Giggling granny

The November 29 1954 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained a horrifying story about a woman who had murdered four of her five husbands and possibly a number of her relatives.



There is a Wikipedia entry for Nannie Doss – in total, she killed four husbands, two children, her two sisters, her mother, a grandson, and a mother-in-law. The All That’s Interesting website has a page about her, as does Murderpedia.

A wonderful baby too

When Marilyn Bell swam across Lake Ontario in September, 1954, she became famous. With fame came endorsement opportunities, some of which went to some extremes to connect their product with young Ms. Bell.

For example, here’s an ad for Heinz baby foods from the October 4 1954 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail. In this ad, her mother got in on the act too:


I wonder how the Heinz endorsement money was divided between mother and child!

Ms. Bell is still alive – she moved to New Jersey when she got married, became an American citizen, and raised four children. She now lives in a town in New York state.

Clickbait, 1954 style

Today’s Internet users are familiar with the concept of “clickbait”, which is a headline that attempts to attract your attention so that you will click on the link and read the associated article (and, in some cases, unintentionally download the associated malware).

While the Internet is relatively new – at least by the standards of this blog – the idea of an attention-getting headline is not. As an example, consider this wire-service article from the February 26 1954 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:


I suspect that this headline caught your attention.

Susan Hayward (1917-1975) was a film star who was at her peak of popularity in the 1950s. Sadly, Ms. Hayward attempted suicide after her divorce from Mr. Barker became final later that year. She remarried three years later, and apparently that marriage was a happy one.

Even more sadly: Ms. Hayward died young of brain cancer, possibly because she appeared in the movie The Conqueror, which was filmed near an atomic test site.

Jess Barker (1912-2000) appeared in a number of movies, but had a less stellar career than his ex-wife.

Joining the Commonwealth

In the February 26 1954 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, a British Conservative MP suggested that the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway should become part of the British Commonwealth. This apparently was partly because, according to him, they were “racially akin” to Britain:


Godfrey Nicholson (1901-1991) had been a British MP from 1931 to 1935 and again from 1937 to 1966. In 1958, he was made a baronet, which was a hereditary title; however, Mr. Nicholson had four daughters and no sons, so his baronetcy ended when he passed away.

Historic British parliamentary speeches are available online from 1803 onwards; the complete text of Mr. Nicholson’s speech in Parliament that was quoted in the above article can be found here.

Arthur’s Bargain Centre

In the February 26 1954 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, one discount store owner managed to arrange it so that the ad for his store appeared just above the Honest Ed’s ad:


Unlike a former competitor of Honest Ed’s, Honest Red’s, Arthur’s Bargain Centre remained in existence for quite a while. It first appears in the 1955 city directory – so it was very new at the time of this ad – and it was still there in 1969, though the original Arthur had not been managing the store for quite some time.

I don’t have online directories later than that, and a Google search turned up nothing, so I have no idea what happened to Arthur’s. 345 Danforth is now the home of Riverdale Mac, a computer store.

Being healthier

Here’s another one from the May 1 1954 edition of the Toronto Star:


Lelord Kordel (1904-2001) was a self-proclaimed nutritionalist who tended to stretch the boundaries of truth a bit when describing his products: in 1971, after a long appeal, he was fined $10,000 and served one year in prison for fradulent health claims. One review of his book, Health Through Nutrition, claimed that it was “made up of such a weird concoction of science, pseudo-science, and dietary fads that it will be most difficult for the average reader to sift the authentic information from the unauthenticated claims, and to remain unaffected by the latter”.

Vitamin supplements are still being made under the Kordel brand; I have no idea if any of them are actually of any use.


Here’s a movie ad from the May 1 1954 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. Then, as now, movie ads followed a basic principle: sex sells.


A publicity photograph for the movie, later in the same edition, mislabelled it as “Rhadsody”:


Rotten Tomatoes was less than complimentary of this movie, giving it a so-so 59% rating. One reviewer’s comment: “Beautiful music, ravishing Elizabeth, pedestrian script.”

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”.