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FRED R. MILLER 1878-1922. Fred was an extraordinary individual who had excessive passion and energy for everything he was interested in. He had an engaging smile and was clearly an important guy given his position in many photographs and the descriptions in various newspaper articles.  He was an innovative businessman and always in a hurry to get things done!
He was born in St Catherines Ontario and educated as an engineer. He was brought into the family engineering firm of Roger Miller & Sons as a partner after working for another business. The family firm built many very large projects around the city of Toronto and seems to have done a large number on the Toronto waterfront including the Eastern Gap, the Sea Wall and the giant water intake pipe that runs out into Lake Ontario. Many of these structures such as the Bloor Viaduct are landmarks in Toronto today.
Fred was also a distinguished public servant. In service to his country during Canada’s involvement in WW I. He built a munitions plant for WW I in six months, half the time the government expected it to take. He also then operated the plant and achieved record production supplying both Canada and the United States with munitions. He joined the Toronto Transit Commission as it is now called and led the reinvention of the transit system which involved installing the first dual rail tracks on Yonge Street which is the main north south in Toronto.  He was known as a guy who could get things done in a hurry. Just before his unexpected death in 1922, he was appointed an Ontario Hydro Commissioner to specifically straighten out a messy construction project involving a huge generating station. He was obviously a very well connected businessman and held a number of Directorships at the time of his death. Fred Miller was a famous boat racer in Toronto and Buffalo especially considering he did it as a hobby.  He did not become as famous as Greening or Gar Wood, but maybe that is only because he died prematurely. Miller was obviously taking racing more seriously when he built HELDENA III because that was a real go fast racer and not a luxury launch like HELDENA II. He had  a strong reputation as a racer and he was a respected sportsman. Miller was always up for another race. He was “rarely beaten off the line” and his boats always seem to run without a problem. He/HELDENA II was called the unbeaten Canadian Displacement Boat Champion in 1919-1920.
He was involved in many Clubs and marine related organizations in senior positions and was a member of the syndicate that owned and raced Miss Toronto, a Liberty powered Hydroplane that appeared in the early 20’s.  He seemed to enjoy the racing as a number of photos attest not to mention the fact that HELDENA III was designed as a pure race boat. When you read the newspaper commentaries, he obviously drove very aggressively in these 30 mile races, finishing all the time and most often winning.


 Fred R. Miller named the HELDENA boats after his wife (Edna) and his daughter (Helen). He also named at least one lake freighter “Helen M”. His daughter Helen was born in November of 1914. The first HELDENA was a basic launch and was built in 1914-15 to support Fred Miller’s business activity along the waterfront in Toronto. Miller was very successful in the construction business and next built HELDENA II which was much larger and fancier than the first.  The consensus is that II was built as a luxury launch and not a racer, but Miller discovered she was fast enough to compete and in his typical high energy style took up racing.

HELDENA II was launched with a straight 8, 225 HP Van Blerck engine and was re-powered in 1919 with a Smith Twin Six Liberty V-12. Miller set a couple of world speed records for displacement boats and was a very successful owner /driver. He was determined and tenacious and his boat was always well prepared. There is no evidence that HELDENA II ever did not finish a race. Miller was apparently rarely beaten across the starting line when he had the Liberty. The family firm Roger Miller & Sons had tremendous dock facilities on the waterfront for their construction work, which probably made it easier for him to maintain his boats. HELDENA II became known as “Miller’s black boat” because of the very dark ebony stain on the hull.  Enjoying his success in racing he got more serious and he had George Crouch design HELDENA III.  J.J. Taylor built it and Fred began to campaign the Liberty powered boat in 1921. This time it was designed as a race boat and he kept HELDENA II as a support boat and a business launch. HELDENA III was described in newspaper articles as the fastest displacement boat in the world. Unfortunately Fred R. Miller died suddenly at the age of 44 at the same time he was really starting to get into racing.  It is unknown whether I and III exist any more. The only reason HELDENA II survived is she was purchased by the Toronto Harbour Police.


The Toronto Harbour Police purchased Heldena II for $6,000 to use it as a fast rescue boat. Because it was an open launch, they could store the dingy in the back. One interesting event which almost cost the existence of the boat occurred in 1930 when the boat slammed in to the wall when leaving the harbour under full power and the damage was not discovered until the boat slowed down near the people they were going to rescue. HELDENA II promptly filled up with lake water and would have sunk had it not been for her watertight bulkhead. Over the years the Harbour Police changed the engine a couple of times, and then sold it in 1958 without an engine for $200.  Interestingly, they always called her HELDENA II  (she did have a number) while referring to all their other boats by number. She acquired a reputation for being mysterious and difficult to handle which might have been because of the 3600 lb Van Blerck engine, because she handles beautifully with the much lighter Liberty.

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