Lawrence Vaughan Adams

I shall begin with the house on McMillan Avenue in Winnipeg, number 606, in 1936.  The house still stands. It looks the same, but is in better repair.

The Spanish Bungalow at 190 Kitson Street in Norwood was too cramped, we needed more space. 606 had three floors and, although it left much to be desired, it did give us each our own space.

One afternoon in 1936, I walked into the living room. My Mother was sitting on the large brown chesterfield, crying. “What’s wrong Mum?”

“I am going to have another baby, David”

We were a family of five — Charlie, my father, Stella, my mother, Joy, the big sister, Joanne the little sister and myself. Another child did not really register with me, so I made no comment.

I did know this much — I had been born with rickets, which meant that I was sick for the first part of my life. I was missing the necessary vitamins to develop properly. Solid food entered my diet earlier than normal, in an effort to get the process going.

Joanne, my young sister, was born a blue baby. The pipes to her heart were going the wrong way. In 1930 when she was born, there were no operations that could correct the problem. Now there are. Joanne was a tough little thing, and somehow, her body adapted. She lives in Aldergrove, British Columbia, to this day.

Joy, who was 16 in 1936, was very busy with school.

Apparently some time during November, the new baby arrived home. I do not remember the arrival, nor the first months of his life in our home. He was named “Lawrence Vaughan Adams”, and thus “LVA” a term of endearment that lasted until his last days on this earth.

Towards the end, for some reason, which I and his wife could not fathom, he suddenly objected time of going to the movies alone around the corner on Corydon, for the princely sum of six cents.

Stella was not in great shape. Four children plus two miscarriages, angina, plus terrible problems with her legs. She came from “good stock”, people who survived.

Her background was Welsh and this strange name which I have not been able to trace–“Mozley”. There is no Z in the Welsh language, so I have tried for years to find the source. Stella was not very good at giving us a background of her family.

She was born in Chingford, which is now a part of London England, up in the North East corner.< Her parents, Walter Harrison Mozley and Maude Lewis were married in Walthamstow in 1897, he was 31, she was 24.

Maude Stella Mozley was born in 1898.

There was also a son Alan Mozley, who became a zoologist and became quite famous for his work on the tropical disease, Bilharzia.His work took him all over the world, as a scientist and a teacher. His Doctorate was taken in Scotland.

Trying to find out more about the family history was very difficult on the maternal side. I did manage to hear that we are related to the Picts, the tribes who eventually became the Scots.

Mother would talk about going sailing around the Isle of Wight, which told me that there was money in the family. To add to that argument, when the family moved to Canada, the two children received not only a good schooling, but University education as well, that took money in those days.

On the other side of this story, there was the Adams family. They lived in Norwood, London England. South West part of London. The father was Charles James Adams, the mother Annie Florence, formerly Finch. My grandfather was a photograph engraver.

Charlie, my father, was born in 1902. He had a sister Elsie and a brother Cyril.

Going back further — in 1830, the Hanneman family moved to England from Germany. Miss Hanneman met Mr. Adams junior and they were married, thus a German background to the total picture.

Along the way, Stella Mozley married Neil Andrew Ladd Mackay and in 1920, Joy my sister was born as a result of this union. Mackay was an army man.

What exactly happened to him, no one has ever revealed, but I do know that he died not long after Joy was born. Mackay and my mother were married in Calgary. It is all a bit of a big mix-up, and no one person would ever explain to me the details.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Stella became a Commissioner of Oaths, in Manitoba. I do know that she must have taken Law at University because she later worked as a legal secretary for one of the Railway companies, and much later in Winnipeg and on the West Coast she worked as a legal secretary.The Law was her speciality.

616 McMillan saw the world enter the second world war, or WW2 as we finally called it. Those beginnings were announced by the long sessions of “EXTRAS” from the local newspapers. The paper boys would come down the street, night or day, announcing the next phase of the war and carrying the special reprint of the newspaper in their bags.

Each Extra brought us the latest update on the war. We got a blow by blow description of the war by this means. There was the radio, but of course, not television. We saw the war on the movie screens, at the local movie house, called in those days “newsreels”. Each screening at the movie house contained the news on film.

There were a few friends who did volunteer, but then they began calling up men, the draft. This of course meant nothing to the young Lawrence, his body was just trying to deal with the problems from birth. He actually proved to be a very tough young man, physically. The murmur disappeared.

My days were spent trying to get an education, my weekends were spent trying to become a ballet dancer.

S.A. our Mother, seemed to be always looking for a change, so, in 1941, we moved once again.

Back to St. Boniface, in the district called Norwood. This time to a new subdivision.

197 Birchdale Avenue was still in process when we settled the purchase. The kids, Joanne, Lawrence and myself stayed with the grandparents, the Adams, while the house was being finished. This situation was an unmitigated disaster, for the Grandparents did not agree with the way we were being raised.

Fortunately, we only stayed there most nights, so that during the day we were at 197 helping with the finishing. The second floor which had two bedrooms, was to be where the younger Adams would sleep.

With some help from Lawrence, and myself, the walls were lathed then plastered by the builders. Finally, we moved in, and Lawrence and I shared that situation. I was playing the big brother, he was trying to learn about life. I was the beginnings of a relationship the would last until his death.

There were at 197, codes created that will stay in my memory bank until my death. Phrases were passed between us, that lasted a lifetime. Our codes. They shall remain with us.

The seasons were quite frightening during the first couple of years. There was the winter of 1941 which brought us the day I shall never forget. For some reason we all got up late, although my father had already driven to work. The frost on the windows was half an inch thick, so we did not look at the thermometer, I just knew that I had to dress very warmly that morning.

The long johns, breeks, shirts, sweaters, many pairs of socks, moccasins, then the fur coat, the hat, scarves, earmuffs, everything, and then some. When I stepped out the front door, the air cut my lungs. The big buffalo mitts were held in front of my face to protect me from the wind.

The walk to school was long and crossed many open areas. Finally, when I reached the school, there were no students in or around the school. I found the janitor and asked where everyone was. “Hey Kid, there is no school today, didn’t you hear? Go Home.”

I did what I was told, and went back into that wind and cold. With much difficulty I got home.

“Why are you home?” asked my Mother. I explained what had happened. We went to the window to look at the outside thermometer, it read minus 60 Fahrenheit. Cold, I had known, that cold I had never even heard about.

The fact remained that my Father had started his car and driven to work at that temperature. How? I have never been able to fathom. Anti freeze was not used in cars in those years. Fortunately, that weather did not last for long.

The summer following that horrendous winter, was equally strange. One day I took the thermometer on to the front steps, it reached 120. There were also very strange storms, where the sky was blood red at night, and the air was electric. Not so much rain, but a lot of electrical storms.

Lawrence finally was able to start school. He did not attend public school as I had done, but was sent to St. John’s College, a private school. It took him three years to grasp reading and writing. He had his own script that he tried to use, which no one could understand except himself. Finally he learned to read and write.

To fill the gaps in his education, he was sent to woodworking classes. There he learned the art of carpentry, thoroughly. He became in fact, a Master Carpenter. To fill in the gaps, he attended Ravenscourt Private School, an expensive and very snobby school. After grade 8, he quit school, and that was the extent of his education.

I lasted a year longer than Lawrence at school, I finished grade 9. In 1945 I went on tour with the Winnipeg Ballet, to Ottawa, then Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton, ballet was becoming central to my life.

Early in the summer of 1946, the whole family went by car, from Winnipeg to Seattle Washington, that in itself was quite an experience for all of us.

Lawrence had been taken to performances by the Winnipeg Ballet, but was not interested in that lifestyle, he was strictly a sports person, a real jock.

I went to England in 1946, initially to study, but eventually to dance in three British ballet companies.

I did not communicate with Lawrence, nor he with me.

In 1948 when I returned , the family had once more moved. This time to a 15 room house on three acres of land, 25 miles north of Winnipeg. It was magnificent! The relationship between Lawrence and I, was renewed.

I had always been interested in a multitude of subjects, and read endlessly. Lawrence became interested in the things that I was studying, and we spent hours talking about various people and various subjects. It became a kind of hero worship.

Although I could not persuade him to read, he loved to listen to stories about the people I was reading about. That sharing was back in place.

Things were going reasonably well with the Winnipeg Ballet, I was doing choreography as well as teaching, but I missed the ballet company life that brought me a living.

A letter from Vancouver changed things. It was an invitation to dance with Theatre Under the Stars in Vancouver, for a summer season. Lawrence was disappointed that I was leaving again, for I had only been home a short time.

Off to Vancouver I went where I was to meet and dance with Lois Smith. Through a contact in Vancouver, we ended up in Los Angeles and San Francisco, dancing with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Company. We also got married in Los Angeles.

There were plans made, but with the pending arrival of Janine, those plans were put aside. We spent a month in Vancouver, then we went on to Winnipeg.

The arrival of Janine really did not seem to make an impression on Lawrence, he just tolerated her.

I on the other hand was concerned with what would keep Lois and I going.

My interest in Inventors kept the conversations going, people like Edison, but more than that, Nicola Tesla, who fascinated both of us. The more we learned, the more we wanted to know. Even years later, to bring up the name Tesla was the cue for conversation.

Lois and I would eventually move to Toronto, and the National Ballet, but being home bodies, we took our holidays in Havencroft, the acreage outside Winnipeg.

In 1952, having moved from various places in Toronto, we were living in an apartment owned by a relation of the National Ballet’s company manager.

Somehow, Lawrence persuaded our mother that he should go to Toronto. At that point in history, we were preparing some ballets for a performance in Midland Ontario,with a group called the Toronto Theatre Ballet.

Along with Boris Volkoff a teacher we knew in Toronto, instigated by Stewart James, the company manager of the National Ballet, we had formed a group which we hoped would give an alternative to the National Ballet, not a replacement.

The repertoire was a combination of ballets by myself and Volkoff. I was staging a version of the second act of Swan Lake for the group. We got to the stage of being close to the performance, but there was something missing. In Swan Lake, there was no Von Rothbart, the evil magician.

Myself and Sydney Vousden were the only boys in the group, Lawrence was the answer. He was a quick learner.

The performance was in an arena, not on a stage, but it all went well, including Lawrence in his ballet debut.

Many years later, I would remind Lawrence about that performance, and we had a good laugh, because, added to that memory, Lawrence with his archival material, received from the estate of Stewart James, some of the costumes used in that performance.

The National Ballet did not know quite how to take what we were doing, but, there was only the one performance, we did not continue with the Toronto Theatre Ballet.

We did beat the National Ballet with my production of Swan Lakethough, they did Swan Lake in the 1953 season.

Through that performance and talking to Volkoff, I discovered that Lawrence had been sneaking off and doing ballet classes with Volkoff. According to Volkoff, he was a natural, something that we would all discover in time.

Before making another change of location. Lawrence was to watch Lois and David in a big performance that took place at the Exhibition grounds in Toronto in 1952.

Celia Franca was asked to choreograph a ballet for that enormous stage. She chose A Midsummer’s Night Dream loosely based on the Shakespeare story. Lois and I were the main characters, with Celia as the Queen of the Night. We had a grand entrance on a giant crescent moon.

Lawrence was to add yet another talent to his growing list. I had acquired am 8mm movie camera. Lawrence used that camera to film some of the ballet from the upper level of the grandstand seats. Tape of that film is in my archival collection. Lawrence had a good eye, and a steady hand.

Having tasted the ballet world, when Lawrence returned home, he was greeted by a move to Vancouver. Lawrence decided to pursue the ballet situation, and began studies with Mara McBirney, a teacher that I had worked with. There was never any comment from either Lawrence or Mara as to how that had gone. From my perspective, it probably gave him a more disciplined approach.

It was not long before he was back in Toronto. First on his agenda was learning to drive, which we got down to right away. He soon had his licence.

Lawrence had an amazing capacity for getting what he wanted. Before long he had a loan for a vehicle, a van. With the name “Adams Industries” written on the door. First he did pick ups and deliveries, but the real intention soon surfaced.

We had been experimenting with building loudspeakers, so he approached a store in town with the intention of building speakers to order. He had built a beautiful and very successful pair of speakers for a friend, which became the stepping stones.

That did not last, unfortunately, he soon discovered that the whole business behind this new HiFi rage, was a scam. Instead, we built speakers for our own use. A workshop was possible in our new digs, thanks to a gift from our Uncle Dr. Alan Mozley.

The apartment had a very large artists studio at the back, over double garages. This room became the centre for so many activities. Parties of course, but also showing the movies we were taking, with the 8mm camera, then a 16mm camera.

The house was a drop-in place for the members of the National Ballet, they just dropped in, unannounced. We did not mind.

Electronics became part of the whole picture. Lawrence had an uncanny ability with this and subsequently built many things to make our sound system even better. With musicians being part of the drop in situation, we began a series of experiments to find out the hearing abilities of these musicians.

Test equipment was used to reproduce the full range of frequencies, to find out what the musicians could truly hear, according to what instrument they played, and where they sat in the orchestra. These musicians were from the National Ballet Orchestra. Every week for as long as we were in that apartment, something new was being brought forward.

Lawrence would become a full member of the National Ballet, as a corps de ballet dancer, then a principal dancer.

Television had come into my life from the earliest broadcasts, my foot was firmly in the door. Lawrence would become part of that story.

In 1959 I staged and choreographed a production of the Merry Widow for the CBC, Lawrence was in it. There was a scene during rehearsals, between one of the actors and Lawrence, the actor did not like the fact that Lawrence was acting during his scenes. The actor said “look Kid! You do the dancing, leave the acting to me.”

In that same year, a production of Pineapple Poll was done for TV with Lawrence showing how well he really could act. In truth, my brother, was indeed a fine dancer as well as an extremely accomplished actor. In a really short time, he proved his value as an artist. I speak in the main, about his early life — he was only just beginning.

This section is really an aside, one which is not usually talked about, and one which I am not sure that many are aware of. In 1962, Lawrence became a member of Les Grands Ballet Canadien. He danced a main role in Eric Hyrst’s Labyrinth, but for the rest of the repertoire, he was in the corps de ballet.

Lawrence did not stay for a full year. In 1963 he joined the Robert Joffrey company. In ’63 they went on an extended tour, Lisbon, Amman, Jordan (before King Hussein), Ramallah and East Jerusalem, Damascus (Syria), Beirut (Lebanon) and Kabul (Afganistan), Teheran. Followed by an 8 week tour of India.

After that tour, he came back to Toronto, bringing jewels for Lois Smith.

His pride and joy was a tape that he had recorded on the streets somewhere in India, talking to two men. They were comparing cigarettes and what little they had of each other’s language.

That brought Lawrence back to Romeo and Juliet with the National Ballet. I was to have been the Romeo for this production, but, through a discussion with the tour manager of the National, I discovered, as he put it, that the principal dancers would not be so important in the overall picture, any more. I reached across the table, shook his hand and said “goodbye, I am leaving.”

Going back to our apartment, I called Celia Franca and made the same statement. Arrangements were quickly made to return me to London. I rejoined Festival ballet and thus began a series of changes in my life.

A British pantomime with Tommy Steele, an opera at Covent Garden, then finally joining the Royal Ballet, until 1977 when I returned to Canada.

Over those years back in Canada, I worked with Lawrence on many projects, including Encore Encore. The re-staging of the Red Ear Of Corn and Shadow on the Prairie, did not sit terribly well with me. They were taped and notated but, I felt that I could not do them true justice, simply because the people who were brought in to assist me with the reconstruction wanted the whole picture to themselves.

Sorry Lawrence, this was the only project which for me, went awry.

Apart from that, our combined efforts worked throughout our lives. I still can’t believe that am unable to pick up the phone and have a discussion with him on a multitude of subjects.

I miss my brother, for together we accomplished a great deal, and had more to work on. A book on stagecraft was in process when Lawrence passed away. It sits amongst my endless piles of notes and papers in this room where I write.

I will get to it Lawrence, soon.

There is a small problem about that book though. I have my own way of writing; rather like the way that I speak, but it does not follow the pattern that Lawrence had with his writing. Regardless, I shall soldier on and one day finish the book on “Stagecraft”, to complete that side of his legacy.

There is so much that must be written, and I must get down to it.

Not that I am older and wiser than Lawrence, but that there are things that must be said.

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