Wednesday, 16 August 2017

1885 - Memories of Cholera

It had been thirty years since the last cholera epidemic had hit the city of Hamilton, but in March 1885, there was still at least one man who remembered it clearly, and who had claimed he had found a cure for the dreaded disease :
 “ ‘It was at the time of the last cholera scourge that the incident I am about to relate took place.’ So spoke a veteran yarn-spinner as he threw himself back in an armchair at the fire station last night, took his pipe from his mouth and prepared for business.
“Half a dozen chairs were pulled up around him and half a dozen faces assumed the appearance of deep interest. “ ‘I was living east, about five miles from the city, at the time, and had a pretty snug place for those days. The cholera had broken out in the city and several deaths had already occurred. I had been through the plague once before and knew too well what it was, but, living in a healthy part of the country and having no close neighbors, I didn’t feel at all afraid. But I had a nephew – a strapping young fellow of 19, and as healthy as a hickory nut. He was awfully afraid of the disease and more than once hinted to me that he would like to come out and live with us – he lived in the city – till it had disappeared, but my house was none too large for my own family, and I didn’t invite him to come out. I was not surprised, however, to see him, one day just after dinner, coming up the walk. I went out to meet him, and we sat down together. He was greatly agitated, and said that he felt he was going to have the cholera. It didn’t take long to persuade me that he was right, for the symptoms soon came upon him. I couldn’t keep him with us. What was I to do? Years before I had seen soon curious cures effected. I told him I couldn’t let him stay with us, but would do what I could for him. I got a glass of liquor – what sort I can’t exactly remember – and put it in a cholera mixture which almost every family kept ready for use. He drank it eagerly enough, and I then told him he must get home the same way as he came, only faster. He wished to stay but I drove him out, and told him he must run every step of the way. He started off on a good run, and I followed on horseback. I urged him on, not allowing him to rest on the way at all. His nerves were strung high with excitement, and he didn’t require much urging, however. He ran almost every step of the way, and when he got home, I directed that he be put to bed and kept warm. These directions were followed, and a doctor was called in. He examined the boy and declared that he certainly had cholera, but was cured. I have always held that the run drove the disease from him in perspiration, and if ever it should come again, and I should become a victim, I will certainly use the same medicine. However, I have seen enough of it and would rather that I shouldn’t have to try the experiment again.”1
1 “A Five-Mile Race : How a Hamilton Boy, Many Years Ago, Ran Away From Cholera.”
Hamilton Spectator.   March 12, 1885.

Monday, 7 August 2017

1885 - Grand Trunk Railway Accident

The route of the original Great Western railway (by 1883, the Grand Trunk railway) proceeding easterly from the Dundas station led down the escarpment towards a junction, where trains were either diverted to Hamilton or directed onto the line to Toronto.
That route of the railway was widely considered to be very dangerous, primarily because of the steep descent, and serious accidents were not unknown in that vicinity.
During the evening of March 6, 1885, the day express left the Dundas station uneventfully, but it soon ran into difficulty :
“In coming down the grade  about a mile this side of town, the driving shafts of the engine broke and were hurled with tremendous force against the cab, smashing it like an egg shell. The boiler was also struck and strained, two of the rivets being knocked out, and all the steam escaped. Wonderful to relate, both the engineer and the fireman were uninjured, though they were soaked through and through by the steam.”1
1 “A Close Call : Accident on the Grand Trunk Railway Near Dundas”
Hamilton Spectator.    March 7, 1885.
The two men in control of the train, Engineer Williams and Fireman Collins, managed to keep control of the locomotive, and were soon able to bring it to a stop:
“The accident occurred on a high embankment, and unless the train had been brought to a standstill as it promptly was, it would certainly have gone over and many lives would have been lost. ‘The engine leaped and swayed so that I could not tell which side she’d go over,’ said Engineer Williams, ‘and I stood prepared to jump either way. ‘1
The train had a full compliment of passengers when the incident happened :
‘Most of the passengers were considerably shaken up mentally and physically, by the sudden stoppage, and, in a second or two, they came pouring out of the train with blanched faces to see what was the matter. An examination of the track was made, and it was discovered that one of the shafts had struck a tie with such violence as to smash the end clean off outside the rail. A relief engine from Dundas speedily arrived, and the train proceeded on its way to Hamilton.”1
For the passengers on that train, they probably never had narrower escape from sudden death than they experienced that evening. It would not be the last serious accident on that stretch of the railway.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

1883 - Telephone Operators

On November 15, 1883, the Spectator carried an account of what work was like, in the local office for the telephone operators, also commonly called the ‘hello girls.’ A visit to the room where the switchboards were located to observe the work, followed by an interview with the local manager of the telephone company :

          “The work of a telephone operator is not, as some suppose, mere play. It has advantages, of course, but it has disadvantages as well.

          “A case is reported of Miss Bessie Goslyn having recently lost her voice completely through constant use of the vocal organs. Cases have also been known where lady operators have had their hearing more or less affected.

          “Of late, however, the effect has not been noticeable, owing, no doubt, to the improvements of the instruments, and the introduction of the transmitter.

          “Manager Dunston, of the Hamilton branch, says that, although the operators in his office are kept busy pretty much all day, they suffer no in convenience. Two operators have been in the office for three years, and the only noticeable effect that the work has had is to quicken their hearing. This is demonstrated by the fact that a message by one not used to the instruments can be easily taken by an operator.

          “The operators speak in a tone below the ordinary pitch used in conversation, and so close to the transmitter, as to every word being distinctly heard at the other of the wires. The farther the distance has to travel, the louder the operator has to speak in order to be distinctly heard, but still the pitch never raises as high as that used in ordinary conversation.

          “The number of messages which an operator receives during a day cannot easily be estimated, but there are always enough, except between 12 and 1o’clock, and after 4 o’clock, to keep the operator from novel reading in which they are supposed to indulge.”1

                1 “Telephone Operating : The Effect It Has Upon the Speech and Hearing of the Operator”

Hamilton Spectator     November 15, 1884.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

1884 - Salvation Army and a Journalist

The members of the Hamilton Corps, in the1880s,  were loud and  outrageous in their behavior as they paraded along Hamilton’s downtown streets, with the brass band, colorful uniforms and non-stop exhortations. However, mostly, the services held indoors were more sedate.
Such was not the case on Sunday, March 23, 1884:
“Yesterday afternoon, the usually quiet and orderly services of the Salvation Army at the Grand Opera House were somewhat rudely disturbed by the antics of a man, who, truthfully or otherwise, claimed to be a journalist.
“During a lull in the entertainment, he suddenly sprang up in his seat and gave out the startling information that he was the servant of the enemy of mankind. Shaking a handful of paper in his hand, he said that he had been writing a wicked report of the proceedings of a meeting for the devil’s paper.
“There is nothing Capt. Happy Bill likes better than candor and upon hearing this self-confessed statement of the depths of depravity in which this unfortunate was living, he at once opened the whole force of salvation upon the devil which lodged in this man’s soul.
“He was brought down to the penitent bench and the whole broadsides of hot shot fired into him. His career as a journalist, no doubt, had caused his heart to become too case-hardened for the fiery shower to have any effect, and he passed away into the quiet unknown, or wherever he came from, with the remark that he was lost.
“Whether his curious actions were the result of the captain’s eloquent words or from frequent libations of the ardent, it does not appear.”1
1“A Victim of the ‘Power’ or the’ Snakes’  Creates a Sensation at the Opera House”
Hamilton Spectator.    March  24, 1884.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

1884 - Masquerade Ball

          On March 20, 1884, the Alpha Division of the local Knights of Pythia held their annual masquerade ball in the Pythian Armory, which was located in the Alexandra Hall :
“The costumes were elegant, and handsome, the crowd was large and orderly, the floor was in splendid condition, the music was divine and there was nothing more to wish for.
“Upwards of 150 couples stood up in the grand march, and many there were who sat around the side of the room and watched the gaily and fantastically-dressed people threading their winding way athwart the floor.
“It was about 9 o’clock when the dancing commenced, and it continued without intermission until a few minutes after 12, when, in loud voice, someone exclaimed: ‘Ladies and gentlemen will please unmask.’
“Cries of ‘Oh!, Oh1’ went around, little feminine shrieks and ejaculations were heard, and everyone commenced to look curiously at his or her neighbor and wonder who he or she might be.
“Then the masks came off, and people went around shaking hands and saying : ‘Why, I didn’t know you,’ just as if anybody imagined that they did. But it was before the unmasking commenced that the fun was, and flirtations were as thick as speculations on the result of the Toronto bribery case.
“Gypsy queens told fortunes for courtiers and peasants without asking fees from either; other queens descended from their thrones and talked with the common clay; Spanish beauties flashed glances sharp as daggers from eyes as black as night that shone shone and glittered underneath the clinging grace of the dainty mantilla, whirled in the languid waltz and chatted alike with vagabonds and peers; Patience and Grosvenor rehearsed their love scene with charming effect; Scotch lassies flirted with Chinese mandarins and threw languishing glances at vagabond negroes; the starry heavens glistened in all their glory upon the scene and lovers basked in the rare, pale light of many moons that formed the crown for many a charming, graceful head.
“Every nation, almost, under the sun was represented, and the costumes were remarkably true. Taking it all in all, it was one of, if not the, most successful masquerade balls ever given in the city.”1
1 The Pythian Knights : Hold Their Masquerade Ball in the Armory”
Hamilton Spectator.    March 20, 1884.