This Week in Peterborough: 1958


Peterborough Examiner, May 24th, 1958.  “Danny Fortune” was a short-lived comic book series of the time.

“But what of 1957?” you ask!  Sadly, the 1957 post will have to wait for another time, but we will address the events of mid-May of that year at some point.  And that brings us to 1958, when this week in May began with a terribe, tragic story in Peterborough.  There was also turmoil abroad, and economic problems at home, if anybody could figure out what they were.  It was not all bad, however — Peterborough seemed to about add yet another sign of her status as a growing city… Read on!


The last week of May, 1958, began with horribly sad news for Peterborians.  On the evening of May 23rd, a five-year-old boy named Gary Pagett wandered off from his home on Downie Street, north-west of Peterborough’s downtown.  After what the next day’s Peterborough Examiner described as “a frantic search by his family, neighbors and policemen,” Constable Arthur Beardsmore made the sad discovery; Gary Pagett had drowned in a water-filled trench at a nearby construction site.  “Discovering the excavation, he apparently probed the waters with a stick, then became unbalanced and tumbled in,” was the newspaper’s assessment of the accident.


Charles de Gaulle in 1958. (Image Source)

The tidings from abroad were not much better.  “We seem to be watching the death agonies of the Fourth Republic,” wrote the Examiner on May 29th, referring to what was essentially a military coup in France.  Fearing that the government was going to grant independence to the rebellious colony of Algeria, French troops had seized control of Corsica on May 24th, and were threatening action against Paris if a new administration was installed with retired war hero Gen. Charles de Gaulle at its head.  With civil war a real possibility, de Gaulle took action, as the Examiner reported on May 28th:


“Gen. Charles de Gaulle sped to Paris today after being called by President Rene Coty, reliable sources said… The word that de Gaulle was going to see the president would normally mean that he would be asked to form a new government.”

And so it was.  De Gaulle took power as Prime Minister on May 29th, and dissolved the Fourth Republic shortly thereafter.  A new French constitution was installed, and the Fifth (and current) Republic was proclaimed later on in 1958.  As for Algeria, de Gaulle’s rise to power did not, in the end, have the effect the French military had desired; the country gained full independence in 1962.


John Diefenbaker. (Image Source)

Back in Canada, meanwhile, the country was going through some economic hard times, to the point that the May 24th Examiner ran an editorial entitled “What, Exactly, is Recession?”  The article noted the vast number of different measuring-sticks for economic strength, and further noted:


“The question might be asked of the Prime Minister [John Diefenbaker, whose Conservatives had been elected to a minority government in 1957] who has urged the Canadian public to buy more to provide more jobs to boost the economy and bring us nearer to the equally dangerous state of inflation that was complained of last summer.  The answers will be complicated ones…”

At home in Peterborough, it was a little hard to tell whether the recession (whatever it was — the editorial did not reach any firm conclusions on the subject) was having any particular effect.  On the one hand, the May 24th Examiner included some sad tidings for local theatre-goers:

“The news that there will be no Summer Theatre in Peterborough this year will be something more than a disappointment.  Those patrons who have been faithful over the nine years and those others who have seen fewer seasons, will find that the City will be duller without it this summer”

The article went on to mention that Peterborough’s was not the only suchprogram in Ontario that was experiencing difficulties, and to express the hope that the Summer Theatre would resume in 1959.

Just one column over from that story in the newspaper however, was an item that begin thusly:

“Not for a long time have prospects for an airport in Peterborough looked so bright.  The results of the delegation to Ottawa are as good, even better, than can have been expected and the interest which the various groups concerned — notably the Manufacturers Association — have shown, is bringing its own dividends.”


Model of Peterborough’s proposed airport. (Image Source)

The Peterborough Airport Company had been founded in mid-1957 with a view to developing such a facility for the city, and its efforts were to bear fruit.  Not immediately, however; construction of the Peterborough Airport began in the early 1960s.  Regularly-scheduled passenger service arrived at the airport in the last few years.

The big sports news of this week 58 years ago was the opening of the lacrosse season.  The Petes, a youthful team that particular year, unfortunately were having a bit of a tough go of it, losing their first two games by narrow margins.  On May 27th, the newspaper reported on an 11-10 loss to the Hamilton Lincoln Burners, describing it as a “fast, tight and generally clean contest.”

Speaking of “fast, tight and generally clean” sporting events, the previous winter had seen the first official visit to Canada by a hockey team from the Soviet Union.  The Moscow Selects had played eight games against Ontario Senior Hockey teams, winning five and tying one, and even in late May there was still a lot of talk going on about the way the Soviets played.  Wrote the Examiner on May 27th:

“The European style of play exhibited by the Russians captured the imagination of Canadians.  It even penetrated into the CAHA at its annual meeting last week when delegates… said it would be a good idea if amateur teams adopted the European code.

In effect, they were saying that the slam-bang, clutch-and-grab play of the professionals should not apply to the amateurs.”

For all the CAHA’s good intentions on the issue, it was not until the 1970s, and the wake of the 1972 Summit Series, that hockey people in Canada began to think about alternatives to the “slam-bang, clutch-and-grab play.”

And that should do for 1958.  Next week, we will look at the end of May and beginning of June around here in 1959, but in the meantime you can catch up on what was going on at this time in 1906 (and, because we missed last week, here’s 1905 as wellhere’s 1905 as well).  Thank you for reading!


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