New $35,000 home

In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Toronto Daily Star ran a regular feature on expensive new houses that were being built. I’m not sure whether this was so its readers could imagine what it was like to live in a house that large, or what.

Here’s an example from the March 29 1934 edition:

I looked on Google Street View to see if I could find the house. I discovered that 14 Rosemary Lane is a mirror image of this diagram. I don’t know whether they decided to build it the other way around or whether this drawing was simply flipped. I suppose that it’s also possible that Forsey, Page and Steele, architects, designed two houses that were identical except for being mirror images of one another. But I don’t think that would go over very well.

I searched in the Toronto city directories and discovered that B. B. Kennedy was not the original occupant of the house, but its builder: the 1934 city directory lists Byron B. Kennedy as having that occupation.

The 1935 directory lists 14 Rosemary Lane as being under construction, which fits the timeline of this article. By 1936, the house was built and was occupied by Edgar B. Knapp, a mining executive. He was still there in 1943. By 1950, the house was owned by Alex Samuels, the vice-president of the Reliable Toy Company Limited; I didn’t trace it after that.

Woman directs land bank

Here’s another photo from the front page of the March 29 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, this time of a woman who had been appointed a director of a Federal Land Bank.

Searches revealed that her name was actually Corinne Lasater. She eventually became Corinne Lasater Elliott. Her house was destroyed by fire in about 1965. She passed away in 1995 at the age of 95 in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, the place where she was from.

Seeks adventure

Here’s a photo from the front page of the March 29 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young British noblewoman who was seeking adventure.

The caption writer for this photo clearly thought that the whole idea was crazy. Without a guide? Unguarded? Unarmed? With no knowledge of the country? Despite all of this, Lady Isobel Blunt-Mackenzie survived her experience.

In 1947, she married a Polish officer, Oscar Linda, becoming Lady Isobel Linda. I couldn’t find an exact date of death for her, but one source estimates it was 2004.

The National Portrait Gallery website has a number of photographs of Lady Blunt-Mackenzie from 1930 to 1935. I also found the original press photograph that was cropped to produce the photo shown here.

Lady Blunt-Mackenzie was the sister of Roderick Mackenzie, the 4th Earl of Cromartie, who became the chief of Clan Mackenzie in 1979.


Here’s a dry cleaning ad from the March 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention:

The 1926 Toronto city directory lists Parker’s Dye Works Limited in bold face. Its main location was 791 Yonge, and there were eight other branches in the city.

Over time, the number of branches of the Parker’s chain has gone up and down:

  • The 1939 directory lists one branch at 1474 1/2 Yonge Street.
  • The 1949 directory still lists their main office at 785-791 Yonge, but there were no branches.
  • The 1959 directory lists three branches.
  • By 1969, the last year for which I have access to an online directory, their main office had moved to 27 Yorkville, and there were seven branches, three of which were at subway stations (Eglinton, Islington, and Warden). There was also a Keith’s division of Parker’s that had eight branches, all of which were in the suburbs or in cities adjacent to Toronto.

Parker’s still exists; according to the map on their website, their head office is now 1696 Bayview and they have two other branches. The 1696 Bayview location was configured as a drive-through, though this is no longer prominently advertised on their signage. Their headquarters at 791 Yonge is now the location of the Toronto Reference Library.

Dimples contest

I am always fascinated by the photo page of 1920s and 1930s newspapers. Sometimes, photos turn up that are interesting but impossible to trace, such as this one from the March 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

To our modern eyes, the idea of a group of “inspired Kenosha business men” judging young women on the quality of their dimples seems extremely creepy.

I did a search for Ann Lapcik, and nothing memorable seems to have happened to her after she won the dimples contest. All I could find was a better-quality copy of this photo, which listed her as Anna Lapcik.

The scorn of critics

The March 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of a British peeress who had written an unsuccessful play.

For a brief moment in 1926, Vera, the Countess of Cathcart, was the most notorious woman in the world. Widowed during the First World War, she met and married the much older George, the 5th Earl of Cathcart, in 1919. After presenting him with a male heir, the countess had an affair with the young and handsome (and also married) Earl of Craven.

The Earl of Cathcart obtained a divorce from his Countess in 1922 and the Earl of Craven left her in 1925 to return to his wife. In response, the countess wrote Ashes of Love, a play based on her life, in eight days. British government censors refused to allow the play to be performed in London, so the countess set sail for America.

When American immigration authorities refused to let her into the country on the grounds of “moral turpitude”, enormous publicity resulted. When she was freed on bond, the theatre producer Earl Carroll, known for his annual Earl Carroll’s Vanities shows, tried to cash in by staging Ashes of Love with the countess in the lead role. After a trial performance in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the show opened on Broadway on March 22, 1926; it was also performed in Washington and (simultaneously with a different cast) in London. The reviews were unfavourable, which isn’t surprising when you consider that the play was hastily put together by a writer with no previous experience.

The show ran for eight performances on Broadway before closing. The countess returned to England; she seems to have done nothing particularly memorable after this.

My primary source for this was an article written for an Allentown TV station. I also found this footage of the countess arriving in the United States and a better copy of the photo shown above.


In the 1920s and 1930s, Massey Hall regularly included ads in local papers for upcoming performances in which only the surname of the performer was provided. Presumably, if you were knowledgeable about culture, you wouldn’t need more details.

Here’s an ad from the March 22 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a performance that was about to be cancelled due to illness.

Giovanni Martinelli (1885-1969) was an operatic tenor from Italy. He had a long run at the Metropolitan Opera in New York starting in 1913, appearing in 926 performances of 36 roles over 32 seasons.

Wikipedia has this to say about him: “In private life, Martinelli was said to be something of a playboy, possessing a charming personality, a wealth of memorable anecdotes and an impressive head of hair that grew silver with age.” Yowza! He ended his stage singing career in 1945.

The “Spalding” mentioned in the ad was Albert Spalding (1888-1953), an American violinist and composer, who is not to be confused with baseball pioneer Albert Spalding. The musical Spalding was, among other things, a National Patron of an international professional music fraternity named, ironically, Delta Omicron.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, also mentioned in the ad, are an African-American acapella vocal ensemble of Fisk University students. The group was first formed in 1871 and still exists today.

Nifty trio of ping-pong champs

Here’s a photo from the March 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of three women about to compete at table tennis.

I couldn’t find much on Helen Ovenden, except for a couple of references and a link to a photo of her from 1935. I could find nothing at all on Isabelle McKenny.

By the time of this photograph, Helen Filkey had just retired after a career as a track and field star. This article provides details on her life. She passed away in 2000 at the age of 92.

Sentenced to 30 days

Here’s a photograph from the March 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a movie actress who was about to go to jail.

Mary Nolan (1902-1948) had a very difficult and tragic life. (Warning: there may be some triggers here.) Raised in an orphanage after her mother passed away, she became an artists’ model on moving to New York. She then became a wildly popular member of the Ziegfeld Follies under the stage name of Imogene “Bubbles” Wilson. She was fired after engaging in a public affair with blackface comedian Frank Tinney.

After finally ending her relationship with the sometimes-abusive (and married) Tinney, Nolan appeared in films in Germany between 1925 and 1927 under the stage name of Imogene Robertson. (Her birth name was Mariam Imogene Robertson.) She was widely acclaimed for her work there, which led her to being offered a contract with United Artists.

On her return, she chose her third stage name, Mary Nolan, to help moviegoers forget about her earlier incarnation as Bubbles. She began another affair with a married man, studio executive Eddie Mannix. When he ended the relationship in 1929, she threatened to tell his wife, so he beat her badly enough to require 15 surgeries on her stomach over six months. The treatment for her injuries led her to become addicted to morphine.

Ms. Nolan, as she still was, lost her last major studio job in 1930 after getting into a dispute with director Ernst Laemmle. After this, she only got roles on smaller pictures until her career ended in 1933.

In 1931, she married stockbroker Wallace T. McCreary, who had just lost $2 million on bad investments. They opened a dress shop, which went bankrupt. Shortly after the jail sentence described in the photo above, the two divorced.

In later years, Ms. Nolan, now calling herself Mary Wilson, was hospitalized for a year after overdosing on sedatives, and she also ran a bungalow court. She died of an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 46 – the age at which her mother had died of cancer.

Dental practice

Here’s a short but sad notice that appeared in the March 16 1932 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Normally, when I look things up in the Toronto city directories, I go forward into the future. But, for this notice, I looked back to see how long the late Dr. L. J. Bancroft had been in town. The first directory that I found him in was the 1911 directory, where he is listed as Dr. Lester J. Bancroft. At that time, he was living at 151 Bedford Road (now gone) and his practice was at 575 Gerrard East.

By 1914, Dr. Bancroft was living at 13 Harcourt Avenue and his practice was still at 575 Gerrard East. This was unchanged in 1919. In the 1925 directory, his practice and home address were at 274 Danforth, the address shown in the notice above. In the 1931 directory, Dr. Bancroft had his practice at 274 Danforth and his home address was 11 Douglas Crescent in East York.

I looked up 274 Danforth in the 1932 and 1933 directories to see what happened next. The 1932 directory still lists Lester J. Bancroft, but the 1933 directory lists Sydney J. Hopkins as a dentist at that location. So I suppose that he had the winning tender for Dr. Bancroft’s practice.

Looking at Google Street View, I noticed that 274 Danforth doesn’t appear to exist anymore. My guess is that it was a building similar to the currently existing 272 Danforth, and that 274 and 276 were torn down to make room for the current (and larger) 276 Danforth.