Sunday, October 12, 2014
3 events left their mark on Toronto in 1954
The first of these memorable events was the opening on March 30 of Canada’s first “rapid transit subway”, the 7.4 km (4.6 mile) Yonge line from Union Station to Eglinton Ave. Little did those first passengers of 60 years ago realize that the need to improve this “pioneer” route to and from the heart of the city would become a major feature included in the long list of promises put forward by those seeking the demanding job as Toronto’s next mayor.
Then, during that year’s CNE a yet unknown 16-year-old Toronto schoolgirl captured the hearts of all Canadians when she accomplished what the world famous American marathon swimmer Florence Chadwick could not. It all started late in the evening of September 8 and after nearly 21 hours had passed Toronto’s Marilyn Bell had become the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. The pride of all Canadians, especially those here in her hometown, was passionately obvious.
But with the happy came the sad for it was a little more than a month later that the totally unexpected happened. Officially born in the Caribbean on Oct. 5, a category 4 hurricane identified as “Hazel” came ashore at the border of North and South Carolina, barreled its way north and then did the unanticipated. The eye of the storm made straight for the western outskirts of Toronto. When it came ashore the winds had dropped below hurricane force, but the rain was torrential. Bad perhaps, but with the ground already soaked from previous rainfalls the results were disastrous.
The cost of the damage to houses, stores, roads and bridges was astronomical. But worse was the loss of life. In total 81 people from all walks of life would never see another sunrise. Five victims were members of a volunteer fire department, serving their community without thought of payment. On Weston’s Raymore Drive dozens of houses were simply washed into the river. All nine occupants of one house, #142, were victims. Six bodies were recovered and are buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. While three children are listed on the headstone they are not there. Their bodies were never found.
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