1953 — Sackville at Mid-Century

1953 will be remembered as an important year in the history of Sackville. At the first meeting of the newly elected town council, Mayor Herbert A Beale gave notice that two special committees would be struck. One was to organize a ceremony to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The other was commissioned to spotlight the 50th Anniversary of the town.

When the latter committee was formed, one of the aldermen (as councillors were then called) representing the North Ward, Dr Lloyd Duchemin, was named chair. As long time residents of Sackville will know, Dr Duchemin, who lives on College Street, retired from Mount Allison in 1974 following a distinguished academic career.

As a neighbor, I’ve had many occasions to chat with Dr Duchemin, but never once did he give a hint of an involvement in civic politics. When I asked him about this omission he emphasized that his service on Council was brief.

He did, however, recall the 50th anniversary committee and one lasting impression: The anniversary program had the support of the towns people, and this was the secret of its success. As events transpired, Sackville’s support was to be severely tested by Mother Nature.

A most ambitious program was planned for August 5, 6 and 7, 1953. Street parades, dances, band concerts, boat races, baseball games, an amateur show and fireworks were all considered and most were included on the program. A special edition of the Sackville Tribune Post was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary.

The opening day, Wednesday Aug 5, was declared a civic holiday by town council. It was to begin with a grand street parade; to be followed by boat racing on Silver Lake in the afternoon, a fly past by aircraft from the Chatham air base and to end the day, fireworks.

Unfortunately, the worst fears of towns people, guests and performers alike materialized. Wednesday began with a gentle rain and the parade actually started. Then the rain became heavy… although intermittent. Finally, the heavens opened and a downpour ensued. The remaining events of the day had to cancelled or rescheduled on Thursday and Friday.

In 1953 radio was still in its heyday. During the course of the year, the first Canadian regional television programming began. Some readers will recall the televised re-broadcast of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as their first experience with this new medium.

Sackville’s anniversary was well covered by CBC Radio. Their on-the-spot reporter, who grew up in Dorchester, was just at the beginning of an outstanding career in journalism. What follows are the impressions of Doug How, as recorded for the CBC Radio program Canadian Chronicle.

Not everything went perfectly. The weather for opening day was profoundly unkind. It rained all day. They didn’t know whether to hold the parade or not; however, it did go on. One feature was a grotesque, spiderish, instrument of mobility, a 1903 Oldsmobile. Somebody had to help it up the hill… and everybody got a laugh… The ’fly past’ consisted of two small propellor driven aircraft barely visible in the clouds.

The presence of a 1903 Oldsmobile in the parade is intriguing nearly fifty years later. Are there any readers who have memories or pictures of this vintage automobile? If so, I would be pleased to hear from you. More to the point — will there be a 1953 Oldsmobile in the 2003 parade? Any volunteers?

The weather was more cooperative on the remaining two days and some rained-out events were rescheduled. Other interesting attractions on Thursday did not depend on the weather. The major industries of the town including the Enterprise Foundry and Enamel and Heating Products Limited held successful Open Houses. Thursday evening concluded with an Amateur Night in Charles Fawcett Memorial Hall.

The Rotary Club’s Children’s Parade was the featured event on Friday and the celebrations concluded with the postponed fireworks. The air force redeemed itself when an impressive fly past of 24 aircraft, including Furies, Harvards and Avengers, took place. Sackville’s 50th anniversary receded into history on a high note.