Last Week in Peterborough: 1961

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George Street, Peterborough, in the 1960s. (Image Source)

As we saw in last week’s brief post, mid-June of 1961 saw feline Peterborians once again exploring the mysteries that dwell at the top of hydro poles.  However, that of course was not all that was going on!  Read on, for scandal in the Bank of Canada, a historic convoy departing Peterborough, and other such matters…

In international news, all the talk was of the just-concluded Vienna Summit meeting of  U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the USSR.  The main topic of discussion had to do with Berlin, and particularly the question of East Berlin, control to which the Soviets proposed handing over to East Germany.  While the talks accomplished little in the way of concrete results, Peterborough Examiner special correspondent Richard Lowenthal felt that they were nonetheless significant.  In a June 14th editorial he wrote:

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Khrushchev & Kennedy talk things over in Vienna in June, 1961. (Image Source)

“The Vienna confrontation between the Soviet and American leaders has been more important and heavy with consequence than was at first believed.  Though it has produced neither agreements nor an acute crisis, it has offered the occasion for each side to clarify important aspects of its policy; and this in itself has been enough to change the world situation and to create the need for new decisions.”

One such new decision was close at hand; in August of 1961, construction began on the Berlin Wall.

In Israel, meanwhile, the trial of notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, whose arrest we discussed last time, was underway (in fact, the prosecution had already rested its case).  There were some worries being expressed, by various commentators, that the trial was less a proper judicial proceeding than an act of revenge, and these concerns were generally accompanied by calls for leniency for Eichmann.  To these sentiments, the Peterborough Examiner responded in a June 14th editorial:

“Such considerations are at best noble utterances of a forgiving spirit.  But in this awakening world, unspeakable savagery must not go unnoticed and its perpetrators must not be excused on the same grounds that a child would be excused for savaging a bird… the machinery of justice must be prepared to tackle such gargantuan tasks as the trial of Adolf Eichmann, or we must admit our inadequacy and our distate for justice itself.”

Eichmann was convicted in December of 1961, and hanged on June 1st, 1962.

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James Coyne in July, 1961. (Image Source)

The major national item on the front pages of the papers was a scandal involving James Coyne, President of the Bank of Canada.  Coyne had long been at loggerheads with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker over fiscal policy, with Coyne favouring a tight-money plan and and the PMO hoping for a looser program.  The dispute reached a new level, however, in June of 1961, when news got out that Coyne had doubled his own pension to $25,000 per year.  The move represented an obvious political opportunity for Diefenbaker, as an editorial in the June 15th Examiner duly noted:

“As an issue… the Conservatives can ask for nothing better.  To the voting public it will appear that Mr. Coyne is a man who has taken advantage of his position to double his pension six months before his retirement, and that he is a man who is defying the wishes of a popularly elected government.”

The editorial did go on to note that the real problem was much more complicated, stating that: “The real issue between [Finance Minister] Donald Fleming and James Coyne is a technical one bedded in economic theory and is not readily expressed in election campaign terms.”  However, the Conservatives were not about to let the opportunity presented go begging, especially in a week when the news arrived that a projected 12 million dollar surplus for Canada had turned into a 345 million dollar deficit.  A distraction from that was most certainly welcome, and matters would come to a head in July of 1961, when Parliament passed a bill firing Coyne.  The Liberal-controlled Senate over-ruled it, but Coyne’s position was clearly now untenable, and he resigned.

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The calandria nuclear reactor under construction in Peterborough. (Image Source)

In Peterborough, the just-completed bypass of the Trans-Canada highway (that’s 115 just south of Peterborough) was scheduled to carry its first commercial convoy in mid-June of 1961,  and it was a historic one for reasons other than the opening of the highway.  As described in the June 16th newspaper, the precious cargo would be “the heart of Canada’s first nuclear power reactor — the calandria.”  The reactor, destined for the NPD-2 site at Rolphton, Ontario (near Ottawa), had been built at the Canadian General Electric plant in Peterborough by the company’s Civilian Atomic Power Department.

The convoy, fully assembled, would involve OPP cruisers, cars with warning signs, and three flatbed trucks carrying the calandria and its two fueling machines.  In all, reported the Examiner, the procession of vehicles “will be 1,200 feet long” and “will average 10 miles an hour over the 235-mile route.”

Meanwhile, in the city itself, awards were being handed out — namely the athletic honours for 1960 — and Peterborough’s badmintonians were very much at the forefront.  Peterborough’s Junior Athlete of the Year award went to young badminton player Bonnie Elmsley, while the main award for Athlete of the year went to Mrs. Maurice Charlton, whom the June 15th Examiner described as “outstanding in [badminton] here and in Central Ontario, as well as being a top tennis player.”  The Sportsman of the Year award went to Don Gray, “hard-working official for years in minor hockey and softball.”

And so it went for Peterborough in mid-June of 1961!  Next time — i.e. shortly — we will look at the latter part of June, 1961, but for now you can get caught up on what was happening around her at this time of year in 1909.  Thank you for reading!

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