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Canada’s Worst Avalanche Disaster

The 1910 Rogers Pass Avalanche killed 58 men clearing a railroad line near the summit of Rogers Pass across the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia on March 4, 1910. It is Canada’s worst avalanche disaster.

Photo of workers recovering bodies from the avalanche

Workers recover bodies and clear the tracks on March 5, 1910.

The winter of 1909–1910 provided conditions particularly conducive to avalanches; many slides experienced during January and February. On March 1, 96 people were killed further south into the Wellington avalanche in Washington State.

Three days later, on the evening of March 4, work crews were dispatched to clear a big slide which had fallen from Cheops Mountain, and buried the tracks just south of Shed 17. The crew consisted of a locomotive-driven rotary snowplow and 59 men. Time was critical as westbound CPR Train Number 97 was just entering the Rocky Mountains, bound for Vancouver.

Half an hour before midnight as the track was nearly clear, an unexpected avalanche swept down the opposite side of the track to the first fall. Around 400 metres of track were buried. The 91-ton locomotive and plow were hurled 15 metres to land upside-down. The wooden cars behind the locomotive were crushed and all but one of the workmen were instantly buried into the deep snow.

The only survivor was Billy Lachance, the locomotive fireman, who had been knocked over by the wind accompanying the fall but otherwise remained unscathed.

When news of the disaster reached nearby Revelstoke, a relief train consisting of 200 railmen, physicians and nurses was sent to the scene. They found no casualties to take care of; it became a mission to clear the tracks and recover the bodies beneath 10 metres of snow. Several of the dead were found standing upright, frozen in place. Among the dead were 32 Japanese workers.

The disaster was not the first to befall the pass; in all over 200 people had been killed by avalanches there since the line was opened 26 years before. The CPR finally accepted defeat and in 1913 began boring the five-mile long Connaught Tunnel through Mount Macdonald, at the time Canada’s longest tunnel, so bypassing the hazard of Rogers Pass. It was opened on December 13, 1916, and the railway abandoned the pass.

To read a wonderfully written article, with photos and a map, I suggest clicking your way to the Weather Doctor.

Stay warm and safe everyone!

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It Began with Station XSW1!

Are you a fan of science fiction?  Do you like the ones, especially tv or movie format?  What about the early ones in the 50s?  Even if you answer no, I expect you will enjoy today’s post; if you said yes, you are in for a treat.

Space Command was a CBC original Canadian children’s science fiction television adventure series.  It aired beween 1953 and 1954, making it the first time the network aired its own dramatic series in Canada. The program presented a depiaction of life on the fictional space station XSW1 operated by the worldwide Space Command, featuring the activities of Frank Anderson (Bob Barclay).

Another character on the show,  Phil Mitchell, was portrayed by James Doohan (born on March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, who gained international attention as a regular on the 1960s television series Star Trek as Chief Engineer Scotty. He died on July 20, 2005 at the age of 85).

William Shatner (born on March 22, 1931, in Côte Saint-Luc, Montreal, Quebec) the leading actor on Star Trek as Captain James Kirk, also appeared on episodes of Space Command.

Early Photo of William Shatner

Promotional photo for the aborted 1959 CBS television series Nero Wolfe
Source
Self scan of CBS promotional photo appearing in the January 1968 issue of Movie Life magazine (Vol. 31, No. 1), page 35

Another cast member was Austin Willis. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1917, and died on April 4, 2004. An interesting note is that he achieved attention for his appearance as Simmons, the man whom Auric Goldfinger beats at cards in the opening scenes of the James Bond film, Goldfinger. Originally he was to have played Felix Leiter but at the last-minute, fellow Canadian Cec Linder switched roles with him.

Yet another cast member you might know, especially if you are a sci-fi enthusiast, is Barry Morse who went on to be a part of the TV series The Fugitive and Space: 1999.

The series taught about topics such as asteroids, space medicine, meteorites and evolution.

Unfortunately, we can’t see the episodes online.  Nova Scotia media historian Ernest Dick lamented the loss of recordings of nearly all the series episodes, despite the production of kinescopes for distribution to CBC stations across Canada. The only known extant recording is that of one November 1953 episode. You can read his thoughts with the .pdf: Vanishing Media: Space Command

 

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British Columbia: Two Capitals?

British Columbia has a fascinating history, as do all of Canada’s Provinces and Territories.  For today’s post, however, please let me acquaint you with some of B.C.’s history.

Photo of Songish village, Brithish Columbia, prior 18634

Songish village opposite Victoria, B.C., before 1863. from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/confederation/023001-3030-e.html

There are two parts that make up British Columbia: the mainland and the island, until they both united in 1866.

For a while there wasn’t agreement between the ex-colonies about which of their capital cities would serve as the seat of government.  Islanders wanted Victoria, and the mainland argued for New Westminster.  For years, the cities alternated.  Eventually, Victoria became the permanent capital of the colony.

Have you heard of Bill Smith?  He was a newspaper editor and politician, If you haven’t, you may have heard of what he called himself: Amor de Cosmos (<–  you can read my earlier post about him by clicking on his name). One of his greatest achievements was his hard work to get British Columbia to join Confederation, and later became Premier of the province.

Vancouver acquired the nickname “Terminal City,” because the terminus of the transcontinental railway was there.  A chief financier of the railway, William Van Horne, had chosen the site  and he also insisted that the new city be named after the explorer George Vancouver.

Photo of Mount Elbert

Mount Elbert from Turquoise Lake, the highest summit in the Rocky Mountains

I cannot write of British Columbia without mentioning the Rocky Mountains. It is Canada’s largest mountain range as well as the largest in the western hemisphere. While it runs nearly the entire length of British Columbia, it also forms part of the border with Alberta.  The economic resources of the Rocky Mountains are varied and abundant. Minerals found in the Rocky Mountains include significant deposits of copper, gold, lead, molybdenum, silver, tungsten, and zinc.

Every year the scenic areas and recreational opportunities of the Rocky Mountains draw millions of tourists and it’s easy to see why.

Map of the Rocky Mountains

Map outlining the Rocky Mountains, in both Canada and the United States.

 

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Canada’s Roswell-Like Incidents

Shag Harbor Sign Identifying the 1967 UFO Incident.

Shag Harbor Sign Identifying the 1967 UFO Incident. Source: Wikipedia.org user 3h3dsfa4

I am reading Weird Canadian Places by Dan de Figueiredo, which is really entertaining.  It is a “Humorous, Bizarre, Peculiar & Strange locations & Attractions across the Nation.”

Here’s an example of what you can find in the book.  He writes about Canada’s version of Roswell, in Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia.  It involves an apparent crash of a UFO, many witnesses, government and military investigations, surveillance and strange and odd smells, sights and sounds.

Shag is a small fishing village at the southern tip of Nova Scotia.  At about 11:20 p.m. on October 4, 1967, witnesses saw strange orange lights, then it turned at a 45-degree angle and seemed to crash towards the water with a bright flash and an explosion.   According to witnesses, the object had bright yellow lights floating on the surface of the water, about 18.3 metres in diameter and trailed yellow foam behind it.  It also smelled of sulphur.

Many people contacted the RCMP to report the incident.  If you look at the official papers about it, you ‘d read that it was a large aircraft that crashed in the harbour — no mention of a UFO.

That’s because one witness in particular, Laurie Wickens, told the authorities that he had seen a large airplane or small airliner crash into the Gulf of Maine.  This prompted an immediate response.  Ten RCMP officers arrived at the scene within fifteen minutes, concerned that the downed passengers would drown.  Within a half hour of the crash, local fishermen arrived at the site.  Within an hour after the crash, the Canadian Coast Guard arrived.

The next day, the Canadian military sent the HMCS Granby to the site to investigate.  By then, however, all that was left was a bit of yellow foam.  They dived for four days trying to find “something,” but came up empty.

This incident is not the only one Canadians have reported witness to.  A few of the others are:

  • May 19, 1967, Falcon Lake, Manitoba. Stefan Michalak was burned by one of two flying saucers with which he reportedly came into contact.
  • January 1, 1969, Prince George, B.C.. Three unrelated witnesses reported a strange, round object in the late afternoon sky.
  • 1975-1976, Southern Manitoba.  Several sightings were reported of a red glowing UFO, sometimes described as “mischievous” or “playful”.
  • October 1978, Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Constable Jim Blackwood of the RCMP saw a sighting of a flying saucer hovering over the harbour near the town of Clarenville and Random Island.  When he switched on the roof lights of his police cruiser the craft appeared to mimic the flashing lights.
  • November 7, 1990, Montreal, Quebec, aerial phenomenon.  Witnesses reported a round, metallic object of about 540 metres wide over the rooftop pool of the Bonaventure Hotel. Eyewitnesses saw 8 to 10 lights forming into a circle above them, emitting bright white rays. The phenomenon lasted three hours, from 7 to 10 p.m., and moved slowly northwards.
  • 2006, Ajax, Ontario.  A UFO was Photographed.
  • 2007, Chilliwack, British Columbia, UFO witnessed by Dave Francis and Kelly McDonald.
  • January 25, 2010, Harbour Mille, Newfoundland and Labrador. A photograph taken revealed one of the UFOs to resemble a missile. There was an investigation by the community’s police force and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Another minor report of this incident came from Calgary, Alberta, where boys playing hockey reported seeing similar objects, about which they stated “We thought they were transformers.”

If you are still intrigued about this, I can direct you to a few places on the ‘Net.  There is a large database at MUFON (The Mutual UFO Network), at Canadian UFO Survey, and at UFO Roundup Articles Canada.
 

 

 

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“… he had More Fun than any Other Man in B.C.

English: Matthew Baillie Begbie, image from th...

Matthew Baillie Begbie, image from the British Columbia Archives http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reposted and updated post from November 19, 2012.

November 19 was an important day for British Columbia. On this date in 1858, the mainland was made a separate colony. James Douglas, who was already Governor of Vancouver Island, was sworn in as Governor of British Columbia at a ceremony at Fort Langley, which was intended to be the capital.

The colony creation  was necessary because thousands of American gold miners were arriving, and there was a danger that the United States might try to take over the territory unless it were governed by Britain.

One of the most remarkable figures in Canadian history presided at the swearing-in ceremony. He was Matthew Baillie Begbie. Bruce Hutchinson, in his book The Fraser, wrote, “And in his twenty-six years of judging, riding, walking, feuding and praying he had more fun than any other man in British Columbia.”

Douglas had asked the British Government to send him a judge to help keep order. Begbie proved to be the ideal man for the job, although he had no experience as a judge, and very little as a lawyer. At the time of his appointment he had no law practice,  but was a reporter for the Law Times.

Matthew Begbie wanted to leave Britain because his brother had stolen his fiancé!

Begbie, “a government on horseback,” held courts everywhere. Although he was ruthless, he was known to be fair, and the miners understood his sense of justice. His bête noire was juries who failed to convict men of murder when Begbie felt they were guilty. On one occasion when the jury brought a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of a man who had sandbagged a companion in a drunken brawl, Begbie said, “You can go, and I devoutly hope the next man you sandbag will be one of the jury.” Actually, his bark was worse than his bite. He disliked having to sentence men to death and had a chaplain at his side when he had to do so.

November 19 was also chosen as the date when the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island would be united in 1866. Historian Dr. Margaret Ormsby believes the choice of November 19 was sentimental than coincidental.  Margaret Ormsby is the author of British Columbia: A history.

If you would like to read more about today’s post, I suggest going to The Other Blokes Blog, and the Manitoba Historical Society, and finally, there’s an interesting article at Canada.com.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in On This Day

 

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Happy 91st Birthday, Madeleine!

English: Screenshot of Madeleine Sherwood and ...

Screenshot of Madeleine Sherwood and Jack Carson from the trailer for the film en:Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you watch The Flying Nun (1967 to 1970)?  Remember Sally Field as Sister Bertrille? And finally, do you remember Reverend Mother Placido, her Mother Superior?  I don’t think I ever missed an episode.  One of the better TV shows then, I believe.

Today’s post is about Madeleine Sherwood , who played Reverend Mother Placido.

She was born on November 13, 1922 in Montreal, Quebec, as Louise Hélène Thornton.

Sherwood began her career, some have said, at the age of four, when she performed in a church play. In 1950, she moved to New York City.  She made her first Broadway performance in Horton Foote’s, The Chase, replacing Kim Stanley.  That was just the beginning of her career in Broadway.  She became a member of the Actors Studio in 1957, working with Lee Strasberg, and is now a life member of the Studio.

During the McCarthy era, Sherwood was blacklisted.  During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, she met and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 50’s and 60’s.  Then she went south to join CORE (Congress on Racial Equality). She was arrested during a Freedom Walk, jailed and sentenced to six months hard labour for “Endangering the Customs and Mores of the People of Alabama”.  Another very interesting titbit of her life at that time, her lawyer, Fred Grey, was the first African-American lawyer to represent a white woman south of the Mason–Dixon Line. Unfortunately, during this period, she lost most of her hearing.

In the early 1990s, she returned to Canada and resettled in Victoria, BC, and Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec. Although she was a longtime resident of the United States, she has remained a Canadian citizen all her life. She has one daughter, two grandchildren and six great-grand children.

Besides her many roles on Broadway, she’s been in films and on many shows on television.  Just a few are:

Danger (1 episode, 1953)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) Mae Flynn Pollitt
The Edge of Night (1964) Ann Kelly #1
The Flying Nun (1967–1970) Reverend Mother Superior Placido
Pendulum (film) (1969) Mrs. Eileen Sanderson
The Guiding Light (1970–1971) Betty Eiler
The Secret Storm (1972–1973) Carmen
Wicked, Wicked (1973) Lenore Karadyne
Columbo (1 episode, 1974) Miss Brady
The Changeling (1980) Mrs. Norman
One Life to Live (1980) Bridget Leander
Nobody’s Child (1986) Nurse Rhonda
Dynasty (1 episode, 1987)
Cagney & Lacey (1 episode, 1987)

At 91 years young, she is getting a virtual Thank You and a Happy Birthday wish from the author of this blog!

 

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The Money Had to be Kept in Waste Paper Baskets!

Dingman #1 Derrick Replica

Dingman #1 Derrick Replica (Photo credit: Hschuyt)

Repost and updated from November 20, 2012.

If you would like to find an oil well (and who wouldn’t?), a vast part of Canada is still waiting to be explored. Here’s a tip to help you look for it. Petroleum is found in sedimentary rocks, underground, and Canada has about one million square miles do sedimentary basins, about one-quarter of the land area. Four-fifths of this is in western Canada, and includes the southwest corner of Manitoba, two-thirds of Saskatchewan, nearly all of Alberta, and a wide strip down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic. There is oil in British Columbia, Ontario and the Maritimes!

It might be said that Alberta’s oil boom began on November 20, 1946, when the famous Leduc well was spudded in. It began producing on February 13, 1892, however, the Edmonton Bulletin had reported indications of oil at St. Albert.

The story said: “Whether or not the tar is a sure indication of a profitable petroleum field, there is no doubt of the genuineness of the find, and as little doubt that it is not confined to that single locality.”

Alberta’s first producing oil field was the Turner Valley, and one of its pioneer was W. S. Herron. He noticed gas seepage near Sheep Creek and bought 700 acres of land in the area. His attempts to raise development money from Calgary businessmen were unsuccessful until he devised a spectacular sales plan. He persuaded William Elder and A. W. Dingman to visitation place where there was gas seepage, touched a match to a rock fissure, and the pulled out a pan in which he fried eggs over the flame! Elder and Dingman were so impressed that they bought more than a half-interest in Herron’s holdings and spudded in a well at Sheep Creek in January 1913.

Until this time, Calgary Stock Exchange had occupied a corner in a local butcher shop. Now so many people wanted to buy shares that the cash drawers were not large enough, and the money had to be kept in waste paper baskets!

The boom lasted only a few months, owing to the outbreak of World War I but fortunes were made and lost on the Calgary Stock Exchange.

 

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