‘Tis Christmas Eve

Every Christmas Eve, I always post the same image in this blog because I like it a lot. This is from the Circle of Young Canada page of the December 22 1928 edition of the Toronto Globe.

As I type this, a new and more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus is blasting its way through the world. I hope that you and everyone you care about are staying safe and healthy, and I hope that you have as good a holiday season as is possible in these difficult times. Thanks for reading.



Canada’s outstanding gun value

At earlier times in Toronto’s history, guns were more easy to buy than they are now. As proof, consider this ad from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

The firm of Allcock, Laight & Westwood turns out to have been a long-term fixture in Toronto, with their primary specialization being fishing tackle. This blog post indicates that the firm first opened its doors in the city in 1854. The 1867 Toronto city directory lists it as Allcock & Laight. By 1880, Benjamin Westwood had added his name to the firm; he remained in charge of the Toronto operations of the company until about 1920.

The firm moved to its 230 Bay location sometime in the 1920s after being at 78 Bay at the start of the decade. It remained at 230 Bay until about 1960. By 1963, it was operating out of its factory location in Leaside; by the end of the decade, it was gone.

The Toronto Public Library has a collection of some of the firm’s catalogues.


Stephen Leacock’s new home

Here’s a photograph from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of the palatial new home of humorist Stephen Leacock.

Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) was widely considered the most famous English-speaking humorist in the world between about 1915 and 1925, and is still considered a Canadian cultural icon by many. His most famous work is probably Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, published in 1912.

His political viewpoints were controversial and possibly even contradictory. He opposed giving the vote to women and was staunchly pro-British to the point of being racist. On the other hand, he strongly supported social welfare and wealth distribution legislation.

The house shown in this photograph is now the Stephen Leacock Museum. Tours are available.


Peggy’s fifth capture

Here’s a photograph from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a Scottish peer who was possibly about to marry again.

The “Peggy de Joyce” mentioned here is almost certainly Peggy Hopkins Joyce, who had been married four times by 1928 and was single at the time this photograph was taken. (She has appeared in this blog before.) But David Carnegie, the 11th Earl of Northesk (1901-1963) did not marry her – he married Elizabeth Vlasto in 1929.

The Earl won a bronze medal in the 1928 Winter Olympics in the skeleton event. During the Second World War, he served in the Intelligence Corps. He died childless; his cousin succeeded him as the Earl of Northesk.


Wedded fifty years today

Here’s a photo from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a couple celebrating their golden wedding anniversary.

As usual when I see one of these, I look them up in the Toronto city directories. I found Joseph McGraw in the 1928 directory at 103 Givens Street. Interestingly enough, McGraw was listed as a boarder there. If he and his wife wanted to receive friends, they probably would have first checked with their landlord, a man named Frank H. Belz.

The McGraws weren’t on Givens Street for much longer, unfortunately. Joseph McGraw appears in the 1929 directory at that location. The 1930 directory lists two other people named Joseph McGraw at different addresses; they were both listed as employed, so they were probably different people. I couldn’t find a listing for his widow, so I don’t know for sure what happened to them. Givens Street is now called Givins Street; the name was changed in 1947.


Queens of the air

Here’s a photograph from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who wanted to become part of the history of early aviation.

(The “at right, oval” part of this caption was because the caption was off to the left of the photo in the original – I’ve moved it over.)

Mabel Boll (1893-1949), who started her adult life selling cigars in Rochester, New York, became a society figure in 1922 when she married her second husband, Hernando Rocha, a Colombian coffee tycoon. During their marriage, he presented her with over a million dollars worth of jewels, including a 46-carat diamond named after her. She became known as the Queen of Jewelry for her habit of wearing lots of it.

At about this time, Ms. Boll became interested in aviation, and offered a prize of 100,000 francs to any pilot who would fly her across the Atlantic Ocean. Considering that she was sometimes a temperamental passenger – she once hit a pilot with a handbag for making a premature flight in bad weather – not everyone was enthusiastic about having her on board. She did not achieve her goal: while her crew was in Newfoundland preparing for their trip, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (strictly as a passenger on this trip). Disappointed, Ms. Boll still generously gave $500 to the Harbour Grace Airport Trust to further the cause of aviation in Newfoundland.

Ms. Boll then commissioned an aircraft named “Queen of the Air” and attempted to become a passenger in another record-setting attempt. (This aircraft is pictured in the photo above.) Unfortunately for her, the 1928 flying season ended before this attempt could be made, and the plane was eventually sold.

Ms. Boll was married to Count Henri de Porceri between 1931 and 1933, briefly becoming a countess. She made headlines again in 1934 when her boyfriend at the time shot himself on her lawn. She died of a stroke in 1949 at a psychiatric hospital on Wards Island in New York City, which suggests, sadly, that the last years of her life did not go well.

The Conception Bay Museum web site has a long article on Mabel Boll and her attempt to become the Queen of the Air. This Getty Images photograph shows her with her plane.


Had her hips sliced

Here’s an item from the photo page of the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, featuring an actress who had resorted to drastic measures to lose weight.

Molly O’Day (1909-1998), born Suzanne Dobson Noonan, had not yet celebrated her 19th birthday when she underwent weight-reduction surgery.

Nothing particularly memorable happened to her after that. She continued her film career until 1935, was married and divorced twice, and had four children.

Ms. O’Day was the youngest of 11 children. Her next-oldest sibling, born Virginia Louise Concepta Noonan, had a film career as Sally O’Neil from 1925 to 1937.


Where food is different

Here’s an ad from the September 12 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a lunch restaurant that had just opened on Yonge Street.

Since the ad is referring to “a Bernard Sandwich Shop”, it implied that there was more than one of them. Searches didn’t turn up any information on a chain with that name.

In Toronto, there was only one Bernard Sandwich Shop, and it didn’t last long:

  • The 1929 directory lists the shop at 137 Yonge with Geo Beard as its proprietor.
  • In 1930, the shop was at 139 Yonge with J. B. Wolfe as its manager; Mr. Wolfe was also running a Bernard Service Station at 341 College.
  • By 1931, both were gone; the 1932 directory lists Orange Creme Sandwich Fountains Ltd at 139 Yonge.

Observed the 51st anniversary

Here’s a photograph from the March 16 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a couple who had just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.

As usual when I see one of these, I indulge my morbid curiosity and look the couple up in the Toronto city directories to see how long they lasted. In this case, it’s impossible to tell, as it looks like Mrs. Exley predeceased her husband. He appears in city directories up until 1935, but is not listed in 1936.

When I looked up 364 Concord Avenue in the Streets section of the 1936 directory, the owner was listed as Frank W. Newberry, whose wife was one of the Exleys’ daughters mentioned in the photo caption above. So I guess they got the house. Charles Exley, the son mentioned in the caption, is listed as working as a butler, so I suppose that he already had a place to live.

364 Concord Avenue appears to be still standing today – it’s a semi-detached house near Bloor and Ossington.


Played part of Prince

Here’s a photo from the March 16 1928 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a well-dressed young boy who was asked to play the part of the Prince of Wales in a parade in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Out of curiosity, I looked the Goldring family up in the Toronto city directories. They don’t appear to have remained in Toronto long: the 1928 and 1929 directories list John. E. Goldring as a comptroller at Simpson’s and living at 28 Wychwood Park. The 1930 directory lists John C. Goldring with no occupation at that address; this appears to be a typo, as the Streets listing for 28 Wychwood Park still has John E. Goldring. The 1931 directory does not list him.

A Google search for Elmer Goldring turned up this entry on an ancestry website. If this is him, he was 14 at the time he was asked to impersonate the Prince, and he passed away in 1995.