Lauriate Roly recalls a strange phenomenon.
By Lauriate Roly
In 1952 I lived in the Town of Mount Royal, a sub-division of Montreal. I had just left home at about 8 o’clock in the morning for my drive to work. It was a lovely clear warm day. I drove a convertible in those days and because it was such an ideal day, I put the top down so I could fully enjoy the magnificence of the beautiful summer day.
The car radio was on and I was listening to my usual morning drive program on radio station CJAD. I was only about a block away from home when the announcer spoke about something floating in the air around the city. He wasn’t sure what it was but it was heading for TMR, in fact he guessed that would be just about where it seemed presently so anybody in that area should look up and see what an interesting thing it was, whatever it was. He thought it might be some kind of weather balloon and he said that since there was just about no wind at all, it had been hovering over downtown for the last hour or so.
Looking up at the sky was easy for me in a car with no roof. I spotted it immediately and was so interested that I pulled over and parked so I could really get a good look.
It certainly wasn’t moving fast. It looked like it was stopped. To me, it was a balloon.. A completely perfect spherical shape. Absolutely round. No flat or elongated edges. Not pear-shaped, but absolutely and totally round.
It was of a dull silver grey color and seemed to have ridges running down making it appear similar to a globe of the earth with longitudinal lines from top to bottom. It even had a wider sort of double band similar to the line of the equator on a globe. To me, all the lines reminded me of the riveted sections you might see on a dirigible. They weren’t colored and I have no idea how the lines became distinguishable from the relatively flat grey surface of the round sphere.
There were a lot of people around because where I was parked was very close to the railway station that collected commuters to take them to their jobs in the centre of the city of Montreal. Many were looking up. They would stop a few seconds, gaze at the object then simply move along seeming not to care much what it might be that was in the sky above them. Because the guy on the radio had been talking about it for almost an hour at least, the commuters probably contented themselves that it was only a weather balloon that had escaped and crossed the American border into Canada.
My interests in what I was looking at were a little more profound because I was very interested in aviation and flying things and so I stayed and looked at it for as long as I could without making myself late for work. The thing looked to me to be about a thousand feet up. Maybe about 3 or 4 hundred feet in diameter, and sitting absolutely still. Totally silent. Not spinning in the least bit. Just a big quiet grey ball in the sky.
This was happening around our city at about the time a local aircraft company, Canadair, had recently been awarded a government contract to begin building F-86 Saber Jet fighters. They had already started releasing their first production models off the line, and it was an unforgettable thrill when I saw my first jet plane, one of the just-built Sabers, go screaming through the sky. The sight of that beautiful plane had me, and everyone mesmerized.
The Canadair plant was very close to where I lived so I got to see the plane in flight quite often. In fact, a couple of times, while testing the planes they accidentally broke the sound barrier which not only scared the wits out of everybody, but shattered windows in many of my neighbors’ houses. I soon became used to seeing the F86 in the sky and knew very well what it looked like and how it sounded in flight.
I mention this because while I was looking at what I figured was a 3 or 4 hundred foot balloon in the sky, I recognized the sound of an F-86 quite clearly, not close, but very strong and steady. I then spotted the plane. It was flying around this balloon, only the size of the jet relative to the balloon was similar to a dime rolling around the perimeter of a basketball. I knew the size of the plane. I knew its sound when it is far away in the sky. Suddenly the plane seemed miniscule flying around this obviously enormous sphere. I knew the balloon in the sky above was much larger than it appeared to me at first sight, and much farther away than I had guessed.
The little plane circled the object, which must have been gigantic because the jet seemed to disappear for such a noticeably long period as it went around the other side of the sphere. The circling went on for a long while. Longer than I could stay because my job was important and I had to move along. People were still looking up in the sky, not showing any kind of special emotion or excitement; but they were looking. Very reluctantly, I moved on and headed into the traffic but at every stop light or stop sign I would look up, and the F86 was still circling the object.
As I distanced myself from the train station, I could no longer see what was happening, but my radio was on and every now and again the morning man would say the “balloon” was farther away, but still in sight. I am certain this fellow had no idea that an F-86 was chasing and hounding the object. It was still in my sight as I looked out the window of the building I worked in for at least another half hour. Then it was gone. I couldn’t see it, nor where it might have gone. The guy on the radio simply said that he guessed it had moved along because he couldn’t see it anymore.
People spoke about it a little. They weren’t noticeably excited and showed only mild interest, figuring that it was only an escaped weather balloon, because that’s what they heard on the radio. No mention about the little jet flying around it for about an hour. Nothing in the papers. No comment at all about a grey balloon passing over the city, that probably headed north across the Laurentians. I never heard where it went or what might have happened to it. I thought at least that I would read somewhere what the Sabre Jet pilot must have had to say about it.
To me, the mystery in all of this is just how I, and probably many others, would have figured the sphere to be only a few hundred feet in diameter, when actually it must have been of enormous size, and why, and how, it could remain almost stationary in the sky for hours.
Born in Montreal, Lauriate is bilingual; his mother a Geordie from Newcastle on Tyne, his father a French Canadian Quebecer. Lauriate has traveled widely and has lived in Europe. His involvements are primarily of a creative nature focused on Music, Graphic and Literary Arts in the communications fields of Advertising and phases of the Entertainment business through television and film production.