FROM THE SCRAPBOOK
By Dr. Bill Randall
The Day The Hotel Burned In Harvey
It’s a new school year and I am hoping I will be invited again to speak to Grade 2 about the History of Harvey. I am especially fascinated that after I have visited their classroom the teachers ask them to write me letters telling me what they enjoyed most about my stories, and drawing pictures illustrating their own perceptions of the event I described. It’s amazing to note how twelve different children have amazingly different perceptions of the same story! Their favorite story is the one about the explosion which destroyed the Robison Hotel. So different are their perceptions of this event that I begin to ask myself, is my version of the story the real truth?
My mentors, who have done such a splendid job of inventorying my files, have been persistently asking me, “What’s the source of this story?” – and I somewhat ashamedly have to respond “Well I heard this, I’m not sure where or when!” So, having been challenged to correct my ways, I have determined that my story this month will come from an eye-witness source.
Here it is: The Day The Hotel Burned In Harvey — December 1926
On December , 1926, the hotel owned by Mrs. Allan Robison burned to the ground. An explosion occurred at eleven forty prior to noon. Mrs. Robison’s son, Kenneth, and Mr. Hartley McGee were in the basement filling the acetylene lights because electricity was not available in Harvey at that time. The door of the coal burning furnace was open and it is believed that the fumes from the acetylene were ignited.
Mrs. Robison was standing at the large double doors which were located at the front entrance. These doors were blown across the front lawn. Mrs. Robison was blown out with the doors and she was found lying on them by my father, who was the first person to arrive on the scene after hearing the explosion. She had a badly injured ankle and multiple bruises.
One of her daughters asked my father to try to get the piano out. When he went inside all that remained of the piano was a mass of tangled strings and splinters of wood. A vase sitting on top of the piano wasn’t broken and for years Miss Margaret Robison had it on an organ that was not damaged. The organ was in a room with a trapdoor and a stairway leading to the basement. The trapdoor was blown open and the only damage in the room was a large nail which was driven into the arm of a chair by the explosion.
In those days there were agents in the C.P.R. Station twenty-four hours a day. One of the night operators was asleep on the third floor – I watched him come down on a rope from his bedroom window. Part of the stairway into the front hall was blown away and one of the daughters who was upstairs had to jump from the
landing and was caught by a boarder at the hotel.
Kenneth and Hartley received burns; Hartley was hospitalized for some time in Fredericton. The doors of the basement were blown out and they escaped that way.
There was no fire brigade in Harvey so it was difficult fighting any fire. The roof of the house across from the hotel caught fire several times and snowballs were thrown up to several people on the roof to help extinguish the fire.
By: Gladys Byers August 2, 1995
Source: Rev. Bill Randall’s “From The Scrapbook Vol. One.”