When Dr. Carl E. Hill, then 27, was appointed North York’s first medical officer of health in 1922, the year North York became independent from York Township, the population was 6,500 and his staff consisted of himself and a part-time inspector. When he retired 43 years later at age 70 in 1965, the department had a staff of 160 and the population was 350,000.
Reeve (Mayor) James Service said: “Dr. Hill has looked after the health of the municipality from its infancy through its adolescence to its maturity as a major metropolis.” Hill was Toronto’s second-longest-serving medical officer of health; the longest was Scarborough’s Dr. C.D. Farquharson, for 45 years. He retired the year before Hill.
Hill, born in Richmond Hill, moved with his new bride to North York in 1921. He set up practice in their home near Yonge and Sheppard. When a fire broke out in a nearby house, he stopped it from spreading to his and other houses by pumping water from a well for a neighbourhood bucket brigade to douse the flames.
He was one of the first to use diphtheria toxoid on a large municipal basis. Following a smallpox epidemic in 1927, he created a community preventive smallpox vaccination program.
In 1931, he proposed a novel idea to help North Yorkers made jobless by the Great Depression. According to the book “Pioneering in North York” by Patricia W. Hart, 1968: “Estimates of the number of wage earners unemployed in the municipality ranged from one third to more than forty per cent. Dr. Hill suggested that it was very demoralizing for these men to sit around their houses day after day without hope or activity and requested Council to insist that they work for their relief money. Shovels and rakes were provided for them to clean out the ditches along the streets for water mains. Each had so many feet to dig in a week to be eligible for their payment.
“The program didn’t last because it cost more than straight relief and was driving the Township toward bankruptcy.”
He died in 1968, three years after retiring.
Susan Goldenberg is a director and membership chair of the North York Historical Society, which preserves North York’s heritage. The author of nine books, her latest being “Deadly Triangle: The Famous Architect, His Wife, Their Chauffeur, and Murder Most Foul,” she has won both a Canadian Author’s Award and a Canadian Business Press Editors’ Award.