A Night Out Ends in Tragedy

On Thursday, April 3rd, 1930 Jessie Hadden (nee Gaull), her daughter Edith Hadden, aged 12, and her daughter-in-law Hilda Hadden (nee Smith) attended an open house at the Canada Bread Company, located on Danforth Avenue in Toronto’s east end. They were accompanied by their Pickering Street neighbours, Elizabeth Masson and her 10 year old daughter, Patricia. This was early in the depression years and with tough times upon them, the open house with the offer of free ‘souvenirs’ consisting of rolls and doughnuts was not to be passed up.

Sometime after 8:00 p.m., the group of neighbours left the bread factory, arms loaded with baked goods, to head home. Others were also leaving the factory at the same time. Hilda Hadden described to the Toronto Daily Star newspaper what happened next. “We had stepped out into the roadway and passed over on to the devil strip. [Note: the ‘devil strip’ was a term used to describe the grass or dirt section between the sidewalk and the road]. Here we stood to allow a line of cars to pass. We saw a car coming at a fairly good rate of speed and it was turning out to pass two other cars. I believe it struck Mrs. Dowdell and her children first. Then we were all struck and thrown in every direction.” A ‘good Samaritan,’ Thomas Ray of Virginia Avenue, stopped at the accident scene to assist police and, leaving his own wife and daughter at the side of the road, drove two of the injured to hospital. Jessie, Edith and Hilda Hadden suffered head and body bruises and were sent to the local hospital where they were treated and released.
Mrs. Dowdell and two of her children were more seriously injured. Mrs. Dowdell received a fractured skull and it was initially feared she would not survive the injuries. Her son Albert, 11, received a broken arm in the accident but it was 9 year old Helen Dowdell who was the most seriously injured. Helen died the following day at Toronto’s famous Hospital for Sick Children of internal injuries despite receiving excellent care, including blood transfusions from her distraught father who had rushed to her side after learning of the accident a couple of hours after it occurred.
Three and a half weeks after the accident a coroner’s jury found 18 year old Philip Hutchinson of Bastedo Avenue in Toronto, responsible for the death of young Helen. Hutchinson was subsequently charged with manslaughter. It was noted at the coroner’s inquest that Hutchinson was unable to see the fine print on a paper that was handed to him, causing the inquest’s Crown Attorney, Hal Gordon, to point out that his vision was defective.
Source: The Toronto Daily Star newspaper, April 4 and April 29, 1930 editions.

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