All too often I use this blog to lament over the loss of Ottawa’s classic old signs, a trend that seems to have now finally been swayed in the other direction. I recently received some good news regarding the landmark Civic Pharmacy sign at the corner of Holland and Carling. It is has been saved and restored.
Many concerned residents emailed me about the sign when they witnessed its anchor building swathed in tarpaulins, unsure of what was happening to the building, and our beloved sign.
I am happy to report that through the efforts of the community, the sign is safe and has a positive new outlook. The thoughtful owners of the building have decided to keep and resurrect the iconic sign, returning it to its former splendour.
The newly restored Civic Pharmacy sign at the corner of Carling and Holland. (photo by Tina Klein Walsh)
The old sign. Note how the lettering is now white instead of black.
The newly renovated landmark sign has new letter boxes, and have only altered the letters to be white instead of black, as the originals were. Also, in place of “PHARMACY” the new tenants have their business on the sign, a Credit Union. Personally, I am thrilled they kept the sign instead of throwing it out as most developers do with older signage. Despite the modifications from the original, the sign has a new lease on life and looks refreshed for a whole new generation of Ottawa residents to enjoy.
The Civic Pharmacy Building officially opened on September 17 1960, and along with it, the illuminated and animated “CIVIC PHARMACY” sign attached to its corner. The sign is inspired by “Googie” style of architecture, a modern, futurist architecture that evolved through the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 1960s. A culture absorbed with jets and the space-age inspired this style with Ottawa’s example brightly shining at the corner of Holland and Carling for 58 years.
Since the word “CIVIC” is a palindrome (a word which reads the same backward as forward) it was made into a rotating sign, with each letter rotating, and being able to be read from any viewing position. The rotating letters of the sign required much maintenance, and it stopped rotating at some point.
I was lucky enough to meet and chat with the original owner/pharmacist of the building, Wally Cherun, who told me about the history of the much cherished sign. It was the first sign of its kind in Canada, and was fully illuminated at night. Wally said a sign guy would oil the mechanics of the rotating letters regularly. It eventually got too expensive to maintain, the letters stopped rotating, and the lights burned out. The building went up for sale over a year ago, and changed hands, but luckily to someone who appreciates it. (STORY HERE)
The Civic Pharmacy Building currently wrapped in tarpaulins. (Photo: author)
Andy Billingsley, Chair of the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association History and Heritage emailed me about a month ago to inform me that he went over to check on why the Civic building was wrapped in tarpaulins and relayed that the new owner of the building decided to keep the cherished sign in place. Gregg Kricorissian, another concerned resident who also appreciated the sign, established a relationship with Steve LeBrun, President of Ray Neon Signs. Steve is the son of the original sign’s designer/builder. According to Gregg, Steve has lent his full support to save the sign, and generously offered to remove and and store the sign if that became necessary. Ray Neon has provided a quote for restoration, and completed the work on the new sign last week.
So it seems that when some like minded people get together with a shared love of neighbourhood nostalgia, good things can happen. “It’s wonderful how our initiative to save the CiViC sign is playing out, and I’m pleased to have played a part in it.” says Kricorissian, who thinks the sign is a vital piece of neighbourhood history. “Not only is the sign a symbol of our neighborhood, but it’s also a great testament of how a small Ottawa business started in post-WWII Ottawa, and has grown to a highly successful member of its chosen industry.”
My sincere thanks to all those involved in helping to preserve this important landmark of Ottawa’s street scene. I know myself and probably most of Ottawa eagerly await the sign’s return to glory on the street it’s been quietly watching over for almost six decades.
When stuck in Ottawa traffic, your mind can drift as you stare with glazed eyes at the hundreds of cars slowly moving ahead of you. The snail beside you in the ditch is making better progress. On one such occasion during rush hour, I began to imagine a time when the entire Nation’s Capital was under a vast ocean with the surface we live on being the seabed of an ancient body of water called “The Champlain Sea”. This is not a daydream, but reality…about 12,000 years ago melting glaciers created a murky sea that covered the region in about 500 feet of saltwater, from Ottawa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The extent of the Champlain Sea that covered the Ottawa area 12,000 years ago. (Image: Wikipedia)
Imagining this ancient sea that once existed above our heads, I also pictured the many sea creatures that would have swam above us so long ago, and how their remains must be buried in the soil all around us. A quick bit of research revealed that such a find did occur, a creature of the ancient sea was in fact discovered in 1874 south of Ottawa, and it was none other than a giant humpback whale.
A report on The Peter Redpath Museum published by Princeton University in 1883 outlines the discovery of a humpaback whale north of Smiths Falls in 1874 while building the Canadian Pacific Railway line, just a stone’s throw from the current VIA rail tracks.
The report explains that bones were found in a gravel pit, three miles north of Smith’s Falls, at a depth of 30 feet from the surface. Two vertebrae and a fragment of another with a portion of a rib, and other fragments were found in good preservation.
The red dot marks the location of where an ancient humpback whale was found in 1874. (GoogleMaps)
The gravel pit where the humpback Whale was found, just off Highway 15 (GoogleStreetview)
The Humpback whale bones were then donated to the Peter Redpath Museum in Montreal, which still houses them today. In addition to the Humpback whale, SEVEN other whales have been unearthed in the Ottawa Region. From Arnprior to Montreal scores of whales, seals and porpoises have been found accidentally, cocooned in sand for over 10,000 years.
In 1948 at a sandpit near the Uplands Airport, two beluga whales were recovered. It seems the sandy bottom of the Champlain sea is where a number of whales were laid to rest 12,000 years ago, with many more likely still waiting to be found.
Beluga whale skeleton in the Redpath Museum, unearthed in the Eastern Ontario region.
Map showing where various whale and other sea creatures were discovered in the region of the Champlain Seabed. (fossilslanark.blogspot.com)
You can still see the bottom of the ancient ocean in the sand hills near the airport where creatures large and small would have swam above for thousands of years as the glacial waters receded to their present levels. This ocean 500 feet deep was full of whales, seals, and other creatures. Quite astonishing to imagine, but if you are stuck in traffic you can let your mind wander and close your eyes, picturing humpback whales swimming above the current sea of traffic. Existing in a time when the highways of Ottawa were nothing more than a weed covered ocean floor, with its salt content being the only thing similar to our current dreary winter roads…
On the night November 4th, exactly thirty years ago, in that glorious year of 1989, one of the most bizarre and unexplained stories in UFO circles occurred, known as the “Guardian” case. Centred around the supposed crash of an extraterrestrial craft in a swamp west of Ottawa near Manion Corners, today marks the 30th anniversary of the mysterious incident. Since it is in the realm of the OR file cases, I thought it would be interesting to recount the story here once again, in case anyone knows more about it since it occurred that November night in 1989…
The area that matches the Unsolved Mysteries clip where the crashed UFO was supposedly recovered west of Ottawa. (Google Maps)
The fantastical story of a UFO crashing into a swamp west of Ottawa begins when a gentleman by the name of Tom Theofanous of The Canadian UFO Research Network (CUFORN), received a package from someone calling themselves “Guardian”. With no return address on the package, it was curiously opened and within was a written claim that an alien craft was recovered from a swamp in West Carleton involving both United States and Canadian security teams.
Graham Lightfoot, a UFO researcher living in Ottawa at the time was dispatched to verify these explosive claims, and he interviewed some residents in the area mentioned by Guardian about anything unusual that may have occurred on the night of November 4th, 1989 to substantiate his claims.
Diane Labanek, a resident of the area, said that on the night of November 4th 1989, she witnessed an intense, bright light pass overhead, heading towards a swamp at the far end of the field south of her home. She said she also saw several helicopters earlier that evening using bright lights to scan the area.
Another resident said their cattle was dispersed by something and it took a while to recover them all again the next day.
Another couple in the area told Graham about a very bright light that shone through their south-facing bathroom window. “It reached right down our hallway!”. The same wife also recalled hearing the sound of helicopters that evening.
Without verifiable proof of a crashed UFO and no photographic evidence, the case was deemed a hoax and that GUARDIAN was a crackpot.
However, if we read the note that GUARDIAN sent in 1989 once again, perhaps we can learn more from it 30 years later using more modern research methods.
Below is an edited transcript of the original letter sent by Guardian and his claim, and some further investigation into what could be a real incident:
From Guardian, 1989
“Canadian and American Security Agencies are engaged in a conspiracy of silence, to withhold from the world the alien vessel seized in the swamps of Corkery Road, Carp, in 1989.
UFO sightings in the Ontario region had intensified in the 1980’s, specifically, around nuclear power generating stations. On Nov. 4, 1989 at 20:00 hrs Canadian Defense Dept. radars picked up a globe shaped object traveling at phenomenal speed over Carp, Ontario. The UFO abruptly stopped, and dropped like a stone.
Canadian and American Security Agencies were immediately notified of the landing. Monitoring satellites traced the movements of the aliens to a triangular area. (see aerial map) off Almonte and Corkery Roads.
The ship had landed in deep swamp near Corkery Road. Two AH-64 Apaches and a UH-60 Blackhawk headed for the area the following night. The helicopters carried full weapon loads. They were part of a covert American unit that specialized in the recovery of alien craft.
Flying low over Ontario pine trees the Apache attack choppers soon spotted a glowing, blue, 20 meter in diameter sphere. As targeting lasers locked-on, both gun-ships unleashed their full weapon loads of 8 missiles each. All 16 were exploded in proximity bursts 10 meters downwind from the ship.
The missiles were carrying VEXXON, a deadly neuro-active gas which kills on contact. Exposed to air the gas breaks down quickly into inert components. Immediately after having completed their mission the gun-ships turned around, and headed back across the border.
Now the Blackhawk landed, as men exploded from its open doors. In seconds the six man strike team had entered the UFO through a 7 meter hatchless, oval portal. No resistance was encountered. At the controls, 3 dead crewman were found.
With the ship captured, the US Air force, Pentagon, and Office of Naval Intelligence were notified. Through the night a special team of technicians had shut-down and disassembled the sphere. Early the next morning Nov. 6, 1989 construction equipment and trucks were brought into the swamp. The UFO parts were transported to a secret facility in Kanata, Ontario.
As a cover story the locals were informed that a road was being built through the swamp. No smokescreen was needed for the military activity as Canadian forces regularly train in the Carp region. Officially nothing unusual was reported in the area. Although someone anonymously turned in a 35mm roll of film. It was received by the National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa. The film contained several clear shots of an entity holding a light. (see photo) At this time the photographer is still unidentified.
The humanoids were packed in ice and sent to an isolation chamber at the Univ. of Ottawa. CIA physiologists performed the autopsies.
The reptilian, fetus-headed beings, were listed as CLASS 1 NTE’s. (Non Terrestrial Entities) Like others recovered in previous operations, they were muscular, grey-white skinned, humanoids.
The ship was partially reassembled at the underground facility in Kanata. Unlike previous recoveries this one is pure military. Built as a “Starfighter” it is heavily armed and armored. In design no rivets, bolts, or welds were used in fastening, yet when reconstructed there are no seams. The UFO itself is made up of a matrixed dielectric magnesium alloy. It is driven by pulsed electromagnetic fields generated by a cold fusion reactor. All offensive capabilities utilize independently targeting electronic beam weapons. In the cargo hold were found ordnance racks containing fifty Soviet nuclear warheads. Their purpose was revealed by advanced tactical/combat computers located in the flight deck.
The most important alien-tech find were the 2 millimeter, spheroid, brain implants. Surgically inserted through the nasal orifice the individual can be fully monitored and controlled. The CIA and Canadian Govt have actively supported mind-slave experiments for years. Currently the Univ. of Ottawa is involved in ELF wave mind control programs. A continuation of the CIA psychological warfare project known as MKULTRA, started at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal.
Using ELF signals transmitted at the same wavelength the human brain uses, the researchers could subliminally control the test subject. The alien implants utilize the same principles except that the whole unit is sub miniaturized and contained in the brain. Fortunately the implants can be detected by magnetic resolution scanning technology. All individuals implanted by the aliens are classified as ZOMBIES.
The ZOMBIES have been programmed to help overthrow Mankind in the near future.”
Now, this seems completely ridiculous and an obvious a piece of fiction. But, let’s see if anything within Guardian’s letter could actually be true…
“Canadian and American Security Agencies were immediately notified of the landing. Monitoring satellites traced the movements of the aliens to a triangular area. (see aerial map) off Almonte and Corkery Roads.”
These satellite images of the area clearly show both an unusual triangular shaped area of land and the swamps below it where the craft was apparently recovered. (GeoOttawa)
TRUE: Zooming in to the property area mentioned on a current Google satellite map where Guardian claimed the craft crashed, there is indeed a triangular area of land that is adjacent to a swamp. This was area was later verified by analyzing an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and the property was identified.
Clearly a triangular area as Guardian mentioned does exist with some equipment scattered around. (Google Maps)
“Two AH-64 Apaches and a UH-60 Blackhawk headed for the area the following night. The helicopters carried full weapon loads. They were part of a covert American unit that specialized in the recovery of alien craft.”
TRUE: Unrelated witnesses in the area said they saw and heard helicopters and bright lights that evening.
“The UFO parts were transported to a secret facility in Kanata, Ontario.”
The DRDC facility near Kanata. (Google Streetview)
COULD BE TRUE: In Kanata at Shirley’s Bay there is a government research facility where classified Defence Department projects are worked on. It is called DRDC: Defence Research & Development Canada where some sites claim there is ongoing alien craft reverse-engineering projects. *This is not confirmed and highly speculative!*
“The CIA and Canadian Govt have actively supported mind-slave experiments for years. Currently the Univ. of Ottawa is involved in ELF wave mind control programs. A continuation of the CIA psychological warfare project known as MKULTRA, started at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal.”
The Allen Institute in Montreal where CIA funded mind control experiments occurred under the MkUltra program.
PARTIALLY TRUE: This is actually true that the MkUltra program operated Mind Control experiments from the Allen Institute in Montreal during the 1960s. Extremely low frequency, or ELF, has been the subject of many conspiracies that the mind can be controlled with these signals.
So, HOAX or real?
Now those claims mentioned above can be somewhat verified by cross referencing current data, but in my opinion it is not enough to verify the claim that an actual craft was recovered November 4th, 1989. Perhaps Guardian’s story is true, perhaps it is not. It was 1989 and we did not have the proper abilities and resources that we have now to validate the story.
It would be two years later that Guardian submitted a SECOND claim and package of yet another UFO landing AT THE EXACT SAME SITE west of Ottawa, and that story was actually featured in the 1990s television series “Unsolved Mysteries” hosted by Robert Stack.
A still from ‘Unsolved Mysteries” showing the property where the UFO incident occurred.
The area that matches the Unsolved Mysteries clip where the crashed UFO was supposedly recovered west of Ottawa. (Google Maps)
To this day the video footage recording the craft within that case has yet to debunked or logically explained, so maybe Guardian’s first story in 1989 was indeed true and he was an insider of a certain top secret project? We may never know, unless of course one of you readers happened to work in that secret underground Kanata base, or witnessed an alien autopsy at the University of Ottawa 30 years ago…