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Monday, November 26, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Not The First

Hurricane Sandy Not the First

Hurricane Sandy was certainly a powerful storm the likes of which I can’t remember experiencing before. But, after finding some old photos in the archives I was reminded that other bad storms have hit this area in the past. The most infamous of all was Hurricane Hazel which hit Ontario on October 15th 1954.Both the Orono Weekly Times and the Bowmanville Canadian Statesman reported the damage which this area received.

In Bowmanville they said West Durham had been spared the flooding and severe damage which inflicted the Toronto area, but two cars were crushed and over 50 television aerials were crumpled. Hydro and telephone service was interrupted by broken lines caused by downed poles or falling trees and branches. The metal sheeting on Annis’ Pool Room on Temperance Street was ripped off and hanging dangerously along the front of the building and Mrs. Rose Stutt on Elgin Street had her garage roof blown off. The sidewalk was buckled in at least three places in town by roots of toppled trees.

The Purdy Family at 47 Centre Street went through a terrible ordeal. Cliff Purdy with his daughter Linda, aged 11, and son Wayne, aged 13 came home on Saturday night around 9:30pm. As they drove up the laneway Cliff noticed a small branch on the road. Linda got out of the car to move it. As she did she heard a large “crack” and jumped out of the way. I huge branch came crashing down on the car causing a deep dent in the roof just behind Cliff’s head. The branch damaged a fender and twisted a door frame. It surrounded the car and they could not open any of the doors so Cliff and Wayne were forced to crawl out a window. To top it off, the next day, while they were out a passer by noticed smoke coming out from under their front door. He ran to the fire alarm box but it didn’t work, the wires had been damaged. However, the Fire department were soon notified and on the scene. The fire was in the pipe for the kitchen stove and it was dealt with causing only smoke damage.

Similar damage was reported in Orono however their telephone system was the hardest hit. Both St. Saviour’s Anglican Church and the Orono United Church suffered roof damage. The United Church lost a 25 foot square section of slate shingles, but the Anglican Church lost the entire southeast corner of their roof! From the inside you could look up and see the sky outside. Mr. Bev Henderson lost the roof to his barn. It landed on the west side of Highway # 35/ 115 when it hit a tree. Also the late spy apple crop, which was just beginning to be harvested, was destroyed by the heavy winds.

Hurricane Hazel killed 1,000 people in Haiti, 95 people in the United States and 81 in Canada (mostly near Toronto where the storm centred). West Durham was spared any casualties but there was one later that was indirectly caused by the storm. Mason Coulter travelled across the Scugog Street CPR tracks four times a day as he travelled between his home on Temperance Street and his workplace of 31 years, the Bowmanville Foundry. The diesel CPR Dayliner commuter train had to be detoured through Bowmanville from its usual route on the Burketon rail line further north because of wash-outs damage caused by Hurricane Hazel. It unexpectedly came through Bowmanville and Mason Coulter, who was hard of hearing, failed to hear the train’s horn or the train signals. His bicycle was hit and he was instantly killed.

All over Clarington people reported damaged roofs, aerials, windows, toppled trees and poles, downed branches and some farm buildings and silos were destroyed. Despite the extensive damage both newspapers praised local telephone linemen and officials and hydro crews for their unfailing dedication to bring power and telephone service back on-line. For the most part they restored service to normal levels to most areas within two or three days.

These two pictures were taken by Ernie Rehder and used in the Canadian Statesman. Ernie’s son Tom donated his father’s negatives to the museum in 2005.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anchor Recalls bygone days of a Busy Port

In 2002 Brian Mountford found a large iron anchor eroding out of the sand on the beach by his waterfront property in Bond Head just south of Newcastle.  The anchor is now mounted in his backyard and is a rare reminder of the days when Bond Head was a busy commercial port known as Port Newcastle.  Brian’s property once belonged to Captain Frank Gibson so we assume the anchor came from one of his schooners.  In the 1800’s there was a lot of trade over the Great Lakes using schooners and steamboats.  Schooners were used to carry bulk cargoes while freight and passengers usually went by steamboat.  Although Port Newcastle did not grow as its original investors hoped it did eventually have a large pier with lighthouse, a warehouse, a grain elevator and the small community around it boasted a mill, a few hotels.

Until 1890 the main crop in this area was barley which was sold in great quantity to American breweries.  So schooners leaving ports like Newcastle would have barley in their holds, but upon returning from the United States they would carry coal.  Of course, the schooner captains would carry whatever paying cargo they could find.  A small book in the collection of the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society believed to be a log book of sorts once belonging to Captain Gibson shows that he travelled all over the Great Lakes picking up and delivering cargoes and that much of this consisted of staves.  Staves are the wooden pieces that barrels are made from and at this time most freight was shipped in barrels.

Clarington had two other ports besides Port Newcastle.  They were Port Darlington and Port Granby.  Port Darlington was easily the largest and most active.  It boasted one of the longest piers on the north shore of Lake Ontario, a light house, customs office, two grain elevators and a large coal shed.  A schooner was even built there in the 1840’s.  It was called the “David Fisher” after the custom agent at the time.  Port Granby was in the eastern part of Clarington south of Newtonville.  It prospered briefly in the 1860’s but was mainly a place for farmers to ship their produce.  By 1890 it had seen better days.

Travel by water was, early on, the most convenient method to get to Clarington.  With the coming of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856 emphasis switched away from the boats and harbours.  Trains were faster, more efficient and less costly.  Today Clarington is reawakening to its waterfront.  People are choosing to live there and building fine new homes; and parks are being established for the benefit of everyone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canada’s Sweetheart is at Clarington Museums

The news of Barbara Ann Scott’s death has been a top story this week. Do not be misled in thinking she was just a figure skater; her influence and important goes far beyond the sport itself. She has been called “Canada’s Sweetheart” and the “Queen of Skating”, but when she won the Olympic Gold Medal for individual figure skating in 1948 she became a Canadian icon. The Canadian public weary of war news and its aftermath rejoiced in having a positive role model and sports superstar in their midst. Prime Minister Mackenzie King said she gave the Canadian public, “courage to get through the darkness of the postwar gloom.” Newsreel footage from the time shows an excited Scott giving the Prime Minister a kiss on the cheek!
She kept the glow going long after 1948 by her positive attitude and gracious personality. She inspired generations of skaters including Frannie Dafoe who was a silver medal winner at the 1956 Winter Olympics, “All the little girls growing up wanted to be a Barbara Ann Scott” she said. Others, who received inspiration from Scott, are Kurt Browning and Elizabeth Manley. One skating official remarked, “She was Canada’s perfect ambassador: beautiful, gracious and charming. She always had time and interest to encourage young skaters and fans. She took her role as part of skating’s history seriously.”

To date no other Canadian has duplicated Barbara Ann Scott’s Olympic achievement. In later years her interest turned towards equestrian pursuits where she became highly regarded. There is no doubt that she will be missed on the Canadian scene and even more so in her home town of Ottawa.

Clarington Museums, as many of you know, possesses the best collection of Canadian dolls owned by any museum anywhere. In this collection we have four Barbara Ann Scott dolls. What Shirley Temple was to little girls in the 1930’s Barbara Ann Scott was to Canadian girls in the1950’s. The history of these dolls has been researched by Evelyn Robson Strahlendorf, the dean of Canadian doll collectors. Some of the Barbara Ann Scott dolls we have in our collection came from her. Six Barbara Ann Scott dolls were produced by Reliable Toys of Toronto between 1948 and 1953. All are composition and 15 inches tall. They are very collectible and one in good condition can cost as much as $400.00 dollars. Former Bowmanville Museum Curator, Dan Hoffman, then working at the Nepean Museum near Ottawa borrowed one of the Barbara Ann Scott dolls for an exhibit. When Ms. Scott came to his museum he had her sign the leg of the doll. So, we are blessed with this very special memento of Barbara Ann Scott.

The tradition of Canadian athletes appearing in doll form is a popular one. Besides Barbara Ann Scott other skaters such as Karen Magnussen and Elizabeth Manley have been so honoured more than once. Olympic Ski Champion Anne Heggtviet had two different dolls made in her likeness in 1961. Great Lakes swimmer Marilyn Bell had a doll out in 1954. Two Canadian hockey greats have been made into action figures: Bobby Orr in 1975 and Wayne Gretzky in 1983. It is interesting to note that except for Wayne Gretzky all these dolls were made in Canada by Canadian companies.

The pictures below is from “Dolls of Canada: A Reference Guide” by Mrs. Strahlendorf. She is also the author of “The Charlton Standard guide of Canadian Dolls” which has gone through three editions. Both books are indispensible to any serious collector of Canadian dolls.

Bowmanville’s connection to Sam “the Record Man” Sniderman

The recent death of Sam Sniderman has many Canadians feeling nostalgic for records and the old Sam the Record Man Store on Yonge Street in Toronto. In those days, a trip to downtown Toronto wasn’t complete until you stopped by his store to pick up the latest album of your favourite group or to find a rare recording that no one else had.
Sam Sniderman, the store and chain’s founder first got into the record business in 1937 and his flagship store was a fixture on Yonge Street from 1961 until 2007 (only one Sam the Record Man Store still exists and it’s at the Quinte Mall in Belleville). He was an avid promoter of Canadian music his entire life. He advocated Canadian content broadcast regulations and established the Juno Awards. He supported and assisted many Canadian musicians and bands over the years and eventually was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada for founding the Recording Archive Library at the University of Toronto.

Bowmanville’s connection to Sam Sniderman is tenuous but interesting. His former wife Eleanor Koldofsky, herself an avid promoter of Canadian music, is the sister-in-law of Gwendolyn Williams (1906-1998). Mrs. Williams was born and educated in Bowmanville and led a successful career in piano accompanying. She married Eleanor’s brother Adolph in 1934. Adolph Koldosky (1905-1951) was a noted violinist who played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, later became concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and eventually moved to Los Angeles to work at R.K.O. Studios.

Gwendolyn Williams came from a distinguished Bowmanville family. Her great-grand-father, Dunham Williams, was a Loyalist pioneer who opened the first woollen mill in Bowmanville. Mark D. Williams, her grand-father, ran a successful mercantile and undertaking business as did her father, Alan Williams. She attended Central Public School and Bowmanville High School. Her musical ability on the piano was noted at an early age and she participated in many local concerts and recitals. She even preformed for Toronto radio stations. Her studies took her to Europe. She travelled by the “RMS Olympic” and in 1926 was presented to King George V and Queen Mary. Gwendolyn became a music teacher at the University of Southern California where from 1947 to 1988 she developed and headed the Department of Accompaniment.

Some of the above names may not be familiar to readers of this blog but in their day and to people interested in classical music all the names above are giants in their field. Gwendolyn Williams is truly one of Clarington’s unsung heroes.

The picture of Ms. Williams is from “Bowmanville 150 Stories for 150 years”. It is available at the museum’s gift shop.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back To School 140 Years Ago

It’s Back to School Time

The hot humid days of summer have given way to fall’s more congenial weather and with it the return of many children back to school.  The basic education that many of us (who are not so old) remember is long gone with the advent of computers, new learning programs, education and social networking, and politically correct behaviour.  But, it wasn’t so long ago that we thought we were pretty modern when we had a calculator that did the four basic functions.

School was part of our ancestor’s past too.  Just like us, the kids returned to class in the fall and stayed until the spring.  Many were needed on the farm for spring planting so would be given permission to leave the school year early.  In the early days the students had few teaching aids.  If they were lucky they might have a slate and a few old hand-me-down text books.  Here is a list of rules for students from 1872:
  1. Respect your schoolmaster.  Obey him and accept his punishments.
  2. Do not call your classmates names or fight with them.  Love and help each other.
  3. Never make noises to disturb your neighbours as they work.  Be silent during classes.
  4. Do not talk unless absolutely necessary.
  5. Bring firewood into the classroom for the stove whenever the teacher tells you to.
  6. If the teacher calls you name after class, straighten the benches and tables, sweep the room, dust and leave everything tidy.

Except for the firewood reference I would think that most of the above points still apply today.  It’s interesting to notice that the schoolmaster is always referred to as “He” or “him”.  Here are the rules for teachers also from 1872:

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean lamp chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
  3. Make your pens carefully.  You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teacher may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for the benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will given reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labour faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Things have really changed for teachers from 140 years ago!  While these rules seem out-dated and even quaint to us now, in their day, they were taken very seriously.  A teacher’s lot has never been an easy one. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which Newcastle is Which?

Do you remember when Clarington was called Newcastle? A recent Toronto Star article about the sinking of the HMS Speedy on Lake Ontario in 1804 reminds me that the name of Newcastle has caused confusion in both the 19th and the 20th Centuries.

In 1804 Ontario was divided into 14 districts (the familiar counties were not established until 1849). It was the law that an offence that occurred in a certain district had to be tried in that district. A native aboriginal was caught in York (Toronto) for a murder. York was in the Home District but the murder had been committed in the Newcastle District to the east. So, the judge, lawyers and court officials, representing the cream of Canadian Society at that time, boarded the small RMS Speedy with the prisoner for a trial at Newcastle the District Seat. They headed east onto Lake Ontario, but never made it to their destination! Although sited from shore they were lost in a storm. The fate of the Speedy was for many years a mystery. One report indicated she was actually sited along the American Shore before disappearing. The Toronto Star article mentioned above (see Aug. 19, 2012 page A9) is about a diver who believes he has found the Speedy.

Many people suppose that the place we know and love as the Village of Newcastle was where the unlucky Speedy was headed. The Newcastle where the Speedy was headed was actually further east and was, in fact, never built. When the District was formed in 1802 the site of the District capitol was chosen on Presqu’ile Point south of Brighton. Detailed plans were drawn up which included a prison, market, church, cemetery, school, parsonage…etc. They even named the streets: Second Street, Third Street, Grave Street, Hospital Street and Glebe Street. I suppose the trial would have been held in a hastily built log structure but that building was to commence soon after. However, after the sinking the District capitol was moved to Cobourg.

Closer to our own time the name Newcastle again created confusion when Regional Government came into effect in 1974. The former townships of Darlington and Clarke were amalgamated into a new municipality called the “Town of Newcastle”. I’m sure the name was chosen because we used to be part of the old Newcastle District, but within this “Town of Newcastle” there was also the “Village of Newcastle”. This created quite a bit of confusion to those not familiar with the area. In 1994 the name was changed to Clarington. There had been a movement afoot to change the name to Bowmanville but Clarington was chosen because its name is taken from the two names of the old townships (Darlington and Clarke). The Bowmanville Boosters took their money and paid for the decorative metal top on the Bowmanville Cemetery gates.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Boy, Is It Hot Out!

Boy, is it hot out!

The hot weather has been big news this summer.  Record high temperatures and devastating drought have been regularly reported in the headlines.  While perusing Colonel Samuel Strickland’s book, “Twenty Seven Years in Canada West” I read a description of the summer of 1825 and was struck with just how similar it was to the summer of 2012. 
Strickland is describing his time in Darlington Township (western half of today’s Clarington) when he relates, “The summer of 1825 was warm, even for Canada where this season is always hot.  The thermometer often ranged above 90 degrees in the shade.”  With no air-conditioning available Strickland beat the heat by daily swims in Lake Ontario and regular afternoon breezes. 
With the hot weather came the high humidity.  This caused storms. “The climate is subject to violent thunder-storms accompanied by vivid forked lightening and heavy rains…Fatal accidents, however, sometimes occur, and houses and barns are burnt down by the electric fluid.” 
While the weather is similar one feature that is not is that in Strickland’s day vast areas of land were still covered by virgin forests.  Lightening or carelessness could start forest fires that would spread over many acres killing wildlife, farm animals and even people.  Strickland relates one man who saved himself by jumping into a stream and keeping his head below the water.  His friends thought they could outrun the fire and were all killed.  Another story tells of a settler whose cabin was near several large but tall dead hemlock trees.  During a fierce lightening storm the trees were hit with lightening and literally exploded sending wooden shrapnel over 60 yards in all directions.  Had any of the settler’s family been outside at the time they surely would have been killed.  “If a barrel of gunpowder had been placed under the trees, greater devastation could not have been made.” 

Summer all too soon gives over to autumn.  Strickland called September, “the most beautiful month in the Canadian year”, and goes on to describe the season, “The weather is neither too hot not too cold.  Nothing can be more delightfully pleasant; for, in this month, the foliage of the trees begins to put on that gorgeous livery for which the North American continent is so justly celebrated.”  Another factor that adds to the enjoyment of the fall, that Strickland fails to mention, is that the kids go back to school. 

The photo for this article shows an early summer cottage from Port Darlington's West Beach c. 1910.

Friday, July 27, 2012

No Community is Immune from Tragedy

The collapse of a mall roof in Elliot Lake killing two people was a terrible tragedy and our sympathies and concerns go out to the families and neighbours of the deceased. No community is immune from catastrophe. They are terrible events but sometimes they bring out the best of a community and its people.

In 1923 a similar collapse occurred in Orono. It is recorded in the excellent local history book “Out of the Mists: A History of Clarke Township” by Helen Schmid and Sid Rutherford:

“A most heartrending accident occurred about 10:30a.m. on Aug. 15, 1923 when the east and west walls of the [Flax Warehouse} building under construction swayed and collapsed under the weight of the dome roof…At the sound of the first crack, Albert Living jumped clear of the building. Wilbert Scott clung to the ladder that was thrown outward by the bursting wall and landed beyond reach of the debris. Roy Thornton had a miraculous escape. From a position on the extreme height at the peak he clasped a girder which he rode safely to the ground. Other workmen falling with the walls were terribly bruised by falling blocks.”

Some of the other workers were not so lucky. Garnet Woodcock died on the site (ironically on his 25th birthday), Alfred Turner died soon after reaching the hospital and W.J Fowler died a week later from his injuries. George Key and Allin Clayton survived but had been seriously injured. When the building collapsed many local citizens arrived quickly on the scene to help. Local doctors and others from Newcastle and Pontypool were also quick to respond to the tragedy.

Rebuilding was completed in 1924 and the building, often mislabelled the Flax Mill, was used to store flax for a few short years It has had many other uses since then (blacksmith shop, dance pavilion) and can still be seen on Orono’s Main Street to this day.

Bowmanville has a German U-Boat Story too!

The possible discovery of a World War II German u-boat on the bottom of the Churchill River in Labrador reminds me of a story about Bowmanville’s German P.O.W. Camp 30. From 1941 to 1945 the Bowmanville Boys’ Training School was taken over as a P.O.W. camp. About 700 prisoners called this home for four years. One of the most famous was Otto Kretschmer, known as the Wolf of the Atlantic. He was a u-boat commander who although captured in 1941 still sunk more allied shipping than any other u-boat captain.

The prisoners were digging escape tunnels and Kretschmer was eager to return and resume his career. Canadian money, train schedules and other documents were smuggled in, civilian clothes made and plans to have a u-boat meet Kretschmer at Maisonette Point at the Bay of Chaleur, New Brunswick/Quebec were secretly made. Unfortunately the tunnels were discovered. As Daniel Hoffman wrote in his book “Ehrenwort”, “It must have been agonizing for the prisoners to know where and when one of their own would be waiting to pick them up. If only they had managed to escape!”

One prisoner did have an answer. It was Lieutenant Commander Heyda. He had rigged up a chair that was suspended from chords that were attached to wheels that ran along the hydro line. In the dark of the night, he went up the pole and pulled himself along the wire and over the barbed wire fence and escaped. He made it to the coast but was captured. The Germans didn’t know it, but the Allies had cracked their secret code. Heyda was supposed to give signals with a flashlight, but when that didn’t happen the captain of the u-boat, which had surfaced awaiting the signals, became suspicious. That night the Northern Lights came out and the captain knew his submarine would be seen. He dived and fled the scene.

Since the war, information has come out that the German u-boats were quite active along the Canadian coast. German records record u-boat activity as far down the St. Lawrence as Rimouski (only 300 km from Quebec City). In July 2004 the first ever confirmed German u-boat wreck in Canadian waters was discovered 200 kilometers south of Shelburne Nova Scotia. In the late 1970’s a German weather station was rediscovered. It had been set up in Labrador in 1943 and is known as “Weather Station Kurt”. It is considered the only armed German military operation on land in North America during the Second World War. It is now on display at the War Museum in Ottawa.

Searchers were using sonar to search for the bodies of three drowning victims in the Churchill River when they came across the image that resembles a German u-boat. It is especially notable because the location is 200 kilometers inland from the coast. Apparently rumors had been heard for years that there was a u-boat on the bottom of the Churchill River and there was even a fictional book written about it! I wonder what they knew that, until recently, no one else did?

The book pictured in the image is "Camp 30 'Ehrenwort' A German Prisoner-of-War Camp in Bowmanville 1941-1945" by Daniel Hoffman.  Copies are still available at the Museum's gift shops.  It is only $19.99.

Friday, June 29, 2012

100 Year old St. Marys Cement owns 106 year old Ship

On June 23rd the S.S. KEEWATIN returned to her former home Port McNichol near Midland, Ontario. It was a great day for Great Lakes historians and ship buffs alike. The Venerable vessel is in good shape, but will undergo a two million dollar restoration before opening as a museum next year.

The KEEWATIN was built in 1907 but she is not the oldest ship on the Great Lakes. The ST. MARYS CHALLENGER, owned by St. Marys Cement, is the oldest vessel having been built in 1906 and she is still operational! Although she no longer has her original engine she is still steam powered with a Skinner Uniflow engine. She currently operates on Lake Michigan. The only other Skinner Uniflow steam engines still operating on the Lakes are the two in the Car Ferry Badger which also still operates on Lake Michigan.

St. Marys Cement is celebrating their centennial this year. In 1912 Alfred Rogers and John Lind founded the company in St. Marys, Ontario. They have grown to four plants strategically located in Canada and the United States around the Great Lakes Region and are the cornerstone of North American operations of Votorantim Cimentos, a company based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Their cement has been used in such projects as Maple Leaf Gardens, Roy Thompson Hall and the CN Tower.

St. Marys Cement was looking for a plant east of Toronto and in 1963 became interested in Bowmanville when their researchers found that this location had suitable quantities of accessible limestone. Plant construction began in 1967 and became operational early in 1969. It has been expanded many times since then and is today the largest cement plant in Canada.

St. Marys is a major employer in the region and their cement plant has become a familiar landmark to travellers on the 401. Congratulations on your 100th anniversary.

Photo shows Charles Taws on MV Georgian Queen as she accompanies the S.S. Keewatin to her home port of Port McNichol.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heat Wave first sign of a long hot summer

It’s cool today but the heat wave we experienced a week ago broke records across the Province.  Unlike our forefathers, who had to endure the heat, most of us can escape to air conditioned comfort whenever the temperature begins to rise.  Can you even still buy a car today without air conditioning?  My first new car was a bright red 1994 Eagle Summit.  It had no air conditioning and during one summer road trip it received the nick-name “Red Inferno”.

In the old days people did all kinds of things to keep the heat from bothering them.  Hats and parasols were very common.  They kept the sun off also it was considered more fashionable for ladies to have a white face rather than a tanned one.  Kids would follow the ice delivery wagon with the hopes of getting a chunk of ice to suck on.  There was no extra money for a popsicle.  A trip on Lake Ontario on a steamboat would offer cooling breezes and lots of fun.

In the 1930’s the prairies became so hot and dry they turned into a dust bowl.  Ontario did not escape the heat either.  Older folks remember it was so hot the tar on the road melted.  The tar would melt to a liquid and trickle to the edge where it would run along the curb.  Sometimes the rubber on the car tires would melt too!

In the Bowmanville Museum we have an old style air-conditioner that dates back to the 1930’s or 1940’s.  It was made by Dominion Electrohome Industries Ltd. of Kitchener, Ontario.  It is made of wood and rectangular in shape.  It is made to sit in the middle of the room.  On one side is an electric fan.  In front of the fan is a rectangular metal container that would hold a large block of ice.  The fan would blow the air past the ice and cool air would come out the other end.  Since it just has a fan motor it would use a lot less electricity than a modern air conditioner.  Also, the top part could be used as a bench or shelf.  Maybe they should bring this style back to decrease demand on the electrical grid during the summer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

S.S. Keewatin Returns!

“The Blizzard of the North” Makes Her Return This June

The S.S. KEEWATIN is five years older than the TITANIC and hasn’t sailed under its own power since 1965, but she is the last Edwardian passenger liner afloat.  Slated to be scrapped she was saved by a Michigan businessman who bought her as an attraction in Douglas, Michigan.  This Grand Old Lady of the Lakes is being repatriated this month.  On June the 23rd she is being towed back to her home port of Port McNichol, Ontario (next door to Midland).  There she will be restored as a museum, restaurant and the centrepiece to a multi-million dollar condo project. 

Passenger ships were once the most common means of travel yet precious few survive today.  Before the railway came to Clarington in 1856 a sailing ship or steamboat was the best way to travel.  Clarington boasted three active harbours Port Darlington, Port Newcastle and Port Granby.  Royal Mail Line Steamers such as the ALGERIAN and CORSICAN would stop on their daily runs from Toronto to Montreal while smaller steamers such as the GARDEN CITY and ARGYLE would handle the local traffic.  In 1900, twice a week, you could catch the GARDEN CITY at Newcastle at 6:30am.  With stops at Bowmanville, Oshawa and Whitby you would arrive at Toronto at 11:15am.  Sure, it’s not as quick as the 401 (most of the time), but imagine how relaxed you’d be on arrival after sitting in a lounge, strolling the deck or sipping coffee in the dining room for the last 4 hours or so. 

For those who want to know what it was like to ride on one of these old boats there are still a few operating.  Toronto has the 1910 steam ferry TRILLIUM which is the last paddle wheeler still operating on the Great Lakes.  Gravenhurst has the oldest steam-powered vessel in North America.  It is the SEGWUN and she dates back to 1888.  Also, there is a large steamer, called the “STE. CLAIRE (built 1910), being restored in Windsor, Ontario and there is talk of bringing the S.S. NORISLE (built 1946) on Manitoulin Island back into service.  There is still a large coal fired railway car ferry, the BADGER, which operates regularly on Lake Michigan.  The S.S. KEEWATIN will not run again but I’m sure she will become one of the premier historical attractions in Ontario.  

I don’t have a picture of the Keewatin in the museum files but here is a picture of the popular Lake Ontario steamer TORONTO.  She was built in 1899 and ran until 1949.  She didn’t stop at any Clarington Ports but would have passed by regularly on her run between Toronto and the 1000 Islands.  This photo is from a damaged negative dating to about 1915 and has never been published before.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bowmanville’s Hospital reaches the century Mark!

The Bowmanville Memorial Hospital, today’s Lakeridge Health- Bowmanville, is 100 years old this year!  The first hospital started in the large home of Hector Beith.  It was an estate with large grounds and was known as South Park.  Mr. J.W. Alexander, owner of Bowmanville’s Dominion Organ and Piano Company, purchased the property and donated it to the Town for use as a hospital.

Some renovations occurred but it was hard not to notice that this first hospital had once been a house.  The surgery room was in the basement and patients were carried on stretchers by attendants from the second floor bedrooms, down the main grand circular staircase and through the foyer to the operating room..  Also, in the early years, the hospital utilized the extensive grounds and grew their own food.  The original hospital was sold when a more modern structure was built nearby in 1951.  This new hospital still exists and is the single storey section that fronts along Liberty Street just north of the current hospital complex.

The original house was sold to the pharmaceutical company of Powell Chemical.  They had a plant near the 401, and the old house was used for their offices.  In 1964, now no longer useful, the house was sold and demolished to allow the hospital to extend their parking lot. There is still an old house to be seen near the Hospital.  This was the nurses’ residence built in 1926.  From 1916 to 1941 Bowmanville’s hospital was a training school for nurses.

Congratulations to the Bowmanville Memorial Hospital on your one hundredth anniversary.  May you be around for many more!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Can Wallenda Cook an Omelet on The High Wire?

Tonight Nik Wallenda will traverse Niagara Falls on a tight rope thus ending a 128 ban on this type of event.  The last person to perform this feat was 21 year old James Hardy in 1896.

Clifford Calverley, Stephen Peer, Maria Spelterina all crossed the falls in the 1800’s, but the most famous of all was Jean Francois Gravelet who went by the name Blondin.  He first walked out over the falls in 1859.  He later did it blind-folded, pushed a wheelbarrow, carried his manager on his back, rode a bike, and even cooked an omelet- all on the high wire!

Another famous daredevil duplicated many of Blondin’s tricks and even came up with a few of his own. He first crossed the Falls on August 15th 1860.  In a later attempt he carried out a washing machine and washed handkerchiefs.  The visiting Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) saw him perform.  This man was William Hunt, but he was better known as the Great Farini! 

Today Farini is known as the hero of Port Hope, but he lived in Bowmanville from the mid 1840’s until 1853.  His father, Thomas W. Hunt, was a local merchant with a store on King Street and a councilor in the first Village Council.  He built a beautiful red brick Georgian style cottage which can still be seen today (7 Lover’s Lane).  This is where his son William grew up.  It was during his childhood in Bowmanville that young Bill was introduced to the world of the circus by travelling shows that came to town and this is what led to his remarkable career as a daredevil. 

Nik Wallenda is following in the footsteps of these remarkable performers and we wish him the best of luck!