The small stranger

Here’s a note that appeared in the January 1 1921 edition of the Toronto Globe, 100 years ago today.

I hope that you are safe and healthy in 2021, and that it is a better year for all of us.


Missing society girl

The October 14 1921 edition of the Toronto Globe contained this brief front-page article about a young woman who disappeared on October 11 and was found two days later, claiming to have lost her memory:


I was curious, so I searched for “Pamela Beckett” and “Rupert Beckett” on the Internet. I didn’t find much: a brief bio page of Rupert Beckett, and a photo of Pamela Beckett from around the time of her disappearance. I don’t know what happened to her after her return.


Sales tax revenue

One of the fun things about reading old newspapers is that they went to great lengths to ensure that no column space remained unfilled. This meant having lots of bits of filler, some of which were more interesting than others.

The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a bit of filler that I would contend qualified as “less interesting”:


Yes, I checked: $686,569.34 plus $2,186,649.80 does equal $2.873,219.14.

The federal sales tax was a new thing: it had just been introduced that year, which might explain why it was considered interesting enough to be newspaper filler.



Long-time Toronto residents will of course know of Stollery’s men’s wear shop, which was located at the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor until very recently, when it was finally swallowed up by a condominium development. When looking at ads from the May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, I found an ad for Stollery’s:


I love that boys’ and girls’ straw hats are available in sailor and rah-rah shapes.

The “Teasdall” in “Stollery Teasdall” isn’t actually listed in the 1921 city directory – it refers to the firm as simply “Stollery, Frank, gents furngs”. The 1926 city directory lists “Stollery Frank, mens furngs” and Teasdall’s Clothes Shop Limited at 790-794 Yonge; in 1931, Stollery was at 790 Yonge and Teasdall was at 804 Yonge, across Bloor. Teasdall’s remained at 804 Yonge until at least 1951 (I didn’t check later than that).

So you know about Stollery’s men’s wear. But did you know that there was a Stollery’s ladies’ wear shop too?


I am assuming that the Stollery at 784 Yonge was identical to, or at least related to, the Stollery at 790 Yonge. It would be too much of a coincidence for there to be two separate Stollerys.

Stollery-Metivier appears at this location in the 1926, 1931, and 1936 city directories (as with yesterday’s entry, I checked at five-year intervals). In the 1941 and 1946 directories, the store was listed as “Stollery’s Ladies Wear Ltd”, and there was a Metivier’s Ladies Wear at 725 Yonge. (There was a Tamblyn drug store between the two Stollerys.) By 1951, Stollery’s had closed their ladies’ wear shop, and was focused on men’s clothing.


Shopping on Yonge in 1921

The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a large number of ads for clothes and home furnishings. I noticed that many of them were concentrated in a five-block stretch of Yonge Street between King and Dundas.

I’ll do these in order from south to north. First up was Fairweathers, at 88-90 Yonge:


You can still see their sign on the Yonge Street storefront where Moores is now (this building is now listed as 100 Yonge).

Next up is G. Hawley Walker, at 126-128 Yonge:


Walker’s were gone from this location by 1926. Moving a little further up, we have W. & D. Dineen Co., Limited, who sold hats:


This store appeared in the 1926 city directory at this location but not in the 1931 directory (I checked at five-year intervals).

To get to our next stop, you have to hike to 211 Yonge Street at Shuter. (On the way, of course, you would have passed both Simpson’s and Eaton’s, both of which sold everything imaginable.) Here, you will find the Adams furniture store:


This store was at this location until at least 1951 (I didn’t check after that).

Just up the street from Adams was the John Catto Co., Limited, which sold dresses:


Catto’s appears in the 1931 directory, but not 1936. If you don’t find what you want there, you can cross the street to Northway’s at 240 Yonge:


I love the heading “summer joys call for immaculate white skirts”. This store proved also to be long-lasting – it appears in the 1951 city directory.

While the ladies were shopping at John Catto’s or John Northway’s, the men could toodle up the street to Fitzpatrick & O’Connell’s at 254 Yonge:


This store appears in the 1931 directory, but not 1936.

Or the gentlemen could go up to the English & Scotch Woollen Co., which was oddly nation-specific. This is not surprising, I guess, given that Canada was a British colony.


Clearly, Friday was the day to do your suit shopping, but not for long: the 1926 directory lists this location as simply “Vacant”.

After all this walking, you’re going to need some new boots. Fortunately (if you’re a man), the Walk-Over bootshop at 290 Yonge solved this problem:


Walk-Over proved to be long-lasting – they appear in the 1951 city directory.

If you were looking for furniture, and didn’t find it at Simpson’s, Eaton’s, or Adams, you could try the Dale Furniture Company at 304 1/2 to 308 Yonge:


Actually, the 1921 Toronto city directory lists the Dale company at 304 1/2 to 308 1/2. By 1926, they were at 304 1/2 to 310; this didn’t help them for long, as they were gone from this location by 1931.

Finally, there was the Brass men’s clothing store, which had four separate locations on Yonge (“Adelaide and Yonge” turns out to be 116 Yonge):


That’s saturation coverage! (The 97 Yonge store is actually new; it’s not in the 1921 city directory, so it must have been opened after the directory was printed.) By 1926, only the 116 Yonge and 148 Yonge locations were in business; by 1931, the 116 Yonge location was the only one left, and it too was gone by 1936. Perhaps it wasn’t that good an idea to be, ahem, as bold as brass. (Sorry.)


Peggy O’Neil

Before radio and record players were common, the only way for people to listen to music in their homes was to buy sheet music and play it themselves. The May 26 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for sheet music for a popular song, which printed the song’s chorus to entice the reader to buy it:


The song is inspired by an actual person: Peggy O’Neil was a stage actress who performed on Broadway, and in London in a show titled Paddy The Next Best Thing¬†that ran for 850 performances. She was apparently the first person ever to be interviewed on television. Path√© Films has footage of her from 1925.

Naturally, there are a number of versions of “Peggy O’Neil” on YouTube:

  • Billy Jones recorded a version in 1921. His style contains a lot of old-fashioned flourishes, and the mid-song patter appears to contain some Irish stereotypes about Peggy’s brother Dan that I could not find in printed lyrics anywhere.
  • Charles Harrison recorded a version, also in 1921, that sounds quite similar but is somewhat faster, and has an instrumental break instead of the mid-song patter.
  • Slim Whitman recorded it as a country and western song. It doesn’t really fit in that genre.
  • Tony Williams, the frontman for the Platters, recorded a slowed-down version of this song that turns it into a 1950s-style show tune. It doesn’t really fit this sound either, but Williams does have a wonderful voice.
  • Jack Smith and the Clark Sisters recorded a lounge-singer version in 1947. It’s very white-bread, and it’s interrupted in the middle by some mock-Irish dialogue that is painful to listen to. I couldn’t finish this one.