History

PART II: FOUNDING THE CLUB

The Post War Period

1946, the first full year after the end of World War ll, brought changes in the world of boating, and needless to say this affected the Humber and its denizens both permanent and temporary. Boat and motor builders made the change from wartime to peacetime production. The names Taylor, Hunter and Cliff Richardson along with Midland Boatworks, Norse Boats and the ubiquitous Peterborough became well known as the action began. Outboard Marine, Mercury and all the others were producing as rapidly as possible. People again took to the water as a means of relaxation and fun. Many production methods developed for defence purposes were reapplied .to peacetimeoperations, and with this came the possibility of mass sales of boats. The end of gasoline rationing resulted in increased interest on the part of the public as far as power boats were concerned.

HicksOn the Humber River all this has its effect. By this time the Wanita with all its past secrets (and not so-secret secrets!) had departed from the Kings Mill Site. Now the name Hicks comes to the foreground in the history of the Humber. The family was already associated with the river as you have already seen from Part I, but became further involved when they took overthe Wanita Tea Room from the Cornish family and it became Hicks’s Boat House. In addition to the row-boats and canoes which William and Lena ‘Ma’ Hicks rented out for river excursions, limited marina facilities were provided for people with their own boats. At this same period the Barton's operated a similar establishment, not far away.

The first thoughts on forming a yacht club in the Humber Valley began at this time as an informal camaraderie began to grow among the boaters from Hick's and Barton’s. Here the Club was born.

Between 1950 and 1952 the first serious steps were made in forming a real yacht club. A search was made for a suitable site, and initially the ideawas to approach the Harbour Commission with a view to leasing some Commission-held waterfront property. Only two sites were offered to the young Club. One of these was at the mouth of the Humber, roughly where the present Harbour Police Station is located. This was also the spot where Gamble's Wharf had been. The organizers, however, decided that the area was too small and too unprotected to provide adequate facilities for the Club.

A second suggested site was, believe it or not, the narrow strip of land which separates the National Yacht Club from J.J. Taylor and Sons’. For those not familiar with local geography this would have meant a long narrow location with less than one hundred feet of waterfront property. Some ideas were tossed around and sketched drawn. The general idea was that a long and narrow clubhouse would be constructed well back on the site. From this would have led an overhead track. Boats would be dry-stored and launched or hauled by means of a pulley system running on the track. This was the only possible way to handle more than five or six boats. One must also remember that at this time there was no fleet of large cabin cruisers, only rather small outboards, mainly runabouts, made up the fleet. in the end, however, foresight prevailed and this location, too, was considered inadequate and the plan was dropped.

A third site was offered to the fledgling Club, this time on the Toronto Islands, home of certain prestigious organizations. This proposal was also rejected, due to the cost of operations and the distance involved for most members. So much for the first step. Nothing more happed, until...

Progress

Time brought about more changes as the years passed by. ‘Skip’ Hicks as the newspapers were to call him later, suffered a severe heart attack. Because there was no road to the King's Mill location, the Harbour Police were called, and at least one of the present THYC members was involved in removing Mr. Hicks by water from his home to hospital. He recovered, but would never again be able to do any of the heavy work around the place. Much of the management now fell to Mrs. Hicks.

The boaters from there and Barton's place were still in evidence.

The date October 15, 1954 brought the wildest night ever recorded in the weather annals of Toronto, and the Humber Valley bore the brunt. That was the fall in which Hurricane Hazel struck our city. In the valley of the Humber a whole street was wiped out. Water rose to the point where the raging torrent of the usually placid Humber reached the windows of the top floor of Hicks’ Boat House. Of course all the boats were swept away - along with trees, stumps, houses andbrldges. Even a fire engine was a victim of the worst flood ever to occur on the Humber River. All this did not help matters for Mr. and Mrs. Hicks and their business, already upset by illness.

Shortly after the flood caused by ‘Hazel’, it became known that the Hicks were planning to sell their place. A brief meeting was held, involving three or four people, and this took place in Ma Hicks’ kitchen. Sadly, has a result of lost records we cannot record the names of all those who were at that historic event.

We do know that these men invited some others to attend a larger meeting which was held under an old elm tree which no longer exists. This meeting may be called the first general meeting of the Toronto Humber Yacht Club. Again lost records cause some doubts to arise, but after questioning many of the original or almost original members we came up with the following list: Jack Karn, Jim Holt, Jack Moran, Trevor McKay, Gord Russell and ‘Speedy’ Schroder. The seventh member of the group was a teen-ager named Bob. Nobody seems to remember his surname. He, however, was the recording secretary, and the notes taken by Bob were the first formal.set of THYC minutes.

As an outcome of the meeting under the tree, THYC, as we know it, was born. No longer just a loose-knit group of boating buddies it became a legal entity. With Peter Brodie acting as legal advisor a limited company was organized and an offer to purchase made to the Hicks for their property. This

was accepted. and Toronto Humber Yacht Club has a name, members, and above all a place to call its own. The Club has been at the site of the King's Mill ever since.

The First Years

A local newspaper account noted that Cap. Hicks retired from business in 1954, over the age of eighty. "The same report mentions that, “Cap. Hicks still has time to serve as Commodore of the Toronto Humber Yacht Club." The details of this selection or appointment are lost. The only reference this writer has found is the one mentioned above, and is in a clipping kindly loaned by Gord Russell.

in 1955 Don Brodie was elected first Commodore under the Letters Patent granted to Toronto Humber Yacht Club by the province of Ontario. From here on we are on surer ground as far as verifiable facts are concerned.

The original Clubhouse was the former Wanita Tea Room, and still later, Hicks’ Boat House. It was a fairly large frame structure with a ground floor area open to the elements and designed to serve as a storage place for rental boats.

Enthusiastic Club members set to work with a vengeance and soon transformed the boatghouse into a very pleasant Clubhouse. The lower storage area was walled in and formed the main lounge. There were further Club facilities on the second floor and above that quarters for the numerous Stewards- who served the Club and its members as the years went on.

One story is told of a very powerful member who lifted up a corner of the porch by himself while several others placed cement blocks underneath. Sadly no amount of digging has unearthed the name of this individual. One can only be thankful never to have had a fight with him.

Needless to say at this time the present Humber Valley Road did not exist. Access to the Club was down the cliff from Glenaden East via a ‘steep set of stairs which was later augmented by a wicked roadway. This road was a terror for those who drove it. The trip down was similar to the sudden dip of a roller- coaster, while the trip up frequently resulted in bumed-out clutches. (That was when most cars. still had manual transmissions - remember the day of the’ dinosaur?)

The actual site south of the building was much different from today's neat lawn, yard and parkland. There was a rather messy swamp, remnants of which still are to be found in the seepage we note in and around our present boat yard. (Parking lot in the summer!) In the middle of the propertypurchased by the Club was a narrow right of way which was privately owned. On this strip of land was an old boat. Members decided that it was in the way, not much good anyway, and further they wanted to use this strip of land for Club purposes. The owner of the land had not been seen in living memory and to the best of everyone’s knowledge his boat was a derelict. The boat was, therefore, removed and burned.

It was not long after this fiery finish that Trev McKay was walking across the ‘foreign-owned’ strip of land - and met The Man. He accosted Trevor and demanded to know where his boat was. Trev promptly suggested he discuss the matter with Commodore Brodie since he, Trevor, had no idea where the boat had gone! Somehow Don Brodie provided a suitable explanation - at least no further trouble’ arose over the incident and the Club continued to-make use of the bit of land it no longer owned.

During this time the Conservation Authority was formed by the provincial government specifically to take steps which would prevent any further disastrous flooding of the Humber and generally to preserve the natural beauties of the area as a by-product of flood control. Work was done to alter the course of the Humber from the Old Mill site down to its mouth. We have already noted that people had been changing the river course for nearlya century. This was done both to ‘beautify’ the valley and, to provide for the various enterprises which operated along the way. The Conservation Authority worked and planned to permit the river to return to its own natural bed. Over the years a series of weirs was built to prevent some aspects of flooding, and higher up the valley, the Humber was dammed to form reservoirs, now also serving Toronto as additional parkland.

From these efforts and those of the Metropolitan Toronto Parks Department led by the indominatable Tommy Thompson, has grown the Etienne Brulé Park System and King's Mill Park in particular. The swamp was filled in.

On Storing Boats

Storing boatsBoats are the reason for boat clubs. Boats must have a place to stay. Once slips are provided, wet storage is not too great a problem. The problem which faces most boaters in the area, however, has always. been .- “Where do I go in the winter?” The "where" part of the question for THYC members was solved by the acquisition of real land. The storage problem, sad to say, has another aspect. Once you have a piece of land on which to store the boat, how does the boat get there from the water?

At first the valiant members of THYC removed their vessels from the river by means of skids dragged up the banks. Later this plan was improved when Jack Moran, then in the tow-truck business, was able to provide a power winch from his truck to haul the boats. Each year, of course, the boats grew bigger, as the marine disease, “two-footitis” hit the members. Gord Russel bought the first inboard boat to appear at the Club. She had a hull by Grew with superstructure added by Cliff Richardson. Her name “Gorlee." Gorlee is still in the Club as these words are being written, and we can say that Gord and Leda have the boat which has been in the Club longer than any other. As boat size increased so did haul-out difficulty. It took hundreds of back-breaking man-hours to perform the task each year and several week-ends were involved.

The next step in improving haul-out technique came when the members again worked long and hard to construct and install a marine railway. This, along with skids and butter boards made the job a little easier and it became possible for even, larger boats to join the fleet. It was not to long before the inboards were supreme - from the numerical point of view..

Even this system proved to be inefficient, and by 1959 the railway was abandoned. Large travelling cranes were next used, and for many years now Foran’s Crane service has sent the monster which lifts our boats in and out of the water. A job which used to require many week-ends is now done in a single day.

The Social Scene - One Aspect!

PartyA Toronto Humber has always been noted as a place where the social action is. When members are not busy boating, they are usually found partying. When they are not using boats for this purpose the Clubhouse is likely to be jumping such has always been the case.

Today we have the facilities of a genuine, LLBO - approved bar. In the early years there was a bar, but the LLBO was not supposed to know of its existence.

The Club, however, seemed reasonably safe from such nasty things as police raids. Therotten road from above made access difficult and the river formed an effective moat at the outer ramparts. Jack Moran, now in the ambulance business, usually had a vehicle parked at the top of the hill and this served as a convenient look-out.

Sad to say these fortifications finally failed. The week after Port Credit Yacht Club wasvisfied by suspicious gendarmes, THYC was also visited. A certain amount of trouble ensued.

Eventually the LLBO agreed to grant the necessary papers and we no longer needed to be secret drinkers. Our habit came out into the open. By 1975 THYC had advanced sufficiently in the eyes of Ontario Liquor Licence Board to be granted that authorities highest accolade. We are now permitted to serve spirituous fluids even on Sunday!

And More of The Old Club

Much fun and more hard work marked the first years of the Toronto Humber Yacht Club. It was entirely through the efforts of its members that a water line was brought to the building from Glenaden. This project was one of the memorable ones, resulting in work parties the like of which are seldom seen around any yacht club today. By the same means of member planning and member work the hydro lines were brought in, cable laid and the light standards, among the finest to be seen at any of the area clubs were erected.

At this time it was the philosophy of the club not to bean elitist organization, but to provide boating facilities for those who othenrvise would be unable" to maintain a boat. Why should the pleasure of yachting, in any form, be the private preserve of the rich? The THYC became one of the many clubs which are really co-operatives through which members make boating possible for themselves and each other through shared costs and labour. While there have been some changes, for various reasons, this remains the basic goal of THYC. Wrthathis approach to boating, no wonder the first members from THYC to visit thatancient and honourable yacht club with the Royal charter on Toronto Islands were received by their rich cousins with a certain amount of bewilderment, if not disdain! “Toronto Humber Yacht Club? What and were is that?” Oh well -THYC is still going!

The author of this work heard about THYC through an article in the “Toronto Star” in 1960. He then kept a boat at a yard in Orillia, and felt that prices there were beyond his salary - but determined to maintain a boat all the same. The old story of beer budget and champagne tastes! A visit to THYC assured him that the costs for boating from here were right! Sadly the hundred dollars for gas or two hundred dollars required for trucking made the plan impractical the boat had to remain in Orillia. (At this time Jack Moran was in the boat hauling business.)

A number of amusing or interesting incidents occurred during this period in the history of the Club. PAST Commodore Don Brodie tells a hilarious story about the first club cruise. It would seem that the destination was the Thousand Islands. Under the direction of the Fleet Captain, the fleet headed down Lake Ontario, planning to travelvia the bay of Quinte to its goal. Unfortunately the Fleet Captain was unable to recognize the entrance to Prés Qu’lle Bay and the Murray Canal - his road map had insufficient details! The voyagers made the trip around the outside of Prince Edward County. One might suspect that this had some bearing on the founding of the Humber Valley Power Squadron by some of THYC’s charter members! Needless to say navigation today is somewhat more sophisticated!

Power-boat competition on the Great Lakes became a part of THYC. Under the direction of Vic Waring, the first Lake Ontario power boating marathon was held on Lake Ontario. Vic being a member of THYC at the time, the festivities after the race were held in~the old building on the King's Mill site. Another form of competition rose in popularity. This was the predicted log, and search and rescue competitions which eventually led to the Esso Trophy. In this connection we hear such names as l.K. “Ted" Philips, George Bruce and Stan Garrett. Ted's name is more thanonce on the Esso Trophy as a result of his boat-handling- powers.

Again during the early years, one of the members was the proud owner of a thirty-tvvo foot cruiser which suffered from that dread disease dry rot, more politely called “wood rust". Deciding to find a vessel with a little longer life expectancy, he advertised the boat for sale.

Unlike many of us, this gentleman received a satisfactory offer as a result of his advertisement. There was a condition made, and that was the boat must be delivered to a port on the south shore of Lake Ontario. The THYC member accepted theeoffer, promptly he delivered the vessel to the harbour designated and collect his cheque. That was in the afternoon. The following morning the new owner came down to the dock to see his boat. Unfortunately for -him it was resting quietly on the bottom of the harbour! A great legal battle arose over this one, but eventually the case was settled in favour of the vendor who had. said the court, fulfilled his part of the agreement. The lawyer for the THYC member? Peter Brodie.

And so the stories go. Things went along as well as could be expected the Club wasiflourishing, although like every yacht club there were occasional A concerns of a financial nature. in spite of this the cost of a membership as this part of the story draws to a closewas fifty dollars per year, with social fees set at twenty five dollars. Mooring and storage rates were comparable. Some of us remember those days before inflation!

In 1966 and 1967 two events marked the end of an era. This was the year in which the Club property was expropriated, and the land became part of the Metropolitan Toronto Parks system, leased by that organization from the Conservation Authority which now held the title. A lease was arranged with the Parks Department in order to maintain the Club facilities.

During 1965, the secretary was Ralph Davis, who lives in Elgin at the time of writing. Mr Davis handed over the reigns of his office to Dave Lynn as a result of the 1966 elections. With that change Dave received all the Club records. He took these home, as his predecessor suggested, but later found they took up too much space, and anyway Dave felt they should be kept in the club house. The night after the records were placed in the old building, fire took its sad toll. Flames racedvthrough the building and it was totally destroyed. A few dishes were saved, the Commodores’ bell survived and the oil painting of Toronto's skyline from the harbour was also rescued. The last two now grace the present building.

With this fire came the end of an era. The building once occupied by the Comishes (and known at one time as the Wanita Tea Room) was gone from the Toronto and (Etobicoke) scene. Hicks’ Boat House was no more. The first building to be owned by the Toronto Humber Yacht'Club»was in ashes. A'new stage in the life'of the Club was about to begin.

This seems an appropriate place to list certain people who should be remembered ... Commodores of the past:

  • 1956-58 Don Brodey
  • 1959 John Shugar
  • 1960 Gerry Moody
  • 1962 Percy Foxton
  • 1963 Jack Wilkin
  • 1964 Bruce Gregory
  • 1965-69 Trevor McKay
  • 1970-73 Harry Kay
  • 1974-75 Jack Morton
  • 1976 George Bruce (Commodore Elect)

Boating Members from 1956 - still active:

  • Jack Davis
  • Jack Karn
  • Trevor McKay
  • Jack Moran
  • Ted Philips
  • Gord Russell

This brings us to the end of that part of the Club’s historyw hich was lost in the fire. We hope that the information which has been salvaged will be retained and closely guarded for those who come in the future, and that those records which date from after the fire may be well guarded. It's the story of the people who made this Club and it’s their legacy for those yet to come.


Next chapter >> PART III: THE PHOENIX

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