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Metropolitan Explosion – 1960 – Interview with officer Paul Linton

Today’s post is a guest post by regular reader Luc. He managed to track down and do a brief interview with one of the first officers on the scene the afternoon of October 25, 1960 when the explosion went off at the Metropolitan Store on Ouellette Avenue.

A big thank you goes out to Luc for his detective work and his willingness to share this story with all of us.


Officer Paul Linton is seen here on the right in this famous photo.

Paul Linton was born November 26, 1929. He joined the Windsor Police Department in 1957, and retired in 1987 after 30 years of service.


Here’s a photograph of Paul Linton today.

Here’s Luc’s transcript of his chat with Paul Linton.


Describe the day of the Metropolitan explosion.
– The day was rather beautiful and sunny and Officer Linton had actually removed his coat.  Mr. Linton’s wife Joyce and one of their sons were downtown and about to take a bus home just before the incident.  Even though she was made aware of the explosion and that her husband was on the beat in the area, she returned home with her family knowing that her husband was “on the job” and “there was nothing she could do”. Joyce was also present for this interview and is an admirer of the history of this city and area.
Was the Incident called in?
– It wasn’t.  Surprised by my puzzled look,  Paul explained that police call boxes were in use during this period.  Who needs a call in anyways?!…Officer Linton was crossing into Maiden lane when he heard what he describes as a loud “Phooooh”!!!.  Quickly looking down Ouellette he noted that the entire front of the Metropolitan had spit itself all over what was the known then as the “Rose Gardens”, and the original St Mary’s prior to that.
Describe what you notice when you got on scene.
– Officer Linton was first on scene and the thing that etched itself into his mind was a women holding a newborn in her arms.  She was pinned behind what was the front door and handed Paul her child.  Officer Linton found a young woman who was close in proximity and handed the child to her, making certain she would take care of the baby as he returned to the scene. He did comment that both mother and child were reunited. In the following accounts of what took place officer Linton stresses that the years may have somewhat effected some of the “files” to our story. Although he cannot remember all of what transpired, he assured me that what he does remember is as clear as yesterday. The following is a point form account of the next two days.
-Officer Linton is relieved for the evening at 2100hrs, after pulling out 5 people from the rubble.
-The next day he was ordered back on scene in the morning to carry on with the rescue and investigation efforts.
-Along with a doctor and fireman by his side they began to go into the rubble and finds a women alive under it. Officer Linton recalls that “the doctor quickly lifted the woman’s blouse and gave her a shot (unknown meds). He only recalls that she lived on Caron Street.
-The smell of the scene was horrible and smelled strongly of smoke and gas.
-Using words that may not be appropriate in this fine blog, Office Linton describes a gentleman (who we are going to call an idiot) about to light up a smoke as he was in the basement of the exploded building.  Paul, offered the gentleman one choice and we can leave it at that.
Tell me what’s happening in the picture?
-Officer Linton explains that he is pulling out an injured women. As you can see in the photo, he is missing a legging which he had lost  almost immediately.  The one in the modern pic is not the original but a replacement, that one was lost in the Metropolitan for good.
Who was the man and woman?
-The name of the women evades officer Linton over the years but the other uniformed man he has never known. “Often asked, but I have know idea who he was”. It appears that the man is in a different uniform.  Could it be a different police force or security force?  It would have been surreal to have all three of them in front on a lens.
Other comments about the disaster.
-There was a WPD matron in the explosion.  She survived. A “matron”, as explained by Paul, is a female who worked for the WPD as there were no female officers.  It was their duty to search female prisoners.
-Officer Linton spent 5 horrible days in the aftermath of this disaster in court. During the hearings, he was on midnights and was literally sleeping on an office desk until he was randomly called in for testimony. He seriously looked tired mentioning it.
Other comments.
-This is my favorite part of speaking with Officer Linton.  His genre of work and his time spent as an officer when our city was still it’s formidable self gives an interested person access to a wealth of knowledge that no library could afford. I would show him an old picture of an area and he would simply go with stories, in great detail. This photo and reference to just one incident, although important, is but a drop in a sea of stories that should be documented.  He promises pictures!! I cannot wait.
-Paul was first on scene with his three wheeled bike (they called them “iced cream wagons”) when an officer was shot during a bank robbery (now the Gourmet Emporium). “Shaky” as they called him was shot and Officer Linton quickly used a call box to dispatch more police. They caught the men and found their getaway car running with a box of guns in it.
-He recalls euthanizing  a bull that had escaped from an abattoir downtown.  It made it’s way into someone’s back yard before Officer Linton could subdue the rather large and angry animal.
-He recalls the first fireworks, which he worked.
-His father was a”Supertest” fuel truck driver and photos show his father at the Supertest gas station on the West side of Lanspeary park, next to the original Teppermans.
-His grandfather was a watchman for  Heintzman & Co. Paul remembers going in there at night to visit him. He would always attempt to scare them.
Quote of the interview.  “I would not want to be an officer these days. Now… you get a gun or a knife, then… your ass got kicked or you got a black eye”
Thank you Officer Linton! For your years of service and for sharing this dark day in the history of our city.


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