Vanier’s Dangerous “Lac” Lafontaine, 1954

In 1954, the apartment developments along Blake Boulevard were quite new. Land in what was then known as Eastview was available for a song and builders like Sam Blake (for whom the street was named) and Marius Vachon were all too happy take advantage of the opportunity. Although the municipality’s red hot real estate market after the Second World War rendered the humiliation of being put under provincial management during the Depression a distant memory, its effect on Eastview’s infrastructure remained. This is aside from the fact that paved streets and storm sewer systems were still considered to be, in most municipalities, an optional “nice to have” in new developments, and could wait.

Although the City had been working hard to fill in drainage ditches, for example, by April 1954, it had not yet made it to the corner of Blake Boulevard and Lafontaine Street. That Spring had been warm and it was only a few days before that 30mm of rain had fallen. Combined with the usual Spring thaw, the drainage ditches were quite full; the water being knee-deep in many cases. This also made them attractive to the neighbourhood’s many children.

Source: Ottawa Journal, April 9, 1954, 20.

On April 9, both the Citizen and the Journal reported that a two-and-a-half year old child named Maxine Ferguson nearly drowned in the ditch at the corner of Lafontaine and Blake Boulevard. Had it not have been for the quick thinking of a neighbour who pulled her out, she might have. Once pulled from the ditch, she was brought to St. Louis (Montfort) Hospital where they found that she only had water in her stomach, but not lungs.

Shortly after noon, little Maxine was enjoying a soft-boiled egg, apparently unaware of the near-tragedy.

The day before, a three-year-old boy named Billy McConechy had his own near-miss and might have drowned, had it not been for a passing truck driver who noticed him in the water. All of this only served to underline the concerns parents around Blake Boulevard had been expressing to Eastview Council for a while: the ditches were a danger and should be dealt with.

When asked by the Journal, Maxine’s mother claimed that it was the first time her daughter had wandered off like that and that the family had just moved to the neighbourhood from “out West” and were unfamiliar with drainage ditches like those in Eastview. Joining the chorus of parents in the child-friendly neighbourhood, Mrs. Ferguson wanted to see the ditch fenced in.

For his own part, Eastview Mayor Gordon Lavergne was entirely aware of the issue and Lafontaine’s attractive nuisance was scheduled to be filled in later that year as part of an area-wide project that had already seen 400 feet of the ditches filled in. According to Lavergne,  it was “the only open area left now and we expect to fill it in this year.”1”Two In A Week: Drowning Tot Saved By Heroic Neighbor,” Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 1954, 1; “Save Children From Ditch in Eastview,” Ottawa Journal, April 9, 1954, 1, 20.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ”Two In A Week: Drowning Tot Saved By Heroic Neighbor,” Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 1954, 1; “Save Children From Ditch in Eastview,” Ottawa Journal, April 9, 1954, 1, 20.