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Of the far yesterdays

Here’s a photograph from the August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of two old-time baseball players.

Both Ty Cobb (1886-1961) and Honus Wagner (1874-1955) were considered among the very best players in baseball in their time.

Cobb, nicknamed The Georgia Peach, won twelve American League batting titles between 1907 and 1919. A very intense player who often got into conflicts on the field, he became a philanthropist later in life.

Wagner was born Johannes Peter Wagner, and his nickname was Hans, not Hands. He won eight batting titles in the National League between 1900 and 1911. While “Honus” sounds unusual to modern ears, it could have been a lot worse: Wagner’s older brother, Albert Wagner, who played briefly in the 19th century, was nicknamed Butts.

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They’re “sont la”

Here’s a photograph from the August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of three French tennis players arriving in New York City.

Pierre Pellizza (1917-1974) was the least successful of the three men in this photograph, and also the shortest-lived. He was at the peak of his career at the time of this photograph, as he made it to the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the French Open in 1946. He made it to the last 16 in the U.S. championships in 1946, and turned pro in 1948.

Bernard Destremeau (1917-2002) had the most interesting life of the three men pictured here. After France was conquered by the Germans, Destremeau travelled through the Pyrenees to Spain and then to North Africa, becoming a tank officer in the Free French Army. He was wounded three times, including being shot in the back, and won the Legion of Honour. After the war, he combined tennis tournaments with diplomacy; he was posted to Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis.

Yvon Petra (1916-1984) was called “the human skyscraper” in this photograph because he was 6’5″. He won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1946, becoming the last Frenchman to win the title and the last man to win the title while wearing long trousers. Like Pellizza, Petra finished in the last 16 at the U.S. championships in 1946 and turned pro in 1948. He later emigrated to the U.S. and became a tennis pro at clubs in Chicago and Connecticut.

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He missed two words

Here’s a photo from the August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a man who was a British representative at the on-going Paris peace conference.

When not solving crosswords, Albert Victor Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough (1885-1965) was serving as the First Lord of the Admiralty, a post he held three times: June 1929- August 1931, May 1940-May 1945, and August 1945-October 1946. Later in 1946, he was appointed Minister of Defense, a post that he held until 1950.

A Labour Party politician, he was head of that party’s faction in the House of Lords until 1964. He passed away fourteen days before Winston Churchill did.

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Bathing girl

Newspapers have included pictures of attractive women for as long as the technology has made it possible. The August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included this photo of a young woman who was New York City’s entry in the upcoming Miss America pageant:

Wikipedia has a detailed entry on the 1946 Miss America contest. Ms. Henry was co-winner of a Lifestyle and Fitness award in the preliminary rounds. After reciting a monologue from George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, she finished in the top 16.

Another top-16 finisher was the Chicago entrant, Cloris Leachman, who went on to have a distinguished career as an actress, winning eight primetime Emmy awards and an Oscar, among other honours. The winner of the pageant, Marilyn Buferd, also became an actress, appearing in a number of movies in the 1950s.

A search for Ms. Henry turned up another photo from her from 1946 and an article that stated that she won the Miss Subways contest in New York in March 1944.

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Blew kisses at nude figure

The August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this brief article about a British comedian who was fined for obscenity:

Frank Randle (1901-1957) was a British comedian who appeared in a number of movies in the 1940s. The fine for obscenity described in this article was part of a running feud between Randle and Blackpool chief of police Harry Barnes, who frequently banned him from performing there.

Sadly, his life did not end well: he was declared bankrupt due to tax nonpayment in 1955, and his health declined due to alcohol abuse before he passed away from gastroenteritis.

There are a number of Frank Randle videos on YouTube. Here’s one of him dancing, from the 1943 movie Somewhere On Leave.

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The royal chinchilla

Here’s an ad from the August 13 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that gave potential investors the opportunity to purchase royal chinchillas.

I looked up the Canadian Chinchilla Co. in the Toronto city directories. The firm appears to have been a new entity in 1946, as it was not in the 1945 directory. Someone named Harvey Springer appears to have been the president of the firm.

It looks like not enough people were interested in raising royal chinchillas, as the firm didn’t last very long. It was in the 1948 directory, but now with Gordon G. Boughner as president. It wasn’t in the 1949 directory, and neither was its building at 319 Bay – by then, it had been torn down, and there was a Woolworth’s under construction.

The royal chinchilla – also known as the short-tailed chinchilla – is now an endangered species. They were prized for their luxurious fur, which meant that they were hunted almost to extinction. They have been successfully bred in captivity, possibly by the Canadian Chinchilla Co. during its short existence.

The ad stated that the animals were located on the company ranch, located at Clarke Avenue and accessible from the North Yonge radial line. Google Maps revealed that there is a Clark Avenue in Thornhill that intersects with Yonge Street; it now looks like this. There are no longer chinchillas nearby.

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Organized ball is stuck plenty

Here’s an article from the May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a baseball player who had returned from the war and wanted his old job back.

Al Niemiec (1911-1995) had two spells in the major leagues in the mid-1930s, playing nine games for the Boston Red Sox in 1934 and 69 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1936. He returned to the Red Sox organization in 1937, and then was traded to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League as part of a deal for Ted Williams. By the time of the Second World War, he had been playing second base for the Seattle Rainiers, another Pacific Coast League team, for three years.

According to Wikipedia, Niemiec won his suit for a year’s employment under the GI Bill, which meant that hundreds of major and minor league players were paid despite being cut by their teams immediately after the war. In 1946, he was traded from the Rainiers to the Providence Chiefs, a team in a lower-level league, but he did not play for his new team, and his career was over at the age of 35.

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Won gold medals

Here’s a photo from the May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a teenager who was a proficient violinist.

I did a Google search for Barbara Strathdee, and found that someone with that name had an Internet Movie Database entry. However, I’m not sure that this is the same person, as this Barbara Strathdee was an actress, not a musician, and was born in 1934, not 1932. This Ms. Strathdee seems to have been cast in a number of Stratford productions, some of which were adapted for television. I found a photo of her at the time of her wedding – I can’t tell for sure if this is somebody different.

To provide extra confusion, there is an artist from New Zealand named Barbara Strathdee who was born in 1941. This was definitely somebody else. And there is also a reference to a soprano from Toronto named Barbara Strathdee, who was seen as on her way to international stardom in 1959; this could be any or all of the above!

The only reference that I am reasonably certain matches the Barbara Strathdee in this photograph is this link to a series of musical performances on the CBC network in 1960-61.

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Drama, personality planning

Here’s an ad from the May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention:

I looked up Dress Rehearsal Limited in the Toronto city directories. It appears to have been a new business, as it does not appear in the 1946 city directory. It is listed in the 1947 directory at 41 Cumberland; Inez Pierson, who was teaching the Personality Planning course, is listed as its manager. Unfortunately, it did not remain in existence for long, as it does not appear in the 1948 directory.

Out of curiosity, I tried tracing the people mentioned in the ad:

  • I couldn’t find Anton Diffring anywhere; either his name was a theatrical pseudonym or a misspelling, or he lived out of town and commuted into the city to teach drama.
  • Inez Pierson was new in town, as she does not appear in the 1946 directory. After Dress Rehearsal Limited folded, she appeared in the 1948 and 1949 directories with no listed occupation. She does not appear in the 1950 directory.

I wonder whether Dress Rehearsal’s Repertory Company ever existed. Did they put on any shows during the fall of 1946?

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Grave world problem

The May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two articles that claimed that things weren’t as good as they used to be.

The first one complained about the decline of family life in Britain:

And the second article complained about an obsession with dancing in a Soviet republic:

There were 50 posters in Kazan announcing dances, and not one announcing lectures, literary or musical evenings! Mind you, this was when Stalin was still alive, so perhaps people were reluctant to organize lectures or literary events.