After a year of scandals, this is a good time for a tale of true romance in the Beach. Acclaimed director Norman Jewison grew up above his parents’ dry goods store on Queen Street East at Kippendavie. In his autobiography, This Terrible Business Has Been Good To Me, Jewison recalls how he met his future wife.
It was at a party in 1952. Someone suggested that Margaret Ann “Dixie” Dixon could give Norman a ride home since they both lived in the Beach. Beautiful Dixie adorned billboards all over town as the “Black Cat” cigarette girl …
“Dixie parked her father’s yellow convertible in the driveway of her lovely home in the poshest part of the Beach and politely said goodnight. I hiked the 10 blocks home to my tiny alcove over the store. A stockbroker’s daughter and a shopkeeper’s son. It didn’t look promising.”
Their romance wasn’t quite the princess and the pauper, but the two were from very different social circles. Norman’s father Percy liked to call himself the “Beach’s corsetier” but their store was rarely busy during the Depression. Many Beach families were on relief.
Norman’s parents met while tobogganing at Riverdale Park. Norman came along in 1926. He was a typical Beach kid, playing shinny hockey at Kew Gardens, canoeing on the lake, and sitting enthralled at the Beach Theatre’s 10-cent Saturday matinees. He sold Christmas trees in front of the family store and was always on the lookout for part-time jobs.
While Norman went to Malvern C.I. before joining the navy in 1944 and graduating from Victoria College in 1949, Dixie was a Branksome Hall private school girl who grew up in the Glen Manor area on leafy Beaufort Road, the family home for four decades. She enjoyed playing bridge on the sand by the Balmy Beach Club and going to the dances there. The talented and high-spirited Dixie studied sculpture at the Ontario College of Art and also became a photographer’s model.
In early 1952 Jewison returned to Canada from London, England to work as a production trainee in the new medium of television. CBLT went to air on Sept. 8, 1952.
Keen to impress Dixie’s parents, Jewison invited Jim and Thelma Dixon to a live broadcast of The Big Review. Just before the show, Jewison grabbed a broom to make sure there weren’t any stray nails or pencils to trip up a dancer. Dixie was embarrassed to hear her mother say, “So that’s what he does at the CBC – he sweeps the floor.”
True love won out. The two were ‘Moonstruck’ and married in July 1953. The Jewisons lived on Bingham Avenue and started a family of three children. His directing career would take them around the world. In Los Angeles, Dixie was the unofficial
Canadian ‘ambassador’ and threw herself into social causes, helping start the first childcare centre in Watts.
In 1978 Norman and Dixie Jewison returned home to Canada and bought a farm in the Caledon Hills. Together they promoted the Canadian film industry and were a force behind the Canadian Film Centre. Dixie passed away in 2004. Norman remarried in 2010 and still loves the farm at age 88.
There was a time when kids walked to school by themselves. We knew each house on the street by the family surname. In the 1950s I would pass the Dixons on Beaufort as well as the Goulds and Fulfords nearby on Southwood Drive. Along with Glenn Gould and Robert Fulford, Norman and Dixie Jewison have contributed wonderful gifts to the creative world.
In the 1950s, cigarette billboards really were a sign of their times. Most men smoked like chimneys and the ‘Mad Men’ of advertising pitched filter tips to women as “just what the doctor ordered.” John Wayne was the spokesman for Camel cigarettes and died of cancer in 1979. Sadly, Dixie herself, the “Black Cat” girl on the billboards, died of lung and throat cancer.