The Water Nymph Club (Part Two)

During the summer of 1923, the Evening Telegram published a syndicated series of swimming lessons for women. Due to time constraints, and wanting to post the rest of these tips while its swimming season, here is week two of the series sans commentary. More context in future posts!

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The Telegram, July 23, 1923.

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The Telegram, July 24, 1923.

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The Telegram, July 25, 1923.

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The Telegram, July 26, 1923.

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The Telegram, July 27, 1923.

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The Telegram, July 28, 1923.

The Water Nymph Club (Part One)

 

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Preview ad, The Telegram, July 14, 1923.

While it’s hard to say if swimming develops grace and charm, it’s true that Torontonians love to hit their local beaches and pools. The arrival of the high swim season provides an excuse to explore a syndicated series of tips directed towards women that were published (mostly) on the Telegram‘s comics page during the summer of 1923.

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The Telegram, July 16, 1923.

Are your scissors handy? Good. Let’s begin with a guide to proper gear (this was still the era of Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties), and some background on the author of this series.

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The Telegram, July 17, 1923.

The Water Nymph Club’s roots appear to be Midwestern. Merze Marvin Seeberger (1887-1973) entered journalism in her late teens, assisting her father at the Sentinel-Post in Shenandoah, Iowa. In 1911 she published a book, The McCauslands of Donaghanie and allied families, which is available on the Internet Archive. According to several genealogical sites, she spent a year-and-a-half working as a stenographer for the state auditor in Des Moines, and graduated from the University of Missouri.

By 1918, she worked in the advertising department of the Des Moines Register-Tribune and belonged to Theta Sigma Phi, a society for female journalists which later evolved into the Association for Women in Communications. At TSP’s first convention, held at the University of Kansas that year, she spoke about the need for female journalism instructors.

One-third of the students enrolled in schools and departments of journalism today are women. The percentage is steadily increasing, just as the number of women employed on our newspapers is increasing…The schools boast of their progress, their up-to-datedness…Are they now to fall behind, to fail to keep up with the newspapers in giving women their opportunity? I think not. Before another Theta Sigma Phi convention the woman instructor in journalsim will have come into her own.

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The Telegram, July 18, 1923.

Based on a filing with the Library of Congress, the Water Nymph Club series first appeared in the Des Moines Evening Tribune on July 2, 1923, running for 32 installments through August 8. Scanning the web shows it appeared in various newspapers across the midwest that summer.

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The Telegram, July 19, 1923.

The series may have circulated for several years, as it  (or a similar column) appears to have been published in the Washington Evening Star two years later.

 

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The Telegram, July 20, 1923.

The introductory ad for the series appeared on “The Girls Own Tely” page, which was billed as “Sports, Interests, and Activities of Girls, By Girls and For Girls.” Besides this page, the Saturday Telegram carried similar spreads for boys and young children. The features on July 14, 1923 included:

  • “Boys Best at Mathematics? Popular View May Be Wrong”: A piece attempting to debunk the belief of many Toronto high school teachers that males were better at math. The uncredited writer points to statements given by E.F. Phipps, headmistress of a girls school in Swansea, England, in reaction to recent exams at Oxford University where male math scores were higher. Phipps pointed out four reasons for this seeming inequality: lower school attendance by females; less time devoted to mathematics compared to domestic sciences; exam questions using examples more familiar to males than females, such as “cricket and racing;” and males had better qualified teachers. “I think you will find,” Phipps concluded, “that where the above-named disabilities have not been present girls have done as well as boys in arithmetic.”
  • Highlights of Inter-Church Baseball League play (Toronto was the “City of Churches”…)
  • A picture of the staff of the Harbord Collegiate Review, which had published its first edition in over a decade.
  • A story about the misadventures of several girls from The Beaches attempting to return home from a day on the Toronto Islands, foiled by rain, a slow freight train, and the TTC (see below).

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  • “In the World of Books,” where the uncredited writer reminisced about childhood favourites like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Beatrix Potter, and Tanglewood Tales. Their present taste in literature included classics by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Oscar Wilde.

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The Telegram, July 21, 1923.

In the next installment, another week’s worth of lessons, and stories of swimming in 1920s Toronto.

Additional material from Women’s Press Organizations, 1881-1999, Elizabeth V. Burt, editor (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000) and DC Sports: The Nation’s Capital at Play,
Chris Elzey and David K. Wiggins, editors (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2015).

Vintage Toronto Ads Goes to War

Plucky Boys Need Their Smokes

Originally published on Torontoist on June 16, 2009.

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The News, May 6, 1915.

Given the attitudes, health concerns, and advertising restrictions regarding tobacco products, Toronto newspaper readers won’t be seeing appeals to send smokes to Canada’s overseas forces in their morning read anytime soon—a general appeal for morale boosting/easy to barter items would be more likely.

The soldier depicted in this ad was created by cartoonist Bert Thomas for a similar campaign across the Atlantic for the Weekly Dispatch newspaper in November 1914. The image of a Cockney “Tommy” telling Kaiser Wilhelm II that he needs a smoke break helped raise approximately ₤250,000 in donations from the British public. “Arf a mo’ Kaiser!” became a catchphrase whose use appears to have lasted in the U.K. through World War II, when it underwent a slight alteration to reflect that conflict’s German leadership.

Cows Have War Jobs Too

Originally published on Torontoist on September 15, 2009.

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Acme Farmers Dairy billboard, circa 1942-44. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1488, Item 6611.

During World War II many Torontonians worked towards victory and, as this billboard testifies, cows were not excluded from doing their part to tackle Hitler and Tojo. The regional bovine population contributed to the war effort by providing food-solid goodness for the home front. Officials of local dairies soon discovered that the helmets they issued refused to stay on any cow’s head (straps were at a premium), so they were utilized as feed buckets or souvenirs for children touring their facilities.

Located on Walmer Road south of Casa Loma, the Acme Farmers Dairy site is currently occupied by the Castle Hill townhomes.

Wartime Target for Tonight

Originally published on Torontoist on November 10, 2009.

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Mayfair, March 1944.

A dazzling view of the Toronto skyline welcomed visiting flyers like this Royal Canadian Air Force pilot throughout World War II. The glimmer of city lights, the Royal York Hotel, and other pre-war skyscrapers as he approached Port George VI Airfield (as the island airport was officially named upon opening in 1939) was a far more welcoming sight than enemy fire.

A year after opening for service, the island airport was pressed into wartime use as a training facility. Pilots from Norway used the site from fall 1940 through winter 1943, which led to the establishment of “Little Norway” across the channel. After the Norwegians departed for expanded facilities in Muskoka, the RCAF used the airport for the duration of hostilities.

Around the time today’s ad appeared on the newsstand, one flyer leaving the airport almost made Sunnyside their target. On February 13, 1944, RCAF Flying Officer John R. Talkington required a rescue after he was forced to land one hundred yards from shore inside the seawall near Windermere Avenue. Talkington was piloting a training plane destined for Selfridge Field near Detroit when trouble struck. The Toronto Star picks up the story:

“The engine quit,” said Flying Officer Talkington, describing his experience afterward, “So I just let her down in the water.” The young pilot, a native of California, sat on the cockpit hood, his feet dangling in the water, until [he was] taken off. The rescue was made within twenty-two minutes of the time the mishap occurred…Talkington resumed his flight an hour later in another plane. Life-savers rushed to Humber station in a car, obtained a punt and paddled out to make the rescue.

Once the peace O’Keefe hoped for arrived, the airport was restored to civilian use and likely employed some of the clear-eyed men destined to work in the post-war aviation industry.

Additional material from the February 14, 1944 editions of the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

Scenes of Toronto: Summer 2008

Part One: Too Much Fun in the Sun

Originally published on Torontoist on July 2, 2008.

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Scientists and doctors have long warned the public about the dangers of staying out in the sun for too long. Relaxing as sunbathing is, the effects of forgetting to slap on the sunscreen may be felt long afterwards. One sun-worshipper at Hanlan’s Point beach discovered the worst-case scenario yesterday, staying out so long that they fused with the sand. Despite this mishap, their patriotic fervour remained undimmed.

Lineups up to two hours long did not deter thousands of Torontonians from hopping on a ferry and spending their holiday afternoon on the Toronto Islands. Sunny skies and a pleasant breeze provided the backdrop for cycling, picnics, frisbee tossing, boat racing, swimming, sand sculpting, and other activities to celebrate Canada’s 141st birthday.

Part Two: The Luckiest Moose in Town

Originally published on Torontoist on August 29, 2008.

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While most of the moose that embellished city streets during the “Moose in the City” public art display in 2000 have vanished from view, a few hardy specimens continue to graze among us. A survivor on Dundas Street in Chinatown has been rewarded for its perseverance by having the complex next to it named in its honour. Time will tell if the moose’s luck will rub off on the grocery store that also bears its name or the other tenants.