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


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