As we enjoy the spring-like temperatures and almost complete departure of snow these days, we might spare a sympathetic thought for our Peterborian predecessors this week 69 years ago. It was a blizzardy time in these parts, and meanwhile the news from abroad was depressing. On the bright side, however, local fans of wrestling had something to look forward to… or did they? Read on!
Yes, it was a snowy week in Peterborough, and elsewhere, after a late winter storm rampaged across southern Ontario leaving roads and railways closed, and small communities cut off from the outside world. Mild temperatures and high winds that followed the blizzard caused the fallen snow to compact, seriously hindering efforts to dig out. Near Kincardine, on the shore of Lake Huron, a 20-foot-deep drift derailed a railway snowplow despite the efforts of the four (!) locomotives pushing it. The March 8th Peterborough Examiner reported that “a plow from Cobourg, seeking to open the road north, put its nose out of town and promptly turned back, impressed by the size of the job.” And in Ottawa, according to the same day’s newspaper, “the snow-cleaning machinery fell so far behind that it was left to the parliamentarians, slogging their way through knee-deep drifts, to make their own pathways.”
Peterborough herself seems to have escaped the worst of the blizzard’s effects, or at least was not completely cut off from the rest of the world. The same could not be said for the little village of Gore’s Landing, south of Rice Lake. There, supplies ran short, prompting local storekeeper Jack Fowlie to head out with a team of horses in search of milk, bread, and other staples. He was forced to abandon the team in Plainville, two miles from Gore’s Landing, and from there went another two miles to Cold Springs on foot, with a hand-pulled sled. His mission, however, was a success, and he and food returned safely to Gore’s Landing. Elsewhere, ski-planes were used to deliver food and medicines to isolated towns and villages until the roads were open again.
Apart from the snowstorm-related problems, the business of the province and country were going on much as normal. After some fairly fractious negotiations, the Ontario government had rejected a deal with its federal counterpart that would have seen Ottawa look after all taxation in return for a subsidy paid to the provinces. According to Provincial Treasurer Leslie Frost (a future Ontario Premier and also future Chancellor of Trent University), Ontario would make up the shortfall via the imposition of a seven percent corporate tax and a three percent tax on gasoline. In an editorial on March 12th, the Examiner praised Frost’s provincial budget as “shrewd,” and “an admirable political manoeuvre,” but warned that it had not “settled the problems arising from the Dominion-Provincial dispute permanently.”
Abroad, the messy business of sorting out post-WWII Europe continued, as diplomats from France, Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union met in Moscow to discuss what was to be done with Germany, and to simultaneously engage in early Cold War manoeuvring. As an editorial in the March 8th Examiner lamented, the international powers “cut a rather poor figure, for they do not know what they want the world to be, and none of the proposals advanced for future co-operation are satisfactory to all parties.” Regarding Germany herself, the paper warned of an upsurge in pro-Nazi sentiment in the country, and stated that “The Allies are victors, but quite clearly they are not masters.”
There was also much ink being spilled over the situation in India, “an India split by religious and political differences in its struggle towards independence” as described in a March 8th Examiner piece. The British government had announced, in late February, that India would receive self-government by 1948 at the latest, but in the meantime serious civil unrest in the country continued. The March 8th article reported serious rioting in the Punjab, with nearly 200 killed and thousands left homeless. Independence, and partition into the modern states of India and Pakistan, would actually arrive before the end of 1947; the changes came into effect in August after the June passage of the Indian Independence Act.
Back to Peterborough, where local fans of professional wrestling were looking forward to a bit of a treat this week in 1947 (and also shoveling a lot of snow). Scheduled to appear on a card at the Brock Street Arena was none other than “Whipper” Billy Watson, world champion, and he would be taking on John “the Calgary Eye-Opener” Katan — “as tough and mean as they come,” wrote the March 8th Examiner about the latter.
Sadly, the much-anticipated bout did not occur; “Whipper” Watson picked up a hip injury in a match the day before he was scheduled to appear in Peterborough, and his place against John Katan was taken by a wrestler named Mike Sharpe (the father of famous 1980s-era wrestler “Iron” Mike Sharpe). The bout was full of incident, as they tended to be: “It was a hard scrap for a while with a lot of stuff shown, most of John’s being illegal, but Mike had youth and strength on his side,” wrote the Examiner on March 12th, the day after the match. With affair knotted at one fall apiece, Katan threw both his opponent and the referee out of the ring, and was disqualified, giving Sharpe the fight. “Quite an evening it was,” wrote Cec Perdue.
And on that note, we will leave 1947 behind us — next week, we will look into mid-March of 1948. You can also get caught up on what happened around here at this time of year in 1895. Thank you for reading!