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Royalty, Ike open the St. Lawrence Seaway

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IN JUNE, 1959, QUEEN ELIZABETH AND PRINCE PHILIP arrived in Canada for a royal tour that included the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. The tour began in Quebec City, then came to Montreal for a day of events before the opening ceremony. There, they were
joined by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, popularly known as "Ike."

Seaway program

OFFICIAL PROGRAMME for the opening of the Seaway at Montreal, June 26, 1959 has autographs of some of the Gazette team on duty that day and/or covering the event. Names down the left, from the top: Walter Christopherson, city editor; Bob James, photographer; Brian Cahill, reporter; Clayton Sinclair, reporter. Names down the right: Jim Ferrabee, late police reporter; Pat Nagle, city desk; Larry McInnis, photographer; Terry McLaughlin, copy boy; Hugh Doherty, reporter. The signature at the bottom in the centre is that of Julian Armstrong, women's editor. The signature at bottom left is illegible, and I've forgotten whose it was.

Thousands watch ceremony from open-air grandstand

It was a sunny and warm summer day for the historic official opening. There were more than 4,000 people seated in a temporary open-air grandstand at the cermony site at St. Lambert where the Seaway locks begin. Some were invited guests, and some were members of the media.

Chevrier I was part of the Gazette team covering the event. This was a relatively easy assignment for us; it was a noon ceremony, and we didn't need to have our material ready for the paper until early in the evening. But those working for afternoon newspapers, like the Star, would need to write stories and produce pictures even as the early editions of their paper were going to presss. In the days before computers and cellphones, this called for organization and ingenuity.

One of the chief reporters for the Star was Boyce Richardson. I sat near him in the press section of the grandstand and watched him pound out copy on a tiny portable typewriter balanced on his lap. He was literally writing about events as they happened. When he finished a sheet, he ripped it out of the typewriter and handed it to a copy clerk standing beside him. The copy clerk ran down the grandstand steps and gave the sheet to one of a team of motorcyclists, who then bobbed and weaved his way through the thick traffic to the Star newsroom.

The royal couple had travelled to Canada in their yacht Britannia, and it stood ready now to ease through a ceremonial gateway in the Seaway canal to mark the official opening. The huge project had been a joint Canada-U.S. one, so the Queen and American President Dwight Eisenhower would perform the honors.

Earlier in the day, the Queen had gone to greet Eisenhower on his arrival at St. Hubert airport. Now at the Seaway site, they listened to the playing of "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "God Save the Queen." Then they made short speeches. A 21-gun salute boomed out as the official party boarded the Britannia, joined by Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Canadian and American bands provided music as the Britannia moved slowly into the Seaway. Then it travelled west to the Great Lakes as the Queen and Prince Philip continued their Canadian tour.

Royal invitation

A ROYAL INVITATION: As part of the Gazette team covering the Royal tour, I had been invited to a reception aboard the royal yacht Britannia to meet the Queen and Prince Philip. But I never made it. Through some mixup, it was discovered at the last minute that the Gazette's main royal tour reporter, Bill Bantey, hadn't been issued an invitation, and it was too late to arrange for one. So I was asked by my city editor to give up mine temporarily to Bill so he could attend and complete his coverage. And, being a junior reporter, that's what I did.

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This page was started Jun 19, 2002. Last updated April. 9, 2006