THE BIGGEST BROTHER ACT IN PICTURES
With a deadpan nonchalance Lou and Nat Turofsky have turned their cameras on politicians like Winston Churchill, pitchers like Carl Hubbell, highsociety weddings and winners at the Woodbine
WHEN the Duchess of Windsor, acclaimed as one of the world’s best-dressed women for ten successive years, went fishing with her husband to a remote lodge on the Restigouche River in Quebec in 1944, she sat wearing flat flapping brogues, a plain skirt and a sweater and talked for an hour with Nat Turofsky.
When the Chicago “Black Sox” were blowing the World Series of 1919 to Cincinnati, Hap Felsch and Swede Risberg, two of the players later banned from baseball for life for their part in that crooked series, sat on the Chicago bench in their sock feet and swapped baseball stories with Lou Turofsky.
When George McCullagh became in 1939 the only Canadian race-horse owner ever to accept personally from King George VI the reigning monarch’s traditional fifty guineas that go annually to the owner of the King’s Plate winner, the picture of the ceremony was made by Nat Turofsky and no other of the fifty-odd cameramen who flocked to Toronto’s Woodbine race track on the historic occasion.
Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt sat on a parapet and discussed the future of the world at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec while Lou Turofsky snapped his shutter. When Carl Hubbell, one of baseball’s immortal pitchers, was an obscure left-hander with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1926 Lou took his picture because he felt sorry for the overlooked, solemn pitcher on the eve of the Little World Series. A year later, when a bombastic little fellow named Conn Smythe purchased the Toronto St. Pats hockey team, Nat Turofsky told him to take off his hat while he recorded the event on film.
For forty-three years the Turofsky brothers, Lou, sixty-one, and Nat, fifty-seven, have operated a unique photography business in Toronto called the Alexandra Studios where today are filed more than one million negatives of events great and small. The Turofskys have taken Continued on page 39
The Biggest Brother Act in Pictures
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so many pictures over the years that they aren’t sure themselves what negatives they’ve got. Not long ago a book publisher called on them for pictures of each Canadian governor-general since 1910 to illustrate a textbook.
“What are their names?” demanded Lou Turofsky, munching a dead cigar.
“Well, don’t you know?” enquired the publisher. “Haven’t you a file?” “A file on governor-generals!” exclaimed Lou, his eyebrows shooting up. “Hell, I dunno. Hey, Nat, have we got a file on governor-generals?”
“Of Ontario?” called the younger brother from the darkroom.
“Of Ontario?” enquired Lou of the publisher.
“No,” said the publisher patiently. “Governors-general of Canada.”
“No,” Lou shouted back to the darkroom. “Governor-generals of Canada.” “I dunno,” replied Nat. “Ask Thurz.”
This is how almost all business discussions conclude at the Alexandra Studios—with the words, “ask Thurz.” Thurz is Thurza Hesk, placid, unruffled, thirty-nine-year-old woman who brings
Men who raise hats When ladies are there Have elegant manners — And also hair.
order to the chaos in which the brothers usually find themselves. While they explain her vaguely to strangers as “the girl at the studio,” Thurza is sort of combination general manager, secretary, auditor, clerk, accountant, mother-confessor and ballast for her gentle, often childlike, employers.
Thus, when Thurza was asked about the governors-general, she calmly acquired a list of them at the public library. She checked the long rows of filing cabinets upstairs at the Alexandra Studios for the names of the governorsgeneral, then she went into the basement where large cardboard boxes contain thousands of negatives which the Turofskys have not yet got around to filing alphabetically. She found, wrapped in an old yellowed newspaper, a stack of films marked “Earl Grey” and in another cardboard box she came across “Lord Tweedsmuir,” elastic bands binding him and the back of a cigarette box identifying him. In a few days she had supplied the publisher with pictures of every governorgeneral.
It has been suggested that if Thurza, who has been with the brothers for twelve years, ever were to leave them, utter confusion would take over. “I don’t think so,” she replies calmly. “I know pretty well how they think and so I file accordingly. I know, fbr instance, that they wouldn’t look for something under ‘children.’ So I file it under ‘kids.’
The Turofskys rarely, if ever, solicit business yet few photographic companies in Canada have as many steady clients. Nat, for example, takes all hockey publicity pictures for Maple Leaf Gardens, and does the same thing for the baseball Maple Leafs. All these pictures are delivered free to Toronto’s three newspapers; the Turofsky bill
goes to the Maple Leaf hockey ; baseball managements. In additi» pictures are supplied to any newspap» outside of Toronto that is willing to run them and thereby promote interest in the hockey and baseball teams, or to any firm which wishes to display them. The two Maple Leaf teams, which have separate ownerships, pay Nat’s expenses in Florida for springtraining baseball and in St. Catharines for hockey and they pay him for «very negative he prints, whether the newspapers use it or not. Maple Leaf Gardens spends about ten thousand dollars a year in such promotion and Maple Leaf Stadium less than half of that.
Lou Turofsky, on the other hand, takes promotion pictures for the Ontario Jockey Club. These pictures are also supplied free to Toronto newspapers and the tab is picked up by the Ontario Jockey Club—an estimated six thousand dollai's a year.
While sport makes up the greater part of the Turofsky business it is by no means the only source of income and, indeed, is not even the largest single money earner. That distinction goes to the Canadian National Exhibition which in its annual two weeks runs up a bill of ten thousand dollars in buying prints of everything from the marathon swim winner to the boy with the most freckles.
The Turofskys do weddings, too, Lou being the specialist here, although he points out that he won’t take “just any wedding.” “It’s got to be a good big wedding,” he says, “like the time 1 took R. S. McLaughlin’s daughter for two thousand dollars, or some of the other big men we know’s daughter.”
During the war the brothers went to every air-force and army-training school within one hundred miles of Toronto to take group pictures of graduating classes. They had thousands of these on file the day the story of the Dieppe raid broke in Canada and the Toronto Star ran five full pages of Turofsky pictures of one thousand soldiers, two hundred to a page. In many cases, these were the only pictures next-of-kin had of fallen relatives.
They took pictures in war plants, too, thousands of them at such companies as Massey-Harris, Ajax, John Inglis and General Electric. These served as identification for plant employees. They took pictures for the Department of National Defense of the tools and dies and machines that made the guns and shells and tanks and often they were requested to take pictures of war equipment which to this day is a mystery to them.
“We were working on the atomic bomb, who knows?” observes Lou thoughtfully, placing his thumbs into the armholes of his vest, munching his dead cigar and staring imposingly at the wall.
The Turofskys do close to $100,000 a year in business and each is worth something approaching that figure. They attribute a good deal of their success to the fact that they’ve been taking pictures for more than forty years and everybody knows them. During the war their orders were so large they could scarcely keep pace with them. They do a good deal of their work themselves, although they always keep a man in the darkroom to develop and print pictures and over the years they’ve hired one or two staff photographers.
For brothers, the Turofskys are uncommonly close. Each turns to the other with personal problems and at one time or another during a day they’ll sit down and talk to each other and discuss generalities. When Nat is away with the ball club in the spring
Both Nat and Lou look considerably younger than they are. Both have short-clipped, tight curly hair, Nat’s quite grey and Lou’s almost black. Both are of medium height, Nat slightly the more heavy-set, and both are trim neat dressers. Nat’s features are heavy and rather carelessly arranged. He has deep furrows in his forehead, rfierry twinkling eyes and a rather haphazard set of teeth, most of which are his own. A few years ago he lost six teeth in a collision with Ted Kennedy, Maple Leaf hockey player. He was trying out a new stroboscopic camera during a hockey practice and he wanted to see if it would stop movement at one three-thousandths of a second, as it was s ipposed to do. He asked Kennedy and another player, Syl Apps, to skate toward him at top speed as he took up a position near one of the goals. As Kennedy whirled around the net, a skate caught in the mesh and he tumbled at full speed into the photographer. Kennedy’s stick caught Turofsky on the chin, part of the camera flew clear to centre ice and Nat fell on top of another part, landing on his mouth. He was carried to the dressing room where Tim Daly, veteran trainer of the Leafs, patched his chin. Nat paid three hundred dollars for dental repairs.
Lou frequently reminds Nat, who lives in a bachelor apartment, of his good fortune in not having to raise a family in these days of high living costs. “Shoes, sixteen dollars for a little girl. Sixteen dollars,” Lou, married when he was forty-five, will lament. “Think of that for a while, Nat. Sixteen dollars for shoes for a little girl. It’s something you hadn’t thought about, isn’t it? One pair of shoes, sixteen dollars.”
“Ah, what are you crying about?” Nat will invariably reply. “In a hundred years from now, what’ll it
Lou married Ruth Seigel in 1936 and the little girl he speaks of is Carol, thirteen. His other daughter is Rita, seven, who is usually called Rickey. Lou met Ruth seventeen years ago after Nat had taken pictures of the golden wedding anniversary of Ruth’s parents. She went into the studio a few days later to see the proofs. Nat was out so Lou showed her the rough pictures. When Nat returned, Lou announced, “Miss Seigel was in to look at the proofs. I’m going to see her again. In fact, I’m going to take her out.”
In recalling the incident Nat observed: “That led up to the hollow-
Lou is the quieter, more reserved and more considerate brother. Possibly because he’s married, he shows more interest in the employees and is more inclined to worry about business. He refuses to reveal how many cigars he smokes in a day, on the grounds that his wife knows how much they cost, but he is rarely seen without one. He carries it at a jaunty angle that matches the high arch of his eyebrows and serves to give him a look of constant surprise.
Although he goes to the races every day Lou rarely bets on the horses, feeling that he knows so many owners and trainers who give him good tips
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he’ll call Lou for a chat about once a week and they correspond regularly. Lou, who is married and has two daughters, insists that bachelor Nat have at least one meal a month at his home.
Nat gets a great deal of enjoyment out of life though a somewhat needy childhood made him keenly aware of the value of a dollar. He has a warm sense of humor and a faculty for butchering the language. He detests an argument whether he is involved or not. Two of his friends, Sammy Gold and Sammy Shefsky, pique him
considerably because, as Nat says, “they’ll argue till they’re black and blue in the place.” One time two baseball writers were arguing at Fort Lauderdale, the Maple Leaf training base in Florida, and Nat became more and more agitated as the reporters —one of whom was Gordon Walker, of the Toronto Globe and Mail —grew louder and louder. Finally Nat walked over to Walker and grabbed him by the shoulder. “Walker, you’ll argue about anything,” he said. “You and Gold and Shefsky are a pair.”
Nat always turns for corroboration
to Thurza Hesk and she invariably humors him. One time he started in on an anecdote about a former Toronto pitcher.
“What a guy he was,” enthused Nat. “I remember one time . . . what was his name, Thurz?”
“Yeah, Tom Drake, I’ll never forget it . . .”
Once a friend asked Nat if he could meet him for a cup of coffee at ten o’clock. “Well, now, I’m not sure,” replied Nat, “I’ll have to go look up my retinue.”
on any given race that he can’t bet on any of them.
“How can they all win?” he asks., to the consternation of those who’d bet on a horse if they even heard the owner cough.
Lou seems to get his greatest satisfaction out of horses when he throws away old negatives. He’ll stand over a large wastebasket, running through a mound of negatives of winners for ten years back, discarding the ones that have been retired or destroyed or are no longer running. He holds them up to a light, identifying them from memory in most cases, and then drops them or keeps them, muttering all the while: “Imagine if a guy had bet two dollars on every one of these . . . Imagine if a guy parlayed his bet on all these horses . . . What’d a guy be worth, Nat, who bet on all of these?” If Thurza happens to walk past on her way to the filing cabinet, Lou will call to her, “Hey, Thurz, imagine if a guy had been on every one of these. How much dough would he be worth?” Lou rarely gets an answer. In his ruminations he never expects one.
Lou lives in Forest Hill Village, a handsome Toronto suburb, in a large house which has, for one thing, a crystal chandelier in the dining room. He is a sensitive, sentimental man and when Nat is away on sports trips he misses him greatly. He has concluded every letter he ever wrote his younger brother by asking him not to worry, that everything is fine and to have a good time. His mood around the studio fluctuates with the daily cash income. Even if the studio has covered a large assignment for which money will be forthcoming the first of the month, Lou will be glum if no cheques or cash arrived that day. On the other hand, while current business may be excessively slack, Lou’s spirits will be high
if a few cheques have come in.
On quiet days he’ll suggest to Thurza that they go over their books and draw up statements of outstanding accounts.
“Give me a list of ’em and I’ll send out statements,” Lou will say.
Thurza will hand him the list.
“Instead of statements, maybe I’ll just phone these guys, eh, Thurz?” he’ll say then.
After a few moments of looking at the list, he’ll turn again to Thurza.
“It wouldn’t look right if I phoned these people,” he’ll say. “Thurz, you phone ’em.”
Thurza, the diplomat, picks up the phone, advises that Mr. Lou Turofsky and Mr. Nat Turofsky are out of town and that she’s just checking the matter of a small outstanding debt.
Nat remarked one time that the business was called the Alexandra Photo Company when Lou bought it in 1910 for one hundred and twentyfive dollars. “There was this picture of a queen wearing a crown right under the words, ‘Alexandra Photo Company’ . . . Hey, Thurz, who would that queen be?”
“Queen Alexandra, naturally.”
Nat gave her a beady stare. “Who asked you?” he demanded.
Before Lou bought the place he had been interested in photography as a boy in Chicago where he and Nat were born.
“This kid had one of them pinhole cameras, just a box with a pinhole in it, no lens or nothin’, with a plate in the back,” Lou recalls. “1 wanted one so I got one, cost a dollar thirty-five.
“My father was a tailor in Chicago where he’d come from Kiev, Russia, I don’t know when, and then he moved us to Cleveland and then we came here. I don’t know when, around 1900 I guess. When he come here he sold them Swiss cheeses. He was sort of
tennis racquet and a cowboy hat to go along with the Indian suit and the cowboy suits and people would get their pictures taken.”
They moved to 322 Queen Street West seven years later. Sometime during World War I the brothers bought a bicycle and started traveling around the city to take pictures for the old Mail and Empire. They were pretty good athletes, too, Lou playing rugby for Judeans and Nat leading the city senior baseball league in batting in 1916. Yellowed clippings establish a point Nat would have trouble selling to his friends today: he hit .407. A year later he was expelled from the league when it was discovered he’d been taking seven dollars a game from the team’s sponsor.
No longer a player, Nat began taking group pictures of baseball and hockey teams in 1918 and Lou started going to weddings to make pictures. They sold these to the papers and in this way began the practice that grew into today’s business.
In 1919 the brothers drove to Chicago to cover the World Series. Roads were bad and the horseless carriage was still something of an innovation. The trip, about five hundred miles, took six days. They mailed their pictures back to Toronto and some of them got into the paper even before the series ended ! Each day they chatted with the players and Lou still can’t be convinced that Swede Risberg and Hap Felsch could have been implicated in the fix. “They were great guys,” he remembers. “They’d do anything for us. I guess it just proves that you never know, eh, Nat?”
“You’re not telling me, you’re telling him,” observed Nat.
“I’m not telling anybody,” remarked Lou. “Where was I?”
One of the longest stories in Nat’s repertoire involves the time he photographed the Duke and Duchess of Windsor for the Toronto Star. The paper had a tip the couple was fishing on the Restigouche River and sent Nat to investigate. To summarize the story, Nat found them after hardship that increases with each telling.
“There was this woman, the bestdressed woman in the world, sitting there in her flapping brogues and skirt and sweater, talking to me for an hour,” he recalls. “She was so refined, so . . . elegant. We were waiting for the Duke to change his clothes and we just sat there chatting. She is the most charming woman I ever met and she sent me a letter from the WaldorfAstoria thanking me for the pictures.” He got a bonus of one hundred dollars from the Star for the pictures.
His other greatest moment came when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth presented the King’s fifty guineas to George McCullagh. The presentation was made high on the judge’s stand and photographers were not permitted. Nat asked the president of the Jockey Club if he could get up there and was brusquely refused. Just before the race a mounted policeman approached the photographers’ enclosure and asked for Nat Turofsky.
“I thought I was going to be thrown out of the Woodbine,” he recalls. “Instead, the Mountie took me up on the stand and squeezed me in behind a post where I was able to get pictures of the whole thing.”
“We never got an extra dime,” interjected Lou, shifting his cigar.
“Yeah, they used them all over the world,” explained Nat, “but when the King and Queen were here all the pictures were pooled.”
“Not an extra dime,” repeated Lou.
“Ah, what’s the difference?” enquired Nat. “In a hundred years from now, where’ll you be?” +
a, whattayuh call it, a general grocer. Yah, a delicatessen, he had a delicatessen I guess you’d call it. Anyway, 1 remember 1 was a little kid in short pants cleanin’off them Swiss cheeses.” Then Lou worked from eight a.m. until midnight every Saturday at Toronto’s Centre Island amusement park taking pictures of people in a mock airplane. Then he graduated to Eaton’s where he finished postcards in a darkroom. Nat, meanwhile, recalls playing hookey from school to play cent-a-game rummy with some older boys.
In those days a fee of one dollar was required of students wishing to try their entrance exams. “My mom didn’t have a buck so I never tried my entrance,” Nat recalls. There were six children in the family, Harry, Eva, Lou, Bess, Nat and Sammy, and they did well to get enough to eat in their early days in Toronto.
One day Lou heard of a job at the Alexandra Photo Company. By 1910 he was able to scrape up enough from his family to put with what he’d saved to buy the place for one hundred and twenty-five dollars.
“We all realized it was a lot of dough,” he remembers, “and I guess a lot of us did without so we could get this business started. Two cowboy suits and one Indian suit came with the business and we used to dress people up in them and take their pictures. A year later Nat came out of school and I gave him a job at five bucks a week.”
“You made me a partner,” interjected Nat.
“Yeah, a partner,” corrected Lou. “At five bucks a week. We got a telephone, an umbrella, a top hat, a