Jan Peskett is a spy. Her photograph does not appear beside this column, because Peskett eats, travels, and shops incognito anonymity is her ally. Peskett is a "mystery shopper" one of an army of professional snoops paid to be the eyes, ears, and daintily sniffing noses of major retailers, hotels, restaurants, and fast food eateries from Vancouver to Winnipeg. The women who work for JMP Marketing Services Ltd., of which Peskett is president, travel without fuss or fanfare, watching, listening, sampling and later taking careful notes to be forwarded to major corporations' head offices. Their aim is to see that customers get smiling, competent service and that corporations get their money's worth from employees. Peskett won't reveal the identities of her five-year-old company's corporate clients; nor will she disclose the names of the women who work for her. That's because each employee is herself sworn to secrecy (even their neighbors and friends don't know), and if they won't tell, their boss isn't about to. Typically, one of Peskett's crew will pose as a customer at a major hotel, placing a large and complex catering order. Even as the mystery shopper runs through her well-rehearsed routine, she carefully monitors the service she receives from the front desk, the cleanliness of the premises, and the appearance and attitude of staff. Or she may turn up in an appliance showroom, selecting a houseful of goods top management knows will never be delivered. When the mystery shopper's done her job, JMP Marketing moves in to cancel the orders. The staff who work for firms employing mystery shoppers are usually aware they could be tested at any time. That, says Peskett, keeps employees on their toes, and keeps day-to-day consumers well served. Peskett's business isn't limited to mystery shopping, however. She and business partner Louise Gough, both tticolo f Pcrton'Mr" j 3 y rr l of whom are home economists, also operate Spotlight Shows Ltd., another marketing vehicle. Gough is president of Spotlight and vice-president of JMP; Peskett is Spotlight's vice-president. Spotlight Shows is an advertiser's dream, and amazingly, it's the only company of its kind in Canada. Booked solid until May, 1985, Spotlight offers fund-raising groups one of the best deals in town. Gough and Peskett give the group at no charge whatsoever a book of 60 tickets, which group members then sell at a price they set themselves . . . usually $3 to $8. That money is theirs to keep for the group's fund-raising efforts. Those buying tickets then attend a lunch or dinner hosted at the company's attractive test kitchen and dining facilities in Burnaby. JMP and Spotlight have two such kitchens, one exclusively to cook dishes to be photographed for corporate clients; the other to prepare and serve Spotlight meals. Gough serves four dinners and one lunch to 300 different people every week, of which 50 to 60 are men. The attractive meal comprises new foods and old favorites provided by manufacturers who want consumers to sample their products. As the group dines, a demonstrator chats about each item on their plates, the ticket-holding guests departing with a clutch of free recipes and occasionally with free food samples. Peskett and Gough's clients sometimes sit at the back of the room, eager to hear how consum-ers in the group judge their products. In addition to all of that, Peskett and Gough conduct separate "focus groups" videotaped sessions at which consumers are paid to comment on ads and products. And here's a pre-Christmas job opportunity: JMP Marketing is looking for demonstrators for the festive season. No experience necessary: JMP will train you. The job pays $8 hourly, and change. r f

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