South Etobicoke Historical Voyage sails on to Alderwood

Community Dec 06, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

“The history of Alderwood is not one of great battles fought or of great palaces built, rather it is the history of the people — people with a quiet pride in themselves and their community.”

Alderwood Historical Society’s Paul O’Connor offered insight into the lives of those who helped shape his community last week during the third instalment of Franklin Horner Community Centre’s South Etobicoke Historical Voyage.

Funded by New Horizons for Seniors, the program sees about 80 seniors participate in monthly lunch-and-learns that delve into the history of Etobicoke’s lakeshore communities.

“Basically, we’re revisiting the stories of the four villages that make up south Etobicoke — Alderwood, Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico,” said Laura Latham, FHCC’s executive director.

Last Wednesday’s session on Alderwood offered participating seniors a glimpse into the history of the community bounded by Etobicoke Creek to the west, Evans Avenue to the north, Kipling Avenue to the east and the CNR railway to the south.

For Marlene Plewes, the two-hour lunch-and-learn also provided a trip down memory lane.

“That’s my dad, Bill O’Connor,” Plewes said as she pointed to one of nine men pictured in a blown-up, black-and-white photo of the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department.

Formed in 1931, the volunteer department was helmed by Paul O’Connor’s grandfather, John P. O’Connor, until 1956 when it was replaced by an upgraded, full-time fire brigade.

“My grandfather was the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department’s one and only fire chief,” O’Connor said during his presentation. “They did everything from rescuing cats from telephone poles, to saving people from the ravages of hurricane Hazel, when they took the fire truck down to Etobicoke Creek and strung their hose across the creek, so that as people were swept down, they could grab a hold of the hose and make it back to shore.”

O’Connor’s presentation also touched on Alderwood’s roots as a tract of Colonel Samuel Smith’s land, the opening of the Long Branch Racetrack in 1924 and the singing O’Connor sisters of Vaudeville fame.

“Alderwood’s celebrities in the first quarter of the 20th century were the O’Connor sisters,” he said of Anna, Ada, Mary, Nellie, Kathleen and Vera O’Connor, who launched to fame as a sisterly sextet of singers at Shea’s Theatre in Buffalo, but always returned home in the summers to work on the family farm.

“People really looked forward to the summers — especially those nights when the girls would sit out on the porch, and the people of Long Branch and Alderwood could listen to them sing.”

O’Connor also told the most infamous story connected to Long Branch Racetrack — the Sept. 17, 1935 death of Brooklyn Dodgers’ outfielder Len Koenecke.

Previously kicked off an American Airlines flight for drunkenness, Koenecke was on a charter flight flying over Toronto when he got into an altercation with the pilot.

“They were flying along OK for a while, then he started interfering with the pilot, so the co-pilot tried to calm him down,” he said. “Then all of a sudden Koenecke went berserk ... so when the pilot saw his moment, he grabbed the fire extinguisher and let him have it.”

New Toronto police were summoned to the plane’s emergency landing site at Long Branch Racetrack, where they found Koenecke dead from his injuries.

South Etobicoke Historical Voyage sails on to Alderwood

Franklin Horner Community Centre program delves into history of Etobicoke's lakeshore communities

Community Dec 06, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

“The history of Alderwood is not one of great battles fought or of great palaces built, rather it is the history of the people — people with a quiet pride in themselves and their community.”

Alderwood Historical Society’s Paul O’Connor offered insight into the lives of those who helped shape his community last week during the third instalment of Franklin Horner Community Centre’s South Etobicoke Historical Voyage.

Funded by New Horizons for Seniors, the program sees about 80 seniors participate in monthly lunch-and-learns that delve into the history of Etobicoke’s lakeshore communities.

“Basically, we’re revisiting the stories of the four villages that make up south Etobicoke — Alderwood, Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico,” said Laura Latham, FHCC’s executive director.

Last Wednesday’s session on Alderwood offered participating seniors a glimpse into the history of the community bounded by Etobicoke Creek to the west, Evans Avenue to the north, Kipling Avenue to the east and the CNR railway to the south.

For Marlene Plewes, the two-hour lunch-and-learn also provided a trip down memory lane.

“That’s my dad, Bill O’Connor,” Plewes said as she pointed to one of nine men pictured in a blown-up, black-and-white photo of the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department.

Formed in 1931, the volunteer department was helmed by Paul O’Connor’s grandfather, John P. O’Connor, until 1956 when it was replaced by an upgraded, full-time fire brigade.

“My grandfather was the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department’s one and only fire chief,” O’Connor said during his presentation. “They did everything from rescuing cats from telephone poles, to saving people from the ravages of hurricane Hazel, when they took the fire truck down to Etobicoke Creek and strung their hose across the creek, so that as people were swept down, they could grab a hold of the hose and make it back to shore.”

O’Connor’s presentation also touched on Alderwood’s roots as a tract of Colonel Samuel Smith’s land, the opening of the Long Branch Racetrack in 1924 and the singing O’Connor sisters of Vaudeville fame.

“Alderwood’s celebrities in the first quarter of the 20th century were the O’Connor sisters,” he said of Anna, Ada, Mary, Nellie, Kathleen and Vera O’Connor, who launched to fame as a sisterly sextet of singers at Shea’s Theatre in Buffalo, but always returned home in the summers to work on the family farm.

“People really looked forward to the summers — especially those nights when the girls would sit out on the porch, and the people of Long Branch and Alderwood could listen to them sing.”

O’Connor also told the most infamous story connected to Long Branch Racetrack — the Sept. 17, 1935 death of Brooklyn Dodgers’ outfielder Len Koenecke.

Previously kicked off an American Airlines flight for drunkenness, Koenecke was on a charter flight flying over Toronto when he got into an altercation with the pilot.

“They were flying along OK for a while, then he started interfering with the pilot, so the co-pilot tried to calm him down,” he said. “Then all of a sudden Koenecke went berserk ... so when the pilot saw his moment, he grabbed the fire extinguisher and let him have it.”

New Toronto police were summoned to the plane’s emergency landing site at Long Branch Racetrack, where they found Koenecke dead from his injuries.

South Etobicoke Historical Voyage sails on to Alderwood

Franklin Horner Community Centre program delves into history of Etobicoke's lakeshore communities

Community Dec 06, 2017 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

“The history of Alderwood is not one of great battles fought or of great palaces built, rather it is the history of the people — people with a quiet pride in themselves and their community.”

Alderwood Historical Society’s Paul O’Connor offered insight into the lives of those who helped shape his community last week during the third instalment of Franklin Horner Community Centre’s South Etobicoke Historical Voyage.

Funded by New Horizons for Seniors, the program sees about 80 seniors participate in monthly lunch-and-learns that delve into the history of Etobicoke’s lakeshore communities.

“Basically, we’re revisiting the stories of the four villages that make up south Etobicoke — Alderwood, Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico,” said Laura Latham, FHCC’s executive director.

Last Wednesday’s session on Alderwood offered participating seniors a glimpse into the history of the community bounded by Etobicoke Creek to the west, Evans Avenue to the north, Kipling Avenue to the east and the CNR railway to the south.

For Marlene Plewes, the two-hour lunch-and-learn also provided a trip down memory lane.

“That’s my dad, Bill O’Connor,” Plewes said as she pointed to one of nine men pictured in a blown-up, black-and-white photo of the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department.

Formed in 1931, the volunteer department was helmed by Paul O’Connor’s grandfather, John P. O’Connor, until 1956 when it was replaced by an upgraded, full-time fire brigade.

“My grandfather was the Alderwood Volunteer Fire Department’s one and only fire chief,” O’Connor said during his presentation. “They did everything from rescuing cats from telephone poles, to saving people from the ravages of hurricane Hazel, when they took the fire truck down to Etobicoke Creek and strung their hose across the creek, so that as people were swept down, they could grab a hold of the hose and make it back to shore.”

O’Connor’s presentation also touched on Alderwood’s roots as a tract of Colonel Samuel Smith’s land, the opening of the Long Branch Racetrack in 1924 and the singing O’Connor sisters of Vaudeville fame.

“Alderwood’s celebrities in the first quarter of the 20th century were the O’Connor sisters,” he said of Anna, Ada, Mary, Nellie, Kathleen and Vera O’Connor, who launched to fame as a sisterly sextet of singers at Shea’s Theatre in Buffalo, but always returned home in the summers to work on the family farm.

“People really looked forward to the summers — especially those nights when the girls would sit out on the porch, and the people of Long Branch and Alderwood could listen to them sing.”

O’Connor also told the most infamous story connected to Long Branch Racetrack — the Sept. 17, 1935 death of Brooklyn Dodgers’ outfielder Len Koenecke.

Previously kicked off an American Airlines flight for drunkenness, Koenecke was on a charter flight flying over Toronto when he got into an altercation with the pilot.

“They were flying along OK for a while, then he started interfering with the pilot, so the co-pilot tried to calm him down,” he said. “Then all of a sudden Koenecke went berserk ... so when the pilot saw his moment, he grabbed the fire extinguisher and let him have it.”

New Toronto police were summoned to the plane’s emergency landing site at Long Branch Racetrack, where they found Koenecke dead from his injuries.