This past week at the Lord Elgin has been one to remember. Just stepping into this hotel makes you feel like there is a great amount of history to be told and uncovered. I was fortunate enough to hear stories from some very special guests we had at the Lord Elgin this week.
We first met with a man named Dale Leitch, who definitely had a story to tell. Although his tale about his time at the Lord Elgin was difficult to hear, it is one worth listening to. He has written his story out in a short book, which we had the opportunity to read.
Dale stayed in our hotel sixty years ago on a vacation with his family, and although he was only four years old at the time, he could recall the room his family stayed in. So when he and his wife Karen came to Ottawa this time, they asked for the same room (542). As he walked down the corridor he said, it was like walking down memory lane. In 1953, his family traveled from their home in Winnipeg to Ottawa for a holiday and was visiting friends in Bryson, just outside of Ottawa. Within days after their arrival, Dale his 2 year old brother and his mother all came down with flu like symptoms. Shortly thereafter they were all diagnosed with polio which was an epidemic in Canada during the early 1950s. They assume they contracted the disease in Winnipeg before they left for vacation. Manitoba was particularly hard hit by this epidemic.
Sadly, the youngest brother, who was then only two, died within two days of being admitted to the Strathcona Hospital in Sandy Hill (the hospital no longer exists). Dale eventually recovered and left the hospital and returned to the hotel with his father. His aunt joined them in Ottawa to assist. His mother, however, had a very slow recovery and spent many months in Ottawa, first at the Strathcona and then at the Civic Hospital, which was new at that time. Dale and his father and their aunt set up a temporary home at the Lord Elgin during this time. When his mother was finally discharged, she could only breath with the help of an iron lung. She was forced to rely on the iron lunch for most of her life to help her breath.
It is just one more reminder of how fortunate we are today. We somehow take for granted that we are immunized against these diseases which once took our loved ones away, or afflicted them for life.
Dale and his wife Karen checked out yesterday and went back to Victoria, BC, their home now. Before they left, they took some time to go through an scrapbook on the Lord Elgin that we have. It brought back many memories for Dale.
Thank you Dale for sharing this story with us.