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Thwarts hold-up

Here’s a photograph from the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe of an enterprising man who kept his gas station from being robbed.

Out of curiosity, I looked him up in the Toronto city directories. I discovered that his name was actually George E. MacFarlane; in the 1934 directory, he was listed as working as a service station operator for the Hambleton Company. This company had a service station at 299 Eastern Avenue, which is at the corner of Eastern and Broadview, so I’m pretty sure that this was him.

Looking forward: Mr. MacFarlane is listed in the 1936 directory as an assistant manager at a service station, and in 1938 as a service station attendant. But the 1941 directory lists him as an electrician, so he had succeeded in improving his career prospects.

He seems to have remained an electrician for a long time. The 1948 directory lists him as an electrician at “Burman Elect”. Some of the directories from the 1950s do not list him, possibly because he moved outside of Toronto, but the 1958 directory lists George E. MacFarlane as an electrician at “Burnham Elect”, which I’m pretty sure is the same place. He was there in the 1968 directory too; I don’t have access to directories later than 1969, so I couldn’t trace him later than that.

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Canada’s leading pavement pounder

The March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe featured this one-panel cartoon and write-up of a marathon runner based in Canada.

Taavi Komonen (1898-1978) emigrated to Canada from his native Finland in 1929, with his first name being anglicized to “Dave” at that time. When not struggling to find work, he was competing in marathons, winning the Canadian National Marathon championship in 1932. After finishing second in the Boston Marathon in 1933, he was forced to sell his running shoes to pay for a ticket back to Toronto.

He found employment in Sudbury, and was able to go to the Boston Marathon in 1934 thanks to financial aid. He won that year’s event by almost four minutes.

He lived in Sudbury until 1951, and then returned to Finland. He passed away exactly 44 years after winning in Boston.

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Eventual building

Here’s an article from the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe that discussed the possible creation of a St. Lawrence Seaway.

The St. Lawrence Seaway did eventually open, but not for a quarter of a century after this article, due to political struggles on both sides of the border and the time required to construct its components. The first ocean-going ship made its way through the seaway on April 25, 1959.

Henry I. Harriman (1873-1950) had been a public utility executive before being appointed the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce. He held this position until 1935.

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Special notice

In the March 27 1934 edition of the Toronto Globe, the ad for the upcoming performance at Massey Hall listed the performer by last name only:

I’m not sure why they did this. Did they assume that the culturally sophisticated would already know who Tibbett was without needing to be supplied with his first name?

Fortunately, for the less culturally aware, there was an ad from a prominent Toronto piano maker in the same edition. It boasted that Mr. Tibbett was to be accompanied on one of their pianos:

Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960) was an opera singer and recording artist. He was born Lawrence Tibbet, but his contract with the Metropolitan Opera mistakenly added an extra “t”, and he decided to go with the new surname.

He sang at the Met over 500 times between 1923 and 1950, and appeared in movies briefly in the 1930s. He was nominated for a Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Rogue Song (1930), which was his first film role. That’s a good way to start your movie career! (The film is now lost.)

The worst moment of his life might well have been when rehearsing for a role in 1937: he accidentally stabbed Joseph Sterzini, a member of the chorus, during a fight scene. Mr. Sterzini passed away shortly thereafter.

In later years, arthritis and heavy drinking caused him to age prematurely. He passed away after hitting his head when falling in his apartment.

There’s a lot of Lawrence Tibbett on YouTube. The first link that came up was footage of him singing the Toreador Song from Carmen, as filmed in Metropolitan (1935).

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The Catalina Kid

During the evening and night of January 15 and 16, 1927, a 17-year old Toronto boy, George Young (briefly mentioned previously in this blog here and here), became the only finisher of a 22-mile swimming race between Catalina Island and California. His feat earned him the nickname “The Catalina Kid” and made him famous.

To say that the Toronto Daily Star was following Young’s exploits with great enthusiasm would be an understatement. The January 31 1927 edition of the paper contained five articles, one photograph, and one ad referencing young Mr. Young.

First, there was an article in which William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate who sponsored the swim, asserted that nobody but Young could have done it. Mr. Wrigley claimed that the young man would soon be worth $100,000:

And there was this photograph of two of Young’s family and his trainer, on their way to join him in California:

And there was this article about a dispute between Young and his competitor and former friend, Bill Hastings:

George Young apparently had William Wrigley’s yacht at his disposal:

And there were articles written (or perhaps ghostwritten) by Young and Hastings themselves:

And, finally, there was an ad stating that Young would be making personal appearances at theatres in Toronto:

Sadly, life did not go as well for George Young as he and others would have hoped. He married another distance swimmer, Margaret Ravior, in 1932. They had a son together, but, as the January 22 1934 edition of the Daily Star recounted, he died shortly after birth:

Young and the former Ms. Ravior eventually divorced. The ups and downs of Young’s life are described in detail in this Maclean’s article from 1949. He passed away in 1972.

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Sixth in as many months

The photo page of the January 22 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this picture of Cubans acclaiming their new president.

Carlos Mendieta (1873-1960) was installed as the acting president of Cuba after a coup. During his presidency, women gained the right to vote. He resigned in December 1935 as unrest continued.

Mr. Mendieta was indeed the sixth president of Cuba in as many months; in fact, he was the fourth man to hold the office in the preceding week. There were two more presidents in 1936; after that, they lasted for approximately four years at a stretch.

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Wedding off

Here’s a photograph from the January 22 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that was deemed interesting enough to be on the front page:

John Jacob Astor VI (1912-1992), nicknamed “Jakey”, was known as the “Titanic Baby”: his mother, Madeleine Astor, was five months pregnant with him when she was rescued from the Titanic. Her husband, John Jacob Astor IV, went down with the ship. The Titanic Baby had the name John VI instead of John V because another branch of the Astor family gave birth to a John V first.

John VI and Ms. Gillespie were planning to marry just over two weeks from the date of this article. According to his Wikipedia page, she claimed that he wasn’t mature enough to venture into marriage. After being dumped, he went off to Shanghai for three months, then returned and almost immediately married one of Ms. Gillespie’s friends, Ellen Tuck French. She would have been one of the bridesmaids had the original wedding taken place. They divorced in 1943.

Mr. Astor married three more times. He and his third wife separated shortly after their honeymoon; his fourth marriage, to Sue Sandford in 1956, lasted until she passed away in 1985.

Eileen Gillespie Slocum (1915-2008) became a society grande dame in her home of Newport, Rhode Island. She was known for her impeccable manners and her unflinching devotion to the Republican Party.

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Prize-winning cockerel

I don’t think I will ever get bored with the photo pages of old Toronto newspapers. Here’s a photo from the January 22 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of an actress with an award-winning cockerel:

Unfortunately for her, Marie Felique did not have much of a career. A search revealed that she appeared on Broadway in 1933 as part of the ensemble cast of Shady Lady, but that was it.

I could find out nothing about what happened to the cockerel. Presumably, it grew up to become a rooster.

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Not dead, he insists

On January 12 1934, Edgar “Barney” Ward was in New York state, working as a mover, away from his wife and family in Toronto. That day, he grabbed a copy of a two-day-old edition of the Toronto Daily Star. Out of habit, he turned to the Deaths section of the newspaper, and was quite startled to discover his own name in it:

Apparently, someone who looked a lot like the unfortunate Mr. Ward had committed suicide by taking cyanide. The double had been taken to the funeral home and a period of mourning had happened before Mr. Ward’s son realized that the dead man was not his father.

Upon reading the news of his own death, Mr. Ward sat for fifteen minutes, understandably shocked, before calling his wife on the telephone and assuring her and his family that he was, in fact, still alive.

The January 22 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star provides the complete story:

The paper also included a photo of Mr. Ward, looking very much not dead:

I tried to trace Edgar Ward in the Toronto city directories, but the records are unclear.

  • The 1933 directory lists him as a labourer living at 10 Grenadier Ravine Drive, as mentioned in his bogus death notice.
  • The 1934 directory doesn’t list him in the Names section, but the Streets section lists Edgar Ward at 10 Grenadier Ravine.
  • The 1935 directory lists an Edgar Ward working as a mechanic and living at 202 Seaton Street. In the Streets section, 10 Grenadier Ravine Drive is listed as “information unobtainable”.
  • The 1936 directory still lists Edgar Ward at 202 Seaton, but now lists Mrs. E. Ward at 10 Grenadier Ravine. She is not listed as Edgar’s widow, which might mean that the Wards split up at about this time. 202 Seaton and 10 Grenadier Ravine are at opposite ends of the city, which might (or might not) support this hypothesis.
  • The situation remains unchanged in 1939. In 1940, Mrs. Ward is still at 10 Grenadier Ravine, and Edgar Ward is no longer listed.
  • Mrs. Ward last appears at 10 Grenadier Ravine in the 1945 directory. In 1946, there is a Mrs. E. Ward elsewhere, but Ward is a common name, so there is no way to tell whether this was her.
  • Neither of them is listed in the 1947 directory, so the trail ends here.

Grenadier Ravine Drive is a small road resembling an alleyway in what was formerly the town of Swansea. 10 Grenadier Ravine has obviously been remodelled since 1934.

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“Buzz” Boll

Here’s a photograph from the November 16 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If Frank “Buzz” Boll (1911-1990) looks young in this picture, it’s because he was young: he was 23 and in his second year as a Maple Leaf. He went on to a long career in the NHL, playing with the Leafs until 1939 and in the league until 1944.

His most memorable accomplishment was probably when he scored seven goals in nine playoff games in the 1935-1936 season; this was a record at the time. He also scored a playoff goal after 31 seconds of overtime, which was also a record.