Breakey, Norman James
Norman Breakey was the inventor of the paint roller. He never reaped the financial benefits of his invention.
Here is the link to the publication: http://www.scribd.com/doc/117046217/Jorneys-to-the-Southwest-Corner-of-Manitoba
William Breakey and Jane Fanning:Grandma Ruth's second eldest sister, Jane, married William Breakey. Again withVaudree making connections and then referring them to me, we had some interestingexchanges especially regarding the two children of the above: Norman and Kathleen Breakey. Jane Breakey died of tuberculosis in 1899 when Norman was 8 and Kathleen 2years old.
The children lived with my grandparents, Ruth and William Dandy for about two years (Iwas told). One account said that William Breakey took them with him to Toronto wherehe remarried. John Hall's history (see below) had them staying with neighbors in Pierson.Both children must have been in Manitoba in their late teens. Norman, when he wasabout 20, was managing a hardware store at Souris. Kathleen was training in nursing atWeyburn, SK. According to a postcard, Aunt Ruth was sewing bibs and caps for her uniform. Norman sent a picture postcard and Christmas card to my grandparents when hewas in the army and Kathleen kept in touch with our family. I have a picture of her visiting "Aunt Ruth" at the time of Grandma Ruth's 80th Birthday in Winnipeg.
Vaudree was contacted online by John W. Hall, Ph.D. who was living in Victoria, B.C.He had prepared a history, "Breakeys in Early Upper Canada", self published 2007, andhe mailed a copy. I was able to give him a little more information about Norman and Kathleen when they lived in Manitoba. We exchanged pictures.
In March 2007, Vaudree received an email from the daughter-in-law of Norman's 90 year old son, Robert Victor Breakey, in England (and referred her to me). Our Norman wasoverseas during the First World War and married Isabella Driver in West Ham, Essex, just outside of London. In December 1916 Isabella gave birth to their son. After the war,in 1918, Norman left and returned to Canada. His sister Kathleen kept in touch withIsabella "for some years".
Norman had a second wife in Toronto and another son born there. It was while living inToronto that he invented a paint roller as well as other inventions. Norman James Breakey died Nov. 19, 1965, age 75, and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery,Toronto, ON, section 54, lot 1395. Christena Breakey died May 4, 1966, age 64, and was buried in the same section and lot.
After Jane (Fanning) died the 1901 census shows William runninga boarding house in Pierson and the children were with him. John Hall in his book states:"Exactly what happened next is somewhat obscure...however William apparentlymarried Eveline May Breakey, the eldest daughter of John Wesley Breakey and Ann JaneStewart. Eveline was 20 years younger than William. In 1906, when they had a son, theywere living on Sussex Ave. in Toronto and William was again working as a shoemaker.In the 1908 Toronto City Directory he is recorded as living on Millicent St. but he is notin the directories for subsequent years. In 1909 Eveline gave birth to a daughter.
Within the next two years tragedy struck again. Eveline became severely ill and thefamily broke up. Eveline's brother, Wesley Stewart Breakey and his wife Viola who hadmarried in 1910 took in William and Eveline's two children, later adopting them as their own. Wesley and Viola were now farming in Manitoba. By their adopted daughter'saccount, Wesley and Viola were very good to them.
We do not know what happened to William in the dozen years after his second family broke up. He died in Toronto in 1925 though, and at that time he appears to have been in contact with his son Norman who was the informant for his death record. But Norman had limited knowledge of his father, giving his middle name as Harold rather than Henryand not knowing the names of William's parents who he thought had been born inIreland. He also thought that William was widowed when in fact Eveline was still alive.
Eveline's death record from 1927 shows that she died in Toronto at 999 Queen St. W where she had resided for about twenty years. This was the address of a major psychiatrichospital. "We do not know what Eveline's diagnosis was... Ironically, she died of the same illness as William's first wife -- pulmonary tuberculosis."
Norman Breakey's life was also somewhat of a mystery. This testimony was given by Major William A. Degraves in 1919:"I have known Capt. Breakey for the last 8 or 9 years. I first knew him in Assiniboia,Sask. where he was a member of the Board of Trade and one of the most competent business men of the town.My work as a journalist brought me into touch with him frequently as he was on thePublicity Committee of the Board of Trade. His reputation there was of the highest."
From his attestation papers for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force which hefilled out at Valcartier, QC in September 1914: He said he was twenty-three and gave hisoccupation as a hardware merchant. He had also spent a year in the 99th Manitoba Dragoons,a militia unit. He thought he had been born in Chicago in 1890 and gave as hisnext of kinhis sister Kathleen who was then living in Weyburn, SK. The medical reportsaid that Norman was five feet ten and a half and had brown hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion.
He was assigned to the Canadian Army Service Corps which was responsible for logistics, ensuring that theother units were properly supplied with food, clothing and allother equipment except for ordinance. It was also responsible for all aspects of sea andrail transportation and the transport of all supplies forward to the front lines. In Englandhe was promoted to Corporal and then temporary Lieutenant. He was transferred to theFourth Division Train in July 1916 and proceeded to France in August. Previous to histransfer, he had married Isabella Driver in West Ham, Essex, just outside of London. InDecember 1916, Isabella gave birth to their son, Robert Victor Breakey.
When the Fourth Division arrived in France the Battle of the Somme was still in progress.The division also fought in the Battle of Ancre Heights and the capture of the ReginaTrench. This went on until November. The next spring, and now under Canadiancommand, the division fought at Vimy Ridge. Major DeGraves again gave Norman aglowing report (including staying on his job and refusing to be relieved even under heavyshell fire). In May 1917 Norman was admitted to the #7 General Hospital at Boulognewhere he was treated for Sinusitis and discharged a week later. In June he was admittedto the Queen Alexandria Military Hospital in Millbank, S.W. with Nervous Debility. Hewas granted a month sick leave and then extended another month. However, by midSeptember he had recovered enough to resume his duties.
His next assignment was with the Inspector of Catering in the London area where heserved for the rest of the year. In May 1918 he was posted to Seaford and from July to November he worked there as Assistant Supply Officer. On October 4, 1918, he was promoted to temporary Captain and the next month he was attached to the CanadianSalvage Corps. The Canadian Salvage Corps was responsible for the disposal of anymaterials that the army had no further use for and could sell. He was responsible to hissuperiors in London for his disposal duties. He had a sergeant and two privates under him.
When Norman got to Rhyl he found that the only local dealer who was approved by theWestern Command was a Mrs. Gizzi who, with her husband and brother-in-law had oftendealt with his British predecessor. She didn't have a bank account and was used todealing in cash. Unfortunately she would be the source of Norman's downfall. In thespring of 1919 she visited his superior at the camp and made a number of complaintsabout him, accusing him of theft. As a result he was tried under court martial. Normansaid her accusations were "a pack of lies" but even when asked repeatedly, he did not write out a rebuttal. The result was that he was dishonourably discharged and forfeitedhis Military Service Medal and the Victory Medal.
What happened after that is unclear but Norman left Isabella and their son, never to see them again, and returned to Canada. The 1922 Toronto City Directory shows him livingon Hillsdale and working for National Exchange Real Estate...In the 1930 Toronto City Directory we find him at 44 Astley Ave. He and his new wife Christina Middleton would live at 44-46 Astley for the rest of their lives. In the 1930's he was managing a hardwarestore in Leaside, a Toronto suburb. Inspired by his customers, Norman came up with the idea of a paint roller.He and accountant partner Cecil R. MacKay had a flourishing manufacturing companywhere they sold the paint roller through the big Toronto department stores, Eatons andSimpsons. He obtained a British patent in 1946 and an American patent in 1951. Soon other companies were producing the device, either securing rights from the patent ownersor modifying it enough so the patents might no longer apply. The Breakey-MacKaycompany dissolved in 1956 with all debts paid.
Norma and Tina had one son in 1930 and remained on Astley Ave. until their deaths in1965 and 1966 respectively. Who was he? Writers played up two angles. First theyclaimed that, being a poor man, he had been unable to defend his patents and had notmade the millions that he deserved. Second, they claimed that he was a man of mystery.Certainly he had enough eccentricities. He had been well liked by his friends but he toldhis family little of his past. Knowing about his military career and his first marriage wecan understand why.
He is reputed to have consumed 40 White Owl Panellas a day, lighting one, and when itwent out which it immediately did, chewing it all the way down before lighting another.He liked cherries marinated in Crown Royal whiskey, calling it "Cherry Bounce".
Norman was also a fan of W.C. Fields and in fact in later years he looked somewhat likehim. But Fields, always afraid of being broke, had eccentricities of his own. He was saidto stop in small towns all over the United States to deposit sums in local banks. This healways did under imaginative pseudonyms. Did Norman do the same? The night he diedhe left his personal safe open but it only contained a $500 insurance policy and his marriage licence. There was also a ring of forty keys. Some could have opened safetydeposit boxes but all the serial numbers had been filed off. Norman had never confided to his wife or son about his business dealings and no other papers were ever found.