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Number of schools: 120
Other organizations: 3
Names on memorials: 47,679
Latest additions:
St. Michael’s College
Newman Club of the University of Toronto

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Burning Schoolhouse: Lessons in Remembering from York Memorial’s Fire of 2019

On May 6, 1929 Sir William Mulock laid the cornerstone for York Memorial Collegiate Institute. The Township of York saw an investment in the future as a fitting memorial to 47 local young people who had died so recently in the Great War. The Depression loomed; accessible higher education at a neighourhood school would help area students prepare for complex times.

Fire works in the shape of a house

Fireworks are fun, but real fire devastates.

On May 6, 2019 fire erupted in York’s heritage building about to celebrate ninety successful years. A second fire appeared the next day, and flared to six-alarm status.

The carefully designed war memorial school—military-style towers; 11 entrance steps to recall the significance of November 11; a stained-glass window depicting the Battle of Ypres, and much more—was quickly at risk in spite of firefighters’ modern equipment and strategies. On May 7, the fire still blazing, York Memorial contacted us asking for a digital copy of “the only known photograph of R.W. (Walter) Russell,” which was on our For King and Country website, but “sadly lost” in the fire. We sent the requested photo.

Canadians of a certain age recognize any reference to a “burning schoolhouse.” On Victoria Day, family fireworks traditionally ended with this popular item. Firecrackers were scary, rockets flashy, pinwheels breathtaking—but the humble red, white, and blue schoolhouse was the star. Kids cheered the flames.

Work crews and cranes deal with the ruins of York Memorial Collegiate Institute

A burning cardboard schoolhouse may be a cultural hit, but when a real school is lost, staff, students, and the whole neighbourhood suffer. York Memorial’s fire is a shocking and sad event.

Absorbing York’s loss, we are reminded of the importance of recording, while we can, the many irreplaceable memorials in Toronto institutions. Fire, water damage, age, and mould put our history at risk. Carelessness or indifference can be just as destructive.

Here are some memorials we know once existed, but cannot locate:

Central Technical School:
Two records of the First World War have gone missing. (i) In spite of a 2013 search of many unused classrooms and storage rooms, For King and Country has never seen the school’s World War I memorial. A photograph reproduced many times in histories and archives shows a bronze plaque listing 28 deaths; proof that the school once honoured its Great War dead. (ii) For King and Country fortunately photographed another memorial—a document printed in 1916, before the war’s end—of 174 staff and students who had volunteered for overseas service. The document had disappeared by the time Central Tech re-dedicated its war display in 2013.

Etobicoke Collegiate Institute:
As recently as October 2007, a display case in the main hall outside the school office held an illuminated Book of Remembrance, open to the title page, which read:

Etobicoke Collegiate / Institute / Honor Roll / To keep in everlasting / Remembrance / the students / of the Etobicoke Collegiate; who in the sacred cause of / Liberty, Justice and humanity / Served Canada / 1939-1945

When For King and Country applied to photograph and index the entire book, it could not be found. E-mails and phone calls stretched into July 2014, but the World War II book has not surfaced.

Silverthorn School:
Now “vanished” (demolished in 2013) this Keele and Eglinton Avenue West school proudly listed 335 who served in WWII on its one surviving A.J. Casson scroll. (Air, George C. to Lee, James.) Missing during our 2010 visit was the second A.J. Casson, which would have the remainder of the L names to the end of the alphabet. (Estimated: 300 names.) The memorial is not in the Toronto District School Board’s online digital archives.

Jarvis School for Boys memorial recorded in scrapbook of Pte. Donald Brown’s grieving family (Courtesy of Linda Aldridge)

Jarvis School for Boys (Jarvis Junior Vocational School):
This vanished school—near Allan Gardens—opened in 1928 on the former site of Jarvis Collegiate. It offered practical training in trades such as woodworking, shoemaking, printing, and farm work. An “illuminated and framed roll of honour” prepared by staff member John Pepper listed former students who had served in World War II, including Donald Brown, who died on active service in England. The whereabouts of the memorial—unveiled November 29, 1943—are unknown. The memorial is not in the Toronto District School Board’s online digital archives.

Academy of Medicine:
Once situated at Queen’s Park, Toronto, the Academy has existed only virtually since about 2007; its records and collections reportedly distributed to various centres. In 2016, For King and Country conducted a broad e-mail search of health archives and libraries, but could not locate this World War I bronze plaque which listed 158 names of Fellows who served overseas (with other names expected to be added later). Unveiled at Queen’s Park on January 31, 1922 at a gathering of many officials. The Mail and Empire listed the names and ranks of eight Academy members who died.

Please contact us if you know the location of any of the memorials described above. A sudden school fire reminds us that all memorials matter—on Remembrance Day 2019—and every other day

University of Toronto Centres for Roman Catholic Students

Two facilities on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus were founded specifically for Roman Catholic students: St. Michael’s College and the Newman Centre. Together they offer academic, spiritual, and social services to those studying away from home.

St. Michael’s College—officially the University of St. Michael’s College—is a liberal arts and sciences undergraduate college of the University of Toronto, with a postgraduate Roman Catholic theology faculty. The college church is St. Basil’s, at 50 St. Joseph Street. Designed by William Hay; completed in 1856; it is a parish church for the surrounding community as well as a spiritual centre for students. It is also the oldest building on the U of T campus in continuous use.

Drawing of St Basil's Church, showing fields and forest in the background
St. Basil’s Church and administration offices—the oldest U of T buildings still in their original location (from an 1855 engraving, Toronto Public Library E 8-130 small)

The Newman Club (or Newman Centre) on the corner of Hoskin Avenue and St. George Street, is a social centre for Roman Catholic students. St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel—opened next door in 1927—welcomes the public, but was built specifically as a chapel for the centre.

The war memorials of these two institutions make them relevant to “For King and Country.” St. Michael’s College (158 names) honours those who died in the two World Wars and the Korean War. The memorial was unveiled in November 1988—the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War. On Remembrance Day, Mass at St. Basil’s is followed by a service at the memorial

The memorial for the Newman Club of the University of Toronto (289 names of those who trained for World War II service) was dedicated and blessed on Sunday, May 20, 1945.

Elsewhere on our website—listed under Independent Schools—is St. Michael’s College School, the high school that prepares students for the University of St. Michael’s College. (Until 1950, the school was situated on the campus.) The school has its own war memorials honouring former students who gave their lives in the two World Wars, the Korean War, and in peace time.

Rev. Edward Jackman showed us the location of the St. Michael’s College memorial. Brian Horgan first made us aware of the Newman memorial in St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Brian’s father Gerald Horgan started as a boarder in Grade 9 at St. Michael’s College School; graduated from St. Michael’s College in 1940; and attended the Newman Club.

Thank you to our volunteers who indexed the names: Margaret Hurst transcribed St. Michael’s College; Tracy Owens transcribed the Newman memorial.

Memorials Moved but Remembered: Etobicoke’s Lakeshore Communities

Our 2018 fall collection consists of four memorials from three Lakeshore communities of Etobicoke.

The southwest boundary of Etobicoke sits along the north shore of Lake Ontario. A few miles east of “the Lakeshore,” concrete roadways and condo canyons hide the lake, except for occasional glimpses. Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch still have traces of their historic reasons for developing along the water.

The 1998 amalgamation of Toronto sometimes blurred, but did not bury, Toronto’s distinctive neighbourhoods. As you walk, drive, or TTC-it through the megacity, traces—often strong—of older communities are visible. If you live in Mimico, you know you are in Mimico. Step onto side streets and you pick up the sense of a settled neighbourhood; architecture that developed gradually over time, rather than being imposed overnight by developers.

Many Mimico Avenue businesses have moved to busier streets.

Thus we are featuring memorial lists from former villages that had a strong sense of self, long before the spreading metropolis of Toronto was even a political dream.

Mimico High School:(896 names)
Although the school closed in 1988, many records not only survive, but are available for online searching. A sincere thank you to Susan Murphy of Parry Sound who indexed Mimico’s Second World War names for us.

David Hornell Junior School: (8 names)
This post-war school was named for Flight- Lieutenant David Hornell, a World War II recipient of the Victoria Cross, and Mimico resident, who attended Mimico High and nearby John English elementary schools.

Wesley Mimico United Church: (226 names)
We do not usually include church memorials, but this church building dating from 1862 is now used as a Montessori school. The congregation is currently (2018) meeting in Mimico Public Library, with a future that seems unsettled. We have not been able to find the current location of the two (WWI and WWII) memorials, but photos were forwarded to Mimico resident and local history buff, Sharon Stewart Kettlewell who indexed them for us.

New Toronto Soldiers’ Comforts Association: (19 names)
New Toronto is the middle Lakeshore municipality, between Mimico on the east and Long Branch of the west. The delightfully-named sponsors of this memorial chose a practical fountain to remember those who died in the Great War. The fountain has moved a number of times. We want to give the names of those who died a permanent home on our website.

Vimy Ridge Parkette recalls 300 or more who served in the Great War.

We have previously indexed the 453 names of Long Branch Continuation School, which closed in 1951. James S. Bell (elementary) school—named for a principal of 21 years— moved into the building, staying until 1966, when it opened in a new—and current—location on Thirty-First Street in Long Branch.

These three Lakeshore communities preserve their past thorough various local history groups and memorials. Mimico’s Memorial Park recalls the Great War. Nearby Vimy Ridge Parkette proudly displays a cenotaph and two bronze honour-roll lists of about 300 names. Local historian Michael Harrison has tracked in great detail the lives of many soldiers of the Great War on these sites we recommend to researchers: