A desperate plight

Here’s the Christmas message from Simpson’s that appeared in the December 21 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, when it looked like Hitler might conquer all of Europe:

The Simpson’s chain of department stores joined forces with Sears-Roebuck in 1951, with some stores being called Simpsons-Sears. The Hudson’s Bay Company took over Simpson’s in 1978.

James Hilton (1900-1954) was an English novelist best known for Lost Horizon (1933) and Goodbye Mr. Chips (1934). He became an American citizen in 1948. A heavy smoker, he passed away from liver cancer.


The Housekeeper’s Daughter

I am fascinated by the ads for old movies – they’re the olden-day equivalent of clickbait. Here’s an example from the January 3 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


They’re hinting that the housekeeper’s daughter is up to something, I guess.

The Housekeeper’s Daughter (1939) is a comedy film with a rather convoluted plot involving gangsters, poison, journalism, fireworks, and alcohol. Whee! YouTube has the whole movie (at the time that I write this), if you’re curious.


50 years married

Here’s a notice in the January 3 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that commemorated a couple that had been married for fifty years, and had gotten married on New Year’s Day 1890:


As usual with these, I looked the couple up in the Toronto city directories to morbidly see how long they stayed alive. It turns out that Mr. and Mrs. Hunt had just moved to 301 Gilbert Avenue, as Jesse (not Jessie!) Hunt appears in the 1941 directory but not the 1940 one at that address. (The city directories, sadly, are sexist: they only list the head of the household, usually male.)

Mr. Hunt appears to have been a survivor: he appears in city directories at that address as late as 1960. I have no idea whether his wife survived along with him, or whether he had become a widower. I didn’t trace him after that; for all that I know, he is still there.

According to Google Street View, 301 Gilbert Avenue is a small but nice-looking house. It has a tree and a garden.



Here’s an ad from the June 11 1947 Toronto Daily Star that’s just plain weird:


What’s weirdest about this ad is that Abbey’s Effervescent Salt is actually a laxative, though the ad copy doesn’t mention it directly – it just says that Abbey’s “acts gently, effectively”. I’m not sure whether a laxative is the best remedy for overindulging, but then I’m not a medical doctor, am I?

Compare this ad to one that appeared in the April 8 1940 Toronto Daily Star, which went straight to the point:


Abbey’s Effervescent Salt had been around since the 19th century. The company published a book in 1898 titled Abbey’s Effervescent Salt: The Foundation of Health.

Wikipedia has a generic entry on fruit salts – Abbey’s was apparently created as a competitor to Eno’s Fruit Salt.


Chloe Davis

Not everything in old newspapers is fun reading – some items are horrible, sad, or both. For example, here’s a news article from the April 8 1940 Toronto Daily Star:


This was a report of an unimaginably horrible crime, described in more detail here. Chloe Davis, an 11-year-old girl living in Los Angeles, woke up one day to discover that her mother had gone insane and was in the process of killing Chloe’s three younger siblings before eventually killing herself.

The girl apparently was unemotional by temperament, which made the LAPD suspicious of her. As a result, she was arrested for murder before forensic evidence (and evidence of her mother’s blooming insanity) cleared her.

One site I found on the Internet claimed that Ms. Davis died in 1987 in Indiana. There are other sites devoted to her case (including one with crime scene photos), but they make for depressing reading.


Book night

Here’s some listings for neighbourhood movie houses for April 8 1940, from the Toronto Daily Star. As an incentive, some theatres were offering free volumes of the Standard American Encyclopedia with admission:


Volume 2, by the way, covered all topics with names starting with ART to BOO. Volume 1 was still available, if you had missed out!


Is there folk music in Canada?

When looking through old editions of the Toronto Daily Star, I discovered two competing viewpoints on the question of whether there is authentic folk music in Canada. On the “no” side, there is this article from the April 8 1940 edition:


Taking the “yes” side is this article from May 1 1954:IMG_0863

Boris Berlin (1907-2001) was a pianist and music teacher who taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music for many decades. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000, but passed away before the ceremony that honoured him.

Leslie Bell (1906-1962) did a bunch of musical things, including being the chair of the musical department at the Ontario College of Education from 1939 to 1948.

I have no idea whether these two men ever met. They were almost exact contemporaries, so it may very well have happened. I like to think of their meeting descending into a shouting match, especially since Dr. Bell described his opposing viewpoint as “a bit stupid”.


Shea’s today

Another one from the April 8 1940 Toronto Daily Star:

Photo 2018-04-08, 3 35 18 PM

Movie theatres still sometimes featured in-person appearances in 1940 – the last remnants of the old vaudeville performing circuit. Wikipedia had information on a lot of these people.

Lee Sims (1898-1966) was a pianist, composer, and publisher who made 60 records for Brunswick in the 1920s and 1930s. With Ilomay Bailey, his wife, he starred in the Chase and Sanborn Hour radio program on NBC.

Harriet Hoctor (1905-1977) was a ballerina; George Gershwin once wrote a piece specifically for her, which is pretty cool. I could find nothing at all about Brantley & Linder; they are seemingly lost to history.

Fred Sanborn (1899-1961), no relation to the Sanborn of Chase and Sanborn (as far as I know), was a vaudeville performer. He was part of Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen, which also included the future Three Stooges.

Milbourne Christopher (1914-1984) was a magician who spent a good deal of time debunking parapsychology experiments. The Society of American Magicians honors him by annually presenting Milbourne Christopher awards to various magicians.

Frank Trado (1904-1980) and Pete Trado (1904-1969) were twin brothers who worked as a comedy duo. There is no Wikipedia entry for them, but I did find a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Trado and their dog Sheba. They look reasonably happy (except maybe for Sheba).


The princess and Abbey’s

From the April 8 1940 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, two unrelated items:

Photo 2018-04-08, 3 32 18 PM

Queen Farida (1921-1988) was the Queen of Egypt for nearly eleven years, between 1937 and 1948, before King Farouk divorced her. The daughter mentioned in this article was Princess Fawzia Farouk (1940-2005), who became an athlete, a pilot, a sailor, and a professional interpreter, becoming fluent in five languages; this last enabled her to earn her living after she lost her royal status. The last years of her life were tragic: she contracted multiple sclerosis, which left her paralyzed and bedridden.

Abbey’s Effervescent Salt appears to be yet another of the endless stream of patent medicines advertised in newspapers. I couldn’t find out what it was, but I did discover that the Klondike Official Guide recommended that gold-seekers bring an ample supply of Abbey’s Effervescent Salt to the north with them. Presumably, it was important to clear your system regularly while moiling for gold.


A man talks to women

“A Man Talks To Women” was a regular column that appeared in the Toronto Daily Star around the time of the Second World War. Here’s the entry for April 8, 1940, which expresses some, um, traditional viewpoints on the relationships between young men and young women:

Photo 2018-04-08, 3 57 52 PM

George Anthiel (1900-1959) led a varied life. Besides being an advice columnist, he was an avant-garde composer, a mystery writer, and the co-inventor (with actor Hedy Lamarr) of a frequency-hopping method of ensuring that signals to radio-guided torpedoes are not jammed. (The Scientific American article on this is here.)

Anthiel also appears to have been something of a creep. He wrote a series of articles on how to detect the availability of women based on “glandular effects”, with titles such as “The Glandbook For The Questing Male”, which is seriously icky. Gizmodo has an article on this; apparently, Ms. Lamarr first approached Anthiel because she wanted information on how to increase her bust size, and the conversation apparently turned to torpedoes after she figured out that he knew nothing about enhancement.