Saturday, September 07, 2013

that other time we had a bedridden mayor

Background: besides writing Past Pieces of Toronto for OpenFile, I tackled several other assignments for the site. One was this piece, originally published on August 8, 2012.

Source: Toronto Star, November 10, 1970.
Rob Ford’s recent hospitalization for asthma, stomach and throat issues raises questions about what would happen if the mayor endured an extended period of time in a hospital bed. While it’s likely he would pass on most of his duties to Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, previous top municipal officials haven’t let ailments like a broken pelvis prevent them from performing official tasks. Such was the case with Borough of North York Mayor Basil Hall.

What landed Hall in North York General Hospital on November 6, 1970 was an attempt to touch up the paint in the basement of the home he had recently moved into at 87 Forest Grove Dr. When he stepped from one ladder to another, Hall lost his footing and fell to the concrete. “There was no chance to break the fall in any way,” he recalled, “so I just landed with my full weight on my right hip.” It took Hall, home alone and suffering shock from the fall, an hour to crawl 50 feet to the telephone in the den. After having difficulty reaching an operator he called his son Brian, who sent for an ambulance. Hall, who had broken his hip and pelvis, was placed in traction and told he would be bedridden for at least five to six weeks.

Not that being immobile stopped Hall from carrying out his mayoral duties. “In a few days, I’ll be feeling better,” he told the Don Mills Mirror, “but I’ll be stuck here for four or five weeks with nothing else to do, so I might as well get on with business as usual. I want a room big enough to have the borough department heads and my secretary in for consultations and dictating letters and things. No need to hold things up any longer than necessary.”

Basil Hall meeting with members of  the North York Hydro Commission in North York General Hospital. Don Mills Mirror, November 25, 1970.
 While controller Irving Paisley was named acting mayor for engagements Hall couldn’t physically handle, the mayor was moved to a larger room and provided with stacks of official correspondence and council briefings. Hall was also given access to a fourth-floor classroom that he was wheeled into for committee meetings. One such gathering was a session of the borough’s hydro commission on November 24, 1970, where Hall attacked the federal and provincial governments for not subsidizing electricity rates. From his bed, Hall declared that North York residents should “start hollering like mad” that their hydro bills would rise by an average total of $12 that year. Local papers soon stopped referring to his bedridden state.

Besides a steady stream of visitors, Hall received over 2,000 get-well cards from local schoolchildren. “Getting these letters is really the best thing that has happened since I’ve been here,” he told the Mirror. “It was organized by the schools and I sure appreciate the effort they all made for me.” He enjoyed the sentiments, even if some of the letter writers indicated that their families would “pray to Cod” for a fast recovery.

The wishes may have worked: on December 4, 1970, two weeks ahead of schedule, Hall left the hospital on crutches. Sixteen pounds lighter from his ordeal, he returned to work for a couple of weeks before taking a Florida vacation.

Additional material from the November 11, 1970, November 25, 1970, and December 16, 1970 editions of the Don Mills Mirror, the December 5, 1970 edition of the Toronto Star, and the November 9, 1970 edition of the Telegram.

No comments: