1960 UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER: GLASGOW WAS A SHOCK!
SHOCKED!…I WAS NOT READY FOR MAY 31, 1960alan skeochApril 2019
An ordinary life in Toronto in May 1960 was really wonderfull but I never thought much about it.Our life was safe, affluent, active, open, … and taken for granted.Lots of friends, enough money to enjoy life and safe streets.The people in Glasgow were not so lucky….
TYPICAL TORONTO STREET SCENE IN 1960
TYPICAL SOCIAL SCENE IN TORONTO 1960
JOURNAL ENTRIESWednesday May 18, 1960CAught the train in Blind River. Arrived back in Toronto from the Elliot Lake adventure. Phoned Marjorie from Sudbury as she is still in North Bay…always easyto talk with her, perhaps for a lifetime. My brother Eric met me at the West Toronto station and later drove Eric to work at Toronto beaches where he is a lifeguardwith endless stories to tell some of them quite bizarre. Loved the screwing match story best…Binoculars used to survey Cherry Beach then yell ’Screwing Match’to get others excited by illicit sex. “Where? Where?” “Right here and Eric would show that he held a screw and a match in his hand.” I found that really funny.Then proceeded to the Huntec office. A beautiful day of sunshine. FloydFaulkner is getting married on Saturdaythen almost immediately will fly to Hudson’s Bay for a three month job. No time for a honeymoon obviously. Floyd remains cheerful still calling me Fucking Al as aterm of endearment. Then picked up my passport and health certificate for entry to Southern Ireland. A flight has been booked…Toronto to New York to Scotland toDublin. Gord Brand got me a day job in Kinmount using our family 1953 Meteor at 9 cents a mile. Dad is not too happy about that for he will have totake public transportation all the way from west Toronto to Whitby…couple of hours each way at least.Thursday May 19, 1960Got up at 6 a.m. and travelled fast to Kinmount on empty roads. Two cow moose ran alongside the car just east of Kinmount. Arrived at the hidden job sitewhere Paul Head and Gord Brand were waiting with the Induced Polarization (I.P,) unit all set to go. Lunch was fittingly eaten and washed down with a caseof I.P.A. (Indian Pale Ale) which seemed fitting. Get it? I.P. unit and I.P.A. Ale! We spent the afternoon laying base line cable through the bush. Found a strangeshack in the bush with a bunch of dead porcupines. Disgusting if killed for no reason…hunters hate porcupines as quills get in the mouth and noses of their hounds.We drove down to Peterborough in the evening staying in luxury at the Rock Haven Motel. Gathered in the bar where Paul Head told us tales of Arizona. Just thinkHuntec had planned to send me to Arizona ten days ago. Now all has changed. Earlier in day we met two large turtles…a painted turtle and a snapping turtle.All told it was a grand day.Friday May 20, 1960We drove back north to the anomaly which is a few miles east of Kinmount. Stopped for breakfast at a beautiful spot with a waterfall beside it. Continued northas road changed from triple lane paved to double lane to single lane to gravel to a grass covered trail. Sounds joyful? Not so. Every square inch of our exposedflesh was dinner for the damn black flies who are at their peak right now. They are ravenous. We only managed to completed less than two lines, This machine(I.P.) can be quite dangerous…500 volt shock if foolhardy. We are careful. Drove back to Kinmount which was really jumping for a change…summer people havearrived. I was too tired and dirty for any socializing. We are putting one hell of a lot of mileage on the ’53 Meteor which is a bit of a worry as it is our firstfamily car and treasured by all. Phoned mom from a Kinmount telephone booth which was loaded with mosquitoes just waiting for someone like me.Saturday May 21, 1960We got a good early start in the bush today. Voracious flies everywhere drove us on so we managed to finish the job by 6.30. I left immediately for Toronto. Thick fogbut managed to make it home by 9.30…250 mile in three hours. “The damn car is full of black flies!”, exclaimed Dad who went after them with with a swatter andinsect spray.Sunday May 22, 1960We drove to the farm today … mom, dad and me…too much wind, fog and rain for effective planting but managed to get some vegetable plants in the ground.The dog loved the mud. Later paid a short visit to Uncle Frank and Aunt Lucinda at their farm up the road. Tested the Turam E.M. unit on our farm by layingmain cable attached to motor generator snd grounded at both ends with steel rods…apparently need couple of ground rods at each end…pounded in with sledge.Monday May 23, 1960Bought a pile of film for the trip to Ireland then we drove Eric to his lifeguard station. Then mom, dad and I went to the horse races at Old Woodbine track. Dad hada friend at the gate that let us slip into the first class section. “Look straight ahead and follow me, do not look at the gate keeper.” I lost a bit of money but Dad madea few dollars. Foggy track. I think Dad and Mom missed having Marjorie with them at the track. Her enthusiasm is catching…loves the horses. Gambling is secondaryThen we drove back to Cherry Beach and picked up Eric. We all went for supper at Bassel’s restaurant then home to bed. Typicalfamily day.Tuesday May 24, 1960Drove to the office on O’Connor Road today. What a luxury after the long hot trips on the street car and TTC bus. But taking the car really puts a load on dad to get from ourhouse on Annette Street, West Toronto all the way to Whitby I don’t know how he does it frankly. Barrie Nichols gave me my flight tickets…strange route via New York andScotland to reach Dublin. Also $300 in expense money. Gord Brand and Paul Head left by Land Rover for Arizona. Collected $44.31 expenses for use of the 53 Meteor…covered 480 miles. Dan Bereskin arrived from Saskatoon as a seismic assistant and was immediately sent to Niagara Falls on a project.Wednesday May 25, 1960Final preparations at office. Seems like a number of the professional staff would like to be on this job. Why me? Simply because I used the Turam system on the Alaskajob last summer. The other guys are no longer with the company. My Good luck. Took it easy at home then decided to visit Bob Taylor and his wife Anita (Simmons) Taylor…both are very happy with no financial problemslike poor Bill faces. Missed their wedding while I was in Alaska. Seems strange to have friends that are married.Thursday May 26, 1960All ready for Ireland now. Went to Scouts and handed out uranium samples from Elliot Lake for the lads. Then we all zipped over to the Dairy Dell for a milk shake.Friday May 27,1960Final briefing. Dr. Norman Paterson asked me to demonstrate the AFMag. One of his secretaries then typed a report on the demonstration. She inadvertently referred to me as Dr. Skeoch.Barrie Nichols took me aside saying I must pretend to be a permanent employe… experienced using the Turam. (a Swedish invention) I was flattered that they trusted me so much. Determined not to let anyone down.
Picked up voltmetersand maps and drove home for the last time before the flight to Ireland.Saturday May 28, 1960Last chance to shop in Toronto. Bought technical books, rainwear, self-timer, filter, map case. Still time to plant so got 30 tomato plants for the farm. Dad had a goodday at the racetrack…cashed some tickets. I wish Marjorie was here rather than in North Bay. Mom and I went to see ‘Our Man in Havana’ . We weighed my luggagewhich was 40 pounds overweight. Shiela Baird dropped by and cannot believe I am flying to Ireland. I have trouble believing that myself.Sunday May 29, 1960Dad kicked me out of bed for an early start to the farm where the three of us put in A full day’s work. Uncle Art with cousins John and Norma Skeoch came up to thefarm later…Art and Dad, brothers, had a beer or two. Drive back to the city and went to Presbyterian Young People’s Society meeting as usual. Shiela Baird showedher slides of Europe and gave me some good addresses in Ireland. Went to Red Stevenson’s after…nice to have so many friends.Monday May 30, 1960HERE GOES. Lots of well wishers…address of Mrs. Langford in Glasgow…Doris gave me $2…Mr. Cook (Dad’s gambling buddy) drove me to the airport…Doug and Harry therefor send off, gave me that rosary which made us all laugh…overweight $60,75. Met a Boy Scout/Rover Scout from Sarnia. Nice greeting from TCA stewardess. And takeoff to New York. Fantastic airport. KLM (Royal DutchAirlines) had a man meet me and escort to KLM terminal. Luggage did not follow though. I did have a bit of time to explore then boarded at 6.25 p.m. in a rush…got window seatwith no window. Flight will take 9 hours. Dutch are very friendly, always smiling.Tuesday May 31, 1960I did not get a wink of sleep all night hemmed in by young children on all sides…some kicking…John, Henry and Raymond were assumed to be my children which was quite a shock…do notremember name of the other one. Suddenly a new world opened up to me…made me think.FLASH OF MEMORY #!
So many things were whirling through my head….fragments of the past that were so meaningful.Village of Mauchline about 1900…Kilwinning might have been same in 18441) My Great Great grandparents had boarded sailing vessels at Kilwinning, a port notfar from Prestwick airport. They did so in 1844 and 1846…Agnes Skeoch sailed for Canada first along with three of her children…Jame. James and David Skeoch, boys were so full of energywhile crossing the Atlantic that their aunt Margaret feared they would be swept overboard. Agnes Skeoch husband came two years later in 1846 Robert Skeoch with the rest of thechildren. Why didn’t they cross together? I have no idea, perhaps the other children were just too young. And the bigger question, why did they decide to leave Scotland? We have no family records to suggest distress or starvation. They were lucky. The Cholera pandemic hit Scotland in 1847 brining horrific death rates as described later.
2) As our plane circled to touch down the green fields of the Scottish lowlands emerged. The Skeochs, according to letters saved by my Aunt Elizabeth, had afarm somewhere below…perhaps near Stevenston…or Mauchline. Less clear since there are no records to prove it is the possible connection with the longgone village of Skeoch near Stirling where family legend states two orphan boys were found on the battlefield of Bannokburn in 1415. The boys were placed with the convent of St. Skeoch, anobscure Irish Saint of the 9th century. We think it was a convent but could have been a monastery. No matter, the legend says the boys were named by the mother superior.. James and JohnSkeoch. Where was the convent? Who was St. Skeoch? Assuming the place was a convent, where was that convent? Was it in the village of Skeoch? Was the story even true? Perhapsa core of truth. (*In 2o19 I found the Chapel of St. Skeoch, a ruin about the size of a garage, a long way from here near Montrose, north of Edinubrgh. Nearby is the Rock of St. Skeoch (also named St. Stay)also called Elephant Rock. Seems a long way from the Bannockburn fields of the Skeoch Steading.)3) I wonder if the Skeochs back in 1840’s celebrated the poetry of Robbie Burns. Much of it was written about the land below me as the plane throttled down for a landing. Burns was awomanizer and his poetry gave eternal life to so many Scottish girls who once roamed these fields below…and had love affairs with Robbie. Did a Skeoch lass ever get involved?The Belles of Mauchline (excerpt…by Robbie Burns in 1784)Miss Miller is fine, Miss Markland’s divine,
Miss Smith she has wit, and Miss Betty is braw:
There’s beauty and fortune to get wi’ Miss Morton,
But Armour’s the jewel for me o’ them a’.4) Now sweeping over the Isle of Bute and here below is the Skeoch Wood almost enclosing the seaside town of Rothesay.5) And there to the North…distant… is the sprawling 62 square miles City of Glasgow. Long long ago in 1553 Sir John Skeocht (sometimees spelled Skewyhche0 was procurator of Glasgow. Procurator? An agent of the government perhaps in charge of the finances of Glasgow. Procurators in ancient times were officers of the Roman empire entrusted with managing the financial affairs of a province…agents of the Romanemperor. The word continued to be used long after the Romans vacated Britain. Was Sir John Skeocht a relative? What would the city be like. A family letter written in 1866 was not comforting. ” We too often see daily in our streets the degrading effects of alcohol; not to speak of the numberless cases which our eye never meets” (Walter SMITH 1866 TO Robert Skeoch, Fergus, Canada West)
I had a layover in Scotland…one night and part of two days. Was Scotland going to be like I expected? What did I expect? Bagpipes, tartans, Scots reciting the poetry of Robbie Burns.Those three things I knew were unlikely. Glasgow was about to open my eyes.FLASH OF MEMORY #2WORLD WAR TWO … GEORGE FREEMAN MAY HAVE LANDED HEREPrestwick was the touchdown point for Lancaster Bombers being ferried from North America to England in World War II…Hundreds to those planes came in here. Most made it acrossthe Atlantic non stop. One out of every ten, however, did not make it. That was an acceptable loss rate. The top military people in Great Britain were even prepared for a loss rateof 50%…one out of every two. They were just that desperate for Bombers to carry the war to German cities. So the big Lancasters made in Toronto and elsewhere in North Americawere ferried to Gander, Newfoundland…and Goose Bay as well. Then they were topped off with fuel and flown by civilian pilots, 168 of whom were women. One of these pilotswhose son I interviewed long ago gathered his crew together before each flight and asked one simple question. “If something fails, do you want me to go straight in or trya flat landing in the Atlantic?” Most crews said “straight in” because they new survival in the cold Atlantic was unlikely…perhaps only a few minutes before the biting cold of the watershut down the body. All those bombers leaving Gander landed here in Prestwick.The smaller aircraft…fighter plans…could not make the Transatlantic flight so semi-secret bases were built in Greenland for refuelling. These flights were also dangerous. Just tofind these two USAF bases was a chore. To land required skilled navigating up a long fiord, then making a sharp turn and fast descent to an airstrip hastily built in the 1940’s. ThoseGreenland Bases are now empty. Have been so since 1945 when US forces just pulled out fast and left much behind. They are unreachable ghost bases readily identifiableby the rusting hulks left behind.ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Prestwick-aircraft-283×214.jpg 283w, ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Prestwick-aircraft-295×222.jpg 295w, ww2today.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Prestwick-aircraft.jpg 800w” sizes=”(max-width: 595px) 100vw, 595px”>In 1945 Prestwick was the touchdown point in Britain after the long flight from Gander, Newfoundland.Not all the planes leaving Gander landed safely. One out of ten disappeared. A few that had enginetrouble were able to land in Greenland, But finding the semi-secret landing strip was not easy forbig bombers. it was hard enough for spritely P 52’s, Mosquitoes and others.This Lancaster heavy bomber may have been made on the outskirts of Toronto. How can you tell that this is a veteran bomber and not the kind that were touching down inPrestwick?Our cousin, George Freeman, who I never remember meeting, was killed when his Halifax Bomber wasstitched with explosive shells from a German night fighter. George was a mid upper gunner with not muchchance to defend HX 313 – the Blonde Bomber, because night fighters liked to attach frombehind and under. His best friend, Victor Poppa, was the tail gunner. As HX 313 caught fire and beganits death dive, Victor was thrown out of the rear bubble and fell free. His parachute was only attached byone strap which he had to reach up above his head to yank the rip chord.How many of these heavy bombers were lost in the war? So many that, even today, I can hardly believethe number. Avro Lancaster bombers lost totalled 4,171. Handly Page Halifax bombers lost totalled 2,627.And with these losses were thousands and thousands of young men. The Lancaster Bombers picturedabove were being repaired, prepared, refuelled in readiness to fly to the Pacific after 1945. That neverbecame necessary once the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.,The is what the abandoned Greenland base, called Blue West 1, looks like today.Leakage from these barrels colours the water trickling into the fiord.TOUCHDOWN AT PRESTWICK, SCOTLAND MAY 31, 1960Scotland first class lounge 1960…where I caught flight with Are Lingus to IrelandWe landed at Prestwick which to me was a bleak barren place Seemed like the bleakness of war was still being fought.Prestwick did not share that fate of Blue Base 1 in Greenland, i.e. abandoned and forgotten.. The reverse happened to Prestwick as the former military base became a bustling international airport.But not a fancy airport in 1960…just 15 years after the end of World War II.
GUESS WHAT? Elvis Pressley landed here in March on his way to servewith American forces in Germany. He was received royally.My reception was not as welcoming. No sleep on the airplane made me very dozeand I fell to sleep on the hour long bus ride to Glasgow.Downtown Glasgow was not what i expected. The city buildings are layered with a century’s worth of coal dust whichI had expected a city much like Toronto with lots of open space and modern buildings. Trees and parks.Glasgow was the reverse of these expectations. Barren…never saw a tree. Somehow I had to get to an address outside my hotel (St. Enoch). With help from many locals, i managed to get heading in correct direction by subway.Stone staircases in the tenements were worn, dark, damp and disconcerting…as above.GLASGOW in 1960 was one of the most poverty stricken cities in England, perhaps Europe. Families were crammed into dreary blackened stonetenements that stretched as far as my eyes could see. This family pictured above is keeping warm in front of their coal burningcast iron combined furnace and cook stove. It is hidden by their wet laundry. Most of these tenements had no running water andthe toilets were small brick buildings in the rear of the tenements. Others may have had running water but families shared toilets.I was there in 1950 just as slums were being cleared and replaced with tall apartment style buildings with running water.It was very dreary. Shocking! My warm reception by a nice elderly lady almost made my eyeswater. There was a social life in spite of the poverty.Demolition of these stone built tenements was just getting underway in 1960 and continued through the next few years.At some point local authorities realized the old buildings were worth rescuing and modernizing but in 1960 that was givenlittle thought.This picture, taken in 1960 shows the stone tenement ‘back yards’ with theback built outdoor toilet.
Each apartment had these cast iron cooking and heating units built into a chimney system.BACK TO MY JOURNALTuesday May 31, 1960 (continued)Today was one of those unforgettable days that get burned into memory the details of which when told could be upsetting.Why upsetting ? Because my words may seem arrogant. They are not intended to be such, The cityof Glasgow was a shock to me, a 22 year old Canadian raised in a working/middle class part of Toronto. Before leavingToronto, a great many people were interested in my summer job… no people moreso thant our next door neighbours,the Hobsons who had recently emigrated from Scotland. They rented the third floor of the house next door and were overjoyedto be in Canada but at the same time a bit homesick“Alan, you must visit my mother in Glasgow.”“One night layover before flight to Dublin.:’“Grand…you will have time then. She would love th see you.”“How will she know?”“I phoned her last night to tell her…she wants you to come for supper.”“Terrific.”And so the visit was planned. I would drop in on Mrs. Langdon for a short visit. KLM had already given me tickets formeals at St Enoch hotel along with ferry service from Prestwick to Glasgow. Had a shave and converted some money to Britishpounds then had a luxurious meal in the hotel dining room before venturing in search of Mrs. Langdon. That was the upside.The downside was Glasgow’s grime reflected in faces of people on the street. A fast judgment and hopefully wrong. I decidedto ride the “Underground” rather than take a taxi. Twice I got off and climbed to the surface just to see “what suburban Glasgowlooked like”. Depressing. Seemingly endless black tenements. No trees, no grass…no cheerfulness. Found Mrs. Langdon’sbuilding and climbed the dark stone stairway to her floor. Knocked and received a joyous welcome.“Come in, Alan, I’ve heard so much about you…and about Canada.”The apartment was tiny, perhaps two rooms…a bed room and the combined kitchen and living room atthe centre of which was a back cast iron coal burning stove which also served as a cooking facility.“You must be hungry!” I had just eaten a huge meal at St. Enoch Hotel but dared not say that fora special supper was underway.“I have a special meal for you…steak with a fried egg on top…a specialty.”“Looks wonderful.” My gut was already full but I somehow made room because I knew this was a greatoccasion for Mrs. Langdon. Her friends kept dropping by … Georgia and many others.Now the genuine warmth of this greeting almost made me cry. Grown 22 year old male. When I left Mrs. Langdon’splace the place seemed less bleak. The lyrics of “I belong to Glasgow” may not exactly fit this visit for there wasno alcohol involved but the spirit of the song fits perfectly.“I belong to Glasgowdear old Glasgow townThere’s something the matter with GlasgowCause it’s going roon and roonI’m only a common old working ladAs anyone here can seeBut when I get a couple of drink on a SaturdayGlasgow belong to me.”After dinner Mrs. Langdon and Georgia took me on a short tour of the Glasgow they knew best…oldchurches and old trams. What I could not help but notice and yet say nothing about was the sickly appearanceof so many of the people. How should I show gratitude? Without insulting my hostess?“Mrs. Langdon, the people at KLM gave me this pass for an evening dinner at St. Enoch’s, I will haveno time to use it. Could I give it to you? Otherwise it will be wasted.”“St. Enoch’s, now that is a grand place.”And just before I left Mrs. Langdon said a strange thing.“It’s too bad you have to leave tomorrow for you might like to have seen the Skeoch Wood?”“Skeoch wood?“Yes,it is a grand forest cheek to jowl with the seaside town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute”“A forest?”“Aye, forest still standing in spite of timbering…a castle inside the forest as well.”“Is it far from here?”“Not so far…a day trip for us. Ferry service to Rothesay.”Skeoch Wood, Rothsey, Isle of Bute, Scotland.(Idea of visiting the Skeoch Wood put in my mind May 31, 1960, Glasgow)When I went to bed in that “grand old hotel, St. Enoch’s” I had the feeling the events of this day, May 31, 1960,would last a lifetime. Both sides of Glasgow. The seamy, down at the heels, Glasgow that is so obvious. And alsothe upside of Glasgow that Mrs. Langdon showed me…warm, loving, laughing, unvarnished.OFF TO DUBLIN…JUNE 1, 1960flashbak.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2326675828_9b3774c5f0_b-300×195.jpg 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 709px) 85vw, (max-width: 909px) 67vw, (max-width: 1362px) 62vw, 840px” kioskedhash_production=”12042_789c0fc788c3ce28e43ff2fa453660d3″ data-kiosked-context-name=”kskdUIContext_675d431b9ffb884c4bfd59fd72288cec” apple-inline=”yes” id=”8F9A606C-E4D9-4F64-BA33-37A7CE80F763″ src=”http://alanskeoch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2326675828_9b3774c5f0_b.jpeg”>On June 1, 1960 I flew to Dublin Southern Ireland on an Aer Lingus flight.Alan SkeochApril 2019POST SCRIPT:IS GLASGOW A DANGEROUS CITY?In 2014, Glasgow was rated as one of the ten most dangerous cities in Europe.Glasgow gangs were notorious in 1960…called razor gangs in earlier decades when strait razors were the weapons of choice. I never came acrossthem. Never felt in danger. Did feel depressed by the poverty.. The People spoke nicely to me, gave directions, made me feel welcome. I was not looking for trouble. I was Sober.It was daylight.The situation could have changed dramatically had I shown support for either the Celitc or Ranger football clubs. Violence was easily triggered by an offhand remark like “Are you a Ranger or Celtic?”The City of Glasgow. even today in 2019, is sectioned off … The Celtic Football Club draws Catholic and Irish supporters. The Rangers draw Protestant and British supporters.Ranger and Celtic fans share strong yet opposite religious convictions. Hate each other though neither groups are likely to beseen in churches. Hard to believe.“How dangerous is Glasgow?”Here are some of the responses:“Glasgow is not at all dangerous…it is one of the friendliest place in Scotland.The social life is amazing. The banter is wicked and you will never run outa friends.As for dangerous, everywhere has their ‘not so great’ areas…”“Glasgow is extremely dangerous if you want to corner a slice of the heroin trade or licensed taxi trade. Otherwise it is fine….There’s a lot of fun to be had…”“Glasgow is dangerous to your health. The traffic exhaust and the cigarettes will kill you before any of the people will do you harm. The people are wonderfully friendlyjust used the same common sense in Glasgow that you use in your own city…”“Glasgow is violent…” Murder rate is higher than London, a much larger city, and the murder rate in Glasgow is more than twice the national average.”“Glasgow is a crime hotspot with three times as much crime as the Scottish average. Violence is where Glasgwegians excel. Drug related crime is twice the national average.They are twice as likely to carry offensive weapons. They also encourage sectarianism …”
“Glasgow has four of the most deprived areas in the UK.”
“My family and friends have lived in Glasgow all of our lives and have never had any experience with crime.”
“I don’t know how many fights I’ve got into. Lost count.”
“Most places are safe except for the Hen Beaters Arms
. Don’t go there.”
TO Miss Margaret Watt,Guelphc/o James Wylie, GaltCanada WestKilwinning, 5th April, 1849My very dear friend,We would have answered your letter long ere now had it not been of my brother George’s illness and Death which has made a sad blank in our family. He was in Dalry as a doctor and had good Practise but the labour was too sore on his constitution which gradually gave way and was more or less in trouble for 15 months. He was in sore trouble but made no complaint. He said it was of (no) use to complain. He came to us about a month afore his death. His death took place on the 21st December last. His trouble began with … enlargement of the liver and ended in Dropy (?) Painful as our case is there has been cases of a more depressing nature in our place. James Kirkwood Inn (?) his mi… at a Little Drang… One morning he went …to his shop and hanged himself. And James Brown in Glasgow cutted his throat and was buried here. This is Janet Brown’s son and old Janet is dead also and Old Margaret Woodside died this week. Mrs. James Service (of) Glasgow died last week and Old Robert has died also and Mrs. Love in Kilbride, your mother’s cousin. And John M(?)iller, your fathers cousin in Saltcoats. His death took place under rather painfull manner. He went to Ireland(?) with his brother James. He left the ship one morning and was never more heard of. William Jack in Townheed (Townshend?) that is John’s brother is dead. Old Mary Janis fell in the fire and was burned to death, and Joseph King’s wife is dead also. Your cusing (cousin?) daughter Mary Ferguson is dead. His death was very distressing. Doctor Brown gave her a Pother (potion? Polter?) and she never a wake but sleepet away. Our town and neeberhood has been visited with the pestilence which have carried a great number of our town people away. We will name …full of the many that is carried of. Matthew Patterson that is Jean Bickets man with a five hours illness. James Small, Sae Mill David Tumbrie that wrought on the hoods(?) also his wife and son all with a five hours illness and Margaret …daughter of the William Allan Smith and Jean Dickie , Miller Dickies daughter and John Baillie … Brae and Andrew Service and old Mrs. Clark that is the Late John Clark’s wife and … Young and Old Mirvin young and Ann Craig, Decon Dunlop’s weedow (widow?) and … Dick and Helin Brown – Dr. Brown’s Doghter and Jean McClane came to wate on him died of it also. Andrew White and Margaret Hanna his wife and John his brother. All these died in a few hours illenes (illness) . It commenced at the … (iron?) works the week after the New year, and … (exited?) the town a week afterwards. Above 60 died at the … works above 50 in our town. Let Ann Allan know that James Cowel and Elizabeth Allain his wife died in a farmhouse illense (illness?) at Irvine. All the above is of Cholera. Geory(?) Jena good-mother Elin Biggart in Stevens(t?)on also died of Cholera. All the surrounding towns as as bad as Kilwinning. Mr. Watson died at Polock-shas(?) of Cholera. He was late scool-master in Byers(Byens?). he went into the Established Church of Scotland.There was prayer meetings at the time of the Cholera… The town had a strange appearance the time of Cholera you would not have (hardly?) seen a person on the streets at night.
I ommited to menson (mention) Elizabeth Allan’s death after a long illness. The late William Allan clock maker daughter. LetAnn Allan know that there is a great change in his uncle James Famly. … George and Robert are all dead.Yours trulyJean Whyten.b. Write us soon.
Fwd: UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER OF 1960: URANIUM 235, CAN MET MINE, ELLIOT LAKE, ONTARO
THE UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER OF 1960
( HOW DOES A SUMMER JOB CONNECT TO A U.S. AIR FORCE B 52 NUCLEAR BOMBER ANDAN ABANDONED MINE IN ELLIOT LAKE, ONTARIO?…AND, PERHAPS CANS OF TOMATO SOUP?}
Note: Answer the short question at the end of this article…re tomato soup
ARMED United States SAC (Strategic Air Command) B 52 nuclear bomber in flight.
Pebbly Conglomerate pillar preventing the ceiling of Can Met Uranium Mine from collapsing…Elliot Lake, Ontario 1960
Monday May 9, 1960
Reported to the office today…long TTC trip from west Toronto to 1490 O’connor Drive. Another summer in the bush no doubt.
Last year in Western Alaska was a real adventure . Two Sikorsky S52’s, a 30-06 rifle and expected to know how to run
a Turam Geophysical instrument. Three big events that bowled me over.
Where to this year? Barrie Nichols told me over the phone to prepare for Arizona. Hot place, I thought. Full of snakes was the
next thought so I hot footed down to the library to bone up on rattlesnake bites. According to a book if the rattlesnake sinks his
fangs into a leg, then encourage bleeding. Suck the venom and blood out of the wound right away. Yuck! How can I suck
the blood out of my own leg. Only some wiz bang yoga guru can do that. Got to get a snake bite kit from the company if
they expect me to go to Arizona. Nice part about Arizona would be the absence of black flies, moose flies, deer flies…maybe.
Certainly will have lots of these blood sucking bastard mosquitoes. Malaria? Wonder if they carry malaria. Look on the up
side, Al, they made a lot of good western movies in Arizona with John Wayne. Hi-yi-yipppy-yi-yay. Arizona here I come.
“So, Barrie, I am all ready for Arizona…got big hat like John Wayne.”
“Change in plans, Alan…”
“Change?” (not another Groundhog River ordeal…no, no, no!)
“Ireland, Alan, get your bag packed for Ireland.”
“What about my snake bite kit?”
“No snakes in ireland, Alan.”
“Right…funny that I spent last night in the library checking out rattlesnakes.”
Spent the rest of the day getting my papers ready…passport, etc. then phoned
Marjorie and mom to let them know about this Ireland adventure.
Tuesday , May 10, 1960
“Alan, hope you remember how to use the Turam, Ronka and an electrical resistivity outfit?”
But deep down I was not that confident. Last summer in Alaska, there were five us running
the Turam. I was just a helper to Bill Morrison who knew everything about the Turam. We were
a two man field crew…the other two man crew were Don Van Every and ian Rujtherford…the three
of them seemed to know all about the Turam. I was just learning. But I made good notes and watched
the set up system. Now a year later those guysare gone and suddenly I am top man. I thought it was only in war time that a private gets boosted to
an officer because all the officers are dead.
“Crate all the stuff up…we’re shipping it by boat to Dublin today.”
So we weighed, measured, labelled, itemized a pile of stuff. Enough to fill 8 crates…then had to get
Eric and I went to a movie show that night after I got Rev. Currie to sign my passport papers.
Wednesday May 11, 1960
Picked up the Turam from Charley Houston and had new crates made.
Then Dr. Paterson…Norm…said, “Alan, get ready to go to Blind River tomorrow…you will be going
underground at an Elliot Lake uranium mine…mine has been shut down…you will be the last human
beings down in the cage.”
“What about Ireland?”
“Still going there so make sure you fill out that list for Irish Customs.”
Phoned Marjorie in North Bay…We are a couple…love her…but no time to
stop in North Bay on way to Elliot Lake.
Thursday May 12, 1960
Nailed the top on the last crate. Found a Ronka EM manuel to study. No time for lunch or
even a cup of coffee. Packed draughting supplies and resistivity outfit for the Blind River/Elliot Lake job.
In evening I went to Scout meeting and the Rover Crew gave me a Rosary for protection in Ireland.
Mom and Eric dropped me off at the West Toronto train station for Blind River.
Wednesday May 13, 1960Wonderful night sleeping in a birth on the train…even better waking up to a sumptuous breakfast as a panorama ofCanada whirled by. Sudbury appears like face of the moon…depressing. Studied Ronka manual…best to know whatI might be expected to know. Got off train in Spragge, a place that looks like it sounds, then took taxi to Elliot Lake.Impression? Bad. Abandoned trailer camps, repossessed vehicles in car dealers, even more cars stripped naked.The boom days of Elliot Lake are over. Is it a good thing that the need for uranium has tapered off or a bad thing?Either way Elliot Lake is no longer a boom town…now a bust town…heading to become a ghost town. We will livein a CanMet guest house, very modern. CanMet mine once employed 1,000 men but has now been stripped to a workforceof 70. We only saw less than 10. Apparently the mine has just been kept open long enough for us to complete our survey.We will eat our meals in an immense empty dining hall once operated by the caterer Crawley and McKraken. One of themen assigned to us, Harry McGinnis, said waitresses were expected to do double duty as hookers. Probably another mining story that hasbeen inflated. Suppose the prostitute story could be true though. Which reminded me of an age old comment aboutsuccessful mining ventures. “If the hookers arrive, you know the mine is going to open.”
We tested the Ronka on the beach of a lake above the mine. Apparently the lake is now leaking into the mine stopes and shafts.We will see if that is true as we will be going down the shaft in the case tomorrow. Abandoned machinery here and there.
Dateline Friday May 13, 1960
“What is happening here?”“Do you mean what is happening to Elliot Lake?”“Yeah…This was supposed to be a boom town…instead I see a lot of stripped cars and House For Sale signs…and not many people wandering around.”“If you read the papers or listened to the news, you would know what has happened?“Too much Uranium 235 around? Radioactive town?”‘Don’t be silly…that U 235 is rare…maybe only a few of those atoms in a pound of uranium…No danger here except maybe the tailings ponds.”“Town feels depressed.”“Population moving out…once had 24,000 people…dropping…lucky if 7000 will remain.”“How come?”“The Yanks just said they would not renew the contract after 1962.”“Why?”“Cheaper uranium;m in a Saskatchewan mine”“Maybe, the Yanks already have 18,000 nuclear weapons…ought to be enough…”(NOTE: Not So, by 1965, the US nuclear arsenal reached higher than 20,000…since then it has been markedly reduced)Atom bomb testing was in full swing in 1960. Many detonated on the deserts of the American Southwest. All of themusing enriched uranium from the mines located at Elliot Lake, Ontario…nicknamed our ‘Atomic City’
“Who knows he truth? I know one thing…”“What’s that?”“The Cold War is still on big time.”“Right…get reminders every day…”“Yep, those Christly big B 52’s are over us every day…way up high…can see their con trails across the sky.”“And they are carrying Atom bombs using Elliot Lake uranium 235.”“Why do you always but that 235 in the conversation.”“Because that kind of uranium makes the bombs…U 235 is an unstable uranium atom…easier to knock around and loosen some neutrons…that’s whatmakes the atom bomb work, you know that of course.”“Heard it often but cannot understand how a few fractured atoms the size of peppercorns let loose enough power to blow cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki off the map…kill thousands.”“Apparently there are 100 pounds of uranium in each atomic bomb but only 1 pound is fissile…”“Fissile? New word to me.”“Means it is capable of nuclear fission…capable of the big bang you might say.”“What happens to the rest of the uranium.”“Turns somehow to radioactive dust…nasty stuff…lasts forever.”Deep underground at Can Met mine was eerie. Absolute silence. Absolute darkness…exceptfor the occasional explosive release of a roof bolt and collapse of a piece of the rock ceilingsomewhere in the blackness. The rock/ore was quite beautiful as you can see in the glareof my flashbulb.
“Have you ever seen uranium?”“Nope.”“Well, we are about to see a lot of it at Can Met.”“I thought the mine was empty.”“No mine is ever empty.”“Why not?”“How do you think the roof of mine is held up?”“Wooden timbers?”“Long ago that may have been the case but not now. Roof of the mineis held up by great thick pillars of rock….most of which contains ore.Pull those pillars and the whole goddamn mine will collapse…as you will see.”“As I will see?”“Yep, a lot of the pillars in Can Met have already been pulled. The mine is finished…you will likelyhear parts of the mine imploding…bloody dangerous place.”“Why are we going down there then?”“Beats me.”“Looking for minerals in a mine that is collapsing…makes no sense.”“I think we are just going down there to test the Ronka E.M. unit…to see how it works whensurrounded by mineralization…maybe not…to tell the truth I am just following orders … not sure why we are going down in the cage.”“Too modest, Alan.”
“Not so…do not get some kind of inflated idea of my role…I was just an instrument man…not a decision maker…best image mightbe a “fly on the wall” but there were no flies down at the bottom of the mine…could not see one anyway as it was pitch black…
This is our crew getting ready to do a Ronka EM survey deep in Can Met Uranium Mine. A mine engineerwhose name I have lost is giving directions so we would not get lost in the darkness. That might be mewearing the Ronka hoop which was composed of tightly wound copper wire.IS ELLIOT LAKE A DANGEROUS PLACE..RADIOACTIVE?Elliot Lake was the poster boy of a boom town. In 1953, uranium was discovered…lots of it. More uranium than anywhere else in the worldjust a few hundred feet below the network a sparkling clean lakes and rolling forested hills of this Shangri la of Northern Ontario.Lots of uranium found just at the time when the US was about to feverishly build atomic bombs as defence against a possible World War III against the Soviet Union.By 1960, when we were dropped deep into the stinking depths of Can Met Uranium mine, the United States had built over 18,000 atomic bombs using Elliot Lakeuranium. The population zoomed to 25,000 by 1959 with 9 mining companies in operation.This is the ‘dry’ at Can Met, a hot air room in which miners hung their mine clothing on hooksthat were then drawn to the ceiling.Can Met Mine had a short 4 year life, 1957 to 1960, and in that time processed 2.5 million tonnes or with a uranium content of between 2 and 3 lbs per tonne.Early atomic bombs contained 10 pounds of enriched uranium 235…only 1 lb of which detonated. The blast from an atomic bomb was created when the unstable Uranium 235 atoms were split thereby releasinga vast amount of energy by a chain effect atom splitting. I know that is hard to understand. How can such a small knocking around of Neutrons release such a vast amount of energy.Even scientists in the 1960’s were nonplussed. “I am become death, the shatterer of worlds,” quoted scientist Robert Oppenheimer.“The unleash power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe,” said Albert Einstein. Theywere both correct.
IN 1960, I was just a kid with an exciting assignment. A chance to explore an empty and collapsing mine deep down in the bowels of the earth.Now how many people get a chance to do that? In our case there were only five of us decending in the battered cage at Can Met uranium mine. After us The minewas to be totally abandoned to the forces of nature. Gravity would cause the mine ceilings to fail…to implode. Water was seeping into the nooks and crannieswhere collapse had not or would not occur. The mine was dead and dangerous. And, God it was exhilarating to be down there. An adventure to last alifetime. I slipped a small chip of uranium carrying ore into my pocket and still have it 59 years later.. Very pretty. Perhaps a little radioactiveas well. Only 1% of the uranium ore was the unstable U 235 so he danger was minimal. And we would only be underground for a few days even ofthe radioactivity readings were three times what is considered safe…i.e. a count of 293, far above the 100 safe level. Or so I was told. Sounded like bull shitto a 22 year old optimist.Exposure proved far more dangerous to the men whose jobs involved 8 hour underground shifts five days a week for years and years. Little was saidof these dangers at the time. Miners, most of them, did not think long term. Paycheck to paycheck. Good pay checks. The need for raw uranium to feed the military needsof the Cold War trumped any protest. The atom bombs were moreimportant than human health. And the mining jobs paid well. Elliot Lake was a boom town for a few years…miners flocked there by the thousands, manyof them new Canadians. Some renamed the town “Atomic City”, a name that had no tragic overtones. Houses were built as fast as possible many of themusing the rock waste from the mine itself as foundation stone. Houses whose foundations were so radioactive that large air conditioning fans were eventually installed beneaththe floors. Worse, however was the discovery that Elliot Lake miners had twice as many cases of lung cancer deaths than average…81 deaths as opposed to45 in a control group. “It is certain that exposure to radon leads to an increased risk of lung cancer,” wrote investigators. It was the Steel Workers Union of Americahowever that took action in 1976 when their man, Paul Falkowski, stated, “If anybody does not like to go to the hospital with lung cancer, he should have avery close looks the Elliot Lake situation before he signs on.”High pay muted any concerns. Mining was a dangerous occupation where risk of injury or death was just accepted as normal. So whyget worked up over high levels radon gas? There were no government warnings. It was only late in the life of Elliot Lake that Mr. Falkowski, the union activist, came totown with dire warnings about long term lethal consequences.Better to revel in life of the boom town where a car salesman could sell 13 cars a day, every day.And if the dealership stayed open at night the sales could double.As with all mining boom towns, men far outnumbered women in Elliot Lake in the late 1950’s. Ten men for every woman. Pimps were fast to see opportunityin that imbalance and prostitutes were moved into town as fast as the cages full of young miners went up and down. The prostitutes were housed in trailers thatcould be moved around whenever police seemed troublesome. Even trucks became moving brothels. Hookers activity was so blatant that on mine payday trucks would back right up to themine buildings offering sex services without delay. And if the police showed up, the tail gates were swung up and the truck driver would look for another spot.Elliot Lake was the reverse of the rock tune “I don’t get no satisfaction…” Quite the reverse song might have been hollered…”We all get our satisfaction atthe cage door.”Then in 1959, just a year before we arrived for our short visit, the winds of change began to blow. The United States announced it would buy no more uranium from Elliot lake after 1962. Elliot Lake’s boom became a bust almost overnight. Hence the Trailers abandoned along with cars stripped of anything valuable and left as hulks began to appear.Elliot Lake did not die completely. There was a short need for uranium for CANDU reactors and Ontario Hydro nuclear electricity installations. But not enough. By the 1990’s the last two operating mines in Elliot LakeDenison Mines and Rio Algom also closed down. The uranium ore had been depleted and the demand for uranium was no longer strong.
Elliot Lake avoided becoming a boom town when the communityattracted retired persons that move to the town by the bargain prices for the former mine community homes.Back to my journal now…May 14, 1960Can Met Uranium mine is almost abandoned We will be the last human beings to enter the bowels of the earth and see the gravesite of a uranium mine that cost 25 million dollars to open in 1957 and closed thisyear, 1960, never having made enough money to cover costs. Four years. I wonder how many atomic bombs were made from the 2.5 million tonnes of raw uranium ore blasted and scraped from the walls?Apparently 2 to 3 kg. of raw uranium were recovered per tonne of ore. Estimates are that each atomic bomb contains 100 lbs of uranium so there was enoughuranium to make many atomic bombs. Why did the United States not renew the contract? Not because pressure to end the madness of the Cold War, that’s for sure. Cheaper uranium mineswere found in Saskatchewan was the big reason.Can Met Uranium Mine had passageways that were wide and high. Enough roomfor front end loaders and Tip cars to function with ease. All passageways had oncebeen lit with electric lights. These were gone when we went down. But lurking in the darknesswere many abandoned vehicles like those picture above. It was a bit frightening whenthe cones of light from our headlamps suddenly revealed these machines
The cage was just that…a big cage capable of carrying small bulldozer down or a shift of miners up. Except for us it was empty. Harry McGinnis was our cageman, guide, and entertainer.. Decending was
disconcerting but not nearly as scaryas the mine runways and stopes. Today We descended at 8 a.m. and did not resurface until 12 p.m. The last scoop mobile ferried us from one point to another eventuallywe completed 293 determinations with the Ronka E.M. unit. Our head lamps shot out cones of light that made the blackness quite sinister. Every sense was disturbing.
Sight? We saw wallsblack with carbon beneath which was the pebbly conglomerate that held one or two percent Uranium. Once in a while. two or three large machines were revealed. Hulks. “Too old to besaved…they…stay down here as she fills with water. Quite frightening really when a cone of light suddenly reveals an immense yellow mine machine.
Sound? Most of the time no sound whatever. Then there would be a loud bang as a roof bolt gateway. Or, worse, a dull but powerful boom as some roof collapsed in s stope. Some sounds wereclose by but most were distant.Smell? There was a damp smell of water mixing with spilled oils or other unknown chemicals.Taste? Might be imaginary but there seemed to be a metallic mouldy taste in the air.Touch? A kind of wet slime on the walls as the water from the lake far above us was working its way down into the mine. Some low spots were now filledand we had to wade our way along.
Some of the mining machines were brought back to the surface for use by the nearby Denison Mine.I have no idea what this machine did underground but note two points: 1) It has a very lowprofile which suggests it worked in the stopes and may have been a machine that helped loosen ore.2) Imagine this machine fitting into the ‘cage’ that took miners down. Much too big for the cagewe used so how this machine got down the mine is a bit of mystery. Probably lowered in parts andthen put back together. If this was so, why did it come back up in one piece?
May 15, 1960Our temporary home is the former staff and guest house intended for high company officials. Luxurious. But never used much and now vacant. Can Met built this guest lodge, a large bunk house forsingle males, 22 houses for families, and a milling complex. All dominated by two winding towers for two shafts. All now abandoned. “Pearsons” was A local name for the homes as many felt Elliot Lake had beenabandoned by Prime Minister Lester Pearson.This is the Can Met Exective Lodge. A building that had hardly be used…fully filled with period furniture of the 1960’s. Buildings like this were built for minerswith families while single men lived in larger bunk houses. In 1960 a great many of these homes were boarded up with sheets of plywood. In the town ofElliot lake there were many homes that had been built privately by residents. On the hung For Sale signs but there were no bidders. Many people lost muchwhen the town mines closed.We went underground again at 8 a.m. today. Five of us. Bob McConnell, Alan Peglar, Joe Weber, Harry McGinnis and me (Alan Skeoch). The mine is quite spacious, enough room for scoop mobiles to pass each otherin the main passageways. One of these scoop machines was provided for us to travel on he main haulage way to the eastern border of the mine. This scoop was the last moving vehicle in the mine. There weremany other machines stuffed into the stopes on each side of the haulage way. Dead machines. Seemed like driving through a graveyard, underground, with coffins on all sides. Absolute silence brokenoccasionally by loud BANGS!These roof bolts are much smaller than those in Can Met and the wooden pieces were iron slabs inCan Met. But, as in all modern mines, roof bolts like these helped hold up the ceilings.“What was that?”“Roof bolts giving way…she’s collapsing you know,” said our guide Harry McGinnis.“How come?”“They pulled a lot of the pillars as they moved out…got as much high grade as they could.”“Thought we were down here to see if the mine could be saved.”“Where did you get that idea? No mine can be saved if the pillars are pulled.”“Nothing to hold up the ceilings in the stopes?”“Not a damn thing…maybe I can get my mother in law down here to do that.” (Harry hadan odd sense of humour, more of which we would hear.)“Look over there.”“Pile of rock?”“Yep, that’s where one of our shift bosses got telescoped.”“Telescoped?”“Yeah, the big chunks just folded him up like a telescope. Dead. Stone dead.”“Was that common?”“One of the cat drivers drove right into the “grizzly”…mashed him to a pulp.“What’s a ‘grizzly’?”“A crusher…takes or ore and smashes it into little bits that go up top on conveyor belt.”“Grizzly as in grizzly bear, right?”“Harry has his own names for just about anything.”I slipped This tiny piece of ore into my pocket in 1960 and have kept it ever since to remindme just how surreal this Elliot Lake job became. I was never sure why we went down in that mine.The uranium is hidden away in what is called a pebbly conglomerate. Shiny. No, youcannot see any uranium. To get uranium it would be necessary to give this chip a bathin Sulphuric acid to dissolve the mineral…and then a secondary bath in ammonia to precipitate outthe uranium only 1% of which would be U 235…radioactive form. But it is from pieceslike this in my hand that atomic bombs are made.Note: What does ‘fissile’ mean? It means that this rare U235 of uranium will explodein a nuclear chain reaction when brought to a critical mass.We had our lunch on a big flat piece of rock in a stope that was sealed off by a sign, “Dangerous”.Lunch was gritty…or seemed so.May 16, 1960A motor generator for the Turam was scheduled to arrive in Sprague this morning. So we did our draftingwhile Harry entertained us with stories about Can Met. He spoke with humour and emphasis.Whether truth was present as well was not clear.“Can Met spent $36,000 on air conditioning that never worked.”“There are $50,000 jumbos that sat underground and were never used.”“The haulage ways and stopes are filled with abandoned mine equipment.”Mac, Joe and I set up our motor generator and laid out our spread wire through the mine intoparts were we had to crawl through piles of rubble from roof bolt collapse. I am beginning tothink this Can Met adventure is meant to show the people from Denison Mines that our TramEM units are trustworthy and can discover underground conductors. So there may be a connectionto the upcoming job in Ireland. Maybe Denison execs just want some kind of proof. But I haveno idea why we are down here.Joe Weber is a former Nazi released in 1953 from some sort of prison for war criminals. He lovedtelling me stories about expensive errors made by Can Met Executives…called it a company foundedupon greed. Strange he would do this as Can Met is his employer. Then again he would soon losehis job as happened to most Can Met miners. I suppose some of them were transferred to the mainDenison uranium mine which was nearby and still functioning. While others were just let go.We continued to be entertained by Harry McGinnis who nicknamed the Can Met warehouse as“the whorehouse” since “each time you go there for a part or machine, you get screwed.”“There are $50,000 worth of spare parts for a nonexistent machine.” True or not? I do notknow but find it suspicious that the figure $50,000 is used often. “Stealing gas is common to thetune of $1,500 a month.” I wonder if these stories are just being said for my benefit.May 17, 1960Harry McGinnis was very drunk today when he arrived at our cook house. “Spent all night at theLegion.” The Legion turned out to be a shack built by his friends somewhere in the nearby bush.We went down in the cage at 8.30…rattled all the way down. Took some readings with theresistivity unit. Quickly finished and began hauling in the grounded cable. Walking alonein the blackness to the far corner of the mine is a bit frightening but also triggers curiosity.Joe Weber does not have a good word to say about anything or anybody…likely a resultof his war experience. We never probed that very deeply and he never offered an explanationas to why he spent the years from 1945 to 1953 in some kind of military prison. Best not known I guess.When I took a picture of the boys on the scoop, the flashbulb exploded. Somehow the walls ofthe mine amplified the noise making it soundl like a cannon or, worse, a roof bolt giving wayabove us.Harry spent some time criticizing the pope today and then turned back to his favourite subject, hismother in law who he described as having a personality ‘harder than a whore’s heart’.We ate lunch on top of what Harry called a ‘Portugeser’…a name that made no senseinitially.“Why is this large slab of rock called a Portuguesor?”“Good reason…see where it fell from the ceiling up there.?”“Yeah, big gash.”“Well, it fell down on a Portuguese … lots of them worked here … someof them are under these big pieces of rock…so we call them ‘Portuguesors’Truth or fiction? Hard to say.WHAT HAPPENED TO BEAR CUB LAKE?“WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THOSE LITTLE LAKES?”“What little lakes?”“Surely you remember them…lovely lakes…Williams Lake, Bear Cub Lake, Stollery Lake, Smith Lake and Long Lake?”
“They still exist in a way…but not as they were.”“Why?”“They became the Tailings Ponds for the chemicals used to get the uranium.”“Do you mean the Sulphuric Acid and Ammonia.”“Precisely…so much acid in the Tailing Ponds they need lots of fresh water.”“How long will that be”“Long long time. The Ponds are checked regularly for leaks but some treated effluentdoes drain off into Serpent River and then Quirke Lake. Tailing Ponds are one of thedown sides of the mining industry.”“Can people swim or fish in those lakes any more?”“Are you kidding. They are fenced off from the public even today…NO GO ZONES.Here is another mine machine rescued from Can Met. Behind it is a lake that was slowly percolating downinto the mine passageways and stopes. Not far away are other beautiful lakes which became lessbeautiful as more and more ‘tailings’ were piped into the waters. These Tailings ponds remain dangerousand have to be tested every year in case of leakage. Sulphuric acid washed to dissolve the uranium fromthe crushed ore. Then ammonia was used precipitate the uranium from the sulphuric acid solution. Oncethis was done and the uranium recovered the soup of sulphuric acid and Ammonia and other pollutantswere deposited in the tailing ponds resting there for all time.Is this Bear Cub Lake today?CONCLUSIONOur job is over. Still not sure why we were working underground in a mine thathad no future. It might have been a double kind of test. First, to see if the Turam and Ronkaworked…i.e. registered high readings in a place where high readings shouldbe expected. And second, maybe the Denison people wanted to see if I really knewwhat i was doing…i.e. they needed some kind of assurance before sending meto Ireland. Truth? Someone must know?Next stop was the village of Bunmahon, County Waterford, Southern Ireland. Aboveis a picture of Denison Mine Geologist John Hogan enjoying a pint of Guinness withme in Kirwin’s pub where we spent many evenings.No one will ever walk through these dark passages ever again. Can Met is a grave.alan skeochApril 2019A POST SCRIPT THAT MIGHT SCARE YOU…AS IT DOES METORONTO STAR, APRIL 11, 2019“IN his recent book, The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg argues that probably the greatest nuclear threat today is ACCIDENTAL nuclear war— that is, a false electronicalarm triggering a pre-emptive strike by either the U.S. or Russia. Over the years there have been a number of chilling close calls.”…”Trump is now heading in the oppositedirection, embarking on modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons.”Linda McQuaig,Toronto Star Columnist
static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-jumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp 1024w, static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-superJumbo.jpg?quality=90&auto=webp 2048w” sizes=”100vw” itemprop=”url” itemid=”https://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/11/13/us/00bomber-web1/00bomber-web1-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale”>The B 52 Stratofortress heavy bombers first rolled off the Boeing assembly line in 1953 and since then 744 have been made. In 1960, the year we were working for a few days underground in Elliot Lake, Boeing delivered106 brand new B 52’s to the American Strategic Air Command for service as a nuclear armed strike force should America be attacked by the Society Union. B 52 bombers were in the air all the time…i.e. some bomberswere always ready to strike back should a nuclear war be triggered. The B 52 could fly 85,000 miles in one mission. Really the only limit on the B 52 was the possible fatigue of its crew. Boeing eventually delivered744 of these heavy bombers to the USAF of which 76 are still operational today, many based in Minot, North Dakota. At the peak of the Cold War we could see B 52 contrails every day as they overflew Torontoat 50,000 feet. All were armed at that time with nuclear weapons many of which contained Uranium from Elliot Lake.The con trails of these B 52’s that caused us to build an air raid shelter in our cellar. And stock it with a dozen cans of tomato soup and one old studio couch and a potential pair of laundry tubs filledwith fresh water providing mom had time enough to fill these tubs. Silly? Pointless? Comforting? All of these. Would we let the neighbours and friends into our shelter in the event of nuclear war?’That was a big moral question at the time.“The B-52 is an Air Force plane that refuses to die. Originally slated for retirement generations ago, it continues to be deployed in conflict after conflict. It was the first plane to drop a hydrogen bomb, in the Bikini Islands in 1956, and laser-guided bombs in Afghanistan in 2006. It has outlived its replacement. And its replacement’s replacement. And its replacement’s replacement’s replacement.” New York Times
1) POST SCRIPT #1HIROSHIMA 1945When that Atom Bomb was dropped by the B 29 named Enola Gay on Hiroshima in 1945 the destruction of global civilization became a possibility as the United Statesand the Soviet Union began to mass produce nuclear weapons. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became familiar to all. When the first nuclear atom bomb exploded over Hroshima about99% of the uranium that was supposed to undergo a chain reaction did not do so. A very small percentage of the explosive (fissile) uranium, maybe 2% exploded while theremainder became radioactive dust. Deadly dust. How big was the explosive material? About the size of a peppercorn…7/10 of gram…the winght of a five dollar bill. That wasenough to level a two mile radius and kill 80,000 people. Did the uranium come from Elliot Lake? No. It was the sudden need for uranium after Hiroshima that made Elliot Lakethe uranium capital of the western world.STRONTIUM 90 AND THE 1950’SEnriched Elliot Lake uranium was used in the bombs that blew apart some islands in the South Pacific Ocean after similar explosions polluted parts of the American southwest.This ended when scientists such as Canadian Ursula Franklin detected Strontium 90 in her son’s baby teeth…radioactive fallout from above ground nuclear testing. The result?U.S. President John Kennedy negotiated with the Soviet Union a Nuclear Test Bomb Treaty banning above ground testing of nuclear weapons.The Test Bomb treaty did not end nuclear testing nor did it prevent the squadrons of B 52 bombers loaded with nuclear bombs from taking to the air each day so that in the event ofnuclear a surprise nuclear attack by the Soviets the airborne B 52’s could deliver a return devastation as so graphically portrayed in the film Dr. Strangelove. Elliot Lake was involvedin the bomb business until 1962 when the US found a cheaper source of uranium in Saskatchewan.As a high school kid in the 1950’s I can still remember the con trails of those B 52’s that regularly overflew Toronto high up in the sky. Like many other Canadians, I built an air raidshelter in our cellar…one old studio couch, a dozen cans of tomato soup and other cans pilfered from mom’s supplies. “Mom, if an A bomb happens, run down cellar and turnon he ware in the laundry tubs, fill both of them…we will need that water.” It was primitive effort. How could all four of us sleep on one narrow couch? What if a neighbour wanedin as the city burned? Where would we go to the toilet? What would we do when the water ran out? How could we cook the tomato soup? Where would we go to the bathroom?How could we be sure radioactive dust did not blow in from the cellar windows? Sounds silly, but in the 1950’s fear of nuclear Armageddon was as real as the nose on your face.As fate would have it, one summer job with HuntingTech and Exploration Services sent me as an instrument man helping Abul Mousuff do a seismic survey up and down the St John River Valley. One of our base lines passed right throughthe wooded area near Andover, New Brunswick where a B 52 crashed killing all crew except one who mysteriously was able to parachute. On that crash sit I picked up this smallpiece of melted aluminum that was once part of the B 52 fusillade. Fortunately that plane was on a training flight and was therefore not carrying nuclear bombs. Or so we were told.Other B 52’s also crashed in those years, one of which crashed in the eastern USA and the failsafe blocks all failed save one on a nuclear bomb.2019…PRESIDENT OF U.S.A. AND THE NUCLEAR BUTTONI put my fears on the back burner for the last 50 years. No one in his or her right mind would start a nuclear war? Right? And the main enemy during the Cold War had collapsed andmorphed into Russia and a whole mess of splinter states. So what’s there to worry about? Worry? I think a stronger term is needed…FEAR. Every time I see the President of theUnited States walking or talking, I cannot help but notice the man behind him. You’ve seen him as well no doubt. He is in a military uniform and carries a brief case. Ever wonderwhy he shadows President Trump so closely? Inside that brief case is a button. By pressing that button the President of the US can launch a massive number of nuclear rockets aimedat specific targets. At the same time 80 or more B 52”s crews will scramble and rumble down runways from bases in the Western defence perimeter. Then, perhaps a little later,nuclear submarines roaming the oceans of the world will launch another bevy of nuclear rockets.No one would be that stupid? How long does a US president have to make such a should destroying retaliation? Five Minutes! Let me put that in big type…FIVE MINUTES!The final decision rests with him alone. And that is major worry today since President Trump takes pride in being unpredictable, impulsive and often unable or unwilling to listento advice. My fears are not just mine. In an article titled Nuclear War Should Require a Second Opinion (Scientific American, August 1017, P.8) the editors wrote“In just five minutes an American president could put all of humanity in jeopardy…that’s how long would takeoff as many as 400 land-based nuclear weapons the US to loosed…afteran initial ‘go’ order.” Once launched there is now way to stop them for there is no self-destruct switches.One man, the President of the US decides. And he has five minutes to do so. All other aspects of this nuclear arsenal has checks lest a lunatic goes nuts. Long years ago we tookour boys to a desolate place in North Dakota. “Boys, behind that barbed wire fence where that concrete bunker noses above he ground, there are nuclear rockets encased in cement silos.Extremely dangerous. Somewhere nearby, invisible to us, are two men in a control room. Those rockets cannot be launched unless both get a “go” signal to do so. Two men who have beenchecked as mentally stable and responsible.” That fact is some comfort.Why then cannot the president of the United States have a failsafe scenario where he must consult some other person before pressing that Armageddon button? Get a second opinion in other words.This article by the editors of Scientific American is concerned because Donald Trump, President of the United States “aspires to be ‘unpredictable’ in how he would use nuclear weapons.”Now here is the big question. Should our family start buying cans of tomato soup?POST SCRIPT 2: B 52 CRASHES IN NEW BRUNSWICK IN 1957While we were doing this seismic survey across the soil where the B 52 crashed we heard several very strange storiesabout the crash. Was it an accident or was it madness…i.e. deliberate. How did one man manage to bail out? The finalreport on the crash is reassuring but is it correct?
Andover, NB Bomber Explodes In Flight, Jan 1957
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- New Brunswick |
- Air Disasters |
- 1957B52 EXPLODES IN FLIGHT; SEARCHERS FIND 7 BODIES.PILOT’S EYES SHIELDED IN TEST.Andover, N.B. (AP) — Frozen woodlands near here were searched today for one Air Force man still missing from the crew of an eight-engine B52 bomber which exploded in flight yesterday. Seven bodies were found and one man parachuted with minor injuries.
Hundreds of Air Force men, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and French – Canadian trappers and guides, warmly garbed against temperatures which went far below zero, hunted for the missing man.
A spokesman from the jet plane’s Loring Air Force base at Limestone, Maine, said the man may have parachuted. He said two parachutes were reported seen by residents of the area but that “they lost sight of one of them.”
The spokesman said Capt. RICHARD A. JENKINS, the commander of the craft and one of those killed, was at the controls, his head partially covered by a visor-type hood used in reflex tests. With the covering the pilot can see the instrument panel but cannot see outside the plane.
Six bodies were recovered in the wreckage or the deep snow yesterday. A seventh was found in part of the plane early today by searchers carrying portable lamps.
Several hours after the crash of the B52 jet bomber, an Air Force B29 crashed on landing at Bergstrom Air Force Base, near Austin, Tex., killing six crewmen and injuring three others.
The public information office at Loring identified five of the seven victims of the Andover crash as:Capt. RICHARD A. JENKINS, the aircraft commander, Huron, Ohio.
Capt. WILLIAM C. DAVIDSON, Stockton, Calif.
Capt. JOHN E. McCUNE, Hayward, Calif.
Capt. MARQUID H. D. MYERS, Tracy, Calif.
T. Sgt. RAY A. MILLER, Racine, Wis.
All were married and all but DAVIDSON had children.
The only known survivor was:
1st Lt. JOE L. CHURCH, Charlotte, N.C.
A spokesman at Loring said a team of Air Force flight safety experts from Norton AFB near San Bernardino, Calif., and officials of the Boeing Airplane Co., would take part in an investigation of the crash. Boeing builds the eight-million-dollar, swept-wing B52s.
Brig. Gen. William K. Martin, Loring Commander, said in a statement “an unusual maneuver may have resulted in exceeding the flight limitations of the aircraft.”
In Washington, the Air Force said the pilot was undergoing a reflex test wherein the flyer’s eyes are partly shielded and the plane put into an “unusual position. The pilot then must right the craft.
The Washington spokesman said the plane apparently had been “placed in a position beyond its capability.”
The plane was the fourth B52 lost by the Air Force on training flights since February 1956.