We mourn

Here’s a notice in the January 23 1936 of an upcoming store closure:

When Queen Elizabeth II passed away recently, she was greatly mourned, but I don’t think any stores closed.

Red & White and Leader were two popular grocery store chains, each with over two dozen branches. Red & White is listed in the 1936 Toronto city directory as a “voluntary chain”, and Leader was a subsidiary of National Grocers Limited.

Give more amateurs a chance

Here’s an ad from the January 23 1936 Toronto Daily Star featuring amateur performers who had become successful:

The Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour was a popular radio program that ran starting in 1935. Edward Bowes (1874-1946) would select a number of amateur performers to appear on his show. The best performers were then invited to travel with one of the Major’s touring companies. Chase and Sanborn coffee was the sponsor of the show.

The odds against appearing on the show were enormous: over 10,000 applications a week were received, of which only 500 to 700 could be heard in auditions and only 20 selected for the broadcast. People travelled to New York by the thousands, sometimes selling their homes or hitching rides across the country. Unsuccessful contestants ended up adding to the city’s relief rolls. But the show was hugely lucrative for Bowes, who was making $2 million a year at the time of this ad.

Of the performers listed in the ad:

  • I found one other reference to Veronica Mimosa, child pianist – she is mentioned in the New York Times when she was performing in 1941 at the age of 15.
  • A search turned up one photo of Skeets Simmons.
  • Rhoda Chase (1914-1978), whose birth name was Anna Blanor, was orphaned at the age of four and then endured a horrible childhood. Her stage surname was taken from “Chase and Sanborn”. After appearing in a Bowes touring company, she continued her music career until she met and married Mexico City nightclub owner Alfonso De la Barrera in 1947. They had three children and remained married until she passed away.
  • Steeplejack Kay is mentioned in a 1936 Radio Guide article on Major Bowes.

Bowes went off the air in 1945 and passed away the following year. Ted Mack then revived the Amateur Hour and held it on both radio and television. It appeared on radio until 1952 and on television until 1970.

John Dunning’s On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio has a detailed article on Major Bowes and his show.

Another Monarch Marketeria

Here’s an ad from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a new grocery store:

Before becoming a Monarch Marketeria, 623 Danforth was a branch location of the Adams furniture company, as that was what was listed in the 1936 Toronto city directory. It turned out that the Monarch Marketeria chain did not last through 1936: in the 1937 directory, 623 Danforth Avenue was part of the Dominion grocery chain, and the other two Monarch Marketeria branches were now part of the Miracle Marketeria chain.

623 Danforth remained a Dominion store for a few years, as the 1946 directory lists it as such. The 1956 directory lists it as part of the IGA chain. It is currently known as the Pape Market and is part of the Foodland chain.

Three birds with one stone

Here’s an excerpt from the radio column in the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention. Perhaps it was the mustache.

This excerpt also shows that one writing convention had changed in the past ten years or so: the broadcaster mentioned in this column was referred to as “Al Savage”. Not that long before, his name would have been written as “Al. Savage”, since short forms of first names were then followed by a period.

I tried tracing Al Savage, but didn’t find much, partly because of the conservative U.S. radio broadcaster Michael Savage, whose birth name was Michael Alan Weiner. I did find some History of Canadian Broadcasting websites that allowed me to trace his early career.

Alan Savage appears to have moved around a lot. He started his radio career at CKCR in Kitchener-Waterloo in 1932, went to CKTB in St. Catharines in 1933, CKLW in Windsor in 1934, and CKCL in Toronto later in 1934, where this article found him. In 1936, he left for WGR in Buffalo, at which point I could find nothing more about him.

To compete in Winter Olympics

Here is a photograph from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of four figure skaters.

Vivi-Anne Hultén (1911-2003) was a bronze medalist at the 1936 Winter Olympics. She was also a four-time world champion and a ten-time Swedish champion. She toured with a number of skating shows after turning professional. In the 1960s, she settled in the United States; she was eventually hired by the Minnesota North Stars’ Herb Brooks to serve as a skating coach.

Maxi Herber (1920-2006) and Ernst Baier (1905-2001) won the pair skating gold medal at the 1936 winter games; she was the youngest champion ever, winning at the age of 15 years and 128 days. The pair got married when their skating career ended in 1940; they divorced in 1964, and eventually remarried and redivorced.

Gweneth Butler (1915-2006) competed at the 1936 winter games, but did not finish. She broke her ankle in 1937, which effectively ended her competitive career. She later moved to the United States.

Olympic skiers

Here is a photograph from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two British women who were hoping to compete in the 1936 Olympic Games.

Helen Blane (1913-2000) did wind up competing for Great Britain in the 1936 Winter Olympics. She finished 25th in the combined Alpine skiing event (downhill and slalom).

I couldn’t find a reference for Miss H. Tomkinson, but I did learn that the Tomkinsons (or Palmer-Tomkinsons) were a British skiing and sporting dynasty. James Palmer-Tomkinson competed in the 1936 and 1948 Olympics before dying in a freak skiing accident in 1952; his two sons were also Winter Olympians, and his father was a first-class cricketer. Miss Blane may have married into this family – her married name was Tomkinson, and her daughter, Diana Tomkinson, was also an Olympian.

What big shoes you’re in

Here’s a photograph from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a hockey player who had just become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The caption features some startlingly purple prose. As near as I can tell, the phrase “the Busher carrying the Smythian torch of the port bows of the good ship Leafy-pop” meant that Harvey “Busher” Jackson was going to play left wing for the Leafs, who were owned by Conn Smythe.

Jack Markle (1907-1956) had been playing well for the Syracuse Stars of the International Hockey League, as he scored 27 goals in 43 games for them in the 1935-36 season. Unfortunately, he was not successful as a Maple Leaf, managing only one assist in his eight games with the club. He never played in the NHL again; he remained with Syracuse until his career ended in 1940. I could find out nothing else about him, including why he died so young.

The line that Markle was temporarily joining was the famous Kid Line, featuring Joe Primeau, Charlie Conacher, and Jackson. The three of them had been playing together since 1929 and had led the Leafs to the Stanley Cup in 1932. I don’t know for sure whether the injury that sidelined Conacher derailed his career, but he was less effective after the 1935-36 season.

Elected president

Here is a photograph from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who had just been elected president of the Brewers Warehousing Company Limited.

James F. Cosgrave was from a multi-generational family of brewers: his ancestor, Patrick Cosgrave, purchased the Thompson Brewery in 1865 and renamed it. His sons joined the family business in the 1870s and the business continued on from there.

The 1936 Toronto city directory lists the Cosgrave Export Brewery Company Limited with James F. Cosgrave as its president. Going forward in five-year intervals:

  • In 1941, Mr. Cosgrave was president of Cosgrave’s Dominion Brewery, as his company had merged with Dominion Brewery.
  • In 1946, he was president of the O’Keefe Brewing Company as the result of another merger.
  • The 1951 and 1956 directories list him with no occupation – presumably, he had retired.
  • The 1961 directory lists his widow, Kathleen.

Pilot who flew new king

Here’s a photo from the January 23 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of the pilot who flew King Edward VIII to London to be sworn in.

Edward Fielden (1903-1976) took up flying in 1924 and became the future King Edward’s personal pilot in 1929. When Edward abdicated in 1936, Fielden was retained as the royal pilot, charged with flying members of the royal family and other important members of state.

During the Second World War, Fielden served as a wing commander and then group captain in the Royal Air Force. After the war, he returned to his role as captain of the King’s Flight, which became the Queen’s Flight when Elizabeth II became Queen. He retired from this post in 1962. Throughout his royal service, he was discreet and self-effacing, which earned him the nickname of “Mouse”.

Chef in oils

Here’s a photo from the January 14 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of an artist painting a chef.

Ivan Opffer (1897-1980) was born in Denmark. He served as a camouflage artist during World War I. After the war, he lived in New York and Paris and became well-known for his portraits of writers and other prominent people. His brother, Emil Opffer, a Danish merchant seaman, was the muse and lover of poet Hart Crane.

The National Portrait Gallery website has an extensive collection of Opffer’s portraits, and the Camoupedia website has a detailed biography of him.