Friday, October 15, 2010

Hurricane Hazel

. . . it was a gigantic flood with smashed houses and uprooted trees bobbing like corks, everything going down the river so fast.  Houses crashing into the sides of other houses, people everywhere screaming.

- Volunteer firefighter Bryan Mitchell describing the impact of Hurricane Hazel in the Toronto Star, October 14, 1984

1954 was quite a year for Toronto. It was the year that 16-year-old Marilyn Bell became the first person to swim across Lake Ontario. It was also the year that the most famous hurricane in Canadian history shattered Southern Ontario. I’m referring to Hurricane Hazel which struck on October 15, 1954.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, when the storm hit Toronto “its winds had waned to 120 k/hr (75 m/hr), but its warm, tropical air collided with a cold front moving eastward; the ensuing rains swelled creeks and rivers and inundated the watershed of the Humber and Credit rivers.” When it was over, 81 people had lost their lives in Ontario.

Hurricanes are rare in Southern Ontario, especially in the Toronto area. A hurricane of the magnitude and ferocity of Hazel is most definitely a historical occurrence for this city. 56 years have passed since Hazel wreaked its havoc, but it will never be forgotten.


One of the most beloved television shows of all time debuted on October 15, 1951. I Love Lucy premiered on the CBS network 59 year ago.  It ran from 1951 until 1957.  After that, there were a number of of full-hour specials which included much travel and well known celebrities of the day.  The hour specials ran under the title The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

I Love Lucy was based on Lucille Ball's radio show, My Favorite Husband. CBS honchos were quite enthusiastic about bringing the show to television, but they weren't too thrilled with the idea of Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz playing the part of Lucy's husband.  They did not think that viewers would find him believable as her husband, even though the two were married in real life. 

In the early 1950s, an American situation comedy co-starring a Cuban with a heavy Spanish accent was a radical concept.  Lucy, however, was determined that she and Desi would spend more time together and that he would play the role of her husband.  She also insisted that the show be filmed in Hollywood and not done live from New York like most other early television comedies.  Lucy had no desire to commute from Hollywood to New York to perform the show live.

Using $5,000 of their own money, Lucy and Desi produced a pilot for the series and finally persuaded CBS to give them a place on the fall schedule of 1951.  Lucy and Desi's instincts turned out to be right on the mark.  The show was a smash hit and delighted television audiences.  As for filming the show, that was a boon.  It meant that high quality prints of every episode were available for countless reruns and syndication to independent stations.  Until I Love Lucy paved the way, poor-quality kinescopes of live shows had been used.

Here are a few bits of trivia regarding I Love Lucy.

1. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were originally called Lucy and Larry Lopez.

2.  The name of the actor who played Little Ricky from 1956 to 1957 never appeared on the show's credits.  His name was Richard Keith. 

3. On January 19, 1953, the same night that Lucy Ricardo gave birth to Ricky Ricardo, Jr. on television, Lucille Ball gave birth to her second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr.  More people watched the episode of Little Ricky's birth than the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower the next day.

4. A 1956 Christmas episode was never shown in reruns. It was not included due to its Christmas theme and because it contained a series of flashbacks to previous episodes. On  December 18, 1989, CBS aired a colourized version of it.

5. There were 181 episodes of the series (including the "lost" Christmas episode and the pilot).

6.  To watch a video of a scene from the Lucy meets Superman episode, click the link below.

- Joanne