Wednesday, February 1

14 houses gone

The effects of 1954's Hurricane Hazel reached southern Ontario on Friday, October 15 and proceeded overnight into Saturday, October 16. One of the photographs published by the Toronto Daily Star on Monday, October 18 (page 5) was this:


Printed atop the picture was "14 houses gone, 35 people dead". (On page 1 it is 36 dead.) The montage was credited to Eric Cole and Ed Parker, though I'm not sure either one took the aerial shot. Here are three more photos scrounged from the Net that set the floodwater scene; two aerials and a remarkable ground view (credited to the Weston Historical Society, here) from the river's other side:




In the ground-view image, the submerged part of Raymore is on the far left and near the top. The two somewhat submerged structures in the right-half of the picture would be on the east (Weston) side of the Humber river. To their left, three large trees obscure Gilhaven Avenue, clearly visible (from the air) in the middle image, where you can see those trees on the other side of the river. To the left of the trees is a toppled bit of bridge abutment that is still there.

The 35 dead is still generally touted as the Raymore Drive "drowned" contribution to the total Canadian fatality count. A memorial plaque at the site instead suggested 32. Of course the Star newspaper's locations of the lost houses was conjectural. Another recreation (showing additional houses lost) suggests a different layout.

There are aerial maps of Toronto (1947-1992) so one can sort-of see what was lost and where. [I'll share my versions of 1947, 1950 and 1956.] There's a much-too-fast simulation of the disaster from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority which (I expect) has positioned correctly all of the houses (seen in this screen grab from the Weston side of the river):


The TRCA has of course very good elevation data and this likely played an important role in their rising-water simulation. Alas, it's useless in helping us decide which houses were "lost". The story told is that a 1950-built footbridge across the river (seen in the above near the bottom right) lost its abutment on the Raymore side and the still connected wire ropes — now in the water — proceeded to collect debris in an arc emanating from the Weston side. Much water was thus redirected towards the unlucky buildings. The irony is that this bridge replaced a much-less sturdy earlier version (called in the article a swing bridge) that was deemed unsafe. Betty Kennedy (in her 1979 "Hurricane Hazel") called the replacement bridge a swing bridge also. This had me more than a little confused.  But a CBC radio interview (the site has an incorrect broadcast date) has an unidentified man calling it a swing bridge as well, so there should be no doubt that that is what the footbridge was called.

I'll do a listing of Raymore house numbers (even — river side — first) and the fatalities that I believe are associated with those dwellings:

#134: Girodat   Paul, Mary Beedham [found Oct 29]
#136: Newing   * Caroline Annie Beavan, * Gerald Norman [found Oct 22], ... 
          Salt   * Vera Frances [found 30 Jul 1955          \ ... Gerald John [found ~31 Jul 1955]
#138: Topliss   Annie May Martin, Albert
#140: Boyd   James
          Hall   Kenneth 
          LeBlanc   Alice
          Peasley   Lambert, Doris, Sylvia, (Shirley)
#142: Smith   John Clive, John William, Grace Anne Dunn [found Oct 30]
#144: Gillan   George H, Helen Stimson [found Oct 24, (child)
#148: Edwards   Joan I Jesson, Carolyn JKenneth Charles [found Oct 31], Frank K, John C
          Neil   Jean R Edwards, Susan L, Adele B, Darlene S [found Oct 24 
#152: McGarvey   Philomina Johnson, Jacqueline, Donald
#154: Brough   * Wilhelmina Helen Campbell

#143: Babbage   * Claude
          Jeffries   Edward Albert, Elizabeth Mrs. Thomas Sr.

  unbracketed number of people mentioned and assumed dead: 36
  italics: 4 missing Dec 19543 missing Aug 1955: a misreport, or who else was found?
  magenta: 3 declared dead by two newspapers on Oct 18 but no further mention found

The Toronto Star, Oct 18, page 2, misreported Caroline Newing as Katherine. Caroline's obituary gives her maiden name as Bevan. It was Beavan.

A Shirley Peasley is reported missing in the Globe and Mail, Oct 18, page 2. I found no further mention of her and can only assume that it was meant to be Sylvia.

"One Gillen child" is listed after the George and Helen 'missing' entries in the Globe and Mail, Oct 18, page 2. By the time the Toronto Star came out that day there was no such mention. I have no obituary for George, but Helen's mentions no child — nor does their combined memorial cemetery headstone.

"... and one adult, name unknown" accompanies a missing Kenneth Edwards in the Globe and Mail, Oct 18, page 2. In all likelihood this is an uninformed, duplicate reporting of the then-missing John Neil (who was in fact very much alive). Perhaps the connection hadn't at that point been made because John's dead wife Jean was reported at 148 Raymore while Kenneth's dead wife Joan was misreported at 248 Raymore.

Mrs. Thomas Jeffries Sr. is declared dead in the Toronto Daily Star on Oct 18, page 2, while the earlier Globe and Mail, Oct 18, page 2, had "Mrs. Tom Jefferies" missing — but there is a dead "unidentified woman, about 60" on page 1 that may well have been her. No obituary — but I have this mention. I'm still looking for her. I've got an 1885 Toronto-born Albert Edward Jeffries but his father's name isn't Thomas.

Afterthoughts: The 15 Aug 1959 Globe and Mail had a story on Thomas McGarvey having been charged with the holdup of a drug store, noting that in 1954 he "saw the water snatch his mother and sister". The article ends with his "father and a brother" having "escaped". [I have the obituary for his brother Donald.] The 13 Mar 1963 Toronto Daily Star reported on a gas explosion at a home on Raymore, ending the short article with: "During Hurricane Hazel, 23 persons on Raymore Dr. drowned." [Presumably a transposition typo.]

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