Russian film star

Here’s a photograph from the January 20 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a Russian actress who was about to star in films in the United States.

Vera Voronina (1904-1942?) fled Russia with her family at the time of the 1917 revolution. She had appeared in films in Austria, Germany, and Britain before coming to America. Her first movie in the United States was The Whirlwind of Youth (1927).

She was dropped from her American contract in 1928 and then returned to Germany. Her career did not survive the transition to talking films, probably because she spoke with a thick Russian accent. She married a man named Nikolaus Awramow and then disappeared into history; her date of death is unknown, but some sources say that it was 1942.

A brief article on her life and career can be found on the Bizarre Los Angeles website.

Agouti is at home

Here’s a photograph from the January 14 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a British woman with her exotic pet.

Sir Walter Peacock (1871-1956) was a Liberal Party politician and lawyer who worked for the future King Edward VIII when he was the Prince of Wales.

His wife, the former Irene Cynthia Le Mesurier, wrote a number of books. These include biographies of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles that were published in 1952; the Toronto Public Library has them available for reference.

The agouti is a large rodent that is found in tropical parts of the Americas. Agoutis can live up to 20 years, which is a long time for a member of the rat family.

First to loop in glider plane

The January 14 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of an airplane:

Edward Bayard Heath (1888-1931) started building and flying his own aircraft in 1908, which was only five years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. He formed his own aircraft company in 1912. He died in a crash when testing a new aircraft design.

The Heath Airplane Company continued on after his death. After World War II, it renamed itself Heathkit and concentrated on selling electronic products that purchasers could assemble themselves.

Playing in “Whosit”

Here’s another photograph from the January 14 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that includes the person’s name and address:

At some point, I need to research when the newspapers stopped doing this. But, for now, I can continue to look people up in the Toronto city directories!

A search revealed that there were six Pole family members listed in the 1930 Toronto city directory at 32 Cornish Road:

  • Frederick H. G. Pole, the head of the household, who worked as an inspector at the Canada Permanent Mortgage Corporation;
  • Audrey L. Pole, who worked as a clerk at Eaton’s;
  • Constance, Dorothy, and Freda, who had no listed occupation;
  • Howard L. Pole, who worked as a “client’s mn” at Watson, Wallace & Co.

By 1935, Constance had moved out and had become an artist. Dorothy and Freda had started their own business, called The Pantry Shop; despite its name, it sold lingerie. Howard L. was working as a financial agent, and Frederick H. G. was still an inspector. Audrey was not listed; presumably, she had gotten married, which in those days caused women to disappear from the city directory.

By 1940, Frederick had no listed occupation. Howard is listed as Howard F. Pole, but the home address is still 32 Cornish; he was working for Primary Securities. Constance (now listed as Connie) was a teacher at Western Technical Commercial School; my guess is that she taught art. Dorothy worked as a clerk at the Toronto General Trusts. Freda is now missing, presumably married.

By 1942, tragedy had struck the family, as sadly it so often does. The family had moved to unit 2, 80 Spadina Road, and Adelaine Pole was listed as Frederick’s widow there. Constance, still a teacher, had moved back in with her mother. Dorothy is the only other Pole listed; she is still a clerk. I don’t know what happened to Howard; hopefully, he moved out of town.

In the 1943 directory, Adelaine and Constance are the only family members listed. Dorothy is no longer there. Again, presumably, she got married too.

A search for Whosit, the play that Ms. Pole was appearing in, turned out to be a dead end, as there is a board game with that name.

Little Joan and her pet spaniel

I continue to be astonished by the fact that newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s would publish the names and addresses of people whose photographs they were printing. Needless to say, this would never happen today.

For example, here’s a photo that appeared on the front page of the January 14 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Fortunately, Marcus L. Brown had an uncommon first name, so it was easy to trace him in the Toronto city directories. The 1930 directory lists him as a factory manager at the Seiberling Rubber Company and living at 319 Kennedy Avenue. He remained at the Seiberling Rubber Company for the rest of his working life, eventually becoming vice-president in charge of production and then president and production manager. He moved from 319 Kennedy to 59 Wendover Road and then, by 1943, to 77 Jackson Avenue. The 1963 directory lists him at 77 Jackson with no occupation; presumably, he had retired. I didn’t trace him after that.

The 1949 directory lists Joanne H. Brown as a student and living at 77 Jackson, and the 1950 directory lists her as working as a clerk for the Hartford Fire Insurance Company at the same home address. The 1951 directory didn’t show the page that the Joan or Joanne Browns were on due to a scanning error, and the 1952 directory doesn’t list her. Presumably, she got married.


Here’s an ad from the January 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an upcoming performance at Massey Hall.

Roland Hayes (1887-1977) lived a memorable and remarkable life. Born in rural Georgia, his mother was formerly a slave, his father passed away when he was 11, and he received only a sixth-grade education. His family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was in a church choir; a visiting pianist asked him to sing a solo and introduced him to the music of Enrico Caruso.

He began studying music seriously in 1905, including regular lessons from a teacher who insisted on Hayes visiting him at home so as not to embarrass him in front of his white students. In 1915, Hayes started touring the United States.

He toured in Europe between 1920 and 1923, including giving a command performance for King George V and Queen Mary. He then returned to the United States for another successful tour, eventually dividing his time between the two continents. He wound up earning $100,000 a year at his peak. He also found time to have an affair with a German aristocrat named Bertha Henriette Katharina Nadine, Gräfin von Colloredo-Mansfeld.

In 1942, Hayes’s wife and daughter accidentally sat in a part of a shoe store in Rome, Georgia that was intended for white customers. Hayes confronted the store owner and resolved the conflict, but was assaulted by a police officer (who was apparently not in uniform) and arrested. This brought national attention; the officer was eventually fired.

Hayes had a distinguished career which ended when he gave his last performance at the age of 85. Before he passed away, he was able to acquire the property in Georgia on which he had grown up.

Wins commendation

Here’s a photo from the January 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a police officer who had just received a positive performance review.

I looked Morden Constable up in the Toronto city directories. I found a Thomas M. Constable in the 1929 directory who was working as a police constable (thus becoming Police Constable Constable) and living at 391 Manor Road. I am assuming that this is him.

Constable Constable first appears in the 1927 directory at 173 Browning Avenue, and then in the 1928 directory at 39 Albemarle Avenue. After moving in 1929, he never moved or changed jobs again: he appears in the 1961 directory as a police constable living at 391 Manor Road, and the 1962 directory lists his widow. So he was in the force for nearly 35 years and died in harness.

Purchased railroad

Here’s a photograph from the January 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a contractor who had just bought a railroad.

Samuel Rosoff became known as “Subway Sam” after he used his Tammany Hall connections to win contracts to build about one-fourth of New York City’s subway lines. Time magazine wrote a detailed article on his exploits in 1947, and the New York Times printed his obituary when he passed away in 1951 at the age of 68.

One-piece orchestra

Here’s a publicity photograph from the January 9 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of three siblings playing a large harmonica.

Junior Durkin (1915-1935) was not quite 14 when this picture was taken. He went on to have a career in movies, twice playing Huckleberry Finn while child star Jackie Coogan was playing Tom Sawyer. He died when a car driven by Coogan’s father was forced off the road; of the five people in the car, Coogan was the only survivor.

At the time of his death, Durkin was living with his agent, Henry Willson; there were rumours that they were lovers. Willson went on to find, represent, and sometimes rename a number of famous male leads, including Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and Rory Calhoun. (Some of his finds were gay, some were not.)

When her younger brother was killed, Grace Durkin (1908-1991) sued Coogan for a reported $500,000, as Coogan’s father allegedly had been drinking at the time of the crash. I couldn’t find out how the suit was settled, but it would possibly have been a futile effort: Coogan’s mother and soon-to-be stepfather had squandered most of Coogan’s earnings. Ms. Durkin appeared in a number of movies in the 1930s before giving up her career to marry actor William Henry. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1949.

Gertrude Durkin (1911-1970) did not appear in any stage or film roles other than Courage, as far as I could find out. She married actor James Ellison in 1937; they remained married until she passed away.

Courage, the play that the Durkin siblings were in, ran for 280 performances from October 1928 to June 1929 at the Ritz Theatre in New York. This theatre was renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre in 1990. Bruce Springsteen performed regularly there in 2017 and 2018.

English naturalist and “Jack”

Here’s a photo from the January 7 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man with his pet eagle.

C. W. R. Knight (1884-1957) earned his rank of Captain by serving as a sniper in the First World War. With a later star pupil eagle, Mr. Ramshaw, he appeared on the Fred Allen radio show in 1940; the eagle flew about the studio, throwing the show into “hysterical chaos”.

Knight and Mr. Ramshaw also appeared in the movie I Know Where I’m Going! (1945). As I write this, the movie is available on YouTube in two parts; part one is here.

Charles W. R. Knight is not to be confused with Charles R. Knight (1874-1953), an American artist who specialized in painting prehistoric animals.