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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

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The focus of this website is on memorials in educational institutions in Toronto, however, from time to time we come across memorials in unusual places making them difficult for researchers to find. Some are also threatened. The scope of the For King and Country has expanded slightly to bring a few of these strays into the fold.

Aura Lee Club (ALC-CL)

Aura Lee Club war memorial plaque

First World War memorial for Aura Lee Club members

Location: 205 Avenue Road, Toronto, Ontario M5R 2J3 (east side of Avenue Road; north of Davenport Road; south of Roxborough Street West)
NOTE: The six-character postal code—a system gradually introduced across Canada beginning in April 1971—would not have been used during the time of the club’s existence, but helps to pinpoint the location for today’s readers. From the 1840s to the 1890s, Yorkville Brick Yard operated here. Ramsden Park, one of the city’s oldest and largest green spaces, stretches behind the commercial buildings on this part of Avenue Road over to Yonge Street.

Opened: 1887

Pre-1998 municipality: Toronto

Type of organization: Men’s Club—Camping, Sports, Literary Pursuits, Bible Study, and Social

History:
Started as a summer camping group, the club took its name from “Aura Lee,” a song popular during the American Civil War, and adopted as the club song. (Elvis Presley used the same tune in his 1955 hit “Love Me Tender.”) The first camping trips to Lake Joseph, District of Muskoka, were followed by hundreds of further explorations of lakes and rivers, especially in northern Ontario. Club president, James Edmund Jones (“the Chief”) recommended “the best possible” maps for these ventures (especially if no local guide was available) such as Sir Wm. Logan’s maps published in 1857—noting, “There is a copy in Toronto Public Library and in the Parliamentary Library at Ottawa. Toronto survey maps may be purchased or traced at the Legislative Buildings, Toronto.” Jones’ book on camping advertised two Toronto sources for camping materials: Rice Lewis & Sons Limited, Sportsmen’s Requirements, corner of King and Victoria streets, and Marshall’s Maps of the Muskoka Lakes and the Lakes of Ontario, sold by Michie & Co., Grocers and Dealers in Camping Supplies, 7 King Street west. Michie & Co. also offered “a number of charts not for sale, but we cheerfully place the information they contain at the disposal of our customers.” Club members sometimes travelled across Aura Lee Lake in Algonquin Park, but we have found no reference connecting the name of the lake with the name of the club. A Tom Thomson painting—Aura Lee Lake, Spring 1916—is now owned by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario.

“Amateur Drain Diggers” demonstrate the practical side of starting a club.

1903: Athletic club formed—first composed of members of a Bible Class at the Church of the Redeemer (Anglican) at Bloor Street and Avenue Road. A deed of trust stated that the religious branch of the club was to be in connection with the Church of England in Canada. Liquor, gambling, and blasphemous language were not allowed. The annual fee for active members was five dollars. Members were proposed and seconded in writing. The Literary Society trained members as speakers for Sunday afternoons. Members’ friends were welcomed. Cricket was played on rented grounds until almost three acres (1.214 hectares) of land were bought near the corner of Avenue Road and Roxborough Street. On Thanksgiving Day, a group of “boys” began digging a drain to convert an existing ash heap and duck pond into an athletic park.

1904 Jan 27: In spite of a snowstorm, the “school room” of Church of the Redeemer attracted a crowd for a fundraising evening of “songs, choruses, minstrel entertainment, dialogues, etc.” and a debate by four members of the Aura Lee Literary and Debating Club. The issue: Resolved, that the most satisfactory solution of the liquor problem is to take the traffic out of the hands of private individuals, as has been done in Sweden under the Gotenburg system. The affirmatives won. In time, more than six thousand dollars was raised for leveling the grounds; building fences, shelters, and a rink.

A strong focus on sports from the beginning—Aura Lee Yearbook, 1906

1906 Dec 2: The “new wing” of the clubhouse opened by Dillon Wallace. (Phone number: North 3560.)

World War I (1914-1918): See below under “Memorials transcribed” for a description of a privately owned memorial to sixty-three Aura Lee members who died. See also our October 5th, 2016 blog post: A Memorial Mystery—Solved. https://torontofamilyhistory.org/kingandcountry

1907 Feb 9: In the social and personal section of the Star, the club advertised an “at-home” to be held the following day.

1916-1925: Many references to the club appeared in the sports pages of local papers, especially about Aura Lee’s hockey teams which competed in the Ontario Hockey Association. (Their home rink was Arena Gardens—also known as the Mutual Street Arena.) The junior team won the OHA championships in 1916, 1917, 1922, and 1925; twice won the Eastern Canadian championship in 1922 and 1925. They played local schools such as Harbord High School and De La Salle Academy, but also competed against the Hamilton Rowing Club, the Berlin (later Kitchener) Union Jacks, the Iroquois Falls Paper Makers, and many more. (There were references to elimination “playdowns” rather than playoffs.)

1925 Apr 9: The burden of taxes and increasing maintenance costs forced the club to close. Aura Lee trustees presented the Avenue Road property deed to the governors of the University of Toronto. Formal transfer and a public ceremony of recognition to follow. The Aura Lee grounds would provide a “sorely needed” athletic field for the pupil of the University Schools, who were expected to carry on the Aura Lee motto of clean sportsmanship. Many UTS students had been members of the club. Of the 63 members who died during the Great War, 13 had been UTS students.

1925 Apr 27: The last annual general meeting of the club was held at the home of Robert Parker, 26 Lowther Avenue. Financial affairs wound up. There was no discussion about the transfer of the club property to the University of Toronto—presumably because of the arrangements made on April 9.

Aura Lee Old Boys’ (1934) reunion at the Grand Union Hotel. Strong ties remained after the club closed.

1934: Reunion of Aura Lee Old Boys’ Reunion at the Grand Union Hotel, Front Street West at Simcoe Street.

1967 June 7: Norman A. Keys, Q.C. “one of the surviving old-timers who with pick and shovel helped to level-out the grounds of the old Aura Lee Club” suggested in a letter to the Globe and Mail, “It would be a nice tribute to the many Aura Lee members who served in the First and Second World Wars if this fragment of the Ramsden Park could be called Aura Lee Park.” (As the club had closed before the Second World War, presumably Mr. Keys was referring to former members who kept in touch after 1925.)

1968: Use of the former Aura Lee grounds by the University of Toronto Schools ended.

1975 Nov 1: Unveiling of a plaque to go with a Ramsden Park fountain in the area formerly known as the Aura Lee Club. The family of Magistrate and Mrs. James Edmund Jones and the University of Toronto Old Boys’ Association had placed the fountain. Mr. Jones had died in 1939; his daughter Mabyn (Jones) Topp unveiled the plaque. Canon Owen Pritchard, rector of the Church of the Redeemer, dedicated the fountain.

Published history:
Aura Lee Club Year Book 1906 [Toronto s.n. 1906?] 19 p. ill. (Includes names and addresses of members.)
The Aura Lee Gazette. Toronto: Aura Lee Club Vol. 1, no. 1 (May 1904)-v.2, no.2 (May 1905). Available at Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Toronto Star; Globe and Mail. (Used to find numerous articles.)
The Society Blue Book, Toronto, A Social Directory 1920. Dau’s Blue Books., 1920. The directory lists 86 Toronto clubs for this year.
Jones, James Edmund. Camping and Canoeing: What to Take, How to Travel, How to Cook, and Where to Go.Toronto: William Briggs, 1903. 154 p.; ill.
Sandor, Steven. Illustrated Guide to Hockey Sites & History. (The Hockey History and Sites Series) Toronto: Heritage House, 2007. 158 p.; ill.

Memorials transcribed:
ALC-CL-a: (WWI) Bronze. 1914 / 1918 / “Our Comrades / Who / sixty-three in all / “Played the game” / Even unto death / “Their lives they risked and gave / Very soul of life to save / And by their own great valor / And the grace of God they won.” (quote from) John Oxenham. Two columns; given names followed by surnames. One name (William B. Yuille) is centered below the two columns.