Monthly Archives: December 2011

An account of the War of 1812 that no school should allow its students to read

The following account of the War of 1812 is from the book, “The Villages Within,” nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, the book chronicles the history of Toronto from its founding by Governor Simcoe until the Confederation years. The book also provides detailed studies of the Kensington Market, Queen Street West, the St. Andrew’s Market, and the Kings-West District.


On June 18, 1812, war with the United States commenced. Unlike today, York’s business community did not welcome a summer invasion of Americans charging across the border. After several victories on the battlefield, General Brock was killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights. The news of his death struck the fragile community of York like a thunderbolt. Many feared the war would be lost without his leadership.

In April of 1813, the American sailed across Lake Ontario and attacked York. When it was obvious that the struggle to secure the fort was doomed, the British lit a fuse to the powder magazine and swiftly retreated. When the powder detonated, it rained shrapnel for a radius of over a mile. Very little of Fort York survived. During the years ahead, debris from the explosion was found in the fields and embedded in the trees. It is possible that the older trees of the St. Andrew’s Playground of today were among them, as photographs taken around 1910 reveal that they were already mature tree at that time.

When the American invaders entered the town, they set fire to the parliament buildings and carried away the parliamentary symbol of authority, the “mace.” In addition, while in the building, they discovered the ceremonial wig of the Speaker of the House, and mistakenly thought it was a human scalp. When the troops returned home, they claimed that the British were “scalpers.”

Today, I glow with pride when I see the descendents of these “scalpers” outside the Air Canada Centre, particularly when the Leafs play against the Habs. I have even seen them around the opera house and Roy Thomson Hall. Some unkind souls say that Torontonians will scalp their grandmothers if the price is right. We do indeed honour our traditions.

In addition, today, some state that the infamous wig from the War of 1812 eventually surfaced on the head of Mel Lastman, who wore it honourably and ignored the surreptitious smiles, claiming it was a hair weave. I am certain they are wrong.

In 1934, in honour of the city’s centennial, the mace was returned to Toronto and today is on display at Fort York. No one knows the real location of the speaker’s wig.


One of the best-remembered stories of the War of 1812 was the exploits of Laura Secord, who, contrary to rumours, was not Canada’s first chocolate maker. She “sallied forth” through the “enemy-infested woods” of the Niagara area. Have you ever noticed that in most heroic tales, the heroes “sally forth” in the “dead of night” and invariably choose “enemy infested environs”? Such wording is a prerequisite for these stories.

Be as it may, Laura’s deeds were impressive.

Late one evening, little Laura overheard a few American troops discussing plans to attack the British near the town of Beaver Dams on the following day. She knew that Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon was on a military stake out, so she sallied forth in the dead of night through the enemy-infested woods, employing a cow as a decoy. Thinking she was a mere farmer’s wife, the American sentries allowed her to pass through their lines. As a result, Laura was successful in warning Fitzgibbon of the impending attack.

In retelling the events of that portentous night, some misguided soul thought that Laura had confused a “stake-out” with a “steak-out,” and that was why she brought along the cow.

Due to her information, Fitzgibbon successfully captured 450 enemy infantrymen, 50 cavalrymen, 2 field guns, and a partridge in a pear tree. These figures are accurate, although the “partridge in a pear tree” is my own addition. It seemed to be a natural conclusion to the sentence. However, it’s true that he accomplished his victory by bluffing the enemy into surrendering by offering to prevent the Indians from attacking. The Americans were unaware that Fitzgibbon commanded just forty-eight soldiers and a band of only four hundred Indians. The enemy force had been superior in both numbers and artillery.

Fitzgibbon was highly praised for his quick-witted actions.

However, according to some rather dubious sources, because of his ability to bluff, in the years ahead nobody would play poker with him. Some say that to compensate for this sleight, they bestowed on him the official title of “York’s First Bluffer” and named the Scarborough Bluffs after him.

This is all historic bumf.


Following the war with the United States, on September 29, 1815, Lieutenant-Governor Gore returned to York and resumed his role as governor. He was a wise governor, wise enough not to hang around the colony during a dangerous war.

Book is available on It may also be ordered in any Chapters/Indigo store or ordered from their web site.

Save time and order directly from the publisher, follow the link  :

For further information on the author, visit his Home Page :

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Toronto


Begin the new year with novels that feature Toronto

In the three novels listed below, the city of Toronto plays as prominent part as that of the colourful characters and the imaginative plots. Readers who are familiar with the city will recognize the scenes. As the tales unfold, it is possible for readers to visualize the places where the action occurs, the addition of photos from the Toronto Archives adding to the reality of the fictional tales. 


“Arse Over Teakettle,” Book One of the Toronto Trilogy – Awarded “Editor’s Choice”

A heart-Warming Story of Coming-of-Age during the 1940s in Toronto 

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn found adventure on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. Tom Hudson and his friend Shorty discovered it in the secluded laneways and avenues of a deceptively quiet Toronto neighbourhood.

“Arse Over Teakettle” is an intriguing tale of Tom Hudson’s boyhood in Toronto during the 1940s. He and his mischievous friend, Shorty, encounter eccentric characters such as Grumpy, an unconventional older man in the neighbourhood, and their fierce neighbour, Mrs. Leyer. Their confrontations with the Kramer gang are sometimes painful and at other times hilarious. As Tom and his friends become sexually aware, amusing situations develop. Shorty constantly pushes Tom to explore beyond the secure boundaries of childhood, into the world of the “big boys.”

An intimate and heartfelt tale of family life in Toronto, “Arse over Teakettle” is set during the decade when the city is transforming from a parochial city into a cosmopolitan urban centre. In Tom’s neighbourhood, difficulties arise as he confronts ethnic and religious prejudice, which wounds his boyhood friends.

“Arse Over  Teakettle” is available through, Chapters/Indigo book stores.

The 524-page book contains over 70 photographs of Toronto during the 1940s and early-1950s.

To order directly from the publisher:

Book also available as an eBook

“The Reluctant Virgin” Book Two of the Toronto Trilogy – Awarded Editor’s Choice


The The Reluctant Virgin” is a chilling murder/mystery of a serial killer who chooses victims from the streets and ravines of Toronto during the 1950s. Those who know the city, will be familiar with the crime scenes. The two detectives assigned to the case are baffled, and at first fail to realize that the murders are connected to a single killer. The bodies of the victims have been drained of blood, but the methods are cleverly disguised to mislead the police.

The book is a classic “who-done-it,” as the killer continues to create havoc in a city that is unaccustomed to such brutal crimes occurring within its boundaries.

To purchase the book:


“There Never Was a Better Time”- Awarded Editor’s Choice Award


The novel is an entertaining and informative story of an immigrant family during one of the most thrilling times in the history of Toronto.

A Toronto historian chronicles family’s life in 1920s Toronto – “Hogtown” – as it was known in the early days – where people gravitated  to “live high off the hog. “A humorous and intimate story of family life in bustling Toronto during the 1920s, as experienced by two young immigrants and their brothers, parents, and rascal of a grandfather. Jack and Ernie Taylor immigrate to Canada in 1921, and three years later their parents, John and Mary Taylor, along with their brothers and grandfather, Job, move to the city. It is one of the most dynamic decades in the history of Toronto. The brothers mature and thrive, despite the different temperaments involved, thanks in part to the strength of Mary’s discipline. She provides structure for her sons, yet they still enjoy the diverse frivolities of the time. Share in their daily life during the “Roaring Twenties.”

Have you ever wondered what it was like to ride on an old Yonge Streetcar, sail across Toronto harbour on a side-paddle ferry such as on a side-paddle ferry the Bluebell, Primrose, or Trillium. Perhaps attend the CNE when it was the greatest late-summer event in Toronto? Ever wanted to attend a baseball game at Hanlan’s Point Stadium, sail aboard the steamer Cayuga to Port Dalhousie, attend a Remembrance Day ceremony at Toronto’s old City Hall, when the wounds of the First World War remained vivid, observe the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Confederation of Canada, experience the Canadian National Exhibition when it was the world’s biggest and grandest annual fair, share in the laughter of a vaudeville show at the Pantages or Shea’s Hippodrome Theatres, visit Sunnyside which was Toronto’s playground by Lake Ontario, or shop at the St. Lawrence Market in the days when produce was sold from carts and wagons inside the market buildings.

“Toronto the Good” was evolving into a dynamic, sinful metropolis, adored by many and feared by others. The Taylors witnessed the cultural identity and infrastructure of their adopted city becoming firmly established during a time of rapid urban expansion.

Book is available on It may also be ordered in any Chapters/Indigo store or ordered from their web site.

Save time and order directly from the publisher, follow the link  :

For further information on the author, visit his Home Page :

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Toronto


Newly published murder mystery includes events of Hurricane Hazel, the storm that devastated Toronto

The murder/mystery “The Reluctant Virgin” is a tale of a fictional serial killer in Toronto during the 1950s. It is a chilling tale, as the blood is drained from the victims by the demented killer. The two detectives assigned to the case, as well as the teenagers who are involved in the plot, endure the turmoil created by Hurricane Hazel, which hit the city in October of 1954. The events of the disaster are woven into the story in such a way that they become a part of the plot. The reader is exposed to a realistic account of the hurricane, as seen through the eyes if the fictional characters.

From “The Reluctant Virgin”   

The morning after Hurricane Hazel hit Toronto, the skies remained cloudy. The winds had abated, and an eerie calm engulfed the rain-soaked city. In the Hudson home, the oatmeal was bubbling on the stove and the coffee was perking when Tom’s mother turned on the radio. As she placed the cereal bowls on the table, the aftermath of the previous night’s storm came across the airwaves.

The announcer said, “As many as thirty people might be dead, and the search for bodies continues. It is impossible to estimate the extent of the property losses, but authorities are estimating that it will be in the millions.

“Fifteen military groups and eight army reserves, totalling over eight hundred men, are being called in to assist the city. The streets of Toronto are littered with debris and hundreds of homes have been flooded. Some remain under water. The city requests that residents remain off the streets to allow crews to clean up the debris.


The flooded Humber River as seen on the morning after Hurricane Hazel swept through Toronto.

                City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series1057, Item 2001

“Throughout today and tomorrow, the bridges on the west side of Toronto will remain closed. The east end of the city has not been as severely hit, as the clash between the remnants of Hurricane Haze and the cold air from the west, collided to the northwest of the city, over Brampton, where the two storm systems spilled their massive water contents. The Humber Valley acted like a funnel, channelling the water southward through the city.

“Toronto has never suffered such devastation from a storm. It was unprepared for the fury of the onslaught of Hurricane Hazel.”

The aftermath of the storm:

Eighty-one people lost their lives, most of them in Toronto. On Raymore Drive alone, thirty-six had perished. In all, the damages totalled a hundred and thirty-five million dollars, which would be over a billion in today’s dollars. Many people lost everything, and were never reimbursed by their insurance companies, due to a technicality in their policies. They were covered for “damages from wind, rain, and hail,” but not for “high water overflow.”

Many families never recovered from the financial loss.

Raymore Drive, the Eglinton Flats, and the floodplains of the Humber Valley were to become of part of the Metropolitan Toronto Conservation Authority. Never again would they allow homes to be constructed on land that was in danger of being flooded. Millions of dollars, as well as clothing and food supplies were donated by residents of Toronto to assist those who had suffered losses.

Hurricane Hazel was a storm that was never to be equalled.

More information on the book, “The Reluctant Virgin.”:

To purchase this book:

The author’s Home Page:

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Toronto


The era of driving cars in the downtown areas of large urban areas is drawing to a close

Much to the chagrin of many drivers, the days of private automobiles in the downtown areas of large cities is ending. Though it will take time, and much political turmoil, it will eventually become necessary to ban automobiles from the downtown streets of major cities. Only emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, taxis, and public transportation will be allowed to drive on the inner-city avenues.

Population densities are increasing every year as more tall condominiums are built. The streets will not be able to handle the increase. Pollution from auto exhausts will be another factor in forcing the ban of auto. The transition will be painful, but many European cities have already moved to limit cars in their downtown areas. It is only a matter of time before the total exclusion of private automobile use in inner cities is complete.

A link to my Home Page:   

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2011 in Toronto


A humorous account of Toronto’s past that is bound to offend historians


The passage below is from “The Villages Within,” nominated for the Toronto Heritage Awards.

Simcoe sailed from Niagara-on-the-Lake and arrived at the Toronto Carrying Place in the early hours of July 30, 1793. He moored the HMS Mississauga at the mouth of the Humber River and awaited daylight to venture ashore. When he stepped on deck at day’s first light, the scenery that greeted him contained nothing but trees—trees—and more trees.

It was a virgin landscape.

Today, some critics feel that this was the last time anyone employed the word

“virgin” to refer to anything in Toronto. Considering the city’s propensity toward the prim and proper, this is a very strange accusation.

On this sunny day in August 1793, to say that Simcoe was “up the stump” would have been an understatement. The royal suite at the King Eddie was obviously not available, and so he was forced to pitch his canvas tents beside the lake.

To make matters worse, the tents were second hand, Simcoe having purchased them at an auction in London. At one time, they had been owned by Captain James Cook of “South Pacific” fame. Contrary to common belief, James Cook had nothing to do with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of that name. He merely explored the Pacific Ocean for the British government and discovered the Sandwich Islands.

It is a pernicious rumour that Cook later authored the “Sandwich Section” of the Michelin Guide, and named the “two-faced open sandwiches” in honour of British politicians. Though he may have considered them five-star men, he knew that were crusty and their edicts were difficult to swallow.

In the encampment beside the lake, we doubt that Mrs. Simcoe teased her husband about his choice of pre-owned tents. However, we cannot help but wonder if behind the governor’s back, the troops were quietly crooning the words of the song “Second-Hand Rose.”

If Simcoe ever became aware of such disrespectful behaviour, he would have firmly put a stop to it, fearing that the men might eventually begin referring to him as “Rosie.” It is fun to speculate what might have happened if he had received such a humorous nickname. Would he have received offers to perform on the stages of gay nightclubs or “women’s only” strip-joints? Such entreaties would hardly have been dignified proposals to suggest to a representative of the Crown. Fortunately, the point was moot, as the settlement lacked even a tavern, never mind a nightclub.

Within a day or two of their arrival, Mrs. Simcoe toured the small settlement huddled along the shoreline. The first evening, she undoubtedly discovered that the candles in the windows of the few log cabins at Toronto hardly qualified it as a place of “bright lights.” In addition, today, we know that some of the colonial officials were not exactly bright lights either. It wasn’t just the floorboards of the homes in Toronto that were “plank-thick.

The above passage from “The Villages Within,” was nominated for the Toronto heritage Awards. It is a tongue-in-cheek account of the history of Toronto. The book also provides in-depth studies of Queen Street West, the Kensington Market, and the historic buildings in the King/Spadina area.

To order this book :

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Toronto


Need a break from health oriented, feel-good stories – read a chilling murder mystery set in 1950s Toronto


A recent article in the Life Section of the “The Globe and Mail” advised, “Take a break from crime thrillers: read one of the top 5 compelling health and medicine tales of 2011.”

I shudder to think of the horrors of such books. Books about health invariably preach ideas that I already embrace, or attempt to push me to observe healthy habits that I have no desire to practise. Give me a crime thriller any day. The activities of the villains I am not expected to copy. The sheer escapism of a crime thriller is good for my health, as they allow me to ignore life’s daily problems, which seem insignificant compared to coping with a serial killer. 

The recently published book “The Reluctant Virgin,” is as far fetched as possible from my own life, as I was never reluctant.  The novel is a tale of a demented serial killer that stalks the streets and byways of Toronto during the staid old days of the 1950s. It begs a reader to slip between its pages and leave the world of reality behind. However, as the crimes scenes and locales that the murderer haunts will be familiar to anyone who knows Toronto well, the story will appear to be more realistic than one might wish. Adding to the horror is the fact that the blood is missing from the bodies of the victims.

To purchase this book: The Reluctant Virgin :

The author’s Home Page:

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Toronto


Toronto murder/mystery not for the faint-hearted


The recently published murder/mystery “The Reluctant Virgin” is a chilling story of serial killer who chooses victims from the streets and ravines of Toronto during the 1950s. Those who know the city, will be familiar with the crime scenes. The two detectives assigned to the case are baffled, and at first fail to realize that the murders are connected to a single killer. The bodies of the victims have been drained of blood, but the methods are cleverly disguised to mislead the police.

The book is a classic “who-done-it,” as the killer continues to create havoc in a city that is unaccustomed to such brutal crimes occurring within its boundaries.

To purchase the book:

The author’s Home Page:

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Toronto