Civilian Life




Posted with permission of Frank Tibbo



AVIATION COLUMN by Frank Tibbo - Mar. 12, 2001 

Marilyn Rideout has an extra name because of her mother's appendectomy. No, the extra name is not "appendectomy" or "appendix".

The first few days of March, 1942, were a bit hectic for Ralph Vincent, a teacher in Musgrave Harbour. His 34-year-old  wife, Violet, had almost reached full-term in her second pregnancy and their two-year-old son, Carl, was keeping his parents on the hop. (Many readers of this column have read the books of Carl Vincent, historian and author, who lives in Ottawa.)

It would soon be time for the mid-wife, however, she was never called. Had this been Mrs. Vincent's first pregnancy she may have associated her sudden severe pain with the pending arrival. Ralph Vincent knew his wife was not the type to panic, she had won a dog-team race while teaching in St. Anthony and had flown with Arthur Sullivan - maybe the first Newfoundland woman to take to the air.

Musgrave Harbour, like hundreds of other Newfoundland communities, was isolated. A visit to a hospital in St. John's meant several hours in boat, followed by many more in a train with an unpredictable schedule.

Ralph Vincent wasted no time. Randolph (Dolf) Abbott, the community guru, collaborated with the school teacher and before long a telegram was on its way to St. John's for assistance. The official receiving the urgent message knew the only chance of a quick response was through the RCAF Base in Gander. The commanding officer, Group Captain R.H. Foss, authorized a flight to pick up Mrs. Vincent but was told there would be a wait of a few hours before a pilot was available.

Foss was well aware that time is critical in a medical emergency. He sent an order to have the station's small Fox Moth rolled out of the hangar and readied for flight. Within a half-hour the Commanding Officer was heading for the shores of Musgrave Harbour.

Group Captain Foss circled the little community and picked a likely landing spot on the shore ice. Ralph Vincent and Dolf Abbott had a horse and sleigh ready. They bundled Mrs. Vincent up and hurried to the waiting aircraft. Foss wasted no time and in a few minutes he was away and headed for a St. John's hospital.

It was not to be. The weather in St. John's was deteriorating to the point that Foss was forced to turn back and head for Gander. The RCAF hospital, that had been renamed the Sir Frederick Memorial Banting Hospital on February 20th of the previous year, had never had to deal with the birth of a child. The staff was in for a surprise.

The RCAF Station Diary had this entry:

Mar. 2, 1942  Clear, cool, and bright sunshine, wind W. at 18 mph. Patrols and local flying were carried out. A signal was received from Group Headquarters advising that a woman was dangerously ill with appendicitis and later pregnancy. Air transportation was requested by the Nfld. Government and the G.C. flew the Fox Moth to Musgrave Harbour, landed and brought the woman, Mrs. Vincent, to Gander where she was admitted to the station hospital with later pregnancy and acute appendix.

The attending physician soon realized that the cause of Mrs. Vincent's pain was appendicitis. This combined with pregnancy was a cause of considerable concern. Would an appendectomy have to be performed before the baby was born? The answer came two days later, March 4, 1942, when Gander's first baby was born.

The military medical personnel were quite aware of the fact that history had been made and Mrs. Vincent and her new baby received lots of attention. Mrs. Vincent was confined to hospital for two weeks, after which G/C Foss flew Mrs. Vincent and her baby girl back to Musgrave Harbour, appendix still intact. The appendectomy was performed several weeks after Marilyn was born.

The Vincents had selected names for the new baby and if it was going to be a girl the name would be Marilyn Kathleen. Mrs. Vincent, in appreciation of G/C Fosse's action, added "Foss" to her baby's names.

Marilyn Kathleen Foss Vincent Rideout, the first person born in Gander, lives in Mt. Pearl.

researched by Carol Walsh


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