The Rush to Vaccinate as Polio Took Hold

Claude McIntosh - Mac's Musings
The Rush to Vaccinate as Polio Took Hold

Long before COVID and a slew of “modern day” epidemics and pandemics, we had polio.

And in September 1959 with polio cases on the rise nervous local health officials organized mass vaccination clinics and contemplated closing schools until the epidemic slowed.

By the end of the month, Cornwall and the United Counties had 40 new cases of polio with 20 in the city. Four deaths were recorded, three in the same rural family: a mother and her two young children.

Several victims – mostly children – had to be placed in ‘iron lungs’ to assist breathing.

Thousands of residents flooded the emergency vaccination clinics in the city and United Counties. The medical officer of health warned that the majority of the population needed to be fully vaccinated in order to ease the spread.


A television station and natural gas were the new ‘kids’ on the block in Cornwall in 1959.

In September, CJSS-TV was gearing up with construction of a 680-foot transmission tower north of Lancaster. The studio was in a former garage at Water and Adolphus streets.

It had one camera mounted on the former garage hoist.

For Christmas 1959 the station convinced organizers of the Santa Claus Parade to pass by the station so the event could be put on live TV. With a large degree of fear and trepidation (by management), the bulky lone camera was slowly eased out to the sidewalk in front of the station. The parade came to a halt so station personality Don McGowan could climb up on the last float to interview Santa.

One of the in-studio programs was a popular Saturday afternoon teen dance broadcast live with host Lyle Ellis. Another was “Romper Room”.

The station was equipped with the largest mobile broadcasting unit – a 50-foot tractor-trailer – in the country and was the first station in Canada to use video-magnetic tape.

Its library was stacked with 800 movies purchased from major U.S. networks.

The station reached 75,000 households, 20,000 of them in New York State and Vermont.

When Bushnell Commucations took over, all programming was moved to the Ottawa station on Merivale Road. The CRTC decreed that the Ottawa station had to dedicate a percentage of its programming to Cornwall and area.


Lakeland Natural Gas held what it called a “Gasaroma” in the parking lot of its Pitt Street office – just south of the overpass – where it showcased the benefits of natural gas for heating and appliances such as stoves and dryers.

Earlier in the year the company had won the right to distribute natural gas in the city as an alternative to electricity and oil.

With a lot of misinformation out in the public – mainly about safety – and a hard push back from the oil home heating people, the gas company launched a massive public relations campaign that debunked safety concerns.

THIS MONTH IN 1959 – Thousands of people lined the Labour Day parade route. The celebration included a luncheon at the Cornwallis Hotel and dance at Cornwall Community Arena (aka Water Street Arena). … Two Amelia Street homes were moved to McConnell Avenue North to make room for an athletic field at CCVS. Until then the school used the Athletic Grounds. … Fingerhut Corporation announced a branch plant for the city that would include a mail order sales outlet in the former Beach Furniture plant. It would be called Sovereign Seat Covers. … City solicitor George Stiles (later a country court judge) accused an alderman of spreading false information. Ald. Ralph Cararra had told a committee meeting that Stiles and the city treasurer were not paying taxes on property they owned. A contrite Cararra said he was just passing along a remark made to him by a citizen, and that he didn’t actually believe it to be true. … City barbers raised the price of an adult haircut to $1.25 from a buck. The cost of a child’s haircut was increased to $1 from 75 cents. A brush cut was listed at $1.50. … The National Revenue Service annual report showed that the average annual income of Cornwall’s 13,801 taxpayers was $3,815. … Doug Carpenter scored the game’s lone touchdown as St. Lawrence Saints blanked Cornwall Collegiate Raiders 7-0. … Down 5-0, Coca-Cola Monarchs came back to defeat New York Cafe Aces 7-5 and win the Cornwall Junior Baseball League title. Ray Tessier led the Monarchs with four hits. … Wonder Bread unveiled a new product called Nu-Wip. Meanwhile, a king-size loaf with buttermilk flavour rolled off the Morris-Lamothe production line. … The King George Hotel menu featured a business man’s lunch special priced at 85 cents. … Ray Miron, Cornwall Community Arena manager and senior hockey general manager, was named general manager of the Washington Presidents of the Eastern United States Hockey League. … A national survey showed that 80% of newspaper readers turned to the comics before reading hard news stories.

TRIVIA ANSWER     Mary Pickford, the first Canadian actress to win an Oscar, received the best leading actress award in 1929 for her role in Coquette. She was born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto in 1892.

TRIVIA    The 1971 Cornwall municipal election in which Ed Lumley became the city’s youngest mayor included this referendum: 1) One-way street system, 2) Reduce council to 10 from 12, 3) Abolish the ward system in favour of elections at large, 4) Create a chief administrative officer position, 5) Add flouride to the water system.

QUOTED     “A candidate is a person who stands for what he or she thinks the public will fall for.” – Broadcaster Al Boliska

ONE LAST THING    And the Rudy Giuliani Award for the fastest plunge from grace without a parachute goes to … Mike Babcock who was forced to resign as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets before his first team meeting. Once the highest paid coach in the National Hockey League, his days behind a bench are over … at any level above tyke division.

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