Claude McIntosh - Mac's Musings

On the afternoon of Nov. 30, 1962 two men – David Evans and Alex Allinot – working near several tank cars parked on a siding on Track Road near Marlborough Street encountered a strong Javex-like odour. Minutes later they alerted city police.

A crack on the bottom of one of the tank cars, containing three tons of chlorine gas manufactured at the C-I-L plant on Brookdale Avenue and destined for the E. B. Eddy plant in Hull, started a slow release of the deadly gas used without mercy in the First World War.

By the end of the day a 30-block section of the city was closed off and 250 residents evacuated. The city’s two hospitals – Hotel Dieu and General – were overwhelmed with 103 patients.

An urgent call went out for all available medical personnel with 20 doctors and dozens of off-duty nurses responding. Off-duty police, firefighters and ambulance attendants also were summoned.

It was the largest evacuation in the city’s history.

During the night bulletins were broadcast on CKSF radio telling residents if they experienced symptoms – chest congestion and/or fever – to call police for emergency transfer to a hospital.

Along with the 103 persons treated at the hospitals – 25 were admitted, nine of them children – dozens more were treated near the scene.

An evacuation centre was set up at Beach Hall – First and Sydney streets – were residents forced from their homes were offered sandwiches and coffee. The Emergency Measures Organization arranged for hotel and motel rooms for 50 people who needed overnight accommodations.

Most living the area were able to return to their homes by the end of the next day, while 25 remained in hospital. Among the five people placed in oxygen tents were firefighter Emile Fortin and Const. Len Caron. In a house-to-house search, Fortin found a woman and her three children in distress. While taking them to his vehicle, he gave the woman, who was struggling to breath, his oxygen mask. After delivering them to the command centre, he passed out and was rushed to hospital. Caron, who didn’t have a mask, was overcome by fumes while carrying out a rescue.

The fumes killed several cows on farms near the leaking tank car. Among them several Ayrshires in a barn 200 yards from the tank car.

The situation could have been much worse if the wind hadn’t shifted shortly after the leak was discovered and carried the fumes to a less populated area. People several miles away reported smelling the odour.

Dr. Claude Corbeil, among the doctors who responded to the call for help, called it a miracle.

THIS MONTH IN 1934 – The weather stats showed that in the first months of the year, Cornwall and area was belted with frigid temperatures and eight-feet of snow. February had 21 days with sub-zero (F) temperatures. … Among Cornwall Public School students making the February honour roll were Edward Kaneb, Marcus Goldhamer, Isobel Fawthrop, Sherman McAteer, Janet Fitzpatrick, Anita Good and Muriel Eamer. … Overheated stove pipes caused a fire that destroyed a house at 19 1/2 Marlborough St. S. Freezing rain and icy streets delayed the arrival of firefighters. … Police Chief Fred Seymour said the numerous pot holes on city streets were no excuse for motorists to drive on sidewalks and over lawns. The chief also warned that motorists splashing pedestrians would be ticketed. … In promoting the use of electricity, Stormont Electric Light and Power Co. noted in an ad that an electric refrigerator cost just three cents a day to operate. The company said that the more electricity a homeowner used, the cheaper the rate. … A cache of 80,000 cigarettes stolen from a CNR freight box car was recovered in a bush near Grant’s Corners. … Marked down new Chevies in the Cornwall Motor Sales showroom on Second Street West were selling for $781. … Just hours after an East Cornwall man was arrested in his home and charged with possessing illegal liquor – police found a 12-ounce bottle – he was hauled before Magistrate D. G. McDonell. The man pleaded guilty and slapped with a three-month jail sentence. The whole process took just six hours. … In Chicago, a doctor was found guilty of shooting to death her son-in-law. The jury took just 10 minutes to return the verdict. The motive was said to be a $12,000 insurance policy. … A federal commission looking at wages paid in the garment industry was told that in Toronto non-union workers were paid $7 to $8 a week, while in Quebec female workers earned just $2 a week. …. Ford Motor Co. announced that its workers would receive bigger pay cheques with the minimum wage going up to $5 a day.

HERE AND THERE Another young, bright journalist has left the news biz for greener pastures in the public sector. Shawna O’Neill will leave the tri-weekly Standard-Freeholder next week for a public information position with South Dundas. She follows Kevin Lajoie and Francis Racine (City of Cornwall) and Todd Lihou (United Counties). The underappreciated Todd Hambleton, who at one time could have worked in any major daily, and managing editor Hugo Rodrigues, arguably one of the three best editorial writers (this scribbler not one of them) the paper has had, holding are down the fort. … Hey, isn’t it time they closed down most of the journalism departments at colleges and universities. … Plans for a Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School re-union this year have been put on ice. Folks who wanted to organize the event say they hit a brick wall when it came to garnering school and board co-operation. … National Hockey League television viewership in the United States was never great but latest survey shows it is down 22%. (Bring back fighting). … It’s not what the sizzling starlets are wearing that will attract all the attention at the Academy Awards, but what they aren’t wearing. …

TRIVIA In the 1930s this French-language weekly newspaper was published at 5 Marlborough St. S. It was called 1) La Presse, 2) Le Devoir, 3) L’Avenir, 4) Le Droit, 5) Le Franco.

TRIVIA ANSWER The honour of turning on the switch for power at the Canadian Cottons Ltd. weave shed in the Canada mill went to Thomas Edison who travelled to Cornwall for the historic event in April 1883. The weave shed, at the time the largest building of its kind in the British Empire, became the first industrial facility in Canada to be electrically lighted.

QUOTED “The sole function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

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