History

PART III: THE PHOENIX

SagamoHow trite can you get! The story of the phoenix rising from its own ashes has been used almost too many times. Still it seems appropriate! The symbol of the phoenix graced the famed Muskoka Lakes steamer ‘Sagamo’ from the time she was rebuilt after a serious fire until she was taken out of service some years ago. There is also a large Taylor Craft aft-cabin sedan around bearing the ‘Phoenix’ name, since she was totally rebuilt and restored, arising from a derelict state. Toronto Humber Yacht Club, too, arouse, literally, from its own ashes. So - trite it may be, but apologizes for the literary lapse, I won't!

The Aftermath

The second section of this tome ended with the fire which destroyed the building and all the Club’s records on the early spring (or late winter, take your choice) of 1967. The cause of the fire was given as ‘faulty wiring’, however we are aware that the official from the" fire department who made this diagnosis never entered the building, nor did he examine the site. It was an assumption. Or suspicion has always been careless smoking. Be that as it may, an era was ended.

Shortly after the fire, a mobile home was brought to the site of the former King’s Mill, and therein resided the Steward of the day, Ron Baugard, with his wife. While living in this rather small ‘clubhouse’ Ron continued to make himself useful. He acted as a watchman, carefully guarding the fleet from all trespassers.. He was, apparently, a mechanical expert, offering his services to many people. Walter Drune well remembers the effects of Ron's ministrations on his outboard motor and depth sounder! A certain additional expertise was needed to cure the problems which arouse. The last haul-out to take place while the Baugardswere still with the THYC was, as’ always, a success. The luncheon menu was the interesting point, although the story may be apocraphyl. If the things one heard later were true, it is the first time this scribe has ever eaten horse meat, at least knowingly!

Boating on the river and the lake continued as usual. Behind the scenes, however, much was going on. Under the leadership of Commodore Trevor McKay, plans were being laid for a new building. Not the least of the difficulties involved were those of a financial nature. The late Harold Guilfoyle made a very definite contribution to solving this problem. In the end funds came from three sources. This was the time when the property was expropriated by the Conservation Authority, and a cash settlement was made. There was also limited fire insurance coverage. These two sources of funds were a help in financing the. new building, but still were a long way from solving the need. Conventional mortgage sources were explored, but financial institutions would not lend a large sum of money to a Club which no longer held its land free-hold but now leased its property under somewhat tenuous terms. In the end the necessary funds were raised among the members through the sales of 500 dollar debentures, having an annual interest rate of 10%. This issue was for a ten-year period, which means that the Club’s debt for building purposes will be retired before too much more time goes by.

In the midst of these discussions, (and while Commodore Trev McKay was threatening to lock us in the meeting room at the Dutch Sisters until all the debentures were sold), an interesting spectre arose. Someone was hoping to a sell shares in Toronto Humber Yacht Club Limited and realise a huge profit. (Manyshares in the early days were sold to non-members who bought them as a speculative venture.) However it was pointed out -that with expropriation the shares no longerhad any value beyond their face value and that only under conditions of sales controlled by the Directors. A few people whose interest was monetary rather than Club oriented were a bit unhappy! The Club they hoped to destroy was saved.

The Reconstruction

During the spring of 1968, the wherewithal having been found, construction began on a new, modern brick structure - our present clubhouse. All the concerned levels of government were at last satisfied withthe specifications and design of the building. Up it went.

In July of 1968 the new establishment was unofficially opened for business, and after a year without a clubhouse we gazed upon the place with wonder and amazement. It had really come about! With the opening of the new clubhouse came a new Steward, George Fedoruk. George has held this position longer than any other Steward in the history of the organization.

September of 1968 saw the official grand opening of the new THYC building. The annual sail-past was postponed from the spring and was held as A part of the festivities. The start of the clubhouse programme was signalled by the arrival of various celebrities who came marching down the roadway to the martial sounds of a fife and drum band. A clergyman said a prayer of dedication an unveiled the plaque at the main entrance. This was followed by a champagne reception with the “bubbly” provided through the assistance of Ted Philips, who, along with Jack Obernessor, has frequently helped liven up a Club function. The kindness of these gentlemen has always been appreciated. A buffet dinnerand dance completed the day. The architect received an ovation for his efforts. (We had not really lived with the building yet!)

At first the new building was a rather sterile place with just a -trace of the eccleseiastical to be found in the high, beamed ceiling and lack of ornamentation of a nautical nature. Vice-Commodore Torn Trelogan had his own ideas about decoration-none. lsuspect poor Torn would not be very happy with the changes we have brought!

Although there was much rejoicing that a new building was up, there was nostalgia too - somehow the character and hominess of the '“old club" was lacking.

The years have gradually changed that, however, one of the finest collections of yacht club burgees around make a colourful display. Pictures of boats have been added, and the bell from the ‘old club’ adds its bit of charm. On the sudden death of boater Ernie Reid, his widow presented a barometer and clock, each decorated with a ship's wheel, to grace the walls. And so the story goes. Today it looks and feels like home. Someday even the balcony will be made usable!

The first notice to appear on the bulletin board in the new clubhouse was an advertisement for boat tours on the Muskoka Lakes. Jack Moran had gone into the marina and boat tour business.

That pretty well covers the story of the new clubhouse. The only thing to point out in closing this bit of narrative is this. July 1, 1956 marked the opening party in the “old“ building. July 1, 1976 is not quite here, but it will mark a rather obvious milestone in the history of THYC. It's not just Canada's birthday!

The New Era

With the new building completed, Commodore Trevor McKay decided that he had given enough of his time in the Club’s highest office. Accordingly he decided to retire, having served his beloved THYC for 5 years and brought it through its greatest period of trial. Trev served as Commodore longer than anyone else so far in the annals of the Toronto Humber Yacht Club... »When he gave up the position, his comment was, “lt’s just like getting out of jail!”

Trevor's retirement form office signalled the beginning of what might be called ‘the Great Election’. During the past 10 years, members have been so satisfied (or complacent) that the slate of officers proposed by the Nominating -Committee has only been opposed twice. Before that time,.we are told, there was much more excitement.

In any event, the Nominating Committee proposed Bill Whitehead for Commodore, Bill having just completed his term as Rear Commodore. At the same time Harry Kaye, a very popular member was nominated by 5 voting members. The result" of this was to have 2 highly qualified men. running for the same office. Feelings ran hot, since both gentlemen were well liked and had ability- “When the tumult and the shoutingdied” and the shareholders had departed from the meeting, Harry Kaye was Commodore. Harry held this office successfully for 4 years, thus coming second to Trev McKay in length of time in the position.

A number of projects were undertaken during the next 4 years. Some improvements in docking facilities were made and the ‘catwalk’ which once served as the base for fingers piers south of the parking lot was removed.

A period of low water resulted in our having the riveredredged near the mooring area. This was doneby means of an assessment. Needless to say this job was followed at once by a period of very high water.

Around the building there were further-improvements. A large walk-in cooler was purchased and erected just behind the kitchen. This provided some much needed storage space.

Meanwhile, back in the social end of the organization, a musical group with a preeliction for jazz and similar music was formed. Walter Bettridge, who had been a musical leader in the Club for many years, Bill Davis, talented on trumpet, organ and piano, drummer Art Lathwell and our quiet guitarist ‘Hap’ O’DonnelI would gather regularly to entertain us. Bill Halam would join the fun when he could get away from his other pursuits. Occasionally still, if you are lucky, these gentlemen can be found playing on a quiet afternoon. It happens all too seldom!

During this period Charles Shefflin was Harbourmaster, and one night at an executive meeting. offered to provide the Club with an organ, if one could be found within a specified range. This very generous offer was accepted, and the writer was asked to select an instrument. The present Hammond organ was the result. Members like Charlie are what a club is all about!

This period also saw change in the policy of work parties. As one haul-out day was proceeding smoothly and successfully along, a tragedy occurred. Harold Guilfoyle who was helping on one of the docks suddenly collapsed. Boater Dr. Rolland Suran did all that was possible but Harold was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital. Members and their wives took stock of advancing ages, and since that time much of the very heavy labour has been provided by hired help. Work parties, however, still remain as an important aspect of Club life.

Meanwhile the River and its vagueries continued to plague THYC members as well as it had done those who went before, us. For two seasons only the smallest boats could pass under the bridges at the mouth before mid- July due to high water. This kind of problem and the reverses one of low water as well as occasional floods and silting at the mouth of the river led to continuing discussion on the subject of finding mooring for the larger.boats outside the mouth of the Humber. This planning is far from over.

And Into the Present

After Commodore Harry Kaye had served his 4 years in office, the position fell to Jack Morton. Jack was one of those most interested in possible expansion beyond the limits imposed by the successors to the bridge about which Col. Baby complained almost a century ago. Commodore Morton became highly, if quietly, involved in negotiations at various levels for this purpose. As a result of these efforts,.Jack became a well-know figure in meetings concerned with the waterfront development, and it was "of great advantage to the Club when Jack was appointed to the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. This group is, of course, much involved with the waterfront development projects which are resulting in some rather exciting landfills and protected harbours.

During Commodore Morton's regime, there has been a new musical group formed which also provided entertainment for various occasions. This group includes Jack Sampson and Alan Fry from the Club along with Davie Wilson from Whitby Yacht. Club and Alan's friend Jimmy Grassie. John Huckstep is also a great help on these occasions.

The clubThe THYC made another step forward in recent years- We are now listed in Lloyd's Register of Yachts, British edition. This inclusion now makes us welcome asguests in almost all yacht clubs in the world. One local "club, however, could be an exception to this. When visiting the United States it is sometimes wise for members to point out that we are in the British edition, and possibly it would be useful to carry a photostat of the entry when venturing far afield if you do not have a copy of the Register on board.

This brings the story up to the present, and we now face a possibly new direction in Club policy. At the time of writing, the following have been nominated to fill the Board of Directors in the.coming year. We wish them all the best, and this list seems an appropriate point at which to end the history of the organization. Here are the executive members elect as THYC enters its twenty- first year as a legal entity:

  • Commodore - George Bruce
  • Vice-Commodore - Robert Valley
  • Rear Commodore - Jack Sampson
  • Secretary - Gordon Dean
  • Treasurer - Tom Bontje
  • Harbour Master - Gerry Lehman

Oh Yes - There are Some Boats

So far we have gone into the business, history and political aspects of the THYC. But we would not have a yacht club if we did not have boats. This little addition is a brief comment about a few of the interesting craft that have graced our moorings. Needles to say we cannot name every boat brought in by every member, but a few have special points of interest or character which makes them worth remembering.

Rainbow II was a thirty-six fool Ditchburn launch which did duty in the 20s as a rum-runner across Lake Ontario, helping to provide for our thirsty cousins south of the boarder. She was also entered in the Harsworth Trophy Races on the Detroit River, finally defeated by Gar Wood. Later in her career she was converted to a cruiser by Hunter Boats Limited of Orillia, successors to Ditchburn. She was brought into the Club by former member Bill Smith and renamed Rarny R. Later she was again renamed “Triton IV“ and finally was sold out of the Club’ by Jack Sampson who had named her If I. In 1975 she was located at Albert’s Marina on the Holland River.

A The largest boat ever to make her home at the THYC was the titty-four foot Half and Half. She was brought into the Club by Jim Hold who sailed her up from the Maritimes. Her last owner in the Club was Gord Hunt. Half- and Half is now sadly a derelict on the American shores. She was a real character vessel, typical of Cape Island design.

The clubA Norwegian double-ender with diesel power was yet another interesting member of the fleet. Sea Cure or CQR was brought into the Club by Harry Kaye. Harry acquired the vessel after her original owner had disappeared over the stern during her first voyage on Lake Ontario. Harry sold her to another member who now keeps the pretty little ship on Lake Simcoe.

The first inboard cruiser to reside at Hicks’ Boat House (and still remaining in the Club) is Gorlea. This little Grew has a lapstrake hull. The superstructure was added by Cliff Richardson of Meaford, Ontario. Gord and Leta Russell are the owners of this history-making cruiser.

Many more boats could and perhaps should be included, but with apologies to every proud owner, we must finally bring this work to a halt. Enjoy the river, enjoy the Club, and happy boating!


Next chapter >> PART IV: THE MOTHERHOOD ISSUE

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