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Stratford unveils interpretive panel commemorating its brush with Canadian aviation history

Aggi-Rose Reddin looks at an interpretive panel unveiled at Tea Hill Park in Stratford on Wednesday, commemorating the park’s connection to the first Canadian transatlantic flight.
Aggi-Rose Reddin looks at an interpretive panel unveiled at Tea Hill Park in Stratford on Wednesday, commemorating the park’s connection to the first Canadian transatlantic flight. - Dave Stewart
STRATFORD, P.E.I. —

Aggi-Rose Reddin, who grew up in Stratford, can remember hearing her father tell stories about his connection to a piece of Canadian aviation history.

Just before supper on Sept. 13, 1930 an airplane landed at what is now Tea Hill Park, a short distance from where her father lived.

The aircraft was a Bellanca monoplane, christened Columbia, piloted by Capt. Erroll Boyd and navigator, Lt. Harry Connor. The pair had left Montreal early that morning and were en route to Harbour Grace, N.L., which, at that time, was not a part of Canada. Their destination was England.

Concerned that they would be landing in the dark on an unlit field in Harbour Grace, Boyd and Connor decided to circle back to P.E.I., landing in the field at Tea Hill Park — officially making P.E.I. a part of Canada's first transatlantic flight.

There was no airport or landing field in P.E.I. at the time so, naturally, Reddin's father and many in the community went over to check out what was happening. The aircraft landing was big news. Reddin's father snapped a shot that appears on an interpretive panel the town unveiled on Wednesday at Tea Hill Park, marking the 90th anniversary of the historic occasion.

Aggi-Rose Reddin believes her father took this photo of the Bellanca monoplane at Tea Hill Park in Stratford in 1930. - Contributed
Aggi-Rose Reddin believes her father took this photo of the Bellanca monoplane at Tea Hill Park in Stratford in 1930. - Contributed

Reddin said she is pleased for her family, which has been working hard on piecing together the story so that the interpretive panel could be created. Her father died in 1996.

“It’s nice for dad, especially, to honour him and his qualities as a storyteller and making sure the story stays alive," Reddin said, gazing at the plaque. “He’s smiling down on us today."

Reddin said it was always her father’s wish that the event be recognized. Growing up, the family knew it as “the airplane field’’. At the time, there was no landing field, much less an airport on P.E.I. so when the aircraft landed at Tea Hill Park the news spread quickly.

“Anyone that knew my father knew that he loved to tell the story. (My family) put our brains together and remembered better than we thought we might, so that was good.’’

Her father would end up buying the property that is now Tea Hill Park two years after his brush with the first Canadian transatlantic flight.

“It’s nice for dad, especially, to honour him and his qualities as a storyteller and making sure the story stays alive. He’s smiling down on us today.’’

- Aggi-Rose Reddin

Doug Kelly, a member of Stratford’s heritage committee, was approached by Reddin’s family and friends about the story and started digging deeper.

“By luck, we ended up having that little footnote in history as the launch off for the first Canadian transatlantic flight,’’ Kelly said, noting that the pilots not only landed in Tea Hill Park but spent 10 days in P.E.I. and were shown a good time, including visits to the lieutenant-governor and rotary luncheons.

Ogden said it’s an amazing story to read. The full story is available here.

“It’s not just a Stratford story; it’s not just a P.E.I. story; it’s a Canadian story and it’s really important that we celebrate these milestones,’’ the mayor said.

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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