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.


Moving furniture safely

Here’s an ad from the November 16 1942 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for the Tippet-Richardson moving company that featured a testimonial from one of their employees.

Since the Toronto city directories list everyone’s occupation whenever possible, I decided to try to trace Bill Parker. Sure enough, I found him: the 1942 directory lists a William Parker working as a driver for Tippet-Richardson and living at 327 Gladstone Avenue. He first appears in the 1937 directory with that employer and at that location; the 1936 directory does not appear to list him.

The 1947 directory lists him as still working as a driver for Tippet-Richardson, but now living at 386 Balliol. And that is where he stayed: he was at 386 Balliol in the 1969 directory, which is the last one that I can view online. He remained at Tippet-Richardson too, though by 1957 he was working as a warehouse foreman.



As I’ve mentioned before, the Toronto Daily Star used to publish a section titled “A Little Of Everything” on its editorial page. This section usually led off with a poem. Here’s an example from the November 16 1942 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

As I’ve also said before, I’m no judge of poetry, but I found this a little overwrought for my taste. The rhyming scheme is interesting, though: it appears to be AABCCDD. I looked up some lists of rhyming schemes and couldn’t find this one anywhere.

I included this poem because it provided the writer’s name and address, which gave me the opportunity to trace her in the Toronto city directories. The 1942 city directory lists Charles W. King at 179 Forest Hill Road; he was a sales manager for Willard’s Chocolates. But it also lists Amabel King as a major in the Salvation Army Rescue Home and living at 450 Pape Avenue, which is the address of the rescue home (also referred to as the Girls’ Industrial Home). Amabel is an unusual name, so perhaps Ms. King was devoted enough to her cause to live at least part of the time at the home. Or perhaps this was someone else; I have no way of knowing.

There was a listing for Amabel King in the 1943 and 1944 directories as well, but she does not appear in the 1945 directory. Charles W. King remained at 179 Forest Hill Road at least until 1969, which is the latest year for which I have access to online city directories. By then, he had retired.

As of May 2014, 179 Forest Hill Road appeared to be a tidy but relatively small (for the neighbourhood) house in Forest Hill. Later that year, though, the house was torn down to make room for an addition to 177 Forest Hill Road.


Always returns

Here’s a photograph from the November 16 1942 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who had returned from an ordeal at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) was noteworthy for a number of things:

  • Before the First World War, he was a race car driver, competing in the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. He won a race in Sioux City in 1914 after tying the still-beating heart of a bat to his finger (apparently, this was a Swiss superstition that he learned from his mother).
  • When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, Rickenbacker became a pilot. He had 26 aerial victories in 1918, which was the highest total up to that point and made him a war hero. He was given a book deal and went on a speaking tour.
  • He helped design a car, the Rickenbacker, which made its appearance in 1922. It was unsuccessful, and his company went into receivership in 1924, leaving him on the hook for half a million dollars.
  • He bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1927, selling it in 1945.
  • He bought Eastern Air Lines in 1938, and was CEO of the company until 1959.
  • In 1941, he was severely injured in an air crash near Atlanta, requiring many months to heal.
  • In 1942, he was adrift at sea for 23 days after the plane he was in crashed. He had been on his way to deliver a message to General Douglas MacArthur; after he was rescued, he completed his assignment.

When he passed away in 1973, his eulogy was delivered by Jimmy Doolittle (previously mentioned in this blog here). He is not to be confused with Orville Redenbacher.


Important sale of fine paintings

Here’s an ad from the October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an art sale:

I looked in the Toronto city directories, and I couldn’t find a reference to anyone named V. E. Rumbell, and there wasn’t anyone living on Russell Hill Road who had a name similar to that. This doesn’t mean that she didn’t exist, of course, but this did remind me of this Jenkins Galleries ad from 1930, which offered art from the estate of a possibly non-existent Comte de Richemont. Malloney’s Art Gallery was just down the street from the Jenkins Galleries, which leads me to wonder whether there was a tradition in Toronto of making up high-sounding names when offering art for sale.

Either way, Grenville Street has been home to many artists and galleries over the years. Franz Johnston, one of the Group of Seven artists, was living next door to Malloney’s Art Gallery in 1937, and the city directory listed a total of 13 artists living or with studios on that street at that time. There were still a number of artists living on the street by the time of this 1947 ad.

Malloney’s Art Gallery was the brainchild and lifework of J. Merritt Malloney. He is listed in the 1920 Toronto city directory as an artist, with a studio on Yonge Street and making his home at the Elliott Hotel. By 1930, his gallery was in existence at its Grenville Street location.

He last appears in the 1951 directory. The 1952 directory lists Malloney’s Art Gallery as being managed by John L. Malloney, with M. Jerritt Malloney as president; presumably, they were his sons.

66 Grenville Street no longer exists. Women’s College Hospital, which was at 74 Grenville in 1947, has expanded to use more of the street.


A warning!

Here’s a movie ad from the October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that was intended to attract attention:

Monsieur Verdoux was a controversial film because it showed Charlie Chaplin (or Charles Chaplin, as he was referred to here) portraying French serial killer Henri Landru, who met women through lonely hearts advertisements and killed them.

The idea for the film originated with Orson Welles, who pitched the idea of portraying Landru to Chaplin and who received $5000 for it. Chaplin’s portrayal of a murderer provoked outrage – it was banned in some American jurisdictions, and it failed commercially in the United States. Leading critics of the time loved the movie, though, and it was a commercial success in Europe and now often appears on various all-time best lists.

Chaplin was already being criticized by some Americans for his pro-Soviet leanings, and was accused by George Orwell of being a secret Communist. He had always retained British citizenship; in 1952, the United States attorney general revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit when he sailed to London to promote his most recent film, the autobiographical Limelight. He chose to remain out of the country until 1972, when he was given an honorary award and a 12-minute standing ovation at that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. He passed away in 1977.


Whodunit raids hospital

The October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contains this brief article that reads like something from a spy thriller:

So what we have here is a man disguising himself as a doctor, extracting the love of his life – who happens to have only one arm – from a Swedish sanitorium, and flying her to Norway in a private plane. The movie script practically writes itself.

I did a bit of searching, and went down a variety of interesting rabbit holes. First off: I could find no evidence that Torsten Akrell (also written as Thorsten Akrell) wrote detective stories. He appears to have been a lieutenant and a special agent of the Swedish Defense Staff during the Second World War, part of a team responsible for smuggling secret agents into Poland and Hungary. He also took on missions for the Allies in wartime Berlin. Given this history, smuggling a woman out of a sanitorium would have been a relatively stress-free exercise.

Louise Forsell, not Torsten Akrell, was the writer of detective stories; she was known as Loulou. There is a Wikipedia page for her in Swedish that provides more details on what happened:

  • Apparently, Ms. Forsell had been saddled with a narcotics habit as a result of being treated for injuries suffered in a plane crash.
  • After being admitted to a Swedish sanitorium, she complained about her treatment there and was then banned from receiving visitors or making phone calls.
  • This is the point at which Lt. Akrell stepped into the picture.

The whole affair became something of a controversy in Sweden at the time, as Ms. Forsell was still married to her first husband, a merchant named Nils Kaage. Not surprisingly, this marriage didn’t make it through the year.

Despite his heroics, Ms. Forsell and Lt. Akrell never did get married. She married a singer named Anders Börje in 1951, divorced him two years later, and then passed away in 1954 at the age of 31. I couldn’t find out what the cause of her death was. She wrote five novels, one of which was co-written by her brother and one of which was published posthumously.

A more complete history of this event can be found on this page about crime in Stockholm (translate it into English and then scroll to the section titled “The Knight and the Virgin 1947”). This page states that Lt. Akrell became a United Nations soldier (presumably peacekeeping); if this is him, he passed away in 1980. A photo of the two of them is available on Wikimedia Commons.

Last but not least: a Swedish movie called The Spy was released in 2019, with an actor named Rolf Lassgård playing the part of Thorsten Akrell. I have no idea what it is about.



As I’ve mentioned before, the Toronto Daily Star’s editorial page used to contain a section called A Little Of Everything. This section led off with a daily poem; the poems varied widely in quality.

The poem from the September 9 1949 edition of the paper was interesting to me because it included the poet’s name and address:

I’m no judge of poetry; all I can say is that this poem didn’t really do anything for me. But I was curious, so I traced the poet’s name and address in the Toronto city directories. Sure enough, the 1949 directory listed Florence E. Schill; she was working as an editorial assistant at Maclean Hunter, and she was at 216 Snowdon Avenue.

I looked her up at five-year intervals:

  • In 1954, she was a reporter for the Globe and Mail and living at 72 Spencer Avenue.
  • In 1959, she was employed by the Children’s Aid Society and living at 125 Lyndhurst Avenue.
  • By 1964, she was the director of public relations for the Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto and living in an apartment at 484 Church Street.
  • In 1969, she was still a director of public relations (location unspecified) and living in an apartment at 31 Alexander Street.

The online city directories don’t go later than that, so I don’t know what happened to her. A search turned up only a PDF document containing statistics obtained from an interview with her in 1961.


Rushed to altar, asked money

Here’s a story from the September 9 1949 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about an impeding divorce in which one of the partners was the mother of child star Margaret O’Brien.

According to Margaret O’Brien’s Wikipedia page, her mother, born Gladys Flores, was a flamenco dancer who regularly performed with her sister Marissa. She passed away in 1954 of a heart condition; young Ms. O’Brien was 17.

I could find no reference anywhere to Don Sylvio.

Margaret O’Brien (born Maxine O’Brien) was seeing her film career start to wind down at the time of this article, as she did not successfully make the transition to adult roles. She did appear in a number of television shows as an adult. She is still alive as I write this; she turned 84 this past January.


Resumes talent-scouting

Shows that featured amateur talent existed long before America’s Got Talent. Here’s a publicity photograph from the September 9 1949 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of Arthur Godfrey, host of the Talent Scouts radio show:

Arthur Godfrey (1903-1983) first achieved national fame when, as a radio announcer working in Washington, D.C., he broadcast Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral procession, bursting into tears as he blessed Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman. This led to his getting his own nationwide show, Arthur Godfrey Time. His Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show premiered on radio in 1946 and was broadcast simultaneously on radio and television starting in 1948.

In 1949, Godfrey started hosting an additional television series, Arthur Godfrey and His Friends. Additional shows followed; by the early 1950s, when Godfrey reached the peak of his fame, he could be heard or seen nine times a week. He grew more imperial as he grew more famous, firing over twenty cast and crew members, which led to a backlash and a decline in popularity; by the end of the decade, he was left with Arthur Godfrey Time (which lasted until 1972) and the occasional television special.

YouTube has some footage of Arthur Godfrey, including an episode of Talent Scouts from 1956 and an episode of Arthur Godfrey Time from 1958.