The Toronto Bell Cote will be hosting a remembrance of Hurricane Hazel’s impact on Toronto some 65 years ago. Readers may remember that the building was known as St Matthias Anglican Church in 1954 and served as an operations centre during the rescue and relief efforts following the event.
“A small, white frame church (provided) non-stop service of mercy … St. Matthias Anglican, capacity 88 churchgoers — and the parson, Reverend Paul Glover, 24, wearing mud-stained jeans and jacket — administered to the urgent needs of the flood-devastated area of the Westmount flats.” The pews were piled high with clothing, blankets, food and other life necessities brought by neighbouring families, and the church was billed as “a haven for the homeless”.
In the light of climate change and increasingly damaging hurricanes, guest speakers will discuss the likelihood of whether a similarly catastrophic event could affect our community and how we can be prepared. After the discussions, participants are invited to visit the commemorative plaque in Raymore Park.
An evening of home movies shot by people who experienced the horror of Hurricane Hazel is being presented by the Weston Historical Society and Heritage York. The movies from 1954, give an insight, not only into the power of the most famous storm ever to hit Toronto but illustrate lifestyle aspects of Weston’s population some 65 years ago.
According to the WHS,
“On the night of Oct 15 1954 Hurricane Hazel struck Toronto, fatally flooding the Humber river valley (including 35 deaths on one street alone). Home movies shot the next morning showing the damage and the river still in high flood at Weston, are the starting point for our tour through the life and times of the city’s west-end. Local residents captured everything from the danger and high drama of floods, explosions and derailments – to the intimate drama of backyard ice rinks, rec room parties, a first communion filmed by nuns, parades, and the fashions and furnishings of the era.
Organized and presented with the Weston Historical Society and Heritage York. “the Home Movie History Project”.”
Date: Wednesday June 5
Place: The ‘Village of Humber Heights’, 2245 Lawrence Ave W
Local blogger Hans Havermann has directed his sleuthing talents to the Hurricane Hazel tragedy that hit our area in 1954. Through some relentless digging he has uncovered some inconsistencies in contemporary and subsequent accounts of the victims and where they lived on Raymore Drive. Hans tells me he feels that the unfortunate victims of the flooding deserve better and hopes that he has provided a step in that direction.
He has also gathered some interesting photographs from that time showing the effects of the flooding.
Do you remember Hurricane Hazel? Or have you just heard the stories and would like to know more? Next Wednesday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Humber Heights Retirement Home (2245 Lawrence Ave. W.) the Weston Historical Society will present, “Hurricane Hazel – Revisited”. Mary Louise Ashbourne and Cherri Hurst will be doing a presentation of what happened that night through the eyes of Weston and its neighbours. Come and listen to heroic and heart wrenching stories of a time when nature unleashed its worst.
Admission is free and refreshments will be served afterwards. Hope to see you there.
Date Wednesday, October 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Humber Heights Retirement Home (2245 Lawrence Ave. W.)
On Saturday, May 7, about 50 people took part in a Jane’s Walk to discover some Weston and Mount Dennis history.
The walk led by Mike Mattos featured guest segments from Alistair Jolly, an archaeologist with TRCA, Simon Chamberlain from MDCA and myself.
After viewing some artifacts including clovis arrowheads, stone axes and clay pipes, we ventured under the Eglinton bridge at Scarlett Road.
Moving up the river from there Mike and Simon led the group to some interesting relics from the early years of West Park Hospital. Established in 1904, for patients suffering from tuberculosis it was then known as the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptive Poor or the Weston Sanitarium. Since this was in the days before antibiotics, treatment consisted mainly of rest and fresh air. At the time, Toronto’s death toll from TB was considerable; something like 7 people a day. Even then, TB was known to be infectious and city workers fearing contagion refused to collect food waste from the hospital. As a result, the sanatarium set up a piggery and chicken operation on hospital grounds close to the Humber. The farm was self-sustaining and with 1000 hens and 50 pigs, there was no shortage of food. Pigs were slaughtered at the stockyards.
Antibiotics revolutionized treatment of TB and in 1954, the animals were swept away during Hurricane Hazel but evidence remains of the extensive farming operation that was operated by staff and patients.
By the river, there is a small informal pet cemetery that apparently has been used by local residents for years.
The last segment of the walk ended by the weir in Raymore Park and there was discussion of the effects of Hurricane Hazel on the area which led to the forerunner of today’s TRCA, the creation of many of Toronto’s parks and the preservation of this city’s famous ravines.
Another great walk; luckily we had no rain and as a bonus – mosquitoes haven’t emerged – yet!
Talented mural artist Mario Noviello’s work can be seen in Weston by Ward’s parking lot and in Lions Park on the old bridge abutment. Weston Historical Society Treasurer Cherri Hurst tells me that they are seeking his assistance in renovating the Lions Park location which serves as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Hazel.
Unfortunately Mr. Noviello’s contact information has been lost in the intervening years and Ms Hurst was wondering if any of our readers know where he could be located.
Please contact Adam or myself if you know his contact details and we will forward the information.
Postscript: Cherri Hurst tells me they have located Mr. Noviello. WestonWeb will keep readers posted regarding further work on the memorial.