Part 16 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

Panoramic view of Geraldton’s Third Street North looking east in winter 1937, from the POV of the water tower behind the Geraldton Hotel. The Strand Theatre was built in 1935, the Gordon Block (to the R) in 1934. The Block housed Scher’s Drug Store, the Royal Bank of Canada, and Geraldton Lumber and Supply. In the centre area, the large building with the steeply pitched roof is the first Anglican church, without siding or steeple. In the upper R in the bush, south of the tracks, lay the hobo jungle. The Gordon Block is now gone, the brick theatre converted to a pub. All photos from Greenstone History Collection.


The mines had Hydro power in 1934, but, it was not extended
to Geraldton until 1937. With electricity available[,] the people
owning houses were eager to have the electric service. Many
homes were wired by their owners with material from the mines[.
Often] their handiwork was not inspected for safety . . .
“The Geraldton Way” of doing things.

The women around town, who were fortunate to have a .
washing machine [before] moving to Geraldton[, got} the precious
machine out and dusted it off ready for the weekly wash. With
a supply of water available from a tap and [an] electric washing
machine,wash day was no longer a great chore. The early
[C anadian washing machine] (the washboard) and the flat irons
heated on the stove could be relegated to the wood shed.

The total population for the area including the townsites
was about 7,000. The men worked three shifts at the mines, and
that meant that there were people seeking recreation during the
afternoons as well as in the evenings. The Strand Theatre opened
for business and provided afternoon and evening performances
of the latest films. A special [children’s show] on Saturday afternoon
included a serial, which left the children concerned about
their idol from week to week.

The electric service was often interrupted, especially during
the [peak] period of usage. This meant that most evening theatre
performances were interrupted, usually during a lingering
love scene between [Jeanette] MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Some
of the patrons took advantage of the blackout to get on with
some serious smooching, only to be [disrupted] by Cyril Gatien.
Cyril was a very dedicated member of the Volunteer Fire Depart-
ment and always had a [3-cell] flashlight on hand. He would stroll
into the theatre and swing the flashlight beam around the theatre,
which caused some red faces.

Most business were happy to have electric power as it made
life easier to deal with. There was no need for a night watch-
man when one could leave a light burning for protection against
thefts. It certainly made life easier for the restaurants and
hotels where washing up made a constant necessity of hot water.

View of Little Long Lac mine in 1940 looking southwest, ablaze with electric light The POV is the north end of the causeway and bridge on Barton Bay, Kenogamisis Lake.
The electricity panels in an unnamed mill in the Geraldton region. The annotations read, “One of the [550] volt / panels in the mill / There is another one / similar at the / end of mill” and “LOVEX PRINT / MADE BY / LOVELADY STUDIO / FORT ARTHUR, ONT. / MAR 23 1935”

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