Category Archives: August

Zoom Zoom Zeep!

I fractured my back a awhile ago, and the only mobility I had for a few years, was a wheelchair.  That gave me the independence to go out and do my own grocery shopping, for instance.  Those years are behind me, but the appreciation for the chair has stayed with me like a dear friend.  When I’m downtown and I see people with an electric wheelchair, I smile inside, and say, “Go for it!” Quite the invention!  So today, I would like to introduce you to George Johann Klein.

George Klein sitting in his electric chair

Klein Drive Chair (sitting) in 1953. National Research Council Canada – From .


Klein was born on August 15, 1904 in Hamilton, Ontario.  He struggled in high school to maintain a consisten grade C (that’s between 50 to 59%).  Still, he did manage to attend University of Toronto, and became an inventor.  Besides his key contributions to create the first  electric wheelchairs for quadriplegics, he also invented  the first microsurgical staple gun, the ZEEP nuclear reactor (Zero Energy Experimental Pile, the first atomic reactor outside the US.),  the international system for classifying ground-cover snow, aircraft skis, the Weasel all-terrain vehicle, the STEM (Storable Tubular Extendible Member) antenna for the space program, and the Canadarm.

He worked for forty years as a mechanical engineer at the National Research Council of Canada laboratories in Ottawa  from 1929 to 1969.

In 1968, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.  He died on November 4, 1992, at the age of 88, in
Ottawa, Ontario.  In 1995, he was inducted to the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

If you wanted to read about George Johann Klein, I would suggest the book: George J. Klein: the Great Inventor. For more information on the Internet, I would suggest the Canada Science and Technology Museum.


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St. André of Montreal

Born August 9, 1845, he is credited with thousands of reported miraculous healings. So allow me to introduce you to André Bessette.

St. André of Montreal

St. André of Montreal (9 August 1845 – 6 January 1937)

Especially in Montreal, he is commonly known as Brother André (French: Frère André).   He was declared venerable in 1978 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982.  Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of sainthood for Blessed André on February 19, 2010, with the formal canonization  taking place on October 17, 2010.

Born Alfred Bessette in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, (a small town situated 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Montreal.)  He was so frail when he was born that the curé baptized him “conditionally” the following day, completing an emergency ritual performed at his birth.

His father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman, but tragically, he lost his life in an accident, crushed by a falling tree, when Alfred was only nine years old. His mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, found herself widowed at the age of forty with ten children in her care. She died of tuberculosis within three years, and Alfred found himself orphaned at the age of twelve.

Brother André had great confidence in Saint Joseph.  On his many visits to the sick in their homes, he would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel and recommend them in prayer to St. Joseph.

An example of his devotion was witnessed when an epidemic broke out, and André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. “I do not cure,” he said again and again. “St. Joseph cures.” In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.

Bessette died on January 6, 1937, at the age of 91. An estimated million people filed past his coffin.

His body lies in a tomb built below the Oratory’s Main Chapel, except for his heart, which is preserved in a reliquary in the same Oratory. The heart was stolen in March 1973, but was recovered in December 1974 with the help of famous criminal attorney, Frank Shoofey.

This, as you can imagine, is just a part of his life story.  To learn more about St. André, I would suggest St. André Bessette: Pope Benedict XVI’s Canonization Homily, and The Canadian Encyclopedia. If you want to read a book about his life, I would suggest Brother Andre: The Miracle Man of Mount Royal as well as Brother Andre of Saint Joseph’s Oratory.

Prayer of Oh, St. Joseph:

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

This prayer was found in the fifteenth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, not shall poison take effect of them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy; or shall be burned in any fire, or shall be overpowered in battle. Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.


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This Week in Canadian History – November Week 5

English: Statue of Frontenac from the National...

Statue of Frontenac from the National Assembly, QC City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fort Frontenac sign

Fort Frontenac sign (Photo credit: KirrilyRobert)

This is a repost and updated post that I published on November 28, 2012.

Count Frontenac dies at Quebec, but that doesn’t mean his heart stays put. Oh no.

Frontenac had been asked to return to Canada in 1689 and serve as governor for the second time. His instructions were to regain the respect of the Indians and to drive the British from New England and New York.

He did succeed with most of the Indians, but Frontenac was unable to take New England and New York for France. After eight years of war, Britain and France signed the Treaty of Ryswick on September 20, 1697. Actually, Ryswick meant little, and war was resumed five years later.

As there was supposed to be peace, however, Frontenac exchanged messages with the Governor of New York, and Captain John Schuyler arrived at Quebec as a peace emissary. He had led the raid on La Prairie, near Montreal, after the massacre at Schenectady, but old wounds were forgotten. Schuyler was honoured at a banquet in the château at which he proposed a toast to King Louis, while Frontenac toasted King William.

Not long afterwards winter began to close in, and the streets of Quebec were covered in snow. It was noticed that Frontenac seemed to be staying in his château. Then Bishop St. Vallier began paying visits there. This was strange because Frontenac and the Bishop had been at odds ever since the governor returned.

Shortly after the candles were lighted in the late afternoon of November 28, 1698, the reason for the visits became known. The old soldier had died, eyes bright and mind alert to the last.

In his will, he had asked that his heart be cut out, encased and sent to his wife, who had never accompanied him to Canada. The casket containing the heart did not arrive in France until shipping opened in the spring, but Madame Frontenac, a proud and beautiful woman, would not accept it. She said that she did not want a heart in death that had not been hers in life.

So the heart was returned to Quebec and replaced in Frontenac’s body, where it lay in the church of the Recollets.

To read more about today’s post, I suggest Encyclopedia Britannica, and Your Dictionary, as well as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Another interesting read, filled with anecdotes, is the Canadian Monthly and National Review, which you can get at Books on Google.


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Montreal Surrenders!

General Jeffery Amherst promoted Montgomery to...

General Jeffery Amherst promoted Montgomery to Lieutenant after the Siege of Louisbourg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the fall of Quebec, General Amherst spent the winter at Oswego, New York, gathering an army of 10,000 soldiers and 1,350 Native Indians.  He also had another force at Crown Point, Lake Champlain, ready to march on Montreal from the south.  Brigadier Murray’s regulars at Quebec were to come up the river as soon as Lévis had been driven off (see my April 28 post: Like the “Three Stars” of Hockey).

When the arrival of the British fleet forced General Lévis to lift the siege at Quebec, he led his troops to Montreal as quickly as he could, leaving part of the force at Jacques-Cartier to try to block Murray coming up.  He stationed another contingent at Ile-aux-Noix to check the British coming from Crown Point and a third at Fort Lévis below Fort Frontenac (now Kingston) to delay Amherst coming down the river.

Murray easily side-stepped the blockade at Jacques-Cartier, and Bougainville could not stop the British from Crown Point.  Amherst had left Oswego with his huge force on August 9, and made good progress until he met the French under Captain Pouchot at Fort Lévis.  Pouchot fought cleverly, delaying Amherst until August 29.  Then river pilots were picked up to maneuver Amherst’s boats through the rapids.  On September 7, a British army of 20,000 men surrounded Montreal.

The French situation was hopeless.  Governor Vaudreuil was willing to capitulate and sent Amherst a list of conditions under which he would surrender.  One of them was that the French were to be allowed to march out of the city with honours of war, meaning their flags and guns.

Amherst would not agree but insisted that all the French troops in Canada must lay down their arms and not serve again during the war.  General Lévis was so angry that he burned the French banners that were in his keeping and threatened to hold out on St. Helen’s Island.

On September 8, 1760, the British army marched into the city and the French surrendered at the Place d’Armes.  The fleur-de-lis was lowered from the flagstaff and the red cross of Britain was raised in its place. That night, for the first time, British drums beat the sunset tattoo in the streets of Montreal.


Posted by on September 8, 2013 in August, Longer Entries, Native, On This Day, September


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Which Circus is in Town?

Delegates of the Charlottetown Conference on t...

Delegates of the Charlottetown Conference on the steps of Government House, September 1864. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Negotiations for the Confederation of the British North American colonies really got under way in 1864.  Canada‘s cradle was the Charlottetown Conference that began on September 1, and rocked to the sound of circus music!

Delegates from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia arrived at Charlottetown on August 31.  Their original purpose had been to meet with representatives of Prince Edward Island to discuss the possibility of forming a maritime union.  Newfoundland was not represented.  The Canadians asked for permission to attend the conference so that they could present a plan to join the Maritimes in a federal union, or Confederation.

When Premiers Tilley of New Brunswick and Tupper of Nova Scotia arrived at Charlottetown with their delegations, there was little room for them in the inns.  The islanders had flocked to Charlottetown to watch their first circus in twenty years.  Even the cabinet ministers were there, and the only official available to greet them was William Pope, Colonial Secretary.  He managed to find accommodation for them at the Mansion House Hotel, one of twenty inns in Charlottetown.  Then they went to the circus!

The Canadians, led by Macdonald, Cartier, Brown, Galt and McGee, sailed from Quebec on August 29.   They had a fine trip down the St. Lawrence, although they were awed by Brown’s habit of getting up early in the morning for a cold salt-water bath, and then having a brisk walk around the decks of the Queen Victoria.  They reached Charlottetown early in the morning of September 1, and once again only faithful William Pope was on hand.  He went out to the Queen Victoria in a small boat rowed by a fisherman.  Pope was sitting on an oyster barrel and when they drew alongside the chief steward asked them about the price of oysters!

The conference was held in the Council Chamber of Province House, and the scene has been preserved, with the actual tables and chairs used by the delegates still in place.  It began on the afternoon of September 1, and the visiting Canadians were invited to speak first.  Macdonald and Cartier outlined their plans during the first two days, and the meetings continued until September 7.  Then the conference adjourned to meet at Halifax three days later.

To learn more about the Charlottetown Conference, there are a few sites I recommend: There’s the Library and Archives Canada, and the Britannica Encyclopedia, as well as the Prince Edward Island 2014 (preparing for their 150th anniversary). All good places to start your journey.


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When the British Attacked Maine

English: The view of the Penobscot River near ...

The view of the Penobscot River near Winterport  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the United States declared war on Britain in 1812 with the intention of capturing Canada, many people in the New England States were opposed to the war and there was a movement to secede from the Union.  This was one of the reasons why the Maritime Provinces were not attacked, except by raiders from the sea.

The Maritimers did not feel the same about attacking the States.  They contended that the New Brunswick-Maine border should be the Penobscot River, south of the St. Croix.  The United States claimed certain islands in Passamaquoddy Bay that Maritimers felt should belong to Britain.

Late in May 1814, the garrison at Halifax received the news that Napoleon had been beaten and sent to exile.  Plans were put into effect to capture Maine, and a force was sent to Shelburne.  It was reinforced by more troops from Bermuda brought by Captain Thomas Hardy, one of Nelson’s great officers.

There was no problem capturing Eastport.  It was defended by only 80 bored soldiers, who were glad to pull down the Stars and Stripes in surrender.  Sir John Sherbrooke, the soldier-governor of Nova Scotia, attacked the fort at Castine on August 31, 1814.  He had a naval squadron and 1, 800 troops.  There was little opposition and the British were able to get up the river to Bangor easily.  Another force took Machias.

With eastern Maine in British hands, a number of citizens took the oath of allegiance to Britain, so that they could resume trade with British ports all over the world.  Castine became the chief customs house, and by the end of the year more than £13,000 had been collected.

When Maine was returned to the States at the end of the war, the money was taken to Halifax and placed in a special account called the “Castine fund.”   It was used later to found Dalhousie University.

The States made no effort to drive the British troops out of Maine and they lived  with the Americans in harmony.  By this time, both sides were eager to end a war that should never have begun.  Negotiations were then taking place at Ghent in Belgium.


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‘Tis Money Rules the World Now …

Canadian money

Canadian money (Photo credit: KittyCanuck)

One of the big events in Britain in 1965 was the decision to change the system of currency from the complicated pounds, shillings and pence, to the decimal system.  Canada might have been stuck with pounds, shillings and pence in the 1850s if it had not been for a hard battle by Finance Minister Hincks and others.

When the United States adopted the decimal system in 1808, Canada tried unsuccessfully to do the same.  Britain wanted to keep Canada in the “sterling bloc,” using its currency.  Various measures were passed by the Parliament of Canada after the Act of Union in 1840 but were disallowed by the British Government.  Finally a compromise was reached on August 30, 1851, but it was not until January 1, 1858, that the decimal system of currency became effective.  Problems were created  when New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Canada in 1867, and other provinces after that.

Some unusual forms of currencies were used in Canada over the years.  Even playing cards (see my April 18 post: Playing Cards Become Money?!).  when Britain took Canada from France in 1763, there were 800,000 livres of unredeemed paper money in circulation, and many people were big losers.

Then Spanish silver dollars gained wide acceptance, many of them coming into circulation through illicit trade.  These dollars had different values in different places.  In New York a dollar would be worth eight shillings, but only five in Halifax.   In Quebec silver dollars were called “Halifax currency”, while Montreal called them “York currency.”  One problem was to get metal coins small enough to make change.  merchants used to curt the Spanish dollars into smaller pieces known as “four bits”, and “two bits”, expressions still (though, admittedly not widely) in use not that long ago, meaning 50 or 25 cents.

Currency complications continued as late as 1881, as new provinces joined Confederation.  Their currencies were taken out of circulation gradually and redeemed.  Even in the 1920s, a paper bill, known as a “shin-plaster” (worth 25 cents, was often seen.

” ‘Tis money rules the world now,
It’s rank and education,
It’s power and knowledge, sense and worth,
And pious reputation.
Get cash, and ‘gainst all human ills,
You’re armed and you’re defended,
For in it even here on earth,
All heaven is comprehended.”

“Halifax Currency”

Term used for the Spanish silver dollar rated at five shillings of about twenty cents each in Nova Scotia. It was used from 1750 until 1751.

“York Currency”

The Spanish reale in terms of the New York price of twelve and one-half cents was used in Ontario, and thus was distinguished from the Halifax shilling of about twenty cents. It was used between 1800 and 1850.

Too many men salt away money in the brine of other people’s tears.
–  BOB EDWARDS, 1917


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