Lawrence Solman, Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King

Lawrence Solman, Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King

From: The Toronto Star Weekly, November 18, 1926


◊ Profile of the remarkable Toronto-born entrepreneur Lawrence “Lol” Solman (1866-1931), who was managing director of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Sunnyside Amusement Park, Hanlan’s Hotel, Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park and the Mutual Street Arena in Toronto; owner of the Toronto Ferry Company and the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club; and vice-president of Loews Canadian theatres. Born Jewish, he married Emily Hanlan, sister of rower Ned Hanlan, and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

* * *

The late Sir Edmond Osler, meeting a friend on the street in Toronto a few years ago, asked him to guess what was the most satisfactory investment he had ever made — the most consistent and persistent earner?

The friend was perplexed. Sir Edmond had the reputation of being somewhat of a financial wizard, with an uncanny sense for ferreting out the worth of any project requiring borrowed capital. After a few moments of deliberation, the puzzled expression left the friend’s face, and, with the expansiveness one feels on solving some problem that has floored another, replied: “I know you have had some money in most of the good things in this part of the world, and to some of your friends what you have asked me to guess might be pretty much of an enigma. But I will bet it was some brewery stock.”

“You are dead wrong! As an investment yielding a high return, and one that never had a lean year, Lol Solman’s merry-go-round at the island has been in a class by itself.”

Hanlans-Point-by-nightWhen I recalled this story during a recent conversation with Mr. Solman, his eyes twinkled in response to the reminiscences of the days when he enjoyed a most intimate friendship with the banker. During the latter part of his life Sir Edmond had a fixed and unshakable conviction that Lawrence Solman would make a success of anything he undertook. This was shown time and time again when Solman’s honesty and sagacity was backed with cold, hard cash.

“Well, I remember just as clearly as if it had happened last week, of going to Sir Edmond and saying: ‘We have the books closed and balanced for the season, and have decided to cut the melon.’ He asked how big a slice he was to get, and when I told him it was to be every cent of his principal back in one lump sum he flatly refused to accept it. However, we finally compromised, and he endorsed a dividend cheque for fifty per cent. One might never have suspected it and it may seem hard to credit, but the earnings of that little old gold mine at the island never varied more than few dollars year by year.”

“Were all of your investments as lucrative?” I next queried.

“No, I could hardly say that, but I have always found it much easier to make money than to hang on to it after it was made. Making money is very much easier than some people seem to believe, but there is a real art in saving it.”

Those that know anything about the private life of Lol Solman will wonder at this statement. His tastes are simple in the extreme, and the money is certainly not spent on himself. Then, too, he is much too shrewd to lose it through unwise investments. Then where does it go? The answer to this question reveals to one in an intimate way the mode of life and the character of a man who is oft-times referred to as “Canada’s Uncrowned Amusement King.”

Lives Near Birthplace

Lawrence Solman is an unusual mixture of sentiment and business shrewdness. With his various enterprises basking in the warmth of solvency and pouring profits into his no longer surprised pockets, he continues to live in the same characteristically modest way.

When he goes motoring it is in a car that some of his employees might scorn to drive.

He was born just back of the present site of the Royal Alexandra Theatre; consequently, this particular neighbourhood has a very strong sentimental attachment for him. Although he has spent the past forty summers at the island, during the winter he lives in an old home on the corner of John and Richmond streets in Toronto.

I met him there the other day, and as we walked down John street to King his memory seemed to overflow with the events of the days when that was the aristocratic residential neighbourhood.

“It doesn’t look much like it now, but do you know that John street used to be one of the very finest in the town? Why, when I was a young fellow many of the best families lived right along here.

“See that house there,” and we had come less than a block, “that is the building where John Ross Robertson was born. Across the street there is the old home of Ed. Hanlan. Down on that next corner was where the old Government House stood. Two of the Heintzman boys were born in those houses there. They look mighty shabby now, but I remember when they were considered fine enough for our most opulent citizens. The Royal Alexandra Theatre was built where the entrance to the old Upper Canada College was, and the old buildings and grounds covered the entire block bounded by Adelaide, John, Kind and Simcoe streets.

“There may be some men who are small enough to be ashamed of ever having lived down in this section, but they have no cause to be, for all these old homes belongs to the most substantial of the city’s old families. A person had to be considered mighty well-off to afford one of these houses that were the pride of their owners and the cause of many a pang of envy on the part of the less fortunate.”

At this stage I could no longer resist enquiring: “I know you do not live here any longer from necessity. Is it the memory of your youth that keeps you here?”

“Well, in the first place, I find it very convenient; you see, I can walk to my office in a few minutes. However, I suppose I find some sort of an attraction rising out of the happenings of the old days.”

There is a legend that one sometimes hears, and that is that he is penurious. Even to those who have heard no more of Lol Solman than his proverbial cigar, this misrepresentation is so gross as to produce no more serious an emotion than that of amusement.

Although I have spent a good deal of time with Mr. Solman I could not draw from him one fact about his benefactions. One has only to spend as much time with his associates to hear of enough incidents of people he has helped in their time of trouble to make a good-sized book. However, I will venture to say that none of these deeds have been mentioned by the man himself but have been related by the unfortunates themselves or by someone that has witnessed his response to some appeal.

One of his closest colleagues told a story a few days ago which may be taken as a typical example of his belief that a man should not wait until he is ready to die before using any of his money for helpful purposes.

A Case of True Charity


Maple Leaf Stadium

During the early days of the war Mr. Solman had working for him at the Royal Alexandra Theatre a girl whose head had been more than partly turned by the stories constantly coming from trooping actors as to the high wages obtainable in New York City. They finally convinced her that she as imply wasting her talents on the desert air. So one morning she met the boss at the door with a demand for an immediate increase. More in fun than with any intention of refusing her request, the boss asked her what she was going to do to make her services more valuable to the company. This query was all that was required to ignite the fireworks, and on the impulse was interpreted as a refusal.

The next morning she was conspicuous by her absence. Past favours were lightly forgotten, and without the mere formality of saying good-by she flew posthaste to the city of opportunity and shattered hopes. On reaching Gotham she experienced little difficulty in securing a position with one of the hotels. Within a few months she was terribly burned in a fire and died. Her people were without the wherewithal to settle her bills and bring her body back for burial in the family plot in eastern Canada. It was to Lol Solman the appeal for help came. Many men might have considered this too much like being asked to turn the other cheek, but not this man. At an outlay running close to the four . . . he brought her body back to its final resting place amongst her own people.

Can anyone find a finer case of true charity?

It is claimed by those who know him best that he gives over a third of his time to helping others. However, these same persons will not attempt to hazard a guess as to what percentage of his income goes in the same manner. If he does not spend his money on himself, if all of his ventures have long been savoring the warmth of prosperity, is it not reasonable to assume it finds its way to aiding those that are destitute or in trouble?

Even though Lol Solman never has refused to assist a truly deserving case he is the kind of a man that never asks or accepts a favour from anyone.

A Canadian who has reached one of the highest executive positions in the industrial world said to me: “Of all my old friends Lol Solman is the only man that has not asked me to do him a favour at some time. Everyone of them has asked me to loan them money, or to use my influence to get something for a friend. The last time I was talking to him I asked him how that was, and he said: ‘I have had at least fifty come to me and ask me to use my influence with you to get something for them. I have offered to do what I could personally, but I simply told them you could not place all of the unemployed.”

Was Rushed into Baseball

One can rake the records of Solman’s youth in vain for evidence that he was afflicted with any pre-conceit as to the place he was destined to fill in the realm of sport and in the world of the theatre.

In 1885 he left Toronto to engage in the mail order business in Detroit, and did not return until some ten years later. In 1893 he was married to Emily Hanlan, the daughter of the late John Hanlan. From the time of his return home up till now he has been actively interested in all improvements and developments that have taken place at the island.

Some say he wandered into professional baseball, but the truth is he was pushed in. And the late Jim McCaffrey did the pushing. On the death of the latter in 1923 Lol Solman became not only the titular but the active head of the Toronto Baseball Club. This year he built in the city of his birth the finest baseball park in minor league baseball, and there are teams playing in the majors who cannot lay claim to as sumptuous a home.

Hanlan's Stadium, Toronto Island, where Babe Ruth was said to have to hit his first professional home run.

Hanlan’s Stadium, Toronto Island, where Babe Ruth was said to have to hit his first professional home run.

In speaking of the championship just won from the strongest teams in the minor leagues, Mr. Solman said: “It is not generally appreciated up here just how much favourable publicity Toronto has received in the States through our team winning the junior world’s championship. In my opinion, it is worth far more than all the paid propaganda we might care to invest in. I’ll venture to say there are lots of people who never heard of Toronto before.”

Professional ball players, boxers, actors, hockey players and so on, when successful, are paid larger salaries than university president, for the single reason that they bring in the box-office receipts. Consequently, a few generalities on the salaries paid ball players, as told to me by Mr. Solman, are worthy of recording here.

“Players are paid so much per month for a season of five and a half month, including all expenses while on the road.

“No matter how good a left-hand pitcher may be, the market value of his services is never nearly as high as that of an equally effective right-hander. Some claim that throwing with one’s left arm is a strain on the heart, and that this tends to shorten the playing life of most of the southpaws.”

“Who is the highest paid man on the Toronto team?” I asked.

“Ownie Currell is the highest paid player in the minor leagues.”

Every ball club owner has had his bitter experiences, and Mr. Solman is no exception

A few years ago, when Toronto was standing a close second in the league race, Mr. Solman was sitting with a friend at a game on which a great deal depended. The score stood two to one for the visitors and Toronto came to bat in the last half of the ninth — one run down. The first two batters went out: then the next man cracked out a beautiful double.

“Well, Lol, I’ll bet that makes you feel good,” the friend remarked.

“Yes, that’s not so bad.”

The next batter duplicated the feat, driving in a run to even the count.

“That must make you feel real good, Lol.”

“Yes, it would if I were a fan, but as the owner of this club it does not. I would rather have seen any other man on the team get that hit. When the time comes to get out the contracts for next season that fellow is going to remember that particular two-bagger, and if it doesn’t cost me five hundred dollars’ — I’ll miss my guess. He hasn’t got one atom of business sense, and I blame him for our team being in second place. All summer he has done nothing but find fault, disturbing other players and generally spoiling the morale of the team through his efforts as an agitator. But you could never make him realize the amount of money he has lost for us, the hundreds of dollars he has driven away from the box-office, though our hot heading the league.

His Theatrical Activities

The next batter won the game. Mr. Solman turned to his friend and said: “There is a man that is a real comfort. He got into trouble so deep that I had to go to his rescue. He was grateful, and insisted on playing for us this season, although he rightly belongs in the big leagues. From the minute he steps on the field he plays the game, and attends strictly to his knitting. If that other fellow would only take a leaf out of his book — Toronto would be on top right now, and would stay there.”

Solman was ushered into professional sport by way of lacrosse. The erstwhile mail order man was a staunch supporter of the old Tecumsehs in the days when lacrosse was our great national sport. And when they won the championship in 1911 he sent them to the west in quest of the Minto Cup — the emblem which represented the championship of the world.

Anyone who ever attended a lacrosse match in the old days or a baseball game at the island, or one at the new stadium this season, has probably observed the boss of the works wearing a half-anxious, tentative look as though he were wondering what was going to happen to him next; or else you have noticed him the background furtively watching the reaction of the crowd to that particular game, and wondering what could be done to make things more interesting or comfortable for his patrons.

Royal-alex-exterior-1911When the Royal Alexandra was built some eighteen years ago, there were many who regarded it as a white elephant, but under the management of Lawrence Solman it was made to do its tricks.

Lee Shubert was just emerging from the mass of ordinary theatrical producers, and gave promise of becoming one of the powers behind the American midway. With his usual vision, which is one of Solman’s greatest qualities, there was born in his mind a fixed and unshakeable conviction that Shubert was destined to hold the place he does today.

In speaking of the show business, Mr. Solman said: “It is extremely difficult to make a success of a new theatre today; and equally hard to secure the financial backing, as the great trouble for a beginner is to hook the worthwhile plays. These shows are in the hands of men who made their connections many years ago.”

The innate modesty of Solman has kept his achievements from being more generally recognized and appreciated. If he had been an equally successful playhouse operator in one of the large cities of our southern neighbor, his name would appear in the big electric sign out in front. And if he had built there as a magnificent a stadium his friends would have insisted on the park being known and advertised by a more appropriate name.

However, in future years, when it is more generally realized what this quiet, reticent little man has done towards furnishing us with cheap wholesome amusements, there is little doubt but that the new “Maple Leaf Stadium” will be known by its proper name, and that will not be the only tribute his fellow-citizens will pay him when his absence has made known the value of his presence.

As one is thrown in contact with his employees, he discovers man after man who have been on his payroll most of their lives — one of these assured me it was thirty-three years. He enjoys to a remarkable degree the affection and loyalty of these men. The men that are or have been associated with him in any of his undertakings have implicit confidence in his ability and integrity. It is claimed that Lee Shubert’s most powerful rival today is Marcus Loew; but it is Solman who is given the credit for having so firmly entrenched Loew’s in the hearts and mind of his fellow Canadians. In any case, whether these two great American rivals are foes or secret allies, the fact remains Mr. Solman enjoys their mutual confidence.

Recently someone started trouble in connection with the sale of the ferries to the city, resulting in an investigation that completely exonerated Lol Solman, and cleared his name of all inferred or intended stigma. . . . “I am not as young a man as I used to be and the injustice of those charges was a mighty severe blow,” he said. . . .

“The whitest [i.e., the most spotlessly clean in reputation] man I know,” is the way one of our leading bankers described Lawrence Solman. ♦

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The Forgotten Idol – Ned Hanlan

The Forgotten Idol – Ned Hanlan
The Forgotten Idol – Ned Hanlan
  • Created by: Maclean’s Magazine, byline: Fergus Cronin
  • Date: 1953-06-01
  • Provenance: From the collection of Ted English, digitized by Eric Zhelka
  • Notes: 1880’s – “The Boy in Blue”

Ned Hanlan, a chunky Toronto Islander, rose above shady promoters and fixers to bring Canada its first world Title in the days when baseball was a pup CANADIAN in Paris in 1917 was to a friendly Frenchman. “I was in Canada his way to his first big victory; in several of his suspected; and even shortly before his death in 1908 a local storm blew up about whether he should be appointed Toronto’s harbor master. hockey and baseball are today. And for betting, it can only be compared to horse racing. Ten and twenty thousand people would turn out to Lake St. Louis, the Welland Canal, Kempenfeldt Bay or the St. John River to watch the giants of those days fight it out with sculls. And Ha f those giants, measured only five feet, eight and three quarter inches and weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds. Known throughout the world as Ned, he became champion sculler of Canada at twenty-two, at twenty-four and at twenty-five, champion of the world. We over him, scarves bearing his picture were the rage, snuffboxes, ties, shirts and belts were sold with Ned’s name or picture on them. The second son of John Hanlan, a Kingston boatbuilder who became the first leaseholder on Toronto Island, Ned was born on July 12, 1855. His first attempt with outriggers was made in a novel craft he designed and built himself: a two sharpened at both ends and equipped Amateur championship of Toronto Bay and won. for the next eleven years, until he hit the downgrade at twenty-nine, he took part in about three The sliding seat had made its appearance in racing shells in 1871, allowing the oarsmen to get a longer sweep-in effect, lengthening the arms and the stroke. Hanlan became known as “the father – it in a single-seat shell and mastered its use. – In 1874 Hanlan met and beat Thomas Loudon in a race for the championship of Burlington Bay, as Hamilton Bay was them called. (Loudon was the great-uncle of Thomas R. Loudon. professor at the University of Toronto, who was the Canadian in Paris in 1917, mentioned above.) was launched when two lengths. The same season he won the governor general’s medal for a two-mile race at Toronto, and championship of Ontario, his oniy opponent being William McKen. The big regatta on the horizon at that time was to be held in Philadelphia in May 1876, to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. McKen had been planning to compete, but decided it looked so good as a money proposition that he teamed up with Hanlan, Ned doing the training and McKen placing bets in the poolrooms at night. Hanlan almost failed to get away from Toronto. He had sold some liquor on the island without a Or hìS arre ? permit and a warrant for his arrest was issued tw days before he was due to leave. Friends he about it, and that night he was hidden in a friend’s house e following day police cornered him in the Toronto Rowing managed to lude them, hopped into a skiff an ? ter a just leaving for Lewiston, N.Y. Police spotted him skimming away, but his reputation as an oarsman discouraged pursuit. In the first heat of the centennial race Hanlan. d in the second he defeated the next best oars . By this time the gamblers had lost so heavily they were looking for Hanlan. McKen and Hanlan together and McKen would leave Hanlan in bed at nights while he made the rounds of the taverns, so many mistook McKen for Hanlan. g im and he was taken back to Toronto on a stretcher, suffering from violent poisoning. Hanlan not only won the single sculls at Philadelphia, beating the best oarsmen of America and a couple from England, but he did it in a record time. the bright-eyed, pink-cheeked, curly-haired little fellow tops in the sport He rowed in a blue shirt, and thereafter he always “the Boy in Blue.” – Hanlan’s triumphant return to Toronto was in direct contrast to his ignominious departure. A huge crowd gathered at the dockside to meet his steamer. Ned ized and seated atop the larg est hook-and-ladder wagon Toronto owned, and Hail to the champion sculler! Toronto’s manly son, Who across the line, and on the Tyne Hath famous victories won… For the next eight years the world was Hanlan’s oyster. A host of supporters sprang up to form the Hanlan Club, putting up an initial twenty dollars apiece to pay Hanlan’s expenses and bet on his races. The charter membership included the U. S. consul, Col. Albert Shaw. Ned t yet the official Canadian champion. Alex Brayley, who had been favored for the Philadelphia race, returned Continued on Years after his crowd. was presentation to Canada and was beaten for the Canadian title by Wallace Ross, of Saint John. Ross then challenged Hanlan to mile event, the usual championship distance in those days. Ross was an eight-to-one favorite when the race took place on Toronto Bay, but HanA return lan won e Rothesay, N.B., the Kennebecasis River, the following has described in detail in many rowing annals. Both men, amid the wildest enthusiasm, struck the water simultaneously . . . At the half-mile mark Ross was pulling a fiery stroke of thirty seven and Hanlan a great sweep thirty-two per minute, with Hanlan a length ahead. With no increase of effort, at the mile mark Hanlan had doubled his lead. as a stroke that must have been wrenching him apart, Hanlan, after seeing that Ross was safe, went over the course… To the Canadian crown Hanlan soon I peak, Hanlan (top, left) could still draw a He’s grasping his son Gordon, who n was killed in 1917. of a silver service at City Hall. his next significant race was in Oct. 1878, at Lachine, Que. It was the first of what was to become the famous Courtney-Hanlan series. These races by cracker-barrel oarsmen. Hanlan’s honesty but, at least to the his name was later cleared. The first race against Charles E. Courtney, of Union Springs, N.Y., U. S., real. Hanlan won by a mere one and a Windsor Hotel after the race. A lot of money had been won and the following October at Chautauqua Lake, N.Y. Interest in the race became feverish. A grandstand for fifty thousand spectators was erected. An observation train half at afloat promised to follow the race never took place. The morning of the day it was scheduled, Courtney’s shell was found sawn in haif. In a book published in 1923 (Courtney and Cornell Rowing, by C.U.P. Young) it was suggested that Hanlan “whose convivial habits were well known” had imbib before the race. His backers became alarmed and tried in vain to have draw, but again Courtney refused and “before the morrow dawned those whose bribe had been spurned were avenged.” H. J. P. Good, sport writer for two Toronto papers and an origi ernber of the Hanla of six thousand dollars, the first to go †n Hanlan the third to the best man. In each instance the loser was to receive two thousand out of the purse. “The arrangement,” said Good, “was made entirely without the eonsent or knowledge of Hanlan, who, I am willing “Hanlan was then told of the arrangement,” said Good, “and his reply was that if he were not allowed to win if he could he couldn’t be hauled from the boathouse with a logging chain. Of course the Courtney party got on to the result of his trial row over the course which had been staked the boat was 39 The referee ordered Hanlan over the course on the day of th which he did, with two or three pauses, in 33:56, a time which stands to this day as the fastest for five miles with a turn. The purse was to have been given by the owner of a brewery, but he refused to pay on a “row-over.” So the pair met again on the Potomae at Washington in May 1880. In that race Courtney was so far behind at the halfway mark that he dropped out. In a tribute to Hanlan years later, James C. Rice, onetime coach of Columbia University, said: “I know personally that Hanlan was offered thirty thousand dollars to quit in a tempt to bribe him.” By 1879 Hanlan had beaten so he went to England. In May he beat John Hawdon for the champion and the followin ed William Elliott, also on . Trains brought speetators by the thousands. The crush of boats on the river made navigation almost impossible. less bet freely in small sums on their champion whom they believed invincible. Lawyer Kerr rhymed: The champions take their stations, Promptly each takes his place In the sight of all the nations Of the Anglo-Saxon race. “Now, three to one,” roared Elliott, “That I lead all the way!” And his stalwart arm and lusty form Might feebler foe dismay. But it was Hanlan’s craft Toronto that led all the way. He won by ten boat lengths and broke the record for the course by fifty-five seconds. Then from the river’s crowded banks, From roof-top, bridge and pier, Thrice thirty thousand lusty throats Sent up a mighty cheer; And many a British city Caught up the wild acclaim, And the western world from Sea to #Sea Resounded with his fame. Another civic reception was arranged home. will give an entertainment at 8 o’clock sharp. An will be presented by the Mayor about 9 o’clock, to which the Champion will Champion will appear with his boat, in full racing costume. Tickets will be sold at 50 cents no reserved seats The scene of the arrival was painted in oils by William Armstrong, and hangs still in the Toronto home of one of Hanlan’s daughters, Mrs. C. H. S. Michie. Dated July 15, 1879, it shows five old sidewheelers crowded to the ounded of little boats. On the leading steamer a tiny figure stands on a platform high in the was how the Boy in was still but one feather from the chunky sculler’s Triekett, the first Australian to have Interest in the outcome It was scheduled for it at wrote a ian newspaper from Newcastle: This meeting between Trickett and Hanlan will be the even in the rowing annais of the year—if not of the century . . . Triekett’s friends spoke of Han lan as a small man – but I reminded them of the r k made by the ferryman near Pittsburgh, that “the more clothes he takes o the bigger he gets,” and suggested that when he measured speed with their six-foot-sixer, the little m might look the larger of the two. The odds changed from two-to-one on Trickett to two-to-one on Hanlan as an estimated forty-two thousand masterful spurt. The erowds eheered and the nervy Ned drew near the bank rowing with alternate oars. Twice more Hanlan paused, once his hotel, the Bull’s Head, its fellow Hanlan had established himself as later made considerable money performing on the water. One of his best tricks was rowing with only one scull straight across the Thames and back again. d to Toronto via New played the aquatic solo.” In Toronto he was accorded another reception by mayor and citizens. The following year, 1881; he rowed on the Thames again, this time against Elias C. Laycock, of Australia, for the Sportsman Challenge Cup, and won it winning it for ail time. It is one of the most impressive cups in sporting history, standing about three feet high. It is still in the p – f Mrs. Michia A Great and Unique Skill Those were great days for the rowing game. The first official race between Y and Harvard was held in 1852, although Oxford and Cambridge had been racing on the Thames since 1829. Fortunes colorfully named Lakes Winnepesaukee, Minnetonka, Quinsagamond and Creve Coeur, the konk River, Lake Couchiching and wnyan Lake. Ned Hanlan rowed and won in them all. In 1880 there were at least a score of regattas were held at least once and sometimes twice a year. Cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal sponsored annual regattas. Youngsters asked their parents for gigs, wherries, dinghies or common rowboats is time, rowing was largely a matter of strength; Hanlan add and was at once the master of the me. When he beat Elliott on the Tyne it was seriously suggested that he must have had a propelling machine in his boat. With air-bags and machinery, The miners stoutly held, Or by some secret influence His skiff must be propelled, For never such a sculler Of form so lithe and fine Or such modest mien, had yet been seen On the Thames or the Tyne. Some claim Hanlan was the first real champion of the world—of any v London that there was world-wid representation. Trickett challenged Hanlan in 1892 and they met on May 1 on the Thames with stakes of five hundred pounds. Hanlan won by ne a minute and a half and, after passing the turning sta e spun around an – back of tw – Trickett’s last appearance in a firstass match, and who can blame him? Standing on Lake Ontario, this $17,000 statue honors the first world champion Canada ever had. The next challenger was a dour Australian, William Beach, a blacksmith from the village of Dapto, New South r In ra ve gone because, as world champion, he could dictate the locale of the race. But he had not yet been to the southern hemisphere and the adventure appealed to his restless spirit. was written on this side of the world of his defeat by Beach. One report said gram commented, ue to unfavorable climatic politics. Hanlan’s Hotel, which he had displayed a huge collection of his trophies and souvenirs. In 1898 he was elected a Toronto alderman, was re-elected once but defeated for a third term. had married Margaret Gordon Sutherland, of Toronto, formerly of Brantford, Ont., in 1877 and they had His wife ? – ur dau rs still living: Mrs. Michie, -Margaret and Aileen Hanlan, of Toronto; and Mrs. Alfred Hafner, of Portland, Me. When Hanlan died on Jan. 4, 1908, at fifty-two, papers in every part of Canada carried editorials about him. ever moved faster than Hanlan was given a civic funeral, and probably ten thousand people filed past his bier. A death mask was taken. Years later “The last outings Ned had with shortly before his th when, on the odd Sunday morning, he’d pile on three or four old sweaters and the ’s “gig’ a walrus, then, dripping and refreshed, resume. The Boy in Blue never really grew up.” Ned Hanlan flashed across the pages of the world’s newspapers of seventy five years ago, but mementos will kee his name alive for many years yet. A six-by-ten-foot painting of him hangs a sculler in the world. It National Exhibition, looking over the waters where Ned first learned to row. In 1936 the late Dr. A. R. Carman, Star. wrote of Hanlan that “no citizen of Canada was so well known throughout the English speaking world. And Lawyer Kerr put it in verse: While Ottawa, from storied cliff, Uplifts her crown of towers; While modest merit still shall charm a of ours; So long in distant story, As time rolls on apace, Shall it be told by young and old How Hanlan won the race.

Alan Howard – When cars drove across the ice to the Island

Alan Howard – When cars drove across the ice to the Island
When cars drove across the ice to the Island

from the Telegram, July 1, 1967

  • Created by: Alan Howard, the Toronto Telegram Centennial Supplement
  • Date: 1967-07-01
  • Provenance: From the collection of Ted English, digitized by Eric Zhelka
  • Notes:

ΤΗΕ SΙΧΤΗ Decade 1917-27
the mountain is to the Montrealer, the Island once was to the people of Toronto. In the roaring 20s, those whacky days of prohibition, flag-pole sitters, flappers and Model Ts, Torontonians found their Summer fun at “this great marine resort” (so described in an earlier history) and on the steamers and boats that plied the lake waters. The automobile had made its appearance but city residents, pushing past the 500,000 mark, were still inhibited from overland excursions by the condition of provincial highways. “If you’d ever been in a Model T over a detour — and there were miles of detours — well, it was quite an experience,” recalls Alan Howard, 52, curator of the Marine Museum of Upper Canada. Because his father was in charge of the Island Filtration Plant, Alan Howard moved as a tot to the Island in 1918 and lived there until 1959.
Cold trips
“There were about 110 people who lived there all year, spread out in a straggling community from Hanlan’s Point to Ward’s Island. It was really like a small northern community, far removed from the city.
“There was a single-room school where one teacher taught nine grades. There was a great pot-bellied stove that would get red-hot…a very cosy atmosphere. The ‘conveniences’, were at the foot of the school yard, which made it a pretty cold trip in winter.” There were all the advantages of a small community, yet the “big city” was just a tug trip away. First steamer sailing of the season, early in May, Torontonians acted like “children let out of School.” “They all had to get out and take a trip…it didn’t matter if it was cloudy or even snowing. Everyone put on his greatcoat and muffler and away they went.” Until the opening of the Welland Canal in 1932, Toronto Bay always froze solid during the winter. The elite of Toronto used the islands as a summer base…“the cream Of Toronto
of Bay St.,
Page 13
When cars drove across the ice
society, the Heintzmans, the Sweatmans…the list of residents used to read like a Who’s Who.” In winter, they would drive their cars across the ice to inspect their vacation homes. One of the great sports was ice boating, and the Durnan family at Hanlan’s Point had boats for hire. “These would be ranged in a great fleet outside the Harbor Commissioner’s Building, just west right on the waterfront.
“You’d wrap yourself in a great buffalo robe and away you would go for a quick Spin around the bay. Visiting notables were always taken on such a trip.” Alan Howard recalls that if the wind was right, you could cross the Bay in exactly a minute. During the height of the summer, the Island popula
tion would reach about 8,000. And Sunday visitors would Swell this number to vast proportions.
Hanlan’s Point was the great amusement park of Toronto. In order to transport all the picnic-packing travelers, a fleet of ferries would gather, perhaps three in the slip, with another two waiting out in the Bay. There were two roller coasters. And the ferris wheel always paused midturn to offer a view of the city and waterfront. People were so bound to water travel that it was the fashionable thing to go to the CNE by ferry, boarding at the foot of Yonge st. Marathon swims were popular events…Mr. Howard remembers attending the great Wrigley marathon: “One of the swimmers was blind.”
A memory: skating to school
Foster Hewitt was announcing the end of the race from the steamer Macassa. “Well, when the winning swimmer crossed the line, poor Foster was completely drowned out by the great blasts of salute from the Macassa’s whistle.”
It was Alan Howard’s father who helped the city to acquire its reputation for pure drinking water. He conducted a lengthy research program which resulted in the p r o c e s s known as super-chlorination. Toronto was the first city to use it. Since then, it has been adopted by most major cities in the world.
Bec a use Dr. Howard had been reluctant to move to the Island, the city offered all kinds of inducements. This meant that the Howards were the only residents to have their own water pipeline. Islanders would fill their water cans at the Howards’ backyard stand-pipe.
Early telephone lines were all party lines and Mr. Howard recalls his father being “beside himself” as he waited for island gossips to get off the line . . . particularly one woman who gave interminable medical counsel over the phone.
Alan Howard graduated from the Island school to the University of Toronto Schools on Bloor st. Before heavy Snow drifted over the ice, he could skate through the Island lagoons, then across the Bay, a total distance of about two miles, change into his boots, and off to school. “I was the envy of every boy in School.” There were other delights. Alan Howard’s parents were great theatre-goers. Shea’s Vaudeville, later to become the Victoria Theatre, at Richmond and Victoria Sts., was the home of vaudeville, with “regulars’ like Al Jolson and Jack Benny. One of Benny’s standard jokes was to have someone in the third row jump up and say: “Mr. Benny, you know I came clean from Hamilton to see you!” and the comedian would retort: “Nobody ever came clean from Hamilton.” to the island
Although Alan Howard was too young to become a patron, there were two burlesque houses, the Star (later the Empire) on Temperance, and the Gaiety on Richmond st. “Everybody tried to go on Monday night to see the unexpurgated version before the police-censors decided what should be eliminated.” The coming of talking pictures eventually sounded the death knell of vaudeville. But it took time before filmmakers produced a smooth product. Alan Howard attended the first sound film, The Broadway Melody, at the Belsize Theatre (later the Crest). “At least four times, the speech wasn’t synchronized with the action . . . it was uproarious, first you had the lips moving to the accompaniment of utter silence and then out would come the speech in the middle of a dance routine!”

Bliss (well, almost) is an Island off Toronto

Bliss (well, almost) is an Island off Toronto
Bliss (well, almost) is an Island off Toronto

by Betty Lee, Globe Magazine

  • Created by:
    The Globe and Mail
  • Date:
  • Provenance:
    From the collection of Ted English
  • Notes: