Mac’s Musings: Don’t mess with the nuns

Claude McIntosh ~ Mac's Musings
Mac’s Musings: Don’t mess with the nuns
Claude McIntosh.

That was the lesson town council learned in 1937 when it came to replacing the condemned garbage dump on St. Andrew’s Road north of the Ninth Street northern city limit.

Council planned to deposit the town’s garbage on a piece of vacant property between the St. Lawrence River and Cornwall Canal near the Cotton Mill power station and just south of Hotel Dieu Hospital (York and Water).

No way, protested the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph who operated the hospital and the adjacent St. Paul’s Home for the Aged.

The Sisters hired a prominent local lawyer, George Brennan, who would become a county court judge, of Brennan and McDougall and rallied everyone within a sniff of the proposed site to fight the proposal.

A petition signed by hundreds of residents, including 20 medical doctors, opposed the planned garbage dump. This was long before climate change committees, Greenpeace and all the others.

The weak defence by proponents of the dump site was that the garbage would be poured into trenches each day and buried with 24 hours. That brought groans from the opposition gallery.

The medical people warned that disease carrying rats by the hundreds, not to mention flies and other insects, would be attracted to the dump and would soon find their way to the nearby residential area and the hospital, creating the potential for a major man-made health hazard.

The nuns and doctors were too much for the town’s decision makers.

The politicians soon realized which way the political wind was blowing and backed off on the dump site, eventually settling for a site far off the beaten path, at the time, north of Eleventh Street East, safely outside the then town’s northern boundary.

The sisters, no doubt, sang hallelujah.
Several small Ontario communities over the last few years have given up on their own police force and have opted to contract policing to the provincial force.

In 1937 it went other other way in Cornwall Township when council made the bold step of breaking its law enforcement ties with the Ontario Provincial Police.
With the Cornwall suburban part of the township growing to 10,000, council felt that citizens would be better served with an in-house police department.

In mid-July the four-man township force opened for business in a make-shift police station at 357 Montreal Rd., which just happened to be police chief Wilfred

Bertrand’s house. When needed, the Cornwall police cells would be used.

Bertrand’s salary was $1,600 a year. He had been with the OPP.

His three probationary officers William Malyon, Donat Tessier and Hormidas Poirier, none of whom had any policing experience, were paid $1,200 a year. Poirier went on to become the township chief and when the the city expanded into the township, he became deputy chief of the Cornwall force. His son-in-law, Danny Aikman, is the current police chief.

The fledgling force was supplied with one automobile and “modern police uniforms.” The car was used for night patrols when two officers were on duty. The day shift was covered by the chief and the third patrol officer who walked the beat, west of Cumberland Street and east of Marlborough Street. Unlike today, officers had no direct communication with the station. Instead, they relied on several police call boxes set up long the beat.

Cornwall’s force had seven officers and one patrol car which the chief took home on weekends. The late Allan Clarke, who became Cornwall’s longest serving police chief, recalled making an arrest by himself and taking his prisoner, in handcuffs, back to the station on a street car.

With three OPP officers manning the station on Augustus Street and four RCMP officers stationed in the town, Cornwall and the immediate township had a total of 18 police officers.

ALSO THIS WEEK CIRCA 1937 – A stubborn heat wave drove up the mercury to 99F in the downtown core. Many residents (this was before air conditioners and central air) took to sleeping on the front porch or camped out on the lawn. Others took to sleeping in their basements. …. The Ontario Department of Education announced a new curriculum for Grade 1 to 6 students that banned homework and allowed for 90 minutes of “independent study” each school day. And while the new curriculum did not have courses in morals and religion, it urged teaches to develop children to “love mercy, to do justly and walk humbly.” Students would be taught health, English, social studies, arithmetic, natural science, music and arts and enterprise. … A barn dance was set for A. J. McPhail’s barn in St. Andrew’s West with the Burton Heward Orchestra playing. … Adrien Noel would be paid $2,394 a year to pick up garbage in Cornwall Township. The township received a petition for a sidewalk on the west side of Belmont Street between First and Easton. … In Cornwall, the garbage collection contract was awarded to Clarence Ross who would use a horse-drawn wagon. He was to be paid $15 per day. J. E. Burns offered to collect the garbage, by truck, for $16.50 a day. … Howard Smith Paper Mill’s Cornwall plant was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The company purchased the city mill from the Toronto Paper Co. in 1919. The mill went into operation in 1883. … Lionel Chevrier, Stormont MP, announced that the federal government would build an armoury on Fourth Street East opposite the Athletic Grounds. The property was purchased from the Colquhoun Estate for $8,000. … The 185 employees at the Powdrell and Alexander chemical plant in Cornwall Township were given pay raises that increased the weekly pay for unskilled employees to $15 for a 50-hour work week. … A sub post office was opened in the A. J. Ruest drug store at 601 Montreal Rd. … Cornwall Public School teacher Laura Binnie retired after 38 years. She was replaced by Isabel Cameron who was selected from a “long list” of candidates. Creighton Anderson was named assistant principal.

TRIVIA ANSWER The King George Hotel, southeast corner of Pitt and Water Streets, was torn down in 1978 to make way for Cornwall Square. Several other neighbouring businesses were also torn down, including Western Tire and Halliwell’s Tire and Brake Shop. The King George started life as the Windsor. The name was changed when city businessmen Lloyd Gallinger and George Bringloe purchased the hotel.

TRIVIA On Nov. 9, 1991 a parade through the downtown celebrated this event: 1) The conversion of Pitt Street from First to Third Streets to a pedestrian mall; 2) The opening of Cornwall Square; 3) The launch of the one-way street system; 4) The re-opening of Pitt Street from First to Third Streets to vehicular traffic; 5) The mayor’s annual family picnic in Lamoureux Park.

QUOTED “I have seen slower people than I am and more deliberate… and even quieter, and more listless, and lazier people than I am. But they were dead.” – Mark Twain

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