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Wrote best-seller at 16

The October 5 1950 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an article about an Australian novelist who wrote her first best-seller at the age of 16:

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Catherine Gaskin (1929-2009) was a romance novelist. Wikipedia claims that she was 15 when she wrote This Other Eden and that it was published in 1947 when she was 17, not 16, but this is nit-picking. Either way, she was quite young when she first became successful.

Ms. Gaskin went on to write a total of 21 novels. Her most successful work, Sara Dane (1954), sold two million copies and became a TV mini-series in Australia. During her life, she spent time in London, Manhattan, the Virgin Islands, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, and then went back to Sydney, where she originally grew up. Hey, why not?

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Academy of Radio Arts

The October 5 1950 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this advertisement for careers in radio:

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Lorne Greene started his career as a CBC radio announcer before becoming a U.S.-based television actor. He was called “The Voice Of Doom” because of his stern-sounding baritone and because he was given the unfortunate job of reading the names of Second World War dead.

Something I didn’t know: he invented a stopwatch that counted down to zero, which enabled announcers to quickly see how much time they had left to speak.

In the 1950 Toronto city directory, the Academy Of Radio Arts is listed with “Lorne Green” as its president. (His name at birth was Lyon Himan Green, which may or may not explain this.) The academy appears in the 1952 city directory but not the 1953 directory; this might be when Mr. Greene left Canada in search of fame and fortune in the U.S.

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Toronto population in 1926

Here’s one final article from the February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, on the population of the city of Toronto and its surrounding townships:

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In 1926, only 8376 people lived in North York. As of the 2011 census, this figure is 655,913. For Scarborough, the figures are 15,310 (1926) and 632,098 (2016).

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Reveille Mission

The February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an article on the Reveille Mission, which was serving 400 free meals to destitute people in the city.

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I am fascinated by the idea of someone introducing himself as The Stranger. Who was this mysterious Stranger, and why did he not give his real name? A Google search for “Reveille Mission” turned up nothing, so I guess I will never know.

The Reveille Mission existed at 383 Queen West until 1937. In 1938, it moved to 2184 Dundas Street West, where it existed until sometime between 1945 and 1947.

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Barbara La Marr

The February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this article about a movie being shelved because its star had passed away:

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Barbara La Marr (1896-1926) was both an actress and screenwriter, starring in 27 films. She was dubbed “The Girl That Is Too Beautiful”. Perhaps she was too beautiful: she enjoyed the nightlife so much that she apparently only slept two hours a night. Not surprisingly, this put a strain on her health, and she died of tuberculosis and nephritis. Over 3000 fans attended her funeral.

Unless there is a last film that Wikipedia doesn’t know about, her last film, The Girl From Montmartre, was in fact distributed the day after she died. It was a critical success. The actress Hedy Lamarr was named after her (Louis B. Mayer’s wife apparently admired La Marr, causing Mayer to suggest this as a stage name).

Other silent film stars mentioned in this article:

  • John Bunny (1863-1915) was a stage and vaudeville actor who moved into movies in 1910. He was widely praised for his acting skills. He passed away from what was then known as Bright’s disease.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Drew were an American stage and comedy team. There were actually two Mrs. Drews – the first died in 1914, and Mr. Drew married and continued the act with his second wife. His son died in action in World War I, and apparently he never recovered from the loss. He died suddenly in 1919.
  • Wallace Reid (1891-1923) was called “the screen’s most perfect lover”. He was prescribed morphine to keep on filming after being injured in a train wreck, and became hopelessly addicted. He died in a sanitarium while trying to recover.
  • Harold Lockwood (1887-1918) was a vaudeville actor who moved into silent films. He died during the 1918 influenza epidemic.
  • Olive Thomas (1894-1920) had the most horrible death of them all: she died after accidentally consuming a bottle of mercury bichloride, thinking it was water or sleeping pills. She was married to Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack.

Nowadays, I don’t think anybody would suggest that premature death would be box-office poison – it would be exactly the opposite.

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Mother saves boy

The November 5 1956 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this small article about a woman who ran back into a burning house to successfully save her three-year-old son:

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Because the Toronto city directories enable me to snoop, I can tell you that:

  • The family was actually named Boutilier – the Star left off the first “i” in their name.
  • The burning house was at 164 Munro Street. (The house was restored after the fire, and still stands – you can see that the bricking at the front of the house is newer than that of its neighbours.)
  • The Boutiliers moved to 953 Greenwood after the fire, as that’s where they were in the 1957 city directory. I didn’t trace them after that.
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More breathing

When looking through the November 5 1956 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, I found another advertisement for The Institute of Breathing (Can.):

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I love everything about this ad:

  • The suggestion that EVERY MINUTE COUNTS in the fight for health.
  • Testimonials from “Mother” and “Lady aged 83”.
  • You could phone them 24 hours a day, any day, to get the free booklet!

I’ve discussed The Institute of Breathing (Can.) in a previous post. As before, I’ve found nothing in the Toronto city directories that referred to this institute.

I notice that this ad asks readers to send to Dept. S-8, whereas the ad in 1957 referred them to Dept. T8 – how did they organize and number their departments? Why was was there a dash in department S-8, but none in department T8? Was there a department R-8, or a department S9? I need to know, and I may never find out!

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Entertainment in 1956

The November 5 1956 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained these two ads for people looking for entertainment options for the evening:

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A Google search for Ruthie Price was a bit confusing, as there is a young drummer with that name. But this ad might refer to Ruth Price, an American jazz singer, artistic director, and adjunct assistant professor of ethnomusicology. She is still alive; she will turn 81 this year.

Ralph Sharon (1923-2015) became a naturalized American citizen, and went on to collaborate with Tony Bennett for more than 50 years, touring with him and working on his albums.

Moxie Whitney (1919-1989) was a Canadian musician who led bands in Ottawa, Toronto, Lake Louise, Banff, and various Canadian places between 1946 and 1982, briefly moving away to lead a band in Honolulu and the Bahamas.

I could find nothing on Jean Ramsay and Roy Roberts; either their fame didn’t reach beyond Toronto, or their names weren’t unusual enough for Google to pick them out from their namesakes.

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Davisville School

In 2017, the Globe and Mail published an article that discussed controversial plans to tear down Davisville Public School and a nearby school for the hearing-impaired. Some people believe that the building, constructed in 1962, should be preserved as a heritage site.

When I was looking at the July 29 1959 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, I discovered that the creation of this building was as controversial as its planned demolition. Apparently, the Toronto Board of Education had requested expropriation of houses on Davisville Avenue and Millwood Road in a meeting on March 19, but hadn’t informed the homeowners until June 3:

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When I compared the 1958 and 1963 Toronto city directories, I determined that the unlucky homeowners who were forced out lived at 44 through 64 Davisville Avenue and 49 through 81 Millwood Road.

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Sunbeam Heights

The July 29 1959 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this somewhat aggressive ad for a new housing development near Newmarket:

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Forty families decided to stay!

The downside of living here was that Newmarket is a fair distance from Toronto even now – under ideal conditions, it’s a 47 minute drive from there to Toronto City Hall. In 1959, it would have seemed even more remote.

The real estate firm of Brethour & Morris seems to have been a thriving entity in 1959: there were four branches in existence throughout the city. There seems to have been some sort of split immediately after that, though: by 1961, there was just Brethour Real Estate. Mr. Morris became president of Trade-In Homes Ltd. in 1960, and was employed by Renoir Investments in 1961.

I have no idea where Sunbeam Heights is now – the name doesn’t appear on local maps, and a Google search for “Sunbeam Heights Newmarket” turned up nothing.