Disaster, perseverance and love
Interesting circumstances played a part in Lois Ellis’s life
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.