I Remember Hazel
I was 11 years old and it was beginning to rain when I got my newspapers together to deliver along my route, a day to remember October 15, 1954. It was the beginning of Hurricane Hazel. (cbc video) I was aware that it was going to be a rain storm but I don't think I really understood the implications of a hurricane. A neighbour lady, Mrs Weakley, saw me struggling to get to the place where my route began. She must have understood more than I did for she offered to drive me around my route so I could get home earlier. It was not until the next day that I realized how bad it was as I heard tales of how they were travelling by boat up #10 highway, Hurontario Street. The creek that passed in front of Lynne's house on Old River Road had overflowed it banks and flooded this major roadway.
The news was bad in the Toronto area as the rivers and stream that drained through the city overflowed and swept away bridges, rail beds and houses including one side of a whole street. In the end, 82 people died.
We lived in a wooded area that had little damage. I do not remember any trees coming down. We were one of the few houses that had no sump pump in the basement. luckily we had no flooding in the house.
I cannot remember if we had a TV by then. I do not remember watching any TV programs about the storm. My mother would have been listening to the news on the CBC and telling me all about it.
Hurricane Hazel is well remembered in Toronto. It was a rare event. For some reason the storm turned inland rather than take it's usual path up the US coast to the Maritime Provinces or turned east out into the North Atlantic. I have since learned it was a category 4 Hurricane when it came ashore in the Carolina (a US audio broadcast) It was expected to weaken over the land which it did for a while and then picked up strength as it went northwest straight over the Toronto area with winds of 110 miles an hour dropping 7 inches of rain. It left a lasting impression on Toronto, as the first community disaster broadcast on TV.
Hurricane Hazel shaped Toronto for the better as it saw the city develop an elaborate flood control scheme along the water ways through the city, which prevented people from building on the river's edges so that the city now has well developed parkland and green belts along the water ways. They have never been test since.
My home town, which is now the city of Mississauga, refers to its mayor as "Hurricane Hazel" McCallion. She has been the mayor for forty years and has seen my home community of Toronto Township plus several small communities, be developed into the 6th largest city in Canada. At 90 years old, she is still a force in municipal politics. .
I have learned that Hurricane Hazel was the worst hurricane to come ashore that year on the east coast and caused a lot of damage in the United States.
In North Carolina, a popular dance club Sonny's Ocean Drive Pavillion was destroyed and never rebuilt.This is where it got interesting for me. It was a place to go shagging (I only knew that as meaning sexual intercourse) which got my attention. I have never heard of Shag dancing, a style of swing dancing popular in the Carolinas even to this day. I believe it is the state dance of North Carolina. It looks like fun and "cool". I wish we had learned it when I was 13-15 when I took ballroom and round dancing with the rest of the young people in our community. Ever since I have wanted to find a partner to take more ballroom dancing lessons with me but to no avail. This looks like a dance I could do.
I shall always remember Hurricane Hazel, her honour the Mayor, who destroyed the place of my youth, and now a new meaning to shagging on the boulevard.