Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Life in Photos: Dancer and Stage Performer Kitty May (1913-2014)

Contents


1 Kitty
2 At Work on Stage (mostly sorted by photographer's work)
  • 2.1 E. Brucken Photographie
  • 2.2 Tesson Rouen Photographie
  • 2.3 A. Todd Photography
  • 2.4 Backstage
  • 2.5 With her Troupe
3 Later Years
4 Family 
  • 4.1 Mother
  • 4.2 Twin Sister
  • 4.3 Other Siblings
  • 4.4 Friends
  • 4.5 Husbands
5 Items
6 Places She's Been To

I put together this article in honour of my grandmother who passed away just a little over a year ago. She adopted and raised my mother and was an important part of my life as I grew up. She was very nice, generous, and helped me in many ways in my life. I put together this article as a way to remember my grandmother and to share her life's story.

1.1 Kitty



Photo by Mme. Yvonne, A.R.P.S., 98, Charming Cross Road, W.C.2. Tem. Bar 4874.

The following is from Faces of the Sault a section published in the newspaper, Sault This Week. It was titled, "Kitty McCandless, She toured Europe and taught Sault children to dance."

"There was a time when Kitty McCandless was Kitty May, the dancer. A time when she performed at London's largest venues, including the Palladium and the Phoenix. During the thirties and the Second World War, before television filled our days, audiences were hungry for live entertainment, and Kitty's troupe toured Europe, providing a variety of shows: musical comedy, variety, cabaret, pantomime. They did it all. 

It all began in dance class. Kitty came from a theatrical family and dancing came naturally to Kitty and her sisters. Marie became a ballroom dancer, but May, Hilda, and Kitty tried everything. Sister Trude was a singer, Ethel was a gymnast, and brother Jack played the drums. 

Kitty turned professional at 12 years of age in association with Terry's Juveniles, performing in the theatres of London, including the Palladium. "She got agents to book us to all kinds of places. We were all 12 years old."

"We had a tutor in between shows. Say we had a show in the afternoon, then in the evening we would have a tutor and we would learn everything then. I had to be out of the theatre by 10 p.m. because I was so young. If you weren't, then, what we called the school board man, would come around and find out and there would be big trouble. So I had to have somebody pick me up, like my mother or my older sister to take me home."

"When I got older, I left and we had a newspaper called The Stage. We'd look in 'For the Performer' and there'd be auditions and I'd go up for these auditions. I'd have to walk across the stage, turn around, then I'd have to perform. There'd be a pianist there. He'd play whatever number you wanted and you would go into role. And if they liked you, you went to one side. There would be hundreds and hundreds of girls that would go out for auditions and I was very lucky. I got picked for every audition I went to. The shows would run about six months if they were good, about a month if it were no good." Kitty recalled performing at a seaside resort in Blackpool with her sister, for six months.

"That's all I did, all my professional life. I was in musical comedy, variety, cabaret, vaudeville, and pantomime. I especially loved musical comedy. The theatres were packed. I remember my mother went to see the shows, when she was alive. She used to sit in the front because she had three daughters performing in the same show."

"We all had a wonderful time, but it was a very hard life, being in the theatre. I don't care what anybody says. You're touring the world, going from one city to another, and you're packing and unpacking your bags. It was really hard. At the Phoenix Theatre we performed non-stop, five shows a day. That was hard. We were always performing, and we had to change our routines every two weeks."

Then one day the beautiful Kitty May settled in Paris, with a regular gig at the world famous Casino de Paris. She loved Paris, spoke French, made friends. She would have settled down for good, but war broke out and she returned home to London.

"I lived in France for three-and-a-half years. I danced there at one of the bigger theatres they had, called Casino de Paris. It was a wonderful theatre. I really enjoyed it there. I loved it. I had a boyfriend there and I really would have loved to live there altogether and got married there, but war broke out. I came back to England."

Even during the war, Kitty's troupe toured, being charged with the obligation to lift morale among the war-weary British. Even when the sirens wailed, Kitty and her colleagues were expected to carry on, in the face of imminent danger. "We never unpacked, because every city we went to, a siren would wail. But they said to keep going and entertain, to keep morale up, whether the bombs were falling or not. They used to drop incendiary bombs that would start fires, which we would try to put out."

"We entertained the troops during the war. We went over to France, to Belgium. It got really sad, seeing all the airmen going up. We went to all the different tents to entertain. We were eight girls. There were other companies as well, besides us. When we came back across the water, we saw the ships that had been blown up."

After the war, Kitty emigrated with Harold Myers, moved to Sault Ste. Marie, and got married. About 12 years later, after Harold had died of cancer, Kitty married Joe McCandless, and raised four children: Julie, Bill, Debbie, and Joe Jr.

Over the years, Kitty taught dancing to Sault children and put on various recitals, at the Moose Lodge, at the Legion, and at Memorial Gardens which were a big hit. Kitty also held exercise classes for 15 years as a volunteer at the seniors Drop-In Centre on Bay Street.

Today, the pace of Kitty's life has slowed somewhat, but she still leads an active life. She currently lives in an apartment with her sister Ethel and is often seen about town with her daughter Julie."


 Photo by Mme. Yvonne, A.R.P.S., 98, Charming Cross Road, W.C.2. Tem. Bar 4874.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

Photos by an unknown photographer.

Photo by an unknown photographer.

2 At Work on Stage


This section is mostly sorted by photographer. By the looks of it, these photographers tended to be specific to particular theatres and locations meaning that many of the photos taken by the same photographer could be from the same show or at least from the same venue.

2.1 E. Brucken Photographie


The address for the photography studio is in Paris, France, which likely indicates that these photos were taken at least in France, if not Paris. Perhaps they were taken at Casino de Paris, as Kitty performed there for three-and-a-half years.

Kitty, second from the left in the back row. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, third from the left in the front row. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, first row, furthest to the right and completely in view. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, second from the right. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, being lifted furthest to the right. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, second row from the front, second from the right and completely in view. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, front row, second from the right. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, front row, third from the right. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

Kitty, front row, second from the right. Photo by Studio E. Brucken, 17 Faubourg Saint-Martin, Paris, France.

2.2 Tesson Rouen Photographie


Although I haven't positively identified where these were taken, Rouen is a city on the north coast of France which is a place that Kitty likely could have performed. 

Kitty, third from the left. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

Kitty, fourth from the left. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

Kitty, first row sitting, second from the right. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

Kitty, first on the left. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

Kitty, second from the left. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

Kitty, second from the left. Photo by Tesson Rouen. 

2.3 A. Todd Photography


The location of the photographer is in the neighbourhood of Harringay which is located in London. So it is likely that these were also taken in London, perhaps at the London Palladium or the Phoenix. 

Kitty, second from the left. Written on reverse, "185/231 The same scene, wich the principal day." Photo by A. Todd, 3, Burgoyne Road, Harringay, N. 4.

Kitty, third from the left. Written on reverse, "173/231 "'Cinderella Ballroom Scene. Scot is dancing with me." Photo by A. Todd, 3, Burgoyne Road, Harringay, N. 4.


Kitty, furthest to the right. Written on reverse, "185/231 Scot and I again." Photo by A. Todd, 3, Burgoyne Road, Harringay, N. 4.

Kitty, furthest to the left. Her friend Scottie might be in the middle. Written on reverse, "20/64" Photo by A. Todd, 3, Burgoyne Road, Harringay, N. 4.

Kitty, second from the left. Her friend Scottie might be furthest to the right. Written on reverse, "193/231 Pat and I missed the cue mom, in the photograph." Photo by A. Todd, 3, Burgoyne Road, Harringay, N. 4.

2.4 Backstage


Kitty, furthest to the left. Written on reverse, "288D This was taken in the changing room. Look at the spots on my face. Though must have been the camera, I'll..." Photo by L. Graver-Johnson, 33 St. Helens RD. Hastings.

Kitty, furthest to the left. Photo by Dudley B. Gordon. 226, Stockwell Road. Brixton, London. S,W,9.

Kitty, third from the left. Photo by an unknown photographer..

2.5 With Her Troupe


Kitty, first row, fourth from the left. Her friend Scottie might be fifth from the right. Written on reverse, "Miss May". Photo by Paramount Press Pictures. 224 Chapman Road. S.W.9. 

Kitty, first on the left. Her friend Scottie might be third from the right. Photo by Paramount Press Pictures. 224 Chapman Road. S.W.9. 

Kitty, middle in the first row Kneeling. Written on reverse, "'Stairway to Stardom" Co. This is all the Company. Cyril Levis in ... top with his baby. His wife is the one with him .... ... ... face, she was just joining ... ... glasses of when she photographs snap". Photo by Pool Snaps, Bathing Pool, St. Leonards-on-Sea.

Kitty, furthest to the left on the lowest stairs. Written on reverse, "This was also taken at the bathing pool. Cyril Levis is at the top in white pants; he's our boss and ..... Can you see me climbing? Scot ..... she felt a little faint going so high up." Photo by L. Graver-Johnson, 33 St. Helens RD. Hastings.

Kitty, furthest to the left in the row that's standing. Photo by J. Smailes & Son, Press Photographers, Rhyl.

Kitty, third from the left. Photo by J. Smailes & Son, Press Photographers, Rhyl.

Kitty, likely the girl third from the right. Cyril Levis is likely the man in the middle, the leader of the troupe. Photo by an unknown photographer.

Kitty's 1948 Variety Artistes' Federation "VAF" booklet. The VAF, which incorporated in 1967 as "Equity", is the UK's trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners. Photos taken by me.

 3 Later years


This section covers her life after she moved to Canada from England in 1948 to marry Harold all the way up to when she passed away. She worked as a performer until she moved to Canada. While living in Canada, she only ever lived in one city, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. During her time in Canada, she taught children how to dance, put on recitals, and held exercise classes at the seniors Drop-In Centre. 

Kitty, right, and her twin sister, Ethel, left. After Kitty left England to get married to Harold, Ethel followed Kitty a few years later and lived with her.

Ethel, left, and Kitty, right, at Windsor Castle while visiting England in 1976.

Kitty, left, and Ethel, right, both wearing bonnets, return to London, England for a visit where they meet up with their sister Marie. This was likely taken in the 1980's.

Kitty, far left, as a volunteer fitness instructor at the seniors Drop-In Centre.

Kitty, left and her twin sister, Ethel, right. This was taken behind her townhouse likely during the 1990's.

Kitty, right, and Ethel, left, were both very active all the way up until their final days. They would commonly walk from their townhouse to the mall located downtown and back.

Kitty outside of her townhouse in the snow.

Kitty, right, and her twin sister, Ethel, left, inside of their townhouse.

Kitty loved drinking tea. All throughout my childhood, whenever I'd go to her home or go to a restaurant with her, she'd have tea. This particular place we frequented a lot and I have many memories of her drinking tea here. This was taken 3rd of December 2008 by me.

Kitty going to see her twin sister, Ethel who was in a care home. Photo taken by me on the 26th of January 2009.

Kitty sitting at the kitchen table in her apartment a few days after her twin sister, Ethel, passed away. I took this photo on the 1st of May 2010 in Kitty's last apartment.

Taken at the same time as the photo above. Kitty's sofa is to the left. She is sitting at her kitchen table.


4 Family


4.1 Mother

Rose Jacobs, Kitty's mother. Photos by "Regal Portrait Co.," 8 Aldgate High Street, E.C.3. 

4.2 Twin Sister

Kitty's twin was very close to her. For nearly all the time that I've known my grandmother they lived together. It was only when Ethel's health deteriorated and she needed to be put into a care centre that they weren't together. Despite this, Kitty would go with my mother to see her twin sister nearly every single day until she passed away.

Kitty on left, her sister, Ethel Jacobs, on the right. This photo was perhaps taken when Ethel and Kitty went to California to visit their sisters Hilda and Trude. Photo by an unknown photographer. 

Both photos are of Kitty's twin sister, Ethel Jacobs. On the left photo, written on reverse, "Ethel My Beautiful Sister". On the right photo, written on reverse, "Ethel I've loved you so much". Photos by an unknown photographer. 

Kitty's sister, Ethel Jacobs. Photo by an unknown photographer.

4.3 Other Siblings


I'm not as familiar with the rest of Kitty's siblings as I've never met any other than her twin who she lived with. The siblings became scattered, Hilda and Trude lived in California, Kitty and Ethel in Canada, and May, Marie, and Jack stayed in England. 

Hilda

Both photos are of Hilda, one of Kitty's sisters. Written on the reverse of the left photo, "Lots of love, Hilda. Hollywood, California. 1946". Written on the reverse of the right photo, "Hollywood Beach, California, 1945. Wind was blowing so hard, and sun in my eyes....."

Hilda, one of Kitty's sisters. Written on reverse, "Hollywood-Xmas-1950. To Ethel, with fond love from your sister Hilda".

Kitty's sister Hilda to the left, and her husband, René, to the right. I believe this was taken on her birthday. Written on reverse, "Nice? April 2nd, 1989".

Jack

Kitty's brother Jack on the left and her sister Trude on the right.

Jack, Kitty's brother, is in the centre. The other two are likely husbands of the other sisters, with perhaps Hilda's husband on the left, and May's on the right. This photo was likely taken in California when Kitty and Ethel went to visit their sisters Hilda and Trude.

Jack, Kitty's only brother. Written on reverse, "To Kitty + Ethel with my love brother Jack x x x x x". 

Marie

Marie, on right, one of Kitty's sisters. Written on reverse, "Dear Kitty. This was taken out-side ....'s shop. She was trying out a new camera. All my love, Marie. x x x x 1950"

Marie on right, Kitty on left. Written on reverse, "To/ Kitty with all my love, Marie. x x x x x A remembrance. P.S. Try and come out soon with Joe. x x x x"

Marie, left, and Ethel, right, when Kitty and Ethel went to London England for a visit in the 1980's.

From left to right, Marie, Kitty, Ethel, and Roy, one of Marie's sons.

May

Likely May, right, and her husband, left.

On the cake it says "Happy Birthday May".

Trude

From left to right, Kitty, Kitty's sister Trude, and Kitty's twin sister Ethel.

Trude, one of Kitty's sisters. Written on reverse, "Trude".

Trude is standing with Hilda sitting across the table from her husband, René. This is likely Hilda's birthday. Written on reverse, "Cheesecake dessert. Candles came out peculiar! April 2nd, 1989."

Group Photos

 Best I can tell, from left to right, Jack, perhaps a son of Marie's, Hilda, Trude, Roy, Ethel, and Kitty. I'm not certain about the second row or the person in the foreground.

Best I can tell, from left to right starting with the front row, Ethel; Trude; Hilda; Hilda's husband, René; and potentially May. Second row, Kitty; perhaps a son of Marie's; Jack; likely Roy who is also a son of Marie; and perhaps May's husband.

4.4 Friends


Scottie

Scottie both performed with Kitty and was considered one of her best friends. 

Kitty on the right, likely her friend Scottie on the left. Photo by an unknown photographer.

The two photos above and the one below all contain Scottie. By the looks of it, she was still touring after Kitty had left in 1948. The man in the photos is Sam, who was Scottie's husband. Going clockwise starting with the photo in the upper left, going from left to right, Helen, Scottie, Sam, and Gladys, written on reverse, "Helen, Sammy, Gladys, and I. 1951". Scottie, "leading lady", and Sam, Scottie, written on reverse, "Sam and I with the leading lady. 1951". Gladys, Scottie, and Peggy, written on reverse, "Gladys, Peggy, and I. 1951".


Another from Scottie, likely after Kitty left for Canada. Written on reverse, "Love from: Scottie (The ...), Peggy (Belches), Bambi, Gladys (are you working), ... (Brown Boots), Patricia (Trouble)". Scottie is likely the furthest to the left, Gladys might be the third from the left. Photo by an unknown photographer.

Before Kitty left England, her friends gave her this ring. Inside of the ring it reads, "Love from the girls. 1. 6. 48." I imagine that the "1. 6. 48." means "1st of June 1948", and that 1948, which was also the year of her unfinished Variety Artistes' Federation booklet, was the year she stopped performing and left for Canada to marry Harold. Photo taken by me.

Isabel

Isabel was Kitty's best friend in North America. She was the biological mother of my uncle, Bill, who Kitty adopted after Isabel died during childbirth. I was named after Bill since he unfortunately died in his 30's before I was born. 

Written on reverse, "Isabel, she was a wonderful friend to me. She died in child birth. She had twins, Billy and I don't know the other twin's name, he didn't live too long." 

Both of the photos above likely include Isabel. They were likely both taken while on a day trip up to Lake Superior, north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In the photo on the right, Kitty is likely on the right with Isabel on the left.

4.5 Husbands


Kitty originally left England to get married to a Canadian named Harold Myers. After he died of cancer 12 years later, she married Joseph McCandless. 


Kitty's rings. From left to right, a ring from her girlfriends before she left England; the ring from her first husband, Harold; a ring from the neighbour who fancied her; her second husband's engagement ring; and finally, her second husband, Joseph's wedding ring. Photo taken by me.

Second husband, on left, Joseph McCandless.

Joseph McCandless again. He died just a few years after marriage due to heart disease.

5 Items


 Kitty's glasses, the last prescription she had before she passed away. Photo taken by me.

Cindy, Kitty's cat, who lived with her for as long as I can remember, up until a few years before her passing.

The camera Kitty bought in Hollywood, California when she went to visit her sisters Hilda and Trude, who had immigrated there. The camera is still capable of taking photos, although the shutter is sticky. I've been able to take a couple of nice long exposures at night with it. Here's one. Photo taken by me.

The door to Kitty's second last apartment. Photo taken by me.


Places She's Been To



In this section I largely share Google Street View screenshots of significant places that Kitty has been to. 

The neighbourhood Kitty grew up in. She might have been raised in the apartment block to the left. These apartments were originally constructed during the late Victorian days as one of the world's first modern social housing projects. Today, due to the closeness of the area to central London, it is a pricey area. Image via: Google Street View.

An old photo of Virginia Road School. Kitty attended this school when she was very young.

What Virginia Road School looks like today. Image via: Google Street View.

The London Palladium, one of the most famous venues that Kitty performed in. It is said to be the most famous theatre not only in London, but in all of the United Kingdom. Many famous people have performed here and the venue holds the record for the greatest number of Royal Variety Performances held in any theatre. Image via: Google Street View.

The Phoenix Theatre in London, England, another place where Kitty performed. Image via: Google Street View.

Casino de Paris, Paris, France. Kitty lived in Paris for three-and-a-half years and performed here steadily. Image via: Google Street View.

In having put this article together, I've learned so much more about my grandmother. I feel as though she lived a pretty interesting life and I mean for this article to be a way to remember her and share her life's story.

If anyone has any more information or concerns regarding the information in this article, you can contact me through my site. 

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