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Reveille Mission

The February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an article on the Reveille Mission, which was serving 400 free meals to destitute people in the city.

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I am fascinated by the idea of someone introducing himself as The Stranger. Who was this mysterious Stranger, and why did he not give his real name? A Google search for “Reveille Mission” turned up nothing, so I guess I will never know.

The Reveille Mission existed at 383 Queen West until 1937. In 1938, it moved to 2184 Dundas Street West, where it existed until sometime between 1945 and 1947.

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Barbara La Marr

The February 10 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this article about a movie being shelved because its star had passed away:

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Barbara La Marr (1896-1926) was both an actress and screenwriter, starring in 27 films. She was dubbed “The Girl That Is Too Beautiful”. Perhaps she was too beautiful: she enjoyed the nightlife so much that she apparently only slept two hours a night. Not surprisingly, this put a strain on her health, and she died of tuberculosis and nephritis. Over 3000 fans attended her funeral.

Unless there is a last film that Wikipedia doesn’t know about, her last film, The Girl From Montmartre, was in fact distributed the day after she died. It was a critical success. The actress Hedy Lamarr was named after her (Louis B. Mayer’s wife apparently admired La Marr, causing Mayer to suggest this as a stage name).

Other silent film stars mentioned in this article:

  • John Bunny (1863-1915) was a stage and vaudeville actor who moved into movies in 1910. He was widely praised for his acting skills. He passed away from what was then known as Bright’s disease.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Drew were an American stage and comedy team. There were actually two Mrs. Drews – the first died in 1914, and Mr. Drew married and continued the act with his second wife. His son died in action in World War I, and apparently he never recovered from the loss. He died suddenly in 1919.
  • Wallace Reid (1891-1923) was called “the screen’s most perfect lover”. He was prescribed morphine to keep on filming after being injured in a train wreck, and became hopelessly addicted. He died in a sanitarium while trying to recover.
  • Harold Lockwood (1887-1918) was a vaudeville actor who moved into silent films. He died during the 1918 influenza epidemic.
  • Olive Thomas (1894-1920) had the most horrible death of them all: she died after accidentally consuming a bottle of mercury bichloride, thinking it was water or sleeping pills. She was married to Mary Pickford’s brother, Jack.

Nowadays, I don’t think anybody would suggest that premature death would be box-office poison – it would be exactly the opposite.

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Annette Hanshaw

Here’s another item from the October 8 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star (I’ve found a lot of interesting stuff there).

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Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985) had sold over four million records by 1934, the year in which Radio Stars magazine voted her the best female popular singer. According to a biography on a Jazz Age music site, she was a shy, introverted person who never toured or performed on stage. Her music career ended in 1937 when she retired to become a housewife.

Naturally, YouTube now has the songs mentioned in this ad:

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Quebec woman marries American heir

A story that would have captured some interest in 1926 was the marriage of James “Bud” Stillman, heir to a fortune, and a young woman from Quebec named Lena Wilson, who had served as a helper on Mr. Stillman’s mother’s property. This is partly because Mr. Stillman’s parents had recently had notorious marital troubles, but partly because the romance had the trappings of a fairy tale.

Here are photographs of the happy couple, from the October 8 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

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Ms. Wilson was referred to as a “woodland bride” and an “untutored bride” in many newspaper reports. Another article in the same edition may have been intended to counteract this.

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The article takes pains to point out that the future bride is “the picture of health and a comparative stranger to cosmetics”.

A Google search revealed that the future Mrs. Stillman, sadly, died young: she passed away at the age of 43 in 1951. Dr. Stillman – as he eventually became – married again. He died in 1998 at the age of 94.

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Broken telephone

Do you remember the game “broken telephone”? This is when one person whispers something in your ear, and then you have to whisper it to the next person in line, and so on. Inevitably, the last person in line receives something completely different from what the first person started with.

I found an example of “broken telephone” in the October 8 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. The initial article was about a Toronto Hydro lineman who fractured his skull when he fell off a pole:

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Later in the same edition, there was a picture of the unfortunate Mr. Smith, along with a picture of a boy who also suffered a fractured skull. So far, so good, as the details of both articles seem to match:

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Now here’s the broken telephone part. Later in the same edition, I saw this bit of filler:

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Here, Roland is now Lorne, and Binscarth Road is now Dinscarth Road. Somebody obviously wasn’t paying attention when they took notes.

Happily, Roland survived his injury. He appears in the 1928 and 1929 city directories at his 328 Ossington Avenue address, and appears in the 1930 directory at 1708A Queen West. I hope this meant that he got to enjoy many years with his family.

When looking up Roland Smith, I discovered that there was another Roland Smith who  worked with Toronto Hydro at the same time Рthe one in the article above was Roland H. Smith, and the second one was just plain Roland Smith. The second Roland Smith also moved in 1930, which must have made things very confusing for the Toronto Hydro human resources department.

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Marie, Queen of Rumania

The June 26 1926 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this syndicated column that was allegedly authored by Marie, Queen of Rumania (1875-1938):

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I am wondering: was Queen Marie actually writing a column for North American newspapers? Here’s what I found:

  • Her Wikipedia page makes no mention of newspaper writing that I could find, though it did mention that she wrote extensively, producing 34 books and short stories – including a three-volume autobiography, The Story of My Life, and a diary.
  • The Tourist in Romania site doesn’t mention newspaper writing either, but does point out that, after her death, her heart remained for many years in a dusty shoebox in the basement of the National Museum of Romanian History.
  • I also found a detailed list of books and articles by or about Marie, including “A Queen Talks About Love”, which appeared in Hearst’s International-Cosmpolitan in September 1925. One of the pictures on this page matches the picture in the 1926 article in the Star (though it has been flipped horizontally).

This last point leads me to believe that the column is genuine and was actually written by a regal person.

The Nicky referred to in the article was Prince Nicholas of Romania (1903-1978), who was exiled from Romania by his older brother King Carol II when the monarch disapproved of Nicholas’s marriage to a divorced woman. He emigrated to Spain and then to Switzerland, eventually passing away in Spain.

By the way, I cannot think of Marie of Romania (or Rumania) without thinking of this Dorothy Parker poem:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.