CHILDHOOD

Childhood

In her unpublished memoir notes, Norma Shearer describes her childhood as “an unbelievably happy period.” This appears to be true. Around 1904 Andrew Shearer assumed control of his father’s business, which was located at 225 St. Patrick Street, at the corner of Shearer Street. Andrew managed the thriving plant for twelve years, and his family lived in comfort and style.

Norma’s Grandmother Emily lived nearby and warmed the family scene with her humorous chiding. Norma was also fond of her mother’s brother, “Uncle Perce,” who acted under the name of Edwin Percival. When he visited, his stories of theater life excited Norma, who was already taking piano lessons. Norma attended Westmount High School, where she excelled in sports and drama. She was admired for her fashion sense and her decisive approach to life.

In 1919, partially as a result of World War One, construction came to a standstill in Canada. Andrew Shearer was forced to liquidate his interest in the company, and it was taken over by his nephew James Shearer. Andrew made bad investments, and within a short time, he had to sell the Grosvenor Street home and move his family into a rented home. The next home he found for them was such a comedown that Edith left him, took the girls, and moved to a boardinghouse. (Douglas was working as a chauffeur.)

Norma had no training but was fascinated by show business. Desperate, Edith set her sights on New York. She asked her brother Percival, who was managing theatrical troupes, to supply letters of recommendation to both theater and film directors.