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.


Proposed civic square

After the Second World War, the city of Toronto initiated plans to create a civic square in the Chinatown neighbourhood north and west of Queen and Yonge, in what was then known as The Ward. The December 26 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an advertisement from the Property Owners Association, which was opposed to the civic square.

Despite this opposition, Toronto voters in the 1947 municipal election approved the creation of a civic square. The land for the square was acquired and expropriated from 1948 to 1958, and construction was started in 1961. Today, the civic square is Nathan Phillips Square.

As for the executive officers of the Property Owners Association listed here:

  • R. M. Willes Chitty wrote a number of law books, including The Digest of All Canadian Case Law in 1928. He passed away in 1970.
  • E. J. Prittie was a member of the Prittie family, which I traced in this blog entry. He remained involved with some property owners association or other for at least another decade.

By the way: this post is a milestone of sorts, as it is my 1000th blog post. In these thousand posts, I’ve learned a lot about obscure celebrities of the 1920s and 1930s and have discovered all sorts of unusual bits of trivia. I’m still enjoying doing this! Thank you for reading or occasionally stopping by.


Demands an answer tonight

Here’s a somewhat cryptic advertisement that appeared in the December 26 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Frank O’Hearn was a candidate for mayor in the upcoming Toronto municipal elections, which were to be held on New Year’s Day, 1947. O’Hearn finished second in the voting, but that was because the incumbent mayor, Robert Hood Saunders, was popular enough that no serious candidates opposed him. Besides Saunders and O’Hearn, only Murray Dowson, a Canadian Trotskyist, ran for the mayor’s chair that year.

O’Hearn went on to form a religious organization in 1961 called The Order of God-Like People. He then formed the New Capitalist Party, which ran three candidates in the 1965 Canadian federal election. The party’s platform included giving Canadians the $1,000 each that the banking system had allegedly stolen from them and lowering the price of bread to five cents a loaf.


Fitz shows Masie how

The Toronto Raptors have been an NBA franchise now for a quarter of a century, but you might not know that the Raptors are not the first professional basketball franchise to play in Toronto. The Toronto Huskies played in the 1946-47 Basketball Association of America (BAA) season, compiling a 22-38 record and then disbanding.

Here’s a photograph from the December 26 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a member of the Huskies with one of their fans:

“Lanky” was a good word to describe forward-centre Bob Fitzgerald, as he was 6’5″ and weighed 190 pounds.

Fitzgerald did not have a long professional career. He played 31 games for the Huskies before being traded to the New York Knicks in mid-season. He played in the National Basketball League in the 1947-48 season and then returned to the BAA with Rochester in 1948-49. He passed away in 1983 at the age of 60.

Fitzgerald’s older brother, Dick Fitzgerald, played in all 60 games for the Huskies in 1946-47. Except for one game with Providence of the BAA the next season, it was his only season as a professional basketball player.

I did a Google search for Masie Hutchison and looked her up in the 1946 Toronto city directory, but did not find her in either location.


Show of 1001 wonders

Here’s an ad from the September 16 1946 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail for Blackstone, the magician:

Company of 30 – mostly girls!

Harry Blackstone Sr. (1885-1965) was one of the last of the old-school breed of magicians who performed in white tie and tails. He was arguably at the peak of his career in the 1940s, as a comic book and a radio series were created in that decade that featured him. His son, Harry Jr., also became a magician.

YouTube has footage of him performing in 1956 (though the sound quality is poor), along with this commercial for Post cereals.