Books examine the lives of two very different men

Elizabeth Cran
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The Sixty-Second Story by Janice Landry (Pottersfield Press, $19.95) and Andrew Cobb: Architect and Artist by Janet Kitz (Nimbus, $21.95) are both about remarkable men — in quite different fields.

One is a fireman in Halifax; the other, an architect who has worked all over the Atlantic provinces.

The form of these books is different. The Sixty-Second Story is a memoir, even a panegyric, of the author’s father, which includes much about firefighting in general and what the Halifax firemen did in the Halifax Explosion on Dec. 6, 1917. The men “worked through the day under the worst conditions, wet, cold, without food, without assistance.”

Cobb’s life, however, is a conventional biography. Though it contains some striking episodes, of which the most remarkable is the planning of a complete new town, Townsite near Corner Brook, it generally fits the conventional picture of a professional man’s life.

The heart of The Sixty-Second Story is chapter 4.

“This is only one story, but it is the story of the daring rescue that led to Baz Landry receiving Canada's Medal of Bravery.”

One evening in October 1978, the fire house received word that a fire was burning in the back of a row house.

When the men got there, they learned a two-month-old baby was in one of the rooms nearest the fire. Landry, who was not a young man, though in good condition, climbed a trellis at the back door, swung from its roof to the windowsill.

When he got in, he found the room ful of smoke and the baby unconscious. He managed to get it back to the open window and gave the infant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (while restoring his own oxygen supply).  By then the other firemen had brought round a ladder, and carried the baby, followed by Landry, to safety..

  The author is no great writer, but a good researcher. It’s recommended.

Cobb's life, though important in its own way, pales compared to Landry's feat, especially if one reads the whole book.

Nevertheless, the sheer number of buildings designed by him, their variety, and his versatility must make him one of the most outstanding architect in Atlantic Canada. So his biography is well worth reading, too.  

Born in New York of Nova Scotian descent on his mother's side, the family moved to Wolfville in 1890 when he was 14.  After study and travel, he began to practise seriously, based in Halifax.  

This book abounds in illustrations, both black and white and colour. These, in themselves, give much of the story and significance of his life.

 

 Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at her new address: 95 Orange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5, or call her at 506-693-5498.

Organizations: Pottersfield Press, The Guardian

Geographic location: Halifax, Atlantic Canada, Corner Brook New York Wolfville Saint John

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