Marilyn Miller in person

Here’s an ad from the May 3 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a radio presentation of a musical.

It’s interesting that they listed the start time in both Daylight Saving Time and Eastern Standard Time. In Ontario at that time, DST started on the last Sunday in April unless that Sunday was on April 25, in which case DST started on May 1. This is a bit confusing, which might explain the multiple start times.

Marilyn Miller (1898-1936) was a tap dancer, singer, and actress, and was a Broadway star in the 1920s and early 1930s. She started her career young, first appearing on the stage at the age of four as part of a family vaudeville act. She first achieved fame in the stage version of Sally, which ran for 570 performances starting in 1920.

Sadly, Ms. Miller did not have a long or happy life – she was plagued by alcoholism and sinus infections. She died from complications following surgery on her nasal passages.

Ms. Miller was married four times. Her second marriage was to Jack Pickford, brother of Mary, who was battling alcohol and drug addictions and was apparently abusive. Her fourth and final marriage was to Chester O’Brien, a chorus dancer eleven years her junior. O’Brien went on to become a stage manager; he was the production stage manager for Sesame Street for over ten years. He occasionally appeared on the show as Mr. Macintosh, a fruit and vegetable vendor, from 1975 to 1992.

A movie version of Sally was released in 1929, featuring Ms. Miller in the starring role. YouTube has several clips of her and of this movie, including this sequence that is partly in black and white and partly in colour.


More filler

I love looking at newspapers from the 1930s for many reasons, one of which is because they always contained lots of little bits of filler to ensure that every column of every page contained no blank space.

As an example, I grabbed copies of some bits of filler from the May 3 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. They led me to categorize newspaper filler into five broad categories. First, there’s obscure facts:

Next, we have words of alleged advice:

And there are jokes and witty sayings, some of which are better than others:

Of course, there are bits of news:

And, last but not least, there are local events:

I tried to look up Miss Elsie Cochrane in the Toronto city directories to see if she was listed there as an adult. She was not in the 1933, 1935, and 1938 directories.


Camera study #3

Here’s the third and last camera study from the photo page of the May 3 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I am always astonished to see the name and address of a “charming young lady” appear in the newspaper. Wasn’t this an invitation to stalkers and other unpleasant people? Also: was she wearing some sort of headband, or was this just a series of scratches in the photograph?

Despite having her address as a clue, it was difficult, if not impossible, to trace Miss Helen V. McArthur. The 1930 Toronto city directory lists Wm G. McArthur working as a “trav” and living at 220 Waverley. However, he doesn’t appear to have put down roots there: the 1931 directory lists him as a salesman at W. G. Clarke and living at 10 Ladykirk Avenue.

The 1933 directory doesn’t list William G. McArthur, but does have a listing for a Helen McArthur living on Irene Avenue. She doesn’t appear in the 1932 and 1934 directories. I have no idea whether this is the woman in the photo.


Camera study #2

Here’s another portrait from the photo page of the May 3 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

It is always harder to trace women in the Toronto city directories, as married women are not listed independently, and single women often got married, changed their name, and thus become impossible to trace. It’s doubly hard if the person has a relatively common surname.

But I did find a Violet Law in the 1930 city directory: she was working as a stenographer at the Sellers-Gough Fur Company and living in an apartment on Queen East in the Beaches. She was at Sellers-Gough into 1936, but is not listed in the 1937 directory.

This is where the problem of having a common surname emerges – there is a Violet Law listed in the 1938 directory and working as a housekeeper at the Westmoreland Hotel. This Violet Law was working there as late as 1945. I doubt that this is the same person as the woman in the photo above, since stenographers normally don’t become housekeepers, but I have no way of knowing.


Camera study #1

The photo page of the May 3 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included three portraits of Toronto citizens, all of whom were presumably considered photogenic enough for print. Here’s the first one:

When I looked in the Toronto city directories, I discovered that Arthur G. Pinard’s career went on a steady upward path. The 1935 directory listed him as sales manager at Lowe Bros., the 1940 directory listed him as vice-president, and the 1943 directory listed him as president and managing director.

However, I fear that it didn’t go well from there. The 1945 directory lists him as president of Lowe Brothers, and also provides a listing for his son, Arthur Jr. However, the 1946 directory just lists Arthur Jr. It’s possible that Arthur Sr. moved out of town or retired and settled somewhere warm – but, sadly, I am assuming the worst.


Taught high school at 15

Here’s one last item from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. This is an article about a woman who was about to turn 85 who had been a high school teacher in the 1860s.

Once again, I felt compelled to indulge my morbid curiosity: I looked Mrs. De La Matter up in the Toronto city directories to try to find out how long she lasted.

The 1936 Toronto city directory lists her at 126 Windermere Avenue, and lists Guy De La Matter, presumably her son or another relative, at 8 Marion. Since the 1935 directory lists both of them at 126 Windermere and the 1937 directory lists both of them at 8 Marion, I think this was a directory update failure.

Unfortunately, Mrs. De La Matter did not get to celebrate many more birthdays. The 1938 directory also lists both of them at 8 Marion, but the 1939 directory lists Guy at 1495 Dundas West and does not list her.


Celebrate 55th

Here’s a photo from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a couple celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.

As is usual when I see one of these, I looked the couple up in the Toronto city directories to see how long they lasted after the announcement. Mr. Wilson had such a common name that it was easier to find him by looking up Shaftesbury Avenue in the Streets section of the 1936 directory – I found him at 24 Shaftesbury. I also found Robert Wilson at 22 Shaftesbury and Fred E. Wilson at 26 Shaftesbury, so the street appears to have been a Wilson family compound.

All three Wilsons are in the 1937 and 1938 directories, but the 1939 directory lists John J. Wilson at 24 Shaftesbury and a non-Wilson at 26. In the 1940 directory, only Robert remains, at 22 Shaftesbury.


To Alaska by canoe

Here’s a photo from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two adventurers who were about to attempt a long-distance canoe journey.

According to this Los Angeles Times article and this blog entry, Sheldon Taylor and Geoffrey Pope actually made it to Nome, arriving on August 11, 1937. Sadly, the fame and fortune that they hoped would follow from their journey did not materialize. Fifty years later, Taylor and co-author Rick Steber wrote a book based on Taylor’s recollections of the trip.

Ghosts of Sailors at Sea, an instrumental band from Boston, has released tracks titled “Sheldon Taylor” and “Geoffrey Pope”. I couldn’t find a connection between the band and the two adventurers.


East meets West

Here’s a photo from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two female tennis players competing in a tournament in England.

Gem Hoahing (1920-2015) was of Chinese ancestry, but was actually British: she was born in Hong Kong, and her family moved to England in the late 1920s. She was 15 at the time of this photograph, so she was too young to play at Wimbledon that year, but she competed in 19 Wimbledon championships between 1937 and 1961. Her best results were reaching the quarterfinals in women’s doubles in 1948 and the fourth round in women’s singles in 1949 and 1957. At 4’9.5″, she was the shortest player ever to play at Wimbledon.

Dorothy Round (1909-1982) was one of the leading British female tennis players of the 1930s, finishing in the quarterfinals or better in women’s singles at Wimbledon every year from 1931 to 1937, and winning in 1934 and 1937. She also won the Australian Championships in 1935. After her tennis career ended in 1950, she took up golf, playing in tournaments during the 1950s.


The gift of gifts

Here’s an ad from the April 29 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that offered a free guide with every Parker Pen.

After reading this, I wanted to know: who was Princess Rostislav, and did she actually write a “Guide to Correct Social Correspondence”?

It looks like “Princess Rostislav” might refer to the first wife of Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich (1902-1978), who was born Princess Alexandra Pavlovna Galitzine. The prince and princess were married in 1928 in Chicago, and were divorced in 1944. The National Portrait Gallery has photographs of the princess that were taken in 1922, when she was 17.

I have no idea whether this is the princess in question, or whether she actually did write a guide to correct social correspondence. I could find no reference to the guide anywhere, except in a reference from another ad in a Vancouver newspaper. If she had actually written such a guide, she would have had plenty of time to revise and republish it, as she passed away in 2006 at the age of 101.

Prince Rostislav, a nephew of Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, probably considered himself lucky to be alive and married to anyone: he escaped being assassinated by the Bolsheviks when German troops freed him in 1918. After he and the princess divorced, he went on to marry Alice Eilken and then Hedwig Maria Gertrud Eva von Chappuis; she married Lester Armour, who was almost certainly not a prince (at least not literally).