A National Treasure Lost Too Early

on Saturday, February 23, 2008

The other night, I was watching a TV program called "Air Crash Investigations" which is a regular program that investigates the causes of certain significant air crashes. On this occasion, it featured the ill-fated Air Canada Flight 797 on 2nd of June 1983. This flight left Dallas, Texas and was supposed to land in Toronto, Canada. Unfortunately, a fire developed in one of the toilets and the whole cabin was enveloped in thick, acrid smoke. Despite these appalling conditions, the pilots managed to make a successful emergency landing in Cincinnati while the cabin crew succeeded in keeping the passengers calm and breathing from oxygen masks.

However, after landing, many passengers were unable to find the exits in the dark and smoke and succumbed to smoke inhalation. Adding to the problems, when the escape hatches did open, the fresh air entering resulted in a flash fire throughout the plane just a few minutes later. Basically, all the survivors were the ones who managed to get out in the first few minutes. 23 died and 23 survived. This was a significant event in aviation history because it was from this tragedy that the airline industry began many life-saving innovations such as lighted strips to guide passengers to the exits, smoke detectors in the toilets, non-toxic materials for the cabin and so on.

The program then went on to note that Canadian Folk singer Stan Rogers was one of those who perished that day. I never knew this fact. I had heard of Stan Rogers and I really liked his music but I never knew what happened to him.

My mind drifted back a full 26 years back in time. It was a cold, blustery and wet winter's night. It was past midnight but I was still up watching the sheets of rain coming down and listening to BBC Radio. There was an interesting program on which I had been following. It was a competition between the national radio stations of Britain, Canada and Norway. Each of them were given an opportunity to showcase their country through a one hour radio program every Saturday. At the end of the series, a panel of judges in each of the countries would vote for the best program.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) won the series with their entry which was an hour long travelogue of Canada represented entirely by the music and songs of Stan Rogers. I listened to the program and felt that I had discovered a priceless pearl. I have always enjoyed the melancholic Scottish laments and the lively Irish jigs but the music of Stan Rogers seemed to be a combination of both and yet more. I also found that I could really sense the essence and struggles of the people that he sings about. I was mesmerized.

I have kept an eye out for his music ever since but it is unfortunately difficult to find outside of Canada. Now I know what happened to him and can only think that it was a sad day that such life and potential was loss in that manner.

I wish I could play all his songs but I chose three to showcase here.

This first song was one that I heard 26 years ago and just gripped my heart with its poignancy. It tells of the brave men that died trying to find a Northwest passage through the artic ice to reach the Orient and how they inadvertently helped to build the nation. This was the best video I could find and happened to use footage from the TV series about a Canadian Mountie sent to Chicago to work with the American police, called "Due South". Obviously there is a clash of cultures and personalities and hilarity ensues. That's just background info. It's the song that is haunting.

This second song also represents the hardships of the Canadian worker so,so well. It is a touching lament and at the same time a stirring battle cry. i just love the words.

This third one is actually one that i have only recently heard. Daysgoby mentioned this in one of her recent posts saying "I'm a little surprised I wasn't required to learn it before they'd let me over the Nova Scotian border..." Indeed! Anyway, this is just a great lively song to compliment the slower songs above. You also get to hear Stan explain how he came about to write this song. Enjoy


Claire said...

That's what I like about you LGS, you're eclectic. Come for the interesting thoughts, stay for the appealing music.

Janice Thomson said...

Gosh LGS you're more of a true Canadian than most of us are - I'll bet many have not even heard of Stan Rogers. I have but didn't know much about him.
That was a terrible and avoidable incident that cost many needless deaths.

Anonymous said...

I have a weakness for folk songs. I had never heard of Stan Rogers, though - interesting stuff.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Why, thank you. I am glad you like it. Eclectic is a nice way of describing my scatter-brain thoughts.

It is no secret that somehow I have a liking of things Canadian...from its history, cultures and peoples. I just think there is so much good things to enjoy. Stan Rogers songs made me want to know more about Nova Scotia.

I like sad folk songs too. Stan Rogers seemed to capture the spirit of the people in his songs. It is like living the history.

A Happy Downtowner said...

What a great post! I hadn't heard about Stan Rogers but when I heard the music, I first thought he was from Nova Scotia but no he's from Hamilton, Ontario! I did a quick search and came up with this site, very interesting http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0003013

It seems he acquired his taste for folk music (beautiful music too) when he spent his summers in Nova Scotia. In those days, early 50s, it was quite the travel from Hamilton to Nova Scotia. Thanks for introducing me to him today :)

Tai said...

Stan Rogers is GREAT...his music has a tendency to make me weep. Thanks for all of that, makes me proud to be a Canuck.

meggie said...

Great post!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Well, that's interesting. I assumed he was from Nova Scotia too. How did someone from Hamilton get so immersed in NScotian culture? Amazing.

The pathos in his songs is one of the reasons I like him. Kind of like the John Steinbeck of the folk music scene.

Thank you.

Gledwood said...

I can't watch the vids at the present time as no sound... just wanted to say hi to you while I'm here and thanx for your messages...

Hey I better go I'm sleepin' on my feet practically here!

All the best ;->...

Dr.John said...

I never heard of Stan Rogers but then I'm not Canadian.

patterns of ink said...

This was very interesting and entertaining, too. I had not heard of that plane tragedy. I did see the lighted aisles on my trip to Thailand, though (when they turned down the cabin lights to let us sleep).

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Always good to see your furry face here. Take care, my man.

I think of you as a bit of a folk historian yourself with your Finnish Tales and the tales of Pigeon Falls.

Well we owe them lights to this plane crash. Glad your flight was uneventful though.

squirrelmama said...

Your tribute to Stan Rogers is touching and frankly, it has this American thinking back to a long-ago year in which the U.S. lost a folk-singing treasure, Harry Chapin, in a nasty auto crash on Long Island, N.Y. Chapin was a very giving spirit and charitable man, in addition to being a gifted musician. Much of his legacy to feed the nation's hungry lives on in the food bank he established, which has grown over the years and become even more of a lifeline to hungry people, particularly in this tough economy.
How sad that folks with so much to give have to leave, seemingly before their time.

Open Grove Claudia said...

Gosh. I think about this a lot - maybe more so after Columbine. I wish I understood why some people leave us and others stay. I had this client who stood, in a hallway at Columbine, in front of Eric Harris holding his gun, and he didn't shoot her. She had no where to hide, no where to go - he just looked at her and moved on.

That's like your plane crash. Let's hope someday we have a chance to understand.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I have heard of Harry Chapin but know little about him. Thanks to your comment, I am encouraged to look him up.

In that documentary, many of the passengers expressed their initial sense of guilt for having survived when others died. Something your client probably felt. The pilot and co-pilot remain feeling guilty that they did not save all the passengers even though they were cleared of all blame and in fact awarded honors in recognition of their skills and bravery.

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