Pictou a beehive of activity during war time

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Lawrence LeBlanc remembers what Pictou was like in wartime.

LeBlanc was born in 1939 — several months after the Second World War began. Soon after, Pictou had an opportunity to contribute in a special way to the Allied war effort when merchant steamships were contracted to be built at what then was called the Pictou Foundry and Machine Company managed by the Ferguson brothers.

They were merchant ships and were called Park ships because they were usually named after parks in Canada.

“There were a lot of people working there,” LeBlanc said. “I had two aunts working there as welders. Apparently, they were pretty good. Other women were sticking rivets — and there were a lot of them in one ship.”

LeBlanc’s childhood during the war altered between Pictou and his hometown of Stellarton, where his mother’s family lived, because his father was a merchant mariner during the war.

He remembers the bustle the town experienced while the Park ships were being assembled and launched.

A total of 24 of them slid into Pictou Harbour from May 1942 to August 1945, according to a book called the Story of Pictou’s Park Ships compiled by historian and author Ron Wallis.

“I heard navy ships and freighters coming and going, navy people coming ashore,” LeBlanc said. “It was quite a busy town during the war.”

LeBlanc said he could not be sure about rumours at the time that German submarines lurked beyond the mouth of the harbour.

“That was the talk of the town for a while,” he said.

Lawrence LeBlanc views a book chronicling the story of Park ships built in Pictou during the Second World War. (Goodwin photo)