Contributed by R. Pelley


Gander Airport Mystery Photo

I recently bought from an antique dealer in New  York this great photo of Gander. It is a professionnal  photo that was taken by "George Valentine Enell and Associates, Hanger 4, La Guardia Field, New York".  Their phone number was  the old style  HAvemeyer 0-5411.
From the flags on the roof of the hangar, this would seemingly be a photo from very late 1940's - very early 1950's. It is very unusual in that there are cars parked on the ramp from which they were usually excluded because of aircraft parking.  I would presume that if this company came to Gander to take the photo, it must have been an important occasion.
I thought at first that it might have been the visit of the Queen but that was much later, in 1959.  Maybe it had something to do with Nfld becoming a Canadian province.
I offer this both as an interesting  photo and as a puzzle.  Two questions :
- what was the occasion?
- can you identify any  of the people?
Send me your answers  at :  and as soon as I get enough feedback I will  make a column on it.

Robert Pelley


Cut #1

cut #2

cut #3

cut #4

cut #5

cut #6

Oct 30, 2009

Back a zillion years ago, I sent you a mystery photo of the old terminal. At the time I promised you I’d do an up date if I got any new info or speculation.

I have been given a bit of feedback or least some speculation concerning the “mystery photo”.  Jack Pinsent points out the broken window in the terminal which would indicate that the building is showing some age (see photo). If the building was being opened for the first time this would have been repaired.

Also he includes 2 photos of the terminal arrival/departure area


The picture with the flags show that this photo was taken in June1953. The Queen was coroneted June 2, 1953. Because flags were not always flown from the building as shown in the first picture, it is Jack’s guess that the year the photo was taken was 1953.

The parked vehicles in front of terminal is not unusual. They may be airline and/or airport owned,  Remember in that era,  airport vehicles were not all colour coordinated, the same make or marked with logos as they are today.

The people in front of the building could be passengers departing or arriving. Back in those days people did dress up when they travelled. Any aircraft that was parked would have been out of view from the angle of the shot.

As for the reason for the photograph, the photographer could have been a passenger himself, there to try and capture a celebrity on film, or maybe to compare the operation of the terminal on film.

In cut #4, the guy on the left has a striking resemblance, according to Jack Pinsent, to Jack James, however he does appear to be on the tall side. Also another fact, a couple of those guys are smoking. You can see them holding cigarettes. That wasn’t a big problem in those days because there were no underground tanks. Aircraft were refuelled from bowsers (fuel trucks). No smoking only during refuelling.

Carol Walsh researched a lot of her material and  she believes it may have been the official opening of the old terminal on September 14, 1946.
She believes that one of the individuals is Jerry Wakeham – he is the third one on the left of the steps  wearing a raglan.  

She also made a guess that of the 3 women in the front – the one on the far left is Ruth Miller (used to be Secretary to John Murphy) and the one in the middle just might be Dorothy Wyatt (former mayor of St. John’s) as she was a secretary in Gander around that time with either PAA or AOA.

Frank Tibbo  had a close look at Cut # 3 with 3 women & a man. According to Frank. the man is Vern (Vernon) Locke. He is a WWII vet  and he worked in the Control Tower. He was killed in a car accident around 1957/8.

Bob McKinnon says he doesn’t know the event or recognize anyone but there are some things that may be obvious. They are obviously dignitaries waiting for the arrival of someone. The cars in the picture are limos, perhaps to transport the folks that are arriving and some of the dignitaries, and the guys in Cut #5 (casual dress) may be the drivers. These cars would be parked fairly close to where the aircraft would taxi in. Eileen (Chafe) Elms has some similar type pictures in her collection, such as Coronation Day 1952.

My own impression from these and other comments is that people are leaving a ceremony that has just finished. It was important enough that all the town dignitaries came out in “Sunday best”. From memories of running around the hangers when my father Calvin worked at Shell, that many vehicles on the ramp was very unusual.  From photos and post cards I’ve seen or collected, the earliest time that flags were shown on the roof of the hanger was in 1951, (though of course it could have been earlier).

I have spent quite a few hours going over Gander history, notably photos that Doris (Moss) Cowley in 2005.  There not a ton of majors events that I could find during the period 1950-1954. I would bet my bottom dollar that the occasion was the visit of Prime Minister Louis St.Laurent during the 1953 federal election.  There was big parade when he came and I can remember to this day hearing my parent and other adults talking about it.  His arrival at the airport would certainly have merited that kind of turnout. 

And the unexpected visit on his part could very well account for the still broken window!!

Robert Pelley