My friend, John Hepplestone and I were having dinner at the Mess Hall in Edgar, Ontario the night that Hurricane Hazel roared through Southern Ontario.
The Hall is abandoned now but in its heyday it was quite a place. It was built in 1952 and was home to the 31st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. Three giant white globes once sat on the hill at Edgar Station. These globes housed powerful radar units that were used during the Cold War. It had been part of the Pinetree Line of radar stations established in the 1950s and one of the early-warning detection lines against Soviet air attack. All Pinetree stations were equipped with one search radar, one height-finder radar and a third back-up radar.
It was in operation from 1952 until 1964 when it was sold to the provincial government. Funnily enough, my daughter Stacey ended up working there when the base was flipped into an Adult Occupational Centre for developmentally disabled of handicapped adults until 1999. Odd that both she and I worked on the same location, although our roles were quite different. Nonetheless – I did eat some very delicious meals there and met some good people.
John Hepplestone and I would often have to travel out to Edgar to work – and as I mentioned earlier, to play. This one evening, I remember leaving and it was raining, well, raining really hard. In fact, it was one of those nights when the wipers just couldn’t keep pace with the rain. John and I would have to pull the car over often. The night was black and the winds were fierce. I don’t remember what bridge it was, but there was a bridge that we had to cross to get home. I remember thinking, “Geez, that water looks pretty high under the bridge”. The river was really swollen. Back in those days, there was less faith in bridges than there is today.
“John”, I said, “What do you think?” “Do you think we ought to give it a try?”
John, who had had a couple beverages, replied with all confidence, “Sure. It looks good to me.”
So – we began. I held my breath and hit the accelerator. I could hear the water rushing below and the rain pounding on the windshield. We kept on – and as luck would have it we made it to the other side.
I have never breathed such a heavy sigh of relief as when we actually crossed that bridge.
After a very long, and dark ride home, we remarked how terrible the weather was.
I heard the next day that the bridge had washed out – it turns out only hours after we had crossed it.
There were many more damaging effects to come as a result of Hurricane Hazel – but I let this story flood your imaginations and whet your whistles for now.