Story of Citation by Robert Just VE3GXM

On the morning of November 7, 1974, a 7-ton hunk of concrete escaped from a construction machine at the headquarters of Maritime Telephone and Telegraph Company in the north end of Halifax, Nova Scotia (the company is often abbreviated "Maritime Tel&Tel"). The concrete molding went through the roof of the building, leaving a tremendous hole in its wake. It ended up in the basement, where it smashed into several power panels supporting main lines of communication leading from Halifax to northern and eastern Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island. I did not know this misadventure had occurred until I heard it on the 1:00 p.m. news (the accident occurred about 10:30 a.m.).

When I finished listening to the news, I turned on my transceiver and tuned it to 3750 khz. An emergency net was well in progress. A telephone company employee in one of the areas where communication had been severed was sent home from work in order that he might organize the net. When the net control station asked for further check-ins, I made myself known and found out immediately that I would be kept busy.

Most of the communications we handled (using phone patches) involved linking telephone company personnel together in order that they might brief each other on the status of trunk lines. The emergency coordinator for Cape Breton Island (also an amateur) was in Halifax attending a conference at the headquarters of the emergency Measures Organization (formerly known as the civil Defence Department). I was asked to phone the headquarters and try to get him on the air via my phone patch. As he was not readily available at the time, I left word that he should call me at his earliest convenience. I might point out here that the people in the Cape Breton office of EMO were not aware that this had happened until one of the local hams brought it to their attention. By this time the afternoon was wearing on. When the emergency coordinator phoned me I connected him right away so he could get first-hand information on the nature of the situation.

Within about half an hour I received a call from the emergency coordinator for the province of Nova Scotia wondering what the CB operators were doing in this situation, particularly as regards hospital communications. I explained to him that most of the local communication network was intact except for the north end of the city, where the accident had taken place. A local CB operator then called me and asked if I could join some of their number for a short meeting. I explained to him that I had my hands full as the anchorman in the metropolitan area and could not leave my post. That evening we were asked to call our local branch of the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) and inquire as to how long we should maintain our on-air link. We were asked to remain on the air until 10:00 p.m. or later if we could.

An interesting aside to this was a call I received from a ham in Saint john, New Brunswick, as his wife was in Halifax, where their infant son had undergone open heart surgery. Just as we were makin our connection, the long skip set in and we could not copy each other. Enter another ham from further afield. He was copying both of us, so I relayed the information to him and he, in turn, relayed it to the station in Saint john. As we could not copy stations on short skip at this time, we had no choice but to cease operations for the night.

The next morning I received a phone call from a public relations person at Maritime tel&Tel. He was particularly interested in the communications I had made between Halifax and Prince Edward Island. throughout that afternoon several lines were still down so we were kept busy. I might mention here that we had been asked to phone local radio stations and ask them to make announcements as to the emergency link we were providing. Two hams in one of the areas affected were kept busy arranging contacts into Halifax for people wishing to pass any kind of emergency traffic. No sooner had I finished making one contact than i was at it again. In particular, a doctor required communication into Halifax so he could converse with another doctor and arrange for the transfer of a patient for an emergency admission. I also made contact with another doctor and put him in contact with an optical company in Halifax regarding a pair of prescription glasses.

About 5:00 p.m. I received a call from one of the hams and he asked me to phone a local news service. A fire had broken out at a nearby steel plant and, as the main lines were still out of service, we had to get a reporter on the air and let him know about it. At the completion of this assignment, the reporter talked to me off the air for a few minutes. I did not realize he was recording our conversation. Later that evening one of my fellow hams said I had made headlines.

By the next morning most of the main lines were back in order and our net was no longer required. As a result of my work during this period, I received special recognition from the telephone company in Cape Breton. I received a letter of appreciation (which was transcribed into braille) and, under separate cover, as a memento, a pocket knife used for cutting telephone cable.

The story appeared in QST about four months later and, as the result, I received a very attractive public service award printed on parchment suitable for framing. If that were not enough, a reporter with the Halifax newspaper (also a ham and a member of the Halifax amateur Radio Club) wrote up a detailed article on my citation and a short profile. Well, there it is! Hope you enjoy it. I have told this story in person a great many times over the years.

73 and god bless
Robert Just , VE3GXM