Here’s one last item from the December 7 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, which has turned out to be an excellent source of material. This is from the Personals section:
I was curious, so I looked up the Toronto city directories from around 1921 to see if I could find out who Jean was. I didn’t have any luck.
Here’s the residents of 88 Givens Street in the years that I searched:
1917 to 1922: Peter Bennett
1923: Racco Iafrate
1924: William Roberts, butcher
1925 and 1926: vacant
I suppose that the Personals entry could have been some sort of code, or perhaps Jean was the wife of one of the residents in this list. Sadly, I’ll never find out.
Nowadays, Givens Street is known as Givins Street: the changed name first appears in the 1947 city directory. According to Google Street View, 88 Givins looks to have been updated sometime since 1931. I can’t tell whether it has been rebuilt or just remodelled.
Here’s an entry from the Personals section of the August 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:
I keep hoping to be able to use the Toronto city directories to trace one of these requests, but I’ve struck out yet again. I searched all of the directories from 1915 to 1931 – and 1910 as well, and there was no Mr. C. Gordon on St. Germain in any of them. So much for playing Internet detective.
The August 1 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star has been a rich source of material! Here’s the Personals section from that paper:
I feel sorry for Mr. J. Beaver of 62 Winchester Street, who felt compelled to take out a personals ad with his name in large letters. The 1931 and 1932 Toronto city directories list Harry Beaver at that address; he was a plasterer. J. Beaver might have been his son. 62 Winchester is now a nice old house in Cabbagetown.
I also looked up Hiram Thomas Bush in the 1931 and 1932 directories and did not find him, so they would not have been of help to Wright at 181 Hudson Drive. The Streets section of the 1931 directory lists Wilmot G. Clarke as the resident at that address, but the Names section indicates that there was a Dorothy Wright also living there. Perhaps she placed the ad. 181 Hudson Drive still stands.
Here’s a cryptic entry from the Personals section of the July 23 1937 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.
I’m thinking that if you wanted to be discreet about something, publishing your address in the Personals isn’t the way to go. But what do I know?
Naturally, I looked 161 Madison up in the Toronto city directories. The 1937 directory lists Oliver Buchanan as the resident, and the 1938 directory lists Colin McArthur. Cross-referencing to the names section doesn’t yield anything useful: nobody else with the same last name was listed at that address, let alone anyone named “Min”. The 1939 directory does list a Minerva McArthur at a different address, but that might be a coincidence.
I will never know what happened. But I can envision Min trying to get rid of Freddie and giving him a fake address. Which would have startled Mr. Buchanan or Mr. McArthur when he showed up looking for her.
Not long ago, I spent a few days looking at the Personals section from 1920 newspapers. I have been looking through the July 20 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, so I took a look at the Personals section from that day’s paper. Here it is:
Except for the occasional cryptic message, almost all of these messages are from people going somewhere or wanting to go somewhere. Gas rationing was still in effect, so people needed to join forces if they wanted to travel any distance.
The Personals section of the July 22 1920 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two ads placed by people who were looking for someone that they knew five years before.
For the first entry, I looked up 119 Clinton Street in the 1914, 1915, and 1916 Toronto city directories. In those years, the inhabitants were (in order) Arthur E. Atkinson, Mrs. Sarah Grimes, and William Somerville. I suppose that one of them could have been nicknamed Gartley, or perhaps Gartley didn’t live there long enough to get an entry in a city directory. Oh well; a dead end.
For the second entry: I thought it peculiar that Mr. L. H. Christie would mention his name twice in the ad. This is an extra expense, since the Daily Star charged per word. Perhaps he was a pseudonym: the 1920 and 1921 directories list John Johnson as the resident at 3 Pembroke.
A search in the 1915 directory on Dunn Avenue yielded Alex A. Reid, who lived at 215 Dunn; this could be the right Read or Reid (or perhaps not). There was no Nellie Reid in the 1915 directory; there was one in the 1916 directory, but she was also in the 1917 directory, so it’s probably not the same person. (There were two Nellie Reids in the 1918 directory.) Another dead end, unfortunately; perhaps sleuthing using the Toronto city directories is not as effective as I would have hoped.
Here’s an entry from the Personals section of the July 20 1920 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:
The same ad ran in the July 21 edition. In the July 22 edition, it was corrected to this:
I wonder how long it took the young man to find out that there had been a typo in the ad. It ran in three more editions after this one – presumably, the young man had a limited budget, gave up on matchmaking through the Personals, or met somebody.
Here are three entries from the Personals section of the July 19 1920 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that might be said to have a common theme – somebody looking for someone.
Going through these in order:
The 1920 Toronto city directory lists Frederick W. Prior, an electrician, at 34 Dartnell Avenue. I have no idea whether this is the correct Fred Prior – but, then again, neither would anyone reading this!
The correspondent in listing #2 had a lot of life happen to him if he was already widowed and retired at 45. Life was harder in 1920, but still.
I looked up 12 Clarence Square in the 1920 and 1921 city directories, and its occupant was someone named Fred Legg. Perhaps A. H. was staying with Mr. Legg, or perhaps Mr. Legg chose to use these cryptic initials to communicate. The 1920 city directory would have been no help: there was a Mary Wyllie listed there, but she was a widow.
This leads me to wonder: how effective was the Personals section? What were the odds that Fred Prior or Miss Mary Wyllie would actually be reading the Toronto Daily Star on that day, let alone that he or she would be reading the Personals? I suppose that I can imagine somebody randomly searching through the paper, idly reading the Personals, and then becoming somewhat surprised to be mentioned there by name.
I’m still continuing with my exploration of the Personals sections from the July 1920 editions of the Toronto Daily Star. Here’s a couple of entries from the July 12 edition.
Doing them in reverse order: I had noticed before that older Toronto city directories were somewhat racist. Non-white businesses or residents were simply referred to by their nationality or were ignored altogether. This was true of the laundry at 828 Bathurst Street – the 1920 and 1921 city directories just listed it as “Chinese Laundry” with no mention of the owners. And Sing You, Yin Wah, and Mark Long Ark were not listed in the 1920 directory. 828 Bathurst was listed as a Chinese laundry in the 1925 directory also, but it wasn’t there for long: by 1928, this building and the ones around it had been replaced by St. Peter’s Church.
As for the first of the two entries: Andrew Tait, of 15 Bedford Road, did have an entry in the 1920 city directory. He didn’t have a listed occupation, which doesn’t necessarily mean that he was unemployed. He remained at this address until at least 1928; I didn’t check him after that.