Those Were The Days “Good Times, Bad Times”

M V Montrose in Detroit River on side

For the past thirty years I have been fortunate to be given the privilege and opportunity to write some of my memories for various newspapers. Since I was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, many of my most vivid recollections come from my experiences in that city. I was eleven years old when World War Two ended so dozens of my columns have recounted the six years of horror, hope and victory. Located across the river from Detroit, Michigan, Windsor is an historical city recognized as one of the main focal points of many War of 1812 battles.

During my lifetime I have witnessed the 1945 Ford Motor Company ninety-nine day strike that saw Windsor streets deliberately clogged with hundreds of cars and buses, when thousands of men and women  marched through East Windsor completely shutting down the entire city.  I witnessed the destructions of the main street’s Kresge Department Store due to fire and also Ouellette Avenues Metropolitan Store which literally blew up in 1960 killing 10 and injuring 100.       

I was less than a kilometer away from the 1946 tornado that killed 17 people and minutes away from the 1974 tornado that claimed nine lives. We sat on the bank of the Detroit River at the end of our street listening to the sound of gunshots and watching the west side of Detroit burn during the 1967 riots. I was able to watch the great Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis train and even tour his private club on Lake St. Clair. Terry Sawchuk, Eddie Shack and a host of other famous hockey players began their careers with the Windsor Spifires. In 1956 a very young Martin Luther King gave a speech in Windsor before a throng of 60,000 people all of whom were attending the world famous Emancipation Day celebrations at Windsor’s Jackson Park.

The memories are endless, but one sticks out as the oddest which actually attracted the most gawkers, it was the sinking of the M V Montrose in the Detroit River directly under the Ambassador Bridge. On July 30, 1962, a 440 foot British freighter on it’s maidem voyage laden with a cargo of wine and 200 tons of aluminum heading for the Great Lakes swung into deeper waters right into the path of a tug pushing a barge filled with cement. Although the tug blew an alarm whistle and attempted to reverse it’s forward motion, the ever fierce current in the Detroit River propelled the tug almost headon into the freighter causing a 42 foot gash on the port side near the bow. The ship began taking on water and eventually rolled over settling on the bottom. The grateful crew was rescued by a local fireboat. It took three months to patch the hole and righten the ship before towing it to safer waters. According to newspapers, more people gathered “to see for themselves” that particular misadventure than any other event in Windsor’s history.

Russ Sanders,  epigram@nexicom.net         

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