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Monthly Archives: January 2012

122 perish in Toronto’s “Noronic” disaster – Horticultural Building at CNE used as morgue

This post continues the on-going saga of the Noronic Disaster, when fire demolished a cruise ship moored at Pier 9 on the Toronto waterfront. On 17 September in 1949, during the early-morning hours, 122 persons perished. The novel “Arse Over Teakettle,” includes a  detailed section on the disaster, where the reader views the event through the eyes of the book’s central character, Tom Hudson.

From “Arse Over Teakettle” – Book One of the Toronto Trilogy 

9781450205313-Perfect.indd My dad read with disbelief that the Horticultural Building at the CNE was serving as a temporary morgue. A few weeks earlier, we had attended the late-summer exposition, enjoying the colourful blossoms of the prize-winning floral arrangements and garden displays. As my dad read aloud the details, I had difficulty imagining wall-to-wall bodies, and white sheets covering row after row of corpses. During the days ahead, relatives attempted to identify their loved-ones. It was beyond everyone’s worst nightmare.

Throughout Saturday, bodies were transported to the Horticultural Building. By 3 p.m., 111 bodies had arrived. The clergy were on hand to assist family members. Some relatives of the passengers arrived and afterward departed in shock, after walking among the rows of corpses. Many were unable to recognize the loved ones they sought, as their bodies had been burnt beyond recognition. They identified some through their rings or watches. In the days ahead, the Cleveland and Toronto Coroners joined forces to identify as many as possible. A few were to remain unknown forever.

They soon discovered that the passenger list had burnt on the ship. However, a duplicate was found, and the police from the station at 149 College Street canvassed the hotels to determine the location of the passengers. Where possible, they phoned all over the continent to notify passengers’ relatives that they were safe. For the late editions of the papers, names of passengers were grouped. Under the heading “Survivors and Injured,” those in hospitals or hotels were listed. The “Known Dead” list was short, as so little information was yet available. There was also a list of names under the heading “Not Located.” The final count was 122 dead, just 40 of which had been identified. It was known that 479 had survived, and the location of 84 remained unknown.

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When the sun set over the harbour Saturday evening, the five million-dollar luxury liner the “Noronic” was a hulking wreck of twisted metal. The search for bodies had ceased, to be resumed the following morning. However, they would need to pump water out of the ship before the cabins at the lowest levels of the ship could be searched. Divers would be required. It was feared that the search would require ten days or more.

Many questions remained unanswered. Why were so few members of the crew on duty at the time of the fire? What caused the fire? Why was the sounding of the alarm delayed for eight minutes after the flames were discovered? Why had no fire drills been held since the luxury liner departed from Cleveland?

The passengers claimed that negligence had occurred, but Canada Steamship Lines denied the allegations. Within days, the House of Commons in Ottawa announced that there was to be a full inquiry.

Reluctant

The second book in the Toronto Trilogy continues where the first book ended. “The Reluctant Virgin,” however, it is a murder mystery.

The first two books of “The Toronto Trilogy” are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store. To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Toronto

 

Murder/mystery fans – try to find the murderer before the book ends

Reluctant

The recently published book “The Reluctant Virgin” is a classic murder/mystery. The plots twists and turns as the complicate plot unfolds. To date, no one has communicated to the author that they guessed the identity of the killer prior to the ending of the book.

The background of the story is 1950s Toronto. Those who enjoy murder/mysteries may find it challenging to uncover the sadistic murderer that drains the blood from the victims. 

The second book in the Toronto Trilogy continues where the first book ended.

The first two books of “The Toronto Trilogy” are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store.

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Toronto

 

The Noronic Disaster – 122 burn to death on Toronto’s waterfront

The novel “Arse Over Teakettle,” the first book in “The Toronto Trilogy,” is a story of a family struggling to survive during the horrific years of the Second World War and its aftermath. The burning of the cruse ship the Noronic is included in the tale. The reader views the event through the eyes of the book’s main character, young Tom Hudson, who is deeply affected by the tragedy. The episode below is from the book, and tells of Tom’s reactions later in the day, after hearing the news of the event on the radio during the morning hours.

From the novel, “Arse Over Teakettle – Book One – the Toronto Trilogy”

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In the afternoon, when I picked-up my bundle of Star newspapers, ten-inch headlines declared, Fear 200 Dead. The sub-heading was, Heroism, horror, mingle as fire sweeps Noronic—call for divers to seek dead. An article went onto say, The Noronic . . . swept bow to stern and from waterline to mast by fire, which roared through it with lightning speed. I saw the front pages of the Telegram, —111Dead in Ship, 17 Others Lost” The paper reported that many bodies had already been recovered, but more dead were trapped in the cabins, now below water. The reporter had seen . . . Human torches flee the ship in horror . . . clothes afire.

Later, I saw the headlines in The Globe and Mail—Blaze at Toronto Dock. A front-page article stated . . . Noronic fire traps 100. Scores jump in water. Firemen rescue many.

Some of my newspaper customers met me at the door of their homes, and I noticed their shocked expressions when they scanned the front page. The articles inside the papers provided further horrifying details, as reporters told what they had witnessed dockside.

A reporter said that when he arrived on the scene, he had witnessed passengers standing on the railings of the ship, some preparing to jump, while others seemed frozen with fear and unable to move. A woman said that she could not jump, as she was unable to swim ten feet. Within minutes, the flames forced her from her perch, and she swam to safety.

Later, she said, “I guess I knew how to swim and didn’t know it.”

A ship’s officer at the bow of the ship was trying to assist a woman to descend hand-over-hand down the hawser rope, which was attached to the pier. Screams and splashing noises were heard on the port side as people leaped into the harbour, some with their hair and nightclothes aflame. The water around the ship was warm due to the intense heat emanating from the ship’s hull. It was said that this reduced the number that might have gone into shock from the traumatic experience.

The scene on deck was of panic and desperation. Though the ship’s hoses were useless against the inferno, crew members employed them to douse the flames on burning passengers. When ladders and ropes were gone, women and children were dropped from the deck. Many were injured as they struck the wharf below. The metal lifeboats had remained in their divots, but most of them were red hot. Some had buckled in the middle. One at the stern seemed in good condition, and a woman and her children climbed in. Crewmen lowered it, but at the last minute, it over-turned, its occupants tumbling to the pier. Fortunately, they were unhurt.

A young member of the crew jumped overboard naked, and later said, “Closest call I ever had.”

A burning timber that broke loose from an upper deck came crashing down behind a group of fleeing passengers. “It hastened our departure,” one man said.

Amid the turmoil, a bellboy was seen tossing lifebelts to people in the water. People bobbed in the water amid pillows, soft drink cans, and other debris from the ship.

At dockside, the conditions were no less chaotic. The intense heat had scorched the pier, and the paint on the sheds and offices had blistered. Their roofs were in danger of igniting from the flying sparks. The signs around the dock were either charred or in flames. The stories of those who had escaped were heart wrenching. A man who had managed to flee successfully, tried to re-enter when he realized that his family had not followed behind him.

A dazed elderly woman, sitting on a wooden crate with a blanket around her, told a policeman, “It was a drunken party since the ship left Detroit. Last night I saw a woman in the hallway going from cabin to cabin with a cocktail glass in her hand.”

As she spoke, a woman’s body was pulled from the water by a policeman who was dragging the murky waters dockside. A man who had left the ship to visit his mother, was seen pleading with the police to allow him to enter the ship. As they restrained him, tears ran down his cheeks. Another man, who was hysterical, was dragged from the scene.

“No, no, no!” he screamed. “ I have seven people on the ship.”

Gently, the police attempted to move people who were searching for loved-ones, away from the dock. They were shivering in the cool morning air, and some were going into shock.

A young mother asked for a nickel to call relatives who lived in the city. A woman standing near said she had lost all her clothes in the flames, but had managed to keep her purse. As she passed her the nickel, she said that she was lucky, as at least she had got out.

A woman lamented, “I jumped from the ship, the flames licking my back. In my bag was $600, but I lost the money in the water.”

She too expressed gratitude that she was alive.

A young woman in her nightclothes cried, “I’ve rescued my money, but I don’t know how I can go shopping downtown for new clothes in my nightgown.”

The macabre, the tragic, and the ridiculous seemed to melt into a common scene of despair.

Throughout the darkened hours of the September morning, the injured were taken to the hospitals. An ambulance driver reported that he saw blood on the steps of one hospital, as well as in the corridor leading to the emergency room. Inside, he heard a nurse comforting a burn victim, as the woman cried aloud repeatedly.

“Oh! The pain! The pain!”

Doctors tried to calm her as they applied ointments and wrapped her burns with gauze.

A passenger stared at his blistered hands, as he realized that the flesh of a woman’s scalp and her hair was attached to them. He had used his hands to put out the flames on her head.

The staff of the hospitals were over-whelmed by the needs of those who were rushed to their wards.

Those who had escaped uninjured, required accommodations where they could rest. Most of the victims had no money or clothing. They were transported to various hotels throughout the downtown area. At the Royal York Hotel, an emergency centre was set up by the Red Cross. The manager offered any available rooms, and then placed blankets on the floor in the foyer. At the King Edward, after the spare rooms were full, they opened the second-floor ballroom and assembled cots. In both hotels, some guests vacated their rooms and slept in the makeshift spaces to provide a small degree of comfort to those who were so badly traumatized. It was a night of despondency for the passengers, but their despair was lessened by the generosity and assistance of others.

To purchase the book to read more about the Noronic Disaster, follow the link:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

Book Two of the Toronto Trilogy is also available. It is a murder/mystery and follows the fictional character from the first book of the trilogy. The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store.

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Toronto

 

The Noronic Disaster, 122 dead, included in Toronto novel

The novel “Arse Over Teakettle,” the first book of “The Toronto Trilogy,”details the tragic burning of the ship “The Noronic,” at pier nine on the Toronto waterfront, where 122 persons lost their lives. The book is a story of a family struggling to survive in Toronto during the Second World War and the postwar period. The Noronic Disaster is included in the tale. Young Tom Hudson, the central character of the book, is deeply affected by the news of the burning ship. The reader views the event through Tom’s eyes.

The following quote is from “Arse Over Teakettle.”

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On that fateful morning of 17 September in 1949, when I arrived downstairs for breakfast, my mother was listening to the eight o’clock news. I did not pay much attention, as I was more concerned with the day ahead—Saturday was mine, free of school. However, my mom’s shocked reaction soon drew my attention to the voice of the newscaster. Within a few seconds, I realized that he was reporting about a ship in the Toronto harbour, which over-night had caught fire. I listened intently to the details.

Passengers awakened during the darkened hours and discovered the ship ablaze. They attempted to exit the vessel through the smoke-filled hallways, but flames blocked their path. Porthole windows were smashed as people attempted to escape the intensity of the heat. Some were crushed in the panic. Many of those that reached the decks were prevented from escaping ashore, as the decks were engulfed in flames. A few were seen climbing down hawser ropes or leaping into the water below. The screams and cries of the dying haunted the grim-faced firefighters as they attempted to rescue as many as possible. The heat from the metal hull was so intense that decks collapsed. It was a blazing inferno beyond imagination. It is feared that the death toll may reach over a hundred.

When the Toronto Fire Department arrived, the flames were leaping over a hundred feet into the air and smoke was billowing from the portholes. They employed several high-pressured pumper trucks, a rescue squad, and an aerial truck. The Toronto fireboat was on the scene,

along with numerous ambulances and emergency vehicles. Hoses poured water high into the air. The first rescue ladder, which had been extended to the C-deck, broke in two under the weight of the panic-stricken passengers. A dozen people plunged to the water below, many grasping the broken pieces of the ladder to stay afloat.

As the ship increasingly filled with water, it slowly listed toward the pier, forcing firefighter to retreat. At one point, they thought it might keel over as it leaned on a 45 degree angle. Finally, the hull floated upright again, and the hoses continued to pour water into the ship. The fire was finally extinguished around 6 a.m., but the smoldering hull was too hot to enter. It will be several hours before they can commence the grim task of recovering bodies.

During Saturday morning, the horrifying news washed over the city, creating a flood of despair. At lunchtime, my mom sent me to the grocery store next door to our house to purchase a loaf of bread. I over-heard customers discussing the tragedy. Words were few, and spoken in hushed tones. This was not a catastrophe in a far-away land, where distance isolated people from the reality of the situation. The ship was in the Toronto harbour, and toxic fumes and black smoke had drifted over the downtown area.

I heard a woman say, “The tragedy is a reminder to all of us of the fragility of life.”

I had only a vague idea what she meant, but I detected the fear in her voice. Another woman was concerned for her brother, a member of the crew. She had received no word concerning his safety.

Harry the butcher working busily behind the meat counter, said that children were among the victims. He had heard that the body of a young girl had been found, her arms out-stretched as if in prayer, a calm expression on her face. Another child, a boy, had been discovered, his body crouched in a fetal position, as if attempting to protect himself from the suffocating smoke. They had been accompanying their parents on a late-summer holiday. They would never again enter a classroom, such as the one I attended each school day. This struck me in the pit of my stomach. It was as if the tragedy at the waterfront had invaded my neighbourhood, eroding my sense of security. When I returned home from the store, it was reassuring to see my mom in the kitchen, preparing soup for lunch. For me, life would continue, but I knew that other families would not be so fortunate.

The first two books of the Toronto trilogy are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store.

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Toronto

 

Fictional characters in Toronto murder/mystery confront sexual attitudes of the 1950s

Reluctant

The recently published novel, “The Reluctant Virgin,” the second book in the Toronto Trilogy, continues where the first book in the trilogy ended. The Second World War has ended. Despite the social upheaval caused by the war years, Toronto retains many of its traditional values. “Rock and Roll” music is hitting the Yonge Street bars and clubs, but most citizens are not certain what to think about the new sound, as it seems to espouse a different set of values.

As the story opens, a brutal murder is committed in the secluded darkness of the Humber River Valley. The police discover that the killer has drained the blood of the victim. When they identify the body, they learn that she was a teacher at the high school where the central characters of the story attend. The two detectives assigned to the case must interview the teenagers, as well as the teachers at the school to find the murderer. Meanwhile, further murders are committed by the same killer, the police unaware that the crimes are connected.

As the story unfolds, the sexual attitudes of the community, the teenagers, and the police are exposed. For example, one of the straight-laced detectives is attracted to a witness who is involved in the sex trade. He eventually starts dating her, creating great turmoil in his life, especially among his colleagues. One member of the group of teenagers who attends the high school is thought to be homosexual. This exposes a can of worms that no one wishes to confront, especially the church where he attends. Another teenager in the story becomes pregnant and decides to keep the baby.

“The Reluctant Virgin” is far more than just a murder/mystery. The plot twists and turns as it weaves its way through a myriad of clues, complicated by the sexual attitudes of the decade.

The first two books of the Toronto trilogy are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “The Reluctant Virgin”is also available at any Chapters/Indigo store.

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Toronto

 

“The Toronto Trilogy” recreates the city’s past while providing intriguing stories

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“Arse Over Teakettle” – Book One of the Toronto Trilogy

The first book in “The Toronto Trilogy”is a heart-warming tale containing vivid descriptions of the the city as the Great Depression ends. The reader experiences the city through the eyes of a young boy – Tom Hudson – following his exploits and discoveries as he matures. We learn of his life and his family’s struggles during the horrific war years of the 1940s and observe him as he matures in the post-war period in Canada. Tom’s life is detailed with sympathy and humour. The educational system of the city during the 1940s is portrayed delightfully, some of the scenes hilarious, others demanding understanding and empathy.

The tale abounds with interesting and off-beat characters. The landlord of the family during the depression years, Mr Pollard, Tom’s father nicknames Mr. Polly Penis. The irascible man has a drinking problem, which result in his committing a few odd deeds. However, it is not long before a  new kid moves into the neighbourhood – Shorty Bernstein. The cigar-smoking, cursing, pugnacious boy soon becomes the most intriguing character of the book. He provides great contrast to Harry Heinz, Tom’s boyhood hero, who is so very straight-laced.

The adventures of Tom and Shorty, as well their friends Carol and Sophie, as they struggle to understand the world of “the big kids,” is entertaining and informative. It will remind many of us of our own childhood. The archival photographs add to the realism as the stories unfold. However, it is the characters, along with their joys and sorrows, which make the novel fascinating.

“The Reluctant Virgin”- Book Two of the Toronto TrilogyReluctant

The second book in the trilogy, “The Reluctant Virgin,” follows Shorty, Tom and their friends through their high school years. As expected, the characters develop and mature as the tale unfolds. Their sexual explorations are particularly amusing. However, this book is quite different from the first book in the trilogy as it is a crime mystery. One of the teachers at the high school where they attend is brutally murdered. Two detectives, Jim Peersen and Jerry Thomson, their personalities very different in nature, attempt to catch the killer. Meanwhile, the murderer continues to seize victims from the streets of Toronto. The police remain unaware that they are seeking a serial killer. This is a classic “who-done-it.” The killer is one of the boy’s teachers, but which one?

This book is not for the faint-of-heart. The murders are chillingly detailed. The killer drains the blood from the bodies of the victims. At first, the sickening ritual is not discovered by the police as the murderer cleverly disguises the fact.

Similar to the first book in the trilogy, the descriptions of Toronto and the archival photos add realism to the unfolding of the tale.

“Virgins No More” – Book Three of the Toronto Trilogy (This book is not yet available)

In the years after graduating from high school, Tom Hudson works for four years to earn sufficient funds to enter university and eventually attend teachers’ college. His friend Shorty Bernstein, drops out of university and becomes involved in the drug culture in Toronto’s infamous Yorkville area of the 1960s. Tom’s relationship with Sophie is not without problems, as is that of Tom’s high school pals—Harry Heinz and Horace Kramer.

On the Saturday evening of the Labour Day weekend in 1965, prior to beginning his new career in the classroom, Tom and his sweetheart, Sophie, witness a seemingly random murder on the Yonge Street subway. Chief of Detectives Arnold Peckerman assigns the murder case to Detective Paul Masters, but Detectives Jim Peersen and Gerry Thomson are soon drawn into the investigation. Harry Heinz, who is now a young attorney, also becomes involved in the case. Disaster then strikes again, when the killer murders one of Tom’s friends. The murder investigations lead to the corridors of power at Queen’s Park, and eventually to Ottawa, where they threaten to bring down members of the federal cabinet.

The third book in the Toronto Trilogy relates the struggles of Tom, Harry, and their friends, as well as detectives Peersen and Thomson, to solve the crimes.

The story provides an intriguing insight into life in Toronto during the 1960s, a decade in which decadence prevailed. The narrative explores the lives of Tom and his friends as they build their careers and mature in their relationships. All this occurs while a murderer casts an ominous shadow that threatens their survival.

The background of the story is the metropolis of Toronto, as it sheds the traditions and values of its past. “A Virgin No More” is a story of the city during a decade when it is evolving into an urban centre that embraces the worldliness of the modern world.

The first two books of the Toronto trilogy are available by following the links:

Arse Over Teakettle: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000132634/Arse-Over-Teakettle.aspx

The Reluctant Virgin : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

The book “THe Reluctant Virgin”is presently available at any Chapters/Indigo store.

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Toronto

 

Murder/mystery recalls Toronto’s Yonge and Queen streetcar lines of the 1950s

“The Reluctant Virgin” is a story of a serial killer who haunts the streets of Toronto in the 1950s. The tale recreates the city as it existed in that decade. The descriptions, along with the archival photographs, pull the reader into a story that appears chillingly real.

At times, the novel glorifies the city’s past, fondly recalling restaurants such as Le Chaumiere and the Savarin Tavern. The scene where two of the fictional characters attend the hockey game when Frank Mahavolich first played with the Leafs in Maple Leaf Gardens will be of interest to hockey fans. Others may enjoy the vivid descriptions of Toronto’s Yonge Street on hot summer nights in July.

Several times during the unfolding of the plot, the fictional characters board Toronto streetcars. Because the subway replaced the Peter Witt streetcars on Yonge Street in 1954, the author includes a lament for the glory days of these grand old trolleys. At the conclusion of this section, there is a plea for the citizens of Toronto to appreciate the role that streetcars have played in the history of their city.

Below is the concluding paragraph from the section in the book that tells about Toronto’s streetcars. It mentions the famous Queen Street line.    

Today, Torontonians underestimate their streetcars. An international trolley association has rated Toronto’s Queen Streetcar Line as one of the top ten in the world, and the only one that remains a “functional line,” as opposed to those maintained mainly as tourist attractions. This places the Queen line among prestigious company—the San Francisco trolley cars, the St. Charles streetcars in New Orleans, and the streetcars of the Alfama District of Lisbon. It is a pity that the tourist board of Toronto does not promote the attractions of the Queen line. To ride its length from either Long Branch or the Humber in the west, to Neville Park in the city’s east end, a rider passes through fascinatingly diverse neighbourhoods, all for the price of a streetcar ticket or a token.

The book is presently in stock at any Chapters/Indigo store. It may also be purchased in either paperback or electronic versions from the publisher: http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000188306/The-Reluctant-Virgin.aspx

To view the author’s Home Page: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Toronto