Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Better Use for Old Island Friend: Schooner Days MCCXCI (1291)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 13 Oct 1956
Full Text
Better Use for Old Island Friend
Schooner Days MCCXCI (1291)

by C. H. J. Snider

"WHAT about the old Blue Bell, the turtle-shaped double-ended paddlewheel ferry gramp usta take us to the Island on?"

It seems she is being offered for scrap iron, on the brilliant Canadian principle of selling our throwaways to the heathen at a good price and having to pick pieces of them out of our hide later, at Hong Kong or Korea or somewhere, with painfully accrued interest. Who doesn't remember the shiploads of baled scrap that went to Japan from Toronto's waterfront 20 years ago?

Blue Bell is her registered name, not Bluebell. There was a Bluebell of Kingston already on the register before she was launched. The Toronto Ferry Co. built her in Lawrence Solman's days, in 1906. She is 150 ft. long, 30 ft. beam, only 7 ft. deep in the hold, but her superstructure rises twenty feet into the air. So while her registered tonnage is 451, her gross is 752. Turned into a church, or a grandstand, she could seat 500 people.


Wm. J. Sutherland of the Hotel Manitou, Toronto Island, a staunch friend of Schooner Days and of the city we all love, has better plan for the Blue Bell than to get rid of her by the scrap heap. He hails in lively tones:

"Printers' ink first got into my meagre blood by handling wet papers on my morning and evening routes north and south of my father's cigar store at 1502 Queen st. west, in old Parkdale. My route went past the home and practice wire of the great aerialist James E. Hardy, and that master of Toronto Bay navigation, Capt. Jennings, Fuller ave., was also on my beat.

"On the rare chance of a bay voyage to be invited up top to the pilot house of the Blue Bell was a wonder thrill, and to be allowed to steer this great vessel inflated a kid's ego beyond words.

"My idea of how to keep some of the thrills that I will never grow too old to enjoy, nor to show to others my pleasure in is to preserve the Blue Bell as a sample of our early-1900s' attractions.

"Simple purchase of good old Lol Solman's creation is not enough. There must be a location for this durable steel hull that will not conflict with the greater plan for Metro. Should a suitable site be chosen—and I suggest the bay on the south side of the island regatta course, MacKay's cut—-the boat could settle on an even keel with everything wreckable removed and her steam machinery moth-coated to preserve its appearance.

"A gangplank would allow small fish-teasers to dangle their worms in a tempting depth without risk of falling overboard. The location south of a hotly contested regatta course would allow hundreds of fans to watch a close-up of their favorites competing in all sorts of water sports.


"Many are the - personally - historical waterfront sites and sights which enchant the memories of those who knew them and haunt them with pleasant retrospection. Where Knapp's Roller Boat rolled, Crane's Limited, the old open Union Station with its level crossings, the old Daly House, Tinning's Terrace, Harry Piper's zoo and his fragrant whale, the old swamp of Ashbridge's Bay — the Cyclorama which became Petrie's place - memory of these things make me want to have something concrete like the preserved Blue Bell to show my grandson, and other people's grandsons, what our Toronto of fifty years ago had to offer.

"I never realized the need of preserving for the young examples of our early fumbling attempts at transportation until my grandson and viewed the old car show at the Ex. What memories it brought back of 50 years ago! When the Parkdale Auto Livery, proud competitor with Dean's horsedrawn victorias, subsidized by my flush young uncle from Buffalo, took our family west as far as Oakville, in a Ford 6 of 1904. Boiling over, uncle changed to a Mac-Buick Planetary 4, which carried us to a wonderful finish in Parkdale from the far-eastern reaches of the Half-way House on the Kingston road.

"Sorry I have not inherited my grandfather's skill with the compositor's stick which kept him top man of the old Mail composing room for 30 years, and after as owner of the Sutherland Printshop - but these are some of the memories the old Blue Bell stirs up for me."

Mr. Sutherland offered a cheque in all sincerity to start a Blue Bell fund.

Attention Metro. This is up to you.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
13 Oct 1956
Language of Item
Richard Palmer
Creative Commons licence
by [more details]
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Better Use for Old Island Friend: Schooner Days MCCXCI (1291)