The 1949 World Softball Champions

Softball, specifically men’s fastpitch, also known as fastball, was very popular in Toronto, Ontario during the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Kew Gardens, located on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto’s east end area referred to as ‘The Beaches’, became a baseball destination for the thousands who turned out to cheer on their favourite teams.

Like in most sports, fastball teams were hit hard by World War 2 and the loss of most of the league’s best players. In 1946, however, the men were back from the war and eager once again to don their gloves and swing their bats. Sam Shefsky, the manager of the Tip Top Tailors team, was ready to greet them and sign them up to play for his team. Sam said his line-up would look a lot like it did in 1940. “They were tops then, nothing has come along to replace them since and their places are open if they wish to play for Tip Tops,” Sam was quoted in the Toronto Star newspaper as saying.

Sam signed shortstop Ed Geraldi and outfielder Art Upper, both fresh from stints in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Lenny Gaull (pictured below in September 1949 in the Toronto Star newspaper), my first cousin, twice removed, was signed as the catcher following his time in the Canadian Army.

In 1949, the Toronto Tip Top Tailors team won the right to represent Canada at the Amateur Softball Association Championship, at the time considered the world championship of men’s fastpitch. They had defeated a team sponsored by Peoples Credit Jewelers two games to none in a best two-out-of-three match in the annual Canadian National Exhibition tournament. They were off to Little Rock, Arkansas, the scene of the world championship tournament for 1949.

It was a culture shock for the team in Little Rock from the time they arrived. According to Bill ‘Babe’ Gresko, a Toronto resident and team member quoted in a 2009 Toronto Sun newspaper story, at the airport, there was sign to the left that said ‘Whites’ and a sign to the right that said ‘Blacks.’ The team decided to stay together and walk right down the middle. At the hotel, the three black members of the team were told to leave immediately. In response, the whole team left and stayed in the black section of town along with three or four other teams who had faced the same problem.

The Toronto Tip Top Tailors went through the world championship tournament undefeated, setting up an exciting climatic championship game against a team from Clearwater, Florida for the world title. 

On September 23rd, 1949, the Toronto team faced legendary softball Hall of Fame pitcher Herb Dudley, known for his strikeout ability. With Toronto down by a run in the final inning, Lenny Gaull, who had earlier in the game broken Dudley’s bid for a no-hitter, again reached base and scored the tying run on a hit by his battery mate, pitcher Charlie Justice who was one of the three black players not welcomed at the hotel. The game went into the 18th inning before Lenny Gaull again reached base and scored on a two run single delivered by Art Upper. The final score: Toronto 3, Clearwater 1.

The team was celebrated on their return to Toronto with a civic reception and in 2009, they got their due by being inducted into the Canadian Softball Hall of Fame. Sadly, when the team was inducted only three of its members were still alive.

The list of surviving team members became shorter on February 2nd of this year when my cousin, Lenny Gaull (formally George Leonard Gaull) passed away at the age of 93. 

My thanks to Lenny’s daughter, Margaret who informed me of her father’s death. May he rest in peace!

But I Thought They Were Wealthy Land Owners! – The 1915 Scottish Valuation Rolls

Around the same time as the excitement of the 1940 U.S. Census release was the much quieter release of the 1915 Valuation Rolls for Scotland (available on a fee basis through the ScotlandsPeople website). As described by the ScotlandsPeople website, “The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs (eventually 90 burghs produced valuation rolls). The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value.”

Unlike a census record, the Valuation Rolls do not list all occupants of a property but just typically the head of the household. However, like a census record, the valuation rolls are terrific for seeing where your Scottish ancestors were living and under what circumstances.
I looked at two of my ancestors (with many more to find) and was actually surprised by some of the results.

First, my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden can be found on Page 591 of the city of Aberdeen valuation rolls. He is listed as being a tenant at 42 1/2 Charles Street which is described as being a house. His occupation is listed as ‘seaman’ (he was in fact a steam engineer on numerous ships in the merchant marine) and was paying an annual rent of 7 pounds for what was likely a flat or apartment. I noticed in particular that the rent being paid was slightly higher than that paid by the other tenants perhaps indicating that the Hadden apartment was a bit larger than average. Or perhaps there is another explanation? Below is a photo of what Charles Street looks like today (captured from a screen shot on Google Maps – street view). Although the location of No. 42 1/2 is the newer looking building in the photo, I suspect there was an older building, more closely resembling the building further down the lane, that was the home of the Hadden family in 1915.

Next, I looked at the 1915 Valuation Rolls listing for John Gaull, my great great grandfather, an Aberdeenshire dairy farmer. More than 30 years ago, I interviewed a great uncle who had spent considerable time on the Gaull farm, visiting his grandparents and apparently being mischievous from time to time. I have photos of John Gaull and his family from the 1920’s taken at the farm so I thought I knew a lot about John and his farm. What I didn’t know was that he didn’t own the farm, he rented it! I confess I hadn’t even considered that possibility.

The listing for John Gaull in 1915 can be found on line 72 for the parish of Kemnay in the valuation rolls. The property was owned by John Alexander Burnett of Kemnay and John rented the croft and house at Glenhead for 27 pounds, 16 shillings, and 9 pence annually. The size of the farm is not listed however based on a comparison of the rents paid by John and his neighbours, the Gaull farm was one of the more substantial, but far from the largest, pieces of property occupied in the area. John’s occupation is not given in the listing which for the parish of Kemnay is typed and not in what I should think was it’s handwritten original form.

Just like a census record the valuation rolls provide a glimpse of the state on ancestral residence almost 100 years ago, including a look at who your Scottish ancestors neighbours and friends (or enemies?) might have been. Well worth the look if you have Scottish ancestors living in Scotland in 1915.

More Family Obituaries

As I continue to probe the details of old editions of the Toronto Star newspaper, I have been focusing on finding family obituaries. Two obituaries I found are of particular interest to me.

The first is for ‘Gerald’ Foley, my mother’s favourite uncle and my namesake. I have posted previously about how difficult it was to find Uncle Gerald’s birth record. He was born February 17, 1895 so there should have been no reason to have a difficulty finding his public birth vital record. Eventually, the birth registration record was found as was his baptismal record. In the civil registration, he was named as Louis Fitzgerald Foley, Fitzgerald being his mother’s maiden name. He was baptized at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario on March 3, 1895 and his name is listed as Louis Fitzgerald Foley, son of John Foley and Mary Jane Fitzgerald. Throughout his life however he went by the name Gerald.

When Uncle Gerald passed away, his was the first funeral I attended. I remember the trip to the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home, the ‘family’ funeral home as my mother explained to me at the time and I remember the ‘wake’ after the burial at Mount Hope Cemetery. Although I remembered these events, I could only put an approximate date as to when they occurred, that is until I found Uncle Gerald’s obituary which appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on February 7, 1968.

The obituary maintained the name confusion as it lists his name as “Foley, Gerald Lewis.” My transcription of the obituary is as follows:

“At the Toronto East General Hospital, on Tuesday, February 6, 1968. Gerald Foley, dearly loved husband of Catherine Helen Simons, dear father of Mrs. Al Sherman (Veronica), Mrs. A. Asselin (Mary), John, James, and Sister Catherine Foley of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Kingston. Friends may call at the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home, 467 Sherbourne St. (near Wellesley), until 8:30 a.m. Friday. Funeral mass at St. Brigid’s Church at 9:00 a.m. Internment at Mount Hope Cemetery. Parking adjacent to the funeral home.”

The second obituary of note that I found was for Mary Elizabeth Gaull, the wife of George Irvine Gaull (named after his father’s twin brother), a brother of my great grandmother, Jessie McKenzie Hadden (nee Gaull). My family’s oral tradition holds that Jessie (with her family) came to Toronto, Ontario from their home in Saskatchewan around 1926 or 1927 to visit her brother George and that Jessie liked Toronto much more than the farm life of Saskatchewan so they decided to stay.

George Gaull had left Scotland for Toronto, Ontario in 1910 and the 1911 Canada Census shows George, listed as a “Lodger,” in the home of the Coulson family. On July 1, 1913, George married the youngest daughter of the Coulson’s, Mary Elizabeth. Although the 1911 census record indicates their Mary was seven years older than George, their marriage record states that Mary was only two years older. Mary’s birth record has not yet been found. Many records confirm the family’s oral tradition that George operated a small neighbourhood grocery store at 87 Pickering Street in the east end of Toronto, Ontario.

Mary’s obituary appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on July 20, 1961 and read as follows:

GAULL, MARY ELIZABETH – At St. Michael’s hospital, Toronto, on Wednesday, July 19, 1961, Mary Elizabeth Coulson, late of 98 Lyall Ave., Toronto and dear mother of Leonard Gaull. Resting at the Sherrin funeral home, 873 Kingston Rd. (at Birch Ave.), Toronto. Service in the chapel on Saturday at 11 a.m. Internment St. John’s cemetery, Norway.”

Based on these ‘new to me’ obituaries, some cemetery visits need to be planned as especially as I was struck by the fact that George’s relationship to Mary is not mentioned. As a young boy, I walked past the Gaull store many, many times but don’t recall ever meeting either George or Mary and I have no idea as to what happened to George, but intend to find out.

Gaull Family Information From A New Cousin Connection

My great great grandfather John Gaull had eleven children. He was one of seven children born to Mary Jane Gaull. With that level of proliferation, I shouldn’t be surprised that I would have many Gaull family cousins and relations. I’ve had the great fortune to not only make a connection with a number of my Gaull cousins but also to spend some time with a couple of them. Still, I am thrilled that I have made another connection within the family.
I was recently contacted by Robert Stables, a second cousin twice removed. Robert is the great grandson of Mary Jane. I was also subsequently contacted by Sandra Stables, Robert’s sister-in-law, wife of Robert’s brother Alan. In addition to the excitement of the new connections, Sandra, who has been doing some family history research, provided me with photos!

Never before had I seen the grave and headstone of Mary Jane, who died in 1925 and is buried in the Cluny Cemetery, Cluny, Aberdeenshire, Scotland along with her son James who died in 1919.

The generational difference between Robert, Alan and I is easily explained. While we share Mary Jane Gaull as our common ancestor, I am descended from Mary Jane’s eldest son John Gaull (born 1860) and Robert and Alan are descended from Mary Jane’s youngest son John Glennie (born 1873). The age difference is expanded again as I am descended from John Gaull’s eldest daughter, Jessie McKenzie Gaull, while Robert and Alan descend from John Glennie’s second youngest daughter, Elsie Ann Glennie who was born just a couple of years earlier than my father.

In addition to the headstone photos that Sandra sent to me, I received the wonderful photo of Tillyfro (below), the farm in Cluny that was the home of Mary Jane Gaull and her husband Alexander Glennie. There really something about seeing an ancestral home and being able to imagine your ancestors walking the property and working the fields. I have read the name ‘Tillyfro’ on many family records over the past 30 years but seeing it is such a bonus!

(Photos provided by Sandra Stables, copyright 2011. Used with permission)