This Week in Peterborough: 1950


The intersection of George and Simcoe Streets in the early 1950s. (Image Source)

And so we stride past the halfway point of the 20th century.  Late March of 1950 would find Peterborians keeping an eye on a number of different situations, so read on, for war in Asia, a frightening situation in the National Hockey League, local and national tragedies, and a very large quantity of cheese…


Mao Zedong in January, 1950. (Image Source)

Within just a few months of our time period of interest, Canada would be embroiled in the Korean War, and it is no coincidence that the main international news story in late March also involved happenings in southeast Asia.  The Chinese civil war, between the Communist forces of Mao Zedong and the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek, was drawing to a close.  The People’s Republic of China had been proclaimed, and recognized by other countries including Britain, in late December and early January, and the Nationalists were now confined to a few islands, including Formosa and Hainan, off the coast of the Chinese mainland.

Canadian newspapers put a happy face on the news from China: the March 29th Peterborough Examiner reported that Nationalist troops on Hainan had “shattered an invasion force of more than 4,000,” but it simply was not true.  By early April, Mao’s forces had taken Hainan, and the fighting in general was over by May.  The Nationalists maintained control of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, and that state of affairs remains in effect up to the present day.  On the 25th of June, 1950, fighting would begin in Korea.

For the moment, however, that was all in the future, and Canadians could concern themselves with more mundane matters.  As Spring got underway in Peterborough and across the Dominion, the Federal Government handed down some potentially exciting news for fans of a particular warm weather treat: among the items in the 1950 federal budget was the lifting of the 8% sales tax on ice cream, along with some other dairy products.  However, as the Examiner pointed out on March 30th, the removal of the tax was unlikely to have any great effect on the size of ice cream cones.  “Margin of profit to the retailer has been so narrow that he will probably accept the removal of the sales tax as a little advantage to him that has been long overdue,” wrote the newspaper.

However, if the ice cream tidings proved a bit of a let-down, such was not the case when it came to another dairy product.  On March 29th, an editorial in the Peterborough Examiner was happy to announce the “best cheese news we have heard in a long while.”  Canada, at the time, had a surplus of cheese to tune of twenty million pounds of the stuff, and was facing the possibility of selling it all to Britain at a loss.  The editorial, however, revealed that a different tactic was to be tried:

“The Government has decided not to send [the surplus cheese] overseas and take thereby a financial beating.  It is going to let it mature in Canada for a year, by which time it will perhaps be so well cured that Canadian palates will be unable to resist it, cheese will become a nationally popular dish, and the surplus will be eaten up at home.”

The other big national story at this time in 1950 was not a happy one.  On March 28th, a U.S. Air Force plane crash near Ottawa killed five people, among them the American Ambassador to Canada, Laurence Steinhardt.  The next day’s Examiner reported that the plane had caught fire in the air, and the conflagration had spread too quickly for the crew and Steinhardt to use the parachutes with which they were equipped (one man was able to make the jump, and survived).  Steinhardt became the first American ambassador to die in office.


Peterborough Examiner, March 29th, 1950.

In Peterborough herself, there was also tragic news.  Back in early January, a Peterborough Canoe Company worker by the name of Ross Woodcock had been reported missing.  He and a couple of friends had ditched work one afternoon in search of entertainment around town, and as evening approached he he bidden his comrades farewell and headed for the train that would take him home to Norwood.  No one had seen him since, but the mystery finally attained its sad resolution when the Spring thaw occurred.  On March 29th, the Examiner reported the discovery of a body in the Otonabee River at Sherbrooke Street, and the remains were quickly identified as those of Mr. Woodcock.  The city police had long had their suspicions as to what had happened; the newspaper reported that they “have been keeping a lookout along the banks of the river in case they would find the solution to the mysterious disappearance.”  No foul play was suspected, and the coroner judged there to be no need for an inquest.

The big sports news of the week had dreadful possibilities as well, although happily in this case they did not come to fruition.  The NHL playoffs were just beginning, and the opening series between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings produced a frightening incident at the latter’s rink in Detroit on March 28th.  As the Examiner reported on the 30th:

“Young Gordie Howe of Saskatoon, star winger of the champion Detroit Red Wings, was believed to be out of danger today after undergoing an early morning brain surgery to relieve a severe injury suffered Tuesday night…”


Howe recovering in hospital with mail from well-wishers. (Image Source)

Howe, in an attempt to check Toronto’s Ted Kennedy, had fallen into the boards, suffering a fractured skull and a serious eye injury in the process.  In the wake of the incident, the fan debate hinged on whether Kennedy had played an active role in the incident, or whether it was all an accident.  The Examiner‘s Cec Perdue, although a Red Wings fan himself, felt that Kennedy was blameless.  “Kennedy isn’t the type,” wrote Perdue on the 30th, although he also allowed as how he “wouldn’t put it past some of the Leafs.”  In any case, Howe of course made a full recovery, and played his last NHL game in 1980.  And the Red Wings went on to eliminate the Maple Leafs and eventually win the 1950 Stanley Cup.

On Peterborough’s fields (and rinks, and courts) of athletic endeavour, the winter sports were winding up, and thoughts were turning to the approaching soccer and baseball seasons.  And there was good news for local wrestling fans as well!  We noted, in our look at early March of 1947, the disappointment when star wrestler “Whipper” Billy Watson was injured and could not appear in Peterborough.  On March 30th, 1950, however, he was present and accounted for at the Brock St. arena, winning a bout against Vern Baxter much to the delight of the crowd.

And that will probably do for March of 1950.  Next time, we will be into early April of 1951, but as usual, you can also check up on what was going on around here at this time in 1898.  Thank you for reading!

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