On eve of better times

Here’s an article from the November 14 1936 Toronto Daily Star featuring an interview with a retired Canadian banker.

John Aird (1855-1938) joined the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1878. The 1879 Toronto city directory lists a John Aird as a clerk – I’m assuming that this is him:

I would guess that William Aird was his father. Mr. Aird rose from the rank of clerk to become president of the bank from 1924 to 1929. His grandson, John Black Aird, was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1980 to 1985.

When not doing banking stuff, Mr. Aird became the head of a royal commission on radio broadcasting, called (not surprisingly) the Aird Commission. In 1929, the commission recommended the founding of a public broadcasting network. This didn’t happen until 1932, when the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was created to form what became the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In the article shown here, Mr. Aird predicted that better times were ahead, provided that there were “no international complications to disturb world affairs”. It’s probably just as well that he didn’t live to see the Second World War.



Here’s an ad for guns and sporting goods from the November 10 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

Besides selling various devices for killing pheasants, the R. S. Williams & Sons Co. Limited also sold “hockey clubs”. This might say something about how hockey was played in 1927.

When I looked up R. S. Williams & Sons in the Toronto city directories, I discovered that sporting goods was a sideline for them. Their primary business was musical instruments. The 1927 city directory included this ad for them:

This ad stated that they were established in 1849. I couldn’t find them in the 1850 city directory, but I did find R. S. Williams in the 1865 directory:

Moving back to 1927: the entry in that year’s city directory listed Richard S. Williams as the president of R. S. Williams & Sons. I am assuming that he was one of the Sons, unless the original R. S. Williams was extraordinarily long-lived.

Going forward: the 1932 directory lists R. S. Williams & Sons at 468 King West. In 1934, they are at 468-474 King West, but R. S. WIlliams was no longer in charge – a J. H. Biggar was running the show. Mr. Williams was listed but with no occupation; he last appears in the 1936 directory. I don’t know whether he moved or passed away in 1937 – I checked his home address of 57 Cluny Drive, and the wonderfully named Augustus Clements now lived there.

R. S. Williams & Sons lasted a few years without any actual Williams running the show, though their management changed a few times. They appear in the 1952 directory, but not the 1957 one – I didn’t narrow it down any further.


Viking Revellers

Here’s an ad from the November 14 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an upcoming radio broadcast:

It seems a shame that the Viking Revellers were only allotted 15 minutes for their show. There’s not a lot of revelling that you can do in that short of a time period.

A search for Viking Revellers turned up nothing relevant. I discovered that Roy Locksley was a trumpet player and had an orchestra, but I didn’t find a lot of details.


Ark for 1938

The photo page for the November 14 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this fascinating picture of a man who was building a giant ark.

A search for “William Greenwood ark” turned up several references to Mr. Greenwood and his preparation for an impending flood. Weird Universe has an article on him, which mentioned that Mr. Greenwood had been building an ark since the 1920s (other sources say 1920), and had predicted an impending deluge in 1928, 1932, and then 1938. In 1942, the city of Olympia burned his ark, claiming it was a fire hazard; he promptly built a smaller one, and predicted a 1952 flood. He passed away in 1958 at the age of 91, surrounded by the animals that he hoped to save with his ark.

Other links to Mr. Greenwood and his ark can be found here, here, and here. (The last link requires either a subscription or disabling your ad blocker.)


Doctor represents

Here’s a photo from the November 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention:

Out of curiosity, I traced Dr. Philp in the Toronto city directories. The 1927 directory lists him as a physician living and working at 607 Sherbourne Street. By 1932, he was listed as a physician and surgeon, and had moved to 603 Sherbourne, which was on the corner of Sherbourne and Howard.

He remained at 603 Sherbourne for the rest of his life. He is listed in the 1951 city directory, but the 1952 directory lists his widow at 603 Sherbourne. The buildings at 603 to 607 Sherbourne still stand, but have fallen into disrepair and have been boarded up for some time. (The 2009 Google Street View photo of the buildings shows that someone had spray-painted “Shame” and “Restore Me!” on the boarded-up entranceways.)


Balloon tragedy

Here’s a photo from the November 11 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who passed away while trying to set an altitude record in a balloon.

Hawthorne C. Grey (1889-1927) made several attempts to set altitude records during 1927:

  • On March 9, he set an unofficial record of 28,510 feet. He passed out while up that high, and regained consciousness in time to slow the fall of his balloon as it descended.
  • On May 4, he reached 42,470 feet, but parachuted out at 8000 feet because his balloon was descending too quickly. According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, this disqualified him from achieving the altitude record, as the balloonist had to land inside the actual balloon.
  • On November 4, Grey made it to somewhere between 43,000 and 44,000 feet, but lost consciousness and was found dead in the balloon the next day. It is still not entirely clear what caused his death. His last journal entry was “Sky deep blue, sun very bright, sand all gone.”


Here’s a photo from the November 10 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young woman who was about to sing on radio station CFCA:

I did a search, and I could find nothing on Winnifred L. Hayward or her teacher, Miss Louise Risdon. They are both seemingly lost to history, which makes me a bit sad.

I did find Louise Risdon in the 1927 Toronto city directory – she was listed as a music teacher at Moulton College. She was also listed in the 1932 directory (as “Louisa Risdon”), but she was not in the 1937 directory. I could not find Ms. Hayward in either the 1927 or the 1932 directory.


Prince George of Serbia

The November 10 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of a Balkan royal out on a visit:

The caption for this photograph mentions that George, Crown Prince of Serbia (1887-1972) renounced his rights to the Serbian throne in 1909, but it did not say why. It turns out that the reason was ugly, to put it mildly: in a fit of temper, Prince George kicked his valet to death. He apparently tried to take back his succession rights after that, but was refused – which is understandable, given the circumstances.

Prince George’s Wikipedia page states that he was arrested in 1925 after his brother was crowned King of Serbia, and that he was in an asylum from then until the start of the Second World War. This contradicts the photo above, which claims that he visited Cherbourg in 1927. I have no idea what is going on here.

I can tell you that Prince George did not marry Mrs. Dorothy C. Cochrane (about whom I could find nothing). He did eventually marry Radmila Radonjić in 1947.


Why become bald?

Here’s an advertisement from the November 8 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a treatment that claimed to cure baldness.

Charles Nessler, also known as Karl Nessler (1872-1951) was an inventor of a commonly used method of creating a permanent hair wave (at least according to his Wikipedia page, which is somewhat flattering to him). His original treatment method apparently consisted of cow urine and water. He eventually opened a chain of hair salons in the United States and became wealthy.

I could find nothing on the Pro-Ker Hair Treatment or the Karascope in searches. I’m not sure how a permanent wave can cure baldness, since I assume that it works with the hair that you already have. But I don’t know enough about it. This Wikipedia page describes the history of permanents in considerable detail, if you are interested.

I traced Raymond Harper in the Toronto city directories, because why not. Before becoming associated with Pro-Ker Hair Treatments, Mr. Harper had been working as a manufacturer’s agent, with space in the office building at 319 Bay Street. The 1934 city directory lists him at both 319 Bay and in his new space at 67 Yonge; after that, he focused on baldness and the alleged prevention of same.

The Pro-Ker Hair Treatment system turned out to be Mr. Harper’s life’s work. He remained its manager right through 1950, though the 1943 directory listed him as a technician for the Ontario provincial department of health. I’m not sure whether this was a temporary stopgap due to the war; the directory still listed Pro-Ker Hair Treatments at 67 Yonge, so perhaps Mr. Harper was taking on a side gig due to a wartime-related shortage of people interested in hair treatment.

By 1951, he had passed away, as the directory lists his widow, but Pro-Ker Hair Treatment soldiered on, now under the management of Alfred E. Harper. His address was the same as Raymond Harper’s widow, so I would guess that this was the son taking over the family business. He stuck with it, too: his office moved to 2 Bloor Street East in the 1950s, but it was listed in the 1964 directory. By 1966, though, it was gone. The junior Mr. Harper remained in the directory, but with no listed occupation; perhaps he had retired.


Mosquito death ray

Here’s a short article from the November 8 1933 Toronto Daily Star about the deployment of an alleged mosquito death ray:

A search turned up these links:

  • This page from the January 1933 edition of Everyday Science and Mechanics, which contained pictures of the device.
  • A page from the October 6 1933 edition of The Royal Gazette and Columnist Daily, published in Hamilton, Bermuda. This claimed that the death ray was actually named “Germaine Gourdon” and was invented by her father.
  • Page 27 of this PDF version of the October 1934 edition of the Official Organ of the Malayan Agri-Horticultural Association goes into more detail. It states that the “Capteur de Moustiques” was developed by Mlle. Gourdon and her father, and that this wondrous device could kill three million insects per hour.

I have no idea how effective the mosquito death ray was, but I would assume that it didn’t do a very good job of trapping mosquitoes, or it would have been in more common use.

I could find nothing else on Mlle. Gourdon, but I did find this link to a French trade union activist with the same name who passed away in 2019 at the age of 107. However, this isn’t the same person, as she took the surname of Gourdon when she married in 1948.

A search for “mosquito death ray” turned up links – some satirical – to the modern use of lasers to zap mosquitoes. The scientific journal Nature published an open-source article in 2016 on laser-induced mosquito mortality.