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April 20, 2012

Apocalypse Then and Now

There have been several times in our recent past when there has been apparent or real crises of major proportions that triggered strange reactions from the populace. Currently the atomic threats of North Korea and Iran and other nationsí stockpiles of weapons hang over our heads. A few months ago a US preacher predicted the end for those who were not saved ,so to speak. There is a lot of press on the message of the Maya calendar that predicts a major catastrophe on December 21, 2012. Climate change and over population of 7 billion people don't bode well for the future of our children.

Today I want to step back and look at some of the events of the Cold War in the 1960s when plans were made to provide protection for government, people and property. Thousands of safe havens were built for various reasons to protect against potential cataclysm. Prime Minister Diefenbaker's bunker protecting the Canadian government resulted in the so-called Diefenbunker which remains today as a museum in Ottawa.

There are other large-scale examples of bunkers, fallout shelters, bomb shelters, and related activities. Close to home the Hole or underground complex two miles below North Bay protecting North America existed until recently . It took two years to build it starting in 1956.

The Globe and Mail ran a fascinating full-page article last month on a couple who bought an abandoned house in Aurora that had the remnants of an underground complex hidden in the basement. They found that the Metropolitan Toronto's Emergency Preparedness Centre was hidden there for years and maintained but not used for years until it was abandoned. The couple has partly restored some of the artifacts in the 35 by 60 foot space that was set up to deal with a major crisis if it should arise. It had 100 phone lines, maps and all manner of communication ready to oversee any major disaster relief.

There are dozens of stories online about some spaces that were saved for a variety of reasons and adapted for various uses. Most were bulldozed or otherwise abandoned.

Local shelters

There were some local shelters including some vague reference to a bunker in Kiosk in Algonqin Park that I heard about when I was writing a book on Kiosk. Apparently there was an underground structure with food and accommodation for some group during a crisis.

Another fascinating story in Nipissing Township (147 Sunset Cove Road) came to my attention recently and I am currently researching it. It is fascinating because it involved not only the shelter idea but was also a uniquly designed large concrete home with the shelter component built in by a remarkably eccentric and driven personality Osborne Jones (1913 to 1994)( see photo.)

Osborne Jones on site

Jones built his home of solid reinforced concrete by himself. He made the forms, mixed the cement, and built the structure and lived in it regularly for several years along with a place in North Bay that he walked back and forth to. The shelter was in the lower level and the rest of the house served as a complimentary structure. He apparently did not have a vehicle and carried most of his material by hand. When building the final story he built a ramp so a Redi-mix truck could deliver the required concrete.

Osborne was creative in other ways. He made a variety of arts pieces that came from parts he collected at the local dump. He was also very religious and had biblical signs on the walls for passersby to see. He gave tours which included a little preaching and many stopped to look.

In a note in an old article on the Jones project the author wrote about Osbornesí career and mentioned that he had a variety of jobs before starting on his home including working as a carpenter. He also worked as a cost accountant at Kiosk where, as I mentioned above, there was a bunker. One wonders if there is a connection with his endeavor.

For some reason the 12 acre site did not survive as a home and was sold by the Township for taxes. Frank and Lorraine Walker bought it and camp there regularly. I visited them there recently and looked over the remarkable property. They have done some excellent research on the history and have some old photos a couple of which are shown here. I hope to write more about the place in the future. It deserves to be preserved in some form for a variety of reasons as remarkable artifact from the past. If anyone has information call me at 705-724-6882 or e-mail me.

Part of Jones home. Supplied photos

In a note in an old article on the Jones project the author wrote about Osbornesí career and mentioned that he had a variety of jobs before starting on his home including working as a carpenter. He also worked as a cost accountant at Kiosk where, as I mentioned above, there was a bunker. One wonders if there is a connection with his endeavor.

For some reason the 12 acre site did not survive as a home and was sold by the Township for taxes. Frank and Lorraine Walker bought it and camp there regularly. I visited them there recently and looked over the remarkable property. They have done some excellent research on the history and have some old photos a couple of which are shown here. I hope to write more about the place in the future. It deserves to be preserved in some form for a variety of reasons as remarkable artifact from the past. If anyone has information call me at 705-724-6882 or e-mail me.

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