Sept 28, 2008

The Weather office (MET)


Here is a little follow-up information, sort of a conversation that erupted after Carol Mercer Walsh’s recent column submitted from an early Gander Beacon about the Gander weather office. Maybe some of you remember the place and the people who worked there…


Yes dad worked there 1951-1961. I read Carol's piece which seemed to discuss the weather office during the war years and then seemed to jump to the present. Mr's Warren, Mercer, and Cooper also worked at the Gander weather office when we were there.

Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s, Class of 1961




Yes, Dad worked in the weather office from October '58 to July '59. I'll email him and ask him for anything he can remember about it. The article on the website did seem to leave out a big chunk of time

Liz Morgan Marshall, Class of 1959


Hi Bob M:

Fred Mercer (known to me as Uncle Fred but not really my uncle) was certainly one of the original people who worked there along with Max Warren and Ed Cooper.  Sadly, all 3 have now passed on.  The Met families were all housed in their own building just opposite the top end of Chestnut Street as it crossed over to the American Side. It was one of the first buildings to be dismantled to accommodate the extension to the runway.  That was about 1955 or '56. 

I believe that a Mr. Sutherland was the Chief in those days.  When the town came in existence, a number of them moved into houses owned by the MOT on Bowe Street.

In later years, there were many others, i.e. Hiram Keeping, Jim Freake and one of our classmates, Judy Carter, was secretary there for many years.

I knew those articles would start up memories, it would be nice if Liz's father could document some further info and we could ask Jack to add it to the item I wrote.  Also, Bob (Warren) might be able to contribute further too.

It's great to know that you all are reading this stuff, makes it worthwhile. Without your feedback, you really wonder if it is of any interest to anybody.

Carol Mercer Walsh, Class of 1954


And dad (Max Mckinnon) passed away in 1998 at the QE2 in Halifax.

In old town Gander we lived in the apartment building on Pattison Rd. It was on the corner of the Chestnut St. extension, behind three houses, one of which was occupied by Dr. Paton, another, I think, by the airport manager. When we were there the only Met people I remember were dad, Max Warren, and Geordie Geans. Below us was Patty and Aggie Chafe (an airport fireman who later moved his family to Truro, NS). Their two oldest children were Carol and Charlie.

The apartment across from us was occupied by a couple of families while we were there. First was a hockey coach from Amherst, NS who was brought in for minor hockey. He used to tape my hockey stick for me. The second family was the Starks. I know their children were called Donald, Stewart, and Kenneth because Mrs Stark used to stand on the balcony and call out their names when it was time to come home. Our apartment building is depicted on "The Flight".

When we arrived in Gander in 1951, our apartment was not available yet so we stayed at someone's house on Foss Ave while they were out of town. I think it may have been Fred Mercer's place. I don't remember for sure. I believe Mr. Sutherland replaced Mr. Hollahan as Chief of the weather office. The Hollahan kids went to our school on the American side. I remember the name Elias Hollahan as the oldest son. Mr. Hollahan was transferred to Moncton from Gander.

In the new town, the Mckinnons and the Coopers lived on Pinedo Rd.

Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s, Class of 1961



Thanks Bob for remembering all those little tidbits - I do remember where you lived BUT I don't remember the other families that you mentioned.  You no doubt stayed with Uncle Fred in Bldg. 108 on Foss Avenue next to Hunt Memorial because that is where they moved after their building was dismantled in the area where you lived. 

Faye mentioned to me that after reading my item on the things we did as young people, that she hadn't realized that the Airport was that large. The R.C. School was located on the American Side and there were many there that I never did get to know ...that is, until I married one of them!  My husband's father was Custodian of the School and Church during those years after he had to retire from the C.N.R. on disability - so you probably remember Steve Walsh.

As you know, the American Side as with all the "Sides" had their own little groups. It was quite a distance to travel to get from one side to the other and the only way you got to meet children your own age was through school or organizations.  There was the McNamara Side, BOAC Side, Union East, R.A.F. Side, Army Side, Canadian Army Side, and the American Side - the largest one. For example, I'm sure you don't remember me nor do I remember you and yet we lived our childhood on the Airport.  It was like a bunch of little towns within one.

Thanks again for your memories, it's always a pleasure to recall things, events and people that you may have forgotten. 

Carol Mercer Walsh, Class of 1954



Carol: The more I think about it the more I remember. Dad used to take us to work occasionally to see what he did. In the early days, one of the duties of the weather guy was to make hydrogen gas for the weather balloons. The procedure was pretty much the same as making CO2 in a fire extinguisher.

They would put iron filings and hydrochloric acid in a gas cylinder and screw the top on tight. When they turned the bottle upside down the ingredients would mix and produce hydrogen. I think they use a much safer helium these days. The smaller weather balloons would have a light and battery pack attached to them.

Dad used to bring those weather balloons home for us kids to use. You had to have strong lungs to blow them up. They also plotted the isobar lines on the weather maps by hand with a very fine tipped pen. You can imagine how tricky that got on a windy day when isobars were very close together. Yes, we went to the RC school on the American side. We had to catch the bus on the corner of Foss and Pattison. I remember the school was in one of those H-huts. I don't remember your husband in particular but there was a number of Walshs at the school. There was a girl there by the name of Walsh but I can't remember her first name.

Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s, Class of 1961


Does anyone else have memories about these people or locations? Send along to and they’ll get posted. Thanks.. Faye.