The Chamber of Commerce ceremonies to officially mark the commencement of work on the five million dollar Rainy Lake causeway went off with a bang at three o’clock yesterday afternoon- a Big Bang- literally, as well as figuratively.
About 175 to 200 persons, representing communities throughout the whole district of Rainy River- and elsewhere, as far distant as Toronto, were on hand for the history-making occasion.
When W.G. Noden, M.P.P., pressed the button a whole side of granite island erupted in an explosion that loosed a mass of rock ready for dumping into the lake to form the causeway rock fill which will connect the islands. The explosion sent some rocks hurtling skyward and a few whistling through the air in several directions into the lake.
Bill Croome, former Rainy River resident, son of the “Tip” Croome, one-time Rainy River M.P.P. told the Times this was just a small “symbolic explosion, without very much explosive in it because we didn’t want anyone to get hurt. If that was a small explosion it would be much safer to be in Fort Frances than out at the workings about six miles east of town when the remainder of the explosions are touched off.
To get the spectators to the scene of the blast Bill Lloyd ran two trips from the five-mile dock to the “borrow quarry” directly east and along the Canadian National Railways with his boat the “Rainy Lake” carrying about 40 to 50 passengers each trip. Countless smaller water crafts were on hand also for the momentous occasion.
On the return of the five mile dock from the ceremonies the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce served coffee and doughnuts to all present, with the Emperor Hotel Dining room staff catering for the occasion, with Mrs. “Bud” Mallory in charge.
The actual epoch-making explosion was preceded with a ceremony of brief speeches to commemorate the occasion. The setting was a CNR rock cut about two city blocks south of the island which was about to have its top blown off.
The addresses were tape recorded by radio station CFOB as was the resounding explosion. Bill Lloyd provided his electric generator so to have power there to operate the tape recorder there.
A.H.L. Tibbetts, president, Fort Frances Chamber, who acted as master of ceremonies, introduced other speakers and paid tribute to Mr. Noden. Chamber past-president and other individuals and organizations who for over 30 years or more have consistently persevered in efforts to get the highway from Rainy River to Thunder Bay built and completed.
Paul Kimports, secretary, International Falls Chamber of Commerce brought greetings from the U.S.A. and the Falls and commented on the immense benefit International Falls would reap from this important highway when completed.
Art Vennes brought greetings and congratulations from the Rainy River Chamber as did also George Grouche, mayor, and drew attention to a momentous celebration to be held in Rainy River in a few weeks to turn the sod for the commencement of the Rainy River-Baudette bridge.
This bridge in effect compliments the causeway and the Highway 120 project.
Ben Eyton, president of the Atikokan Chamber, accompanied by four others from that town, expressed genuine delight in this momentous occasion and recounted that Atikokan had at no time been lacking in either support or initiative in the highway project.
W.G. Noden, M.P.P., paid tribute to the individuals and organizations who have so loyally and unstintingly contributed toward the end that this causeway, and the highway link to Atikokan and the Lakehead would one day be built. He paid tribute to Mr. Croome, the causeway project superintendent, and his late father for his contributions to the district as a member. Mr. Noden paid special tribute to Hon. Leslie Frost, Premier of Ontario, for the leadership and initiative he has given the causeway and Highway 120 project and made reference to a recent letter from Mr. Frost in which he provided to be Mr. Noden’s “right hand man” until the causeway and highway was completed.
While yesterday’s explosion was the first on the actual causeway right-of-way, it was by no means the first work done on this causeway job, which is reported by the Financial Post to be the third largest highway project underway in Canada in 1958.
The start of the 90-mile road was witnessed by boatloads of spectators, taken by the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce to the scene of the explosion on the east shore of Rainy Lake. They’ll be happy to await the highway’s completion because the beginning took almost 40 years.
For that reason, W.G. Noden, M.P.P., will treasure the hard- rock helmet awarded him for triggering the blast.
Then the energetic legislator walked almost half a mile down the tracks and out of sight of the gathering to keep his election promises.
He reported later that the crank of the detonator came off in his hands once, but there was a satisfying bang. The sightseers a quarter-mile away felt the tremor, but no rocks landed near their look-out across a bay, Mr. Noden said that one crashed near him.
North Shore is constructing the first mile, or slightly less of the causeway that will constitute the most extensive three miles of the entire road. Cost of the causeway is estimated at $5,000,000.
Its blasting is a new technique employing an economical mixture of ammonia nitrate and fuel oil set off by two sticks of 75 percent of forceite, a form of dynamite. The explosive mixture was discovered as a result of the Texas City disaster, Mr. Croome explained.
Some of the holes blown Wednesday were 22 feet deep, but a big “wagon drill” is making 26 feet per hour. The engineer said the charge was composed of five rows of holes seven feet apart, covering an area of 1,320 square feet.
The CNR, apparently not a bit dismayed by the competition the highway will bring, is co-operating with the road-builders in many ways. Engineer Croome said that railway crews are working closely with his crew, covering nearby rails to avoid dynamite damage and even holding up trains, whenever necessary, to wait for blasting. He is dependent upon the railroad and lake travel for all supplies and equipment. Lloyd Boatlines has placed its 40-passenger “Tuffy” at the disposal of the North Shore Company for the summer.