Trained seals

Here’s yet another ad from the July 22 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.


Training seals was the life’s work of Captain John Tiebor, who began doing this in 1908 after abandoning a career as a bookkeeper. (Apparently, all seal trainers are given the title of Captain.) He passed away in 1945 at the age of 86; his sons took over from him.

The May 4 1912 edition of the Sydney Times had an article on the elder Tiebor and his seal training. A passage in this article is heartbreaking to me:

The average life of a seal in his natural conditions is 70 years. In captivity he seldom lives longer than 25 years, and most of them only last about 20. Then they die off suddenly, and for no apparent reason.

Honest Red’s

If you live in Toronto, you will almost certainly have heard of Honest Ed’s, the giant bargain discount store that existed until relatively recently at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. But did you know that there was an Honest Red’s at one time?

The November 21 1952 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad from Honest Red’s:


Honest Red’s was a new business at the time of this ad – it did not appear in the 1952 city directory, as the College Variety Centre and Seabrook Florist were in the space. It did appear in the 1953 city directory.

By 1955, Honest Red’s was at 924 College Street only; 926 College had been taken over by Bedford Men’s Wear. By 1957, Honest Red’s was no more, though the city directory did list two separate businesses named Honest Ned’s.

As for Honest Ed’s? It had an ad in the paper too:


Honest Ed’s was probably entitled to point out that it was “often imitated, but never duplicated”.

Regent Park

The July 22 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a feature article about a new housing development that was going to replace a slum district in the east end of Toronto. This was the Regent Park project.


The diagram above is the architect’s representation of what the Regent Park buildings would look like. The grainy photo below showed the area as it was at the time.


There was also a photo showing the location of the first buildings to be put up:


And, for completeness, here’s the accompanying article (in two parts):



The Regent Park development fell into a state of disrepair in the 1960s, and the layout of the buildings, which isolated them from the rest of the city, made them a crime risk. The site is being redeveloped in a five-phase project that started in 2005.

The Handbag Hospital

The July 22 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad:

IMG_3748 (1)

For some reason, the idea of a handbag hospital appealed to me – I’m imagining somebody in a white lab coat listening intently while applying a stethoscope to a Gucci bag.

The Toronto Handbag Hospital was a new business at the time this ad appeared. It doesn’t appear in the 1948 Toronto city directory, but does appear in the 1949 directory, with the proprietor being a gentleman named Brian Bourne. (Before this, Mr. Bourne had been the foreman at the Paragon Leather Goods Company; I guess he wanted to strike out on his own.) It remained at this location until at least 1965.

In 1967, the handbag hospital had moved to 284 Yonge, and the business was listed as being run by B. H. Bourne and Son. By 1969, Mr. Bourne had retired, and the Toronto Handbag Hospital was no more.

Directors’ Efficiency Cup

When looking through the March 26 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, this photograph caught my eye:


I love the concept of a Directors’ Efficiency Cup.

Out of curiosity, I looked up J.M. Heale in the Toronto city directories, and he turned out to be easy to find: Joseph M. Heale had a bold-face entry in every city directory that I looked at between 1918 and 1946. By 1925, when the agency won its first Cup, he was the manager, and he remained there through 1946. In 1947, he was just listed under his home address and not in bold-face, which suggests that he retired that year.

Sales tax revenue

One of the fun things about reading old newspapers is that they went to great lengths to ensure that no column space remained unfilled. This meant having lots of bits of filler, some of which were more interesting than others.

The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a bit of filler that I would contend qualified as “less interesting”:


Yes, I checked: $686,569.34 plus $2,186,649.80 does equal $2.873,219.14.

The federal sales tax was a new thing: it had just been introduced that year, which might explain why it was considered interesting enough to be newspaper filler.


Long-time Toronto residents will of course know of Stollery’s men’s wear shop, which was located at the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor until very recently, when it was finally swallowed up by a condominium development. When looking at ads from the May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, I found an ad for Stollery’s:


I love that boys’ and girls’ straw hats are available in sailor and rah-rah shapes.

The “Teasdall” in “Stollery Teasdall” isn’t actually listed in the 1921 city directory – it refers to the firm as simply “Stollery, Frank, gents furngs”. The 1926 city directory lists “Stollery Frank, mens furngs” and Teasdall’s Clothes Shop Limited at 790-794 Yonge; in 1931, Stollery was at 790 Yonge and Teasdall was at 804 Yonge, across Bloor. Teasdall’s remained at 804 Yonge until at least 1951 (I didn’t check later than that).

So you know about Stollery’s men’s wear. But did you know that there was a Stollery’s ladies’ wear shop too?


I am assuming that the Stollery at 784 Yonge was identical to, or at least related to, the Stollery at 790 Yonge. It would be too much of a coincidence for there to be two separate Stollerys.

Stollery-Metivier appears at this location in the 1926, 1931, and 1936 city directories (as with yesterday’s entry, I checked at five-year intervals). In the 1941 and 1946 directories, the store was listed as “Stollery’s Ladies Wear Ltd”, and there was a Metivier’s Ladies Wear at 725 Yonge. (There was a Tamblyn drug store between the two Stollerys.) By 1951, Stollery’s had closed their ladies’ wear shop, and was focused on men’s clothing.

Shopping on Yonge in 1921

The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a large number of ads for clothes and home furnishings. I noticed that many of them were concentrated in a five-block stretch of Yonge Street between King and Dundas.

I’ll do these in order from south to north. First up was Fairweathers, at 88-90 Yonge:


You can still see their sign on the Yonge Street storefront where Moores is now (this building is now listed as 100 Yonge).

Next up is G. Hawley Walker, at 126-128 Yonge:


Walker’s were gone from this location by 1926. Moving a little further up, we have W. & D. Dineen Co., Limited, who sold hats:


This store appeared in the 1926 city directory at this location but not in the 1931 directory (I checked at five-year intervals).

To get to our next stop, you have to hike to 211 Yonge Street at Shuter. (On the way, of course, you would have passed both Simpson’s and Eaton’s, both of which sold everything imaginable.) Here, you will find the Adams furniture store:


This store was at this location until at least 1951 (I didn’t check after that).

Just up the street from Adams was the John Catto Co., Limited, which sold dresses:


Catto’s appears in the 1931 directory, but not 1936. If you don’t find what you want there, you can cross the street to Northway’s at 240 Yonge:


I love the heading “summer joys call for immaculate white skirts”. This store proved also to be long-lasting – it appears in the 1951 city directory.

While the ladies were shopping at John Catto’s or John Northway’s, the men could toodle up the street to Fitzpatrick & O’Connell’s at 254 Yonge:


This store appears in the 1931 directory, but not 1936.

Or the gentlemen could go up to the English & Scotch Woollen Co., which was oddly nation-specific. This is not surprising, I guess, given that Canada was a British colony.


Clearly, Friday was the day to do your suit shopping, but not for long: the 1926 directory lists this location as simply “Vacant”.

After all this walking, you’re going to need some new boots. Fortunately (if you’re a man), the Walk-Over bootshop at 290 Yonge solved this problem:


Walk-Over proved to be long-lasting – they appear in the 1951 city directory.

If you were looking for furniture, and didn’t find it at Simpson’s, Eaton’s, or Adams, you could try the Dale Furniture Company at 304 1/2 to 308 Yonge:


Actually, the 1921 Toronto city directory lists the Dale company at 304 1/2 to 308 1/2. By 1926, they were at 304 1/2 to 310; this didn’t help them for long, as they were gone from this location by 1931.

Finally, there was the Brass men’s clothing store, which had four separate locations on Yonge (“Adelaide and Yonge” turns out to be 116 Yonge):


That’s saturation coverage! (The 97 Yonge store is actually new; it’s not in the 1921 city directory, so it must have been opened after the directory was printed.) By 1926, only the 116 Yonge and 148 Yonge locations were in business; by 1931, the 116 Yonge location was the only one left, and it too was gone by 1936. Perhaps it wasn’t that good an idea to be, ahem, as bold as brass. (Sorry.)

Peggy O’Neil

Before radio and record players were common, the only way for people to listen to music in their homes was to buy sheet music and play it themselves. The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for sheet music for a popular song, which printed the song’s chorus to entice the reader to buy it:


The song is inspired by an actual person: Peggy O’Neil was a stage actress who performed on Broadway, and in London in a show titled Paddy The Next Best Thing¬†that ran for 850 performances. She was apparently the first person ever to be interviewed on television. Path√© Films has footage of her from 1925.

Naturally, there are a number of versions of “Peggy O’Neil” on YouTube:

  • Billy Jones recorded a version in 1921. His style contains a lot of old-fashioned flourishes, and the mid-song patter appears to contain some Irish stereotypes about Peggy’s brother Dan that I could not find in printed lyrics anywhere.
  • Charles Harrison recorded a version, also in 1921, that sounds quite similar but is somewhat faster, and has an instrumental break instead of the mid-song patter.
  • Slim Whitman recorded it as a country and western song. It doesn’t really fit in that genre.
  • Tony Williams, the frontman for the Platters, recorded a slowed-down version of this song that turns it into a 1950s-style show tune. It doesn’t really fit this sound either, but Williams does have a wonderful voice.
  • Jack Smith and the Clark Sisters recorded a lounge-singer version in 1947. It’s very white-bread, and it’s interrupted in the middle by some mock-Irish dialogue that is painful to listen to. I couldn’t finish this one.

Popular records from 1924

Here’s an ad from the February 15 1924 Toronto Daily Star for 10-inch double-sided phonograph records.


What’s interesting here is that the records have a numbering system for Fox Trot, Waltz, and Vocal, but do not list who actually recorded the songs.

Apex Records was founded in 1921, and released recordings from American labels, as well as original English Canadian and French Canadian music. The label name was dropped in 1935, and revived in 1942; in 1952, it resumed re-releasing recordings from independent American labels. The label name was phased out in the 1970s.

YouTube lists a number of versions of “I’m Sittin’ Pretty (In A Pretty Little City)”, all recorded in about 1923, so I have no idea which one is for sale here.