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Canada Day in 1935 — 4 days of pageantry and a carnival queen crowned

Published on

Phil Egan

The Page 3 photo was an attention-grabber.

A dozen young women in short skirts and summer shorts posing with upraised arms in tribute.

“Thousands see carnival queen crowned here,” read the full-page banner headline. A sub-head described how a “spectacular scene with fireworks on the riverfront” had concluded the crowd-pleasing opening day of a four-day International Carnival.

It was July 2, 1935 and the Sarnia Canadian Observer was reporting on the previous day’s hugely entertaining events.

The photo itself was taken on a decorated floating barge in the St. Clair River as part of a summer celebration meant to promote tourism in Sarnia and Port Huron while jointly observing the “Canadian National Day” and Fourth of July holidays.

Some 6,000 people on the Canadian shore — more than one-third of Sarnia’s population in 1935 — as well as thousands more on the U.S. side gathered to witness the crowning of Frieda Moore, a 21-year-old Sarnia gal.

Moore, who would live to be 101, later described having to take a train back to Sarnia from Port Huron after the event. The Blue Water Bridge didn’t open until three years later.

Moore and her youthful court presided over four days of beautiful weather and competitions on the river, including swimming, sailboat and speedboat races, and “surfboard riding.”

Crowds lined the Ferry Dock and adjacent Canadian National Railway embankment to be thrilled by the ‘Fantasy of Light.” The top of the nearby Northern Navigation building was “packed to capacity.”

Reading about the colour of the day brought some nostalgia, considering how COVID-19 dampened public Canada Day observances this year.

Police Chief W.J. Lannin told the newspaper no accidents or arrests had spoiled the holiday.

But Sarnia was dealing with its own health crisis 85 years ago. For the week ending Saturday, June 29, 99 new cases of measles were reported in the city.

The same newspaper reported on the July 1 death of Mrs. Elizabeth Donohue, age 75. The “well-known and highly respected” woman was matriarch of one of Sarnia’s most influential families: mother of future city councillor Ruth Donohue and future Ontario Supreme Court Justice William A. Donohue, and grandmother of current Supreme Court Justice Joseph Donohue.

It was a different time and a different era. The Sarnia Canadian Observer offered “all the news from Sarnia and Lambton County” for a price of three cents per issue.

Note: that’s three cents more than the cost of today’s award-winning weekly, The Sarnia Journal.

Got an interesting tale? Contact columnist Phil Egan at [email protected]



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