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Will give her life’s story

The December 21 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included this notice of a travelling evangelist who was about to speak in a local church:

Many evangelists led a less than exemplary life before finding God, but Mattie Howard was an extreme example of this. Born in 1894, Ms. Howard was convicted in 1919 of second-degree murder. At the time, she was dubbed “The Bandit Queen of Kansas City”. During her murder trial, she met Irish president Eamon de Valera.

Paroled after seven years for good behaviour, she became a touring preacher. In 1937, she wrote her autobiography, The Pathway Of Mattie Howard, To And From Prison: True Story Of The Regeneration Of An Ex-Convict And Gangster Woman. The Goodreads web site has a listing for it, including one favourable review.

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Health and athletic club

Here’s an ad that appeared in the October 21 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I looked The Health Club up in the Toronto city directories. It first appears in the 1936 directory as the Toronto Health Club, located on the third floor of 2 Toronto Street. In 1937, the club moved to the second floor of this building, and Fernley J. Bull was listed as its director.

By 1939, the club was gone. Its space was taken over by two barristers and by the Automotive Transport Association of Ontario, the Canadian Automotive Transportation Association, and the Toronto Milk Transport Association. The building at 2 Toronto Street still stands.

Robert E. Bernier was not listed in the 1938 city directory, but a Blanche Bernier was listed at 107 Springdale Boulevard. Robert E. then appears in the 1939 directory at 105 Springdale, and is not listed in the 1940 directory. My guess is that Blanche and Robert were relatives, Robert was about to head off to fight and needed a place to stay, and Blanche knew that her neighbour was looking to take on a boarder.

Mr. Bull wasn’t listed in the 1939 or 1940 directories either. My guess is that if you were fit enough to run a health club, you were able and willing to fight the Axis Powers.

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To-morrow Lehmann

Here’s an ad from the October 21 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an upcoming event at Massey Hall.

It seems odd to me that the ad only featured the last name of the performer. I suppose that, if you were really cultured, you would have known who this was. Fortunately, an ad for Heintzman pianos that appeared earlier in the same edition gave her full name:

Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976) was a German soprano who had her first leading role at the Vienna State Opera in 1914. She performed regularly at Covent Garden in London between 1924 and 1935.

She emigrated to the United States in 1938, just before Germany annexed Austria. She continued performing until 1951, and taught master classes after that. When not singing or teaching people to sing, she was a prolific writer and painter.

Some interesting trivia about her:

  • She discovered the Trapp family singers in Salzburg in 1936. They became famous in The Sound Of Music.
  • She portrayed Danny Thomas’s mother in Big City (1948).
  • She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they misspelled her name (“Lottie”).

There are a lot of Lotte Lehmann performances on YouTube; here’s one of them.

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Hurt with five others

Here’s a brief article in the October 22 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a plane crash that featured a famous aviator:

Ruth Rowland Nichols (1901-1960) survived this crash, but suffered a broken left wrist, ankle and nose, contusions, and burns. She was not able to fly again for a year. The pilot did not survive.

Ms. Nichols went on to have a distinguished career as a pilot. In 1959, at the age of 58, she underwent the same training as the Mercury astronauts, and urged the Air Force to include women as astronauts. Whether it was because this idea was rejected or for other reasons, she became depressed and took her own life in 1960 with an overdose of barbiturates.

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Youthful radio star

Here’s a brief article from the October 21 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featuring a 15-year-old British radio personality.

Hughie Green (1920-1997) had a long and sometimes controversial career in radio and television. Before the Second World War, he toured extensively and appeared in movies and cabaret, taking time out to become a father at the age of 17. When war broke out, Green was in North America; he became a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force and later a transport and stunt pilot.

In 1947, he returned to Britain and worked in the aircraft business for a while. In 1949, he created a talent show, Opportunity Knocks, which started in radio and eventually moved to television. The show was widely popular right through the 1970s, but Green gradually started to use it as a platform for his right-wing ideas, which caused it to be cancelled in 1978.

After this, his life did not go well: he sued the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation for allegedly violating his Opportunity Knocks copyright and lost, leaving him with a large legal bill. He had always been a smoker and heavy drinker, and started taking barbiturates; he was diagnosed with cancer in 1993, and it eventually spread to his lungs.

There are a number of Opportunity Knocks links on YouTube. Here’s a show from 1968 featuring Green as host.

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Film star rescued from fire

Here’s a short article from the October 21 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a film star who was rescued from a burning cottage.

Laura La Plante (1904-1996) lived for over 60 years after being carried to safety by her doctor. Her career peaked in the silent film era; between 1933 and 1935, she appeared in British films produced by Warner Brothers’ Teddington Studios, known for producing “quota quickie” films.

While there, she met Teddington Studios film producer Irving Asher; the two married in 1934, and remained married until he passed away in 1985.

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Charming home

Here’s a photo from the September 6 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a house being built in the Wychwood neighbourhood.

It took me a bit of poking around on Google Street View before I found this house. It still stands, though it has been refinished.

A search in the Toronto city directories didn’t provide information on who ordered the house to be built. The address is almost certainly 53 Strathearn Road, but it is listed in the 1936, 1937, and 1938 directories as vacant. It finally has an occupant in 1939, but I have no idea whether this was the original owner.

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Players’ appreciation night

The September 6 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for an upcoming baseball game in Toronto.

I assume that Pool and Hilcher had enough appeal to female baseball fans that they would appreciate autographed pictures of the two men.

In 1935, the Toronto Maple Leafs were the Cincinnati Reds’ class AA minor-league affiliate, and both of the men in this ad spent some time with the big club that year.

Harlin Pool seemed to be a promising young player in 1934. Called up to the Reds in late May, he hit .327 the rest of the way for them. Unfortunately, he opened 1935 in a severe slump, and was batting .176 for the Reds when he was sent to Toronto in early June. His bat bounced back with the Leafs, as he hit .329, but he never returned to the majors. He played for four other minor league teams before ending his career in 1939.

Walter Frank “Whitey” Hilcher had spent brief periods of time pitching for the Reds in 1931 and 1932 before winning 19 games for the Leafs in 1935. This earned him a callup to the majors – one week after the game shown in this ad, Hilcher pitched a shutout for the Reds at home against the Boston Braves. This, unfortunately, was the high point of his major league career – he pitched poorly for the Reds in 1936, and was released after the season. He spent several years pitching for the independent Portland team, playing his last game in 1942.

Sadly, both men died relatively young: Pool passed away in 1963 at the age of 54, and Hilcher in 1962 at the age of 53.

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18 if not all 21

Here’s another article from the September 6 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star containing a prediction about the upcoming federal election:

The three men who assured the Star that the Liberals would win at least 18 seats in Saskatchewan were wrong: the Liberals collected only 16 seats. But it wouldn’t have bothered them too much: Mackenzie King’s party went from 90 to 171 seats overall and returned to power with a significant majority. The Liberals would remain in power until 1957.

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Ripley greets Liberal candidate

Here’s a photo from the September 6 1935 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, featuring Robert Ripley of “Believe It Or Not” fame with Liberal Party candidate Salter A. Hayden:

Ripley’s prediction turned out to be wrong: Salter Hayden (1896-1987) did not win the St. Paul’s riding in 1935. Mackenzie King appointed him to the Senate in 1940, and he served there until he resigned in 1983 due to poor health. He outlived Ripley by more than 37 years: Ripley passed away in 1949 at the age of 59 from a heart attack.