Barbara Ann Scott

“Canada’s Sweetheart”

Barbara Ann Scott King (May 9, 1928 – September 30, 2012 was a Canadian figure skater. She was the 1948 Olympic champion, a two-time World champion (1947–1948), and a four-time Canadian national champion (1944–46, 48) in ladies’ singles. Known as “Canada’s Sweetheart”, she is the only Canadian to have won the Olympic ladies’ singles gold medal, the first North American to have won three major titles in one year and the only Canadian to have won the European Championship (1947–1948). During her forties she was rated among the top equestrians in North America. She received many honours and accolades, including being made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 and a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008.

barbara ann scottBarbara Ann Scott is the greatest female singles skater produced by Canada. She passed all her skating tests by age 10, the youngest Canadian to ever do so. In 1939, aged only 11, she became Canadian junior singles champion. She repeated that title in 1940 and attempted to win the senior championship in 1941 and 1942, but was runner-up both years to Mary Rose Thacker. These titles came despite her father’s death in 1941, which left her family with little money for training.

Scott won her first of five straight Canadian senior championships in 1944. In 1945 and 1947 Scott was North American champion. International competition resumed in 1947 and Scott entered both the World and European Championships – in that era, the Europeans were not restricted to natives of Europe. Thus, in 1947, within six weeks, she held the concurrent titles of Canada, North America, Europe, and the World. Her triumphs in 1947 brought her fame at home and a huge welcome was arranged with Ottawa’s children given half a day off from school so they could watch barbara ann scot - jumpsthe adulatory parade. The citizens of Ottawa also pitched in to present her with a new yellow convertible automobile. But future IOC President Avery Brundage protested this gift, and demanded that Scott return the car or risk losing her amateur status. Barbara Ann Scott returned the car and was allowed to compete at the 1948 Olympic Winter Games. She dominated the competition at St. Moritz and easily won the Olympic gold medal, defeating Austria’s Ewa Pawlik, who took the silver medal.

barbara ann scott dollAfter the 1948 Olympics, Scott turned professional, where she was a huge success. She skated with the Ice Capades, starred in a London theatrical ice show based on the musical Rose Marie, and finished her career while starring in the Hollywood Ice Revue. Scott retired from skating in 1955 to marry American publicist and businessman, Thomas V. King, whom she had met while travelling with the ice shows. They settled in Chicago, where Scott began a second sporting career of training and showing horses.

Much lauded in her native country, Scott helped carry the Olympic torch on its journey to the 1988 and 2010 Winter Olympics, both held in Canada. In the latter edition she was also selected as one of the Olympic flagbearers alongside a host of other Canadian luminaries. In addition to being a three-time Lou Marsh Trophy winner as Canada’s best athlete (1945, 1947, 1948), she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991, a member of Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1998, and has been inducted into Canadian Olympic, Canada’s Sports, Ottawa Sports, Skate Canada, and International Women’s Sports Hall of Fames. Later in life she lived in Florida, until her death in September 2012 at the age of 84.


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Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958

“The Springhill Bump”

springhill mine - headlineThe 1958 Bump which occurred on October 23, 1958 was the most severe “bump” (underground earthquake) in North American mining history. The 1958 Bump devastated the people of Springhill for the casualties they suffered; it also devastated the town, as the coal industry had been its economic lifeblood.

The No. 2 colliery was one of the deepest coal mines in the world. Sloping shafts 14,200 feet (4,300 m) long ended more than 4,000 feet (1,200 m) below the surface in a vast labyrinth of galleries off the main shafts. In the case of the No. 2 colliery, the mining techniques had been changed 20 years before this disaster, from “room and pillar” to “long wall retreating” after reports documenting the increased danger of “bump” phenomena in the use of the former technique.

springhill mine - minersOn October 23 a small bump occurred at 7:00 pm during the evening shift, but was ignored as this was a somewhat common occurrence. However just over an hour later at 8:06 pm an enormous bump “severely impacted the middle of the three walls that were being mined and the ends of the four levels nearest the walls.”

The bump spread as three distinct shock waves, resembling a small earthquake throughout the region, alerting residents on the surface over a wide area to the disaster. Dräger teams and teams of barefaced miners entered the No. 2 colliery to begin the rescue effort. The rescue teams encountered survivors at the 13,400-foot (4,100 m) level walking or limping toward the surface. Gas released by the bump was encountered in increasing concentrations at the 13,800-foot (4,200 m) level where the ceiling had collapsed, and rescuers were forced to work down shafts that were in a partial state of collapse or were blocked completely by debris.

springhill mine - survivor and sonAny miners who were not covered either in side galleries or some other shelter were immediately crushed during the bump, the coal faces having been completely destroyed. 75 survivors were on the surface by 4:00 am on October 24, 1958. Rescue teams continued working, but the number of rockfalls and amount of debris slowed progress.

Meanwhile, the Canadian and international news media had made their way to Springhill. The disaster actually became famous for being the first major international event to appear in live television broadcasts (on the CBC). As the world waited and those on the surface kept their vigil, rescuers continued to toil below the surface trying to reach trapped survivors. Teams began to arrive from other coal mines in Cumberland County, on Cape Breton Island and in Pictou County.

After five and a half days (placing it around the morning of Wednesday, October 29, 1958) contact was established with a group of 12 survivors on the other side of a 160-foot (49 m) rockfall. A rescue tunnel was dug and broke through to the trapped miners at 2:25 am on Thursday, October 30, 1958.

On Friday, October 31, 1958 the rescue site was visited by various dignitaries, including the Premier of Nova Scotia, Robert Stanfield and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh who had been at meetings in Ottawa.

On Saturday, November 1, 1958 an additional group of survivors was found; however, there would be no more in the following days. Instead, bodies of the dead were hauled out in airtight aluminum coffins, on account of the advanced stage of decomposition, accelerated by the Earth’s heat in the depths of the No. 2 mine at 13,000–14,000 feet (4,000–4,300 m) from the mine entrance.

Of the 174 miners in No. 2 colliery at the time of the bump, 74 were killed and 100 trapped but eventually rescued.

Source Wikipedia –

Hurricane Hazel – Oct. 15 – 16, 1954

Canada’s perfect storm

Hurricane Hazel struck the Toronto area on 15-16 October 1954, with devastating results. It was Canada’s worst hurricane and Toronto’s worst natural disaster. During the storm, winds reached 124 km/h and over 200 millimetres of rain fell in just 24 hours. This horrific storm left 81 dead, nearly 1900 families homeless, and caused between $25 and $100 million in damages (modern-day cost has been estimated at over $1 billion).

Aerial view of Hurricane Hazel's devastation when the Humber River floded.
Aerial view of Hurricane Hazel’s devastation when the Humber River flooded.
300 million: number of tons of water that fell during the storm
155: Hazel’s maximum speed (mph) in the Caribbean
81: Number of people in Ontario who lost their lives from the flooding
4,000: Number of families left homeless in Southern Ontario from the flood (1,868 in Toronto)
32: Houses on Raymore Drive that were washed away by floods
4: Magnitude of Hazel at the maximum rating prior to landfall on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale

Hurricane Hazel’s Formation and Path

Headlines in Toronto Telegram Newspaper the day after.
Headlines in Toronto Telegram Newspaper the day after.

Hurricane hunters first identified Hazel on the afternoon of 5 October 1954, about 75 kilometres east of the island of Grenada in the West Indies. At this point it already had winds of 160 km/h. The storm tracked along the coast of Venezuela before suddenly swerving northward towards Haiti, where it left between 400 and 1000 people dead and destroyed 40% of the island’s coffee trees and 50% of the cacao crop, adversely affecting the economy for several years to come.

By 14 October, Hazel was battering the Carolina coast, with estimated wind speeds of 240 km/h, and a tidal surge of 4 metres. It destroyed the entire town of Garden City, South Carolina, leaving only two of 275 homes standing. It tore through the western suburbs of Washington, DC, and across Pennsylvania and New York, causing $1.5 billion in damages and killing 100 people in the United States.

As Hazel approached Ontario, the Dominion Weather Office tracked its erratic path as well as the predictions by the American weather service, and issued warnings to broadcasters. However, few people had experience with hurricanes and were unaware of how to prepare, leaving them vulnerable to the storm’s power. After moving inland from the Carolina coast, Hazel seemed to abate over the Alleghenies, where American meteorologists predicted its dissipation. Here, however, the storm was re-energized by a low-pressure system and broke loose towards Lake Ontario and Toronto.

Rescuers brave the storm to seek victimes
Rescuers brave the storm to seek victimes

By 4:30 P.M. on 15 October, rain began to fall heavily on Toronto. Underpasses began to collect water, but by 7:00 P.M. the traffic had mostly cleared. Yet as Chief Meteorologist Fred Turnbull warned, “The worst is yet to come. This is the pause that always comes during a hurricane.” (Betty Kennedy, Hurricane Hazel, 1979) The pause was not the anticipated “eye” of the hurricane; it was the pause before the deluge of rain inundated the city’s rivers.

While the storm struck the Toronto area with heavy winds, the greatest destruction resulted from flooding. Much of the Humber River drainage basin was deforested, which allowed water to quickly flow into the river. The flood plains, already saturated by days of rain, simply could not contain the downpour.

The first deaths were reported at 11:00 p.m. as a car was swept into the Humber River killing the occupants. Of the final total of 81 dead, more than 30 were killed on a single street, Raymore Drive, when the cascading Humber River ripped entire homes from their foundations, sweeping them downstream. Volunteer fireman Bryan Mitchell recalled what he felt the night of Hazel on Raymore Drive, “I felt so helpless, but there was nothing I could do, nothing anybody could do. The water was so deep, up to our chins, and all the firemen were weighed down by clothing and boats and equipment.” (Toronto Star, 14 October 1984)

hurrican hazel - aerial floodAs the flooding escalated, 40 highways and main roads were submerged. Passenger trains were knocked off their tracks. Forty bridges were destroyed or structurally damaged and ten were out of commission because of damage to the approaches. In Woodbridge, the Humber swelled to 107 metres at its narrowest point; nine people died and several hundred more were left homeless. Two men, Murray and Clyde Deadder, were killed when their car was caught in floodwaters in Thistletown, where 12 families were left homeless.

Many brave rescue efforts were undertaken, even though the current was strong enough to endanger most boats. Several would-be rescuers launched missions to save stranded people, only to need rescuing themselves. Five firefighters from the Kingsway-Lambton Fire Station were killed when they attempted to rescue people stranded in a car by flood waters from the Humber River. Their fire truck became stuck on a flooded street and overturned, and the men–weighed down by heavy jackets, boots, and equipment–were tossed into the water.

Despite the difficulties, many lives were saved because of the quick action of police, fire personnel and citizens. In Weston, off-duty police officer Jim Crawford and Herb Jones, a contractor, boarded a 25-horsepower boat and headed out into the river. They worked all night and by daybreak had saved 50 lives.
Impact of Hurricane Hazel
Lessons were learned from the tragic loss of life and environmental devastation of Hurricane Hazel. Conservation authorities, local municipalities, and the province together developed a comprehensive plan for flood control and water conservation to significantly reduce the risk to life and property posed by extreme weather events. After Hazel, the provincial government amended the Conservation Authorities Act to allow conservation authorities to acquire and regulate vulnerable lands (including the former Raymore Drive) for recreation and conservation.

In 1959, the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority initiated plans for the development of large dams, reservoirs, and major flood-control channels, and for an erosion-control program. In addition, large areas of land were identified for acquisition and conservation. Regulations enacted since Hurricane Hazel restrict new development in flood plains, allowing rivers to flow naturally and reducing the risk to people and their property during flooding.

Author: James Marsh, source: Canadian Encyclopedia:

“Spadina House”

One of the great houses of Canada


"Spadina House" as it appears today.
“Spadina House” as it appears today.

There were three houses on this site. The first two were built by William Baldwin. The last, the grand Victorian home still standing today, was built in 1866, by James Austin. His granddaughter, Anna, who lived in the house from 1942 until 1982, gave Spadina and its six-acre property to the city. It opened as a museum in 1984, complete with much of the Austin furnishings. It is maintained today by Heritage Toronto.

Dr. William Baldwin built a family home on the then two-hundred-acre property in 1818. He called it Spadina (pronounced spadeena), after the native term espadinong, meaning “hill.” In addition to being a lawyer and a doctor, William was the father of Robert Baldwin, the first premier of Upper Canada (now Ontario).  Dr. Baldwin occupied a number of important public positions. He was a judge, Treasurer of the Upper Canada Law Society, and a member of the Legislative Council, in addition to carrying on both law and medical practices. He was a busy man, and in time the trip to the country home became less convenient, so when it burned down in 1835, and he built a home in town on Front St. In 1836, he had a smaller country home built on the old Spadina foundations.

"Spadina House" as it appeared while still occupied by the Austin family (1920s)
“Spadina House” as it appeared while still occupied by the Austin family (1920s)

In 1866 James Austin, founder and president of the Dominion Bank and President of Consumers Gas, demolished the second Spadina and built the grand Victorian home surrounded by Gardens, groomed lawns, and majestic oaks which still stands today. The new house incorporated the fieldstone foundations of the 1818 Baldwin house. The most visible relics of the original house are the former front door, sidelights, and fanlight, which now form the back entrance. In 1889, James Austin subdivided the forty acres west of Spadina. Three years later he deeded twenty acres and the house to his son Albert. Albert added to the house several times including: a billiard room, ground-floor kitchen, palm room and glassed porte-cochere. In 1912, the north part of this property was sold to the city for a reservoir. Albert died in 1933. His second daughter, Anna Kathleen Thompson, lived in the house with her family from 1942 until 1982. Anna presented Spadina and its six-acre property to the city to be used as a historic

"Spadina House" three-storey staircase.
“Spadina House” three-storey staircase.

house and museum. Spadina House opened in 1984, complete with much of the Austin furnishings, and it is maintained today by Heritage Toronto. Austin Terrace and Austin Crescent are also reminders of this leading Toronto family who occupied Spadina for four generations.


John Damien, Canada’s forgotten hero

Too gay for the horseracing business



John Damien (1933 - 1986)
John Damien (1933 – 1986)

Damien worked in horse-racing in Ontario for twenty years, as a trainer, jockey and racing steward for the Ontario Jockey Commission. He was one of the top three racing judges in Ontario when on February 7, 1975, he was dismissed without notice after his gay sexual orientation came to the attention of the Commission, an independent agency of the Ontario provincial government.

Almost immediately a Toronto gay group began to campaign for his reinstatement, as well as an enquiry into his firing and into the status of gay people working in positions under Ontario government jurisdiction. The Committee to Defend John Damien was established soon after, and the Damien case gained attention across Canada.

For all of the publicity, though, and the support of civil libertarians, journalists, lawyers, doctors and politicians, court actions launched in 1975 dragged on for years without the case being brought to trial. Damien was ruined financially and supported himself through odd jobs.

Finally, in 1986, the first legal action, a suit of wrongful dismissal against the Commission, was settled in Damien’s favour; he was awarded one year’s wages plus interest, a total of about $50,000. By this time Damien was in poor health, and he died of pancreatic cancer.

A second lawsuit, for loss of income, had been filed against the estate of a racetrack doctor who had informed the Jockey Club that Damien was homosexual; the case had not yet been heard when Damien died, just 22 days before a legal change that would have made his long fight unnecessary – inclusion of “sexual orientation” in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Damien proved that blatant discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation could no longer be tolerated in Canadian society and that court action in such cases would (eventually) succeed.


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