Dis­as­ter, per­se­ver­ance and love

In­ter­est­ing cir­cum­stances played a part in Lois El­lis’s life

Truro Daily News - - COLCHESTER COUNTY - Lyle Carter Lyle Carter’s col­umn ap­pears ev­ery se­cond week in the Truro News. If you have a col­umn idea, con­tact him at 902 673-2857.

There are many sto­ries that tie in with the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion, which oc­curred Dec. 6, 1917.

e dis­as­ter took place dur­ing early morn­ing in the Nar­rows, a strait con­nect­ing the up­per Hal­i­fax Har­bour to Bed­ford Basin.

e Nor­we­gian ves­sel SS Imo col­lided with SS Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship car­ry­ing high ex­plo­sives. Fire aboard the French ship ig­nited her cargo caus­ing a large ex­plo­sion that dev­as­tated the Rich­mond dis­trict of Hal­i­fax.

Ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 peo­ple were killed by the pow­er­ful blast, ying de­bris, res and col­laps­ing build­ings. An es­ti­mated 9,000 were in­jured.

Lois El­lis touched on the ex­plo­sion dur­ing a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion.

“Be­fore the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion, my grand­mother Sadie Richard­son, a widow, ran a board­ing house in Hal­i­fax as a way of mak­ing a liv­ing,” said El­lis, 79, of Wit­ten­burg.

“ e morn­ing of the ex­plo­sion, she left her two young daugh­ters, Dorothy (Lois’s mother) and Mar­garet, with peo­ple she knew.

“ e ter­ri­ble tragedy left every­one panic stricken. It was all so hor­ri­ble. Re­turn­ing to her two daugh­ters, my grand­mother grabbed them and said she would never be sep­a­rated from them again.”

In the months that fol­lowed the ex­plo­sion, El­lis sur­mises her grand­mother faced huge de­ci­sions in car­ing for her fam­ily.

Although her in­come was gone, she was de­ter­mined to per­se­vere.

“My grand­mother went to Bos­ton with her two daugh­ters, she must have trav­elled by train,” El­lis said. “My grand­mother went to work as a cook for the tele­phone com­pany; she worked on Milk Street in Bos­ton.

“She worked there right up un­til she re­tired. My mother, Dorothy, be­came a hair­dresser, and also worked on Milk Street.”

Dorothy mar­ried Bernard Stevens, they had three daugh­ters – Bar­bara, Lois and Mar­garet.

e fam­ily lived in Quincy, on the out­skirts of Bos­ton.

El­lis has many good mem­o­ries from her youth such as walk­ing to school in Quincy and of her fa­ther’s work tak­ing the fam­ily to Santa Mon­ica, Calif., where they lived for a year.

At age 12, El­lis went on an un­for­get­table trip to Nova Sco­tia.

“My fa­ther drove the fam­ily to Wit­ten­burg to visit my grand­mother. Fol­low­ing re­tire­ment it would have been di cult for my grand­mother to be able to af­ford to re­main liv­ing in Bos­ton. She be­came in­ter­ested in buy­ing a house in Wit­ten­burg where quite a few rel­a­tives lived. There’s quite a story as to how she was able to pur­chase the house. She bought an Ir­ish Sweep­stakes ticket and won $400. at was a lot of money at the time, it helped her buy the house in Wit­ten­burg.”

El­lis re­called that as a teenager, she worked as a sec­re­tary for the United States Navy. An­tic­i­pat­ing sum­mer va­ca­tion, she looked for­ward to again vis­it­ing Wit­ten­burg.

“It was dur­ing my third visit to Wit­ten­burg, af­ter my grand­mother had passed away, that I met Frank El­lis. It was in 1958, we had a Fri­day night date. en, Satur­day morn­ing, we drove to Truro as Frank had to pick up a part for the milk sep­a­ra­tor. We also went to Vic­to­ria Park. On Sun­day, we took a long drive.”

Smil­ing, El­lis told me more about the courtship.

“When I was 15, I went to a Youth For Christ meet­ing at Park Street Church in Bos­ton. I made a de­ci­sion for Christ. Later, while work­ing for the navy de­part­ment I prayed a prayer that the Lord would help me nd a Chris­tian hus­band.”

Dur­ing De­cem­ber 1958, Frank drove to Quincy to spend Christ­mas with Lois and her fam­ily. Dur­ing the visit, some­thing ex­cit­ing took place – Frank and Lois were en­gaged.

en, on June 12, 1959, at Me­mo­rial Con­gre­ga­tional Church in Quincy, Frank El­lis and Lois Stevens were mar­ried.

“I am so thank­ful,” Lois said. “Frank and I have been blessed all along the way. In the early days we had very lit­tle, our rst house had no elec­tric­ity and no in­door plumb­ing. But, things worked out, we are so thank­ful to God. is June, we will cel­e­brate 60 years of mar­riage.”

Frank’s ca­reer in­cluded farm­ing and lum­ber­ing, and he was also a long- time trucker; he did con­tract work with the De­part­ment of High­ways for 30 years.

Frank and Lois at­tend the Wit­ten­burg Bap­tist Church and Lois also teaches a Bi­ble study. ey have three chil­dren, three grand­chil­dren and three great-grand­chil­dren.

Lois’s younger sis­ter Mar­garet mar­ried the late Arthur Dodsworth of Wit­ten­burg.

Frank El­lis and Lois Stevens were mar­ried June 12, 1959, in Quincy, Mass.

Seen in this photo, a num­ber of years af­ter the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion, are Sadie Richard­son, cen­tre, and daugh­ters Mar­garet, left, and Dorothy.


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