What’s in the database right now?

Number of schools: 116
Other organizations: 1
Names on memorials: 46,083
Latest additions:
Humberside Collegiate Institute
Duke of Connaught Public School
Forest Hill Village Schools
Palmerston Avenue Public School
Aura Lee Club

Earlier posts

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Humberside was home: a neighbour’s tribute to those who died

I think it caught people’s attention, and maybe made them think about Remembrance Day just a little bit longer.
Claire Franceschetti commenting on her Remembrance Day project

Thirty-four simple wooden crosses honour some of the Humberside students who died in the World Wars.

They had lived down the street, around the corner, or maybe right next door. They were young Humbersiders who went off to two World Wars and didn’t come back. The local newspapers reported the losses—always mentioning their old school. Parents, loved ones, and friends absorbed the grief. Humberside Collegiate listed their names on memorials which still hang proudly in the entranceway.

The world moved on.

In 2017, living happily in the Humberside neighbourhood, but moved by the uneasy political climate of our times, Claire Franceschetti decided on a personal tribute to the young people who had fought and died. As a mother of three, aware that it is the young who go to war, Claire wanted to remind us of the freedom Canadians take for granted.

Within this binder—clippings with home addresses, parents’ names, mentions of school—poignant reminders of close neighbourhood connection.

Claire’s grandfather, James Madden, had been at Dunkirk with the British army in 1940. Her father knew some of the family stories of that time. There were many reasons for remembrance.

In Claire’s words, this is how the project evolved,

“I went to my local Home Depot where a helpful lumber clerk named Peter cut the scrap wood to appropriate lengths. With the “help” of my 10-year-old son, I painted the lumber, and then assembled the crosses, and attached a red poppy to each one…

… I went to Humberside Collegiate Institute and took pictures of the WWI and WWII memorial plaques with the HCI student names. From there, I used the Canadian Virtual War Memorial online search tool to find the soldiers’ details.

Where possible, I noted the soldiers’ home addresses… when I found that some of these soldiers lived right around the corner from me… it occurred to me that it would be really striking to include their home addresses (on the crosses) where possible.

Many of the names from the plaque did not lead to info on the Virtual War Memorial site, so I tried to pull the names that had some info. My selection of names was random. I printed off the details that I found, and included them in a binder for interested passersby to read.

The Little Free Library holds a binder of information about the students

The binder was housed in the Little Free Library that I had previously installed on my corner lot.

Finally, the installation took place on a sunny afternoon one week before Remembrance Day. My dad was happy to help me do this. In total, 34 crosses were installed. All in all, it was a good project.”

Groups of teacher-led students, mums with strollers, homeward-bound workers, and seniors with walkers were among the many who stopped to look at the memorial during For King and Country’s visit.

Thank you to Claire and her family for this one-of-a-kind tribute.

A “Rescued” Memorial: Humberside Sailors of WWII

For some years, this “Greetings from Humberside” poster hung over the fireplace of a steak house in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Attractive, colourful, and no doubt at times a conversation piece, it was a long way from home.

Framed greeting at Humberside Collegiate

The whole of Humberside Collegiate Institute in Toronto sent greetings to their sailors posted in Halifax.

Humberside Collegiate Institute is about 1,500 kilometres (950 miles) from Sydney. What was the story?

During the Second World War, collegiate staff and students decided to link the security of life in West Toronto to the perils of putting out to sea so far from home.

A greeting-card style poster appeared. Hundreds of signatures crowded the big space. (Three separate signatures just above the school crest—lower right corner—may be those of the designers of the scroll: Jack Walling; Kay Kinnier; Lorne Eadie.)

We hope that this heartfelt message from home lifted the spirits of those stationed down east in the navy during the uncertain days of war.

The embarking sailors probably arranged safekeeping for their special gift, but in time the war ended, people dispersed, and the poster embarked on adventures of its own, until a sharp-eyed shopper realized its value.

The document’s travels—and rescue—are summarized at the bottom of the frame, as follows:

“Greetings From Humberside Scroll”

This document was found in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1988. It was displayed as part of the decoration of a steak house. It was used as a focal point over the fireplace in the lobby. It was purchased from a local antique dealer and given as a gift to Chuck Armitage, a graduate of Humberside.

It is believed that the whole school got together during the Second World War and sent their regards to the Humberside students who were serving in the Canadian navy stationed in Nova Scotia. It seems like everybody took part in this wonderful event of school spirit.

It will serve as a perpetual reminder of the commitment of Humberside students to the safety and security of their country.

The sailors named are now in our For King and Country database along with the names from the two traditional bronze memorials also displayed at the school.

On Remembrance Day 2017, a special thank you to those who seventy-odd years ago worked to cheer up their far off Humberside mates—and to all who played a part in returning this one-of-a-kind memorial to its rightful place.

If you recognize any of these names, or can add to the story, please let us know.

Home is the sailor, home from the sea…
Robert Louis Stevenson

A close-up of some of the names on the Humberside Collegiate poster

Memorials: Some safe, and some at risk

Toronto neighbourhoods offered both surprises and traditional memorials as we organized 1,508 new names for “back to school” 2017.

A happy surprise was solving the puzzle of an unidentified WWI plaque displayed in a local café. The long-forgotten Aura Lee Club, a social and sports group active from 1887 to 1925, was not a school, but their list included many young men who had attended Toronto schools. We have added their names to the For King and Country database as our tribute to the “sixty-three in all” who died. (Our blog post on the Aura Lee memorial has already attracted the attention of a researcher for the Hockey Hall of Fame.)

An unhappy surprise was discovering memorials from the soon-to-be-demolished Woodgreen United Church (east end Toronto) for sale by online public auction. A small group of us (all members of Toronto Branch) tried to rescue them, but our pooled budgets didn’t add up. Fortunately, the five Woodgreen honour rolls went to a serious collector who has promised to supply us with photographs. The photos and the hundreds of names they bear will become part of our For King and Country database. The fate of three bronze war memorials from Woodgreen is unknown.

Further alarms sounded when we heard of amalgamated Royal Canadian Legion branches struggling to find new spots for memorials they have acquired from various sources. Still a worrisome work-in-progress, but we aim for a happy ending.

The war lists of three grand old Toronto schools: Duke of Connaught (1912); Palmerston Avenue (1889); and Forest Hill Village (1930) are in safer hands. We thank Jane Adair Hamilton who took time after teaching all day to scrutinize and decipher Palmerston memorials—especially the faded Great War scroll of names—and Marg McCann, who updated our Forest Hill photos.

If you hear of any “at risk” Toronto war memorials, please contact us. We may lack dollars, but we promise resourceful efforts to preserve what we can of our city’s irreplaceable history.

Discarded honour rolls from Woodgreen United Church await amid other auction items for pickup by their new owner