Columnist Claude MacInotosh

Three evening fires within three weeks in February 1969 destroyed three east Cornwall residential dwellings and left 48 people homeless, and stretched the city’s fire fighting resources to the max. One of the fires resulted in a fatality.

In the three fires, it was all hands on deck with every available off-duty firefighter called in, including Fire Chief Lou Carriere who pitched in on the front lines. In those days, most city firefighters lived in the city or at least within five miles of the stations.

In a fire at Walton and Prince Arthur, that left 32 members of 10 families homeless, nine-year-old Andre Vaillancourt was heralded a hero for alerting other residents – some of whom were in bed – in the building of the 9:30 p. m. fast-moving fire that levelled the frame building in less than 40 minutes.

Four families – 13 people – were chased from their tenement by a late-evening fire on McConnell Avenue between First and Second streets.

An early-morning fatal fire destroyed a home on Duncan Street. Three surviving family members were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The year started on an ominous note for city firefighters. In January all available firefighters – and equipment – were called to the scene of a fiery 35-vehicle – mostly transports – pile-up on the 401 just east of McConnell Avenue. The carnage claimed four lives and injured 15.

THIS MONTH IN 1969 – The ministry of health said Ontario had a surplus of registered nurses with many having to find jobs in the United States. … City council protested a rate hike announced by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission in which season passes were boosted to $10 from $5, nightly camping rates hiked to $2.50 from $1.50 and day passes raised to $1 from 50 cents. Some city councillors felt the new rates would be a hardship for local low-income families and hurt tourism. … Dr. W. A. Milligan, Cornwall mayor in 1937 and retired medical officer of health, died. He was 65. … Veronica Maguire, 17-year-old St. Michael’s Academy Grade 11 student, was crowned Cornwall Campus Winter Carnival Queen. Diane Lussier, 17, Cornwall Regional School of Nursing student, and Shannon Doyle, 19, of Cornwall Collegiate, were runners-up. … The city’s $1,283,000 capital budget was sent to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) for approval. … Actor Boris Karloff, who played Frankenstein, died at age 81. He played in 130 mostly horror movies. … The committee studying family law recommended to the Law Reform Commission that the minimum age to marry be raised to 16 from 14 for girls and 18 years for boys. … A report showed that only seven Ontario municipalities with populations 40,000 to 100,000 had higher welfare rates than Cornwall, which had 1,388 recipients. Of the city’s 44,744 residents, 2.2% relied on welfare. … … Cornwall Royals became part of the merger of the Montreal Metro and Quebec junior hockey leagues that created the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Royals had been part of the Metro league. Quebec hockey officials predicted that a QMJHL team would win the Memorial Cup within two seasons. In 1971, the Royals, despite being based in Ontario, brought the Memorial Cup to Quebec. … St. Lawrence High School Saints and Cornwall Collegiate Raiders battled to a 48-48 tie in the second game of the two-game, total-points St. Lawrence Division playoff for the right to advance to the EOSSA senior boys basketball championship round. However, Saints won the series 99-93. Mike Appleton led the Saints in the tie game with 15 points. Drew Foulds had 15 for CCVS.

HERE AND THERE Our mention of Mac-Mar Fruits in Jan. 17 Musings caught the attention of reader Bernie McDonald. His father Donald and Albert Martin founded and operated the business at one time based in the former brewery at Water and Augustus streets, which made for an ideal cold storage. It later became Gordon’s ice plant. He recalls travelling with his father to the Montreal market at 4 a. m. to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The business was sold the National Grocers in January 1960. … Former long-serving public school board trustee Art Buckland recently under-went a check up at the Ottawa heart institute. Doctor’s orders: Keep doing what you’re doing. … D. Trump may become the first prez to deliver a State-of-the-Union speech dressed in an orange jumpsuit.

LIFE AND TIMES Newly-minted mayor Nick Kaneb came up short, literally, on his first day in the mayor’s office in 1967.

In one of the strangest news conferences held in the mayor’s office, Kaneb put the mayor’s desk on display for the media, this was a time when about seven news outlets – radio and newspaper – covered city hall.

This then-rookie scribbler got the ‘plum’ assignment.

Kaneb was not a happy camper. He had defeated incumbent Dr. Elzear Emard in the mayoral election and to say there was bad political blood between the two campaign combatants would be an understatement. So, on his last day in office, the 5-foot-5 Emard had a city carpenter slice five inches off the legs of his already low desk.

For the 6-foot-2 Kaneb, it was like sitting at a kindergarten desk.

No doubt the Doc had a good laugh when he read the front-page story – with photo – in that afternoon’s edition of the S-F.

By the end of the day, the same carpenter was back in the mayor’s office restoring the desk to its proper height. Once again, all was well in the world.

TRIVIA ANSWER      Bob and Dan Geoffrion who played for the Cornwall Royals in the 1970s were grandsons of Les Canadiens legend Howie Morenz. Their father, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, was married to Morenz’s daughter. Bob played three seasons – 1971-1974 – while younger brother Dan logged five seasons – 1973-1978 – with the club. Dan was selected by Montreal eighth overall in the 1978 draft.

TRIVIA   When it closed in 1999, this was Cornwall’s second largest non-public employer with a payroll of 479.

QUOTED     “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt



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