In last month’s Leaside Life, I read with great fascination Ted DeWelles’ account of the military manoeuvres that took place in the earliest days of our neighbourhood. Ted’s article reminded me that November is a month that evokes a special feeling of pride for our neighbourhood. A pride that is rooted in Leaside’s history, especially for the contributions and sacrifices in defence of freedom those Leasiders and Leaside organizations made in both WWI and WWII.
For those new to the community, Leaside Memorial Community Gardens (or “Leaside Gardens”) opened its doors in 1951 and hosted its first hockey game on Oct. 6, 1952. A registered war memorial, Leaside Gardens was named in honour of our war veterans. The plaque outside reads: “In memory of the men of the Town of Leaside who gave their lives for their country in the Second World War – 1939-1945.”
Ray White, former Leaside Gardens board chair, wrote in Leaside Life about an event that took place 10 years ago, “On
Nov. 8, 2013, 50 years after the original dedication in 1963 and on the 100th anniversary of the Town of Leaside the Leaside Gardens board rededicated the beautiful new combined facility. In attendance were several family members of three of the men for whom this memorial is named: the Lazier, Newel and Wilbur families. It was my distinct honour and privilege to hold the Silver Cross presented to Flying Officer Walter Newel’s mother, Lillian, on that day.” Thanks largely to Ray’s efforts, Leaside Memorial Community Gardens is a registered war memorial.
Archival exhibit honours the past
This year Leaside Gardens celebrates its 70th anniversary by paying homage to its dual roles as a centre for sports in the community and a memorial honouring those from Leaside who served. Earlier in the year, anniversary cakes decorated as ice rinks were served to hungry post-game skaters to celebrate the milestone. But the capstone anniversary events, a flag ceremony featuring players from the Leaside Wildcats and an archival exhibit, are scheduled to take place from Fri., Nov. 10th to Sun., Nov. 12.
Over the years, Leaside Gardens has received several donations in addition to a growing number of artifacts and memorabilia it has collected over time. These items tell its story, particularly as related to its role as a war memorial and the home of many local sports teams. But time itself has proven to be an enemy of preservation and the board decided that without corrective action, much of this treasured archive could eventually be lost.
Working together with the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society, the board initiated a plan in January 2023 to inventory and digitize its collection in order to preserve it for the benefit of future generations. As luck would have it, local Leasider Kennis Kim, an acknowledged expert of art conservation and history, gratefully volunteered her expertise to guide and assist board members through the archival process.
I’m pleased to report that this “heavy lifting” has now been complete and Leaside Gardens is excited to invite the community to enjoy the collection in person before the physical items are placed in long-term storage for preservation. Over time, it is envisioned that the digitized collection could make its way online for ease-of-access to all in the future.
Leaside Gardens invites the community to view its collection of artifacts and memorabilia from Nov. 10-12th in the William Lea room to celebrate the occasion of Leaside Gardens’ 70th anniversary. Visitors can view various sports team photos, some dating back to the ’50s, along with medals, plaques and other donated items of interest for the enjoyment of the community.
Flag ceremony to feature the Toronto Leaside Wildcats
To kick off the Leaside Gardens archival exhibit, the board is excited to work with the RCAF Foundation and the Toronto Leaside Wildcats to conduct a flag ceremony at the facility. Last year, on Nov. 11, 2022, the RCAF Foundation held its 12th annual Remembrance Day ceremony from the steps of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery Mausoleum. At sunset, the RCAF flag was lowered and representatives from the Toronto Leaside Wildcats assisted with this special sunset ceremony.
The RCAF Foundation has mounted the flag, and in partnership with the Toronto Leaside Wildcats, will donate it to Leaside Gardens where it will join the collection of memorabilia of the 432 “Leaside” Squadron to be safeguarded. The 432 “Leaside” Squadron of the RCAF was formed May 1943 and adopted the motto “Saeviter ad lucem,” which translates to “Ferociously towards the light.”
At the Nov. 10th ceremony, on the occasion of Leaside Gardens’ 70th and 50 years of girls hockey in Leaside, representatives from Leaside Gardens will receive the flag from the RCAF Foundation and the Toronto Leaside Wildcats on behalf of the community. The ceremony will also mark the official opening of the Leaside Gardens archival exhibit where the RCAF flag will be on display for all to view over the Remembrance Day weekend.
Did you know? Two Toronto Leaside Wildcats alumna were drafted into the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL): Kristin Della Rovere and Emma Buckles; and two former Toronto Wildcat coaches/instructors have been named as head coaches in the newly formed PWHL: Kori Cheverie and Courtney (Birchard) Kessel.