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That time when Toronto asked us to be nice, clear our ice

Posted by Ed Conroy / December 30, 2012

Be Nice Clear Your IceAlmost fifteen years prior to Mayor Lastman calling in the army to assist in clearing up a nasty snow drop on the GTA, the city was busy buying television spots which actively encouraged citizens to pitch in and help clear it up themselves.

First and most memorably in a message from the City of Toronto, ex-pat cartoonist, author and all around wit Ben Wicks both illustrated and narrated this clever animated spot which introduced "Be nice, clear your ice" into the Hogtown lexicon.

Massive snow drifts and dumps were much more common in the 1980s (or so it seemed), and the popular spot returned the very next year with a slight textual revision, while the cartoon remained the same.

In 1987, mighty Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and Blue Jay Loyd Moseby were drafted in to shake up the concept, however aside from creating another playground insult a la "Getzky" — "You should see me catch a baseball" — this spot was cast adrift and, after being cut down to 15 seconds, disappeared off television forever.

We'll never really know why the "Be Nice Clear Your Ice" campaign did not live on into the 1990s or beyond, only that those who recall it probably still hear the posthumous voice of Ben Wicks saying the phrase in his cheeky cockney accent when facing businesses or residents who don't bother to clean up after now seemingly rarified Toronto snowfalls.

Wicks passed away in 2000, but the best way to honour him (other than enjoying a pint at his still open old Cabbagetown pub would be to follow those sage words of advice — be nice, clear your ice.

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



McRib / December 30, 2012 at 04:13 pm
susan h / December 30, 2012 at 06:42 pm
every time it snows i think of this commercial which was on the air when i was really young... and, i go out and shovel the sidewalk in front of my apartment.
a great PSA. bring it back!
AARON / December 30, 2012 at 06:51 pm
RIP Ben Wicks
mizmite / December 30, 2012 at 08:57 pm
i sadly miss my old toronto, but its time to leave and look forward. enjoy the ugly condo style
Robert replying to a comment from mizmite / December 31, 2012 at 07:38 am
Great isn't it, the city is so much more alive. I am looking forward to my retiring in Toronto, so much to offer.

Your opinion is only your opinion and does not reflect everyone's opinion. It is your choice to live were you want. No one is wrong when they make that choice.
Me replying to a comment from Robert / December 31, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Agreed. I recently moved out of the city and pray for the day I can get back!
Jer / December 31, 2012 at 04:19 pm
"You should see me catch a baseball" ??? WTF... that was weird.
Teddy Sause / April 14, 2013 at 07:32 pm
I haven't lost my #smile at all! it's right under MY nose. I just #forgot it was there. =)
Elliott Langbein / April 15, 2013 at 03:20 am
Everything from the past makes me who I am today, and everything from #now will make me who I am in the #future.
Kevin Mckusker / April 16, 2013 at 12:51 am
Dear past, thank you for all the #lessons. Dear future.. I'm #Ready!
Other Cities: Montreal