Sunday, November 20, 2016

HGB Ep. 165 - Windsor's Capitol Theater and Texas Road

Moment in Oddity - Unsinkable Sam
Suggested by: Michael Rogers

When it comes to a cat that lived during World War II, we're not sure if it is more strange that he survived the sinking of three ships or that he started with the Nazi regime and ended up with the Royal Navy. His name was Oscar and he was a black and white cat. Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine had the battleship Bismarck built and it launched on February 14, 1939. During a battle with the Allied battleship Prince of Wales it was heavily damaged and later sank. One hundred eighteen of the 2200 crew were all that survived, along with one cat. He was rescued by the British destroyer HMS Cossack, which found him floating on a board on the water. They named him Oscar and now he has switched sides in the great war. The Cossack carried out covert activities and Oscar was there through it all for several months. Until the Cossack was hit by a torpedo west of Gibraltar. As it was being towed back, it sank and Oscar was found clinging to a piece of plank and taken on to Gibraltar. When the British officers who had rescued him heard that this was the second sinking he had survived, they changed his name to Unsinkable Sam. The crew of the HMS Ark Royal adopted him. This aircraft carrier was known as a lucky ship because it had survived many near misses. On November 14, 1941, the ship was returning from Malta when it was torpedoed by a U-boat. A motor launch found Sam clinging to a floating plank and they described him as "angry but quite unharmed." Poor Sam had enough of this sinking business and switched to dry land hunting mice in the building of the Governor General in Gibraltar. After the war, he went to live at ‘Home for Sailors’ in Belfast until the end of his earthly days. What a wonderful story that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Second Treaty of Paris Signed

On this day, November 20th, in 1815, the Second Treaty of Paris is signed. Napoleon Bonaparte had been exiled by the allied government in 1814 to the island of Elba after he abdicated at Fontainebleau. He escaped in February of 1815 and fled to France where he began the Hundred Days of his restoration. Part of that was the Waterloo Campaign. The united powers of Austria, the United Kingdom, Prussia and Russia defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June. Four days after this, Napoleon agreed to abdicate the throne again. This restored the French monarchy. As part of the treat, France was ordered to pay 700 million francs in indemnities and the borders of France were reduced to where they had been in 1790. It also called for the occupation of France by 150,000 coalition forces and France had to foot the bill for that force, which lasted for three years. Napoleon was sent into exile for the second time and he died there on Saint Helena.

Capitol Theater in Windsor (Suggested by Alisha Lesperance)

Windsor, Ontario is a mid-sized city on the southwest tip of Ontario, Canada, across the river from Detroit, Michigan. It's a multi-cultural city with a strong history in manufacturing. The French founded the early settlement here and this is reflected in the names of streets. There are many historical buildings in the city and one of these locations is the Capitol Theater where full seasons of contemporary plays have been performed sine the 1980s. As is the case with many theaters, this one is reputed to be haunted. There is also a road in Windsor that is cloaked in legends and that is Texas Road. Listener Alisha Lesperance joins us from Windsor to share her experiences performing at the theater and to discuss the legends of Texas Road. 

Windsor, Ontario was once separate villages and towns. These included Sandwich, Walkerville, Riverside, Ford City and Ojibway. First Nation tribes lived in the area until the French came and a small Jesuit Mission known as Petite Côte or the Little Coast was built. Later, it would be known as La Côte de Misère or Poverty Coast, based on the sandy soil found there. In 1748, the French set up an agricultural community, making this the oldest continually inhabited city in Canada west of the Quebec border. The French influence here is seen in the names of streets and the pattern of the roads. The settlement of Sandwich was founded in 1794, after the American Revolution. Sandwich had been the Huron Church Reserve and would now be a new administrative headquarters for the British. It was incorporated in 1858. French control fell away before that in 1797 because of the numbers of British moving to the area.

Walkerville was  founded  by  Hiram  Walker  in  1858 as a company town. He was a New
England-born  distiller  and he bought several acres on  the  south  shore  of  the  Detroit  River to build a distillery and a flour mill. The Great Western Railway came here in the 1850s and helped build Walkerville and Walker even built his own line in 1885. In 1935, the future city of Windsor would annex the town. In 1904, the Ford Motor Company brought a Ford plant to land developed from the French parish, Notre Dame du  Lac, which had been founded  in  1884  on  land  donated  by  Francois  Drouillard. The community that developed around the plant was called Ford City. It became an official village in 1913 and then a town in 1915, finally incorporating as a city. It was very haphazard in its set-up and was plagued with debt. Both World Wars helped build the industrial production and growth of the city. Riverside was a residential town officially formed in 1921. The Canadian Steel Corporation founded another company town called Ojibway in 1913. Financial issues halted many of the plans for this town.

Eventually, all these towns would be annexed into the City of Windsor in 1935 and 1966. The name Windsor comes from the town in Berkshire, England. Windsor became a village in 1854, then a town in 1858 and finally incorporated as a city in 1892. The city suffered a devastating fire in October of 1871. One hundred buildings in the downtown were destroyed. It rebuilt and the city remains a primarily manufacturing based city. This is also Eastern Canada's largest agricultural business community. *Fun Fact: Windsor was the final stop of the Underground Railroad and the history is preserved at the John Freeman Walls Historic Site.*

American businessman and movie pioneer Marcus Loew headed up Loew's Theaters and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. In 1904, he had founded the People's Vaudeville Company, a theater chain, which showcased one-reel films and live vaudeville shows. In 1920, he would begin to lay the groundwork for MGM by buying Metro Pictures Corporation and in February of that year he purchased land on the Sound side of London Street, which is today University Avenue, and the West side of Pelissier Street in Windsor, Ontario, so that he could build a theater. He hired theater architect Thomas White Lamb to design the theater. It was built at a cost of $600,000 in the Adam-Empire style. The Loew's Windsor Theater took nine months to complete and opened on New Years Eve, December 31, 1920. The name changed to the Capitol Theatre in 1922.

Another interesting area of legend and hauntings in Windsor is Texas Road. Texas Road stretches between Windsor and Amherstburg and passes through a gully. There is a story that one man murdered another on the road and the dead man was buried nearby. It is said that his spirit is trapped and that he cannot leave the burial site. He returns on specific nights to the scene of the crime and motorists claim to see him as a mysterious shrouded figure. This rumor is said to have started in the 1960s when a teenager used a wire to pull a white sheet across the road as a prank. Satanists have met near the road to conduct rituals.

There are many legends of Texas Road. A couple was driving down the road looking for a place to get a little frisky. They found a good spot and pulled over to the side of the road. They were getting to know each other a little better when they suddenly heard scratching on the car door. It terrified the young woman and she begged her boyfriend to drive away and so he did. They stopped a little later and got out to check the door and they were stunned to find a hook attached to the door. There is a cemetery nearby that seems to be haunted. People will leave their cars to visit the cemetery and when they return, they can't get the car to start. When they look back at the cemetery, they see a light shining. The shining light has been seen on the road as well and is attributed to a rider who was murdered by thieves and his mangled body was left behind. The legend does not say that the man's head was cut off, but his spirit is usually seen as a headless horseman.

Is Capitol Theater in Windsor harboring spirits from the past? Is there some truth to these legends about Texas Road? That is for you to decide!