Dark horse in baby derby

Here’s an article from the Toronto Daily Star about a 24-year-old woman who had given birth to ten children:

The contest being referred to here is the Great Stork Derby, which lasted from 1926 to 1936. Charles Vance Millar was a wealthy lawyer, financier, racehorse owner, and part-owner of O’Keefe Brewery. When he passed away in 1926, he did not have any immediate heirs, so he decided to be capricious with his will. Among other things:

  • He left a vacation property in Kingston, Jamaica, to three men that he knew couldn’t stand one another. (The property had been sold before he passed away, so the men didn’t have to endure each other’s company.)
  • Every practicing Protestant ministry and Orange Lodge in Toronto was left a share of O’Keefe stock. O’Keefe was primarily owned by Catholics.
  • A number of Christian ministries in the Windsor and other areas were left a share of racetrack stock.

But the most capricious clause in his will left a considerable share of his fortune to the woman who bore the most babies during the next ten years. Thus, the Great Stork Derby was on.

The Historicist web site has a long article on the Great Stork Derby. The $500,000 prize money offered to the winner was eventually shared by four women: two of them, Lucy Timleck and Kathleen Nagle, were on the list above. $125,000 in 1936 is equivalent to over $2.6 million in today’s money, so this was quite a haul.

The mysterious Mrs. X mentioned in the Daily Star article was actually named Pauline Mae Clarke. She and one mother mentioned in the article, Lillian Kenny, settled out of court when at least one of their children was ruled ineligible for the contest.


After speed record

Here’s a photograph from the August 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who was designing a plane that he hoped would set a speed record.

Harry Crosby went on to sustain serious back injuries when testing his CR-3 plane (which might have been this one). Undeterred, he designed the CR-4 plane while recovering, and finished in third place in the 1939 Greve Trophy race, part of the National Air Races. His plane was unofficially clocked at 386 mph in one test flight, which would have given him the record.

Crosby later flew as a test pilot for Northrop, and was killed in 1945 when testing the Northrop XP-79 flying wing fighter aircraft, which was later abandoned. His CR-4 plane was featured in the movie Tail Spin (1939). YouTube has two excerpts from this film:

  • Constance Bennett and Joan Davis smoking in three clips, one of which appears to feature Crosby’s plane.
  • Alice Faye singing “Are You In The Mood For Mischief”.

Go to sleep, my baby

Here’s a photo from the August 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a singer who had just become a mother.

The Boswell Sisters were Martha (1905-1958), Connie (1907-1976), and Helvetia “Vet” Boswell (1911-1988). By the time of this photo, they had split up as a performing act; they had made their last recording earlier in the year. Connie, who was unable to walk, due most likely to polio or a go-kart accident (she used both stories at times), continued as a solo artist. She eventually changed her first name to Connee, apparently because this was an easier name to use when signing autographs.

The sisters were extremely successful on radio during the early 1930s, and were an influence on other close-harmony recording artists that followed them, such as the Andrews Sisters. A number of recordings of them can be found on YouTube, including this film clip of them singing “Crazy People” in 1932.

I couldn’t figure out what Vet Boswell was doing in Toronto in 1936. She and her sisters weren’t Canadian, and there’s no evidence to suggest that she settled here. She wouldn’t have been touring with her sisters, as they had split up as a group.

At any rate, since her daughter was born in Canada, the daughter would have been a Canadian citizen. Since her married name was Jones and her husband’s first name was not provided, it was not possible to trace her in the Toronto city directories.


Yvonne goes in for hairdressing

The Dionne quintuplets (last mentioned in this blog here) were so famous in 1936 that people knew who they were even if they were only mentioned by their first names. Here’s a photograph of two of them from the August 25 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Two of the five quintuplets are still alive, but not Yvonne and Émilie – Émilie passed away in 1954 and Yvonne in 2001.


Queen Mary stowaway

The front page of the May 28 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a photograph and an article about a woman who stowed away on the Queen Mary. (I’ve only included part of the article here.)

Searches in the Toronto city directories and elsewhere revealed that Ms. Siegel’s name was actually Rohama Siegel, and that she was born in 1905. So she was 30 or 31 years old when she decided on impulse to stow away on the Queen Mary.

She is listed in the 1928 city directory as a student, and she and her father, Isidore H. Siegel, are listed at 53 Lee Avenue. The 1930 directory lists her as working at Realty Associates, the 1931 directory lists her as a journalist, and the 1933 directory lists her as a stenographer.

In the 1934 directory, Ida Siegel is listed as Isidore’s widow, and Rohama is not listed; by then, she was probably working in New York as mentioned in the article. She definitely was in England later on, as she co-wrote the screenplay for We’re Going To Be Rich (1938), a British film that starred Gracie Fields (previously mentioned in this blog here).

Searches also turned up a photo of Rohama Siegel with two of her siblings, along with a brief biography of the three. The date is suggested to be about 1940, but I suspect that it was taken earlier. I also found a family tree record, which states that she passed away in 1996.


Shouts fascist war cry

Here’s an article from the May 28 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a Spanish fascist party leader who was about to be sent to jail.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera (1903-1936) was eventually accused of conspiracy and military rebellion against the Spanish Republican government after the Spanish Civil War broke out. He was executed in November 1936, or more or less after the prison sentence mentioned in the article had expired.

The Spanish Republican government was defeated in the Spanish Civil War, with General Francisco Franco taking over as leader on April 1 1939. Many pro-Franco Spaniards regarded Primo de Rivera as a martyr, and he was posthumously granted the title of Duke of Primo de Rivera in 1948.


Bermuda’s new governor

Here’s a photo from the May 28 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of the next governor of Bermuda.

Reginald Hildyard (1876-1965) was a career British army officer who served in the Boer War and the First World War. At the time of this article, he was a Lieutenant General; he was promoted to full general in 1938. He was governor of Bermuda from 1936 to 1939.

He also was a racist, as he supported the Bermuda government’s plan to introduce birth control clinics for what was then referred to as the “Negro” population. This and his military achievements were all that was memorable about him.


Today’s their birthday

The May 28 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star covered the Dionne quintuplets’ second birthday in some detail. But it also included a photograph of a set of triplets who were having their second birthday that day as well:

Needless to say, these triplets were fraternal, not identical, as there were two boys and one girl.

I tried searching for information on the Chisholm triplets, but turned up mostly information on a couple named Nick and Nicola Chisholm who became parents of triplets in 2020. They were noteworthy because Nick Chisholm, who is the brother of the host of Survivor NZ, has locked-in syndrome after suffering a series of strokes after a rugby match.

I did find an obituary for Herbert Chisholm, who passed away in 2008. At that time, the other two triplets were still alive.


Her hands keep smooth and white

Here’s an ad from the May 28 1936 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention because it contained a testimonial from an actual person.

As usual, I was curious, so I tried to trace Mrs. Margaret Cameron in the Toronto city directories. Unfortunately, married women are never listed, but I discovered in the 1936 directory that 2001 Bloor Street West was the Ellis Park Apartments, and that a Fred J. Cameron lived in unit 401. Cross-referencing to the Names section of the directory yielded that he was working as a clerk at Confederation Life. (The Ellis Park Apartments still stand.)

When looking people up in the city directories, I have discovered that people who work for insurance companies tend to remain there, and such was the case with Mr. Cameron. He remained a clerk at Confederation Life through 1948, moving from his apartment to 539 Windermere Avenue and then to 16 Meadowcrest Road in Kingsway Park. The 1949 directory doesn’t list him or his widow, and 16 Meadowcrest Road has someone else listed, so my guess is that the Camerons moved out of town.

The Goldbergs, the show mentioned in this ad, appeared on radio from 1929 to 1946 and on television from 1949 to 1956. It was the second-longest running 15-minute serial comedy in radio history, second only to Amos ‘n’ Andy.


Second birthday

May 28 1936 was the second birthday of the Dionne quintuplets, and that day’s edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained several articles and ads commemorating this birthday.

There was a small article on the front page, continuing on to page 9, that pointed out that the Dionnes were the first quintuplets in human history to survive. Before them, 33 sets of quintuplets had been born, and all had passed away.

Greg Clark (1892-1977), the author of this article, went on to have a distinguished career in journalism, becoming one of the first Officers of the Order of Canada in 1967.

Next, there was a chart of the five babies’ weights over the course of their lifetimes:

The quintuplets were very aggressively marketed, including on their birthday. Here’s an ad for Libby’s baby food:

And an ad for Lysol:

And an ad for Carnation tinned milk:

Last but not least, the front page of the second section of the paper contained a photograph of the quints, each with her own birthday cake:

Two of the five quintuplets remain alive today: Annette and Cécile. Émilie passed away in 1954, Marie in 1970, and Yvonne in 2001.

Pierre Berton’s The Dionne Years, published in 1977, is a good history of the Dionnes and their time. In 1965, the four surviving quintuplets and co-author James Brough wrote We Were Five, a scathing indictment of their childhood and how they were exploited.