Paid off showgirl

Here’s a small article from the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I couldn’t find anything on the Internet related to Beatrice “Bebe” Webb.

Adolph B. Spreckels Jr. (1911-1961) didn’t do anything in his lifetime to merit a Wikipedia page. I did find a page that informed me that he married six times and died two days short of his 50th birthday. He isn’t worth writing about – especially since, based on this evidence, he appears to have been a horrible person – but tracing his family yielded some interesting information.

The Spreckels sugar fortune was created by Claus Spreckels (1828-1908), who built up a sugar empire in Hawaii and California. His first-born son, John D. Spreckels (1853-1926), made his own fortune in transportation and real estate and has been credited with making San Diego what it is today.

John D’s brother, Adolph Spreckels (1857-1924), took over his father’s sugar company and gave birth to the Adolph Jr. of the article above before eventually succumbing to the syphilis that he had contracted as a young man. Along the way, he found time to shoot the co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper when it accused his company of defrauding its shareholders. Apparently, Adolph is the origin of the term “sugar daddy”.

Film Actress Kay Williams (1916-1983), as she is referred to in this article, appeared in The Actress (1953), but had no other credited roles. After divorcing Adolph Jr., she rebounded successfully: she married Clark Gable. They remained married until he died of a heart attack in 1960; four months after his death, she gave birth to his only son.

Kay Williams and Adolph Jr.’s son, Bunker Spreckels (1949-1977), spent the first years of his young adulthood surfing in relative poverty in Hawaii. On his 21st birthday, he inherited $50 million, and proceeded to live a life of sex, drugs, surfing, and random material pleasures in various parts of the world. He died of a drug overdose. This article provides more details on his life.


Meet me at Muirheads

Here’s an ad from the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a chain of downtown cafeterias:

I looked Muirheads up in the Toronto city directories. In 1946, there were Muirhead’s Cafeterias listed at 38-40 Adelaide West, 200 Bay, and 225 Yonge. Moving forward in time:

  • By 1951, the 225 Yonge location had moved to 67 Richmond West. 225 Yonge became the Silver Rail Tavern.
  • By 1956, the 200 Bay location was gone – Muirhead’s was still at 38 Adelaide West and 67 Richmond West. Here’s a photograph of the 200 Bay location.
  • By 1961, the 67 Richmond West location was the only one remaining. It last appeared in the 1963 directory.

I also traced Muirhead’s cafeterias and restaurants back. There is a reference to a Muirhead’s restaurant, run by one R. J. Muirhead, at 99 Yonge in 1918. It wasn’t in the 1915 directory. Checking at five-year intervals:

  • 1920: still at 99 Yonge
  • 1925: now at 14 Queen East and 83 Yonge
  • 1930: 200 Bay, 83 Yonge, 14-16 Queen East, 38-42 Adelaide West – by now, Mr. Muirhead was not running the establishment, and he was not listed in the directory. The 1928 directory lists Mr. Muirhead as president of one of the restaurants with “(California)” next to his name, so I guess he sold out and moved west.
  • 1935: 38-40 Adelaide West, 198-200 Bay, 225 Yonge
  • 1940: same as 1935.

There are a number of photos and postcards of Muirhead’s on the Internet. The Vintage Toronto Facebook group has a photograph of the Muirhead’s Cafeteria at 83 Yonge; the post claims that the photo is from 1910, but the directory listings above date it to between 1920 and 1935.


Must use rear door

The February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this brief article about a property dispute in Leaside:

I looked up the 1948 Toronto city directory, as I figured that the building would be built by then, and it was: the Leaside Press was listed at 219 Randolph Road, with Arthur E. Donahue as its proprietor. I was curious as to whether the building wound up being built with its entrance at the side or the back, but Google Street View revealed that the building is long since gone – there are now condominiums on the corner of Randolph and McRae. The west side of Randolph Road does appear to be completely residential, though.

The Leaside Press changed its name to the Leaside Advertiser in 1950. The latest directory that I can access online, the 1969 directory, still listed the Leaside Advertiser at 219 Randolph, with Mr. Donahue still in charge. This 2013 page from the Toronto Public Library states that the Leaside Advertiser remained in existence until about 1999.


Dreams come true

In Toronto, there was a housing shortage after the Second World War; a young couple looking for a place to live faced stiff competition, especially if they had a child. The February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star had a photo and an article about a young family that had won out over 1600 other applicants to land a place to live in the Balmy Beach district of Toronto.

I looked Bill Bessey up in the Toronto city directories. The 1946 directory listed him as living at 127 Lawrence Avenue West with his father, Norman. The 1947 directory lists him at his new home, 2158A Queen East. The apartment was above Queen Radio and Refrigeration Limited, whose proprietor was David G. Harcourt, the landlord pictured in this photo.

Bessey and his family remained at 2158A Queen East for about five years: he is listed in the 1951 directory, but not the 1952 directory. Presumably, his announcer duties moved him somewhere outside of Toronto.

Bessey remained a CBC staff announcer into the 1960s. At one time, he hosted a Saturday morning country music television show, Cousin Bill. This was despite his only ever having been on a ranch once in his life, when filming the intro for his show. References to Bessey and Cousin Bill can be found here, here, and here, among others.

The building that contains 2158A Queen East still stands. By 1956, Queen Radio and Refrigeration had moved from 2158 Queen East to 1576 and 1580 Kingston Road in Scarborough, between Warden and Birchmount in the Birchcliff neighbourhood. The company was still at 1580 Kingston Road in 1961 as Queen Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, with D. G. Harcourt still as its proprietor; I didn’t trace it or him after that.


The youngest competitor

Here’s another picture from the photo section of the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I don’t know whether this was an old file photo or whether the caption had his age wrong, but Arturo Pomar Salamanca (1931-2016) was actually 14, not 12, at the time that this edition of the Daily Star came out. In 1944, when he was 13, Pomar drew a game with reigning chess world champion Alexander Alekhine; he remains the youngest player ever to draw against a world champion.

Pomar went on to have a long career in chess, though he never challenged for the world championship. He competed for Spain in the Chess Olympiad from 1958 to 1980.


Busiest girl of the year

Ever since it was possible to print photos in newspapers, pictures of attractive women (and men) have often appeared prominently. For example, there’s this photo from the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Alexis Smith (1921-1993) spent only the first year of her life in British Columbia – her family moved to Los Angeles, and she became an American citizen in 1939 when her parents became naturalized citizens. She had an extensive film, stage, and television career that lasted up until 1990, when she played Lady Jessica Farlow Montford on four episodes of Dallas. She won a Tony award in 1972 for her work in the musical Follies.

She was fortunate enough to have a celebrity marriage that lasted – she and actor Craig Stevens married in 1944 and remained together until her death. Stevens, the star of the TV series Peter Gunn from 1958 to 1961, was born Gail Shikles, Jr., so you can’t really blame him for taking a stage name.

By the way, Wikipedia lists Ms. Smith as appearing in only four pictures in 1945, not eight as stated in the photo caption above. But, considering that her co-stars included Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, and Jack Benny, it’s safe to say that she had a pretty good year.


Canadian ski slopes

The January 12 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included a number of articles and photos related to skiing – which is not surprising, given that it was January and there was snow! I wrote up a couple of them in yesterday’s blog post; today’s entry is a photo of a Hollywood actress skiing in the Laurentians.

Joan Caulfield (1922-1991) was arguably at the peak of her career when this photograph was taken. She had a contract with Paramount, but was in demand enough to be loaned out to Warner Brothers and Universal in 1947 and 1948. She had fewer film roles after the early 1950s, but continued working on the stage, on television, and in touring theatre productions into the 1970s. She started her career as a model, appearing on the cover of the May 11 1942 edition of LIFE magazine.

One person who was not a huge fan of Ms. Caulfield was film writer Ephraim Katz. In his book, The Film Encyclopedia, he wrote: “[She] was among Paramount’s top stars, radiating delicate femininity and demure beauty but rarely much else”. Ouch.

Some people claim that Ms. Caulfield was the inspiration for Holden Caulfield, the name of the main character in several of author J. D. Salinger’s stories and books, including The Catcher In The Rye. There is no way to know whether this was true.


Skiing accidents

The January 12 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two articles on notable people who had just broken a leg in skiing accidents. Conveniently, the articles were placed together:

Unfortunately for him, a much worse fate than a broken leg eventually awaited Faisal II, the last king of Iraq. In 1958, he was assassinated, along with the Crown Prince of Iraq and its Prime Minister, as part of a coup d’état. The leaders of this coup were themselves overthrown in 1963 by the Ba’ath Party.

Pierre Jalbert (1925-2014) went on to become a film editor and then to appear as the bilingual character Caje in the TV series Combat!, which ran from 1961 to 1967. After the series ended, he went back to film editing, including work on The Godfather.


Inside parking is not parking

Here’s a short article from the January 12 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a man who managed to talk his way out of a parking violation.

Out of curiosity, I looked William Tennant up in the Toronto city directories. I discovered that there was no such place as Colbrook Street in Toronto. There is a Colbeck Street, though, and the 1948 Toronto city directory lists a William Tennant working at CGE and living at 148 Colbeck. If this is the right William Tennant, he led a noticeably stable life, as he was living at 148 Colbeck and working at CGE in 1969, the last year for which I have access to online Toronto city directories.

I looked 148 Colbeck Street up in Google Street View. It seems to be a nice enough place.


Now playing (2 of 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, the January 12 1948 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two notices of upcoming performances at the Eaton Auditorium and two at Massey Hall. Here’s the two at Massey Hall.

Massey Hall advertisements sometimes require a bit more work to identify, as they tended to list only the last name of the upcoming performer. For instance, here’s who was playing that night:

This was almost certainly Samson Pascal François (1924-1970). His Wikipedia page informs us that his “extravagant lifestyle, good looks, and passionate but highly disciplined playing gave him a cult status as a pianist”. His lifestyle must have been quite extravagant indeed, or perhaps he was cursed with a bad heart, as he suffered a heart attack on stage when he was only 44 years old. He passed away two years later.

The second notice also just included the performer’s last name, but, thankfully, it was more unusual:

Witold Małcużyński (1914-1977) was, indeed, born in Poland. He was in France when the Second World War broke out; when France surrendered, he and his wife escaped in a sealed train car to Portugal, and then eventually went to Argentina. He moved to the United States in 1942, and then to Switzerland after the war.

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, his piano playing was marked by great passion and poetry. YouTube has a number of links to his performances, including this one, so you can decide for yourself whether this is true.