La Argentina

Here’s a small ad from the October 18 1929 edition of the Toronto Globe for an upcoming dance performance at Massey Hall.

La Argentina was the stage name of Antonia Mercé y Luque (1890-1936), a Spanish dancer who was, not surprisingly, born in Argentina. She made six transcontinental tours of North America, and was performing as late as the spring of 1936.

She passed away on July 18, 1936, in Bayonne, France, apparently of sudden heart failure. YouTube has a short video of her performing.


S. Titchener Smith has returned

Here’s an ad for a dancing school from the October 14 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

When I did a search on S. Titchener Smith, I found a reference to him in this blog entry. His full name was Samuel Titchener Smith, and he had studied ballet at the Vestoff-Serova School in New York.

The article also mentioned that Mr. Smith had appeared a decade into the new century, so I started looking for him in the Toronto city directories about then. I first found him listed in the 1915 directory as a teacher, under the name of Samuel T. Smith. By 1925, he has started appearing as S. Titchener.

In the 1936 directory, his dancing studio was at 50 Yorkville Avenue. By 1938, his studio was at 646 Broadview, where he lived. In the 1947 directory, he was listed with no occupation, so I assume that he was retired.


Duke sought U.S. heiress

The October 14 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this article about an Irish peer who was in debt in 1928 and tried to solve the problem by finding a rich American woman to marry.

The Duke’s attempt to marry his way out of his financial difficulties didn’t work, but I guess there’s no harm in trying.

Leinster is the premier dukedom of Ireland, and was created in 1766 for a family named FitzGerald. Before the dukedom was created, the head of the family had been the Earl of Kildare since 1316.

Edward FitzGerald (1892-1976), the 7th Duke, had not expected to inherit the title, as he was the youngest of three sons. But when the 6th Duke’s second son went missing in action in World War I, and the first-born son died childless in a mental institution in 1922, Edward became the Duke, despite having signed his rights away due to gambling debts. He wound up marrying four times, two of which are mentioned in this article:

  • His first wife was May Juanita Etheridge, a chorus girl known as the Pink Pajama Girl. She and the duke divorced in 1930, and she passed away from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1935. The Footlight Notes blog has an entry for her.
  • At the time of this article, the duke was married to Raffaelle van Neck, an American. They divorced in 1946; the duke was quoted as saying, “She said she could not live with black-faced sheep and lochs, and I saw a certain amount of truth in that”.
  • The duke’s third marriage was to Jessie Wessel, a music hall singer and actress whose stage name was Denise Orme. Ms. Wessel had given birth to seven children in her two previous marriages; one of the seven became the mother of Aga Khan IV. This marriage ended when she passed away in 1960.
  • The duke’s final marriage was to Vivien Conner, a waitress. They remained married until the duke committed suicide by overdose in 1976. He never did discharge all of his debts.

Attendance below normal

When I was looking through the October 12 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, I discovered that a polio epidemic had gone through Ontario in 1937, and that schools weren’t opened until after Thanksgiving.

Here’s the article on the reopening of schools in Toronto, in three parts:

Needless to say, this reminds me very much of the pandemic that we are currently enduring.

A search turned up this article on polio epidemics in Toronto. In 1937, 786 people – mostly young children – were afflicted in Toronto, and 20 died. At the time, the cause of infection was unknown. A larger epidemic paralyzed 11,000 people in Canada between 1949 and 1954, including Neil Young. The last major outbreak was in 1959, and vaccines brought polio under control by the early 1970s.



Here’s an ad from the October 12 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a new shoe store near Bloor and Yonge.

E. R. Cubbon had an unusual name, so it was easy to look him up in the Toronto city directories. Edward R. Cubbon is listed in the 1935 directory as the manager of the Cantilever Shoe Shop, just as his ad says; however, the 1937 directory lists him as a salesman at B. F. Goodrich. I guess he fell back on this when the store didn’t work out.

Unfortunately for Mr. Cubbon, his latest attempt at starting his own business didn’t work out any better than his previous one. The Cubbon Comfort Shoe Store is listed in the 1937, 1938, and 1939 city directories, but the 1940 directory lists Madge Harrison’s corset salon at 42 Bloor East, and Mr. Cubbon as having returned to B. F. Goodrich. He was still there as of 1950, so I guess he decided that running a shoe store was a risky business.


Cyclist’s cup

Here’s a photo from the October 12 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who had just set a record for most miles cycled in a year.

René Menzies (1889-1971; dates approximate) had just beaten a distance record set by Walter Greaves of Britain, who had cycled 45.385 miles in 1936 despite having only one arm. Distance cycling was a hazardous sport, as the competitors were riding during the winter: Greaves fell off numerous times while achieving his record, and Menzies missed 24 days of riding when he fell and broke his arm while riding on an icy road.

Menzies eventually made it to 61,561 miles in 1937, but he was not the only cyclist trying to achieve a distance record that year. On the other side of the world, Australian Ossie Nicholson soon broke Menzies’ mark, piling up 62,657 miles. In 1939, the record returned to Britain, as Tommy Godwin rode 76,076 miles. This record stood until 2015.

During the Second World War, Menzies served as Charles de Gaulle’s chauffeur. After the war, Menzies vowed to at least beat Nicholson’s mark, and accomplished this in 1952, riding 62,658 miles. He beat Nicholson’s mark at 10:15 am of the last day of the year.

He apparently passed away in 1971 while pedalling around Hyde Park Corner in London; I couldn’t discover any details on what happened, including the exact date.


Twins make it double

Here’s a picture from the photo page of the October 12 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of twins who married another set of twins.

A Google search revealed an article about the two couples that appeared in a Topeka newspaper in 2016. They operated a market in Topeka for 47 years from the 1940s through the 1980s, and lived together all that time.

Verna Murray passed away in 1996, the twin brothers died six months apart in 2000, and Vera Murray passed away in 2006.


Swordfish tops its captor

Here’s a photo that appeared on the front page of the October 12 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Leo Carrillo (1880-1961) started his career in vaudeville, and had his first Broadway credit in 1915. He appeared in feature films starting in 1929, and played Pancho on the television series The Cisco Kid from 1950 to 1956.

When not acting (or catching large fish), Mr. Carrillo was an ardent conservationist. A stretch of beach near Malibu, California, is named the Leo Carrillo State Park in his honour, and is a popular spot for surfers. YouTube has a video about his ranch, which is now also a park.


76th birthday party

Here’s an ad from the October 5 1951 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for Northway and Son, the women’s clothes manufacturer that had been in business for 76 years.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has an entry on the original John Northway, who opened a store in Tillsonburg in 1873. He went on to be successful enough to leave a $1.8 million dollar estate when he passed away in 1926. That’s quite an impressive achievement for a man who started his working life apprenticed to a tailor in England, and whose apprenticeship was so oppressive that he tried to cut off his own thumb to get out of it.

Northway and Son lasted about a decade after this ad appeared. They are listed in the 1961 Toronto city directory but not in the 1963 directory.


1951 royal visit

The biggest news story in the October 5 1951 edition of the Toronto Daily Star was the royal visit of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip, then the Duke of Edinburgh. The royal couple were available for viewing in two locations in Toronto.

The viewing spot in the west end was the CNE Grandstand, where 36,000 people could watch the royal couple go around the track in their motorcade:

In the east end, the royals were to be driven through Riverdale Park. The royal car would go across on Gerrard, up Broadview Avenue, down Royal Drive, and into Riverdale Park:

Within Riverdale Park, the royal route looked like this:

The privilege of viewing the royals was provided to school pupils. They were organized into sections, based on what school they attended.

The layout in Riverdale Park was planned to look much as it did during King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s royal visit in 1939. 27,000 school pupils would view them there.

There is a National Film Board film of the 1951 royal visit.

To get to Riverdale Park, the royals entered on the appropriately named Royal Drive, which has an interesting history. It was originally named Winchester Drive, and extended from the Don River to Danforth Avenue. It was renamed in 1940 to honour the King and Queen’s 1939 visit. When the Don Valley Parkway was constructed, most of Royal Drive became a northbound on-ramp from Danforth Avenue.

This City of Toronto atlas from the late 1950s shows the original route of Royal Drive and the planned route of the on-ramp:

Here’s the view from Google Maps today:

There’s a path that runs north from the running track into the area where Royal Drive used to be, but it doesn’t follow the route of the old road. Viaduct Park, north of the on-ramp, is now the City Adult Learning Centre.

The entrance to the on-ramp still bears the Royal Drive name. Here’s a photo of it from Google Street View:

I’m thinking that there aren’t too many on-ramps that have a street name!

This 2012 blog entry provides more information on Royal Drive, including some old photos of the area.