The Founding of TOWARF

Story related by TOWARF’s founder and first Commander, Fred Oliver

On the Civic Holiday weekend in August 1954, as Police Chief in Trafalgar Township (on January 1st. 1962 Trafalgar Township and the Town of Oakville amalgamated) I received a call that, a storm had come up and caught a number of Seascouts from Oakville who were boating from Oakville to the Grimsby area and that some were missing.

Of course we didn’t have any search organization to call on, so the police, firefighters, power boaters and sailors from the yacht club all joined in the search for the sea scouts. We lost two sea scouts and the sea scout leader. We located the two sea scouts but never found the leader. We searched the area from Oakville Harbour to an area between the Burlington Canal and Grimsby, by both water and air. There were several private planes in the area that assisted, and as I remember they were John Hamm, Bob Hines. In those days we didn’t have Trenton to assist or O.P.P. aircraft. We did however have one of the Air Canada planes flying into Malton from out over the Lake after dark and we were able to have the pilot put the landing lights on over the area to light up the Lake, but to no avail. We searched for two nights and three days. When we put into the Oakville Harbour I remember sitting on a boat talking to some of the boaters that had taken part in the search and saying, “We really don’t know what areas have or have not been covered”, (in other words we were not too well organized.)

With this we established what we needed to organize a team for future incidents on the lake, thus T.O.W.A.R.F. was started. At that time it was known as TOWNSHIP OF TRAFALGAR WATER AIR RESCUE FORCE, and when the amalgamation took place in 1962 it became known as TOWN OF OAKVILLE WATER AIR RESCUE FORCE. We had no boat, funds or a slip to work out of. In 1954 the Oakville Lions Club donated $3,000.00 for us to purchase a 23′ Hunter single screw, mahogany boat from a gentleman in Burlington. We arranged with the Town to dock it in a slip just north of the Lakeshore Bridge. We had a wooden box about 4’x8’x 4′ high to store what equipment we had which was very little; life jackets, gas can, bumpers and that is about all. Oh yes, we did have two pairs of binoculars. Walt Anderson of “Walt Anderson Fuels supplied the gas for several years at no cost, the Oakville Rotary Club supplied us with a dual Resuscitator for the boat.

I apologize if I leave someone out as it is after all 49 years ago since it started and I don’t have the memory I use to have. Some of the original key members were Rudy Bach, Bob Johnston, Gord Clarke, Harold Bartman and Jim Holliday Sr. All of which with the exception of Bob Johnston have passed away. At that time the Oakville Yacht Squadron had their clubhouse (an old Garage) located where the present TOWARF building is situated, and when they moved to their present location TOWARF moved in and stayed until the present TOWARF building was built for us. I mentioned earlier that we had no funds so we depended on donations from many and all sources. I remember that a Gentleman from Streetsville donated five dollars as he was in support of what we were doing though he didn’t live in Oakville but was interested in boating, and there were may people that donated their time and money.We have had some trying times and growing pains but we have weathered them so far. Thanks to all of the wonderful members we have had and still have, for without them we wouldn’t have T.O.W.A.R.F.