The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949.

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Members of Orchestra Like Miracle Restored Order, Passenger Says

By Victor Stubbings

My wife’s cold may have saved both our lives. We had gone to be in our cabin on the lower deck D deck of the Noronic and I had fallen asleep, but Cecile, my wife was coughing so much it kept her awake.

The first I knew anything was wrong was when Cecile roused me. Then I heard a woman in a nearby cabin cry out:"Get up quickly, Jim, there’s a bad fire."

My wife and I rushed out on deck. Cecile just wore her nightdress and a dressing gown. I barely had time to slip on my trousers and shoes.

The scene that met our eyes was a living nightmare- o, that’s not strong enough-it was like a reproduction of Hades. Burning embers were falling from the upper decks. Half-clad women of al ages were dashing down the deck. For a time everything seemed to be confusion.

Credits Band

Then, like a miracle, a semblance of order was restored. I can’t give too much credit to the man who was responsible. I don’t know his name. All I know is he was a member of the orchestra..

He stood at the head of the stairway and in a clear, strong voice directed everybody forward to the only exit-the one passenger gangplank that led to the dock. It relieved the hysteria of some of the women and gave confidence to everybody.

Most of the people had been running to the rear of the deck, the worst thing they could do. The was no escape that way.

It didn’t take very long for my wife and I to each the deck. It was then I realized the full horror. I saw a girl attempting to climb from the boat deck to the promenade deck. The inferno on the upper part of the ship lit the scene. I’ll never forget the shock of seeing the girl lose her grip on the railing and tumble to the dock. I don’t know how badly she was hurt.

I saw three men on a huge extension ladder climbing down from an upper deck. Suddenly the ladder broke and the men were thrown into the lake. I didn’t see them again, but they may have been saved.

Tearing at Hair

I remember a woman in her early 30's running up and down on the deck. She was hysterical and actually tearing at her hair.

I heard her crying "Where is my mother, where is my mother- she was in another cabin and I can’t get to it."

Another incident I remember is about an assistant steward. I was talking to him one second and in a few minutes, when I noticed him again, blood was streaming down his face and he was being led to an ambulance.

My main concern, however, was for my wife. I almost took her off the boat at Cleveland, but he continued on the trip when a doctor said it was alright. Fortunately for Cecile, it wasn’t too cold and she didn’t get wet.

We didn’t stay long on the dock after we escaped from the ship. In all the excitement, with people lying on the dock and being placed in ambulances, and that tremendous blaze the sky, I can’t be sure of details.

Typically English.

I remember a man of about 35 coming up to us and asking if he could help. I learned that he was an Englishman who has only been in Canada a short time. I told him my wife was sick and I wanted to get her to a friends home in Port Credit. He said he ahd his car nearby and would drive us there..

In our scanty clothing that unknown benefactor drove us to the home of my friend and college mate, William Marsh, who lives on Cumberland Drive in Port Credit. Our friend in need" was typically English. He wouldn’t give us his name and refused payment for the trip.

"When you’re settled again I’ll just drop in for a spot of tea." was all he would say.

You can’t imagine how relieved I was to get my wife safely under shelter at Bill Marsh’s home. We are fellow-students at the University of Toronto, where I am in my fourth year on an engineering and physics course. My wife will stay with me in Toronto while I am studying. Our home is in Fort William and we came on the cruise for me to return to college.

"I wish I Knew"

During the summer I worked for Canada Steamship Lines at Fort William as a passenger agent for the cruises.

I believe the only Canadians among the passengers were my wife and I and another couple from Fort William, Mr and Mrs. Richard O’Brien. I think the O’Briens left the ship before the fire started. I wish I knew. They are great friends of mine and I am very anxious for their safety.

Saved Small Bag

The only thing my wife and I saved in the fire was a small bag of Cecile’s . It was filled with her "scanties" and cosmetics. Besides the very few clothes we wore when we escaped that ia ll the belongings we own with which to start my final college year.

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Date of Original:
Sept. 17,1949.
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Randy Johnson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Toronto Daily Star (Toronto, ON), Sept. 17,1949.