by Douglas Willock
I was working at an engineering plant on Alexander Street, about ten blocks from the C.P.R. Dock. We heard a great grumbling roar like a thousand thunderbolts. We ran out and saw a cloud of debris and smoke. We couldn’t see where the freighter had been but could only see the sky above it. We phoned people who were located nearer the dock and were told that a freighter carrying explosives had blown up. This incident formed the major topic of conversation for several days.
(1981 Editor’s Note)
Note: I went to see Frank first and he gave me his story, then I went to visit Douglas and we were talking about the story. He said, “I was about ten blocks away from it.” He gave me the above version. I am now looking for someone who was right there! I checked back with Edith but she did not remember it.
Update 2013: See the “True Story of the Greenhill Park”:
“The tug that towed the Greenhill Park to beach it at Siwash Rock, the R.F.M., was skippered by Capt. Harry Jones. I was delighted to discover that Capt. Jones was still around (in 1980), living in Vancouver, and that he had read the article. He was 101 years old.…
“In June of 1946, the Greenhill Park, repaired, sailed away from Vancouver as the S.S. Phaex II under the new ownership of a Greek company. By 1967, as the Lagos Michigan, she was sold to Formosan shipbreakers for scrap.”
—The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, Chuck Davis
(2009) Harbour Publishing
This reader was co-owner of the R.F.M. (Richard Frederick Marpole) in the 1980‘s. The RFM was the tug that towed the burning Greenhill Park to Siwash Rock after the CPR Dock explosion. The former RFM survives today as the Merrie Ellen of Port Townsend, Washington. As a sailing schooner!
Merrie Ellen (originally the RFM) as she is today:
I recognized the story of the Vancouver freighter explosion as it was the biggest explosion in Vancouver Harbour history and those who experienced it often say, “Windows blew out for blocks around!” Just to be sure, I looked up the name “Canyon Park” as it was reported by Frank Pantony after he told his story (Bits & Pieces 1981). There is no Canyon Park listed. This would be an understandable mistake on the part of an old man trying to remember, in 1981, the name of the freighter that exploded in 1945.