This Week in Peterborough: 1951


Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry crossing a river in Korea, early 1951. (Image Source)

On to 1951, when we once again find Canadians at war, and casualty reports rolling in to the newspapers.  Apart from the conflict in Korea, we have a distinguished guest visiting Canada, a faulty propane heater in a laundromat in Peterborough, and a local boy making good on the big-time hockey stage.  So read on!


Peterborough Examiner, April 6th, 1951.

The war on the Korean Peninsula was by this point a few months old, and, as Canadian soldiers were participating, it is no surprise that this conflict was all over the front pages of the newspapers.  The April 8th Peterborough Examiner reported that Canadians had crossed the 38th paralle into what is now North Korea without serious incident, although the previous day’s paper had warned that Allied troops were encountering “mines, booby-trapped mortar shells and concealed pits designed to catch tanks” on the push north.  While there was some fighting going on various places, these were a relatively quiet few days.  That state of affairs would not last — by the end of April, North Korean and Chinese were hitting back, and Canadian troops found themselves in very thick fighting indeed.

The big news of the war at that time, however, would come on April 11th, when U.S. President Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command of the entire Allied war effort.  MacArthur had made a number of contentious public statements, and was known to be opposed to a number of the policies that Truman wanted carried out with regards to Korea.  The situation was a complicated one, but you can read more about it here.

As for the broader geopolitical scene, one of the more notorious episodes of the Cold War took place this week in 1951, with the passing of the death sentence against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in a New York courtroom.  The Rosenbergs had been convicted of passing state secrets to the Soviet Union, allowing the Red Army to construct an atomic bomb earlier than they might have done otherwise.  Recent assessments of the case, including statements by people on both sides of the early-1950s intelligence community, have tended to confirm that Julius Rosenberg was a spy, but the evidence for his wife’s involvement is far more tenuous.  Nonetheless, both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19th, 1953.

In Canada, the big news this week 65 years ago was the visit of Vincent Auriol, President of France.  M. Auriol was the first French head of state to visit Canada, and the April 5th Examiner took the opportunity to wax somewhat rhapsodic about the ties between the two countries:

“Canadians have fought in two wars for the liberation of France of which M. Vincent Auriol is an honoured and characteristic patriot; and bilingual Canada has an especial fondness for the terre de nos aieux, which, in the Canadian anthem means French Canada, but is, in the heart-strings, the France from which Canadian civilization had its first life.”

The newspaper also praised Auriol as “a man of his people, republican to the core, passionate for freedom and ardent in his love of French soil.”  In honour of his visit, a section of mountains in the Yukon (in what is now Kluane National Park) was named the Auriol Range.


George Street, looking north, in the early 1950s. (Image Source)

Around Peterborough herself, there was not actually all that much going on that was newsworthy.  However, on April 7th, a number of Peterborians had a lucky escape when a propane heater at the Kawartha Laundry Automat on Hunter Street blew up and engulfed the building in flames.  Mr. James Riel, who was lighting the heater when it blew up, was the only injured party; “His left arm up to the elbow was badly scorched,” reported the next day’s Examiner.  However, two small children who had been standing just outside the laundromat’s windows miraculously escaped harm despite being showered in broken glass, and the residents of the apartments above the business, including a small black dog named “Tiny,” also got away with little harm done.

Elsewhere around town, a group of concerned citizens was lobbying City Council over a proposed gas station at the corner of Aylmer and Dalhousie streets.  The site was at that time occupied by a derelict house, but the neighbours informed Council, per the April 6th Examiner, that they were concerned about the traffic situation that a gas station would create, and that “Although they didn’t like the tumbling house on the corner, they felt there was always a hope that something would be done about it.”  They got their wish — no gas station was built on the corner, and the site is now occupied by a small apartment building.


Peterborough Examiner, April 8th, 1951.

Sporting-wise, Peterborians were watching the NHL playoffs with somewhat divided loyalties in 1951.  While many no doubt supported Toronto simply due to proximity, the Leafs’ first-round opponent this year, the Boston Bruins, had Peterborough’s own George “Red” Sullivan, a 20-year-old rookie call-up for the playoffs, in the lineup.  The Maple Leafs, on their way to capturing the Stanley Cup, disposed of the Bruins with some ease, but the April 8th Examiner wrote of Sullivan that “Apparently he did well, and may be up there regularly with the Bruins next season.”  Indeed he was — Sullivan would go on to play more than 500 games in the NHL with Boston, Chicago, and New York, and he was inducted into the Peterborough & District Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.

Also to be found in the sports section these days in 1951 was news of the upcoming lacrosse season, as the Ontario Lacrosse Association prepared to hold its annual general meeting.  1951 would be the beginning of a golden age in Peterborough lacrosse, as the first of four straight Mann Cup championships (the national championship for Senior lacrosse) would be won by the Peterborough Timbermen that Fall.

And that will about do for early April of 1951!  Next week, we will look at the middle of the month in 1952, but in the meantime you can catch up on what was happening around here these days in 1899.  Thank you for reading!


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