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OPINION: Another basket of curious tidbits from Sarnia’s past

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Randy Evans

TOP THIS – For Norm “Red” Armstrong, Dec. 15, 1962 was a day of firsts. The former Sarnia Legionnaire donned the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs and skated out into his first NHL game. His first shift came at 14:93 of the third period. Twenty-five seconds later he scored his first —and only — NHL goal.

DOUBLE RINGER – At the 1927 Royal Winter Fair, 18-year-old William Struthers won the Dominion Horseshoe Championship. The Sarnia teen’s photo and accomplishment was highlighted in Maclean’s magazine under the banner “Barnyard Golf.” Not one to rest on his laurels, Struthers repeated the accomplishment in 1930.

WHY BOTHER? – In 1884, Sarnia banker Michael Fleming was elected Mayor. Due to irregularities, the vote was voided in Court. However, Fleming prevailed by being acclaimed to the office.

DID HE KNOW TEDDY? – During the Spanish-American War of 1898, future U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt gained fame when he and his Roughriders rode up San Juan Hill. At the same time, the U.S. battleship Iowa was bombarding the City. On board was Sarnia’s Norman T. MacLean, the ship’s apothecary.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY – The Liquor Control Board of Ontario opened for business in 1927 in an effort to eliminate bootlegging. In an effort to soothe the fears of the province’s temperance folk, The Board’s Chairman David B. Hanna said the liquor stores were “No Feast of Belshazzar,” a Biblical reference to the Babylonian king who blasphemes against God.

MARKETING 101 – On Sept. 30, 1929, an airplane show of one dazzled the locals of the Imperial City. According to the Observer’s report, the final act was the dropping of “a cloud of paper airplanes advertising the chocolate products of the Lowney company.”

NO GUFF – In July of 1922, local Canadian Immigration official Hugh Fleming mailed a blown-up toy balloon to his nephew. With correct address and postage affixed, the balloon arrived intact in St. Marys.

ALL DRESSED UP AND … Speaking of letters, Sarnia’s very first mail service began in 1836 when one hearty soul trekked once a week to Chatham and back. A contemporary described the effort in the following words: “The roads were bad, in many cases not cut out. I have seen him arrive with the legs of his pantaloons nearly torn off from walking in the bush.”

ANOTHER MAIL STORY – On the front page of the Oct. 9, 1929 edition, The Observer reported on the death of Sarnia’s Charles George Major – a very early participant in the British Columbia Caribou Gold Rush of the 1860s. Maclean’s magazine describing Major as “pioneer whip” who drove the rush’s first stage coach for Barnards’s Express up the Caribou Wagon Road.

BRIDGE TO NOWHERE – Sarnians are quite familiar with the upright bridge hovering over the mouth of Port Huron’s Black River. Spanning 234 feet, the structure was built in 1931 for the Pere Marquette Railway Company. Abandoned by CSX (P.M.’s successor), the bridge is currently owned by the Port Huron Yacht Club, which has applied for permission to demolish the landmark. Preservationists are promising a bun fight.

Randy Evans is a Sarnia resident and regular contributor to The Journal

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