Saskatoon Star Phoenix
September 19, 1941. p.4
The citizens of Saskatoon, Thursday night were given some remote idea of what is now the nightly routine experience of millions of people in the cities and towns of battle-torn Europe, Asia and Africa.
For approximately 10 minutes after sirens at the powerhouse, railways and the city's factories had shrieked the beginning of an experimental black-out, the city was enveloped in near complete darkness as if a magic blanket had descended from the skies. Here and there tiny spots of lights were discernible and officials in charge afterwards announced that steps would be taken to eliminate these offending flickers when the city undergoes its first real black-out test next Wednesday.
From the roof of the Bessborough Hotel, tallest building in Saskatoon, officials anxiously scanned the city's environs to see how well citizens co-operated. The residential section, especially in the Mayfair and Lorne Avenue districts was 100 percent blacked out. The city's business section was slower in complying with the black-out order but finally it also plunged into near-complete darkness.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians crowded the downtown streets of the city. At 8:40 o'clock, minutes before the sirens sounded the "alert," crowds had gathered at the intersections, particularly on Second Avenue and Twenty-first Street. Persons wandered about with an air of expectancy while others stood in groups waiting excitedly for the signal.
A few minutes before the siren the cafes were nearly emptied and practically no business was being done in the downtown area.
Downtown streets were crowded with wheel traffic and several near traffic jams occurred.
A light was left on, in the black between Twenty-second and Twenty-first Street on Second Avenue, and within a few seconds a crowd had gathered and some were shouting, "Smash it!" Finally, with the assistance of bystanders, one man made his way into the building through a transit and the offending Neon sign was extinguished. A loud shout rose when the light went out.
As the whistles of the power house sounded the "alert" and other whistles and sirens in the city took up the cry, the lights of Saskatoon blacked out street by street, sign by sign and house by house until in a very few moments blackness prevailed.
From the roof of the Bessborough Hotel the outline of river, bridges and streets became dimly discernible as eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. Traffic was halted and no light was shown by parked vehicles but isolated lights were seen in apartment and residence windows where drawn or partly drawn blinds failed to conceal all light.
Twenty-first Street was in total darkness, the C.N.R. station being completely invisible, but a red glow from a sign on Second Avenue was visible for some time.
Lights beyond the city limits outlined the boundaries of the university, Sutherland, the airport and the safety lights on the radio mast in Exhibition Park showed up distinctly.
Excellent co-operation was given by the firms in the downtown district as far as could be observed all signs were extinguished, the only lights to be seen being in the apartments and blocks.
Planes from No. 4 S.F.T.S. led by Sgn. Ldr. L. A. Harling flew over the city and dropped pamphlets. The airmen reported that lights in the residential district were well concealed but that the central district was not blacked out as effectively.
The red lights of fire boxes were clearly visible and spotted the city in a pattern of red, said the pilots.
After 10 minutes, at the "all clear" signal, the street lights were turned on almost immediately. The Boy Scouts, whose job it was to take care of these lights handled the work most efficiently.
Sign and store lights snapped on and traffic began to move again, some cars without lights on evidently forgotten in the sudden brilliance.
Some mention was made of arranging for a more effective warning signal. Doubt was expressed as to whether the whistles and sirens could be clearly heard all over the city.
Children with flashlights defeated the purpose of the blackout at intervals by shining their torches on buildings and on the street. Some motorists also ignored the general effect by flashing their lights on for brief moments.
A leading hotel in Saskatoon issued printed notices of the black-out to all its guests, requesting them to co-operate in blacking-out the hotel and giving them instructions as to the best methods of concealing their room lights.
Apparently the instructions were effective for the building, in spite of being one of the largest in the city was well blacked out.
During the 10 minutes in which the black-out was in progress, the local radio station "covered" the situation, broadcasting first from the studio, then from the roof of The Bessborough, then from a point of vantage near the recruiting station at Second Avenue and Twenty-first Street, and finally, from its studio again.
Mayor MacEachern spoke to the people of the city over the air from the roof of The Bessborough briefly, urging upon them the necessity of bearing in mind that although Saskatoon's black-out was only being done in practice, the people of Britain had been forced to go through the real thing many times, and might, at the very moment he was speaking, be crouching in shelters while the Huns bombs were falling in the streets, killing children and other non-combatants, and destroying property.
His Worship thanked the citizens for cooperating as fully in staging the black-out. He stated that, from his outlook, he was able to see a few Neon signs, also some automobile headlights, which indicated that the co-operation was not 100 per cent.
The mayor announced that another black-out this time an all-out sort of black-out would be held next Wednesday night. He hoped it would be fully effective, and that the city would be dark enough to baffle anyone, the mayor said.
During the last portion of the black-out, the radio announcer continued his running commentary on the situation, telling the population the extent of Saskatoon, the number of miles of streets in the city, the number of miles of street car tracks, and other information.