January 31: Sir William Stevenson dies; fireman down; Preston Ave. apartment blaze.

February 1, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press

January 31, 1977
- The Town and Country Lodge apartments at 877 Preston Avenue burns to the ground killing 8 and injuring 17.

The 31-suite terraced housing block, built around 1906, was deemed insanitary a couple of years before but re-opened after basic renovations were done. It was claimed by some to be a 'flop house' with up to five or six people, some transient, living in some suites. This made identifying two of the dead impossible.

Many who escaped had to do so through upper storey windows as fire escapes were either blocked or iced up. The cause of the blaze was accidental: careless smoking or an electrical short in a main floor suite. For more about the fire.

MB Free Press, Feb 1, 1913

January 31, 1913
- Winnipeg Firefighter Capt. George W. Starmer, 53, dies as a result of injuries sustained in an accident in November 1911.

Responding to what would be a false alarm on Market Street, Starmer's fire wagon was struck by a streetcar. The accident left him shaken and with bouts of paralysis. He returned to work but finally had to retire in 1912 when the paralysis became constant.

In his final days of failing health, brigade members kept a round-the-clock vigil at his bedside in his home on Smith Street.

A 28 year veteran of the force, Starmer left a wife and two children.

January 31, 1910 - Russell Baker is born in Winnipeg. Baker had a long career as a bush pilot in northern Manitoba and served on the executive of CP Air. He is a member of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame and died in November 1958.

William Stephenson Memorial
January 31, 1989Sir William Stephenson dies. During World War II Churchill appointed the Point Douglas native and one-time U of M professor as Director of British Security Coordination. His code name was Intrepid.

January 31, 1989 Sir William Stephenson dies in Bermuda.

Born in Point Douglas, he served in the military during WWI, earning the Military Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war he taught science and math at the U of M and also invented an early fax machine – a way to transmit photographs via radio waves or the phone. He made a fortune from the invention in Britain – thanks especially to newspapers eager for his invention. 

Just prior to WWII Winston Churchill put him in charge of British counterespionage in the Western Hemisphere and he acted as the liaison between Churchill and Roosevelt during the war. 

For more on the man, codenamed Intrepid, see The Intrepid Society’s website !

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