Champion beverages

The September 7 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for O’Keefe beverages, in which they were endorsed by two famous rowers.


Bobby Pearce (1905-1976) was an Australian rower who won gold in the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games. This did not protect him from the Great Depression: he entered the 1930 Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario only due to the charity of friends. He managed to land a job in Hamilton after the games, which must have been a blessed relief.

Ted Phelps was a British rowing champion. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but there is newsreel footage of him being interviewed, and I found an article on him and his brother Eric, both of whom were professional rowers.

Pearce and Phelps wound up in an O’Keefe ad because the World Sculling Championship took place in Toronto in 1933, in which Pearce beat Phelps before a crowd of approximately 30,000. Phelps had won the three previous titles, so this was an impressive accomplishment.

Pearce won the next two title matches, in 1934 and 1938, and retired undefeated. He spent the rest of his life in Canada, and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.


This, sir, is a broadcast!

The August 11 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for a radio broadcast in support of the Daily Star’s Fresh Air Fund.


I did quick Google searches on the cast list, to see if any names turned up.


  • I found a Will J. White who was an actor, but he was born in 1925. I found no reference to a comedian of that name.
  • Albert “Red” Newman was a member of the Dumbells, a group of Canadian soldiers who entertained front-line troops in 1917 and 1918, and went on to success in vaudeville until 1932.

Girl Entertainers:

  • Ida Culley, whose stage name was Claudette Culley, was a pianist who accompanied famous performers such as George Formby and Kate Smith. She formed a team with her husband, Harry Culley (listed under Male Artists).
  • Muriel Donnellan was a harp player who migrated to Hollywood in 1941 and went on to play in studio orchestras in films.

Male Artists:

  • Billy Bissett and Alice Mann (listed under Girl Entertainers) turn up in a YouTube video here, from 1937. (A comment in this YouTube link mentions that they lived in California in the 1970s and 1980s, and were apparently quite wonderful people.) The music would probably be classified as smooth jazz today.
  • Rex Battle was a pianist and composer who played at the Mount Royal Hotel in Montreal from 1922 to 1929, and conducted the Royal York Hotel Concert Orchestra in Toronto from 1929 to 1938.
  • There is a Stanley Maxted who was a Canadian journalist and actor. His Wikipedia page mentions that he started out at the CBC, so that’s where he probably was in 1934.
  • Wishart Campbell was a baritone, songwriter, and pianist, known as “The Golden Voice of the Air”. He became the music director for CFRB from 1945-1960, and then “retired to private business” in the Hebrides.
  • Luigi Romanelli was a conductor and violinist who performed in 1922 in the first concert broadcast on the radio in Toronto.
  • Al Plunkett was another of the Dumbells.
  • An obituary for Harry Culley appeared in the Globe and Mail in 2009. Not sure if this is the same person, as the article mentioned that he started working in a band in 1937.
  • Gordon Sinclair was easily the most famous person in this list – he was a journalist and writer who later became famous as a panelist on Front Page Challenge.


  • Clint Buelhman was a broadcaster on Buffalo, N.Y., morning radio for nearly 50 years.
  • Here’s a picture of Roy Locksley’s Orchestra in the 1920s.
  • R. E. Knowles appears to have been a writer. Two books by someone of that name are listed here, and there is an article by him in the July 15 1935 edition of Maclean’s. I’m not sure if either of these are the same R.E. as the one in this ad; the Macleans article lists the author as R. E. Knowles, Jr., so the books are probably by Senior, and the article is by Junior. Or maybe not.
  • Denton Massey was a descendant of Hart Massey, who founded the Canadian agricultural manufacturing company. He broadcast religious programs on Toronto radio stations both before and after the Second World War, was a Conservative MP from 1935 to 1949, and later became a priest. A picture of him appears here; this caption also mentions Roy Locksley and Kathryn Young (in the Girl Entertainers list).



She gets along

The August 11 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star was published in the depths of the Great Depression. So, understandably, articles on what rich people were doing were newsworthy.

Here’s a photograph of a nine-year-old girl whose expenses were either $3000 a month or $5000 a month, depending on whether you believe the caption or the body of the text:


To me, it seems a little harsh to publicly shame a child for being extravagant. It wasn’t her fault that her mother spent lavishly on her behalf.

Lucy’s mother, Lucy Cotton (1895-1948), was an actress who married Edward Russell Thomas in 1924. Mr. Thomas, a financier and newspaper owner, had the unfortunate distinction of being the first American to kill someone in a car accident. When he passed away in 1926, his wife and her daughter (whose full name was Lucetta) inherited his  fortune. After his death, his widow was not lucky in love: she married four more times, the last of which was to Prince Vladimir Eristavi-Tchitcherine of Russia.

The daughter photographed here eventually decided to change her name to Mary Frances Thomas (and I can’t really say that I blame her). I couldn’t find any information about her after her name change.


Mae Questel in person

The cartoon character Betty Boop appears to have been popular in the 1930s! In 1930, Toronto Star readers were invited to meet Helen Kane, the inspiration for Betty Boop. Four years later, in the August 11 1934 edition, readers now had the opportunity to meet Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop:


Mae Questel (1908-1998), who was born Mae Kwestel, also provided the voice of Olive Oyl in the Popeye cartoons, and was the voice of Casper, the Friendly Ghost.

Sadly, she lost an audition for the role of Olive Oyl in a new series of Popeye cartoons in the 1970s, which seems cruel. She did, however, continue to be Betty and Olive elsewhere right up until her death.


Miniature farm hobby

The August 11 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photograph of a British tennis champion who kept a miniature farm as a hobby.


It’s pretty cool when someone wins a championship so often that they just let her keep the trophy. Though I’m not sure what you would do with it – display it proudly on the mantelpiece, I guess.

Joan Ridley (1903-1983) had her best result in 1931, when she was a finalist at Wimbledon in mixed doubles. She got married in 1935, and appears to have ended her tennis career at about that time.


Corn roast

I think that I might have found the most obscure bit of trivia ever to be put in a newspaper. The August 11 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star reported on a company picnic:


I strongly suspect that the employees of the Kelvinator Co. of Canada Ltd., Toronto branch, were extremely grateful to be employed in the depths of the Great Depression.

Kelvinator was a home appliance manufacturer named after Lord Kelvin, the scientist who determined the lowest possible temperature (absolute zero), which is approximately -273.15 degrees Celsius (or zero Kelvin). The brand name is now owned by Electrolux.

You might enjoy this Kelvinator commercial from 1957.

I’m not exactly sure where Lakeview Park was. It was probably in Oshawa, but it might have been in Mississauga.


Isabelle Sheridan

The July 27 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of Isabelle Sheridan. She was a cousin of the famous Mary Pickford, and she was about to hopefully become a movie star as well.


Unfortunately, Ms. Sheridan did not achieve the success that she might have been hoping for. The Internet Movie Database shows her as having been cast as an extra in one other movie two years later, and then working as a stand-in in several productions in the 1930s. She passed away in 1996 at the age of 90.


Darwin to Melbourne

The July 27 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a bit of filler about a man who drove from Darwin to Melbourne in Australia – an exceptional feat for that era.


Google Maps informs me that a modern-day Dunkerley can now travel from Darwin to Melbourne by car in 40 hours. The modern trip is considerably shorter now: instead of 3380 miles, which is 5440 kilometres, you now only need to drive 3753 kilometres.


Polo and Danzig

Newspapers in the 1920s included lots of filler articles to ensure that every tightly-filled column on every page was complete. The July 27 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two of the more obscure bits I’ve seen so far.

First, there was the sad tale of an unfortunate pony:


And you could now call the Free City of Danzig from England:


The Free City of Danzig existed from 1920 to 1939, until being overcome by the Nazis during the Second World War. It is now known as Gdansk, and is part of Poland.


TTC trivia

The November 17 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two bits of filler about the TTC:



107 derailments in six months is a lot of derailments – it’s good that they fixed that. As for the transfers: I guess that 31,717,000 riders got a transfer just in case and decided that they didn’t need it.