A War Record
Halloween is now behind us, but before we drive full steam ahead into the festive holiday season, let's take a moment to focus on a very important date coming up on the calendar. Red poppies are appearing on lapels and in Legion boxes - a visual reminder that Remembrance Day is around the corner. This year, November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
The corner of Yonge and Davisville felt the impact of World War I, as is depicted in Stanley Francis Turner's "A War Effort." This painting shows Davisville Ave, looking north from the south side of the street. "Wizz-Bang Corner" is painted on the side of the building which is the current day Starbucks - and at this time was the post office and general store run by the Davis family.
The soldiers depicted in the painting would have been patients of the Military Orthopaedic Hospital, located a few buildings down Davisville Ave where the Salvation Army retirement home currently stands. According to research done by the North Toronto Historical Society, the Salvation Army building has had a long history in the neighbourhood. In 1913, the land was sold to the Salvation Army by Frederick Davis, who was a son of John Davis (Davisville's namesake). Construction of a training college took place from 1913-1917, but as soon as it was completed the space was loaned out as a Military Orthopaedic Hospital.
Here, the hospital offered 180 beds to returning soldiers who were, in many cases, permanently wounded. The hospital had an on-site facility to produce and fit artificial limbs. According to the Toronto Star, “By August 1918, the Toronto limb factory was serving about 40 soldiers a week from across Canada. ‘It is the pride of the Davisville plant’s management that not a single case referred to it, and there have been about 3,000, has been turned away as hopeless.’”
Soldiers who were being treated at the hospital would often walk to the corner of Yonge and Davisville, which they gave the nickname "Wizz-Bang Corner" - according to the Canadian War Museum, the name was “derived from the name for small caliber enemy shells during the war, may indicate a common gathering spot for veterans to meet, rest, or beg.” Here, they would sit and people watch at the busy intersection where many were making their way around town, running errands, etc.
In smaller lettering, you can see ‘Fragments from France’ also written on the wall - a reference to Bruce Bairnsfather's weekly cartoons which were published during the war. The Canadian War Museum suggests that this is also a dark reference to the wounded soldiers.
After the war ended, the building used as the hospital was reverted back to its original purpose, and it stood until 1961 when it was demolished and replaced with the current Salvation Army Meighen Retirement Residence, which opened in January 1965.