By Mabel Brannigan

At home in Haliburton County, the Saturday night thrill was hockey by radio with Foster Hewitt, telling the whole country ‘he shoots, he scores.’ Well, the Toronto Exhibition Park had become a military camp, the Royal Winter Fair had closed, and many hockey players had enlisted, including the famous Boston Kraut line of Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart and Milt Schmidt. But national hockey continued, and transcripts were sent to the troops overseas.

Hardly anyone locked their doors in Haliburton County at night.

While war ravaged towns and cities on one side of the ocean, we were not immune to fire at home as the east side of Minden’s main street was tragically destroyed by fire in the spring of 1942.

Earl Hewitt and Pat McKay, reaching main street, saw Percy Brintnell, the baker, coming down a ladder in his underwear.

“Where is Ina and Barb?” asked Earl. Ina is getting her purse and Barb has gone to Hartles, he told Earl. Earl brought Percy a pair of pants and everyone started a bucket brigade from the river. Minden had no fire protection. A few had pumpers, the kind that could be laid in the river.


As the flames raced towards the telephone office, threatening to cut off all communications, Earl phoned a friend, Charlie Lamb, mayor of Lindsay. And in 55 minutes the fire department was here. Without this help, all of Minden may have burned.

Mark Snell is also credited with hanging sheets of 12-foot steel roofing from the eaves of Moss Kellett’s Dominion Hotel for saving the west side. Brintnells were the first to rebuild and the Haliburton County Echo relocated in the village of Haliburton.

Most people concluded that the fire was caused by an explosion in the bakers shop, but Earl had his own theory. At 4 a.m., on May 15, 1942, the day of the fire, Earl was awakened by a dog barking at the transport building. A car drove away from the building followed by a loud bang on main street.

Just prior to this tragedy, fires had been set in Gelert and Donald. Needless to say, Earl was convinced for the rest of his life that Minden’s fire was deliberately set.

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