Connect with us


The year is 1966 — and there’s a protest over Loblaws prices | CBC News



Times change, but gripes over high grocery prices do not.

Long before this month’s Reddit-powered Loblaws boycott, an earlier generation of fed-up shoppers had their own beef with the grocery giant’s prices.

And that’s why, on Oct. 21, 1966, they headed to a Loblaws in downtown Toronto.

The newspapers had expected 2,000 protesters. But when only a few dozen arrived, the ensuing media coverage focused on the low turnout of the unhappy “housewives.”

Dozens, not thousands

The Toronto Star put the turnout at 65, running the news the next day under a Page 2 headline focusing on the relatively “few women” who showed up at the Loblaws near Yonge and Bloor streets.

The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, went with a two-line headline on its front page: “Heralded Loblaw invasion fizzles to minor skirmish.” It had the number of protesters at just 25.

The protesters were part of a group called HOME — though The Star, The Globe and CBC News each reported different versions of what the acronym meant. Their stories went with variations of “Housewives Organization for Moderate Economy” and “Home Housewives Organizations for Modern Economy.” 

Loblaws vice president F.W. Morley talks prices with protesters on Oct. 21, 1966, remaining unruffled and smiling while pouring coffee for housewives. (Barry Philp/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

A protest leader from HOME had an explanation for the mismatched expectations — telling The Star the 2,000-figure being bandied about was the group’s total membership, not the number of expected demonstrators.

Still, Loblaws had been ready, dispatching a vice president, identified as Frank Morley, to the store for the main event.

The protesters had gone to the Loblaws to “check prices” — meaning, to pry price tags off items in the store to reveal the lower prices they’d carried before getting marked up by the grocer. (This was years before pricing relied on bar codes.)

“They found that one brand of nutmeg at 39 cents had once been 33 cents and originally was 28 cents,” The Globe reported.

The Loblaws protest was the last item on the 'TBA' program on CBC-TV that aired on Oct. 21, 1966 — the same day the protest unfolded.
The Loblaws protest was the last item on that day’s episode of the CBC-TV program TBA, hosted by Warren Davis, seen here. (TBA/CBC Archives)

The Bank of Canada’s online inflation calculator says $0.39 in 1966 is equal to $3.60 today.

The price of coffee was another hot topic.

The Globe spoke to a shopper, Ernest Bush, who had come from a Loblaws store outside the downtown area, where he said he had paid $1.18 (the equivalent of $10.90 today) for a jar of coffee that was priced at $1.24 ($11.45 in 2024) at the Bloor and Yonge location.

The Star quoted a HOME protester named Sheila Clark who confronted Morley, the Loblaws executive, about the $1.24 listed on a price sticker covering the six-ounce coffee jar’s original price of $1.09 ($10.07 now).

“It must have been a clerical error,” Morley said, according to the paper.

Zinger from ‘a lady shopper’

The protest was also covered on a more limited basis by TBA, a magazine-type public affairs program on CBC-TV.

Host Warren Davis showed the audience photos from the protest that he said had been taken earlier that evening.

Like other media outlets, TBA played up the fact that the protest hadn’t really gone as planned.

“There were more idle spectators — busy newsmen — than protesters,” Davis told viewers, during a report that lasted less than a minute at the end of the program.

Though the segment acknowledged the protest might have achieved part of its desired effect.

“Was it a success?” Davis asked at the end of the report. “To quote one lady shopper: ‘The press came, didn’t it?'”

A woman pushes a shopping cart out of Loblaws.
Canadians frustrated with rising groceries prices have pledged this year to boycott Loblaw-owned stores for the month of May. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Continue Reading