From: The Toronto Star Weekly, November 18, 1926
Island Canoe Club 1943 Documents: Original History of the Island Canoe Club & Otterburn Boating Club: 23rd Annual Regatta, Programme & Score Card; & Montreal Daily Star newspaper clipping Date: 6 Aug 1943 Provenance: From the archives of Ed Guthrie Digitized by: Ed Guthrie, from his collection of Island clippings.
THE FORGOTTEN IDOL OF THE EIGHTIES
By FERGUS CRONIN
MACLEANS MAGAZINE, JUNE 1, 1953
Ned Hanlan, a chunky Toronto Islander, rose above shady promoters and fixers to bring Canada its first world Title in the days when baseball was a pup CANADIAN in Paris in 1917 was to a friendly Frenchman. “I was in Canada his way to his first big victory; in several of his suspected; and even shortly before his death in 1908 a local storm blew up about whether he should be appointed Toronto’s harbor master. hockey and baseball are today. And for betting, it can only be compared to horse racing. Ten and twenty thousand people would turn out to Lake St. Louis, the Welland Canal, Kempenfeldt Bay or the St. John River to watch the giants of those days fight it out with sculls. And Ha f those giants, measured only five feet, eight and three quarter inches and weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. Known throughout the world as Ned, he became champion sculler of Canada at twenty-two, at twenty-four and at twenty-five, champion of the world. We over him, scarves bearing his picture were the rage, snuffboxes, ties, shirts and belts were sold with Ned’s name or picture on them. The second son of John Hanlan, a Kingston boatbuilder who became the first leaseholder on Toronto Island, Ned was born on July 12, 1855. His first attempt with outriggers was made in a novel craft he designed and built himself: a two sharpened at both ends and equipped Amateur championship of Toronto Bay and won. for the next eleven years, until he hit the downgrade at twenty-nine, he took part in about three The sliding seat had made its appearance in racing shells in 1871, allowing the oarsmen to get a longer sweep-in effect, lengthening the arms and the stroke. Hanlan became known as “the father – it in a single-seat shell and mastered its use. – In 1874 Hanlan met and beat Thomas Loudon in a race for the championship of Burlington Bay, as Hamilton Bay was them called. (Loudon was the great-uncle of Thomas R. Loudon. professor at the University of Toronto, who was the Canadian in Paris in 1917, mentioned above.) was launched when two lengths. The same season he won the governor general’s medal for a two-mile race at Toronto, and championship of Ontario, his oniy opponent being William McKen. The big regatta on the horizon at that time was to be held in Philadelphia in May 1876, to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. McKen had been planning to compete, but decided it looked so good as a money proposition that he teamed up with Hanlan, Ned doing the training and McKen placing bets in the poolrooms at night. Hanlan almost failed to get away from Toronto. He had sold some liquor on the island without a Or hìS arre ? permit and a warrant for his arrest was issued tw days before he was due to leave. Friends he about it, and that night he was hidden in a friend’s house e following day police cornered him in the Toronto Rowing managed to lude them, hopped into a skiff an ? ter a just leaving for Lewiston, N.Y. Police spotted him skimming away, but his reputation as an oarsman discouraged pursuit. In the first heat of the centennial race Hanlan. d in the second he defeated the next best oars . By this time the gamblers had lost so heavily they were looking for Hanlan. McKen and Hanlan together and McKen would leave Hanlan in bed at nights while he made the rounds of the taverns, so many mistook McKen for Hanlan. g im and he was taken back to Toronto on a stretcher, suffering from violent poisoning. Hanlan not only won the single sculls at Philadelphia, beating the best oarsmen of America and a couple from England, but he did it in a record time. the bright-eyed, pink-cheeked, curly-haired little fellow tops in the sport He rowed in a blue shirt, and thereafter he always “the Boy in Blue.” – Hanlan’s triumphant return to Toronto was in direct contrast to his ignominious departure. A huge crowd gathered at the dockside to meet his steamer. Ned ized and seated atop the larg est hook-and-ladder wagon Toronto owned, and Hail to the champion sculler! Toronto’s manly son, Who across the line, and on the Tyne Hath famous victories won… For the next eight years the world was Hanlan’s oyster. A host of supporters sprang up to form the Hanlan Club, putting up an initial twenty dollars apiece to pay Hanlan’s expenses and bet on his races. The charter membership included the U. S. consul, Col. Albert Shaw. Ned t yet the official Canadian champion. Alex Brayley, who had been favored for the Philadelphia race, returned Continued on Years after his crowd. was presentation to Canada and was beaten for the Canadian title by Wallace Ross, of Saint John. Ross then challenged Hanlan to mile event, the usual championship distance in those days. Ross was an eight-to-one favorite when the race took place on Toronto Bay, but HanA return lan won e Rothesay, N.B., the Kennebecasis River, the following has described in detail in many rowing annals. Both men, amid the wildest enthusiasm, struck the water simultaneously . . . At the half-mile mark Ross was pulling a fiery stroke of thirty seven and Hanlan a great sweep thirty-two per minute, with Hanlan a length ahead. With no increase of effort, at the mile mark Hanlan had doubled his lead. as a stroke that must have been wrenching him apart, Hanlan, after seeing that Ross was safe, went over the course… To the Canadian crown Hanlan soon I peak, Hanlan (top, left) could still draw a He’s grasping his son Gordon, who n was killed in 1917. of a silver service at City Hall. his next significant race was in Oct. 1878, at Lachine, Que. It was the first of what was to become the famous Courtney-Hanlan series. These races by cracker-barrel oarsmen. Hanlan’s honesty but, at least to the his name was later cleared. The first race against Charles E. Courtney, of Union Springs, N.Y., U. S., real. Hanlan won by a mere one and a Windsor Hotel after the race. A lot of money had been won and the following October at Chautauqua Lake, N.Y. Interest in the race became feverish. A grandstand for fifty thousand spectators was erected. An observation train half at afloat promised to follow the race never took place. The morning of the day it was scheduled, Courtney’s shell was found sawn in haif. In a book published in 1923 (Courtney and Cornell Rowing, by C.U.P. Young) it was suggested that Hanlan “whose convivial habits were well known” had imbib before the race. His backers became alarmed and tried in vain to have draw, but again Courtney refused and “before the morrow dawned those whose bribe had been spurned were avenged.” H. J. P. Good, sport writer for two Toronto papers and an origi ernber of the Hanla of six thousand dollars, the first to go †n Hanlan the third to the best man. In each instance the loser was to receive two thousand out of the purse. “The arrangement,” said Good, “was made entirely without the eonsent or knowledge of Hanlan, who, I am willing “Hanlan was then told of the arrangement,” said Good, “and his reply was that if he were not allowed to win if he could he couldn’t be hauled from the boathouse with a logging chain. Of course the Courtney party got on to the result of his trial row over the course which had been staked the boat was 39 The referee ordered Hanlan over the course on the day of th which he did, with two or three pauses, in 33:56, a time which stands to this day as the fastest for five miles with a turn. The purse was to have been given by the owner of a brewery, but he refused to pay on a “row-over.” So the pair met again on the Potomae at Washington in May 1880. In that race Courtney was so far behind at the halfway mark that he dropped out. In a tribute to Hanlan years later, James C. Rice, onetime coach of Columbia University, said: “I know personally that Hanlan was offered thirty thousand dollars to quit in a tempt to bribe him.” By 1879 Hanlan had beaten so he went to England. In May he beat John Hawdon for the champion and the followin ed William Elliott, also on . Trains brought speetators by the thousands. The crush of boats on the river made navigation almost impossible. less bet freely in small sums on their champion whom they believed invincible. Lawyer Kerr rhymed: The champions take their stations, Promptly each takes his place In the sight of all the nations Of the Anglo-Saxon race. “Now, three to one,” roared Elliott, “That I lead all the way!” And his stalwart arm and lusty form Might feebler foe dismay. But it was Hanlan’s craft Toronto that led all the way. He won by ten boat lengths and broke the record for the course by fifty-five seconds. Then from the river’s crowded banks, From roof-top, bridge and pier, Thrice thirty thousand lusty throats Sent up a mighty cheer; And many a British city Caught up the wild acclaim, And the western world from Sea to #Sea Resounded with his fame. Another civic reception was arranged home. will give an entertainment at 8 o’clock sharp. An will be presented by the Mayor about 9 o’clock, to which the Champion will Champion will appear with his boat, in full racing costume. Tickets will be sold at 50 cents no reserved seats The scene of the arrival was painted in oils by William Armstrong, and hangs still in the Toronto home of one of Hanlan’s daughters, Mrs. C. H. S. Michie. Dated July 15, 1879, it shows five old sidewheelers crowded to the ounded of little boats. On the leading steamer a tiny figure stands on a platform high in the was how the Boy in was still but one feather from the chunky sculler’s Triekett, the first Australian to have Interest in the outcome It was scheduled for it at wrote a ian newspaper from Newcastle: This meeting between Trickett and Hanlan will be the even in the rowing annais of the year—if not of the century . . . Triekett’s friends spoke of Han lan as a small man – but I reminded them of the r k made by the ferryman near Pittsburgh, that “the more clothes he takes o the bigger he gets,” and suggested that when he measured speed with their six-foot-sixer, the little m might look the larger of the two. The odds changed from two-to-one on Trickett to two-to-one on Hanlan as an estimated forty-two thousand masterful spurt. The erowds eheered and the nervy Ned drew near the bank rowing with alternate oars. Twice more Hanlan paused, once his hotel, the Bull’s Head, its fellow Hanlan had established himself as later made considerable money performing on the water. One of his best tricks was rowing with only one scull straight across the Thames and back again. d to Toronto via New played the aquatic solo.” In Toronto he was accorded another reception by mayor and citizens. The following year, 1881; he rowed on the Thames again, this time against Elias C. Laycock, of Australia, for the Sportsman Challenge Cup, and won it winning it for ail time. It is one of the most impressive cups in sporting history, standing about three feet high. It is still in the p – f Mrs. Michia A Great and Unique Skill Those were great days for the rowing game. The first official race between Y and Harvard was held in 1852, although Oxford and Cambridge had been racing on the Thames since 1829. Fortunes colorfully named Lakes Winnepesaukee, Minnetonka, Quinsagamond and Creve Coeur, the konk River, Lake Couchiching and wnyan Lake. Ned Hanlan rowed and won in them all. In 1880 there were at least a score of regattas were held at least once and sometimes twice a year. Cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal sponsored annual regattas. Youngsters asked their parents for gigs, wherries, dinghies or common rowboats is time, rowing was largely a matter of strength; Hanlan add and was at once the master of the me. When he beat Elliott on the Tyne it was seriously suggested that he must have had a propelling machine in his boat. With air-bags and machinery, The miners stoutly held, Or by some secret influence His skiff must be propelled, For never such a sculler Of form so lithe and fine Or such modest mien, had yet been seen On the Thames or the Tyne. Some claim Hanlan was the first real champion of the world—of any v London that there was world-wid representation. Trickett challenged Hanlan in 1892 and they met on May 1 on the Thames with stakes of five hundred pounds. Hanlan won by ne a minute and a half and, after passing the turning sta e spun around an – back of tw – Trickett’s last appearance in a firstass match, and who can blame him? Standing on Lake Ontario, this $17,000 statue honors the first world champion Canada ever had. The next challenger was a dour Australian, William Beach, a blacksmith from the village of Dapto, New South r In ra ve gone because, as world champion, he could dictate the locale of the race. But he had not yet been to the southern hemisphere and the adventure appealed to his restless spirit. was written on this side of the world of his defeat by Beach. One report said gram commented, ue to unfavorable climatic politics. Hanlan’s Hotel, which he had displayed a huge collection of his trophies and souvenirs. In 1898 he was elected a Toronto alderman, was re-elected once but defeated for a third term. had married Margaret Gordon Sutherland, of Toronto, formerly of Brantford, Ont., in 1877 and they had His wife ? – ur dau rs still living: Mrs. Michie, -Margaret and Aileen Hanlan, of Toronto; and Mrs. Alfred Hafner, of Portland, Me. When Hanlan died on Jan. 4, 1908, at fifty-two, papers in every part of Canada carried editorials about him. ever moved faster than Hanlan was given a civic funeral, and probably ten thousand people filed past his bier. A death mask was taken. Years later “The last outings Ned had with shortly before his th when, on the odd Sunday morning, he’d pile on three or four old sweaters and the ’s “gig’ a walrus, then, dripping and refreshed, resume. The Boy in Blue never really grew up.” Ned Hanlan flashed across the pages of the world’s newspapers of seventy five years ago, but mementos will kee his name alive for many years yet. A six-by-ten-foot painting of him hangs a sculler in the world. It National Exhibition, looking over the waters where Ned first learned to row. In 1936 the late Dr. A. R. Carman, Star. wrote of Hanlan that “no citizen of Canada was so well known throughout the English speaking world. And Lawyer Kerr put it in verse: While Ottawa, from storied cliff, Uplifts her crown of towers; While modest merit still shall charm a of ours; So long in distant story, As time rolls on apace, Shall it be told by young and old How Hanlan won the race.
Look what they’ve done to Toronto’s island
ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN, TORONTO
If you travel south through To Ironically this charming old back- About half of the islands’ you come to the downtown water, cut off from the city by a acres, or an area the size of Monaco, district, then to grimy brick whole- storm in 1858, is coming to its end has been levelled. Hanlan’s Point, sale houses, four-lane expressways, because of another high-water period on the western end of the main railway tracks, shipping sheds and that took place 10 years ago. Since four-mile hook that holds the other the usual jungle of a big-city water- the s become the victim of a 15 islands in the crook of its front. But if you keep going south, dreadful kind of muscular progress. began to disappear in 1936, with the by ferry, you come to a land of Toronto urning and bulldozing construction of the Island Airport lagoons and quaint humpback Island homes—old sideboards bridges where people ride bicycles chandeliers and all—in a plan to dren, a convalescent hospital to a park by live in 19th-century clapboard houses, 968 and present it to “the people” quarters for the Free Norwegian Visit one another by canoe and enjoy like a plastic pie plate. Old Islanders, air force, has since been flattened. the best of two worlds. They have a ome the third generation to be born – has city of 1,576,000 at their backs ith water between them and the householder, a cherubic, pinkwhere they can work during the Queen City, are migrating east alon cheeked, sandbar as their homes fall, Johnny Durnan, who is sitting there seldom smell and only see at its hoping that something will stop the surrounded by an uninhabited desert very best, across a mile of water, rocess. Most can talk for quite a of bulldozed rubble with 75 canoes, pale blue and romantic in the hile about Metropolitan Toronto’s skiffs and his own dock. The only distance. was of doing things, without repeat- ferry to his neighborhood is the cable ng a word. ferry that operates across the western gap to the airport. “I’ve got the only rowing skiffs in North America,” he told me, cigar – I boats are 60 years old. “My father and I made them, and they’re as aS neW. bout the only other reminder of human habitation in the western area is Gibraltar Lighthouse, erected in 1808 and the scene of one of S eeper for s gr en he used cl him t ath. There’s a water filtration plant for the city of Toronto, and the Island school, with an attendance of 1 il There n 1954; now 17 o e rooms are d as a year ‘roun natural science school for Toronto’s Grade 6 who explore an overgrown which the Metropolitan Parks Commission has ised to leave alone ? the middle of the main hook plus a big back island, has already been improved into a formal park without a soul living on it except at its eastern margin. hauled ashore the canoe in whic e Oa ‘the most beautifully executed mis take.’ The old Island community embraced advanced principles of . “It w were accessible to everyone. “Royal” for 109 years Not far from Anderson’s present home is the snooty Royal Canadian Yacht club, formed in 1852 and called “Royal” in 1854 when the club applied for permission and “Her Majesty was graciously pleased h their prayer. a 10 years ago on Muggs Island. It also has its own ferry, skippered th style and a flourish by a bearded ish – wi young Englishman prim lawns, cottonwoods, maples and picket fences and all doomed halts its policy. “Toronto has the most archaic expropriation laws in the western world,” said the wife of a CBC executive producer, E. E. Rollins, who lives in a solid old 18-room clapboard house on the lakeshore. MOURNING THE ISLAND THAT WAS the p park at Hanlan’s Point. Turning blue in the lake pin e sand a weekend y horses on the Island put to s work as plowing a path to the ancient lighthouse. Spring saw throngs returning, bag and baggage, by ferry. Not so pessimistic Islanders are among Toronto’s most hospitable people. Within a minute of calling at another house in this area, I was sitting down, a complete stranger, at a meal of roast beef and pan-browned potatoes with the family of a real estate b named Paul McLaughlin. After sup per he took me for a cruise around. not as pessimistic as some Islanders,” he said, stéering around a flock of green-winged teal. We ish “Ten years ago,” McLaughlin continued, “the city had what appeared unlimited money. Now, when the should be watching every buck, they’re not likely to spend all that money to acquire a few houses on this narrow strip when there’s so much unused land.” Algonquin Island, near the eastern end of the archipelago—a village of tree-bordered streets with names like Dacotah, Ojibway Ward’s Island, the eastern end of the hook, are the only other inhabited sections. “I came here 63 years ago,” said a 74-year-old Ward’s resident, Frank Staneland, who has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren living within a gull’s cry of him. “I amped here with a friend. There were only two tents on the Island. | remember seeing Ned Hanlan race for a championship–l forget whom he was racing—I was keeping up with him in my rowboat for a while, till I gave out.” The Toronto islands were formed when wave action began to work away the high shore line of old Lake Iroquois (a high, ice-age Lake Ontario) producing Scarboro Bluffs to the east of Toronto and depositing was a great place for raising goats. At various times this eastern end of the isthmus was the site of a zoo, a starch factory, a salmon fishery, a racetrack and a Snug hide-out for mugglers. L sandbar were cut by 1On in separate islands, and subsequent dredging harbor for park improvement in 1903 showed 22 islands inside the hook. The land was granted to Toronto by the crown in 1867 and part of it leased for residential lots. Those days nobody was concerned about eases women’s”.) A lifeguard named Captain Andrews pulled 69 bathers and capsized boaters out of the water, and an early resident of Ward’s, Charlie Priestman, became so well known by walkin ? ferries. e Toronto Maple Leaf ball team played their games there, and there were rides and midway attractions, a dance pavilion, band shell, roller skating, a diving horse and exhibitions of tightrope walking. Manitou Rd. on Centre Island became the “main street” of the islands, and on Centre, as well as on Hanlan’s and Ward’s and Algonquin there settled a nucleus of Island and kids’ coaster wagons. The islands were at one time or another the home of Toronto’s two-fisted m McBride (who was using s long before the modern novelists), Mayor Stewart, Donald Fleming, Sir Casimir Gzowski, the Gooderham and Nordheimer New York American goalie Ja e Forbes, sculler Jack Guest and swimmer George Young. Hap Day, Turk Broda, Gordie Drillon a Jak Bankers like beachcombers in The Islanders, virtually all of whom held jobs in the city, were a boating breed and the only Torontonians who rowboat pools and many paddled their own canoes to work, skilfully dodging the bilge of tankers. A night editor of a Toronto paper used to take his two dogs to work with him and could be seen any afternoon headed in the direction of Toronto’s skyline as if he were goin at night like Athenians returning from banishment. One Han n lan’s Pointer, imp at sight of his native lagoons, eryone’s f sitting reading his paper, looking, to a stranger, like a lone passenger, would glance up at some remark made by someone in a nearby group and add a few comments as if he were in his own living-room. One regular passenger used to do setting-up exercises on the upper deck all the way to work. Missing the last boat either way stant hazard. One veteran t women to town by tug, fireboat, ice-breaker or anything else afloat. ? ioper who was terrified of pregnant women locked himself in the wheelhouse and made the expectant parents sit out on deck. The Islanders were given to wandering down to the docks in the morning finishing their toast an marmalade. The skipper of the ferry Jasmine hated to leave anybody behind and got later and later until – ight was leaving at re d the five-to-eig on ck waving as if seeing o the Queen Mary. Many skippers were OIT job so long they could have found the docks the way most people find the o in a bathtub. It was years passengers of the John Hanlan realized that that was pre e way the skipper th was doing it. He ran aground in a of everyone on board who could see the dock clearly. It turned out that his eyesight had become so bad he ad to fee defending forces of the Toronto police at King St. and was promptly beached. The ferry ride was magic In 1946 five ferries were carrying ? m land of strange and friendly people. During all this, Toronto politicians looked grimly toward the Island The city complained that the ferry service cost too much, said the let them use their verandas in rain OLDTIMERS CLING TO HOMES – and a friend camped on the Island. Now 74, he’s been coming back ever since, Island. He and his f his boat livery, now stranded amid the rubble of Hanlan’s Point. He lso runs a water-taxi to the Island. storms, lent them dry clothes and often never got them back, and, in en, made out old wooden bridge from the Don Valley to Centre Island and placing it in the middle of the park, connected to nothing at either end. In 1951 and 1952 the water table rose so high that Islanders had to 63 YEARS AGO Frank Staneland (above) headline of newspaper it sound like a . Toronto applied to Ottawa for help in stabilizing the sea wall and newspaper headline writers had a field day. (“Island “Home Rule’ Demand Rebuffed!” “Island Plan Must Take Back Seat to Defence!” “Ottawa Unmoved.”) There were defiant gestures. Mrs. Ina Claire Jackson piled up six summonses for operating a bicycle license. In the meantime, oldtimers took soundings outside and Island women, bound for evening festivities, hiked their evening gowns up over their handlebars, hung their evening slippers around their necks, and pedalled to the ball in their stocking feet, their toes dipping into the water. Island poets, of which “The Island moon is full tonight, ? d Broadcaster. – “That is no place for human habitation in the wintertime.” Mayor Lamport. “I walked tonight between the shadow and the light, upon the field and paused in deep content”—The Weekly lslander. “Harold Bradley, Street Commissioner, Proposes Rais Island With Garbage” Toronto Star. “Select refuse is not garbage”. “The Island is made for a thousand romances. When Life is so short, make love while you may”—Island Broadcaster. A unique asset destroyed this time some of the Islanders must have been making love under water. The islands needed building up in places; they didn’t have to be annihilated. But the city acted before the water subsided, be terminating the 638 leases and announced flatly that the islands were going to be made into a park, with no people living on them. A budget of $12 million was set aside for ld have been enough IUCe up the islands and he spots). To the horror of the Islanders slap of cottage doors. It was all tidy, filled-in, antiseptic and progressive. A dozen lawn sprinklers squirted me – as I walked Ward’s Island: “You know, I have a theory. You can’t have success without people.”
LIVES LIVED MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2001
H. James Watt Haematologist, oncologist, father, sailor. Born Oct. 24, 1950, in Toronto. Died Sept. 4 in Tuscany, Italy, of cardiac arrest, aged 70.
My sister Martha says that my father wanted to be a physician from the age of 4. I once asked him if he had ever wanted to be anything else and he said, No, I like what I’m doing, and besides I’m good at it. And he was right. Dr. H. James Watt grew up on Toronto Island and attended school in a one-room schoolhouse where he accelerated twice. His parents were of Scottish/English ancestry and owned Watt’s Coffee Shop on Centre Island. Little Jimmy, as he was known, grew up peeling potatoes while his mother Dolly baked as many as 30 pies on a summer’s morning. As a teenager, Jim Watt was a member of the Island Canoe Club and began paddling competitively, finally winning the Canadian Championships in 1947. He started at Jarvis Collegiate at 11, small and terrified, but by graduation had won 1 the 1947 Optimus Jim Watt Trophy. He also won a scholarship for medical school which he entered at the unprecedented age of 16. In 1953, he opened his first practice on Toronto Island making house calls on a bicycle, charging $2 a visit. When times were tough, his patients paid him with eggs and chickens. His career at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto began in December, 1958. At 28, he was the youngest specialist on staff, specializing in both oncology and hematology. He also founded the oncology/hematology department at the health centre. During his 43-year career, Dr. H. James Watt served as Chief of Staff for six years, Chief of Medicine for 10, and was also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto from 1978 until his death. I always thought of my father as a doctor of the old school. He had a healing touch. He was kind and compassionate and lent an ear to all who were ill or in trouble. At the dinner table, he loved to discuss bone marrow transplants. He hated suffering, no doubt from having lost his own father at an early age. He rarely lost his temper, but he would become furious if the nurses had refused to give a dying patient morphine. My mother told me that he used to cry whenever his patients died.
For a man who faced death every day, he managed to cheat death more than once. He began having trouble with heart disease in the 1950s, culminating in an extensive bypass operation 18 months ago. He was not without faults, my father. He was impatient and forgetful. He was messier than a small child and way too fond of Scotch. But he loved people and had a great sense of fun. Summers he floated down the Credit River in a tube with his buddies. As an adult, he became a member of the RCYC and crewed on the Bristol Fashion. He travelled the world and Snapped a million badly focused photos. He took adversity in stride. When he was no longer able to sail, he bought a small motorized sail-boat and started the second RCYC, the “remote controlled yacht club,” with his friend George Stein.
He was married twice, initially to Janet Newman and, after her death, to Audrey Walsh. He leaves behind four children: Kelly Watt, Martha Watson, Andrew Watt, Cameron Watt, and grandson Robbie Watson.
He wanted to go out with fanfare and so, at the scattering of his ashes on Sept. 18, there was a New Orleans-style funeral procession (complete with jazz band) and a flock of white doves were set free into a blue sky. One week earlier, a memorial had been held for him at the hospital. A woman named Joyce got up to say how she had been diagnosed with cancer several years before, and, being a new arrival to Canada, did not have a health card nor the $28,000 for her treatment. My father treated her for free and saved her life. I have always adored my father but have never been more proud of him than I was in that moment. We will miss him always.
Kelly Watt is James Watt’s eldest daughter.
John O. “Ollie” McCrimmon, who died Friday, was the final link with Jorious era of Toronto Island after World War I. He was 90.
McCrimmon was one of the founding members of a red-blooded fraternity of young men who set up house on Cherokee Ave., Centre island, with the sole purpose of having a very good time.
The Hounds of Cherokee, as the hellraisers named themselves, became a local legend in the years between 1915 and 1920. They indulged in riotous parties; their wild boat races around the waterways often deteriorated into hand-to-hand combat; and they played endless practical jokes.
The only ironclad rule recognized by all nine Hounds was a dedication to bachelordom. Ladies were frequent, very welcome guests to their handsome plantation-style wood frame house, but marriage was not a popular topic of discussion.
The moment a Hound fell victim to wedding bells – and all of them eventually did — he had to leave Centre Island and make way for a single man. Their departure from Cherokee Ave., in keeping with the Hounds’ cavalier humor, was usually marked with a full-scale “wake”.
Residents of the island and the Harbor police eventually became accustomed to the sight of fraternity members swimming to the mainland because they missed the ferry to work after a late-night party. As official historian of the Hounds even after he married, McCrimmon compiled a timeless pictorial and written record of Toronto shrugging off the grim aftermath of war. Born in Woodville, Ont., the son of a farmer, he came to Toronto when he was 16 to take a business course at college. After training he became a store salesman – a job he held until his semi-retirement at 70 – and worked for local firms such as Ellis Brothers and Birks. But McCrimmon’s days as a leading light of The Hounds were numbered when he met Sarah Reid at the Dovercourt Rd. Presbyterian Church. They were married in 1916.
He never lost his love for farming and bought a 25-acre plot of land in Willowdale on which he bred chickens. But later he had his greatest success growing strawberries and raspberries on a 10-acre farm at Castleton, starting this second “career” when he was
The McCrimmons had three children, 14 grandchildren and 10 greatgrandchildren. Two years ago McCrimmon, pre-deceased by his wife, left the farm to live at Cummer House, Willowdale. He will be buried tomorrow at Smith Cemetery in Woodville at 1 p.m.
ΤΗΕ SΙΧΤΗ Decade 1917-27
the mountain is to the Montrealer, the Island once was to the people of Toronto. In the roaring 20s, those whacky days of prohibition, flag-pole sitters, flappers and Model Ts, Torontonians found their Summer fun at “this great marine resort” (so described in an earlier history) and on the steamers and boats that plied the lake waters. The automobile had made its appearance but city residents, pushing past the 500,000 mark, were still inhibited from overland excursions by the condition of provincial highways. “If you’d ever been in a Model T over a detour — and there were miles of detours — well, it was quite an experience,” recalls Alan Howard, 52, curator of the Marine Museum of Upper Canada. Because his father was in charge of the Island Filtration Plant, Alan Howard moved as a tot to the Island in 1918 and lived there until 1959.
“There were about 110 people who lived there all year, spread out in a straggling community from Hanlan’s Point to Ward’s Island. It was really like a small northern community, far removed from the city.
“There was a single-room school where one teacher taught nine grades. There was a great pot-bellied stove that would get red-hot…a very cosy atmosphere. The ‘conveniences’, were at the foot of the school yard, which made it a pretty cold trip in winter.” There were all the advantages of a small community, yet the “big city” was just a tug trip away. First steamer sailing of the season, early in May, Torontonians acted like “children let out of School.” “They all had to get out and take a trip…it didn’t matter if it was cloudy or even snowing. Everyone put on his greatcoat and muffler and away they went.” Until the opening of the Welland Canal in 1932, Toronto Bay always froze solid during the winter. The elite of Toronto used the islands as a summer base…“the cream Of Toronto
of Bay St.,
When cars drove across the ice
society, the Heintzmans, the Sweatmans…the list of residents used to read like a Who’s Who.” In winter, they would drive their cars across the ice to inspect their vacation homes. One of the great sports was ice boating, and the Durnan family at Hanlan’s Point had boats for hire. “These would be ranged in a great fleet outside the Harbor Commissioner’s Building, just west right on the waterfront.
“You’d wrap yourself in a great buffalo robe and away you would go for a quick Spin around the bay. Visiting notables were always taken on such a trip.” Alan Howard recalls that if the wind was right, you could cross the Bay in exactly a minute. During the height of the summer, the Island popula
tion would reach about 8,000. And Sunday visitors would Swell this number to vast proportions.
Hanlan’s Point was the great amusement park of Toronto. In order to transport all the picnic-packing travelers, a fleet of ferries would gather, perhaps three in the slip, with another two waiting out in the Bay. There were two roller coasters. And the ferris wheel always paused midturn to offer a view of the city and waterfront. People were so bound to water travel that it was the fashionable thing to go to the CNE by ferry, boarding at the foot of Yonge st. Marathon swims were popular events…Mr. Howard remembers attending the great Wrigley marathon: “One of the swimmers was blind.”
A memory: skating to school
Foster Hewitt was announcing the end of the race from the steamer Macassa. “Well, when the winning swimmer crossed the line, poor Foster was completely drowned out by the great blasts of salute from the Macassa’s whistle.”
It was Alan Howard’s father who helped the city to acquire its reputation for pure drinking water. He conducted a lengthy research program which resulted in the p r o c e s s known as super-chlorination. Toronto was the first city to use it. Since then, it has been adopted by most major cities in the world.
Bec a use Dr. Howard had been reluctant to move to the Island, the city offered all kinds of inducements. This meant that the Howards were the only residents to have their own water pipeline. Islanders would fill their water cans at the Howards’ backyard stand-pipe.
Early telephone lines were all party lines and Mr. Howard recalls his father being “beside himself” as he waited for island gossips to get off the line . . . particularly one woman who gave interminable medical counsel over the phone.
Alan Howard graduated from the Island school to the University of Toronto Schools on Bloor st. Before heavy Snow drifted over the ice, he could skate through the Island lagoons, then across the Bay, a total distance of about two miles, change into his boots, and off to school. “I was the envy of every boy in School.” There were other delights. Alan Howard’s parents were great theatre-goers. Shea’s Vaudeville, later to become the Victoria Theatre, at Richmond and Victoria Sts., was the home of vaudeville, with “regulars’ like Al Jolson and Jack Benny. One of Benny’s standard jokes was to have someone in the third row jump up and say: “Mr. Benny, you know I came clean from Hamilton to see you!” and the comedian would retort: “Nobody ever came clean from Hamilton.” to the island
Although Alan Howard was too young to become a patron, there were two burlesque houses, the Star (later the Empire) on Temperance, and the Gaiety on Richmond st. “Everybody tried to go on Monday night to see the unexpurgated version before the police-censors decided what should be eliminated.” The coming of talking pictures eventually sounded the death knell of vaudeville. But it took time before filmmakers produced a smooth product. Alan Howard attended the first sound film, The Broadway Melody, at the Belsize Theatre (later the Crest). “At least four times, the speech wasn’t synchronized with the action . . . it was uproarious, first you had the lips moving to the accompaniment of utter silence and then out would come the speech in the middle of a dance routine!”
Welcome! Watch your step… site under construction.
Plans are slowly forming to organize a formal web-based archive of Toronto Island History. Eric Zhelka is coordinating this archival effort, occasionally assisted by Eric Light, still inspired by the late Edward (Ted) English, and gratefully supported by former and current Toronto Islanders who gather on the TorontoIslandConnections Groups.io Group. If interested in any way, please fill in our Survey as we gauge involvement to see how the project should continue.
Eric Zhelka, for
Toronto Island History Project