Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada


Getting My Facts Straight

william_warnick
By William A. Warnick

Published Oct 27, 2004
in The Dunnville Chronicle


Recently, as I sat on my front porch enjoying a cigar it occurred to me it was October 14th, the fiftieth anniversary of Hurricane Hazel. Mind you everyone else will tell you October 15th is the date. A few year ago, I did research on Hazel for an article I wrote in my historyletter The Grand Dispatch, and was surprised to learn the date was actually the 14th. Hazel arrived late in the afternoon and into the evening of the 14th but most of the damage took place during the night. When those who could sleep woke to the damage it was already the 15th. Until I did this research, I too always said Hazel hit on the 15th! A number of years ago one of my employees came into work in (I believe) August and announced it was her youngest daughter's thirtieth birthday, and she had been born during Hurricane Hazel. I made the mistake of questioning her facts! What mother does not know; the events around the birth of her children, especially when she relates it to something as significant as a hurricane. Finding myself in considerable discord with her for being a know-it-all. I quickly let the subject plunge into oblivion!

Then on Friday, October 15th a construction worker at the new expressway in the Red Hill Creek in Hamilton found himself stranded on his back hole in the middle of the creek after a flash flood. His rescue was shown on CHTV and his photo was in the Hamilton Spectator. Both media gave considerable space to the fiftieth anniversary of Hurricane Hazel and both said it occurred on October 15th . For time and eternity this fellow will always remember the 15th of October for Hazel and his near miss with the grim reaper in the Red Hill Valley!

So what is my point? As the Chronicle begins a new chapter in its long history I felt the need to mention two things. They are how seldom media gets the facts wrong and how important the media is in correctly recording our history. The problem is once it gets it wrong, the incorrect detail becomes fact. When I write my articles, I usually have lots of time to ask many questions of numerous people and time to check my facts from more than one source. A daily paper reporting an event which just happened needs to get the story out now! No good reporter will ever intentionally compromise their integrity by knowingly printing an inaccurate statement, but he/she also does not have my luxury of time. Obviously a weekly paper such as the Chronicle may have more time, depending on how soon prior to going to press the event occurs.

Often I have used the phrase "Ain't history fun!" This usually follows a story where I inform you of conflicting facts in my article. My greatest disadvantage in writing my articles is I depend 90% on peoples memories and 10% on what I find in old newspapers. When I wrote my article about my memories of Hurricane Hazel, I was soundly challenged by an old-timer who to this day swears I had it all wrong. He would have been in his early thirties at the time while I was only six years old. However, I nearly drowned and I know I am right! You know, just like my employee was about her daughter being born during Hurricane Hazel in August!
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If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick

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