1918

From The Story of Dartmouth, by Dr. John P. Martin:

During the winter of 1917-1918 block after block of residential and commercial Dartmouth presented the appearance of a battered war-town, with most windows in nearly every house and shop boarded up and blanketed with tar-paper covering. One dwelling at 50 Pleasant St., near Burton’s Hill, remained that way for years afterward. Heaps of broken glass and debris shoveled and swept into downtown gutters, froze solidly and stayed there until spring. Not until late summer was all the drifted explosion-rubble cleaned out of corner-catchpits. Hundreds of townsfolk and visitors that year hiked cut to Albro’s Lake to take snap-shots of the twisted “Mont Blanc” cannon and the ploughed-up turf on Pine Hill.

In mid-January school-children got back to their studies but were again placed on part-time sessions, because Central and Park school buildings were no longer habitable and never used afterwards for classes. The ruins of the wooden rink were removed, and preparations made to construct the present Park School on the site. North of this point, the Town advertised for sale 19 building lots of slate rock land banked with berry-bushes. On Synott’s Hill was erected a steel-supported lighthouse 140 feet high.

Postmaster W. H. Sterns died that winter, and was succeeded by Clifford R. Mosher, a local young man who had lost a leg in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Dartmouth Relief Commission, in charge of A. C. Johnston, was established in the old Reading Room.

There was also set up a Claims’ Court to deal with applications for Explosion damages, under E. M. Walker and R. H. Murray. The Parker house at “Beechwood” was converted into a convalescent hospital. The Telephone Company removed to the new building on Wentworth Street, from former cramped quarters in the present Cunard Coal office. Halifax Shipyards acquired the whole plant of the Chebucto Marine Railway at the Slip. The first supervised playgrounds were started that summer on the Common field.

In October, a deadly epidemic of influenza broke out and carried off many prominent townsfolk. Schools, theaters, restaurants, pool-rooms and the like, were closed for a period. In other public places such as ferry waiting-rooms and large stores, the number of people allowed to congregate was limited to ten.

Over in Europe, the Central Powers were successively collapsing, and in our neighborhood the ban on darkened windows and street lights was now lifted. When the armistice was signed on a Monday morning in November, Dartmouth got the news about 4.30 a.m., by means of four signal-guns fired from Citadel Hill. Hundreds forsook their usual occupations and flocked over to the City where they joined the jubilant crowds surging along Barrington Street, or milling around bulletin boards of the three daily newspapers.

At Dartmouth, the Town Council immediately convened and made plans to commemorate the historical event. In the afternoon, services of thanksgiving were held in the various churches, and at night an impromptu procession was organized. It was one of the longest ever held, consisting of bugle bands, Firemen, Axe and Ladder men, Boy Scouts, Church Lads’ Brigade and other organizations followed by hundreds of citizens on foot, in carriages or in gaily decorated automobiles. John Z. Lahey (“Red Jack*’), mounted on a white horse, was Marshall. The town was ablaze with bonfires long into the night.

Tuesday was a Dominion-wide holiday. Thanksgiving services were again held in the churches in accordance with a proclamation of the Governor-General. At noon a mass meeting of all denominations gathered in front of the new Post Office where prayers were offered by Monsignor Charles Underwood of Saint Peter’s Church, and by Rev. W. B. Bezanson of King Street Baptist Church. Dr. A. H. MacKay delivered the oration.

On December 9th, Dartmouth was honored by an official visit from His Excellency the Duke of Devonshire, then Governor-General of Canada. From the beflagged ferryboat the procession party proceeded under a high archway at the corner of Portland and Water Streets, then through another arch of ladders erected by the firemen at Wentworth and Queen Streets. All along the route were lines of waving school children. At Greenvale School an official welcome was tendered and a civic address read by Town Clerk Alfred Elliot.

Dartmouth’s death-list for 1918 was unusually high as a result of explosion injuries and the prevalence of influenza. The epidemic took notable Dartmouthian Thomas Mott, brother of John P. Mott, at the age of 89. 

It has been estimated that about 500 Dartmouthians including a score of nursing Sisters, went overseas in World War I, participating in perilous activities on sea, on land and in the air. Of these, nearly 100 made the supreme sacrifice. Others returned home gassed, maimed or crippled for life.

Children of present and future generations should be taught continually to observe Remembrance Day with the proper spirit and appreciation, and ever to bear in mind that the freedom they now enjoy was purchased at an appalling sacrifice of human lives.