Saturday, July 5, 2014

Millennium 16 : CN Tower

[This post is another in a series  profiling each of the 68 stamps issued by Canada Post Corporation on September 15, 1999 on the occasion of the new Millennium. ]

CN Tower post card, circa 1977

The CN Tower is one of Toronto's most recognizable architectural structures. Built by CN Rail and opened in 1976, the 553m (1815ft.) communication and observation  tower is a major Toronto landmark and  tourist attraction. In 1995, it was declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. When CN transferred ownership of the tower to the federal crown corporation Canada Lands in 1995, the  tower's official name was changed to Canada's National Tower , but this name is not commonly used. The CN Tower was the highest freestanding structure in the world until 2007.

The World's Highest Post Office Cachet

The 1977 post card shown below shows that visitors were able to post mail at the top of the tower to which a souvenir cachet was applied.

Toronto to Thalwil, Switzerland, September 14, 1977


The Millennium Stamp

1.  Millennium Collection Album

CN Tower was one of 68 Millennium stamps first issued in a hardbound book, Canada Post The Millennium Collection : Expressions of a People, on September 15, 1999. The stamps were printed two to a page.

 Canada in Space and CN Tower stamps were printed on the same page

2. Millennium Collection Souvenir Sheet

Canada Post Corporation re-issued the Millennium stamps in panes of 4 stamps issued over a three month period from December 17, 1999 to March 17, 2000. The souvenir sheet with the CN Tower stamp was released on March 17, 2000.

Friday, July 4, 2014

From Mississauga to Sheldon Cooper

The cover below links Mississauga, Ontario to actor Jim Parsons of the TV comedy "The Big Bang Theory".

Mississauga, Ontario, July 18, 1987


Mississauga, Ontario, Canada 6th largest city, is a suburban community on the western border of Toronto.

Its current mayor, 93 year-old Hazel McCallion has held the post since 1978.

 Legendary Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion

On April 22, 1982, the City of Mississauga invited Canadian architects to participate in an architectural competition to select the architect and design for a New City Hall and a civic square to be built in the city centre.

The winning design was submitted by Jones and Kirkland, Architects.

The building was officially opened on July 18, 1987 at a ceremony presided over by Mayor McCallion and attended by Prince Andrew and his wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

Mayor McCallion, Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York at the opening of the Mississauga Civic Centre

The Duke and Duchess of York

The Duke and Duchess of York spent three weeks touring Canada in 1987. Here they are wearing obligatory white stetsons at the Calgary Stampede:

 By 1990, the couple were the parents of two daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie.

Eugenie held by her mother
Beatrice on her father's lap
The Royal couple were divorced in 1996

Eugenie (Genie) Bouchard

On February 25, 1994, twin sisters (fraternal) were born to Michel Bouchard and Julie Leclair of Montreal. The sisters were named Beatrice and Eugenie after Prince Andrew and Sarah Fergusons' daughters.

Eugenie Bouchard started playing tennis at the age of five and is now a successful professional tennis player.

Jim Parsons

Jim Parsons as Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "The Big Bang Theory"

Actor Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon Cooper in the popular television comedy The Big Bang Theory is one of Eugenie Bouchard's biggest fans. Parsons explained his interest in the athlete in a recent interview:
 “She played her first professional Wimbledon last year and her manager contacted my manager and apparently she watches Big Bang and he knew I was a fan of tennis and he said, ‘Is there any chance Jim could come to Wimbledon? He could sit in the players’ box with us.”
Parsons was at Centre Court on Thursday July 3, 2014, to witness Ms. Bouchard's semi-final victory over Simona Halep.

Eugenie Bouchard and Jim Parsons, Wimbledon, 2014

And that is how a cover links Mississauga to Sheldon Cooper.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

WWI : Died of Wounds at the Battle of Amiens, August 1918

On August 8, 1918, twenty-two year old Private Gilbert Arthur Gray, 1st Field Ambulance Corps, died of wounds he received  "while carrying a comrade off the field" at the Battle of Amiens. He was one of  1, 036 Canadian soldiers who died that day and one of 61,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the 1914 - 1918 "Great War".


The cover below sent  from Toronto to Private Gray was postmarked August 17, 1918, nine days after he died. It was returned with the explanatory label "DIED OF WOUNDS".

Since there was no return address on the cover, the letter was forwarded to the Ottawa "Dead Letter Branch" and handled on November 5, 1918, less than a week before the Armistice.

Burial Location

Private Gray is one of 204 soldiers buried at Longeau British Cemetery, Somme, France.


Aurora Cenotaph

Private Gray's name is inscribed on the Aurora, Ontario Cenotaph, along with the names of 76 other men of the town of Aurora and the townships of  King and Whitchurch who died in the Great War.

Books of Remembrance

The names of over 118,000 Canadians who have died since Confederation while serving in the military have been written in the seven Books of Remembrance which  lie in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

 Memorial Chamber, Peace Tower, Parliament Hill

Book of Remembrance on display

 Book of Remembrance page with Private Gray's name

Pte. Gray, Gilbert Arthur 54th Bn

Private Gilbert Arthur Gray was one of 61,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the 1914 - 1918 "Great War".

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Y2K Millennium Bug

A recent philatelic purchase brought back memories of the "Millenium Bug", also known as "The Year 2000"  problem (Y2K).  World-wide computer failure was predicted because many computer programs stored years with only two decimal digits to represent a year rather than all four (memory was at a premium in the old days). The fear was that computer systems would be vulnerable when they ticked over from "99" to "00" - making some of them interpret the year as 1900, possibly  resulting in the following:
  • Computer systems at the electrical and water companies would fail
  • Airplanes would malfunction and control towers would be unable to guide them to the airports. 
  •  Grocery stores were going to run out of food
  •  Bank accounts would be depleted 
  •  GPS satellites would  fail and create world-wide navigation problems
Fortunately a great deal of money was spent fixing the bug and the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Sydney, Australia didn't vaporize at midnight, January 1, 2000.

The satirical CBC radio programme This is That with Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring aired a "documentary" recounting the years that Norman Feller spent in his underground bunker to escape from the Millenium Bug.


Y2K-like bug 2014

This July 2014 story is NOT a joke!

From the July 11, 2014 Guardian :

A year 2000-related bug has caused the US military to send more than 14,000 letters of conscription to men who were all born in the 1800s and died decades ago.
Shocked residents of Pennsylvania began receiving letters ordering their great grandparents to register for the US military draft by pain of “fine and imprisonment.” 
"I said, 'Geez, what the hell is this about?’” Chuck Huey, 73, of Kingston, Pennsylvania told the Associated Press when he received a letter for his late grandfather Bert Huey, born in 1894 and a first world war veteran who died at the age of 100 in 1995.“It said he was subject to heavy fines and imprisonment if he didn't sign up for the draft board,” exclaimed Huey. "We were just totally dumbfounded.”
                     Y2K-like bug
The US Selective Service System, which sent the letters in error, automatically handles the drafting of US citizens and other US residents that are applicable for conscription. The cause of the error was narrowed down to a Y2K-like bug in the Pennsylvania department of transportation (PDT).A clerk at the PDT failed to select a century during the transfer of 400,000 records to the Selective Service, producing 1990s records for men born a century earlier."We made a mistake, a quite serious selection error," Jan McKnight from Pennsylvania digital services PennDOT.The Selective Service identified 27,218 records of men born in the 1800s made errantly applicable by the change of century and began sending out notices to them on 30 June.The federal agency began receiving calls from worried relatives on 3 July, explaining that the men were dead, but by that time it had already sent 14,250 notices in error.The youngest of the men would have been 117 this year. Families who received the notices can safely ignore them, said Pat Schuback from the Selective Service.

 Y2K Philately

Gabon, St. Kitts, and Indonesia issued "Millennium Bug" stamps.

(Not in author's collection)

(Not in author's collection)

(Not in author's collection)


The cover above addressed to Devils Lake, North Dakota contained a Y2K post card created by Stan Hopkins for National Post Card Week 2000.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ferrying Aircraft to the U.S.S.R. : The Northwest Staging Route and Alaska-Siberia Air Road (ALSIB)

 From 1942 to 1945, over 8,000 aircraft such as the Bell Bell P-63 Kingcobra were ferried from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R.through Canada and the Alaska-Siberia Air Road. 


 In 1941, the United States began supplying Great Britain matériel to help them in their war efforts against Germany. Since U.S. law prevented the Government from extending credit to Great Britain and only permitted cash sales of war matériel, the supplies were on "loan" (1941 Lend Lease Act).

The Lend-Lease act allowed the U.S. to supply items needed for national defence to Great Britain and almost forty other countries including the U.S.S.R. whose defence was crucial to the United States. The program cost nearly $51 billion from 1941 to 1946 with most aid going to the British Empire ($31 billion) and the Soviet Union ($11 billion).

USA-USSR Lend-Lease Agreement

In October, 1941, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. entered into a Lend-Lease agreement  American Lend-lease deliveries to the Soviet Union included aircraft, trucks, tanks, motorcycles, locomotives and railway cars, anti-aircraft cannons and machine-guns, submachine guns, explosives, field radios, radar systems, as well as foodstuff, steel, other metals, chemicals, and oil and gasoline.

Lend-Lease Routes to the U.S.S.R.:
1. North Atlantic Arctic Convoys : to  Murmansk and Arkhangelsk in northern Russia
2. Persian Corridor : through Iran into Soviet Azerbaijan
3. Pacific Route : to Vladivostok by Soviet ships
4. Alaska- Siberia  Air Route
This post deals with the delivery of aircraft across the 6,000 mile Alaska-Siberia air route.

The Northwest Staging Route and Alaska-Siberia Air Road (ALSIB)

From 1942 to 1945, the United States sent over 8,000 military aircraft to the U.S.S.R. through Alaska. The aircraft were ferried from factories in California, the U.S. Midwest and northeast  to Edmonton, then flown along the Northwest Staging Route to Fairbanks where Soviet pilots took possession of the planes and flew them over the Bering Strait to Krasnoyarsk [the Alaska-Siberian air road (ALSIB)] and then to the battle fronts. 

Northwest Staging Route and Alaska-Siberian Air Road

a) The Northwest Staging Route : 1942 -1945

The Northwest Staging Route consisted of airfields  built or upgraded about every 150 km (100 miles)  from Edmonton, to Fairbanks, Alaska. The airfields were connected by the the Alaska Highway.

Northwest Staging Route

 U.S. Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command : RCAF Station Edmonton

The Edmonton station became the headquarters of the U.S. Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command. Two routes from the United States met in Edmonton.  One route originated at Great Falls Army Air Base, Montana, where aircraft bound for Russia were ferried from their manufacturing plants in Southern California.  In late 1943, a second route originating at Minneapolis, Minnesota for aircraft manufactured in the Midwest and northeastern United States was inaugurated.

 U.S. Army Post Office (#462) located at the Edmonton base handled the mail for the American servicemen and personnel stationed at Air Transport Command. The covers below were mailed from Edmonton.

 U.S. Army Postal Service No. 462, Edmonton to Harrisburg, Pa., March 17, 1944

Although U.S. Army Post Office (A.P.O.) no. 462 was located at the RCAF Edmonton base, the actual locations of the APOs was not given in the return address.

U.S. Army Post Office #462, Edmonton, March 17, 1944
Free surface mail to the United States

The second cover was from the Office of Field Director, The American Red Cross to New Haven, October 18, 1944. Free mail service had not been extended to the Red Cross.

U.S. Army Post Office #462 to New haven, Conn., October 18, 1944
3 cents surface letter rate to the United States

b) Alaska- Siberia Air Road

The aircraft flown by American crews to Fairbanks, Alaska, were handed over to the Soviets  and ferried to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia by specially selected Soviet pilots of  the Ferry Aviation Divi­sion.

 The Ferry Aviation Division consisted of five ferry regiments (PAP), each of which was responsible for a certain part of the route:
1 PAP - Fairbanks-Uelkal (1.500 km),
2 PAP - Uelkal-Seimchan (1.450 km),
3 PAP - Seichan-Yakutsk (1.167 kin),
4 PAP - Yakutsk-Kirensk (1.331 km),
5 PAP - Kirensk-Krasnoyarsk (965 km).
 In Krasnoyarsk "ordinary" pilots took over, flying the newly arrived aircraft westwards via Omsk, Sverdlovsk and Kazan to Moscow for further distribution to frontline units. ALSIB-ferry crews were returned to Fairbanks by the Yakutsk­-based regiment. 

Aircraft Types Ferried

Three main types of combat aircraft were ferried to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease:
  • Fighter aircraft - Bell P-39 Airacobas and Bell P-63 Kingcobras
  • Bombers - Douglas A-20 Havocs and North American B-25 Mitchells
  • Transport Aircraft - Douglas C-47 Skytrains

Russian crews in Nome gather under the wing of a U.S. bomber destined for the Russian-German battlefront.

2006 Lend-Lease Monument : Fairbanks, Alaska

 In August, 2006, U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and his Russian counterpart Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov were among the many international political, military, and diplomatic officials who participated in the opening of the Lend-Lease Memorial in Fairbanks.