Dominion Day in Peterborough: 1963


Among other debates taking place in Canada in the mid-1960s!  (Peterborough Examiner, June 28th, 1963)

We are well behind in this series, but that’s ok, we shall pick it up where we left off and check on what was happening around here on the occasion of the national holiday in 1963.  And what we find is a lot of worry about things potentially going “boom,” both internationally and locally, as well as a hot and somewhat grim Dominion Day weekend.  Read on!

For those looking abroad for their news, it was the Cold War that was in the headlines, but in an odd sort of way.  A furious diplomatic tiff was underway between the U.S.S.R. and the People’s Republic of China, over whether peaceful coexistence with the West was possible.  The Soviet government thought it was, while one Chinese official, quoted in the July 2nd Peterborough Examiner, was emphatic that it was not.  The newspaper went on to note the strangeness of the situation:  “What an odd day it is when the Soviet Union finds itself defending the U.S.A. against Communists!”  However, the Examiner also took the opportunity to criticize Western attitudes towards Communist China:

“The American Government will have absolutely nothing to do with Mainland China.  It prevents American citizens from going there, and takes away their passports if they do.  Coexistence, under such circumstances, may well prove to be hopeless — but if it is, perhaps we had better not blame the Chinese and Russians altogether.”


The Bomarc missile. (Image Source)

There was a certain amount of grumpiness on the home front as regards the Cold War at this time, mostly because Canada had just begun to play host to a number of nuclear warheads for the controversial Bomarc missile program.  To make a long story short: the Bomarcs, an anti-aircraft defence, had been themselves taken on at the insistence of the American military, and many felt that they were a poor substitute for the now-cancelled Avro Arrow aircraft program.  The presence of nuclear wareads was making no-one feel any better, least of all the writer of an Examiner editorial on June 28th, who asked rhetorically: “… why do we have the equivalent of ten tons of dynamite for every human being in storage?”  The history of nuclear weapons in Canada was of relatively brief duration; most were withdrawn in 1972, and the rest by 1984.

The bomb that came to light in Peterborough herself in early July of 1963 was, fortunately, not of the nuclear variety, but rather an unexploded WWII mortar shell found in the river near Auburn St. by a 12-year-old boy diving for lost fishing lures.  The boy and his friends, showing considerable wisdom, promptly phoned the fire department, and the weapon was taken off to RCAF Station Trenton for disposal.  Per the July 2nd newspaper, the working theory was that someone had brought it home from the war as a souvenir, aventually thought better of having a live bomb in the house, and tossed it into the Otonabee.

Of course, however, the big news around Peterborough was the July 1st celebration of Dominion Day (it would not become “Canada Day” until 1982).  “Beating the heat” was a major activity on the long weekend (we may sympathize), as the July 2nd Examiner reported that “One of the hottest Dominion Day weekends sent people scurrying out of the city in thousands.”


Ray Judd. (Image Source)

For those who did stick around Peterborough, one of the main excitements on the menu (apart from the usual parades, fireworks, and the like) was an invitational softball tournament hosted by the City League.  The visiting Richmond Hill team featured a returning local softball hero in the person of pitcher Ray Judd, who had led Lakefield to a number of provincial championships in the 1950s (he had been a national champion for Peterborough at football, as well).  Did Judd still have his stuff in 1963?  He did, as the July 2nd newspaper reported:

“Ray Judd is still Mr. Strikeout in Ontario… In a stretch of nine hours, Judd… struck out 53 batters.  He didn’t walk a man in the three games [Richmond Hill] had to play in order to win the event.”

Ray Judd would go on to become a major figure in softball in Arizona.

Sadly, the 1963 edition of Dominion Day would not go down as a particularly happy one.  Peterborians woke up the next morning to the news of 163 holiday weekend deaths across the country, most of them through car accidents and drownings.  Peterborough Country lost six people over the weekend, including an eight-year-old girl who drowned in Bancroft and a four-year-old boy struck by a car while riding his bicycle.  A glum way to end the festivities.



A large number of Peterborians, beating the heat at Lakehead Park near Fowler’s Corners.  (Peterborough Examiner, July 2nd, 1963)

And a glum way, unfortunately, to end this post, and indeed, this series.  I have been becoming aware recently that the amount of research material to go through to write these pieces has not been getting smaller, and it has obviously been getting harder and harder to keep up.  This makes sense; the first post in the series was 1858, when Peterborough was a much smaller place, with a couple of weekly newspapers reliant on steamships to deliver the overseas news.  By 1963, we are dealing with a large daily paper, news flooding in almost instantaneously from around the globe (not as instantaneously as now, but still), and of course a lot more Peterborians.  Since my schedule will not be getting any easier in the near future, it is probably time to call it a day on the “This Week in Peterborough” series.

Update, two years later: We’re back!  And a new project here will be beginning very soon…

Thank you for reading!


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