Queens County Ham Recalls Bridge Collapse Retired Maritime Tel. & Tel. Technician Played Major Role During Emergency Howard Henderson of Great Hill, Brooklyn is now a retired Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company technician, but on the Sunday afternoon during the LaHave ice jam of 1971, was enjoying the day off work by indulging in his pastime of amateur radio at his home, 129 Bristol Avenue, Liverpool. Howard, with call sign VE1FV, was in communication, using International Morse Code, with Ken Burrows, VEIAOC, now of Bell's Point, Port Mouton, but formerly of Bristol Avenue. Ken, working for Columbia University at the time, was radio/electronics officer aboard the research vessel Robert D Conrad, off the coast of west Africa. During their conversation, Howard's telephone rang. The voice on the other end of the line was that of Irvin Himmelman, a technician at the Maritime Tel & Tel central office in Bridgewater. Himmelman had just witnessed the collapse of the bridge across the LaHave, and the subsequent loss of all connections with head office in Halifax. All communication cables had been lashed to that structure. Those were the days before microwave towers. The accident literally cut off Queens and Lunenburg counties from the rest of the world. Areas affected included New Ross, Chester, all communities the east side of the LaHave, and all communities the West side of the LaHave, and as far west as Port Mouton. When the bridge went down, and red alarm lights began flashing in the telephone company's toll office on North Street, Halifax, employees in the city had no idea what had just occurred. So Himmelman, knowing Howard's hobby was amateur radio, asked for help in contacting officials in Halifax to let them know the situation. Howard immediately went on the 80 meter band (3.750 mHz) and called CQ (general call) Halifax with "urgent traffic". His request was answered by the late Angus MacDonald, VE1YO, a blind amateur radio operator in Dartmouth who was very active in the hobby and often communicating with hams locally and globally. Angus relayed the message to Maritime Tel. & Tel. across the harbour in Halifax. The link between Liverpool and Halifax for emergency communications and planning had thus been established. From 4.20 to 11 pm, the only link from this South Shore area to the Halifax toll office (and the rest of the world) was via Howard's amateur radio station and Angus MacDonald's radio room in Dartmouth. Manpower and cables were ordered to replace the communications gap across the LaHave River. The hams maintained the link--providing emergency communications for Maritime Tel. & Tel. and customers--until one circuit could be established that night.
More Memories Of The Bridge Collapse From: Donna Norman, Liverpool I was one of the last cars to cross the old bridge in Bridgewater just before it was closed and collapsed. I had been to Wolfville to visit my parents and my two-year-old daughter (Hillary) and I were returning home. It was still the old road then, and you had to travel through Bridgewater to get to Liverpool. I had this little mini station wagon and when we got to Bridgewater all the ice was built up around the bridge. Just as I crossed the bridge and started toward Dufferin Hill I saw red lights in my rear mirror, the police and fire department were coming to close the bridge. Before I got to Liverpool I heard on the radio the bridge had collapsed from the ice jam.
From: Marg Millard, White Point Hi Mary, I can't remember specifics. Sorry. I was a little girl and the excitement sticks in my mind more than the details. Dad (Marg's Dad was Eric Millard, superintendent of public works for the Town of Liverpool) used to get a variety of calls in the spring when ice flows were doing their darndest to cut us off from.... He was a "bailey bridge man". During the war he worked with them a lot. I can remember taking calls for him at home for all manner of crisis. Snow storms, the brook and the Meadow Pond overflowing, the causeway in Western head being awash... I remember a trip or two in the police car (so exciting!) with Clayton Brannen where I was told to "stay put or else" (because Mom would have been in hospital and he didn't have someone handy to take me on). There was an earlier incident than the '71 one in Bridgewater. I was living away from home by '71. I was at that earlier one. It seems to me there were other bridges, like the Cookville bridge and maybe as high as New Germany that were in trouble all at the same time. I remember being car sick the whole way there (to Bridgewater where I was put up with someone to look out for me) and the whole way back and everyone was in such a hurry. They weren't thrilled about stopping to let me out. I remember the Mill Village Bridge being in bad shape a number of times as well and it seems to me the Greenfield bridge.
From: Fred Giffin, Liverpool As noted in the "big bad winters of the past", the winter of 1970/71 was noted as the standard by which all bad winters are measured during the past 36 years. The bridge collapsed in Bridgewater in the midst of that winter; on Feb. 14, 1971. Interestingly enough, the months of December and January were somewhat colder than this winter, and there was at least twice as much snow. In February, some extremely cold weather early in the month, (the temperature reached -27 deg. on Feb. 4), was followed by very mild weather from Feb. 6 right through to the Feb. 14. On the 13th and 14th, heavy rain, with temperatures as high as plus 8 degrees on both days would have resulted in a rapid rise in the river level, both from the rain itself and snow melt. Certainly the combination of a substantial build up of snow and ice, followed by heavy rains, were common in both circumstances. I'm wondering if this one may have been augmented by a higher than normal river level leading up to the crises, because of the heavy rains back in November. However, enough rain has fallen since last Friday, (approximately 135 mm) to have helped to cause the crisis anyway.
From: Armand Wigglesworth, Summerville Centre I have two tales to tell about Bridgewater ice jams. That was my business one time--as a provincial and, later, federal emergency representative. Howard Henderson did a wonderful job, and so did I. Currently, the people running around like roosters with their heads cut off, and under-employing people like the members of several fire departments. My story, when I decide to write it, will point out some unbelievable things. When I get time and courage, I will put to paper a tale of mismanagement and lack of any degree of crisis management that is unbelievable in this modern age. I don't think a "kafuffle" like this is possible in Queens County. I haven't been this upset since I retired in 1983 from the federal governments emergency planning agency, where I was director of operations for Canada, and was involved in such national disasters as the first major oil spill in Canada in 1970 in Cheubucto Bay in Cape Breton, and the famous Sky Lab incident in 1979. P.S. To give you just a hint--I was one of those people who took a helicopter and flew to Bridgewater in 1971 and dynamited a hole in the ice in the spot where they that have trouble each year (after duly warning the residents on both sides of the river of the impending blast). Maybe, Mary, you can find out who is in charge in that community. Honestly, last night, I couldn't get anyone to tell me who was in charge. The lady on duty could not tell me who was in charge of the crisis or, in fact, who was the mayor of that busy community.
If You have recollections of the LaHave ice jam and subsequent Bridgewater bridge collapse of 1971, to email it to Queens County Times.